Customer Review

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Caring, insightful and rewarding, 1 Dec 2007
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This review is from: The Handmade Loaf (Hardcover)
I've had this book a year, and it is undoubtedly a five-star book. The author writes so insightfully about the whys and wherefores, and when you follow the non-too-difficult recipes within you realize just how much talent, consideration and experience this excellently presented book offers. You'll find instructions for kneading and shaping, how to make and store your own leaven plus recipes from around Europe adapted for the home baker working by hand. The author has gone to the trouble of actually going to these places to talk with other bakers, and the corresponding photos of location, people and their wares give what I would describe as a sense of community. The recipes use all manner of flours and grains, and raising agents from fresh yeast to leaven and soda. Someone below had complained of a limited variety of recipes, but I don't find that justified since there are plenty of recipes and there's no need for 23 variations on the same theme - in particular I find this book imparts a real feel for what's going on so that you can use your own initiative to experiment, though you'll find it hard to improve on the recipes provided here by Dan Lepard. Another complaint below is about the time it all takes, and there is some justification here if you're looking for a 40-minute loaf. Performing multiple tasks in a restaurant, the author found that dough sorts itself out nicely and the flour is best and properly saturated if left alone rather than pummelled to death. So it's often about 10-second kneads once in a while with lower proving temperatures of, say, 21 C. The `worst' it gets with a white leaven bread is around 3 kneads at 10 minute intervals, then a half hour, then an hour, in the tin and another hour, wait a few hours more (even 5). Naturally you can be doing other stuff in the kitchen at the same time or simply leave the house altogether. Other recipes are rather quicker. Another complaint is that you need to keep feeding your leaven (with more flour and water) - not so, as you can stick your jar of fermenting, gassy dough in the fridge and put it to sleep for quite some time. To conclude: fantastic hands-on stuff by a true expert who cares deeply about bread and puts it across superbly, great value, not a quick fix but if you're in the kitchen on Sunday you should be able to work something in. I had hardly baked before, so no experience necessary. Many thanks to Dan Lepard for reminding us just how important bread really is. Don't underrate it, or this book.
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