Customer Review

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity, 20 Dec. 2010
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This review is from: SWEDISH BREADS AND PASTRIES (Hardcover)
This review is confined to the bread section of the book - about two thirds of the whole, since that is my main interest.

It is unclear for which audience the book is intended since most of the recipes are given for batches of three or four loaves. The introduction to bread-making appears to be for the beginner but is only intelligible to a relatively experienced home baker, and one who has a food mixer described in one recipe as a 'high speed kneading machine' - which sounds like a substantial piece of kit. Very many amateur bakers, in the UK at least, prefer to knead by hand. Much of what a home baker would find useful has been left out or glossed over and because much of the explanation is so poorly written that it is close to unintelligible previous experience is needed to interpret what is being said. The large section on sourdough is poor and chemical names seem intended to impress rather than to shed light. There are numerous non-sequiturs in poorly organised paragraphs and in the section on scalding rye flour the terms flour, bread, and dough are used interchangeably without distinction - confusing if you don't already know what is intended. Unfortunately, this introduction is essential if one is to follow the recipes for bread in the book - constant reference is made to it. There are also a couple of quantity errors which could lead to a loss of confidence.

The publisher is to blame for this mess. While the foreword is elegantly written by a stylish wordsmith the introduction to baking is written by someone of far lesser skill. The publisher has not paid attention to this deficiency, hence the missed opportunity to convey the special knowledge of the author. My guess, especially considering the high quality of the photography and the large size format, is that the publisher sees this as merely a coffee table book that no-one is likely seriously to read, with recipes that no-one is likely to follow. In this context, the mini-tourist guide at the head of each recipe about the origins of each bread-type, is irritating rather than charming. It sounds like advertising hype to get you to place this book on your coffee-table.

One feature of interest is the emphasis that Jan Hedh places on the temperature of the dough while kneading. A ready-reckoner is given for calculating dough temperature taking into account e.g., 2 degrees centigrade for a cool bowl and a similar amount increase for using a kneading machine. The method given sounds improbable to me. Recipes, however, specify a dough temperature, of 27 degrees, 28 degrees or 25-26 degrees, for example. I think this is enough to put quite a few people off. I'd be hard put to it to achieve this kind of accuracy while kneading.

I give a two star rating because despite the glaring deficiencies the book is written by a master baker who knows what he is doing even if this has not been conveyed to the reader resulting in plenty of interesting recipes that can be adapted to domestic use by a reasonably experienced baker.
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