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agardenchair (Germany)

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Jamie's Italy
Jamie's Italy
by Jamie Oliver
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

6 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I learnd a few things, 2 Feb. 2006
This review is from: Jamie's Italy (Hardcover)
According to Jamie Oliver, Italian cooking is all about regionality and the credo "less is more"; if you do not have squid, do not make the squid recipes, but if you have good basil and buffalo mozzarella, make the grilled Pizza Margherita!
During my partially extensive travels through Italy, I was able to confirm some things, that are mentioned in this book. I did not eat at the first Trattorias, that crossed my way, but instead went the off-beat paths. The only way to find out what was being served, was to ask. Whatever was available, was usually transformed into a delicious meal.
Italy is not heaven, where clouds are made of honey and everything is just super tasty. You have to hunt for the good stuff. But if it's good, it is probably stellar. The safest thing is to start in a Pizzeria in the town center of Rome. You will always be in luck.
Anyway. The recipes seem to have been extremely carefully chosen. However, I believe there is any point of including a pesto recipe, since it is probably a staple recipe in any hobby cook's repertoire, but otherwise the collection of recipes keeps a good balance between mass appeal and authenticity (as far as I can judge on that).
And yes, let us do away with cheap meat. We must make sure, that we treat animals with respect and not feed them with crap or make them suffer under inhuman conditions in animal transports from one end to Europe to the other. I was a vegetarian for 8 years until I got weak over some Asian stir fry with chicken. And there probably is no universal moral clause, that will eventually make it okay to kill animals, even if kept under best conditions all their lives. But if we choose to do it, let us take care for them as good as we possibly can.

The Handmade Loaf
The Handmade Loaf
by Dan Lepard
Edition: Hardcover

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dan Lepard, the alchemist, 26 Dec. 2004
This review is from: The Handmade Loaf (Hardcover)
What fun to browse through the book and find a carefully arranged universe of bread making using a vast array of ingredients such as whey, cucumber pickle juice, white maize, rye grains marinated in white wine, rice, lentils, etc.!
The technical introduction covering the basic ingredients such as yeast and flour, techniques like the mixing and handling of wet doughs, shaping, proofing and baking is kept short. Here you will learn that the book is aimed at the experienced home baker. A baking stone is not an absolute prerequisit. The author makes it your choice, but notes that a dough which is put on a hot baking stone will always get a better oven spring than one that is put on a cold tray and then inserted into the oven. Be prepared to adjust baking times if you are using a hot baking stone in your oven.
The chapter about naturally leavened breads give you recipes that do not require commercial yeast. These breads usually devour the whole day, and because of the hand-mixing techniques that are employed, you have to knead less but more often. It is time consuming, but rewarding.
Although the book is about recipes (and recipes never take up more than one page each in this book!), there are short essays on contemporary bread baking in numerous different countries like Russia, Italy, Ukraine, Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and France. These are accompanied by very nice pictures of bread and bread-making people. All of the recipes (except maybe a handful) have at least one photo of the corresponding loaf, bun or pancake next to it. That is great.
All the breads I made are stunning and delicious. Are there 6 stars?

Baking with Passion (Baker & Spice)
Baking with Passion (Baker & Spice)
by Dan Lepard
Edition: Paperback

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great baked goods at home, 13 Oct. 2004
The scope of this book is exceptional. It teaches you how to make your own sourdough bread without commercial yeast but home-made starters like they did in the old days. Making a bread like that is time consuming, but will have a better taste and usually stays fresh for about a week if it's a big loaf. Next, the auhtor goes on to show you that you can make nice breads with those big irrregular holes and a chewy interior with "sponges" and commercial yeast. Sometimes, italian "00" flour is needed - a strong white flour. I have had no problems substituting ordinary white flour with an acceptable amount of gluten (> 11%). It may not be the real thing or how it was intended, but this will still yield very good breads. The last chapters are about cakes, tarts and cookies.
The photographic quality of the pictures in the book is rather sensational. Nothing like the sterile food photography just for the sake of pleasing the eye. If a sourdough starter may develop a crust, then you will see a photo of a sourdough starter with a crust. Period. The photos really show what it will look like when you do it at home.
My favorites are "Dan's garlic bread" (using three whole bulbs of garlic) and all of the sourdough breads. I haven't had the nerve to tackle the fragile tart or croissant doughs yet. Highly recommended.

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