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Nice idea but it doesn't go far enough
on 22 January 2013
I really like the idea of this book - an introduction to bread-making with different recipes all basically following the same method. The book is divided into five main sections. The first covers the basic method used throughout the book, then there's a section each for 5 basic dough recipes (white, olive, brown, rye and sweet). For each basic dough, there are I think about eight different recipes - different ways of shaping the bread and with small additions, such as saffron or sesame and star anise (a lovely combination, by the way). Although some reviewers dislike the fact that there is actually very little difference between the various breads, I think it's an advantage, at least for a beginner. It allows you to really get to grips with the bread-making method introduced, and to understand the difference small tweaks can make.
There are some things I don't like about the book, though. For example, sometimes I find the author a bit arrogant. His comment about salt infuriated me - that it's those parents who tend to worry about salt intake who are most often the ones who give their children bags of salt-laden crisps to eat. What a load of generalising rubbish. (By the way, I find the bread way too salty with the stipulated 10g of salt anyway).
Another thing that bothers me is that the bread never quite turns out just as I want it. I've only made the white and olive doughs, so I can't comment on the others, but they don't make the most tasty bread in the world. Perhaps it's just due to the fact that I haven't got a ferment going. But mostly, I just can't get the crust right, and I can't figure out why. The texture inside the bread is fine, but the crust is always too soft, despite my best efforts to follow the method exactly.
This is linked to another problem - there isn't enough detail. I'd like more on what makes a good crust so I can go back and try again. Also, he recommends using fresh yeast, but he doesn't actually say why. Considering that using dried yeast is so much easier, I need to know what difference it will make to the end-product. The same with flour - all he says is to use 'proper, good-quality strong bread flour, the best quality you can afford'. What difference will better quality/more expensive flour make to my bread? He just doesn't say.
So I feel I've come to the end of my journey with the book. I'll try a couple of the other recipes, giving the brown and rye doughs a go. But I think it's time to move on, find another method, see what difference it makes. It was good as an introduction, but I don't feel I can learn much more from it.