Skip to content

Bread by Dean Brettschneider: cookbook review

November 5, 2014

Bread cookbook review - My Custard PieImmersed in a peaceful contemplation of new titles in the cookery section of my favourite book store my gaze halted on an image of a simple crusty loaf on a dark wooden board. This is nothing new; it’s uncomplicated, even primitive, so maybe that’s why this ‘staff of life’ pictured beautifully has such an immediate pull. It cried out “take me home now”, but knew my copy was on its way…

Why on earth would I need another cookbook about bread when I already have at least seven on the subject plus the various chapters in numerous other volumes on my shelf? A fleeting thought that this was a tome too far,  until I got stuck into this new book Bread by New Zealand baker Dan Brettschneider.

The art of dough can be so elusive and changeable, scientific but infinitely organic as so many forces of nature, from microbes to temperature, can affect the final result. It’s a subject that rewards total immersion and a lifetime of perusal (study is far too austere a word). This book leads you in, shows you around and holds your hand and offers a wide variety of dough projects to get your hands stuck into.

So what makes this book different?

Before you even start getting the flour and yeast out of the cupboard, there is a chapter on The History of Bread Making. This precedes the most comprehensive section on Ingredients that I’ve ever seen in a bread cookery book. It reminded me of my biology books at school – but in a good way as it explains in detail the structure of a grain of wheat, milling techniques and extraction rates, other types of flours, and what effect this has on bread making. A wide variety of other things you might use in bread are covered with very practical advice. Did you know that a maximum of 10 per cent of cocoa to bread flour should be used, for instance, as it is acidic and contains starch (which tends to absorb moisture in a cake batter).

Equipment is discussed in similar depth and then we are onto bread proper or ‘Bread Know-how‘. Text and a multiple series of black and white images demonstrate exactly how each process of the dough should look and feel (and why). Testing the dough for correct proof with the ‘indentation test’ is super helpful and has three photographs to show under-proved, over-proved and correctly proved. Brilliant.

There’s a section of formulas and an extensive glossary at the back too.


Onto the recipes and the bread itself. The chapters cover Savoury breads and sourdoughs, Grainy and healthy breads, Quick breads and scones, Festive breads, ‘Not quite bread’ (from lavash style crackers to Danish pastries) and Sweet bread. As well as the basic loaves, there are lots of ideas to tempt you: beetroot and thyme baguettes, a loaf with a whole Brie baked inside, a spinach, pumpkin, cumin and feta damper.

With Christmas coming up, I’ve bookmarked the Panettone (which uses a sponge dough ferment), Swedish Rye Crackers, Dresden Christmas Stollen and Italian Panforte recipes and there is a beautiful Celebration loaf which definitely deserves the title ‘show-stopper’.

The downsides

There’s not much to dislike about this book. Perhaps it’s because Dan is from a New Zealand background that the odd recipe doesn’t strike a chord with me (the Boston Bun, the Hundreds and Thousands Iced Bun). The tone errs on the side of a professional baker which may be slightly off-putting if you are a very novice baker – however the information is exemplary. I found the order of recipes was a bit strange – most books start with the simplest and get more complicated but these are dotted around.  The inclusion of a couple of recipes for left over bread (bread salad, French toast) is slightly random too – a whole chapter would have been more appropriate and useful.

Bookmarked recipes

So many to dive into, as well as trying the festive recipes, the Rye and caraway bread is calling my name, a Cranberry and orange twisted loaf that I’m itching to get my hands into …. and Apple and custard brioche tarts…. naturally.


An excellent addition to my bread baking book collection which brings another dimension of expertise and information as well as inspiration. It’s a good-looking book with a clean layout and gorgeous bread pics. While all my other books tell me how to do it right, this is the most comprehensive about what’s happening when it goes wrong. An encyclopedic resource for a beginner with enough to keep a more confident bread baker happy too.

Published by Jacqui Small Books (@JacquiSmallPub) and available from Kinokunya Book World in Dubai and the usual book sellers elsewhere. Thanks to Jacqui Small for sending me this copy to review – all thoughts and opinions my own.

Bread cook books  - My Custard Pie

The other bread cook books in my collection

Do you make bread? If you don’t what’s stopping you? Do you have a favourite bread book?

  1. November 5, 2014 12:47 pm

    I want this book it’s very useful for me!!!

    • November 6, 2014 7:34 am

      I’m sure you are a fantastic bread baker Marica.

  2. November 5, 2014 1:38 pm

    This book sounds wonderful! I’ll have to check it out…



  3. November 5, 2014 3:29 pm

    Thanks for the review!!
    I lived in France for 8 years before coming here and although I have found some great bread in Dubai lately, the barre is raised very high when I make bread! It can never beat the one you buy in a good bakery! Do you make your own live yeast or do you use the baker’s yeast we have in stores here? I have started to bake simple stuff here but am still intimidated by the whole process and feel like it is something that “kneads” a lot of time 😉 I can whip up a mean moelleux au chocolat in 30 minutes but it can take me hours to make so-so dinner rolls….you know what I mean? The only thing I can do really well is pizza dough – thanks to Jamie Olivier and flour that I found at Eataly! Do you have any easy bread recipes to share?

    • November 6, 2014 7:37 am

      Thanks for the tip about good flour at Eataly – must check it out. I use Dove’s Farm easy blend yeast most of the time but have bought fresh yeast from the Park n Shop baker before now. I like Jamie’s pizza dough recipe too. My bread recipes are here – lots of simple ones

  4. therealgeordiearmani permalink
    November 5, 2014 3:50 pm

    Great review and sounds like a good book. I have just ordered Mr Hollywood’s latest book, should be with me in a couple of weeks time, you know how much I like Mr H 😉

    • November 5, 2014 4:45 pm

      I’d be interested to see that book. And what you/D bake from it. 😊

      • therealgeordiearmani permalink
        November 5, 2014 4:47 pm

        you just want to see the cover, yes I will bake 🙂

  5. November 5, 2014 3:55 pm

    Looks like a great book. I really need to get back to breadmaking.

    • November 6, 2014 7:39 am

      I’ve bought too many loaves recently. A great push to get me more organised about bread baking.

  6. November 5, 2014 4:00 pm

    Fantastic review – I have recently won a copy of Bread from Jacqui Smalls Publishing and can’t wait for it to arrive, so I keep googling blogger reviews of the book to whet my appetite! I’m a complete beginner with bread, as I tend to bake sweet things, but I feel like I’m ready now to begin learning more about dough and its complexities. The feta damper really caught my eye, so I think that might be one of my first attempts (after reading and re-reading the information at the beginning, of course!) Thank you for such a well written review.
    Rosie x

    • November 5, 2014 4:38 pm

      Thanks Rosie. The damper looks lovely and there’s a wholemeal soda bread which is simple to whip up. Once you start working with yeast it’s addictive. Enjoy your book Look forward to seeing what you bake.

  7. November 5, 2014 4:34 pm

    What a fantastic review! Very well researched and well written. Looks like a fantastic book!

    • November 6, 2014 7:41 am

      It’s a different look at a fascinating subject.

  8. November 5, 2014 5:40 pm

    Its been a fear, a big fear to bake bread and I would love to!
    I have tried and failed; I ended up baking something as stiff as a stone!
    I know the reason though- I hate the measuring spoons and cups and I need to start to befriend them before my venture into bread making.
    Aim get some baking done this season though 🙂
    Fabulous review Sally… you have made me want this book!

    • November 6, 2014 7:43 am

      Digital scales are the only way. Measuring spoons and cups annoy me like mad. I even weigh my water 1g = 1ml. Very quick and easy.

  9. November 5, 2014 6:15 pm

    Looks like a great book. Would you recommend it for someone new to baking bread? I’ve actually been looking into learning how to bake bread because my little one wants to start baking and I want to avoid making too many sweet things with her, so I thought bread would be a good idea. The only thing which slightly stresses me is getting the yeast part right and hoping that the bread will actually rise when it’s supposed to!

    • November 6, 2014 7:45 am

      It’s very thorough – have a look in Kinokunya. The only thing that might put you off is that there is a lot of information but many of the recipes are very simple. Make sure your yeast is not too old, the environment you are working and your ingredients are not too cold and you’ll be fine.

  10. November 5, 2014 6:19 pm

    I love baking bread. My husband and I enjoy baked bread as much as any dessert. I might have to buy this beautiful book.

    • November 6, 2014 7:45 am

      I’d take freshly baked bread over dessert any day Julie 🙂

  11. November 5, 2014 7:23 pm

    Now I have to add this to the list of cookbooks I want, it really does look like an amazing book. I’ve recently been given a copy of Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard which I’m reading through at the moment, it contains some beautiful bread recipes. Thanks for your well written review.

    • November 6, 2014 7:47 am

      I LOVE Short and Sweet and didn’t include it in the bottom pic because it has so many other cakes and general baking in it. Do try the red wine and walnut bread… and the multi-grain bread … both are fantastic. Dan is my real bread hero.

  12. November 6, 2014 1:21 am

    Great review Sally, a book to look out for

  13. November 6, 2014 4:22 am

    Knowing the fabulous bread baker that you are, I’ll follow you blindly on this one. Based solely on this review, I’ll put in the order for the book now.

    • November 6, 2014 7:47 am

      Golly – hope you like it!!

  14. November 6, 2014 12:01 pm

    I would love to see pics of the indentation test. I am an avid bread maker and would love to add books to my collection but I keep being disappointed by what I buy. Great review Sally 🙂

  15. November 6, 2014 1:09 pm

    looks like a good book, I just bought two books from Tartine, after I learnt his way of breadmaking at a workshop. I have so many books, and my basket in Abebooks and Amazon is soooo full!

  16. November 6, 2014 3:51 pm

    I am keen to take a look at this book, like you I have so many but bread is something I would love to experiment more with. The recipes do sound good, thanks for this informative review!

  17. November 6, 2014 7:04 pm

    Ooh look at those Hundreds and Thousands Iced Buns – aren’t they pretty? Enough to make me want to buy the book! Beautifully written, as always, Sally. Love your opener.

  18. November 7, 2014 3:32 pm

    I could pore over pictures of bread all day Sally, but am far too lazy to get around to baking it very often!!! Maybe when the kids leave home…

  19. November 8, 2014 1:02 am

    Your reviews are so enjoyable to read Sally, informative but chatty. Thanks for sharing. I went on a sourdough course recently and loved it. I really must get into the routine of baking each week.

  20. November 10, 2014 1:50 pm

    Thanks for the detailed review Sally. For a beginner which out of all the ones you own would you recommend. When the year began bread baking was one of my food resolutions and sadly I am falling behind it (Insert : hangs head in shame)

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: