Bread by Dean Brettschneider: cookbook review
Immersed 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’.
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.
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 www.jacquismallpub.com (@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.
Do you make bread? If you don’t what’s stopping you? Do you have a favourite bread book?