Carrying on from my Bods's Cookbook Collection series of posts, I head in to bread land.
Back in 2007 I ditched standard bread and started making my own on a regular basis.
Since then I've barely bought any bread bar the odd crusty roll or baguette. I certainly haven't bought any factory bread, although last year I did buy a white Sandwich Loaf from the Sainsbury's instore bakery when I was ill. I found it strangely bland and tasteless.
Linda Collister's book has become my bread bible ever since Catherine bought me a copy for my birthday. After a recipe for a standard loaf and details of how to make a sour dough starter, the book is split into different regions of the world, and contains a number of different recipes in each section, starting with America.
My normal loaf is a "white-ish" loaf - basically a loaf made with two parts extra strong white bread flour and one part wholemeal, or occassionally rye. However sometimes I yearn for something a bit different. And it's then that I reach for Bread: From Ciabatta to Rye
Each region gets given a number of savoury and sweet bread based recipes, and the occassional bread based meal, like Masalla Dosa or pizza.
The range is fantastic, offering a complete variety. Without doubt the California Sourdough and Pain de Campagne are utterly divine, whilst the potato bread rolls and Zucchini and Carrot loaf both are most excellent toasted. The Ciabatta is a tasty loaf although has a dense crumb (that means it don't have any holes in it) so is unlike most Brit's perceptions of the loaf - apparently that style is more common in Tuscany.
I've had more success with the savoury breads than the sweet ones, although the hot cross bun recipe is very good. However I just didn't get the Polish poppy seed bread myself. It just didn't seem to work tastewise. And there have been a few breads which I've struggled to get right. My pittas seemed to turn out more like Naans and my naans just seemed very doughy. The bagels are brilliant however I seem to struggle to get them the right size! Oh and my french baguettes always come out more like flutes!
Still on the plus side, the cottage loaf and the leek and cheese loaf remain two of the best looking I've ever made - better than the pictures in the book if you ask me!
The book does make the effort to include details on how to use both fresh and fast action yeasts, which surprisingly some people don't bother with. Usefully all references to fast action yeast refer to a sachet instead of "a teaspoon" like some others do.
What isn't there is huge amounts of basics for bread making - although the section at the front will give you standard loafs and shows you step by step how to make bread, there isn't a huge amount on basic bread techniques like shaping or ways to get the best crust. You'll have to go elsewhere for that.
But then that's probably not the point. This is a book for someone who loves bread and wants to do a bit of bread tourism If you're addicted to your plastic wrapped sliced white it's perhaps not one for you, however if you'd like to try some of the best breads in the comfort of your own home, this is one for you.