Books Review - Bread: baking by hand of bread machine

One would think that a new house bigger house would also mean more space, more space for cookbooks. Apparently it means more space to unpack all the boxes we had sitting in storage for years and years. And unsurprisingly most of these boxes contain cookbooks that Mr Ranty and I have collected over the last decade or so.
Our cook books are very much split into “his” and “hers”, with not much cross over in the middle :
- anything to do with spice (Thai, Mexican, Georgian), anything weird (Molecular and Methodical) or Kiwi is in “his” pile
- anything to do with bread and preserving is in “hers” pile
And to be honest, Mr Ranty has been experiencing with some spicy and odd combinations preserves, so that is slowly migrating into “his” pile, and all I have left is bread - which suits me just fine.
So, I am going to do a review of some/all books I have, starting from easy, beginner style books to more advanced sourdough books, with some cakes and cupcakes thrown in for entertainment purposes.
First on the list is “Bread:baking by hand of bread machine” by Eric Treuille.
This is a DK book, and I must say I absolutely love DK cooking series – find their travel guides a waste of time, but they have really nailed it with the cook books.
If you are an absolute novice, you will love this book, I can guarantee it. But even if you have been baking for a while you may still find the book very interesting.
Section 1 – Gallery of Breads
Really, its bread porn under a different name. Nice, if a little bit old-fashion photographs, they will definitely get you going/drooling – great ideas for breads for all occasions
Section 2 – Baking Essentials
A punchy chapter, covering different types of flours in a very non-technical way with plenty of pictures to show what different flour looks like and what is brings to the table. Also includes other ingredients – yeast, liquids, salt, sugar, enrichments and a couple of pages on basic equipment you will need for bread making.
Section 3 – Basic Techniques
This is proper for dummies section, but I remember reading it religiously when I just started baking, and still like to flick through it now and then.
It even includes a sourdough starter page, and a small “old dough” section – something I am yet to try.
Kneading covers hand kneading, mixer kneading and food processor kneading – I must say I would only use food processor for pasty, but each to their own.
A few pages are dedicated to shaping, and as I mentioned, some really good basic techniques.
Glazing and Toppings are my favourites, as they give you a really good idea on different ways of finishing off your bread.
It also has a page on bread machines, but honestly, if you are using a bread machine, you don’t need this book
Now, the exciting part Recipes (Section 4)
It starts off nice and easy with Basic Breads, covering Pain Ordinaire, Country Oatmeal, Victorian, Baguette, Bagels and a few other English and European traditional breads. The beauty of this book is that it has at least a couple of variations at the end of each recipe, which gives you many more recipes that are listed in the book and makes you look like a baking pro from the work go.
For example a recipe for Baguette also tells you how to make Pain d’Epi (Ear of Wheat), which just looks super cool.
Plus, once you have mastered the basic recipes I encourage you to experiment with the mix of flours in the recipes – try making a Wholemeal Baguette of White with a bit of Rye Baguette, or White Baguette with Sesame or Poppy coating. Same simple recipe, but a lot of different versions you can try out.
Next recipe area is Sourdough or Breads Using Starter.
Now, they are saying “starter”, but what they really mean is yeasted “poolish” – don’t worry if you don’t get the difference. Pretty much I would only call “starter” something that has started from “wild yeast” – no actual yeast, just a combination of flour and water. Anything that has started as four, water AND yeast (even a tiny amount) in my head in not a “proper” starter, and I would refer to it as “poolish”. But that’s probably more to do with me being arsy about definitions rather than the book. If this is the first time you are making a sourdough bread from this book and it turns out half-decent, you should give yourself a pat on the back, and stick to fingers in my direction :)
The very first recipe in this area is Pain de Campagne and it is still one of my favourite recipes, also this is the first time I saw dough proving in a basket – crazy I thought at the time, now I have no less than 5 bannetons (a fancy basket) and am still looking to buy more.
San Francisco sourdough is an absolute classic, and a recipe that I am yet to master even after years of baking – sometimes it turns out okay, sometimes less so, but I will keep on trying.
I have had 100% success with the Ciabatta recipe, its one of the most satisfying and also one of the hardest to make if you haven’t got a standing mixer. I remember Mr Ranty going mental with a bowl of dough and a wooden spoon for nearly half an hour – his arm was dead after that. However, once the bread was ready and we dipped it in a rather large bowl of grassy olive oil with some balsamic vinegar, it was all worth it. Man, just the memory of that makes me salivate and makes me want to make a batch of Ciabatta.
The section also includes a few more European sourdough breads which I haven’t had a chance to try but do look quite tasty.
Flavoured Breads come next.
Assuming that you feel comfortable with the basic recipes, this is just a nice to have from my point of view, but still makes a good idea-generation section of you get bored with your every day breads. I recommend you experiment with the basic breads before you move into flavoured breads – use 50/50 milk and water, or juice and water as see what it does to bread’s flavour and texture first.
Pumpkin Bread, Pain aux Noix (Walnut Bread) and Dark Chocolate Bread look particularly appetising. Focacia Farcita (Filled Italian Hearth Bread) is not for faint-hearted – it’s a vision of goodness, willed with blue cheese and herbs!!
You will find a lot of inspiration in this area of how to make your breads look and taste better.
Once you are comfortable adding flavours to your bread, Enriched Breads is the next step for you – requires you to have more confidence in handing wetter, more complex dough. Brioche, the first one in this section is a classic, and I do love it, I prefer it baked as a loaf, lightly toasted, with lots of pate on top. These are a few other breads that look very interesting – Pane Di Ramerino (Rosemary Raisin Bread), Zopf (Swiss Plaited Loaf, a bit like Challah), PartyBrot (German Party Bread – you gotta love it just for the name :)
I had great success with Cinnamon Raisin Bread, and Prune & Chocolate Bread – really nice toasted, with chunks of chocolate melting slowly.
Flat Breads is probably my least favourite section, as I find small flat breads tend to get dry quickly and lack in flavour. I did try make Naan, Ekmek (Turkish Country Bread), Pain Tunisien (Tunisian Semolina and Olive Oil Bred) , Pide (Turkish Seeded Bread Pouch) and they make a very nice quick-ish afternoon snack or accompaniment to dinner.
Quick breads is the smallest and probably the least explored part of this book for me, I just didn’t find it particularly exciting. But it does have some classics – Irish Soda Bread, Muffins, Classic Corn Bread, and Yoghurt Bread and some others.
I like the Festive Breads section, it is very pretty and full of possibilities, but I must confess that I only tested a couple of recipes from this chapter. Christmas Stollen is a traditional, but I find it too sweet for my taste. I do want to try making Fougasse one day after seeing a whole pile of then at a French market. Personally I like Challah, but Mr Ranty is not a fan, so I don’t make it as often as I like. You will find  nice looking recipe for Panettone here as well, but I much prefer flavour of sourdough Panettone, its much lighter and keeps better.
Recipes Using Bread is a nice addition, with a few good ideas on how to get rid of slightly stale bread – Bread & Butter Pudding is a personal favourite
All in all it’s a great book, if you are looking for a book to guide you through your first bread baking experience, look no further!


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