Bread: River Cottage Handbook No 3 by Daniel Stevens

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Bread: River Cottage Handbook No 3 by Daniel Stevens

Category: Cookery
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The perfect introduction - and beyond - to making your own bread. Say goodbye to some of the dreadful stuff that you find in the supermarkets. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: February 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing plc
ISBN: 978-0747595335

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Have you ever been tempted by a bread recipe in a magazine and thought that it looked so easy you really ought to give it a go? Have you followed the instructions to the letter – or so you thought – only to find that you produced a solid mass fit only for the birds and even they took it as an insult? Me too. Bread: River Cottage Handbook No 3 was to be my final attempt at bread making and if that failed then I would have to make the regular trip to the local artisan baker.

In case you're not aware of this splendid series, I'd better explain. Celebrity cooks such as Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson write books and they sell by the lorry load and whilst some of their recipes are very good they're general cooks. Sometimes you want a book by someone who really knows a particular subject. My first encounter with this series was when I read Pam Corbin's book about preserving. You've probably never heard of Pam Corbin – I certainly hadn't – and in the normal way of things I doubt that she would have had a book published, but it appeared under the auspices of River Cottage and it's an absolute gem. Pam runs courses at River Cottage, as does Daniel Stevens, author of Bread.

Daniel's first attempt at making bread was based on a two-page list of ingredients and instructions and the results were fed to the birds. You are not, he says, going to be able to make exceptional bread on the basis of a couple of pages of instructions. This is a skill that you're looking to acquire. The book takes you gently through the equipment that you'll need (not much at all) and the methods and the baking. Everything is fully explained and you'll come away feeling that you understand the 'why' of the process rather than just knowing that you have to do something. Don't think of this as being heavy going because it most certainly isn't.

You won't meet the basic bread recipe until you get to page 72 and as Daniel Stevens points out this is the recipe that you'll use most at first and least as you master it and move on to other breads. Take some time over this basic recipe – it refers you back to the processes that you've read about and you can check your understanding as you go along. My first attempt was probably the best bread that I've ever made – it was certainly better than anything that ever came out of a bread maker – and there wasn't just a loaf for today, but another to pop in the freezer.

It is important that you master the basic processes before you move on to other breads – some things are just more obvious once you understand what you're doing. Once you've done it though you'll find an excellent range of other recipes, including breads made with wild yeast, others made without yeast and buns, biscuits and batter breads. The author is a man after my own heart in that he will never throw bread in the bin. There's an excellent selection of recipes using stale bread, ranging from the savoury through to the sweet.

The final section – on building a clay oven – is interesting but one that I can't really see myself making use of. If you really do become an enthusiast for making bread it might be something that you'll wan to try.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to The Bookbag.

Do have a look at Pam Corbin's book on preserves – it really is a delight. For another excellent specialist book we can recommend Jane Grigson's Fruit Book.

Booklists.jpg Bread: River Cottage Handbook No 3 by Daniel Stevens is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2009.
Buy Bread: River Cottage Handbook No 3 by Daniel Stevens at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bread: River Cottage Handbook No 3 by Daniel Stevens at

Buy Bread: River Cottage Handbook No 3 by Daniel Stevens at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bread: River Cottage Handbook No 3 by Daniel Stevens at


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