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Normally when a new cookbook arrives, I look through and pick out which recipes I would like to cook, but discount some immediately as they are not to my taste. This is a book that I want to work my way through from start to finish.
Baking is big news right now, and if you’re in the UK you must surely have caught the buzz about the Great British Bake-off over the last couple of years. For those readers who haven’t seen the show, it’s basically a TV competition between a group of ‘amateur’ bakers. I say ‘amateur’ because the standards are very high – the showstopping cakes are definitely closer to professional standards than anything you might see in my kitchen!
One of the judges on the show, baker Paul Hollywood (he of the twinkly blue eyes), has just released a new cookbook entitled ‘Bread’* and my copy dropped through the letterbox this morning. Straight away, I could see that this is going to be a book I return to again and again. It would be an ideal gift for someone who wants to start baking their own bread – it is written with passion, and it makes you want to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in right away.
There is a useful reference section at the start of the book, with guidance and photographs of equipment, techniques and ingredients. It then works through sections on various types of breads, from classics such as the Bloomer, through sourdough breads, flatbreads, soda breads and on to enriched breads like Danish Pastries and Brioches.
In ‘Bread’* Paul Hollywood follows each bread recipe with a spin-off recipe that uses the bread as it’s basis. So, for example, the Crumpets become the base of Eggs Benedict, Pitta Breads are stuffed with Souvlaki, Ciabatta is torn into a Panzanella salad, and the Malt Loaf is used in a variation on Bread and Butter pudding. None of the meal recipes look particularly difficult, the skill lies in preparing the bread properly in the first place – and the bread recipes are very well written with clear instructions and good illustrations.
In his introduction to this book, Paul Hollywood says that he wants to ‘take bread off the side plate and put it back where it belongs: in the centre of the table’. He talks lovingly of bread at the centre of a relaxed dinner party, or a family meal. It is something to take your time over, while you enjoy the company of your friends and family. The recipes in ‘Bread’* encourage you to have a go at baking your own loaves, flatbreads and more – I can’t wait to get started.