- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Mitchell Beazley (August 3, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1784723347
- ISBN-13: 978-1784723347
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.6 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 699 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
The Handmade Loaf: The book that started a baking revolution Paperback – 3 August 2017
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|Paperback, 3 August 2017||
Dan Lepard is to baking what Lewis Hamilton is to Formula One. - The Observer After 40 minutes in the oven my loaf emerges to a round of applause (mine). It is quite simply the most beautiful, flour-dusted, crisp-crusted, heaven-scented, honey-coloured loaf I could ever have hoped for. It is the loaf of my dreams, a loaf with which to celebrate not just the ending of a diet, but life itself. Mr Lepard, I love you. - The Observer Dan Lepard - one of the first bakers and writers in the UK to get people interested in honing their baking skills - The Telegraph
About the Author
Dan Lepard is an award-winning baker and sourdough expert, who has started bread bakeries for top London chefs Fergus Henderson, Yotam Ottolenghi and Giorgio Locatelli, and continues to help home cooks and chefs master sourdough in their kitchens. He's a regular voice on BBC radio, writes for food and travel magazines around the world, has a monthly baking column in The Sydney Morning Herald, was judge on The Great Australian Bake Off, but is best known for his time as baking columnist for the Guardian newspaper for nearly a decade.
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About me as a baker:
I have three books with bread recipes and frequently use online bread recipes. I've been baking for about six years now and bake at least weekly, often daily. Up until I bought this book, along with Hamelman's _Bread_, I had only baked yeast breads and had never used 100% whole wheat or rye (though I had done partially whole wheat breads). I bake by hand and I have only a glass Pyrex bowl, cookie sheets, a spritzer, a whisk, and a wooden spoon at my disposal. My goal when I bought these books was to learn to cook sourdough and with a variety of different grains, as well as to increase my general skill at bread baking.
What I liked about the book:
1. His instructions on how to build a sourdough starter are invaluable and worked perfectly for me. The pictures were a wonderful tool and hard to find elsewhere. You can see what it's supposed to look like as you go. He is very descriptive and clear.
2. His choice of recipes (breads from all over Europe and parts of ex-Soviet Asia) is delightful, in my opinion. Most, but not all, of the breads are sourdoughs, which are what most hand bakers in Europe and Asia use. There are some yeast breads including the good old Quick White Loaf. Between the 100% Rye, the Mill Loaf, the Rye with Coriander loaf (that literally got my husband's eyes misted over with memories of his school days in the Soviet Union), Brown Butter Picklets, and so on, I have staple and special breads to try and enjoy for the rest of my life.
3. His writing style is clear and you can tell he also writes for a living.
4. The pictures and narration of his travels and experiences add a lot to the book, in my opinion. I enjoyed hearing how and where he learned these recipes, and their history. The pictures of the bakers themselves are wonderful. I enjoyed the personal aspect of this book a lot.
What I did not like about this book:
To be honest, a lot of the recipes had to be modified to work for me. I had my oven professionally re-calibrated because some just were not working. I am not sure what it is about my personal idiosyncratic technique that does not jive with his, but while I get at least 95% of my new breads from Hamelman's _Bread_ and from the Internet right, I know that I'll need at least a couple of tries to get a Lepard bread right. This is tough because we bake bread to eat, not as a hobby. Some breads are very hit-and-miss for me, even now.
Sometimes, I had a hard time seeing how the recipe led to the picture in the book. For example (and I use this because the rye in particular did not work well for me in many instances, though it was amazing when it did work), his 100% rye picture shows a loaf with no evidence of having risen in flour. Yet, the instructions have the loaf rising in a floured cloth in a basket. I found that rising the loaf in a floured cloth dried out the crust prematurely and prevented oven spring. When I rose them in wet cloths, I found them to rise better.
I'm adding in a comment about the Dark crisp rye bread as well (p. 167). I was very excited to try this as we love knackerbrod. Despite my initial misgivings about the temperature and the bake time (425 F for 40 - 50 minutes), knowing that the light rye flatbreads were a mere 400 F for all of 25 - 30 minutes, I went ahead and followed the instructions to the letter, as I usually do the first time around. What a mistake. 30 minutes into the process, the bread was burnt to a crisp. It was black in several places. Now as I mentioned I've had my oven re-calibrated twice and I do not have this problem with other books. So if you do buy the version out right now, go ahead and lower the temperature and bake time on that recipe, and don't be afraid to tweak things ahead of time if they look a little off.
His method is VERY unique. He has decided (rightly, in my opinion) that a major mistake of hand bakers and new bread bakers is to end up using too much flour. Therefore, he has the baker kneading on a lightly oiled surface. This does NOT work out for me. Perhaps I'm too liberal with the oil, but it does seem to affect the formula, though I have gone so far as to wipe the surface clean after oiling, but before putting the dough on there.
He also uses a lot of short rests when preparing the dough, rather than one long mix and one long rest. This makes for some awesome results at times, but it is also difficult if you like to work in blocks. Of course, there are breads that can be prepared with fewer rests, but sometimes it is hard for me to do the knead, rest ten minutes, knead, etc. for the better part of an hour.
If you have improved your own technique as a baker and want to retain some of that knowledge, this will throw you for a loop in a good but challenging way.
I do wish I could give this book five stars, because it is so unique and invaluable. But I also think there are significant improvements that could be made. Until a newer version comes out, I would strongly recommend buying this one.
I asked the instructor what was the best book he would recommend and he said it was this book. It seems like every artisan baker has their own recipes, specific ingredients, and techniques that they swear by, (I guess that is why they call it "Artisan" Bread, (as there is no one way that fits all). But this author opened my eyes to methods that I truly did not know before and shows those methods with stunning photos and stories.
Sometimes details in the recipe are lacking: the Parsley potato cake doesn't tell what size skillet to use, so his timing might not work for the skillet size you choose.
My other disappointment was his implication that he would be replicating breads of the people he visited, but after rereading that section, I see the recipes are more inspired by than a replica.