Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3 is written by Daniel Stevens, and introduced by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Daniel works for Hugh at River Cottage.
It is a compact hardback volume numbering just over 200 pages. Every single page is either informative, entertaining, or just plain beautiful. There is no dross in this book.
Honestly, if you could only ever buy one book on bread, this would be the one, sufficient in itself. The title of “Handbook” is well-earned. This is a book that will likely live in the kitchen and not on the bookshelf. I shall turn to it again and again.
Daniel writes simply and clearly, and is funny and entertaining. I took Bread to bed on the day that it arrived and I read it cover to cover in a very short time. It is a very accessible book and ideal for the novice or improver baker.
The Getting Started section is a useful reference and the thirty-odd page section on Bread Making Step by Step should be enough to give even the most nervous beginner the hand-holding confidence required to turn out their first loaf of bread. It is down to earth; a practical no-nonsense outline of the bread-making process.
The Basic Bread recipe section covers variations in several varying meals but Beyond the Basic Loaf is where the fun really begins. Recipes are included for Focaccia, Ciabatta and Breadsticks, for Brioche, Bagels, English Muffins, Vetkoek, Flatbread, Pizza and Barbecue breads. Further sections deal with breads from wild yeasts and also unyeasted breads, plus another on Buns Biscuits and Batter Breads. Not least is the chapter on using your leftover bread. There is even a chapter on building your own clay oven. Throughout, the beautiful illustrative photographs inspire and illuminate.
I cannot vouch for the recipes yet. I raved about this book after reading it, to the extent that Gill asked if she might borrow it and it only came home to roost today. (She has put it on her Amazon wishlist.) What I can say is that although it falls a little short of the advanced book that I was seeking, it is however an extremely useful tool in the arsenal and certainly delivers masses of inspiration. Best suited to the raw recruit to the bakery, perhaps, but nonetheless a worthwhile read for all bakers. I really could not recommend it enough to a beginner. If you ave been making bread but not yet achieved the results that you want – buy this book. You will not be disappointed.
This is the source that I shall turn to when I attempt my first sour dough starter (soon.)
Other immediate projects planned from this book include the Lardy Cake, the image of which is so appetising that I dare anybody not to be tempted to bake one with immediate effect, and the English Muffins. I shall report back.