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Posted March 24, 2010
A Truly Great Bread Book!
When I received 'Bread Matters' to review from Andrews McMeel Publishing I was excited. I looked forward to reading it and to trying the recipes. 'Bread Matters' is not just a book about baking -- it's a book about a lifestyle. Author-baker Andrew Whitley has owned an award-winning bakery near Cumbria, England since 1976. He has devoted over twenty-five years to perfecting the craft of baking bread. In 2002 he founded Bread Matters, an organization devoted to improving the state of bread. He is also a founder of the Real Bread Campaign in Great Britain which started in 2003 and aims to encourage the increased and local consumption of 'real bread' in Great Britain.
The first three chapters of 'Bread Matters' are devoted to the issues surrounding the production of commercial bread. Whitley believes that store-bought bread has little nutritional value and unnecessary additives, and that it is made too quickly. He advocates that slowing down the process makes for better tasting, more nutritional bread. Chapter Three - Taking Control is a call to action: leave the store-bought, commercial stuff behind and buy or bake your own organic bread. The rest of the book tells you how with over fifty recipes. The book is for all levels of baker from beginner to expert. The first recipe I tried was from Chapter Six - First Bread and Rolls and is titled 'Basic Bread.' For not having made a yeast bread in a very long time it was just like getting back on the proverbial bicycle. It took several hours but they were relaxing hours; once I set the dough to rise on the back of my stove there was a giddy anticipation of will it rise properly, will it work? And it did, my basic bread loaf was a beautiful sight and tasted even better. Whitley's recipe and explanations were clear and straightforward. To have a complete experience I kneaded the dough with my hands vs. a mixer or Cuisinart and I am glad I did. It put me in closer touch with the process and it was fun!
What I like about the book is the detail to which Whitely goes to explain all the technical aspects of yeast cookery. Types of flour, water, yeast, baking equipment, essential ingredients, temperature, ovens, nutritional value, troubleshooting -- he even includes a section on gluten-free baking. While making my basic loaf I had a question about the process and quickly found the answer in another section of the book. I tried several other recipes including Baps (Small Rolls) and a recipe for calzoni; all worked beautifully. Next on my list of attempts will be something with sourdough and possibly croissants. The book is thorough, well-organized and full of great information on baking and yeast cookery. Whitley walks readers through the baking process with chapters like Starting From Scratch, Bread-A Meal in Itself, and Easy As Pie. If you don't already own one of the many yeast cookery books out there, or are looking for a good primer, I highly recommend Bread Matters. If you already have one or more of the others out there, this will make a perfect addition to your library. It's always good to have more than one source, isn't it? Andrew Whitley absolutely knows what he's talking about.
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