Book Review: Local Breads by Daniel Leader

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"Flour makes a difference, but don't obsess about it."

We loved this bit of advice from Daniel Leader's new book, Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers.

It's also representative of the book's over-all approach, which continually balances technical bread-baking methods with flexible, playful creativity.

Leader's first book, Bread Alone: Bold Fresh Loaves From Your Own Hands, was pivotal in our own discovery of bread baking and continues to be one of our favorites. This second book promises to be just as foundational and we're happy to recommend it to our fellow home bakers!

Click through for our full review!

Where Bread Alone held the contagious enthusiasm of a newly-initiated bread devotee, Local Breads is the work of a seasoned baker and businessman. In the fifteen years since his first book, Leader has continued traveling around Europe, meeting and learning from new bakers, and refining his craft.

Local Breads begins again with the basics--this time going into intricate detail on equipment, preparing the dough, shaping the dough, and (most exciting of all) sourdough.

The Recipes

This book is all about the sourdough. This is incredibly exciting for home bakers who have exhausted the possibilities of basic sourdough starter and are looking for new variations and techniques. Until now, no other book to our knowledge has covered European sourdoughs with nearly this variety or level of detail.

Leader breaks the recipes into regions, including local breads from France, Italy, Germany, and Eastern Europe. And these aren't just your typical fare! We had never heard of some of these breads, but Leader reveals a sense of place and cultural importance for all these breads through the stories of his travels around Europe.

Who This Book Is For

There is something here for novice and seasoned bakers alike. In his level of detail and accessible descriptions, Leader manages to meet his readers no matter their level of expertise. We have a feeling that we could make a single recipe dozens of times and still learn something new with each loaf (and in fact, Leader encourages this!).

The "Kitchen Notes" section a the beginning of each chapter anticipates questions that might come up and the "Q&A" section at the end addresses possible pitfalls encountered along the way.

What Makes This Book Special

We really liked Leader's emphasis on flexibility and creativity. He provides variations for all of his recipes: regular yeast-dough alternatives for folks just breaking into sourdoughs, suggestions for other ingredients and flavors, and short-cut versions for when we're strapped for time.

He also stresses again and again that there are no hard and fast rules. No single method works 100% all the time--the flour is different, the weather is different, the bread itself is different. This is where your individuality as a baker comes into play.

Leader constantly encourages you to turn away from the recipe, taste and evaluate for yourself, and let the bread itself teach you--and that's just the way we like it.

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We've been trying a few recipes at a time (how could we not?!), and we'll be sharing our results over the next few weeks. If any of you have been baking recipes from this book, let us know!

Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers by Daniel Leader is available for $23.10 on Amazon.com.
Leader's first book, Bread Alone: Bold Fresh Loaves From Your Own Hands, is also available for $21.45 from Amazon.com.

Related: Beginner Sourdough Loaf

(Image Credit: Amazon.com)

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