There are times when I think I missed my calling as a baker, and never more so than when I'm looking through a cookbook like this. Dan Lepard's latest book brings us not only a collection of bread recipes that goes way beyond the sandwich loaf, but also glimpses into the lives of bakers from around the world. It's a book that makes me want to simultaneously dive into the kitchen and jump on an airplane.
• Who wrote it: Dan Lepard
• Who published it: Mitchell Beazley
• Number of recipes: Around 80
• Recipes for right now: Sour 100% Rye Bread, Crusty Potato Bread, Simple Milk Loaf, Orange and Almond Cake, Honey and Ginger Wafers, Dark Crisp Rye Bread
• Other highlights: I am continually amazed by all the kinds of bread that can be created with just flour, water, and yeast. And then if you do as Dan Lepard strongly encourages in this book and add in other ingredients like sprouted gains, fresh fruit, crushed cardamom, pickle juice, and even wine — well, that opens up a gigantic universe of breads to explore.
Lepard covers this universe over the course of the nine recipe chapters in this book, interspersing the recipes with stories of home bakers and professional bakeries from all over Europe. One recipe leads to the next almost like a conversation. Many of these breads, while they come from very old and traditional recipes, are not the kinds of loaves you'll see at Safeway or even most artisan bakeries these days. But this isn't an exhaustive encyclopedia of forgotten bread recipes — rather it's a curated collection of specific breads that Lepard loves and thinks deserve to be discovered (or re-discovered) by home bakers.
One of the things actually I love most about this book is that the breads look as they should, which is to say homemade. They are rustic and nubbly and perfectly imperfect. This is reassuring to me. This reminds me that the goal of baking bread is not always to achieve a perfect display-window loaf, but rather to enjoy the process of making bread and then to enjoy the process of eating it.
• Who would enjoy this book? Bakers with an adventurous streak.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Handmade Bread by Dan Lepard
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