Brilliant Bread – A book review

I am not a fan of the Great British Bake-off, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a complete episode, maybe I should! But thanks to a Great British Bake-off lover, I did get my hands on the book Brilliant Bread, written by James Morton, participant of the 2012 season.

Around the moment I got the book I was already in bread baking mode, learning how to make bread at home without my bread making machine and this book came at the exact right time. I read the whole book in less than a day (although, I must admit, it’s not a very hard read and I didn’t go through every recipe in a lot of detail) and got ready to bake some brilliant bread!

Today I’ll be sharing my review of the book as well as some of the breads I’ve made.

Learning how to make bread

James Morton has a nice way of explaining the bread making process. It is nice to see in the book that every baker has his or her own style and James sticks to his methods and ways of working. The recipes all use very similar processes and steps (which on one hand is nice, but on the other hand is a shame).

In the beginning of the book he writes about all the different bread baking steps and how these influence the final bread. He does this in such a way that it is easy to understand, also for those not experienced bread makers (as I was).

The things which are a little harder to explain in words only are illustrated with great photos. It shows, amongst others, how to shape a bread or how to fold croissants.

pain-de-campagne-brilliant-bread
One of my first breads from the book, a pain de campagne. One of the first times I used the scorching technique and it gave great results!

Learned some new tricks

Brillliant Bread has taught me several new tips and tricks actually of which I’ll zoom in on two.

Trick 1: Shaping a bread?

First of all, the book discusses the importance of shaping a bread. Before reading about shaping I never even knew this was a separate step! I used to knead my bread, leave it to rise and then put it in its final form for a last rise. Only when reading the book I realized that after this first rise you should shape your bread. This means that you not only make it into the shape you want, but also tighten the structure. I’ve used the trick after that and have gotten great results.

Trick 2: Bread without kneading?!

The second one is the fact that you can make a perfectly fine bread without any extensive kneading. The tricks: a good recipe & patience.

Before trying this no-kneading recipe I had made quite a lot of bread without kneading. Not that I did this on purpose, when I didn’t have a stand-mixer and no good dough kneading skills, I simply couldn’t do any better. This resulted in dense loafs which weren’t all that tasty.

Ever since I had my Kitchenaid stand-mixer though, I became better in making bread! Using the stand-mixer as a kneader really helped me in getting light an fluffy breads. I was therefore convined kneading was a must for making a good bread!

However, Brilliant Bread taught me that this doesn’t always have to be the case. One of the no-knead breads I made turned out very nice. The main trick is to incorporate air by folding the dough several times, while resting and rising in between.

The recipes

Besides the good introduction and photos describing the basic skills, there are also a lot of recipes in the book. I like the fact that there are a lot of different basic breads in there, in other words, bread that aren’t only for the weekends, but for the every day. By using different flour combinations and processing methods there are quite a lot of variaties!

The first few sections of the book describe recipes that most beginners will be able to handle, especially those that don’t require kneading.

Furtheron in the book more complex recipes are discussed such as sourdough breads and layered pastries. The book ends with some recipes that aren’t really breads, but are related, such as British scones.

Overall review

Despite the fact that the basic process of making a bread is just about always identical, there is a lot of variation in recipes in this book. It’s a great book for both the beginner and slightly advanced baker to learn the basic tricks. I would definitely buy it for someone looking for a good basic breadmaking book!

My trials

In this post I won’t zoom in on one specific recipe, but I do have other posts in which I refer to recipes I’ve made using the book. One of my favorite definitely is the one on croissants. Thanks to this book I gave home-made croissants a try and man, I was happy I did, they tasted fabulous!french croissants - freshly baked

 

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