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Before I even started watching the Great British Bake Off (and got hooked quite quickly) I got a cookbook from one of the participants of this great British baking tv-show. Someone who had discovered the magic of the Great British Bake Off well before me, recommended buying Brilliant Bread (affiliate link) by James Morton of the 2012 season.
She advised the book as it’s a great entryway into bread baking. At the time I was starting to bake more bread myself, experimenting with it a lot and moving away from using a bread making machine.
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 got ready to bake some brilliant bread!
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Learning how to make bread
Brilliant Bread is a book for the beginner or intermediate bread baker. I still use it occasionally to look up a recipe or for some inspiration.
James Morton has a nice way of explaining how bread is made and all the steps that are involved. His explanations are simple and easy to follow. The first sections of the book are all introductory and help in grounding you as a baker. He explains the different basic techniques so you’re ready to start using them once you get to the recipes!
Making bread – The recipes
There is a good variety of breads in Brilliant Bread (affiliate link). I personally like the fact that he shares a lot of basic bread recipes. In all reality, if you’re a bread eater like myself you’re looking for more ‘normal’ recipes than ‘special’ ones since those are the ones you’ll be eating on a day-to-day basis.
He changing the basics by using different flour combinations and slight changes in processing methods. One reason his recipes are so easy to follow once you get used to the style, is that they are all very similar. There are a lot of very different ways to make bread, but for most recipes James uses a very similar method, mostly just changing up the ingredients. The steps and process are almost just copy/paste.
For a beginner/intermediate bread baking book this isn’t a problem. This way, it doesn’t unnecessarily confuse you. However, if you’re trying to level up and learn a variety of new skills, this is not the book for you (nor does it proclaim to be though).
From simple to complex
I started by making a few of the simplest recipes at the start of the book. Those that don’t even require any kneading. He then covers breads that do need some more handling such as kneading and basic shaping. If you’re into sourdoughs, which generally are somewhat more complex breads, you’ll have several choices later in the book.
There’s also a very accessible section on laminated doughs. His croissant recipe was my first try at making my own croissants and it worked very well! The recipes aren’t more complicated than they need to be which is great if you don’t yet really have any idea what you’re doing when making your laminated doughs.
I personally enjoy the fact that he ends with some less bread focused recipes in the classical definition of the word. He includes a recipe for a great gingerbread house for instance and British scones. They add some personality to the book.
As you may well know, I don’t think a cookbook is particularly good if it doesn’t contain a lot of photos. Personally, I prefer a photo per recipe, just to see what you’re aiming for (and I choose what I make based on the photo in most instances). Brilliant Bread contains a good amount of photos. Not every recipe contains one, but the majority definitely does!
What I appreciate even more though are the photos that are added in the explanatory sections to help visualize concepts that are hard to explain just using words. How to shape a bread for instance, or fold your croissant dough is all shown in photos. Reading this book was probably the first time that I actually understood what shaping of a bread meant in practice!
Doing the recipes
I’ve had this book for several years by now and as I mentioned earlier still use it once in a while. The recipes I made worked in almost all cases (though if they failed that wasn’t necessarily the book’s fault!).
The croissants are a great recipe for sure. Also, just the general introductions to basic concepts were very helpful on my bread baking journey. I made a whole wheat bread several times, as well as the English muffins and various other basic breads
If you’re new to baking, have heard about shaping your bread, but don’t really know what it means and are looking for easy-to-get-started with recipe, you should consider Brilliant Bread (affiliate link). The book has clear instructions, very doable recipes and well laid out.
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If you’ve been baking bread for a while but want some additional inspiration and give somewhat more complex recipes a try, then Brilliant Bread might also be a great book for you.
However, if you’ve been baking bread for years and are looking for some more complex, innovative new ideas, you might want to choose one of our other bread baking book recommendations. You likely won’t learn enough new things from Brilliant Bread (although, of course, if you’re a Great British Bake Off fan, you might just want to get it to complete your collection).