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on August 18, 2007
Local Breads is a good addition to the bread bakers library. There are probably three types of people who would be interested in this book:

1) die-hard artisan bread-baking fanatics (or perhaps not quite fanatic). If you say "hmmm... this describes me pretty accurately, as you pick dried dough off of your forearms), you definitely need this book. No sense having an incomplete home artisan-bread-baking library. It also contains recipes I have not encountered in other books. There is bound to be at least one or two recipes that will enter into your rotation.

2) Arm-chair bread-bakers. If you don't bake bread everyday, but enjoy eating it (or perhaps you used to be a fanatic and no longer have time), this book is still for you. In addition to numerous recipes, the descriptions of bakeries, bakers, bread, and other experiences makes for a very good read (if you enjoyed American Pie or any of Maggie Glezer's books, you will probably like this one as well). Likewise, if you are interested in travel or the slow food movement, this book could be of interest to you.

3) Beginning bakers. This could be an acceptable first book for people just getting introduced to the world of artisan bread baking-- I would probably recommend Peter Reinhart's books instead of or, if you want as much knowledge as possible, in addition to Leader's. It probably makes more sense to have fundamental baking knowledge before diving into a multi-step sourdough recipe, for example. If you are prepared for some trial and error, the recipes themselves are very clear... there are just some things that cannot be understood perfectly without a little bit of prior experience. Leader does have a very helpful introduction with basic techniques and equipment. So, it could be appropriate for novices (although perhaps slightly overwhelming).

This book is probably best described as a hybrid between Hammelman's Bread and Glezer's Artisan Baking Across America. It definitely has enough unique qualities to justify its purchase and it may even end up earning a permanent spot in your kitchen (sending your previous favorite to the living room shelf)

Unfortunately (and Leader's book is not the only one suffering from this problem) the book could have benefited from more attentive editing. There are many typographical errors and other mistakes in this book, which is perhaps excusable for a first edition (e.g. he describes a pizza al pomodori. This should be either al pomodoro or ai pomodori. These types of mistakes should be corrected in a second printing.
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on March 10, 2009
After reading all the other reviews about this product, I decided to check out a copy at the library before buying. I began reading the book and was enthralled. This book has everything that should make it a success: knowledgable author, adventurous storyline, details on the how-tos of breadmaking, unusual recipes, and great photos. EXCEPT: when you dig deeper you see that the great recipes are flawed! What a disappointment!

For example:
How much does 1-1/2 cups of water weigh? Answer: In this book, it depends on which recipe you are making.

On pg 67 & pg.144, 1-1/2 cups weighs: 340grams/12oz.
On pg. 96 & pg.126, 1-1/2cups water weighs 350g or 12.3 oz.
Move on to pg. 170 and 1-1/2 cups water now weighs 375g/13.2 oz.

Why does the weight of water matter when all these pages call for 1-1/2 cups water? Easy. The author, Daniel Leader has clearly stated on several website/boards that he gave the original recipes in Metric measurements only. He didn't even want to add volume measures (cups, teaspoons,etc.) but his editor insisted. Someone other than the Daniel Leader also did all the U.S. weight and volume conversions. Too bad that someone had no basic understanding of arithmetic principles!

I could spend a lot of time listing all the measurement inconsistencies in this book. Still, that wouldn't leave enough time to mention the blatent errors---for example, pg. 283 has a recipe that calls for 22 cups of water (yes, twenty-two). The weight of 22 cups of water is: 300g/10.6 oz.

After a browse through this book, I began to develop a real love/distrust relationship. The book is very attractive--and very flawed.

Other reviewers have suggested that maybe you could just use the metric table for the recipes. I have two issues with that:

1) I don't currently own a scale that is extremely accurate at measuring small amounts of items such as yeast, salt, etc.

2) I am not convinced that the metric measurements are correct/dependable either. In his book, Daniel Leader always provides a "Baker's Percentage' of which the total weight of the flour is, of course, 100 percent. Everything else is a percentage of that total flour weight. So, it is feasible to *prove* that the metric weights are indeed mathematically correct per the baker's perecentages given. But, honestly, who has to the time to spend working out the ratios for every recipe just to verify that the gram weight of each recipe ingredient is correct? Without doing that, however, I have no way of knowing if the recipe flaws extend to the metric measurement. Given the rampant errors/typos in the this text, what are the odds that there are NO typos in the metric measurements?

My advice: check this book out at the library, read the storyline and breadmaking parts, play with a recipe or two (if you are daring), and then REFUSE to spend your money supporting an author and editor who never actually cared enough to EDIT the final version of the book.

I plan to spend my limited dollars on a bread book that won't make me wring my hands in frustation!
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on May 11, 2009
After reading all the others (Rienhardt, Hammelman, etc.) I finally got a copy of Leader's book. He does the BEST job of describing how bread is made in a style that finally makes it clear. He does the WORST job of providing recipes, Leader's numbers simply do not work.

It is a crime to get people to buy a book and invest all the time and energy it takes to create the recipes and have them be just plain wrong.

Leader and his publisher should be ashamed, doubly so for not correcting the errors and communicating them. On the Blog: The Fresh Loaf ([...]) Leader himself (and his wife) somewhat acknowledges these errors, promises to fix them, then never follows through.

What could have been a great book delivers a consistently lousy result. If readers wanted lousy results, they would not need a book to create them.

Leader has failed an author's basic responsibility, "proof your work!" In writing, as in baking, "proofing" is an essential step toward providing a satisfying end product. Leader gets two stars for effort, but no stars for providing a baking book that is half baked.
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on October 24, 2008
This is a book that I have mixed feelings about. If you are comfortable working with weights, understand the concepts of dough hydration, and are prepared to think while you bake then it is a keeper. Unfortunately, the recipes read as though they were rushed and, overall, the book suffers from very poor editing. There are numerous errors in the listed recipes. Ingredients are given in terms of weight (g), weight (oz), volume (cups/tbsp/tsp), and baker's percentage. In practice, however, you can only trust the metric weights as conversions to the others are haphazard and often completely nonsense. Similarly, you cannot always expect the weights/volumes/% listed in the tables to agree with that listed in the written instructions. The latter are clearly coppied and pasted between different recipes with a frustrating lack of care. My copy is now inscribed with more margin notes and corrections than any other cookbook I own. The low score reflects my belief that, more than the average cookbook, baking recipies need to be accurate as there is little margin for error.

Despite the above reservations, if you are capable of working around the editing issues, the resulting breads are excellent. The author is clearly knowledgable and enthusiastic about bread; I just wish he and the publisher were more careful in copy editing the book. I have shared a few (corrected) recipes from this book with friends, but I wouldn't recommend they purchase it themselves.
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on January 26, 2009
I am a fairly novice baker and had enjoyed reading through this book, but I believe I am encountering mixed results due to extremely frustrating
editing errors. Having had a mixed result and confusion with my liquid levain, the basis for many of the recipes in the book, I looked around online to see if my instinct was correct, that there was somehow an error in the measurements. Sure enough, at least one blog indicates that the amount of water from day one of this starter was quadrupled! I didn't discover this until day 5, and thus have wasted effort and flour.

In addition, I am on day 3 of the stiff dough levain, the basis for many of the other breads in the book, and the instructions for the day 3 refreshment are clearly not correct. He lists 2 teaspoons (from day 3) and 1 tablespoon (from day 2) as having the same metric weight, which they do not. The starter also has nowhere the consistency promised, which could certainly be my fault, but without any illustrations or suggestions of how to tackle common problems (do I need to start from scratch? can I add a few tablespoons? If my starter has separated, what does that mean?), and with some serious errors, how useful can it be?

From the comments of even Daniel Leader himself on the Fresh Loaf blog, the book is riddled with errors and cannot be trusted.

It's a real shame, because I actually really like the level of detail. It is very well organized and explained, but the instructions provide little to no guidance into what to do if things are not perfect from the start, what could be causing the issues, etc....GET A NEW EDITOR, MR. LEADER! THIS ONE HAS MADE A POTENTIALLY GREAT BOOK AN UTTER DISASTER.
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on October 18, 2007
This book continues the commentable trend of publishing high quality, low price books on traditional (see proper) breadbaking.
'Local breads' bears a more than passing reseblance to Jeffrey Hamelman's book 'Bread'. They both have the same type of protective cover, the same quality of paper, similar layout, charcoal drawings to display the methods and sections of photographs in between the pages. I find 'Bread' to be somewhat superior though.
The book is not 448 pages but exactly 355 including the index.
It starts with a list of all the recipes that can be found in the book, and continues with basic advise on procedures and an introduction to the ingredients and equipment used. These are illustrated by charcoal drawings. It then goes on to introduce the reader (again using illustrations) to the basic method of making a bread recipe, from weighing to mixing, proofing, shaping etc(of course, not all recipes are made exactly like this). A 'menu'(sic) of European starters and sourdoughs is displayed eg levain, biga etc, followed by a method for making sourdough from scratch. A very nice touch is a chapter on frequently asked questions concerning breadmaking. The author suggests that the reader reads this first (and very rightly so). Mr Leader intersperses some interesting stories and histories in between the recipes and each new recipe has a very thorough introduction, which is a joy to read.
Many of the traditional European breads are here, including pain levain, baguettes, saltless Tuscan bread, ciabatta, pizza, pane de altamura, sourdough rye and even sourdough croissants. In, in between, before, after and on the side of the recipes there is an abundance of information, that assists the reader to understand the whole procedure for and logic behind each product.
The measurements are in Volume, Imperial, Metric and Baker's Percentage to fascilitate all users from around the world.
On the downside: I was not thrilled by the scoring on many of the loaves displayed. If one looks at the photos in both 'BREAD' by Hamelman and 'THE TASTE OF BREAD' by Calvel they can see perfectly scored and baked hearth loafs and underneath less attractive looking loafs baked in pans, convection ovens, without steam etc, that display less bloom in the cuts. Many of Leader's loafs look like the latter.
The second thing that I do not like is the fact that this book deals only with the breads of central and northern Europe, ie France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Poland etc. To quote the title: "Sourdough and whole-grain recipes from Europe's best artisan bakers". So do Spain, Greece, Malta, Serbia etc not have artisan bakers? Do they not have good bread? Some of the best bread on this earth is made in the small island of Malta. Greece has innumerable breads and a great artisan tradition. The olive bread made in my own island of Cyprus is much-much better than the olive bread in the book.(Not to leave you guessing, in 1 kg/2lb+3oz naturally leavened dough, mix some olive oil(half a cup), lots of black olives, chopped fresh coriander, chopped fresh mint and 1 large chopped onion. Shape as desired, usualy round, proof and bake 200C/375F).
Besides these faults though this is a great book to have and at this price, a bargain.
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on December 15, 2009
A plethora of errors, not just typos, in this book. My library copy came with an insert warning of 8 corrections but there are so many more that the book is serioulsy flawed.
One can only hope a revised edition will make this book the essential guide it is meant to be. For now I'll wait and continue to use the libary copy and carefully scrutinize all the instructions, measurements and ingredients.
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on September 9, 2007
I really love this book. I want to apprentice in Daniel Leader's bakery.

I started my journey into artisan baking with Daniel Leader's first book, Bread Alone. This book is more advanced than Bread Alone and he has changed and refined a few of his techniques.

If you are like me, an amateur artisan baker who wants to take the next step, this book is for you. With the help of this book, I have grown my first wild yeast starter and have baked three types of bread from it. The Quintessential French Sourdough that just came out of my over is almost as good as I have ever sampled from any artisan baker.

If you have not baked hearth breads before but are an adventurous baker who is interested in learning how to create artisan loaves, then this book would work for you as well if you remember that artisan baking is 75% technique and craftmanship. Read his directions well (cover to cover), do everything exactly as he says and you will have good results.

I agree with the previous reviewer that this book is probably best for bakers with at least some experience.

This is a great book and a must for anyone doing hearth breads.
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on October 2, 2007
There are many fine books detailing the art and science of crafting artisan breads. Among the best are those authored by Bernard Clayton, Jeffrey Hamelman, Rose Levy Beranbaum, Peter Reinhart, Maggie Glezer, Nancy Silverton, and Beth Hensperger. Now comes Daniel Leader with his second book, "Local Breads" and it's nothing short of extraordinary. While Clayton's book boasts 300 recipes, "Local Breads" has only about 50 (with variations). Where "Local Breads" shines is technique - tools and expert advice - that will serve the baker - at any level of experience - across all breadmaking endeavors. How can you ignore an author whose first directive is to "seek out flour with integrity"?

Among the book's best features are the FAQ's throughout. Leader anticipates virtually every possible question about creating bread - from start to finish - and answers them in a straighforward manner. The section on "Ingredients and Equipment" is well-researched and enormously helpful. "Kitchen Notes" and beautifully rendered illustrations are equally beneficial. The layout is logical and navigable and the entire book has a clarity that makes intimidation impossible. Even the choice of paper stock (enamel paper would have made the book too heavy) and fonts were wise, making the book easy on the eyes. All ingredients are given in metric weights as well as U.S. measurements, although temperatures are in Farenheit only - a very minor oversight. Perhaps a second printing might include a temperature conversion chart. Much thought was given to the book's overall design, however - a credit to its eminent editor, Maria Guarnaschelli. This is not a volume meant to be "edgy" or "cool". It's a beautiful book, intelligently written, and would make a thoughtful gift for any baker. Above all, this is an instruction manual - delivered with passion, not pontification. It's like having a Master Baker in the kitchen with you - a Rabbi of Bread, teaching and encouraging you through every step of the process.

I initially took the book out of the library (and have since purchased it) and was up until 3:00 a.m. completely engrossed within its pages. From the beautifully written "Introduction" to the final pages dealing with "Czech and Polish Ryes", I was hooked. Even if you never bake a loaf of bread, you will enjoy Leader's tales of traveling throughout Europe in search of bread Nirvana.

Warning: The recipes given in this book are largely rustic European loaves. Leader gives us truly authentic breads from France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic. Sadly, breads from Scandinavia, Russia, and India are not represented - but Leader did not set out to cover those parts of the world in this volume. If you're searching for soft American-style white or wheat breads - you won't find them in this tome. This is NOT the Pillsbury book of bread making. Most of the bread recipes advocate the use a wild starter or pre-ferment (sourdough), rather than store-bought yeast but there are recipes in each chapter that use packaged yeast for novice bakers or those who might wish to speed things up a bit.

You may think this is a book for advanced bakers only. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whether you're a beginner, a baker with some experience, a serious amateur, or a professional, this book belongs on your shelf - but it won't stay there long! It's also a great read for anyone interested in food writing and especially for those who support the Slow Food movement. Although I have not yet baked any of the breads in the book, I have full confidence that following Leader's steps, I will produce some fine loaves ("French Sourdough" ,"Ricotta Bread", "Little Blue Cheese Rye Loaves" and "Light Silesian Rye" are at the top of my list). More importantly, I can take what I have learned and incorporate Leader's counsel and techniques to other breads in my collection. This book is a joy and should garner the James Beard Award.
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on February 1, 2009
As a novice bread baker who has spent a lot of time in Europe, I was really excited at the prospect of creating some of these wonderful breads in my own kitchen. After many flops and failures I turned to the internet for help with the starters. (I have 1 failed liquid levain and 2 failed stiff dough levains) I am discovering that much of the blame for my failures lies in the recipes and directions provided in the book, and less with my techniques, kitchen temp., altitude, and flour sources. I am still planning on using some of the recipes, but will have to get a bread book that is a little more accurate. This book is however beautifully written and really does transport you to some of Europe's best bakeries. It's really a shame that the editing was so careless. With more attention to detail and accuracy it would have been a great book for both novice and experienced bakers.
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