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Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 17, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, August 17, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Leader's new bread-baking book is distinguished from his earlier classic Bread Alone by its focus on regional specialties, from the Alsatian classic pain au levain to Tuscan black olive puccia, from German laugenbrezeln or pretzels to the dark Silesian rye of the Czech Republic. The book opens with 50 pages of well-written and thorough instructions on everything from ingredients to equipment. The most helpful part is the explanation of the basic steps of any bread-making process, which serves as a primer on the procedural elements that are universal across the various European traditions. Leader, who founded the heralded Bread Alone bakery in Woodstock, N.Y., is most interested in teaching holistically, so that his readers will feel comfortable becoming apprentices and then experts themselves. One can't help imagining, however, that bread baking is best learned in the flesh. Leader advises that the only way to figure out if the dough is ready is through experience, and a hapless home baker might agree. Still, the book is an excellent primer on the best breads of Europe, and the traveler who has returned home with a longing for the Roman specialty pane di altamura might be satisfied with a mouth-watering trip down memory lane. (Aug.)
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From Booklist

After perusing the remarkable recipes in Leader's compilation of the best of Europe's artisanal breads, only the most resolutely self-controlled baker will be able to resist marching to the kitchen to reproduce one of these captivating loaves. Leader explains how to create a sourdough from airborne yeasts, and he uses that starter for many of these breads to yield superior, deep flavor and thick, crunchy crusts. Ranging from baguettes to chocolate croissants, from Italian ciabatta to dark Silesian rye, and from Czech country bread to potato pizza, these recipes give access to bread bakers' highest art. For those lacking the courage and patience to ferment a real sourdough starter, Leader offers several different shortcuts to success. Line drawings guide the novice, and full-color photographs render ideals for Leader's students to emulate. Question-and-answer sections throughout the book succinctly clarify potential problem areas. Leader's Auvergnat blue cheese rye rolls alone make this book a must for devotees of the baker's art. Knoblauch, Mark

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co. (August 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393050556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393050554
  • ASIN: B002PJ4J5G
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 1.2 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,435,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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