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The River Cottage Bread Handbook Hardcover – June 15, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Containing only flour, water, yeast, and salt, bread is a simple dish that can take years to master. Daniel Stevens shortens the learning curve for would-be bakers in this informative introduction to making great bread at home. Accompanied by detailed photos of key steps in the bread-making process, Stevens patiently guides readers through the steps of crafting a toothsome loaf, explaining the qualities of various yeasts and flours, the particulars of hand-kneading, the cons of letting a stand mixer do your work for you, and tips on shaping dough into the desired shape. Once a baker has mastered Stevens's basic bread recipe, they're free to spread their floury wings and attempt Italian ciabatta, a rich French brioche, or even the intimidating croissant. Tips on storage (never in the fridge!) and leftovers (croutons, bread crumbs, Spanish migas) and a one-page troubleshooting guide guaranteed to get earmarked ensure bakers reap great rewards from their labor. Though readers may not go to the lengths of building their own clay oven (included here in detail) Stevens's accessible take on the subject is sure to inspire confidence, an appreciation for the craft, and a willingness to experiment.

Review

“For a touch of the homemade every day, try the River Cottage handbooks.”
—Everyday Food, Favorite New Cookbooks, December 2010

"Stevens's accessible take on the subject is sure to inspire confidence, an appreciation for the craft, and a willingness to experiment."
—Publishers Weekly STARRED review, 8/23/10

“A remarkably compact, glove box-friendly guidebook to baking. . . . A bread survival book. . . . The River Cottage Bread Handbook is a refreshing change from so many American cookbooks that magically transform copious recipes into 12 easy steps and still promise fail-proof recipes.”
—LA Weekly, 8/11/10

“Be prepared to make space on your cookbook shelf for these practical, passionate guides. . . . Stevens lays down a bread-making foundation with an in-depth introduction (and full-color step-by-step photos), then proceeds to help readers perfect their skills in his witty, conversational style.”
—Oregonian, 8/3/10

“These compact yet comprehensive hardcover volumes, part of a series written by experts in the River Cottage fold, inspire and instruct with their English charm, deploying a chatty hand-holding that nudges you through the process. The head River Cottage baker, Daniel Stevens, who put together THE RIVER COTTAGE BREAD HANDBOOK spends over 40 pages on mastering the basic loaf. His kneading explanation was so clear I didn’t need to constantly refer to the photos; and it taught me some new tricks. . . .This wide-ranging book inspires exploration, and not just because I’ll soon be able to slather my warm Scottish oatcakes, roti and even bagels with my own jam, thanks to THE RIVER COTTAGE PRESERVES HANDBOOK. Here Pam Corbin, who runs the Preserving Days at River Cottage, explains the fundamentals of jam, jelly, chutney, cordials, pickles, sauces and more in a demystifying manner. . . . Recipes for hearty ale chutney, spring rhubarb relish and Hugh’s prizewinning raspberry fridge jam are within delicious reach.”
—NY Times Book Review, Summer Reading Issue, Cookbook Roundup, 6/6/10

“This book is not only beautiful and inspiring but it also adds new bread-making ideas and formulas to the lexicon. It definitely goes on my ‘must-have’ bread shelf.”
—Peter Reinhart, author of the James Beard and IACP Cookbook of the Year, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press; 53734th edition (June 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781580081863
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580081863
  • ASIN: 158008186X
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #429,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
`The River Cottage Bread Handbook' is interesting, in that it gives very different recipes from many cultures, some are rather advanced for a beginner bread baker, but yet there is a very good 30+ page instructional section on how to bake bread. It shows the dough at different stages which would help those beginning bakers that seem to have a terror of baking bread to know what they should expect their product to look like.

The book is a small size about 8"x5", the pages are heavy so you will need to weight it down in order to keep your place while cooking. Despite the smaller page size the print is easy to read. There are plenty of pictures, both of techniques, dough and finished bread products. The introduction is interesting, telling why mass made machine bread is bad for you. Baking equipment needed is described.
The recipes themselves are given with weight, grams and ounces - this originally is an English cookbook, but has been `translated' in `American'. There is a section on wild yeast, basically what Americans call sourdough - making your own yeast.

The many breads from different cultures are probably too ambitious for a beginning cook, but would be interesting to try none the less if they are adventuresome; including roti - bread from India and Nepal, tortillas and crackers. A section is included on what to do with left over bread and even how to build your own clay oven.
This is not the ordinary bread book, it would seem to be for someone looking for a bit of venturesome baking.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a chef with a ton of food allergies (a true oxymoron, I know). My worst allergy is corn, and almost all store-bought breads use high-fructose corn syrup. It's cheap for flavor, texture, and preservation.

I've have had baking classes but never really "got" the whole bread-making process. Wish I had paid better attention in culinary school now that this allergy is wreaking havoc and I have to bake my own breads.

Enter "The River Cottage Bread Handbook". I read through it in less than an hour, and got going on a sour dough starter right away. I didn't want to wait that long for bread, so I started with the walnut honey bread. Oh My God - it was delicious. I've also used Stevens' scones recipe and, while it was much different than my go-to recipe - Stevens' is more tender and flaky than a typical American scone - it was out of this world.

I wouldn't recommend this book to someone who is deathly afraid of yeast breads. You have to approach these recipes with a sense of confidence. However, once you can grasp Baker's Percentage and feel a little adventurous, you'll be SO glad you bought this book. The illustrations are beautiful, and Stevens' sense of humor is truly appreciated.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have always wanted to learn to bake bread, but never thought I had the time or talent to do it right. On vacation this summer I ran across this book in a cookbook shop and requested it for Christmas. Lucky me that my husband was listening! This book is super. I spent a good plane ride reading it from start to finish. The step-by-step guide to bread baking, almost a breadmaking 101, introduced the equipment and explained the importance of each ingredient.

The basic recipe that can be altered at will was a great way to introduce creativity into baking, something I've always thought of as quite rigid. I have made almost 10 batches of bread (30 loaves!) now using the basic recipe and I'm having a blast! It's wonderful to see, feel and taste the difference one ingredient can make. I'm also gaining great confidence in my ability to "do it right" and yet be creative. From this book I now understand what the dough should "feel" like, how the yeast should smell and what happened when my first loaves came out too chewy.

I've also made the breadsticks, foccacia and, this evening, the bagels. All of the recipes were straight-forward and easy to follow - especially after taking the time to read the book cover-to-cover. My family is thrilled with my new hobby and so am I. This book is great. I recommend it for everyone, especially beginners.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm comfortable in the kitchen and have put together many a good meal, both from recipe and from good old fashion scratch. That said, baking bread always gave me pause. The litany of bread baking advice found online and in many cookbooks ranges from scientific to something like alchemy and none inspired in me much confidence to knead or even not knead bread (nor did the few I tried lead to well baked bread!).

This book changed all that. I can bake bread now.

The style is detailed in a way that most recipe books are not and in a way that I actually learn from. For example, if you are the type of person who encounters in a bread recipe "shape the dough into a round" and angrily wonders "HOW IS THE RIGHT WAY TO DO THAT?!" then this book is for you (hint: the Handbook describes in detail how to shape dough into a round).

Best of all, the resulting bread is fantastic. I've not tried all the yeasted dough recipes but those I have (doughnuts, bagels, english muffins, pizza dough) all turned out better in texture and taste than others I'd tried pre-Handbook.

Sourdough took me a while to get but now I kick ass at that too. All thanks to the River Cottage Bread Handbook.
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