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Slow Dough: Real Bread: Bakers' secrets for making amazing long-rise loaves at home Hardcover – September 13, 2016
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About the Author
Chris Young is Campaign Co-ordinator for The Real Bread Campaign, a charity project with a mission to promote additive-free bread. In addition to compiling this book, Chris edits the quarterly magazine True Loaf, and wrote Knead to Know, the campaign's first book. His work has appeared in publications including Spear's Magazine, The Real Food Cookbook and the London ethical food magazine, The Jellied Eel, which he also edits.
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The basis for Slow Dough is excellent, and whether you are a newbie or experienced bread baker, you would do well to heed the authors introductory advice. This British book reminds me of Maggie Glezer's artisan bread book, a compilation of some of the best bread Baker's across the United States.
The photographs of the finished breads are exquisite and definitely showcase bread as an art form. How attainable that is for the home baker with a conventional oven, I question. However, even if it is not realistic for the average home oven, home bakers can be inspired by the craft.
Why then four stars and not five?
1. The breadbook only contains a first level table of content with just the categories. There should be a listing of the individual bread recipes.
2. Too many of the recipes are more esoteric than "real bread". For example, the sourdough recipes include spelt sourdough, fig and fennel sourdough, seaded wholemeal sourdough ( which requires kelp granules), roasted pumpkin sourdough ( which requires a particular type of crown prince winter squash).
All this to say, I think the book would be a good addition to your bread library, but as a standalone it doesn't quite measure up.
The main message is why rush it? Who cares if it takes say 18 hours between time you start and then time the loaf comes out of the oven? 90% of the time, the bread is doing the work and you are doing other things. So, why load up on yeast and sugar to reduce the total time to less than 2 hours?
The bakers insist that slow fermentation makes for tastier loaves. While I would not dispute that, the real question is: how much tastier?
I have been making bread once or twice a week for over 25 years. While the loaves I make today are better (more large, irregular holes, thicker crust, no sweeteners, less yeast), I still add yeast to my sourdough loaves. I just never believed my guys could do it on their own. I chose to make Ross Baxter's Multigrain Pain au Levain. This is a 2-day process, but the actual total hands-on time was less than an hour.
First shocker: only 50 grams of starter for one loaf! I have been using 16 ounces or 454 grams for 3 loaves--about 3 times more plus 1 tsp. of yeast. Second, the pre-ferment seemed rather dry, but I resisted the temptation to add more water. The soaker was wetter--I thought my guys have a chance. Made up both and let them sit overnight, which worked out to be 12 hours. This morning, I made the dough (flour and water) and let it autolyse for an hour. Again, the dough seemed dry. This time, I could not resist adding a bit more water, reasoning that it is easier to incorporate more flour into wet dough later, then it is to incorporate water into a dry dough.
An hour later, I mixed all three components together. I was heartened to see that the pre-ferment was not a rock and the soaker was wet. Maybe my 14-year old sourdough starter is up to the task!
Three hours later, the dough had risen, but nothing like it would have had with a shot of yeast. I kept the faith, formed it into a ball and gave it another 30 minutes. Things were decidedly looking up now. I was encouraged. I reshaped the loaf, wet the top, rolled it in sunflower seeds and placed it seam-side up in a well-floured (the flour should fill all the seams) brotform (proving basket) per the recipe and let it rise for another 2 hours. Now the dicey part, getting the dough out of the basket and into my porcelain-clad cast iron casserole which was now very hot after being in the oven at 450 F. Decided to just dump it in my hand and into the casserole. It worked, but wasn't perfectly centered. Slashed the top and in it went. While I was concerned it might stick to the casserole, it slid right out.
Here are pictures of the finished product:
And how did it taste? Sweet, nutty, crunchy and totally satisfying. My best loaf ever.
This is a superb book for anyone who wants to make great, to-die-for bread at home and improve their "flour arranging" skills, as the author says. One of its best features is that the recipes are well-tested, unlike some cookbooks. The recipes are based on metric weights, so for best results get a scale that reads in grams or tenths of an ounce (figure 28 grams to the ounce). While some recipes call for equipment not all home bakers have, like a proving basket, many do not, so don't be intimidated or discouraged. Pick a different recipe.
You will learn how to make them from scratch, how to nurture your own sourdough and much more.
Then you get the chance to use this new knowledge to bake a bunch of delicious breads, some simple but savory, some intriguing, some sweet, some tart, some...no matter what, they all look and sound delicious. I couldn't try all of them yet but up to now I was never disappointed. The recipes are easy to follow and the photos are just gorgeous.
All recipes are donated by Real Bread bakers who are also part of the Real Bread Campaign.
So...if you want to bake your own bread or want to try other recipes, other varieties of bread, this is the book to turn to. Oh, and don't worry if you tried too many recipes at once, there's a whole section with recipes for leftovers, be it leftover bread or leftover sourdough.
I can wholeheartedly recommend this book and if you still wonder if it is worth all the work - yes, it is. My family loves the freshly baked bread and even the kids from the neighbourhood come in when I am baking, hoping to be in time for a slice of fresh bread.
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Author: Chris Young
NetGalley provided a copy of the PDF in exchange for an honest review.
Slow Dough: Real Bread by Chris Young is a thorough collection of healthy...Read more