There is a renaissance in breadmaking happening throughout our country today there is a resurgence of artisan bakers who are resurrecting the old style of baking-bread made by hand and with minimal ingredients. New boutique bakeries seemingly spring up overnight, and not surprisingly there is also a proliferation of books specifically on the subject of bread baking. As with the quality of the bakeries and bread bakers themselves only the ones that are truly good gain recognition and survive in the all too competitive world of food. This, of course, is also true with books, and The Bread Book is such a book-it has true "staying power," and I'm sure it will stand the test of time. By this I mean that there is nothing new or revolutionary here-the recipes are all based on age-old methods-but it is that in itself that makes this book as relevant today as it will be decades from now, and most likely just as interesting to read.
The Bread Book was written by Linda Collister, and Anthony Blake took the photographs. Mr. Blake's beautiful photos make this book as enjoyable to look at as it is interesting to read, but this is not to imply that this book is all "fluff," or that it is just "pretty to look at." The Bread Book is also a great book to learn valuable breadmaking knowledge and to acquire recipes.
Originally, I had the opportunity to review another book that Ms. Collister and Mr. Blake had collaborated on (Country Breads of the World, 88 of the World's Best Recipes for Baking Bread), and had thoroughly enjoyed it I still use it as reference. Thus, this book-which was written first-intrigued me. It too already has a place in my library.
The book's chapters are designated by type of bread-basic breads, flat breads, quick breads, sourdoughs, and so on. The directions for the recipes are straight forward, yet at the same time explicit and easy to follow. Where, I feel, Linda Collister truly shines is in her text discussing particular recipes, and the information she includes on the various bakers. An excellent example of this is in her recipe for kugelhopf, in the chapter entitled Celebration Breads. She not only discloses the reason behind the shape of the traditional mold ("The traditional, high-fluted mold is made of earthenware with a hole in the center, which allows the heat to penetrate to the middle of the dough for more even and thorough baking."), she also discusses its heritage ("Indeed, an elaborate mold was once an essential part of a woman's trousseau. On the wedding day the bride would be given the family kugelhopf recipe by her mother."). And as stated earlier, as with their other book, the accompanying photography is nothing short of stunning, though it is at the same time useful. In the first chapter, for example, entitled Basic Breads, there is a step-by-step guide on how to make a basic loaf of bread, and it includes 22 clear and concise photographs to help the novice baker.
Ms. Collister was editor of Woman and Home from 1984 to 1990. She began her culinary career as sous-chef, cooking for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She has studied at the Cordon Bleu in London, and also at La Varenne in Paris, were she worked with the famed food writer and educator Ann Willan. Besides Country Breads of the World, other books by Linda Collister include The Sauce Book and The Baking Book.
Anthony Blake has photographed food around the globe. He has supplied photographs for such prestigious books as New Classic Cuisine, by Pierre Koffman (the Glenfiddich Book of the Year), and La Tante Clair by the same author, which won the André Simon Award. Other publications that bear his photographs include The Roux Bothers' Patisserie by Michel and Albert Roux, Memories of Gascony by Pierre Koffman, and The Baking Book, also in conjunction with Linda Collister.
As an avid bread baker, both professionally and at home, I highly recommend The Bread Book. It is interesting to read, beautiful to look at, and above all utilitarian it will benefit bakers of all levels of experience.