The expert's guide to bread making - Richard Bertinet
by Laura Rowe | 17 September 2012 | 6 commentsTweet
In the first of a new series, Laura Rowe explores the methods of top bakers (old and new) to discover who is best placed to teach us all we need to know about bread.
Baking requires a certain precision and discipline that can be tricky to master at home. Whether you turn to online food channels and recipes, or stick to the classic cookery books, we’ll be looking at what makes a good home tutor, and will be turning those soggy bottoms into perfect bakes in no time. So, who knows their bread?
The professional: Richard Bertinet Dough
One of my first introductions to ‘real bread’ was with Richard Bertinet at his cookery school-cum-bakery off a cobbled back street in Bath. This Brittany-trained baker knows his yeasts, and flour, and water (you get the idea) and if you can find a class of his that isn’t sold out (trust me, I’ve tried!), you are a better cook than me.
His first book, Dough, is an essential guide to baking bread. It is divided into five chapters, focusing on five key doughs (white, olive, brown, rye and sweet) with more than 50 different recipes to chew over. The pictures are gorgeous thanks to Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2012 winner Jean Cazals, but the advice is even better.
After a poetic introduction Bertinet goes through the tools needed. Forget newfangled machinery; his key equipment list is topped by 'hands', because bread is about “feeling” the dough, while scales, tea towels, a timer and his trusty plastic scraper (the sort you could use to de-ice the car with) follow closely behind.
Next he talks about ingredients, leaving out complicated terminology and instead focusing on the basics: “use proper, good-quality strong bread flour”, only fresh yeast if possible crumbled straight into the flour, room temperature water, and a fine organic sea salt, which stabilises the fermentation and adds colour and flavour. He then goes through technique, with handy pictures and a brief summary explaining each term. Bertinet prefers to “work the dough” rather than knead it, and “fold” rather than knock back. It’s about “getting air and life” into the dough. He has countless good tips, many of which contradict established ideas, such as avoiding the airing cupboard when proving doughs, because it will dry the dough out; and weighing out all of your ingredients, even the water. He also has a colour chart so you can gage when your bread is perfectly baked.
A step-by-step picture tutorial then takes you through the basics of dough, with Bertinet’s trademark “working” of the dough without adding any extra flour to the work surface. Can’t master it with just the pictures? The DVD, included with the book, should help. A fabulous, fun textbook on the basics of baking. No gimmicks; just good recipes guided with an expert hand.
Next up: TV's Paul Hollywood's 'How to bake'...