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.
The wild card: Emmanuel Hadjiandreou How to Make Bread
While you might never have heard of South African Hadjiandreou before, as bakers go, he’s pretty much at the top of his game. His debut book How to Make Bread, was recently awarded the title of The Guild of Food Writers Jeremy Round Award for Best First Book. He’s also worked for Gordon Ramsay and the highly regarded Daylesford Organic. And, if you really want your hand held on every step of the baking process, then this is the book for you.
All of the ingredients are broken down to the very science of bread making – you’ll learn about endosperm (a component of wheat, before you ask); the difference between stoneground and roller-milled flour; why high protein (or gluten) is needed to make good bread (it traps the carbon dioxide during fermentation and gives the bread its texture); and if you carry on reading that far, you might even discover about kamut flour (an Egyptian flour suitable for the wheat-intolerant).
Hadjiandreou uses both fresh and dried yeast although recommends fresh, where possible, dissolved in blood-temperature water. His sourdough starter just relies on flour and water and the book has a rather useful picture guide to how the starter should look over the first five days.
The equipment list, though, is surprisingly modest, featuring what most of us will already have lying around in our kitchens. Electronic scales (for precision) top the list, while bowls, roasting and loaf pans, and linens follow. Unlike the other two books, instead of giving picture tutorials for each stage of the process and then listing recipes with a singular image – Hadjiandreou chooses to g et all the technical stuff over and done with on two pages of heavy text, and then every recipe has extensive step-by-step pictures. From start to finish he shows you how your bread (whether made with beer or semolina) should look – and the pictures are still incredibly stylish.His sweet plait recipe ‘Tsoureki’, for example, has no less than 28 images.
But it’s not just style over substance. The tips keep on coming too – and once again they sometimes contradict his peers. Use your oven as a proofer by preheating the oven to its lowest setting 50ºC, turn it off, place a wet tea towel on the middle rack and place the bread on here and let it rise – “the best conditions for proofing are warmth and slight humidity” he says. You never feel abandoned – Hadjiandreou is always there.
There’s a whole section on wheat-free and gluten-free breads, one on sourdoughs and another on sweet doughs. The contemporary bible of breadmaking for those that take their loaf seriously, and those that just like to eat it, too.
So, who's the best? While I am very much in love with Bertinet and Hollywood, for me Hadjiandreou wins by a nose. The book is absolutely packed with everything you could ever want to know about bread and, particularly for those starting out, the step-by-step images on every recipe are invaluable. No more guess work!
So, who do you rate as the best cookery teacher when it comes to bread matters? What’s your favourite loaf? Tell us in the comments box below.
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