Hi! Welcome to my blog. I am a major foodie, with a haphazard cooking philosophy, currently making that transition from cooking and baking for friends and family to 'wonder if I could make this my career'. Follow me for recipes, the outcomes of a few experiments, and general lovely foodiness. Opinions, reviews and recommendations are all my own.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Book Review: Paul Hollywood's 'Bread'

With every bakers' favourite 'silver fox' (sorry Schofe, but the title is definitely in contention) due back on our screens imminently, I, along with many others I suspect, am very much looking forward to a great BBC production, some fabulous recipes and great artistic shots of gorgeous loaves of bread... foodie heaven. Now I love a good food show as much as the next person, I ogle the baked treats on The Great British Bake Off, I watch Masterchef with a cocky 'I could do better than that' attitude when really I know I'd freeze in front of the camera worse than anyone, and my Saturday morning cleaning spree wouldn't be the same without James Martin navigating celebs and chefs across the TV screen in the background.

But my anticipation for Mr Hollywood's new series goes much deeper than the superficial love of a good TV show, because, despite many... and I mean many... attempts, I have yet to really master baking a loaf of bread. And it goes to show my faith in the man himself that when I first heard about the new show, and the cookbook that underpins it, my first reaction was 'finally! I'm going to learn how to bake bread!'

'Bread' by Paul Hollywood, is in all good bookshops already, and I have my copy here, ready and waiting for me to painstakingly follow episode by episode. My plan is to watch the show, pick up the tips, learn from the master so to speak, and then attempt to recreate the bakes each week, until I am much more confident in reaching for the strong white flour and yeast and creating good homemade breads.

The blurb on the back of the book gives a clear message about what can be found inside, in Paul's words: 'It's time to take bread off the side plate and put it back where it belongs: in the centre of the table." In short, the book contains a wide collection of bread recipes, from bloomers to sourdough, ciabatta to corn tortillas, flatbreads, brioche and fruit loaves. The twist is that with each bake, Paul has then suggested a full recipe that incorporates the bread. Irish soda bread therefore becomes Irish Rarebit, Malt Loaf is embedded in a Marmalade version of Bread and Butter pudding, and there are stews, curries, and salads galore.

At the first initial thumb-through of the book, I must admit to feeling a little over-whelmed. I couldn't see the bread for the Limoncello Trifle, and I wasn't sure whether I was going to get what I wanted out of this and learn the basics of making good bread. Because the recipes have been grouped together by type of bread, rather than the traditional starters, mains and desserts format that we are used to, the pages jump from pudding to salad to snack and back to pudding again, with pictures of loaves in-between.

I needn't (kneadn't!! Sorry..) have worried though. Sitting down with a mug of tea, and my concentrating face on, I read the book again, as intended from front to back. It truly is an incredible culinary feat. Paul begins by outlining his mission, and quickly moves on to a really good overview of the best equipment, ingredients and techniques to use. The descriptions are clear, and honest - "Bread doesn't need much kit".

Then the real baking begins. We get eased in with a Classic White Bloomer, a few Rye Breads, and Maltloaf. Then, as the book progresses, we graduate from Classic Breads to Soda Breads, then Flatbreads, Continental bakes, and eventually to Enriched Breads, with Danish Pastry Dough and Brioche. The photography that supports each page is stunning, with great action shots of Paul spinning pizza dough alongside rustic style photos of each bake and dish. And what won me over completely are the step by step pictures that underpin the methods for making the bread doughs, so that a novice like me can refer back at each stage and check that the dough looks like it is supposed to do.

This isn't a normal cookbook, and if that's what you are looking for, then this might not be the book for you. There is the odd curry, a few puddings, and a sprinkling of breakfast recipes, and it isn't easy to pick up if you are looking for some last minute inspiration for dinner. What this book is however, is a baker's masterclass in bread-making, with a real clear cut mission to move us away from the classic white loaf, and back into traditional bread-making and thinking about pairing bread with great home cooking.

The more I have studied this book, the more pages I have folded, notes I have jotted, and recipes I have spotted that at first were lost in the masses only to be uncovered like little gems. To summarise, a little daunting at first glance, but actually a really good beginner to baker journey, this is definitely a cookbook to follow and learn from, rather than just thumb through for a random recipe. I await episode one of the show on Monday night with great anticipation, and look forward to sharing my attempts at bread with you all...

Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this post are my own, and are not part of any sponsored or paid for activity.


  1. Hey V, I've finally done my VB award post.let the knowing me better commence lol

  2. Great review! I'm tempted to buy this now! Looking forward to seeing what you make from it too :)

    1. Hey Kat, thanks, definitely recommend it for anyone like me wanting to get better at bread making .. got a head start and made a bloomer yesterday and it came out a lot better than any I've made before.


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