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Until recently, Paul Hollywood was probably best known as a judge on BBC's Great British Bake Off. Now it seems that he is everywhere - with a column in the Daily Telegraph, popping up in the Waitrose magazine and of course he's had his own BBC series which aired in the spring - Paul Hollywood's Bread. This is the accompanying book to the series.
I've previously made quite a bit of bread at home but used a breadmaker to make the basic dough. This book answered so many of my questions though that I now make bread from scratch (unless I'm particularly pushed for time when I still make the dough in the machine). It is much more satisfying however when you know you're totally responsible for the delicious end result - so far I've not had any disasters and the book really does provide a step by step guide with lots of useful illustrations.
The first nine pages are essential reading - they introduce the equipment, ingredients and techniques. As a result I have invested in a couple of extra pieces of kitchen equipment but nothing too expensive. I have bought a baker's scraper and a couple of banneton baskets. A baker's scraper is used for dividing dough and cleaning the worksurface of dough but you can get a plastic one with a flexible edge from Lakeland for only 89p so it's not a big outlay. Bannetons are wicker or rattan baskets used to prove the dough.They aren't essential but they do give a nice shape to the bread. I bought a couple off ebay where they range in price from £6 to £12 depending on the size.
There are then six chapters on different types of bread:
Classic loaves. The first loaf is the bloomer and there is a detailed guide with lots of photos to show you how to make this basic recipe. Once you've mastered this basic recipe, you're well on the way. Apparently most novice bread makers don't knead the dough enough - Paul recommends kneading for about 10 minutes which at least gives your arms a good work out too. One of the most useful tips I got out of the book was to use oil rather than flour when you're kneading to stop the dough sticking to the work surface. If you use flour, there's a danger that you'll use too much which may affect the consistency of the dough.
As with the other chapters, in all there are five bread recipes and each one has a 'spin-off recipe' which could be a starter, salad, main course or desert which demonstrates just how versatile and useful bread can be. So for example there is a recipe for the basic bloomer is turned into a picnic loaf by packing the cooked loaf with roasted vegetables, basil and mozzarella.
Soda bread. Soda breads are quick and easy to make. In fact you can have a finished loaf in less than an hour although they go stale (ie rock hard) quickly and need to be eaten on a day. There's no yeast in these recipes as bicarbonate of soda is used as the raising agent. The recipes include a variation on the basic recipe using stout. Although Paul manages to make them sound non scary I've not tried the crumpet recipe yet - crumpets are cooked on the hob and you need a flat griddle or heavy pan. May be this will be my next recipe to try.
Flat bread. As the name suggests, these are typically unleavened breads such as tortilla and pitta (although pitta does use yeast). My favourite is Paul's recipe for maneesh which is a Middle Eastern flatbread topped with herbs and sesame seeds. I've made it to go with tagines but it's also great to use with dips. The 'spin-off' recipe for maneesh is an aubergine based dip called baba ganoush - which I love, but then I'm a great aubergine fan. It's quick and easy - basically you just add garlic, lemon, tahini and olive oil to mashed roasted aubergine.
Continental. This includes stables such as baguettes, ciabatta, pizza and garlic bread where you include cloves of roasted garlic in the dough rather than slathering garlic butter into baked bread and popping in to the oven to melt through. I've also followed the panzanella recipe which is a great way of using up left over bread (the recipe uses ciabatta but I've used a normal crusty loaf) in a salad with a lovely dressing and lots of roasted peppers. This is one of my favourite chapters as it covers so many favourites. I've not tackled the biscotti recipe yet but feel it has to be done.
Sourdough. I can't really comment on this chapter of the book because I've not tried any of the recipes. If I'm honest, it all seems rather a faff to me but I'm sure for the really keen baker, the recipes will appeal. You have to make your own 'starter' a process which takes at least 4 days using grapes, flour and water to grow the culture. Once you have the starter you can then continue to feed it and but you need to discard half and re-feed it every couple of days. I'm sure it makes delicious sourdough bread but I think I'll stick to the easier recipes!
Enriched bread. Another chapter which I've not dipped into but yeast based bread recipes are enhanced with other ingredients that change the characteristics of the bread. Recipes range from Sicilian lemon and orange sweet bread to Danish pastries with savoury fillings.
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (14 Feb 2013)
Some of the recipes from this book are on the BBC website. However, I think it is worth buying the book not just to get all the recipes, but for all the tips and advice on how to make good bread. The full price is £20 but I managed to get it for half that through Book People who come to my place of work. I also notice that Lakeland and Amazon currently have it for £10.