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The Big Book of Bread is , to me, the definitive book when it comes to bread baking. It has been reprinted numerous times which is a good indicator of just how popular and useful this book it.
It proudly states on the front that it contains 365 recipes for bread machines and home-baking as well as 100 that can be used with a bread machine. The fact that it contains useful ideas for bread machines is the reason that I picked this book up in the first place. I had just bought a bread machine and was a little wary of using it for anything else but the standard bread mix recipes so this was intended to give me some incentive!
The book itself is well made and glossy and has a really useful feature in that it has wide spiral binding which means that the pages open up fully and lie completely flat without putting too much pressure on the spine. This is a really neat idea and means that this is the easiest recipe book that I have ever cooked from in a practical sense!
The book begins with an introduction into the history of bread and what can be expected from the rest of the book. This leads into 'bread basics which talks at lengths about the different components in making bread, this even includes a section on gluten-free flours, and all the different types of yeast that you may need.
Next there is a section on 'essential breadmaking techniques for yeasted doughs' - from mixing and kneading the dough (with step-by-step photographs), rising dough, proving dough, shaping and finishing bread. As a novice at baking bread by hand, I have found this section particularly useful - it explains things really well and is something that I have gone back to time and time again for reference, although over time I have found that you just start to know without having to look at it. This section is finished off by a detailed section referring specifically to breadmakers which would be ideal to someone maybe in the process of selecting one. However, following this are a number of tips on how to adapt conventional bread recipes for use in a breadmaker which is very, very helpful as you get more experienced and experimental with your machine.
Then onto the recipes.
The recipes are typically laid out as two to a page with the occassional photograph thrown in for the more elaborated restaurant. Each recipe gives a preparation time (this will be in addition to rising time), cooking time and quantities. Some suggest a variation on the recipe that you may want to try such as using different types of flours, different ingredients that can be added for a special flavour.
The first chapter is on everyday breads and rolls, such as: basic white bread, granary, cobb, wholemeal, bloomers, plaited three-seed ring, potato bread, rye, baguettes, ciabatta and most unusually flowerpot bread - which is baked in small flowerpots giving it a muffin type effect. There are also sweet bread recipes such as honey oatmeal and chocolate. Following this with have a number of roll recipes (really useful, especially for picnics and barbeques). Next there are a number of savoury snack bread recipes such as grissini, breadsticks, garlic bubble ring (??), sausage and salsa popovers.
Chapter 2 is for 'speciality and festive breads' - these include: brioche (and a orange and cinnamon variety), stollen, challah, panettone, danish apple plait, Cornish saffron bread, hot cross buns, chelsea buns, croissants (and pain au chocolat), danish pastries, lardy cake, doughnuts, teacakes and bara brith.
Chapter 3 is on flatbreads including various varieties of naan (which is one of my most used sections, roti, Moroccan flat breads, pitta bread, piza, calzone and more unusally blue cheese and bacon quiche. as well as torillas (which I really need to master!), and foccaccias (just divine - especialy the sun-dried tomato and olive variety.) Also in this section are English muffins, scones, crumpets, drop scones, blini, oatcakes (useful for snacking on during a health kick), crispbreads and pretzels.
Chapter 4 is on quick breads, which should convince even the most terrified novice! This includes various types of soda bread and herb breads, beer bread (which looks interesting but I still have to try yet.), cheese twists, pinwheels, lots of savoury scones (the parmesan ones are one of my favourite recipes in this book), fruit scones, gingerbread, spiced apple tealoaf (just divine) amongst other tealoaf varieties, gingered banana bread (just amazing), gingerbread, various muffins including a cheesey bacon variety. This has been one of my used sections in the past.
Chapter 5 features breadmaker recipes - these lean towards the more basic or classic bread recipes as you might expect and include: white bread, brown bread, farmhouse, sunflower seed, six seed (very tasty!), french bread, ciabatta rolls, focaccia, bagels, polenta breads, fruit loafs and teabread.
Chapter 6 features gluten-free breads. I have to admit that I havent tried this for the simple reason that I do not have a gluten intolerance but it does include recipes such as; cheesy onion cornbread, chilli cornbread, parmesan herb bread, ginger teabread, tealoaf, scones, muffins as well as basic gluten free recipes for white and brown bread.
Chapter 7 (the final one) focusses on bread dishes such as: various croutons, brushettas, garlic breads, pizzas, Welsh rarebit, nut loaf, potato cakes, burgers, pasta bakes (which include breadcrumbs) , fish goujons, golden gruyere bread pudding (the ultimate comfort food), as well as bread sauce and stuffing mixes, bread and butter puddings, brownbread ice cream, summer pudding and traditional Christmas pudding.
I love my cookbooks, to the point where really I cannot stop buying them! However, this is the only bread book that I have and I think the only one that I will ever need. You can see from the examples of recipes that I have described that the scope for this book is very wide. I cannot imagine many people not finding a great number of ideas here that they could include in their regular recipe rotation.
I have to admit that I do still mostly buy my bread but this book has definitely encourage me to experiment more and also to have more confidence in basic breadmaking techniques which are almost infinitely useful. This is without mentioning the many variations such as croutons and muffins which are very appetising and useful. The snacks really come into their own if you know you are having guests at short notice and want to put some savoury snacks out for them.
The recipes themselves are really well explained and the ones I have tried have always come out well.
In conclusion, I love this book and highly recommend it for any bread and baking lovers!