A stash of recipes inspired by the austere breads of the Baltic and Ukraine: the kind of loaves that are baked in Hansel-and-Gretel-style ovens, and flavoured with dill pickle juice, chestnuts and soured milk.
Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf, and Casa Moro by Sam and Samantha Clark, should probably get joint first prize for inspiration and conviction. Lepard is a baker. His book is remarkable. It oozes knowledge, curiosity and love for its subject. It is not for the beginner. But I doubt a better book will be written on the subject for a few years to come.
From Russia to Alsace, from Ukraine to Denmark, this stylishly produced book is filled with great tips on breadmaking, as well as the history of bread across Europe. Trendy diets may have banned bread, but this book will have you baking mad.
I'm going to go out and buy The Handmade Loaf, by Dan Lepard. He worked with me - I started his cooking career, not as a baker but he branched into that very quickly. He's a quite remarkable baker; he's responsible for some of the best bread and the best quality of bread in this country. And it's a subject I'm absolutely passionate about.
This book is not aimed at the professionals, it's a manual for the home cook. Lepard demystifies the variables and processes that make bread. He has collected recipes from across Europe, then tested and adapted them, so that all the recipes work. Finally, he has photographed the breads without any food stylists tricks. Make sure Father Christmas tucks this one in your tucker bag.
This is a beautiful book. Photographed and written by British master baker Dan Lepard, it is a visual as well as an edible feast. An easy-to-follow series of images take you through the basics of preparing a starter, kneading and proving before he takes off around the world to bring you bread recipes from Russia, Sweden, Scotland, Ireland, France and more - complete with take-you-there reportage style photography. From lip-smackingly savoury fried flatbread with dill seeds and pork crackling to a lusciously sweet Swedish blackcurrant crown he brings you the best of bakery.
Dan Lepard's enthusiasm for traditional artisan baking has taken him to Denmark, Sweden, Ukraine, Russia, and Germany as well as more familiar territories. The result is as fresh and as mouth watering as a loaf straight from the oven, and the authors own step-by-step photographs (especially of making leavens) are genuinely educational.
One of the world's best bakers.
Constantly travelling the world in search of different techniques and traditions, his supreme skill is his empathy with people who bake, from Grandmothers using ancient ovens to cutting edge chefs.
"Just thought I'd drop you a quick note to say thanks for writing such a great book. There aren't many food books written these days that are worth reading from cover to cover, but this one certainly is. It is a real inspiration; just about every recipe had me making a mental note to have a go at making it. I note that it contains mainly northern European recipes; I do hope this means that you'll be doing one on southern European recipes too! Thanks again" - Bill Corr
"First let me say thank you for the great book you have written. I have lots of books, but none like this one - I loved it from the first page, like no other book. I followed your steps to make a leaven. Last night it bubbled like champagne, the smell is great and I can't wait to try my first baked bread without commercial yeast. Thank you very much" - Lopez Basilio
"I have just received your book, The Handmade Loaf. I ordered it after reading a review, so hadn't seen it in the flesh/print. It is spectacular, a real delight and I can't wait to get my hands in that dough again. Thanks for publishing a book I have always yearned for" - Stephen Hardacre, Adelaide, South Australia
"Just a note to say that I tried the Mill Loaf recipe on Saturday. The leaven worked perfectly in the build up to the weekend, and looked exactly like the book. I made the loaf by hand as instructed, and proved for the required time. It came out of the oven looking very much like the photo, so I was well pleased. My children had a bunch of friend over for the evening - around 15 bod's. I was pleasently surprised, when I offered bread that came out of the oven during the party with home made rapberry jam, how many takers we had. One would go back to the party, and then someone else came out and said " I here we have bread and jam, can I have some." I made the recipe into 4 small loaves and the kids got rid of 2 of them so they didn't last long" - Graham Dunton, England