Celebrate Real Bread Week with inspirational cookbooks

Real Bread week (14 to 22 May 2016) is all about celebrating a true unadulterated loaf of bread. We hope it will encourage you to seek out bread made by artisan bakers in your area. You might find that your children are involved in a bread baking class. Or you might like to try bread baking yourself by taking a class. I’ve been reading some new bread baking books – on sourdough, an updated edition of the Baker’s Apprentice and even one for 2-4 year olds!

Perfecting Sourdough by Jane Mason

Jane Mason, author of Perfecting Sourdough Photo: Andrea Martinez

Jane Mason, author of Perfecting Sourdough

When I attended Richard Bertinet’s course, he was adamant that we learn bread making techniques before we tackled sourdough. I agree with him wholeheartedly. It is not the easiest type of bread to make and you do need patience and time. You could feel you have failed before you have begun.

You will really enjoy Jane Mason’s book. She is pragmatic and down to earth. None of the throwing starter away as you make it. (She puts this down to her German mother: “Waste not, want not” – Plenty of toast eaten in her house). This never seemed to make sense to me either. It’s full of helpful tips such as making the bread in a tin so you can more easily tell when it is ready (it reaches the top of the tin). If things do go wrong with baking, there photographs showing typical problems and why they happened. Jane Mason is a writer, baker and social entrepreneur. She set up Virtuous Bread to help people (among other aims) set up a home bakery.

Finnish Rye Loaf from Perfecting Sourdough

Finnish Rye Loaf from Perfecting Sourdough

Most of all, I really enjoy the range of breads included. Whilst there are loaves that you would recognise as classic sourdough – plenty of aeration – there are breads like Finnish Rye which I made, which is just perfect for sandwiches, but that have a denser crumb.

Perfecting Sourdough by Jane Mason, published by Apple Press (£14.99), is out now.  Available at QuartoKnows.com Try the Finnish Rye recipe

Definitely a book for would be sourdough bread makers!

The Bear Cub Bakers by Caroline Baxter

Do you enjoy baking with your children or grandchildren? I certainly do. Making bread with 2 to 4 year olds is a messy business, but so rewarding. There’s nothing better than the child eating bread they’ve made themselves topped with their favourite spread.

Caroline Baxter’s book is about Mrs Betsy Bear’s baking school located in a forest. On each day of the week eager bear bakers set out to learn something new. “On Wednesday the bears learn all about bread-making. They mix flour and yeast, Kneading and shaping”. Miss Betsy even insists that all the bread should be the same size. (The author must be a bread baker ..).  It’s a lovely book in rhyme which is sure to delight. It includes a bun recipe (which is cake rather than bread, but if it gets the kids baking ….!)

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice – 15th Anniversary Edition

There are two great “bread manuals” both written by American authors – Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread (2004 and updated in 2012) and Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice (2001). Peter’s book has become a “bible” for the serious bread baker, indeed whole discussion groups are dedicated to it. After 15 years, he’s continuing to refine the recipes and strives, always, to create a better bread.

If you can wait until the launch of this Anniversary Edition in September, it will be well worth the wait. I was lucky enough to review a preview copy. Rather than completely revising the photographs and recipes, Peter Reinhart has enhanced and amended. He’s revised his approach to making sourdough acknowledging what he’s learnt from the strong home baker community. Where he’s tweaked a recipe an explanation is included and the stretch and fold method is introduced for the first time. This is a good book for someone who wants to extend their knowledge and understanding of bread making covering such useful topics as hydrdation and bakers’ perecentages.

I am looking forward to trialling these recipes over the coming weeks.

Jane Mason’s Finnish Rye

The additionl of malt syrup gives this dense rye loaf a rich, golden colour, but the white flour means it still has a fluffy texture. This is a daily bread in Scandinavian countries.

Finnish Rye
Preparation time
Cooking time
Total time
You will need some rye sourdough starter for this recipe. You need a 500 gr loaf tin. Placing the loaft in the tin makes it far easier to tell it is ready. A shower cap makes an ideal cover for the bread whilst it is proving but a plastic bag will do equally well.
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Scandinavian
Serves: 1
  • 35 g rye sourdough starter
  • 100 g dark or light rye flour
  • 185 g white or spelt flour plus extra for dusting
  • 80 g water
  • 100 g milk
  • 50 g malt syrup (I used malt extract)
  • 6 g salt
  • butter or oil for greasing the tin.
Day 1
  1. Measure the sourdough starter into a large bowl and return any remaining starter to the fridge
  2. Add 25gr rye flour, 35 gr wheat or spelt flour and 30 gr water. Stir and cover with cling film and leave on the counter for around 8 hours or overnight.
Day 2
  1. Add the remaining ingredients to the refreshed sarter and knead well for 10 minutes
  2. Grease the baking tin
  3. With wet hands, pick up the dough and shape it into a small brick, then gently place it into the tin. Flour the top heavily
  4. Cover with a shower cap (or place in a plastic bag) and leave to rise for 3 to 5 hours until it has nearly filled the tin.
  5. Preheat the oven to 220C. Place the dough in the ovven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200C and bake for a further 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from the tin and leave to cool completely.


Real Bread Campaign

If you’ve an interest in bread – you don’t necessarily need to be a baker – support the Real Bread Campaign. Yes it is easier to find good real bread, but there’s still plenty of work to do!  It cost less than £2 a month. Why not sign up now – there are plenty of benefits.


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About Bread Baker Danielle

Danielle founded Edinburgh Foody in 2010. Having qualified as a professional bread baker in France in 2014, she is now on a new adventure in Gloucestershire. Check out severnbites.com Look out for occasional posts for Edinburgh Foody

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