When I picked up 100 Great Breads from the library sale table, it became the ninth bread book I own.
The first time I baked bread, I used a recipe from Recipes For a Small Planet, an early vegetarian cookbook. I was very, very serious about it. Checked the kneading time down to the minute. The water on which I sprinkled the yeast was exactly the right temperature. It seemed so unbelievably complex, I didn’t want to take a chance.
That was close to forty years ago. I’m a lot more relaxed now. I know hot water from the tap will do for the yeast. And I stop kneading when the bread feels right. That’s part of the fun of baking bread; it’s much easier with practice but it’s never something I can do without thinking (and when I do, something bad happens, like forgetting to mix in salt.).
I acquired more bread recipes when I added a couple more vegetarian cookbooks. The first actual bread book I owned (a gift from my sister) was Beard on Bread by the chef James Beard. It covers a wide range of recipes, including a couple of basic white breads, potato breads, fruit breads, salt-rising bread (made that once. Not quite worth the effort), whole wheat and rye breads.
I could certainly have stopped there. I’ve been baking for myself most of my life, and I don’t bake bread every single week; it’s not like I’d grow bored if I just used Beard’s book. Really I’m still baking for myself, because TYG isn’t a bread person. And several of my general cookbooks include bread recipes. But I kept finding books that had enough different recipes (there’s invariably a lot of overlap) to be worth buying. Hollywood’s book above hooked me with a recipe for Stilton-Bacon Bread. I love Stilton cheese and I like veggie bacon, so that was a snap. I also made the book’s recipe for Irish soda bread; odd, more like a biscuit than other recipes I’ve tried, but a very nice, light biscuit. So what’s not to like?
That said, most of my books are actually inherited from my grandparents, my mum or TYG (one of her old roommates left an excellent bread book behind). I usually work through them all over the course of a year, looking for recipes for each in turn. Finding time is sometimes tricky, but the results are always good, unless I screw up. Trust me, lack of salt is a baaaad thing.
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