This book should have arrived a few weeks ago. One is always advised to bake bread when the estate agent is bringing viewers around. It’s that tempting aroma that makes a house seem like a home. It’s said that bread-baking is an almost dead art but I believe it’s enjoying something of a revival.
A good bakery- bought loaf is a pricey item these days but there are more people than ever before seeking a tasty artisanal product. In these times of belt-tightening we are casting around for that feeling of security, and that seems to be found in the guise of old-fashioned home-made quality foods. OK, so some might resort to a bread-making machine but there is no shame in that and it will save you time… although I have never quite mastered the knack of using such a thing. I stick to a pair of hands, and I need the exercise anyway.
Peter Sidwell has penned Simply Good Bread hot on the heels of Simply Good Taste, although you could say that this new masterwork is an extension of the first volume. It’s just as much about good taste as good bread.
There are fifty recipes here and they work for machine and for hand. They include basic breads – white, wholemeal, brown, ciabatta, focaccia and even naan. They are simple recipes and will give the novice a bit of confidence. Baking is, after all, part skill and part alchemy, but follow these good recipes and don’t cut corners and you will have a result of which to be proud.
The recipes in Simply Good Bread are so well chosen that you will likely want to make all of them. They are mostly yeast breads but there are also soda breads, and a gingerbread that will be perfect for Sunday tea on a cold weekend. It’s one of those Victorian favourites which evokes visions of sitting around a roaring fire, adults discussing the wonders of the Great Exhibition, children playing quietly with wooden toys. Peter’s gingerbread is moist and moreish, and uses both ginger beer and candied ginger for extra gingery flavour. Malt Loaf is another traditional and sticky confection that seems to have sadly fallen from favour. It is a yeast bread but far removed from your regular white sliced.
My husband hails from Yorkshire and is prone to wax lyrical about Oven Bottom Cakes. Peter has a recipe for Oven Bottom Muffins which must be similar. A simple dough is transformed into a comforting snack when split (still warm in my southern opinion), buttered and spread with jam.
Onions seem always to work well when baked into bread. There are several recipes here that are mouth-watering. Spring Onion Bagels will smell delicious while baking and even better when toasted. Peter suggests several toppings but I would just give it a thick spread of salted butter to enjoy the savoury sweetness of the spring onions.
My pick of the book is the recipe for Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Bread. One would expect this to be a bread labelled “only for the practised baker” or “this’ll take a weekend”. It is, however, surprisingly easy. Roast the garlic till soft, sweet and creamy, and mix it into the dough before baking. Stunning when served with roasted peppers, sundried tomatoes and even a good cheddar.
Simply Good Bread is a book to use. That surely is the mark of a good cookbook. There are recipes for breads for every occasion and none of them will be beyond the skill of even the first-time bread baker. Perhaps this book will even help the flagging housing market.
Simply Good Bread
Author: Peter Sidwell
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018