Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers by Daniel Leader. Hardcover book published by W. W. Norton & Company 2007, 355 pages with some black and white illustrations and colour photographs.
“Is this how they make them in France?” As Dan Leader watched Rolf, one of the bakers at Tobias Maurer’s Stuttgart bakery, shape French loaves, Dan thought that he had misheard Rolf’s question. Stuttgart is a six- hour train ride from Paris, and it was incomprehensible to Dan that this master baker, who spent his life making different kinds of German rye breads, wouldn’t be aware of French baguettes. All over Europe, the bakers Dan visited in his search for unique artisan breads were, like Rolf, devoted to baking locally. It is this commitment to place and tradition that accounts for their greatness. Although globalization has made its way across Europe, Dan managed to discover local bakers in great numbers making breads handed down from their grandfathers and great-grandfathers, improving on the old recipes and adapting them to new technology, but always with an eye to keeping tradition alive. In Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe ‘s Best Artisan Bakers, Dan provides us with both colorful stories of the people he found — local artisans making local breads — and their treasured recipes, which he has translated for American home bakers.
I've eaten bread more than a few times in my life and it is something that I enjoy eating, particularly if it is tasty and is as far away from the taste of tasteless cardboard, as possible. Discovering new breads is a real joy. A few weeks back I was at a function here in Clunes, when someone I know wheeled out a basket full of home made Parker House rolls. If you're as up to date with breads of the world as i am, you are probably as perplexed as i was. What is a Parker House roll? (Click here and all will be revealed.) The reason i mention these rolls is that they were quite simply outstanding in both taste and texture and they were picture book is appearance (they looked great).
Parker House rolls are not European and therefore are sadly not in this book. European bread is what this book considers in all its doughy glory. I've travelled through Europe a few times and i have to say that i don't particularly remember the breads i ate. I do remember the beers and various other bits and pieces, but bread is not something that i came back to Australia wanting to share anecdotes with others about. I wonder if that's me or was it the bread. I think we have some amazing breads from all over the world here in Australia so there is the possiblity that my taste buds were tasting what i've already known and loved for many years. This sounds a bit arrogant but seriously if you go out of your way, don't shop at a supermarket and avoid mass produced tasteless white bread, the bread here is pretty damn good. Which leads me to another theory about why i don't remember much about European bread and that has to do with knowing where to go to get the good stuff and avoiding the bad stuff. Travelling through Europe, i wasn't focussed on bread and clearly, according to this book, i have missed out. I should have been exploring the bakeries and tasting their wares...which is exactly what the author of this book did. This is something to look forward too the next time i venture forth.
Regardless of why or how i missed out on the breads of europe, this is a book filled with many varied and detailed recipes from “Europe's Best Artisan Bakers”. Maybe this is how i can taste the breads of Europe... bake them myself.