The title Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe’s Best Artisan Bakers didn’t sit quite right with me at first. I don’t live in Europe and any bread recipe from Europe is certainly not one that is going to be “local” for me. But the title reveals more on second thought. The book is about bringing local specialty breads to you, making global recipes – good ones, at that – accessible wherever you are.
Now, I’m using the word “accessible” a bit casually here. The recipes in the book are all excellent artisanal breads and regional specialties from Italy, France, Germany and other countries. They’re well written and the book goes into great depth explaining the ins and outs of bread-making before even getting to them. But that being said, I don’t think that just anyone is going to turn out perfect results with this book the first time out of the gate (or out of the oven). For instance, the use of sourdough or some kind of starter is practically required, and having some previous experience with it will give you a head start on the recipes here. One main idea that carries throughout the book is that breadmaking is an art, and accessible as the recipes are – compared to tracking down each one in the bakery of its origin – if you don’t have some experience working with dough, you’ll need to build up that base before your loaves will really be outstanding. It just takes time and practice to become more familiar with kneading, shaping and baking doughs. The masters who came up with these recipes didn’t do it overnight and, while having the recipes hugely shortens the process, practice does make perfect.
If you have some bread baking experience, especially if you’ve played with artisan-style breads before (perhaps trying to get that perfect pizza crust or just trying out some of the specialty recipes in the NY Times, etc.), you’re going to have a leg up on this book. You’ll see results much faster than someone without dough experience and you’ll probably get a lot out of this book, whether you’re working on a Rye bread or a rustic Sourdough. The tips on ingredients and equipment, as well as some of the hints you’ll pick up just reading the recipes, will help you in just about all of your bread-baking endeavors, here and from this point on.