Published by Eugen Ulmer KG
Released March 2015
List price 29,90 EUR.
Available from www.brotbackbuch.de
The fact that Brotbackbuch 2 and its predecessor, Brotbackbuch 1, are written and produced by hobby-bakers, rather than professional bakers is somewhat astounding, when considering the knowledge and skill that is required to develop recipes for naturally produced breads that are reproducibly reliable enough for anyone to make at home. Therefore, it’s fitting to start off with a little background information about the authors.
Lutz Geißler is a Geologist by training and Germany’s most successful bread baking blogger. Lutz has a thorough and somewhat scientific approach when it comes to his bread baking hobby which he openly shares though his recipe development for gastronomy and creating and managing the most informative of all German language bread baking blogs, www.ploetzblog.de. Clearly, Lutz has taken his bread baking hobby to the highest possible level. Lutz is also a talented photographer and his breads are beautifully represented both on his blog and his baking books. Co-author Bjorn Hollensteiner, otherwise known as “Brotdoc” is a General Practioner with a tremendous passion for bread baking. His award winning bread baking blog, www.brotdoc.com, played a very influential role in my own ventures into German-style bread baking and provides a focal reference point for bakers throughout the world. Bjorns bread baking skills coupled with a flowing ease of communication are evident in every single one of his bread recipes. Hence, you will learn far more from his blog posts, many of which are kindly also written in English, than just how to bake his beautiful natural breads. The expertise and precision that Lutz and Bjorn have developed through their hobby bread baking and their practical approach is nicely reflected in “Brotbackbuch 2”, that is written with a perfect blend of authority and layman’s explanations making the techniques and recipes both accessible to beginners and complex enough to interest more experienced bread bakers.
The focus of the book is everyday recipes for naturally made breads and rolls. The ingredients for the breads do not stray too far from the basic requirements for bread baking, that is; flour, water, salt and yeast or sourdough. This is clever in itself and serves to further highlight the advantage of natural-style bread baking, ie. When bread dough is given the naturally required time to ripen and develop, the flavour of the grains and the fermentation process intensifies and is allowed to shine through in the final bread.
Like most bread baking books Lutz and Bjorn start out with a fundamentals chapter before dedicating the main part of the book to the recipe collection, before returning to fundamentals in a useful concluding chapter. The first chapter is refreshingly concise and consists only of a collection of tips and a very useful glossary. For a more detailed guide to bread baking the reader is referred to the prequel book, ‘Brotbachbuch 1’. A series of photographs describing the techniques for scoring and slashing dough is included here. This photographic description of the process is hands down the best representation of these techniques that I have ever come across. For beginner bread bakers this is really a key piece of guiding information. And this I can personally vouch for, having spent many a bake trying to figure out for myself the best way, and the best tool to use, to score my loaves.
The clear and succinct representation of both this scoring guide and the glossary are so accessible and encourage you, the baker, to refer back to these parts as you are trying out the recipes. The authors have clearly thought about such a scenario, since there are three (yes three!) beautiful ribbon bookmarks usefully attached to the book. Why is this not a standard feature of cookbooks?
Throughout this book you can feel that the authors want you to be able to produce really great bread. There is no pretentiousness or elaborate ingredients, instead there is just down to earth instruction and explanations with such a clear logic that anyone would enjoy using this baking book in their own home kitchen and in their own time. The recipe-section is divided into 3 chapters according to the grain used, Wheat, Spelt (or Dinkel) and Rye. Within each chapter there are recipes for free baked bread (without and baking tin), loaf formed bread and bread rolls or buns. This is a somewhat unique way of organizing a book, but for me, makes it extremely practical. You can simply choose which grain you would like to bake with, which form of bread you would like and quickly find the perfect recipe for your needs. I have tried out many of the recipes and refer readers to Dinkelmischbrot, Weizenkastenbrot, and Spelt (dinkel) Hamburger buns, as examples of the freeform, the tin-loaf and bread roll forms, respectively.
With each and every recipe there are 4 variations, the basic recipe involving yeast, the sourdough version, a no-knead version and then the overnight version. What to expect from each variation is nicely represented by a photograph of the final bread texture, a “crumb shot” This allows you, the baker, to pick the variation that best suits your available time, your preference for leavening or your preferred style of bread baking. The basic recipes are easy but not as basic as some bread recipes, the amount of yeast used is strikingly low, but this is for good reason; the bread dough needs long slow fermentations to develop the best flavor and even the recipes given as basic should not be approached with impatience. The second variation is for sourdough lovers and it’s very reassuring to see that any of the breads can be made using either yeast or sourdough as leavening, thus abolishing the myth that sourdough breads are reserved for the most experienced of bakers. The third “no-knead” version is a very useful addition for home bakers who simply do not enjoy the kneading process. The fourth is a kind addition by the authors who clearly appreciate that most hobby bakers also have day jobs and by incorporating an overnight step into the bread making process the recipes are then fully accessible to busy workers. Again making you feel that the authors really do want us to be able to make their lovely natural breads. Furthermore, after the recipes are fully described there is a concise side-by-side tabular representation of each variation of the bread recipe which includes the ingredients, the important points you need to look out for in your dough, as well as the actual baking method. This, I find, is the ultimate in practicality and is all you need to have in front of you whilst in the kitchen. Clearly, Bjorn and Lutz, being home bakers themselves have designed the book layout with usablility and convenience in mind.
The final chapter of the book, entitled “Basic Principles of bread baking” covers important details about bread baking equipment and ingredients. There is also a useful section demystifying sourdoughs and the use of pre-doughs. Technicalities of bread baking are clearly explained and there is even a time-lapse series of photographs showing the reader how to knead dough by hand. For true bread baking perfectionists there are guidelines for troubleshooting the most common defects in home-made bread baking, this is really educational and interesting.
I urge all non-native German speaking bread baking enthusiasts to add this book to your repertoire of English bread baking books. Its really practical, beautifully illustrated with informative photographs for each recipe in exactly those places where visual guidance is required and the tabular representation of each recipe is nice and easy to follow. You will learn how to bake some new natural breads, and experience the full flavor of the grains themselves enhanced through the naturally slow fermentation process.
Brotbackbuch 2 is really a handbook for natural-style bread baking, perhaps in combination with Brotbackbuch 1 its all you will ever need to make wonderful natural breads at home.
I acknowledge with thanks, Lutz Geißler and Charlotte Boettcher for kindly providing me with a review copy of Brotbackbuch 2