This book review was originally posted at WineBarrelGourmet’s Blog, where you can find a new sourdough recipe or tip every week!
The heat that has been baking the rest of the country has finally found its way west, so it’s just too hot to bake this week. I have all kinds of outside sourdough experiments going, but nothing is perfected yet. If we aren’t making sourdough bread this week though, we can at least read about making it!
I recently purchased a copy of Wild Bread by Lisa Rayner. Let me start by saying, I wish I had written this book! The sub-title, Hand-baked sourdough artisan breads in your own kitchen, barely scratches the surface. More reference book than traditional cookbook, Ms. Rayner answers every question you ever had about sourdough bread, and a few you hadn’t even thought of.
The book follows its author’s philosophy and approaches sourdough not just from a “let’s make tasty bread” perspective, but from a holistic, self-sufficiency, “good-for-the earth” perspective. She obviously practices what she preaches, making her bread entirely from hand and even growing and milling her own wheat.
This book is not intimidating though, even for those of us who still get our flour from the grocery store. There is an excellent, and easy to understand, description of the fermentation process, and one of the best explanations I have ever seen about sourdough nutritional advantages and the relationship between sourdough breads and gluten intolerance and/or glycemic index.
In fewer than 200 pages, Ms. Rayner covers all the basics; how to start, feed, revive, alter and even dry your own sourdough starter. A good discussion about using different kinds of wheat and other grains is included, along with which flours work best for different kinds of artisan breads. There is everything here from the broader perspective (history of sourdough) right down to those details that trip many of us up (how to form a twisted bread stick).
The second half of the book includes basic sourdough recipes along with some more non-traditional ones like sourdough doughnuts and sourdough crackers. She even includes information on how to bake with a solar or earth oven and what to do with leftover bread. The resources section alone will keep you busy for hours on the internet, researching suppliers, books, and like-minded institutes.
Whether you are a new sourdough enthusiast or an old pro, I highly recommend this book. It will provide you with some great summer reading – that leads to great summer cooking! Wild Breads can be found at Amazon, Cultures for Health or at the author’s own site, Lisa Rayner.