Sunday, May 24, 2020

How to Raise a Loaf: and fall in love with sourdough

How to Raise a Loaf: and fall in love with sourdough is a tutorial guide and recipe collection by Roly Allen. Due out 26th May 2020 from Laurence King publishing, it's 112 pages and will be available in flexibound format.

Although not isolating at home (I'm a healthcare worker for my day job), I've certainly traveled and eaten out much *much* less (as in not at all) since the lockdowns. This means that I've had a lot more time to devote to reading, writing, knitting, sewing, gardening, and other crafty pursuits. I was happy to receive this eARC because making a concerted effort to learn to make sourdough has been on my to-do list for years.

A very general introduction in plain language includes the basic who, what, why, when, and how to's. The author has a very down to earth and engaging manner of writing that is fun and encouraging. He does emphasize the potential physical and mental benefits of doing something thoroughly and well. Sourdough takes time. The continuity and rhythm of doing something which requires action (even simple action) over time can be a significant source of routine in world where everything feels very unsettled, upside down and backwards.  His basic starter was unusual in my experience (comparing his method to the tutorials on youtube) in that it starts by stacking the deck in favour of the microorganisms by introducing both natural yogurt and a source of fructose. The introduction includes a couple of short easy-to-follow technique tutorials as well as a solid subchapter on necessary equipment.

Extras, fancier presentations, alternate starter routines, and other artistic enhancements are covered in the following chapter. The author also includes a good troubleshooting section and commentary on different types of containers for baking as well as tips and tricks for getting the best results.

The recipes are varied and well presented. Ingredients are listed in a bullet style list. Measurements are standard (metric) with American units in parentheses. Step by step cooking instructions are well formatted and easy to follow. The loaves are beautifully photographed (including a number of photo-series tutorials to help with clarity in some steps). There are numerous wildly different loaves here (14 by my rough count). The Provencale fougasse with olives was the first we tried after a couple of successes with the starter loaves. It was chewy and "toothsome" and disappeared whilst it was still warm.

The author has included a short glossary and resource list for further reading.

All in all a very accessible guide, clearly and well written with good clear photos. I'm impressed and pleased at my success with the techniques presented by the author here.

Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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