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Great Breads: Home-Baked Favorites from Europe, the British Isles, and North America [Hardcover]

Martha Rose Shulman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars More photos please! March 3 2007
Format:Paperback
This book has very interesting recipes. Instructions are clear. Even a beginner can bake the breads. One thing though: more photos would have been appreciated and given more '' pizzas '' to it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An overlooked gem March 21 2004
Format:Paperback
This is the most reliable bread book in my kitchen. I have all the new Star Artisan Baker hoopla books, but this is the one that I use most. It skips all the bread pieties but still gives you artisan flavors and good recipes. Publicity is not the same thing as quality in a book of recipes.
If you want super bread along artisan lines, try this book. It also has some standard American pan loaves, if that's your thing. And did I say it was reliable? I've had no failures with it in dozens of tries.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My first bread cookbook... and still one of my favorites. Sept. 16 2007
By J. Mason - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This was the first true, dedicated bread cookbook I ever bought. I believe I bought it when I was 19... and it is still one of my favorites.

Though I now own around 30 bread books, this book using many straight dough recipes that still produce full-flavored breads. There are quite a variety of recipes but nothing too complicated that a beginner would feel intimidated.

Try the oatmeal bread- the technique produces the nicest textured, best flavored oatmeal bread I have ever made. 12 years after buying this book, it remains one of my all-time favorite breads.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An overlooked gem March 21 2004
By Jessica Weissman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the most reliable bread book in my kitchen. I have all the new Star Artisan Baker hoopla books, but this is the one that I use most. It skips all the bread pieties but still gives you artisan flavors and good recipes. Publicity is not the same thing as quality in a book of recipes.
If you want super bread along artisan lines, try this book. It also has some standard American pan loaves, if that's your thing. And did I say it was reliable? I've had no failures with it in dozens of tries.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I really liked the flexibility and readability of the book April 14 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found this book at the library and checked it out several times over the course of a few months.
I liked the readability of the recipes...and the fact that the author gives directions for both traditional kneading methods and using an electric mixer for the same recipe.
The recipes are peppered with anecdotes from someone who loves travelling and loves breadmaking. But it is not a tedious recounting of tales and travels.
I find the book practical comforting and friendly...but it also stretches my skills as a baker. It is not trendy but one of those cookbooks that gets dog-eared and used for years.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre British Bread Nov. 8 2004
By jerry i h - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are many very good bread books available these days; unfortunately, this book is not one of them. My main objection is the over use of whole grains, as they produce textures that are course, dry, and heavy. If you are interested in whole-grain breads, this book is a treasure trove of hard to find recipes. I was more impressed with the quantity than the quality of the bread recipes. Some worked better than others, but I was not overly crazy about any of the breads I made from this book.

There is a serious problem with the measurement of flour. It calls for stir and scoop method of flour measurement. The appendix lists the weight of one cup of flour as 5 ounces; when I did it, I got exactly 4 ounces. So, I am unsure exactly how much flour to use in the recipes, and weighing the flour (the usual professional solution) is of no help here. Plus, the author prefers wet doughs with a high hydration level (a method popularized by Poilane, who appears in the introduction of the book); this does produce lighter, airier bread, but it is significantly more difficult for the beginner to do than a dough with a standard hydration. If you do want to try these recipes, I suggest you use more flour (try 20% to begin with) than listed to get a firmer dough; kneading will be much easier. It is also unclear what the author means by "unbleached white flour": is it all-purpose flour or bread flour? Based on the ingredient balance in the whole grains chapter, I am assuming it is the latter. I used bread flour throughout, but still often got dense, under-developed doughs that will not window-pane correctly, telling me that the author might have been using a special, high gluten wheat flour. In order for the whole wheat bread recipes to work, you must use whole wheat bread flour, even though the author does not specify as such. I would also ignore the author's instructions to add flour to the liquid a little at a time; for a beginner, it would be better to simply use all the flour and liquid at once in the beginning. Many recipes have instructions for both hand kneading and mixer.

The first chapter has a fairly good primer on the various aspects of bread: dough, risings, baking, etc. The main failing here is the author does a poor job of describing when a dough has been properly proofed. Too often, the author gives a time specification (which will probably not be correct, depending on how warm the weather is) along with the standard "until doubled" (with an oval or round loaf, how are you supposed to determine this? Just by looking at it?).

The chapter on whole grain breads produced heavy, dense, inedible loaves suitable only as construction material. Most of the recipes call for 3 risings, but some of them will not rise the third time. It often also calls for mixing in only part of the flour, fermenting that, then adding the rest of the flour; there was no apparent advantage to just adding all the flour at once (in fact, the author's 2 part mixing was more trouble and more time consuming with no apparent advantage). The British must have more tolerance for eating wood than Americans; from this intriguing chapter, I found only the Baps to be edible. The recipes for Indian breads were very good.

The chapter on sourdough gets applause for a good try, but it has too many questions to be recommendable. Sourdough does not "spread out quickly" when turned out of a banneton. I also object to the suggestion that levain or doughs be left out at room temperature for 12 hours or more. This might be OK in Britain where it is cool, but in the U.S., especially in summer, the yeast will die off if you do because it is too warm; after a few hours at a warm room temperature, they should be put in the refrigerator overnight. Only one recipe, Pain de Campagne, uses only sourdough levain; all the others use commercial yeast in addition. This is a good convenience, but you will not get much sourdough taste if you do, and the author does not have conversion instructions if you do want use all levain. Also, the doughs call for far too much whole grains; I find that at most you can add 10% whole grains to a sourdough before you get something like a boat anchor (it seems that I can use kamut and spelt up to 20%). On the good side, the recipes seem to be based on actual experience rather than myth and rumor about sourdough (which is more common in baking books than you might suspect). She also has instructions, albeit brief ones, for both sourdough levain and Italian biga.

The chapters on savory and sweet breads were mostly recreations of the sort of breads you get at a traditional English high tea. The rather light breads you would normally expect from these chapters used far too much rye, whole wheat, durum, etc. "Fruit-Filled Bread" is described as "pleasantly heavy" (come again?). The chapter on crackers had several valuable recipes, although I had to increase the baking temperature to get the correct, crunchy texture. I had difficulty getting anything edible from the 2 chapters on quick breads, although there where several good scone recipes. The last 2 chapters have recipes for stale breads, and some interesting troubleshooting information.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tutorial Bread Book Oct. 8 2011
By Judi T - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is more of an instructional book and a slow read but once you get your mind set, read the recipies and skip most of the other, it has some excellent recipies and suggestions. There are some great references for products. More for the advanced baker.
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