By Daniel Stevens, introduced by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
224 pages, Published by Bloomsbury, £14.99
It’s rare that a book comes along that combines breadmaking and DIY, but here it is. Not content with offering a pretty thorough description of the breadmaking process and a range of classic bread recipes, Stevens goes one further with a step-by-step guide to building a clay oven.
"If I was a lump of dough," he writes, "proving my final minutes away and contemplating the manner of my passing, I’d choose the old-fashioned way to go - to be slipped, bare-bottomed, straight on to the ash-covered floor of a hell-hot wood-fired oven."
Such flights of lunacy have evidently rubbed off from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, whom he works under as River Cottage’s baker. As you would expect, no book released under the Fearnley-Whittingstall banner would come without a little tub-thumping. His protégé is no exception, not only railing against plant bread, but also lambasting supermarket in-stores and even those local craft bakers that ape industrial breadmaking on a smaller scale.
But for a small book, it is densely packed with nuts-and-bolts information, from working out bakers’ percentages to ingredient suppliers. Product-wise, there’s a strong traditionally British bent to his bread, from spelt breads to English muffins, sourdoughs, hot cross buns and lardy cakes, but rounded out with focaccia, roti, doughnuts, bagels and crackers. And in these frugal times, his serving suggestions for waste bread are useful café options including panzanella (a Tuscan bread salad), and more eyebrow-raising, brown bread ice cream.