Review: Bread by Dean Brettsneider

Dean Brettscheider is a professional baker and is the founder and co-owner of  the global bakery chain, Baker and Cook. His book Bread is a lovely book to own if you have dabbled with bread baking yourself or want to try your hand at it.

He is passionate about his bread and a generous teacher. Despite thinking   I already knew quite a bit about bread making, there was a lot I learnt from the book. For instance, it is possible to over knead bread. Also, I was introduced to instant yeast. Unlike the regular active dry yeast that I have been used to using for years that I have to first dissolve in warm water, this fine powder like yeast goes straight into the flour. I don’t think I’ll be using any other kind in future.

Before he delves into the recipes, he devotes about 40 pages into the history of bread, the ingredients involved in bread making, the equipment you will need and the technique itself, in great detail. It was both interesting and helpful information.

As for the recipes themselves,  there are 61 recipes of various types of breads from baguettes to bagels, sourdough and whole wheat loaves, gluten free, focaccias, ciabattas, Danish rye bread, rugbrod and the German Volkorn bread.

He also has non yeast breads like scones,  savory muffins and banana bread. There are recipes too that make use of ready available bread, like a French toast with cinnamon and nutella, bread pudding made with baguette and black cherries and cointreau, or a bread salad, or brie and caramelized garlic pain miche. The last one is something I am dying to try soon. It involves cutting out a disc from the centre of a large sour dough boule, placing a large wheel of Brie or Camembet in the centre, topping it with caramelized garlic and baking the whole thing till the cheese has melted through out and the garlic topping is bubbling. I can imagine how amazing this will be to eat, with a glass of wine.  

The recipes I test drove were the focaccia,  garden vegetable cheese and hidden egg savory muffin,  My ultimate hot cross buns, and NYC sticky pecan buns.

I found his recipes easy to follow. The focaccia when baked over a BBQ tasted like focaccia in consistency but when baked in a regular oven had the consistency of regular bread. The hot cross buns and NYC sticky pecan buns got the thumbs up from neighbours and family who were my tasters.  I tweaked his recipe with the hidden egg because my muffin trays were too small and could only hold half a hard boiled egg each so I used quails eggs instead.

I am a very big fan of Mr Brettsneider’s Danish pastries and the one I always buy when I am at Baker and Cook is his black Cherry Danish.  He generously shares the recipes for his Danish in this cookbook. But I was too intimidated by any recipe that involves anything vaguely like a puff pastry. In our tropical weather, the butter melts rapidly and starts to bleed thru the dough. Maybe I’ll attempt it in my dining room one day with the air conditioning on full blast.

The pages of this book are of a heavy paper and have a matt finishing, making them lovely to turn and touch.  And the book feels hardy enough to withstand being tossed around on my kitchen countertop but pretty enough to be a coffee table book if you don’t want to really bake but just enjoy looking at the pictures.

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Ning Cai is a Singapore Literature Prize nominated author, who was also long listed for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016. A bestselling writer, she is also recognised for her illusionist/ escapologist stage character Magic Babe Ning, and recognised by Channel News Asia as South East Asia's first professional female magician.

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