My cookery books have been gently been growing in number over the years, but as of a couple of weeks ago, I still didn’t have one that was dedicated to bread.
Okay, so bread is basic in a lot of ways but I wanted more than a handful of recipes scattered across several books. My hunt around Amazon ended up with a purchase of Brilliant Bread by James Morton. I knew of Morton from last year’s Great British Bake Off, where he was one of the final contestants. One of the judges in the same show is a baker and yet, when I looked at his books, I wasn’t convinced. And also because every time I saw “artisanal,” I ended up laughing. I was more interested in making great bread, as opposed to fancy bread. Also? I simply preferred the look of Morton’s book, compared to others. It looked like a book which could survive our kitchen for many years to come.
The package from Amazon arrived and as soon as Little Juniper was having a nap, I curled up in the armchair and started reading. What I found was a book that was not only beautifully written, but beautifully illustrated, too. The photographs were wonderful and — unlike many cookery books — made sense in relation to the writing. The step-by-step recipes (and the photographs that accompanied them) seemed manageable and while I could see the more complex recipes weren’t ones I could do at that time, I could see how my skills could develop. I also loved seeing more of the background to bread. What the essentials are, what each ingredient does and why it’s needed. I also appreciated Morton’s happiness at working with basic equipment. All too many cookery books require expensive equipment to do even the most basic recipes.
I decided to start out with the first and simplest recipe of a plain white loaf. This was a no-knead recipe that I found really easy to do, and this was the outcome:
The bread was greatly enjoyed with that evening’s meal. Juniper Junior loved having seen the bread in the various stages of being made, Little Juniper was able to enjoy (as well as throw on the floor) his share, and Mr. Juniper was very pleased with the outcome, too. The next day I tried the recipe again, and had more success:
From this, my faith in Morton’s “Brilliant Bread” was certain. Sometimes a recipe works once by fluke, but for it to keep working? That’s what I needed from a cookery book. From that white loaf, we’ve carried on having freshly baked bread most days. I’ve loved having bread recipes that aren’t demanding on time or effort. We’ve also been able to move onto having wholemeal loaves, using the recipe from his book, with great success and I’m feeling confident that I’ll be able to work my way through the whole book. As much as anything, not only have the recipes worked, but this is a book I feel I’ve learned something from, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.