The world has had a love/hate relationship with bread over the years: from being a staple, honest part of the diet through to being practically criminalised for its audacity to contain carbs and gluten. Recently, the surge in popularity of artisan breads has seen the humble loaf fall back into favour, with 2020 giving us more time to practice our home-nurtured sourdough.
Loaf Story: A Love Letter To Bread is exactly what the title describes. Don't expect an abundance of bread recipes and tips on kneading or getting the perfect rise. Instead food writer, critic and bakery owner Tim Hayward pens emotionally charged pages on his love for the simple loaf.
Early on Hayward introduces the concept of "bro" bread – a new generation of craft bakers "coming out of San Francisco, originating perhaps in the sourdough traditions of Europe".
These loaves, "made from ‘interesting' flours and raised with carefully curated, naturally occurring yeasts", have little local cultural relevance, he argues, but are often perceived as the "antithesis to the mass-produced or machine-made loaf". Loaf Story is everything that "bro" bread is not – not that the author is against an artisan boule – but each page of this book is a stark reminder of the simplicity and versatility of everyday bread.
While Hayward admits he is not a recipes man, there are 60 in Loaf Story – from perfecting the grilled cheese to gazpacho – but the real heart of this book are the three chapters: On Bread, In Bread, and With & From Bread, that describe an abundance of bread-based meals with anecdotes and tips.
Historical facts sit comfortably next to memories that make you almost taste the one-eyed Egyptian fried bread and his mother's egg creations, or smell the smoke from the chip-pan fire that saw the end of his nan's chip butties.
Loaf Story could really help a busy chef fall back in love with the basics and provide nostalgic ideas for their next menu. This book is also a hug in book form; essential reading for all those with an interest in food and a sentimental appreciation for a simpler time.
Loaf Story: A Love Letter To Bread, by Tim Hayward (Quadrille, £20)
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