Another day, another book review!
The Bourke Street Bakery is a very popular bakery in Sydney, Australia and in 2009 they produced this book of some of their favourite recipes. I basically bought it on the strength of the photography alone because this book is stunning. It is much bigger than the River Cottage book and has a very different feel. While it is obviously aimed at home bakers you cannot escape the fact that this book comes from a large bakery. This is particularly evident in the photos which give a great insight into the scale of operations in a successful bakery ( which is great if, like me, your daydreams consist of making huge batches of dough and hundreds of croissants!)
As is the case with most baking books this begins with sections on ingredients, equipment and techniques. This is fairly comprehensive although I don’t know how easy to follow it would be for a complete beginner. I think to get the most out of this book you would do well to have some idea what you are doing already but if that is the case then there are lots of great tips from people who clearly love their craft.
It takes about 50 pages before you get to the first recipes and you are straight into sourdough. Personally I am not convinced that this is the best way in but equally I recognise that these books aren’t necessarily meant to be read in a linear way so perhaps it isn’t such a big issue. After a few basic recipes (plain white sourdough, millers sourdough, spelt sourdough, 100% rye sourdough) we get to the variations and this is where this book truly excels.
I don’t know whether it is because they are Australian and therefore they use a different palate of ingredients generally or whether these guys just have a flair for creative flavour combinations but there are some incredible breads in here which I have never seen anywhere else. Fig & Barberry; Spiced Fruit Sourdough; Soy Bean & Linseed; Apple, Yoghurt, Rye & Cinnamon; these sound, look, and (for those I’ve made at least) taste amazing.
In what is probably a fair reflection of the versatility needed by your average (or indeed above average!) independent bakery, while the first half of the book is given over to breads, the second half is devoted to pastries of all shapes and sizes.
After a short section introducing different types of pastry dough (Croissant; savoury shortcrust; sweet shortcrust; sweet; empanada; puff), you are then launched into an array of sweet and savoury pastries which makes me want to hop on a plane to Sydney right now! Their croissant recipe is my go-to breakfast pastry recipe and it even impressed my cousin who, at the time of her visit, was living in Paris within walking distance of more croissants than you could shake a stick at!
After the croissants and danishes you then get pies (Sweet potato, Chicken and lime pickle; Pork, apple and braised red cabbage; Ratatouille; Rabbit and quince), sausage rolls (Beef and bean; Lamb, harissa and almond; Pork and fennel) and empanadas (which to my untrained eye look rather like Cornish pasties!).
Then we come to tarts both sweet and savoury (Goats cheese and leek; Asparagus and gruyere; Chocolate ganache; Ginger brulée; Pear and almond) and finally cakes, biscuits and desserts.
For me the best thing about this book is the sheer diversity and creativity of the recipes. There is just so much more in it than most bread baking books and it is far more representative of the scope of a real bakery. There are some intriguing and tantalising ideas here and it is always good for some inspiration or just a bit of escapism!
If there is a downside then it is that it perhaps isn’t as clear for someone starting from scratch as the River Cottage book but, in the context of the whole book this is a minor gripe.
If you are looking for some creative inspiration for your baking, if you have got the hang of basic breads and want to step up a gear, or if you simply want to look at some beautiful pictures of a top class bakery producing top class food, then this is the book for you!