Words of advice when using this book: rely on the metric weights rather than the volume measurement conversions given in the recipes. It's a good habit to get into: when using weights, 100 grams is 100 grams, while with "a scant half cup" or "a generous cup" there's a lot of room for interpretation.

Eric Kayser comes from a long line of bakers and spent much of his childhood learning from his father at the family bakery, in the town of Lure, in the Franche-Comte region of France. To continue his education, while satisfying his wanderlust, Kayser undertook the Tour de France, a formal programme that saw him working with master bakers throughout the country. Finally, in 1996, he opened his own bakery in Paris. Since then, he's opened branches in other French cities, as well as internationally, including four in Hong Kong.

In the first chapter, "The Basics of Bread Making", Kayser starts off, naturally enough, with flour. The French classify their flours by numbers that refer to the ash content. Unfortunately, he gives only a cursory explanation of this: "Broadly, higher-protein flours have a higher ash content." It would have been helpful to learn more.

The pictures are a highlight of the book: they show slashing techniques (cutting the unbaked loaf before it goes into the oven, to control the release of the steam which would otherwise cause the crust to break unevenly) and how to shape many of the loaves.

The recipes start with traditional (French) loaves, many of which (baguettes, boule, batard, daisy loaf and epi) are made using the same dough but are shaped differently. The chapter on speciality breads is more interesting. Kayser gives recipes for gluten-free breads, bran loaf, pumpernickel, cuttlefish ink bread, buckwheat ciabatta, and fougasse with lardons. In the chapter on sweet pastries and bread, the recipes include sugar bread, classic brioche, croissants, pistachio loaf and vanilla rolls.

The Larousse Book of Bread - Recipes to Make at Home by Eric Kayser

Susan Jung