Reading "Dutch Oven Breads" by Mark Hansen is like cooking with an old friend. With candor, Hansen leads readers through detailed, step-by-step instructions to create startlingly good bread.
Unlike many cookbooks, "Dutch Oven Breads" gives detailed explanations of the process behind the recipes. As well as detailed instructions with every recipe, a full chapter is set aside to the logistics of how to bake fine bread. And trouble-shooting charts are provided to help readers tweak their baking to create the most appealing loaves possible. For some, this kind of in-depth discussion may be a form of information overload, but for those who desire to make excellent bread and know why the recipe turned out so well and how to duplicate it, this book excels.
Although the recipes specify given amounts of flour and liquids, Hansen teaches that baking bread varies from day to day. Hansen writes, “I don’t remember exactly how many cups (of flour) it took for me this time,” which may be frustrating for die-hard recipe followers. On the other hand, his laid-back style may be liberating to those readers who are less prone to cooking with a cookbook and are willing to follow his descriptions of the process rather than finite numbers of ingredients.
Among the recipes are instructions for white bread, artisan bread, wheat bread, cinnamon rolls, pizza, biscuits, banana bread, sourdough and rye breads as well as occasional complementary main dishes for these recipes.
For the creative, "Dutch Oven Breads" also includes a core bread recipe and then lists different ways to personalize it by adding oils, dairy, egg, sweeteners, coloring, seasonings and herbs, dried fruits and nuts. By the time the reader gets to this chapter, enough has been explained about the mechanics of bread making to enable the reader to go from recipe follower to recipe maker.
With instructions tailored to electricity-free cooking, "Dutch Oven Breads," which is was scheduled to be on shelves on Sept. 10, is suitable for camping use or during an emergency, but with excellent recipes and buoyant narrative it’s likely to be used frequently as a family favorite.
Miranda H. Lotz is a military wife, mother of five and book lover who currently lives in Colorado Springs.