This is Not About French Bread Books

As usual when we were in France in May we found and excuse (three times) to take the journey up to Bordeaux for a visit to Mollat, one of the world’s great bookshops, a drink outside the Utopia cinema and lunch at La Tupina.

With one exception, the bread books have been very disappointing in the past couple of years – this time I came out completely empty handed, even after checking out FNAC for a second opinion. Ignoring bog-standard anonymous basic and bread machine books, the fashion seems to be books about what to do with bread.

Last year I picked up a modest little book called “Recettes au pain perdu” published by the wonderfully named Lés editions du curieux  with about 60 recipes from around France for left over bread. All you need.

This year the big boys (and girls) seem to have got in on the act for big euros.

Apollonia Poilâne’s title, with a big nod to Magritte, tells us it is not a book about making bread – presumably so you can’t ask for your euros back.

Dominique Saibron’s is a big coffee table book, an homage á mois, telling the story of the growth of his baking empire through lavishly illustrated interviews with Steven Kaplan who, of course, wrote le retour du bon pain.

Both Poilâne  and Saibron present us with things to do with their bread once you have bought it. No mention of Marmite. Both left me wondering if the French baking establishment has run out of ideas – the good bread has returned so that’s alright then.

By total contrast, last year I found a little book that left me feeling quite excited and like I had found a brother.

Henri Granier’s book is the only French bread book I have ever come across that isn’t burdened with the weight of French baking tradition and, doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of commercial yeast. It simply tells you how he makes his sourdoughs. He can get a bit lyrical about the importance of the elements in bread making but then not everyone can be as mundane as me.

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