Before reading this book, I was very distanced from the topic: I’ve never made bread, there are no artisan bakeries where I live, I rarely see a wheat field and I don’t think I’ve ever touched raw wheat. It was very interesting to learn about the different stages of the bread-making process, from growing, to harvesting, threshing, milling and baking.
A mixture of agricultural history, memoir and food journalism, this is an unusual book which, like the author’s previous book about wood craft, emphasises the benefits of locally sourced, quality, handmade products and the satisfaction of making things yourself. Robert Penn’s goal was to grow and harvest enough heritage wheat to feed his family for a year. With humour and enthusiasm, he shares the highs and lows of his quest. In between the bits of history, science and cultural references, there are amusing snippets of family life in Wales and some fascinating dispatches from further afield, such as Turkey, the USA, Egypt and Israel.
There are some diagrams in the book, but they were not included in my advance copy. At the end is a recipe for wholemeal sourdough bread, which I haven’t tried. I don’t eat a lot of bread – two slices per day – so the prospect of making my own is not that appealing to me. However, I’m sure that anyone who loves ‘real’ bread (as opposed to the very processed white loaves) would be inclined to give the recipe a go.
Thank you to Penguin for the advance copy via NetGalley. Slow Rise will be published on 25th February.