I recently received Jordan Bourke’s newest book, called ‘Healthy Baking,’ after requesting it on NetGalley (Thank you, Orion Books!), and I couldn’t wait to jump headfirst into the world of artisan sourdough loaves. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed in the slightest. I read an interview with the author for The Irish Times, where he made the bold statement that he wanted to “reclaim the word healthy.” He won me over. I also happen to believe that the on-trend word’s meaning needn’t be limited to meals, containing kale, matcha powder and obscene amounts of quinoa. I don’t mind any of those things, but there is much more to a nutritious meal than the presence of several “super-foods.” At least that’s what I think…And I am happy to know that Jordan Bourke seems to agree.
Before we get into the actual content, I must stress how beautiful the book is. The cover gives a promise that the pages inside manage to keep. The photographs are gorgeous! They are simple, and the color scheme is kept light and eerie, the emphasis always falling on the dish. Granted, photos in cookbooks are usually made to look unrealistically delicious, sending every home baker into a frenzy in a desperate attempt to recreate them in their own kitchen. Not here, though. Here we witness a far more attainable picture of bread and that’s the charm of this book – it’s realistic in its’ strive for perfection.
The other aspect that I quite enjoyed was the diversity of the content, with recipes ranging from an actual sourdough loaf to a simple salad. As the title of the book states, it is a tome about baking. And it does cover baking in all its’ forms, including roasted vegetables and sweet treats. Investing in this book can actually help you turn a toast into a meal. I enjoy cookbooks that allow the reader to take charge and improvise as well. I see a book of recipes not as an iron law, but as a suggestion and inspiration. Making a recipe exactly as written by the author is just fine, and it tends to work out wonderfully. But having simpler methods, which allow adding ingredients is always a bonus for me. I personally have never been a fan of the over-complicated instructions with an ingredient list that would make a dictionary blush. I prefer a recipe that puts emphasis on the combination of tastes and smells of pure ingredients. This is exactly what Bourke’s recipes provide – a delicious symphony of flavors without the hustle of 15 different spices.
What more can you want from one book? Well, not much in my opinion. I’m not saying that it is “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” but it doesn’t claim to be. Let us examine what the title does claim, shall we? “Healthy Baking: Nourishing Breads, Wholesome Cakes, Ancient Grains and Bubbling Ferments” Pretty straightforward. Now let’s see if the book keeps up with the claim.
True. I really liked that the beginning of the book provided a valuable learning experience on the importance of using a sourdough starter. And more importantly, on how to make that sourdough starter. I have had several unsuccessful attempts at a sourdough starter, and I had never tried adding raisins in it, which I now realize makes sense. They will aid the beginning of the fermentation process. But I never thought about it. Good thing Jordan Bourke did.
True. The first part of the book focuses on the techniques that any baker needs to learn to make a great loaf of bread. Starting off with a recipe for a Sourdough Starter (which I am currently testing and will keep you updated on) and moving on to the likes of Buckwheat, Hazelnut, and Dried Apricot Sourdough. We are all probably aware that bread recipes usually call for some sugar, seeing as sugars feed the yeast in the dough and allow it to rise. In this book, though, we witness the switch from white or brown sugar to the likes of maple syrup and agave. We also get to experience work with different types of flour, which is not always easy. I think the key to a successful loaf with an alternative flour is all in the practice. It will take at least 5 loaves for anyone to get the hang of it.
True. Peach, Pistachio, and Coconut Cake. Berry Pie. Chocolate, Tahini, and Pecan Rye Cookies. A far cry from Hummingbird Bakery’s Red Velvet Cake. Very different and enticingly delicious-looking cakes. Not only that, but their ingredients managed to inspire my curious soul and make me want to experiment with alternative baked goods. I have been using coconut oil for ages, but always felt a bit worried when substituting butter/oil for coconut oil, thinking that it might just not work out properly. These alternative dessert recipes will be an exciting (and delicious) learning experience for me. But listen to this. Even though we’re talking about cakes, I will put this in. There are actual recipes for Sourdough PIZZA. Has anyone ever been to Franco Manca in London? One of my favorite pizza places in the capital. Very affordable, very delicious and very much the only place with sourdough pizza. Well not anymore, Franco Manca. Sourdough pizza is coming to a kitchen near you!
True. One of my favorite meals to eat is this amazing lentil ‘soup’ with chorizo. Very delicately spicy from the red pepper, slightly uneven texture of the lentils with carrots and onions, perfectly complimented by the sharp bite of the chorizo. It is the most amazing thing ever. And this book just gave me some ideas on how to incorporate more of these incredibly healthy grains in my diet. The first thing I’m gonna try is the Strawberry, Millet, Pistachios and Goat’s cheese. I have always been a fan of adding mango, strawberries or apples to a salad. I’m a fan of this already.
Making A Meal Out Of it
Avocado on toast. The most basic of basic brunch items. But put some kimchi on it, along with an egg and a homemade sourdough toast. You’ve elevated yourself to new heights. And also, I never would have thought of the kimchi. So simple, yet so powerful. Amazing. Panzanella Salad. Using fresh, pure ingredients to create a masterpiece of flavor. There are not many things that are better than a good ole’ tomato. And I am Bulgarian. We KNOW tomatoes. This salad sounds absolutely delicious.
All in all, I gave this book a 5 out of 5 on GoodReads. I highly recommend you investing in it if you’re in the market for a good cookbook. It will certainly give you some ideas on how to start living a healthier life. The old-fashioned “healthy” in particular…