Breaking Bread: A Baker’s Journey Home in 75 Recipes, Martin Philip 2017

Do you love to drool over gorgeous photographs of food in cookbooks?  If yes, then this book is for you.  Martin Philip has written an unusual and beautiful cookbook, combining multiple ingredients in complicated ways into a delicious final product much like the breads and side dishes exquisitely photographed by Julia Reed.  In the introduction, Philip’s first sentence indicates that he began this book “with no plan, no structure, no writing experience” but the reader is quickly captured by his story of growing up in Arkansas, going to Oberlin as a music major where he met his wife, decamping for California, Italy, New York City and finally Vermont after he takes a course in bread-making at King Arthur Flour in Norwich where he finds his passion. There are major echoes of Patience Gray in the path of his life, baking, and in his use of natural ingredients and his relationship to the land.  Interwoven with this memoir, Philip shares recipes for breads and other dishes that were important to him at that time and place. We move from corn grit hoecakes and pecan pie in the Ozarks, to red sauce, focaccia, and pizza Napoletana in Italy, to bagels and brioche in New York, and oatmeal bread and baguettes in Vermont.  He finishes with some complex breads that he created for Coupe, the bread-olympics as he moved from a novice to a world-class baker.  My initial impulse was to race out to King Arthur just a few miles up the road from our house in Vermont, buy lots of ingredients and complex tools (I’d never even heard of a couche, banneton, transfer peel, or lame before!) and get to work, but reality set in and I realized that the final grand outcomes of baking were only achieved with complicated and in my case, daunting recipes involving mixing, folding, dividing, shaping, scoring and loading.  For a guy who is challenged by an electric bread making machine, I think I’ll just slowly flip through the pages and let my lovely wife do the baking.  This is a fine book to add to your cookbook collection.