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The Handmade Loaf contains 70 recipes that will teach you the techniques used to turn grain into beautiful bread, using your hands as the perfect kitchen tools to combine and shape dough with. Leaving intricate shaping to others, this is breadmaking akin to brewing or winemaking, about flavour rather than appearance. Getting simple ingredients into the mixing bowl to form the best crumb and chewy crust, using both easy and sometimes challenging techniques, but steps that encourage your hands to be active and dexterous. Written and photographed by award-winning baker Dan Lepard, it’s a book that will get you making and feeling proud of every loaf from your home oven.

There are recipes to inspire the beginner, some to challenge the more experienced baker, but all reflect the considered approach taken by the best contemporary artisan bakers. Start to bake with local wheat, barley, rye, spelt, oats and millet. Learn how to malt barley, and how to nurse a natural leaven, understanding how make the best use of a slower rising in your breads. You'll learn how to open the texture of your loaves, and how to reduce the effort of kneading to make breadmaking a comfortable pleasure. This is an exciting book that questions many of the usual methods and will, from the beginning, transform the way you bake.

The chapters include a series of 10 photographic essays that capture the life and breads of passionate bakers. Travelling over 14,000 miles, through and around northern Europe, the book shows intimate, detailed photographs - that get you close to traditional techniques in communities throughout some of the less common parts of Europe. Up in the hillside pastures in western Ukraine, on the plains to the south of Moscow, on the northern coast of Denmark, in the highlands of Scotland, underground in the heart of Paris and elsewhere, you'll view the private places where the best bread is crafted.

About the book (from the author)

"I wanted an honest baking book," says Dan. "I wanted to bake from the recipes printed, in my own kitchen and in other peoples' ovens, and then photograph the result for the book. A natural leaven is made from scratch and photographed each day so the reader can see the changes that are visible, and not imagine things that aren't there. I wanted to keep it real."

"I've tried to keep the recipe photography brutally clear and sharp, to explain rather than hide with each picture. There's so much that can be learned looking at the crumb structure and the crust, and the reader loses that detail when we hide it in soft focus. The pictures are rough and hard edged, taken as soon as the bread can be sliced which captures the vibrancy just-baked crust colour, and the moistness in the crumb."

"I didn't want to write a book that the home baker got quickly bored with," says Dan, "that just rehashed bad science on highly decorated but tasteless breads. There are many home bakers who have already made their first loaf, or people who are good with their bread machine and want to bake more, or just bright passionate cooks who love books and learning. This book is for them. These are the recipes I use at home, that I find quick, that give me the best results in my domestic oven."

Though the countries have been an inspiration, and their bakers have advised and guided me," says Dan, "I wanted to avoid writing recipes that suggested, say, that you can make a perfect baguette using generic supermarket flour and a sachet of easy-blend yeast. This just isn't true. But how about teaching how to bake a beautiful, good flavoured loaf with the flour that you have, with the grain that grows in the region around you. By moving the focus from the bread name to the grain, then making the best use of local ingredients becomes the goal."

"Let's encourage people to be thoughtful, intelligent bakers too. The word 'Organic' is not a brand, but a responsibility towards the environment we all must share. There are farmers, millers and bakers who care about the soil that grows the grain we use, and I'm adamant we will support them. These stories and recipes encourage readers to do just that."