Book review: Modern Sourdough

26 September 2019 by
Book review: Modern Sourdough

Modern Sourdough By Michelle Eshkeri White Lion Publishing, £25

Popular wisdom has always held that the success of hot-section chefs comes from personal ingenuity, while victory for pastry chefs comes from good recipes. It's an oversimplified view, of course, but it's also one that is completely dispelled by sourdough. Its living, breathing starter, which has become integral in the past 10 years as the bread surges in popularity, requires deep intuition to manage its growth – and alongside it, bakers have been developing new ideas as to how it can be used.

Michelle Eshkeri is among them, not only stretching and expanding the idea of what a local bakery can be at Margot in north-east London, but also what sourdough is capable of. As a result, her book, Modern Sourdough, is able to present something that simultaneously offers sage wisdom on age-old fundamentals and exciting, vibrant, new ideas in baking.

A full 12 pages at the beginning of the book are dedicated to nurturing and feeding the starter, offering a reassuringly authoritative guide to the often confusing core ingredient.

Getting it right is integral – particularly as the majority of the book's more than 100 recipes feature it in some way. There are a range of gorgeous rustic loaves, but sourdough is also used to elevate challah, pizza di recco and croissants, all presented alongside stunning photography by Patricia Niven.

Eshkeri's experience of life and culture also echoes through the recipes, making it an endearing and engaging exploration of a life through food. Jewish cuisine features heavily, including the challah she worked to perfect that eventually led to her opening her own bakery. Australia, where she grew up, makes an appearance through bold, brash and deeply flavoured dishes, including her take on the nation's iconic baked staple, lamingtons.

Bread is an art, one that is being steadily moved forward by chefs looking at what old styles can provide to new techniques. Eshkeri's book provides all it takes to grasp the foundations while plotting your own course through all that sourdough can offer.

By Vincent Wood

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