Gail’s and I have history. This iconic London neighbourhood artisan bakery group doesn’t know it, but we definitely have history.
I won’t go into the gory details, but suffice it to say that the staff on the day we visited rescued a very unpleasant situation involving a dive-bombing seagull and an al fresco breakfast.
Despite a shock affected memory I do recall the rustic counters and crate shelving at 138 Portobello Road displaying almost anything you would wish to eat in bread form – from actual breads (30 kinds, in fact) to various croissants – sweet with best chocolate, and almond cream; and split and filled with delicious savoury things. Bulging cream-dough buns, golden, fruit-heavy muffins, and slabs of their breads piled Swedish-style with top-quality produce also tempted.
I was swayed by a croissant with a volcano of ripe melting cheese and burst tomatoes. Andrew choose several items – sweet and savoury: he’s very tall and needs filling up. And then ‘the thing’ happened.
Once tidied up a bit we were treated – indoors – not only to our breakfast again (well I hadn’t had the chance to sample mine first go round. Andrew got seconds!) but a parade of curious staff came to our table bearing little treats from the counter.
And you know, sugar can cure shock. I felt much better, and even laughed about it once I had polished off the plates, my fingers pressing into every last crumb. I am not a sugar-in-the-morning person, but honestly, one of Gail’s Bakery almond croissants – the soft, pull-apart, almost melting ones of dreams – rescued this damsel in distress.
We headed back to the hotel, where I cleaned up further, removing all traces of my tangle with the local wildlife. We were so grateful for the lovely treatment by the staff at the Portobello shop. So, when I recently saw that Gail’s had produced a cookbook I jumped at the chance to review it. This is not my normal post promoting super duper healthy, vegan-ish food, but this place, and now this book, holds a special place in my heart. Besides, they do salads too! Just not at breakfast. 😉 A little of what you fancy, and all that.
Gail’s Artisan Bakery Cookbook reflects the attention to quality ingredients and slow food methods that make Gail’s Bakeries such great places to eat. As co-founder Gail Mejia says, “this book is about much more than bread…The thread that runs through it is that nobody will take care of our wellbeing more seriously than us.” That’s kind of what I have said in a few recent posts. And this sentence does indeed suffuse all of the truly scrumptious looking recipes.
It starts with Essentials – store cupboard and baking tools sections – with lots of detail (good!) as to why one uses them. Nothing specialist is listed, so the recipes should be accessible to most of us. In fact, the recipes aren’t just scaled down versions of what is in the bakery/cafes, but completely re-worked and tested for use and enjoyment by non-bakers such as myself. But you will want to rush to a bakery or supermarket to buy or blag some fresh yeast for the non-sourdough breads. Otherwise, all should be easily available.
And like all good baking books, there is a comprehensive and photo-filled section of baking techniques, as well as a few pages of basic recipes – think flaky fromage frais pastry and almond cream – that are stitched into numerous recipes. But the big daddy recipe of the book is in the Bread section – the sourdough starter. It is the centre of this artisan bakery’s universe, and the basis of their iconic French Dark Sourdough Bread. I’m getting peckish as I type. But other, less drawn-out, ways of achieving a fine loaf are also described – how to make the perfect ‘poolish’ starter for bread they term as ‘sourdough light’, Focaccia, Spelt Rolls, Brioche Loaves. Really, just the things we would all be drawn to make on a regular basis.
And then there is the true luxury bread item. The Croissant. I’ve always fancied having a go at making these ultra-buttery treats (and sharing them, not eating them all to myself!!), but never had the nerve. Head baker, and the author of the book, Roy Levy’s recipe – and again, step-by-step photos for ninnies such as myself – bring this tentative wish closer to fruition. And it is the basis for the bun that sorted me out on that July day last year – the splendid Almond Croissant. My un-asked for but oh so vivifying treat. Their croissant dough is also the dough used for some other pretty spectacular bakery basics – Cinnamon Buns, Fruit Danish and even their Ricotta, Cherry and Crumble Croissants.
Beyond breads, Gail’s covers Breakfast, Lunch, Tea and Supper. Roy Levy’s book gives a good balance of sweet and savoury recipes: breakfast and tea favour a light and sweet approach, while lunch and supper veer naturally towards the savoury and filling. Most recipes could be enjoyed at any time of day.
Me being me I dove straight into the Lunch section, making a version of Cheese, Spinach and Tomato Scone Tray. I trusted the book so much that I made this recipe up for a group at work without tasting it myself. I got a lovely email from a colleague saying how delicious it was and that every last crumb was enjoyed.
Here are some highlights from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea and Supper. Don’t they all just scream “make me”?
Breakfast: Maple Brioche Buns; Toasted Cornbread with Avocado Salsa and Fried Eggs; Shakshuka; Croque Madame
Lunch: Smoked Salmon and Spinach Tart; Sourdough Lasagne; Red Quinoa Salad with Smoky Aubergine Yogurt; Truffle, Raclette and Shallot Toastie
Tea: Hazelnut, Honey and Brown Butter Financiers; Chocolate and Custard Tartlets; Sourdough and Currant Tart; Baked Vanilla and White Chocolate Cheesecake
Supper: Pizzette Bianca; Spring Vegetable Stew on Toast with Goat’s Curd; Baked Sardines with Sourdough Crumbs and Heritage Tomato Salad; Burnt Tomato Dip
Who is this book for? I would say that this book is aimed at a fairly confident cook and baker, although the clear instructions and good header notes would help anyone not as experienced but with time to take things slowly. Beautiful and realistic images by Haarala Hamilton accompany about two-thirds of the recipes, inspiring and guiding the reader/baker/cook.
Gail’s Artisan Bakery Cookbook is published by Ebury Press (£20 RRP). Here is a list of buying options, including of course, Amazon.
The publishers have kindly offered two copies of Gail’s Artisan Bakery Cookbook to two food to glow readers. To enter, all you need do is leave a comment here on the blog. To get one more chance of winning you can also follow me on Twitter and tweet a link to this post, including me – @foodtoglow – in your tweet. Winners will be picked at random. This giveaway is open to anyone and closes on Saturday, June 14 at 12 midnight GMT. Thanks so much to Amelia at Ebury Press for organising the giveaway. ***GIVEAWAY CLOSED***
43 thoughts on “Gail’s Artisan Bakery Cookbook – review and giveaway”
Wow that herb tart looks delicious. I would love to win a copy of Gail’s Artisan Bakery 🙂
Eurgh! Seagulls. Definitely the worst thing about eating al fresco..
Hi Kellie, love this herb tart, it looks so wonderful. This would be perfect for guest. I am here in Oregon for the summer and some of the sea gulls (which are protected) are pretty bold. Beautiful but bold.
Please count me in – this book looks wonderful and hopefully will inspire me to do more baking
This looks gorgeous! 🙂
MMMmmm I can almost smell and taste the delicious bead, sort of place you go to and then want to buy and try them all. I think making Bread it is very therapeutic too.
That tart looks amazing! I love the herbs that have been put into it. YUM! 🙂
My brother lives in Crouch End and there’s a Gail’s there that we seem to go I to every time I visit them as my sister in law loves the coffee! The array of baked goods is like art!! The book looks good, great to read your thoughts on it 🙂 x
PS I’m not on twitter otherwise I would of course follow you!!! (Maybe it’s time I did…??)
Sounds delicious. I sense a week full of bread making in our house…
I’d love to get hold of a copy and adapt the recipes, as I have an acute dairy/soya allergy, plus I’m also lactose intolerant.
makes me want to buy an airline ticket right now and be there in time for breakfast!
Open to anyone? Even we far flung Antipodeans? If so, count me in! I love to bake and was a cook years ago before we moved to the Apple Isle. Bread and I hold a common symmetry that is both poetic and symbiotic. I would hate to find out that I was gluten intolerant because on the odd occasion where I do eat bread I make sure it is amazing bread. Making your own bread and baked goods is the ultimate in customisable heaven. Don’t like custard? Make something else…Vegan? Use vegan options. Recreating all kinds of heady delights is a challenge and something to be proud of and having people enjoy what you produce is a deed fundamental pleasure. Cheers for sharing this lovely recipe. Our chooks aren’t laying at the moment but when the start again, this tart will be right up there with the humble omelette as to what to do with our glut 🙂
Sounds like breakfast is sorted when we take the kids to London in a few weeks! 🍴 The Leek and Goats Cheese loaf looks divine….yu’um!
Wow, so many delicious sounding ideas Kellie. It looks like a gorgeous book, and as you know, we love sourdough in this house 🙂
Wow that looks lovely!
I love your blog, recipes and always look forward to your posts. I started following your blog after quitting processed foods, started growing our produce and switching to vegetarian meals. We would love this book as we both enjoy baking. Your photographs always make me hungry!
Nom nom … Yes please!
Dive-bombing seagulls? Yikes! What a wonderful book… I admire anyone who can bake beautifully! Lovely post, Kellie, xo
i do believe i’m drooling. The tart looks great.
It’s moment like this that remind me why I am incapable of even attempting a low carb diet. I could literally eat the book!
Looks like a great book to have in the kitchen . The recipes really inspire me .
A great story and what a lovely book! Would love to try some of the recipes in here.
I don’t want to imagine a world without bread, bread is life. Can’t wait to try that herb tart either, looks delicious!
Oh dear… but they say these things are good luck, right? The bakery sounds great and the book looks fab. Croissants are on my culinary bucket list as well – maybe this summer?
Well having just returned from eating what I consider the best danish pastries ever in Bakari Sandholt, Reykjavik, Iceland, I will need to try Gail’s bakery pronto – one needs to do comparisons you know! 😉 Thanks for the tip off x
I need to buys this book. Homemade bread and crackers; there is not much better.
Oooh please count me in! I will be buying it if I don’t win but I’m crossing my fingers!!!
Wow! Looks like a great cookbook!
Lovely review Kellie! I’m not entering, because I imagine there’s not a speck of anything without gluten in that gorgeous storefront display, but it sounds like a scrumptious cookbook! You may be wise not to attempt croissant making. I tried in my pre- GF days, and mine turned out hard as a rock. But then again, you may have some magical croissant making genes that you just don’t know about yet, so maybe go ahead and give it a try 🙂
Morning, I made your Indonesian rice dish yesterday using chicken and Tilda lime & coriander rice (it was in the cupboard), it was delicious, my husband even said this morning, make sure you email to say how tasty it was!
Went to Lidl yesterday it is great for fruit, veg & antipasto, couldn’t resist the little basket of garlic cloves and the unwaxed lemons were twice the size of Sainsburys and cheaper. Have emailed pictures as no idea how to attach to message.
Thanks Sue! And your husband too 🙂 I like Lidl and Aldi as welll. I’m a bit of a supermarket tart really. I grow some stuff, get stuff at market and supermarkets. No loyalty, me! I’ll see your photos when on the computer. Just on a long walk before I start cooking for one of my classes. Thanks again, Sue.
That makes me a supermarket tart too (made me laugh) I do the same as you, just had our first crop of this years strawberries, managed to beat the birds to them !
One-nil to you 😉
Hi Kellie. Loved your review, plus enjoy your recipes often. I’m a member of Slow Food Mildura in Australia and I love to make bread. The TRUE BREAD!!!! Artisan Bakers are in there own. Each one has their own little quirks. Would love to know Gail’s quirks. Will I be lucky enough too win one of the two copies??????? Keep the recipes coming, please.
Count me in for the book giveaway… just discovered this bakery in the past few weeks….
Just reading through the fresh tart recipe to make this later today, what happens to the other half of the pastry ?? Or have a missed reading something (wouldn’t be the first time). Glad the site has resumed normal service
Do you know what? I clocked that as well and wondered what the heck happened. I would just make it as described and keep any excess as a disc in the freezer for another tart. Can’t remember if the proportions actually looked like it would be for a single tart and they made a mistake (perhaps things had been edited down and this was missed out). That’s my only slightly educated guess. Yes, the site. I changed back to the previous theme/look but played with some fonts to give it a little freshness. But I do like the one that didn’t work right for you! I never heard anything back from the ‘gurus’ as to what happened. Let me know how you get on with the fresh herb tart. I’ve not had a chance to make it yet
Just made and eaten this fresh herb tart…delicious, just enough to cheese not to be over powering, so you get cheese flavours first followed by herbs and spring onions. the only change I made was to add a little fresh rosemary.. Really difficult not to go back and have a second helping !
Sounds so good! We aren’t eating until around 9 so I should’ve waited to see your delicious reply! I’ll try it soon
Has the book draw been done yet ?
‘fraid so, Sue. Sorry!
One word… Cheesecake!!! X