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No More Bricks! Review by Susan K. Marlow

Lori Viets
Knead to Know Press
6403 SE Highway 116
Cowgill, MO 64637

Would you like to make healthy, delicious whole-wheat bread but are overwhelmed by all the work you think goes into this creation? Are you frustrated by bread dough that doesn't rise? Perhaps you are tired of pulling unappealing lumps of hard bricks from your ovens. Or like me--who has baked bread for twenty years--you would like a little variety now and then. No More Bricks! is a must-read for novice bread-bakers and veterans alike.

This 146-page guide to "Successful Whole Grain Bread Made Quick and Easy," is packed full of easy-to-follow instructions, fascinating information about the how's and why's of bread-baking, and a number of clear, black-and-white photographs to reinforce what the author is explaining. It's a large paperback book (8 and 1/2 by 11 inches), which stays open on the kitchen counter without needing a rolling pin to hold the pages down.

No More Bricks! is divided into two parts. In part one, "Bread Class," the author takes the reader on a journey of discovery through topics like: "What makes bread so hard?" "The case for grinding your own flour," "Mysterious Gluten," and my personal favorite, "Getting to know grains and flours." I had no idea there were so many different kinds of wheat and other grains. The brief history of the grains (as well as the story of white flour) is explored. Told with humor and wit, this part of the book is just plain fun to read, as well as educational. All of the basic reasons bread doesn't turn out--and what to do to fix it--are included. Answers to questions like why it's important to knead the bread for a certain length of time or which mixer is best for your needs makes the whole process understandable for even a "clueless" beginner.

Part two, "Master Recipes and Variations," explores the actual hands-on part of the bread-making process. Three master recipes are given: Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread, Honey Whole Wheat Bread, and Whole Wheat Rye Bread. I chose to try the oatmeal master recipe, mostly because I'd never heard of adding oatmeal to my bread. The results were delicious--light and fluffy, with a slightly different taste from plain WW bread. The master charts give measurements for 1 loaf, 2 loaves, 3 loaves, or 6 loaves. The recipes require only ten steps to make your own fresh-baked bread. But here's the rub: while the author gives instructions how to make bread using any method--from "by hand" to bread machine--she clearly favors the spiral mixer (Bosch) in the text. She does not hide the fact that the cost of this type of mixer is high (as is the mill needed to grind the wheat berries), but says it is well worth the investment. I agree with her 100%. She does suggest that new bread-makers "try before you buy" with equipment from a friend.

The final pages of No More Bricks! give examples of bread-related goods that can be made from the master recipes--pizza dough, bread bowls, Calzones, and Stromboli, as well as the more-familiar cinnamon rolls, donuts, and tea rings. The author makes a good case for including bread products made from freshly ground wheat as the main staple of a meal.

Besides being a unique and practical bread-making book, I found No More Bricks! to be the perfect textbook for a unit study on wheat--from grain to bread, incorporating history, nutrition, homemaking skills, math, as well as a little P.E., if you decide to knead the dough by hand!

The book was exceptionally complete, easy to follow, and a delight to read. As a veteran of bread-baking, I highly recommend No More Bricks!

Product review by Susan K. Marlow, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2009