The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Book Review: Wild Sourdough the natural way to bake by Yoke Mardewi

Loonerone's picture

Book Review: Wild Sourdough the natural way to bake by Yoke Mardewi

This book is about using sourdough starters and yet has very little information on how to make a starter or how to care for a starter.  This is a serious  omission in a book in which all recipes are dedicated to the use of a starter.   I bought the book to learn more about starters and then have a host of recipes.  Unfortunately, this book did not provide the basics for getting a starter going. 

Also, the book seems to have missed a careful editor's eye.  In several recipes, the instructins say use ALL the ingredients, and yet half way though the recipe, you are instructed to add one of the ingredients at this point.  So adding ALL the ingredients is not what the author really meant.

Other instructions are confusing - like shape the loaves as desired, followed by inistructions to roll the dough into a rectangle....

The book is from Australia so most of the weights are gram and ounces, but not all.

I would not recommend this book.  It seems to be written by someone who is probably an excellent bread maker, but needs more practice in writinig cookbooks.   While it is attractive - which is what made me buy it - I'd wait until the revised version is printed to correct many of the flaws and omissions.

Hopefully the revised version will have details on making and using a starter!! 




rossnroller's picture

I entirely agree, Loonerone. This is the first book I purchased on sourdough bread, and I was very disappointed with it.

As you say, there is virtually no information on how to get a starter going. I emailed Yoke Mardewi and asked for advice (she provides her email addresses in the book and invites queries from readers), but she responded with the briefest of brush-off replies that told me nothing of use. I ended up seeking help from the WildYeast and Sourdough Companion sites, and thanks to some very helpful advice from both, eventually got up and running.

As a freelance copy-editor/editor for over 20 years, I was appalled by the multiple errors and omissions (not to mention the spelling and grammatical errors) throughout the book. If this book was edited at all, it was not by a pro...and if it was, s/he should have been sacked! All in all, a very amateur effort.

I have now been through all Mardewi's recipes carefully, and several refer to ingredients that are not listed, or that do not have quantities specified. This renders them useless for practical purposes. Thus, the purchaser is paying for recipes that cannot be made from the information provided in the book. Not good enough.

Further, I do not like her "air-kneading" method, which I find messy and tedious. I far prefer the stretch and fold kneading that is advocated by most folk on this forum, and by the bona fide gurus like Hamelman, Reinhart etc.

I made her sourdough chocolate cake, following the recipe exactly, and it turned out more like a chocolate slice. Edible and quite nice, but not a cake! And nothing like the picture in her book. Of course, I may have unwittingly made some sort of error, but I am an experienced domestic cook who has turned out many a good non-sourdough chocolate cake, so the territory is not unfamiliar to me. I suspect the recipe is would not surprise me if there are errors in the ingredient quantities, given the many other typos, omissions and grammatical flaws throughout the book.

About the only thing her book has going for it is its appearance. It is beautifully presented aesthetically.

It's been relegated to the bottom of my bookshelf since I purchased Dan Lepard's far superior The Handmade Loaf (although Lepard does not focus exclusively on sourdough), and started accumulating great sourdough bread recipes from people like our own marvellously talented Shiao-Ping. With Hamelman, Reinhart and Glezer currently on their merry way from Amazon to my doorstep, I do not anticipate rousing the Mardewi book from its slumber any time soon.


Bisnilo's picture

I have been given Yoke Mardewi's book "Sourdough - From Pastries to Gluten-Free Wholegrain Breads" which is beautifully illustrated but although I haven't been through it thoroughly yet I have also noted some shortcomings.  Even with my short bread-making experience I picked up on a serious error in the Parisian-Style Baguette ingredient ratios which in short are given as: 150g 1:1 white starter, 200g water, 375g strong white flour, 10g fava bean flour, 1 tsp salt.  By my calculation this comes to 60% hydration and unless I'm very much mistaken the minimum hydration for a baguette recipe should be 70% and more usual is closer to 80%.  

I also find the book very repetitive.  For recipe after recipe the only thing that changes is the ingredients list, which is fine but it is not necessary to write out the whole procedure from measuring ingredients to baking bread again and again.  It seems to be a cheeky way to fill up pages.


ars pistorica's picture
ars pistorica

Reason I don't like her books is I'm not sure she bakes light enough.

bakingstarter's picture
I have to agree with Rolanstein. The book is badly badly written, ill-prepared and confusing. It is clear English is not the author's mother tongue so she should have taken the trouble to have it edited by a native speaker before she went to publication. The recipes are repetitive, (only the ingredients differ), and are merely a copy and paste of previous recipes. I used a few of the them which worked OK but with more complex ones, due to the author's poor attention to detail, some of the recipes are confusing and unclear. For example, she doesn't make it clear when adding ingredients such as barley, polenta and millet whether she is referring to dry or cooked weight and what type of grain she means (e.g. whole grains, coarse or fine, pearl barley or flakes, etc). She includes an email address in her book and I'm afraid I made the terrible mistake of emailing her for clarification. What an experience! Her first email was fairly dismissive which I initially put down to a possible language misunderstanding so I emailed again pointing out where it was unclear; I was wholly unprepared for the torrent of abuse I received in return! She accused me several times of 'lying" (charitably I think this might be her way of saying she thought I was incorrect) and argued it was my stupidity - quote: “ any person with common sense will guess" - rather then her poor description which was at fault. The author clearly has much work to do on her customer service skills and needs to understand that abusing her customers when they give feedback is hardly the best way to secure their loyalty and generate further sales. I will not be buying any more of her books or recommending them to anyone else.