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Bread Books for the Home Baker

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I don't like Reinhard's books. He is often if not plain wrong, then at least sub-optimal.

Not sure about Nancy Silverton either. Her recipes don't work for me. There are many bad bread books.

Ones I would recommend are Dan Lepard's Baker and Spice.

Joe Ortiz The Village Baker

and then various semi-professional ones such as Prof Cavel, and ones such as "Special and Decorative Breads". I've just got Cresci, which looks fantastic, but not baked from it yet (Pannetone here I come).

Also Dan Wing's "Bread Builders", but that is more about building the oven.

Of course there are always the various bread units in egCI..

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How about the new bread bible book?

I've only tried one thing out of The Bread Bible but it worked terrifically. The pugliese.

In Dan Lepard's book for Baker & Spice, my Hot Cross Buns are a slight variation of his. Delicious. But what I'm hoping to follow soon is the baking day Dan put on in London recently. Be sure you check out that lesson on eGCI. Their results look fantabulous.


"I'm bringing pastry back"


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To preface, I baked bread professionally in retail and catering settings for 3 or 4 years, and do so at home now. I've tried a few things.

I third The Bread Baker's Apprentice. That is the beauty of it. Bread recipes do not always work perfectly as written. No recipe does. You can have different yeast, Miami vs Denver climate differences, among others. You start with a basic recipe, then you refine it. The whole idea behind being an apprentice is to learn by doing. The first few may not come out quite right. But if you read the book, somewhere in there you will get the info you need to get it right down the road. It teaches you how to get what you are looking for.

It's like the little old ladies that make bread every day. They know how to compensate for the differences in temperature, humidity, and seasonings.

Plus it is a gorgeous book. If it's for someone who is really interested in learning bread, and not just how to make bread, it is a perfect choice. If you are looking for recipes, there are hundreds. The basics are in The Bread Baker's Apprentice or in How To Cook Everything.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.

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How serious are you about baking and what type of bread are you interested in? This info will help in giving a recommendation. For serious regular sourdough bakers I found "The Bread Builders" to be the best combination of technical and pratical info for maintaining a starter and baking at home. Fields' book is good for Italian breads and the Ortiz book covers a wide range of styles. The Silverton book is impratical for home bakers altho I've found that the recipes that I've tried worked.

As a professional baker I can say Reinhart's frequently recommended "The Bread Bakers Apprentice" is a major let down. God help the students of Johnson and Wales if they're learning how to shape bread as he demonstrates in this book. That would really be sad. It really bothers me that he would call the book "The Bread Bakers Apprentice" when rather than do a one week stage where he actually would have baked bread, he preferred to do a crash tour of several bakeries so he would have more time to sightsee and shop. For christ sake if your not even capable of being an apprentice for one week you can't really be serious about baking, much less teaching baking.

I can still remember quite clearly the expression I received in return for asking a French head baker what his apprenticeship was like. His look said: you would be ground down into the finest dust if you experienced only five minutes of what I went thru. He mumbled something like, "one hundred hours a week in the shit for no money." If you could see the the speed, rhythm, precision and consistency with which he shapes bread you would understand what it means to be a baker.

It really depresses me to see the crap technique and faulty logic that Reinhart is peddling to an unsuspecting and ignorant public. For example: How is it possible that you include a photograph of how to score a baguette which is actually the perfect example of how not to score a baguette? How do you charge $35 for a book and include full color photos of old and stale bread? How do you make the centerpiece of your book Gosselin's method for baguettes when the version you present is so mangled it bears no relation to what Gosselin actually does? Why coin phrases like "delayed fermentation method" when there are already common words in the baking lexicon which accurately describe this technique, other than to give your misunderstandings the veneer of newness and uniqueness? I could rant on and on...

I'm glad people are getting good or better results from this book, and I'm sure there are many worthwhile things in it, but eventually if you become more serious you will quickly run up against its limitations, mistakes and confusions. I suggest you start elsewhere.


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Lesley C   

I spent two frustrating months trying to make bread from Nancy Silverton's Breads from La Brea Bakery book and probably went through 10 kg of organic flour to keep my bloody starter alive (I once brought it to a friends house to make sure I didn't miss a feeding).

The bread I ended up with after all the fuss, was hardly worth the trouble. I can imagine that this book might help a commercial baker get started, but it's a disaster -- as well as a massive waste of time and money -- for the home baker.

I don't think I've baked any bread, save for pizza dough, at home since that fiasco. :hmmm:

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Special and Decorative Breads

The Taste of Bread

just about every other book is good for idea generation only.

ps. check out glezer's "artisan baking across america." it's a beautiful and well researched book. also check out "the book of bread" by assire. no recipes but it is by far the most beatuful bread book i've ever seen.

am i over limit?

Edited by artisanbaker (log)

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Reinhart's book is getting some pretty polar responses.

From those who don't like it, what are its specific faults? Shaping has already been mentioned - could you give some more info regarding how Reinhart is poor in this area?

(I own the book, and have been looking forward to trying some things out of it - just haven't gotten arround to it yet.)

And, since I own the book, glad also to know that some much more experienced bakers than I have been getting good results from it. Would just like to know a bit more about its faults I guess.


Geoff Ruby

Oh - didn't it also win some fairly major awards - IACP maybe?

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james beard awards also!

well, i'll preface this by saying that peter reinhart was my bread instructor when i went to the california culinary academy.

i can't bash the guy as this was my first experience baking bread in my life. let's just say i learned a lot...and i learned a lot of what not to do...

for a beginner, i would recommend anything by beth hensperger ("bread for all seasons", "bread", etc.), she's easy to read, the books are cheap and i think they cover the basics (very basic, basics).

for a little more in depth with regard to european/italian bread: the il fornaio baking book is pretty good.

and of course, baking with julia...from which you can move on to get books by the people who contributed to the series.

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I would go with Crust and Crumb. The barm as elaborated in that book completely changed the way I looked at baking bread, and I was doing it for a living. I have most of the books mentioned in this thread, except silverton, and whoever said there are many bad bread books is right. Artisan Baking Across America is a favorite, and I do like The Bread Baker's Apprentice, but the new Bread Bible is drivel.

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Anyone have any opinions on Carol Fields's The Italian Baker for a beginner bread baker?

I just ordered this one today on Amazon based on hearing tons of great things about it. By the way, I found the Amazon marketplace to be an incredible resource for cooking - and all other books actually! When you look up a book, it tells you the Used and/or New price next to it. Then you can buy the book directly from a person. Sometimes they're used, but almost always in good to excellent condition. I've bought 3 books that way in the last few weeks.

I got the Carol Fields book for $8 and it normall sells for $25. I got the Il Fornaio Baking Book on there for $4 and its like-new condition. Just thought I'd remind everyone of this great resource.


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I like the Field book a lot for the breadth of content and the recipes work too. Haven't used it in a while, but thinking about making the pandoro recipe this Christmas. I've have good results with Hensperger and Reinhart too. Hate the Silverton book, mostly for the overly complicated sourdough instructions.

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Looking for a good book or books for the "serious amateur". The following have so far been recommended to me elsewhere:

-"Bread Alone", by Daniel Leader

-"King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion"

-"Bread Bible", by Rose Levy Beranbaum

-"Baking Illustrated", by Cook's Illustrated

Any comments? Thanks

Mark A. Bauman

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GG Mora   

When I saw the thread title, I hopped in to recommend Dan Leader's book...and there it was on your list. To my mind, it's the most "serious" of the books you've listed, and gets you deep into the whole ethos. I've had excellent results baking from it.

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Not sure about any of those books - very mixed.

Depends on the sort of bread you wnat to make...

I think you need more serious semi-professional books.

Reinhart "The Bread Bake's Apprentice" is often reccomended

Dan Lepard's "Baking with Passion", and he is publishing a new book "Hand made bread" this autumn

Joe Ortiz "Village Baker"

Massari/Zoia "The art of Levened Dough for Pannetone and other italian sweet bread

Then the is the eGCI sourdough course http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=27634

There is only so much you can learn from books, The best way is to jesy keep practicing - bake every week for a year, and you will be getting there, or go and work a stage or two at a bake shop...

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Nancy Silverton's Breads of La Brea Bakery and Raymond Calvels Le Gout du Pain ( The Taste of Bread ).

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Peter Reinhart's books, any or all.

However I would start with Crust and Crumb.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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I own & treasure every volume written by the wonderful Beth Hensperger. Her ouevre is enthusiastically recommended.

BTW, if you choose to purchase a copy of Nancy Silverton's La Brea Bakery, be prepared to order commercial sourdough starter (homemade starter is okay, but it lacks Lactobacillus sanfranciso, which is the essential bacteria unique to providing truly authentic Bay Area sourdough bread w/ its characteristic flavour.) You can also hope to obtain proven cultures by either begging or buying from your acquaintances. The real secret is to combine potato starter w/ the San Francisco starter when you mix the dough. The robust potato culture will make your loaves light, whlie the flavourful but wimpy San Francisco culture gives the bread its proper tang. King Arthur Flour in Vermont will be happy to sell you their sourdough wheat & rye starters; but I think that they are shipped only in the cooler months, from Nov. to May.

Further to Silverton: She's very artisanally minded on the subject of the most advantageous yeast to use; she disdains active dry yeast, saying that it makes bland-tasting bread. She functions in a strong sourdough mindset, which is thoroughly justifiable in her commercial position.

A veritable treasure-trove of breadmaking knowledge is Bernard Clayton's New Coimplete Book of Breads. This volume is highly recommended.

I have been making bread for the past 25 years, having learned the basic skills from my father who baked 99 hand-shaped loaves per day in woodfired brick ovens for several years in the 1940s.

"Dinner is theater. Ah, but dessert is the fireworks!" ~ Paul Bocuse

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Has anyone seen a new book entitled "Bread: A Baker's Book of Technique's and Recipes"? It is by Jeffrey Hamelman who is (was?) director of educational programs at King Arthur Flour in Vermont. Just heard about the book, haven't seen it personally-wondering if anyone else has and what their opinion of it is.

Mark A. Bauman

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