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Bread Books for the Home Baker

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'Artisan Baking' by Maggie Gletzer is a beautiful volume filled with an interesting variety and assortment of loaves, some of which you will not easily find elsewhere.

It also has ratings for the recipes from 'easy' to difficult'.

Great book!

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Any of Bernard Clayton's books are helpful to beginners and advanced bakers. The re-issued "The Breads of France" by Clayton is a must - and set the stage for the rediscovery of artisan baking.

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If you are looking for a book on bread baking I would avoid any general interst baking books. I am a Peter Reinhart fan when it comes to learning how to bake bread. He is a bread baking teacher by profession and really knows how to explain things in ways the home cook can understand. I would start with either Crust & Crumb or The Bread Baker's Apprentice. The Bread Baker's Apprentice is the more recent of the two. It covers much of the same territory as C7C but brings 10 more years experience to the table.

Just the opinion of someone who owns lots of bread books :smile:

Edited by KyleW (log)

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I know someone already mentioned it, but The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz is an awesome book on bread baking. It's got the right amount of scientific info, helpful hints and just plain nice things to say about bread and bakers. It's an inspiring AND practical book.

Happy reading!


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

"The Taste of Bread" by Calvels is most often quoted on the Bread Bakers Guild of America site. I haven't read it yet but hope to soon. "Baking with Julia" by Dori Greenspan is very nice as well. "Beard on Bread" by James Beard is a great resource as well.

Good Baking!!


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A word of caution about Calvel's The Taste of Bread, it is not for the faint of heart :smile: It is a very serious, scientific treatise on bread baking. It's very expensive and a little intimidating. If you are possessed by bread baking and want to know everything there is to know about how and why then there is no better book.

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A word of caution about Calvel's The Taste of Bread, it is not for the faint of heart :smile:  It is a very serious, scientific treatise on bread baking. It's very expensive and a little intimidating. If you are possessed by bread baking and want to know everything there is to know about how and why then there is no better book.

Kyle, it is serious allright but informative and the formulas are authentic. If you have any French and a dictionnary the French edition is only about $25.

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I too recommend Baking with Julia and Beard on Bread - and add the excellent Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Dupree

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There have been several threads about bread books here at eGullet, but none of them has really attracted that much discussion. Our Pastry & Baking forum is blessed with many professionals who don’t really need a bread book, and I suspect they just don’t have that much use for the ones out there.

But others obviously do need such books, and every so often someone starts a thread seeking info on the best bread books. It's seemed to me for a while that we ought to have some sort of resource to which a person could refer to be able to get some kind of handle on the ever-increasing, but still relatively manageable, universe of serious bread books. And so I've tried-- humbly, for the good of the community!-- to take a stab at creating such a resource here.

I love bread books. I’ve become an obsessed amateur baker, pretty much just since the beginning of this year, and I learned to bake from these books. Many bread books were written by real artisans—heroes, if you will—who never had a map when they set out to bake serious bread, and who wrote their books in order to make it easier for the rest of us to follow in their footsteps. Below are a few of my thoughts on many (but by no means all-- The Bread Builders, anyone?) of the books out there. My own preferences run towards European artisan breads and sourdoughs, but the books covered below are not limited to such territory. I’m also a home baker, not a professional, and my comments come from a home baking perspective.

I’ve seen a recent increase in bread-related discussion here, and I’m hopeful that we can have some good disagreement in this thread. Some of my negative opinions are firmly held—I begin below with a quick dismissal of an acknowledged classic. But most of my reviews are positive and I’m looking forward to being corrected on both the positive and the negative ones.

I have organized the books in a thoroughly idiosyncratic way that makes sense to me.

A. Hippies

1. The Tassajara Bread Book, by Edward Espe Brown (1970). The original Hippie bread manifesto, featuring whole grains and occasional Buddhism. An artifact of the Sixties. I’ve tried several of the breads, so you don’t have to. The recipes call for too little water, and way too much sweetener. Breads from this book come out like cloying bricks. I think this is a case in which you really had to be there at the time to get it.

2. The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, by Laurel Robertson et. al (1984). This one is a whole grain masterwork, recently reprinted. It contains a splendid 25-page tutorial on making whole grain (or, really, any type of) bread. The basic method, and it is a sound one, involves thorough kneading and the careful avoidance of adding too much flour. Every bread I’ve tried from the book has worked, and the book covers every grain or bean imaginable, offering recipes and helpful guides to experimentation. Almost all of the breads follow the direct method, in which the ingredients are all combined at one time (as opposed to breads that use a “pre-ferment”-- aka poolish, biga, sponge, or starter-- in which a portion of the dough ingredients are combined ahead of time and allowed to sit at room temperature, developing flavor and improving the keeping qualities of the final bread). I haven’t tried the wild starter “desem” bread. This bread calls for cellar temperatures that never occur in my Brooklyn apartment. But the desem discussion in the Laurel’s Kitchen book was likely the best, most accurate description of wild yeast/sourdough bread available at the time.

3. Brother Juniper’s Bread Book, by Peter Reinhart (1991). Reinhart started out as a Hippie Christian charity sandwich shop owner, and his first book reflects the do-it-yourself aesthetic with which he began his bakery. At this stage of his career, Reinhart was primarily interested in adding lots of flavorings to his breads—he didn’t know any better. His Brother Juniper breads all follow the direct method. These breads seem primitive when they are compared to the breads in his later works, and Reinhart’s “slow rise” technique turns out to be neither particularly slow nor interesting. Still, his passion for bread baking is contagious, and some of the breads are surprisingly good, like his signature multi-grain Struan bread. (You can also find versions of this bread in Reinhart’s later books.) Others, like the Tex-Mex Cumin bread (i.e., lots of Tobasco sauce), are predictably bad. Overall, Brother Juniper’s Bread Book is hard to dislike, and impossible to dismiss entirely. Don’t start here, but if you like Peter Reinhart’s later masterpieces, this book is worth a read.

B. Giants of prehistoric times (1970s-80s)

1. Beard on Bread, by James Beard (1973). I’ve seen people recommend this book from time to time, but I found it very disappointing. In writing this book, Beard set out to record a few favorite recipes, and to convince Americans that bread could be baked at home easily and quickly. These very limited goals may have been the right strategy for the 1970s, but today Beard’s choices limit the usefulness of his book compared to everything else that’s out there. There isn’t much in Beard on Bread that can’t be found in any general interest bread book, and any recipe that may present a challenge (e.g. sourdough, salt-rising bread, bread using a sponge/pre-ferment) is presented poorly and with a disclaimer that the reader probably shouldn’t bother in the first place. I’m no historian, but I spotted numerous errors of history in Beard’s text, and in general felt let down by Beard’s refusal to challenge himself or his readers.

2. English Bread and Yeast Cookery, by Elizabeth David (1977). Every serious baker should own this book, which is out of print but can be pretty cheaply and easily obtained. Some credit David with saving bread in England with this book in the twilight of her distinguished career as a food writer. I don’t know about that, but her book contains an excellent discussion of how flour is milled and bread is made, and also of the decline of good bread in England (and by extension everywhere else). The book also contains a wonderful selection of recipes, all of which make good, wholesome bread. These are not Village Baker-type hearth breads, but rather simple breads traditionally made by homemakers in England through the centuries. Kneading is de-emphasized, which may surprise American readers, but I can tell you I’ve tried a lot of these recipes and they work just fine. David also wanders a bit, discussing quiches, croissants, and French bread, among other things. Her chapter on French bread concludes that access to French flour is the key; consequently, she provides no French bread recipe to her English readers! I love her for this. She also includes a magnificent (and astonishingly simple) Roquefort quiche, but a surprisingly disappointing Pissaladiere. Through it all David’s prose is a joy to read, as always. The polemical introduction to the American edition by Karen Hess is also worth the price of admission by itself.

3. The Breads of France, by Bernard Clayton (1978). I’ve never been inspired to try much from Clayton’s big Complete Book of Breads, but this late Seventies work, based on his extensive travel within France, is a charmer. Clayton is a prisoner of his era: he doesn’t trust his readers to try wild yeast “levains,” so all the breads contain commercial yeast. But there are numerous sophisticated country breads with long periods of pre-fermentation. And there are some weird surprises as well, like the Fauchon “Hawaiian” coconut bread that opens the book (which I haven’t tried) and the pear/black pepper bread near the end (which I have enjoyed). There are also some nice anecdotes along the way. For instance, Clayton trudges up a random hill to meet with Richard Olney, only to be informed by the expatriate curmudgeon that the bread of the region stinks and that the only good bread to be found in the area is made in his house! There are many bread books available today that are better than The Breads of France, but the book, which was recently reprinted, is worthwhile as a historical document and it contains some good recipes.

4. The Italian Baker, by Carol Field (1985). Carol Field traveled all over Italy in much the way that Clayton covered France, and produced a masterpiece. This book must have been such a revelation in 1985, what with its wet Italian doughs, regular use of pre-ferments/bigas, and its inclusion of metric weights in addition to volume measures. Perfect Ciabatta, Pugliese, and some interesting non-traditional twists are all here, along with a host of other things. This book has been in print for nearly twenty years, and I don’t see any need for an overhaul. It’s pretty great as it is, although the beginner may want something a little broader in scope for his or her first bread book. (I can also recommend Field’s Italy in Small Bites, which contains numerous good breads as well as non-bread related snacks.)

C. American Artisans

1. Bread Alone, by Daniel Leader and Judith Blahnik (1993). Daniel Leader seeks to inspire. His book contains many chapters full of entertaining stories about how he learned to bake serious artisan bread from European masters, how he built his own oven in his bread shop in upstate New York, and then impulsively agreed to let a French master build him a new oven—without any idea of what he’d be getting or how much it would cost— and about how he came to know the people who provided the wheat that went into his breads. Leader also gives tons of recipes, many for interesting breads you won’t find elsewhere; and many of these breads include significant portions of whole grain flour. There’s also a bunch of different ryes. The book has significant weaknesses: the organization stinks, his shaping instructions are relegated to a completely inadequate sidebar, yet other mundane instructions (such as how to position your oven racks) are repeated needlessly in every single recipe. He also maddeningly suggests commercial yeast be used to create a sourdough starter. But whatever. Leader has passion, the recipes are good, and he did us all a great service. Not the perfect book, but a very good one.

2. The Village Baker, by Joe Ortiz (1993). I’ve heard it said that this is the best bread book of them all. Ortiz is an American pioneer like Daniel Leader (Ortiz's shop is in California), and like Leader, Joe Ortiz made pilgrimages to Europe to learn to bake. But unlike Leader, Ortiz focuses almost all of his energies on the traditional European breads—he doesn’t devote a lot of space to unusual breads developed in America. He is also more rigorous about using European terminology and methods. The first section of the book is a tour de force description of the European craft of baking; it is a model of clarity and precision, if a little dry. There are numerous drawings to help the novice understand the lessons. I haven’t actually made many breads from this book, but I have read it cover to cover more than once, and I learned a lot from it. Ortiz offers a nice selection of traditional breads. He also includes a chapter on Germany, which is given short shrift in most other books. And there’s a long section at the back of the book giving recipes for professionals, which isn’t of great interest to me but is again unusual.

3. Amy’s Bread, by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree (1996). This book is out of print, and it is difficult to obtain at a reasonable price. At least in New York, it is available at the public library. It’s a shame that it’s out of print, because it’s a very good book. It provides very clear, comprehensive instructions on kneading, rising, and shaping dough (with pictures), and an excellent section on making your own sourdough starter. The book is not a trove of traditional breads; it provides recipes for the breads at the Amy’s Bread shop in New York City, which were created by the authors, including a bunch of different bread sticks and a selection of interesting semolina breads. Not a comprehensive book, nor should it be anyone’s first. But well worth seeking out.

4. Breads From the LaBrea Bakery, by Nancy Silverton (1996). This book is a must-own for anyone getting serious about bread. Silverton has a reputation for being something of a stickler. Her instructions are comprehensive, and she seems often to suggest that you will fail if you do not do exactly as she says. All of the breads require sourdough starter, and she provides an irresponsibly difficult and frustrating method for creating that starter. My advice (which is hardly original): take her warnings with a grain of salt, and definitely make adjustments when it comes to making the sourdough starter, or use another book for that. But once you have sourdough starter, use her recipes. They’re great. (Many are traditional breads, given a little twist or refinement by Silverton for her shop in L.A.) She has a sensitive palate, and many of her instructions seem fussy. But I’ve often found that after I try things her way I agree with her. I love her fougasse (which includes starter and commercial yeast), her potato-dill bread, and her fig-anise bread, among many others. Her formula for basic country white sourdough (which is accompanied, Laurel’s Kitchen-style, by a lengthy and helpful tutorial on bread-making) just happens to be the one that sits at the front of my head, and it’s the one I use as a default when I don’t have any other ideas or ingredients handy.

D. Teachers:

1. Baking With Julia, with contributions from many bakers, written by Dorie Greenspan (1996). Every time I open Baking With Julia, I am amazed that a book covering so much baking territory contains such a comprehensive section on bread. There are very nice basic breads and then a spectacular batch of artisan breads, highlighted by a great recipe for classic French bread, a huge Pain de Campagne (contributed by Joe Ortiz), super-easy and satisfying potato loaves, and above all else a wonderful mixed starter bread from Steve Sullivan of the famous Acme Bakery. This is one of the few Steve Sullivan recipes in print, and the recipe instructs the reader in using this dough to create baguettes, wheat stalks (“epis”), and walnut bread. Dorie Greenspan does a marvelous job knitting the book together with one voice, but because the recipes come from so many sources, there isn’t enough general instruction on kneading/shaping/slashing for beginners. Still, you could do a lot worse than to start baking bread with this book, as I did. You’ll outgrow it if you get really into bread, but you’ll look back on it with real fondness. And you’ll come back to that mixed starter bread.

2. Crust & Crumb (1998) and The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (2002), both by Peter Reinhart. I would recommend either one of these books to anyone who wants to read just one book to learn how to bake serious bread. They are simply the best, most comprehensive books for the home baker. The later book gets the edge, because it covers more territory, is better organized, and contains a couple of interesting breads I really love: (1) Reinhart’s cream-colored, big-holed pain a l’ancienne baguettes, which he may or may not have picked up from a Parisian named Gosselin, and (2) Reinhart’s delicious refinement of Carol Field’s Pane Siciliano, a soft, golden, durum wheat bread given a flavor boost by the use of lengthy pre-fermentation. But both books are masterpieces, and either work can stand alone. There are great tutorials, with illustrations/pictures. You’ll also find good instructions for making sourdough/levain, and not just by one method but by several. And you’ll learn how to easily use your sourdough starter in place of pre-ferments in the breads that call for commercial yeast. There are also some inspiring stories along the way. Throughout both books Reinhart’s love of bread and teaching is palpable. Reinhart is a professional baker-turned-teacher who has really thought through the issues involved in making world-class bread at home, and it is his emphasis on making professional results available to amateurs that I think raises his work above everybody else’s.

3. Artisan Baking Across America, by Maggie Glezer (2000). I’m very fond of this book. Glezer collected recipes from many American artisans, and dragged photographer Ben Fink along with her. I bought it thinking I was getting a coffee table book. And it is that—the photos are beautiful and numerous. But I was really surprised at how serious a bread book accompanied the pictures. Glezer presents a very thorough discussion of bread-making technique at the front of her book, and helpfully organizes the recipes by difficulty. She also collects an interesting, diverse, and unusual batch of recipes. There’s much to explore in her book, including one of the few other recipes from Steve Sullivan in print, and my favorite, the huge, doughnut-shaped Tortano bread from Brooklyn’s Royal Crown bakery. I couldn’t get her sourdough system to work for me, however. She wants you to feed your starter until it will triple in eight hours. I fed and fed, but could never get mine to quite triple. But I’ve used my starter in her recipes with success, anyway, by using slightly more starter than she recommends.

4. Classic Sourdoughs, by Ed Wood (2001). Wood is a sincere soldier of sourdough. He sells a whole bunch of different sourdough starters he claims to have been given around the world. He also provides instructions for creating your own sourdough starter. These instructions are too brief but they aren’t bad. Wood isn’t a chef. He’s more of a collector. His instructions on technique are perfunctory and inadequate. His idea of kneading, for example, is to rip the dough open and force-feed it more flour. He doesn’t seem to have any idea how properly to form a loaf; most methods work well, he says, and yet he likes to bake his loaves in pans because he’s had difficulty getting free-form loaves to spread up instead of out. He views artisan baking techniques (such as retarding loaves overnight in a cooler before baking for better flavor) as fads to be debunked, because he can’t really tell the difference. His recipes come from all over the place, and tend to be a little old-fashioned, in that (like many older American recipes) they tend to rely on “improvers” like milk, butter, and sugar. Wood also has no misgivings about adding things like instant mashed potatoes or dried herbs to his breads. On the bright side, Wood’s writing voice is very likable, and he seems to have a real passion for sourdough. And the book contains a nice discussion about different types of flour (e.g., spelt, durum, kamut), all of which Wood uses in his recipes. Put this book in the curiosity file.

5. The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum (2003). I really like Ms. Beranbaum, alias “the cake lady.” She means well. And her book, to be fair, opens with a very solid section on kneading, shaping and baking bread. The book also contains lots of meticulous, accurate recipes for perfectly good loaves. Nevertheless I find The Bread Bible quite irritating. Beranbaum wasn’t that into bread before she decided to write The Bread Bible. She learned a lot about bread in order to write the book. She also seems hungry to make her own contribution to the field, despite her lack of experience. This inexperience combined with hubris leads her to recommend some dubious techniques. Primary among these is her one-hour sponge/pre-ferment. Her method is to include all of the water for the recipe in the sponge. She says this very wet sponge encourages fast yeast development, which enables the reader to use the sponge in as little as one to four hours. She claims this is an innovation. This is nonsense, of course. The point of a sponge is to let yeast development occur slowly, which gives the bacteria time to create flavor. Her one-hour sponge won’t create much flavor, no matter how fast the yeast multiplies, because speed is the enemy of flavor. It is axiomatic among real bread people that flavor depends on slowing down yeast development, not speeding it up. There are numerous similar critiques I could level at other Beranbaum techniques, but I’ll spare you. Instead, I’ll cite one other example of how irritating this book can be. Beranbaum presents a bread that she calls “Heart of Wheat.” She says it is her signature bread, the summation of everything she’s learned, and the last great idea she just had to try. And the bread isn’t bad. It’s just a white country bread made with a pre-ferment. But Beranbaum says the bread is worthy of comparison to a great Burgundy, and that when she eats it she is inspired to “absolute and reverential silence.” Why? Because the bread includes wheat germ. WHEAT GERM. This is presented like it’s some kind of breakthrough. And it isn’t. Nancy Silverton includes wheat germ in her white breads, and it wasn’t her idea either. Daniel Leader’s got it covered too. Take a look at Elizabeth David’s book, and you’ll find it there as well. See what I mean? Absolute and reverential silence? Give me a break. What hubris! How irritating! In the end I think that The Bread Bible is a decent book, but I worry that beginners will buy it with the notion that it’s the only bread book they’ll ever need. They’d be better off with Reinhart or Silverton.

E. Finally, some honorable mentions:

1. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 2, by Julia Child and Simone Beck (1970). Child and Beck created their French Bread recipe under the tutelage of Professor Calvel himself, and it shows. The lengthy recipe contains excellent advice on kneading, shaping and slashing, and if it's a bit heavy on the yeast, so was every other American bread recipe at the time.

2. Chez Panisse Cooking, by Paul Bertolli and Alice Waters (1988). This book contains a chapter on bread, and it's Steve Sullivan's bread, before he departed to found his Acme company. (This is the final place where you can find Steve Sullivan's work in print, to my knowledge.) The chapter offers a very good discussion of how sourdough/wild yeast bread works (although some of the science is faulty). Nancy Silverton refers to this chapter in her book, stating that it was the only place in which she found useful advice when she opened her own bakery. It's worth checking out.

3. It isn't a book, but it is even more useful: the eGCI. Check out Jackal10's masterful sourdough course and Dan Lepard's Baking Day.

Edited by gfron1 (log)

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Oh dear, and I was going to work this morning...

Let me add some, and another couple of categories to this excellent collection:

First off

Baker and Spice: Baking with Passion Dan Lepard.

Some think Dan is the best baker and bread teacher in the UK today. This is his first book, woderfully photographed.

The Handmade Loaf is about to be published, and will be a modern classic. I've seen a proof copy and it is amazing. Order it today

Bread A Bakers Book of Techniques and Recipes Jeffrey Hamelman

I guess this goes under the Amreican Artisans category. Mostly sound (though I disagree in places). Good line drawings, except for me the labelling on plaiting a Challah is slightly confusing. He keeps the same label on each strand, while others, such as Manna (Walte T Banfield 1947) relabel the strands left to right at each step..

Secrets of a Jewish Baker George Greenstein 1994.

The author is a retired baker from Long Island. Does what it says on the cover, but the styles of bread now seem a little dated.

The Bread builders: Hearth loaves and Masonry Ovens. Daniel Wing and Alan Scott.

The definitive book for brick oven builders and bakers.

Building a Wood Fired Oven for Bread and Pizza Tom Jaine.

Slim but informative. Tom Jaine was editor of "The Good Food Guide", and founded Prospect Books.

Semi-Professional books, typically aimed a catering students:

Baking: The Art and Science. A Practical Handbook for the Baking Industry Schunemann and Treu

I like this book. Clear explanations, good illustrations and lots of pictures. Not coffee table food porn, but a good working book. Inspiring.

Special and Decorative Breads

Volume 1 Basic Bread Making Techniques - 46 Special Breads - Fancy bread - Viennese Breads - Decorative Breads - Presentation Pieces

R. Bilheux A Escoffier D Herve J.M. Pouradier

Volume 2 Traditional, Regional and Special Breads - Fancy Breads - Viennese Pastries - Croissants - Brioches - Decorative Breads - Prsentation Pieces

Classic volumes. Similar style to Schunemann and Treu, but more advanced in the French and Grand Cuisine tradition.

Le Cordon Bleu Professional Baking Wayne Gisslen

Boring and dull. Recipes don't work well for me

Cresci: The Art of Leavened Dough Ignio Massari, Achille Zola

Definitive book for Panetonne, Stollen and other sweet doughs. Wonderful

Professional Books for the industrial baker

Baking, Science and Technology E.J. Pyler. 2 Volumes. (1988)

Large scale industrial baking

Bread making: Improving Quality Stanley P Cauvin (editor) 2003

A collection of papers more relevant to large scale processes than the home or restaurant artisanal baker


Books I've bought, but don't like. Books called "The Bread Book" or "Book of Breads" or something similar just don't work for me, and tend to be more for the coffee table than the kitchen

New Complete Book of Breads Bernard Clayton

The Bread Book Thom Leonard

The Bread Book Martha Rose Shulman

The Bread Book Linda Collister and Anthony Blake

The Book of BreadJerome Assire

Edited by Andy Lynes (log)

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from one obsessed home baker to another :biggrin: : thanks for this great review of all these books. You did a fantastic job.

I don't have nearly as many bread books as you, though I'd really like to :rolleyes: , but I have baked from a couple on the list.

Rehinardt's (apprentice and C&C) and Silverton's books are those which I'm most happy with. Apart from the reasons you give each of these books has one thing I really like. I found Rehinardt's percentage tables very usefull on the few occasions I found myself baking larger batches of bread. I learned a lot using the "baking sheet" (can't remember the proper name) Silverton includes before her recipes, the whole temperature measuring thing (flour, dough, dough after proofing and so on) might seem overly complex at first but it really helps to find what might have gone wrong where, and indications for possible improvements.

I use Field's Italian Baker often. It's a fine book. The recipes don't always work as they should, I've had several problems with some of her cookie recipes, but they can be easily improved with a little baking experience. Also, as Southern Italian, I find she focuses way too much on Northern bread, missing some of the nicest breads south of Rome. But I'm maybe just a tad biased there :smile: .

I'm not a big fan of "The Village Baker". Or rather, I think the methods are very well explained and one does indeed learn a lot from the book. On the other hand, though I've had some success with the recipes in the book, I've also had a significant amount of failures, the last one recently. It could be my fault clearly, but the same doesn't happen with the recipes from other books. It's still a book I'm going to bake from, maybe in a while though.

Another book I would add for those who love flatbreads is "Flatbread and Flavors" from Naomy Duguid and Jeffrey Alford. I find the bread instructions at times excessively simple, plus some of these have the clear limit of being recipes originally though for tandoors and similar, and adapted to home ovens. They're a good starting point for developing you own recipes though and the stories and background info in the book make for a great read.

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Great thread SethG! I'm definately not an expert on breads but I can ditto a couple opinions posted.

I probably hold an opposite opinion on this then most people: My best sweet breads, danish, coffee cakes, brioche and sweet roll recipes I've found didn't come from "big name" bread books. Just as in the over all catagory of 'baking' it breaks down to bread or pastry bakers. I think bread bakers can be broken down into savory and sweet bread bakers. I've yet to find one bread bakers book thats equally strong with sweet as they are savory. This will probably horrify all our devoted bread bakers but I like the sweet bread catagory out of Gisslens books better then any of the recipes I've tried from Reinhart, Silverton, Clayton, RLB, etc....

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Oh dear, and I was going to work this morning...

Oh dear, and I was going to sleep tonight... :raz:

Seth, thank you so much for writing up such thorough reviews. Having learned bread baking solely from Internet resources, I think I'm badly in need of at least one book. But which one?--was the question. Now at least I'll have a good starting point. Thank you!

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... I think bread bakers can be broken down into savory and sweet bread bakers. I've yet to find one bread bakers book thats equally strong with sweet as they are savory. This will probably horrify all our devoted bread bakers but I like the sweet bread catagory out of Gisslens books better then any of the recipes I've tried from Reinhart, Silverton, Clayton, RLB, etc....

I'm sure you're right, Wendy. I'm definitely on the savory side of that divide. I've done some pastry stuff but I couldn't begin to describe with any depth which books are best, or even which of the books I discuss above are any good for the sweet stuff. I'm really talking above about which books are best for lean breads.

And Jackal10, I'll look out for that new Lepard book! I also understand from Mamster that there'll be a new book from Dan Leader out next year. That should also be good.

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Thanks Seth, Jack and everyone for taking the time to build this thread...an absolute joy to read and a fantastic resource as well. :smile:


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Great Post Seth--

I'd like to add my current favorite to the discussion-- Alford and Duguid's latest book--Home Baking The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World. A wonderfully diverse selection of recipes with beautiful photos. The instruction is pretty good and the recipes I've tried so far have been great.

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Wow! Great thread. That's a lot of writing. Thanks for taking the time Seth and for being so thorough. :cool:

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Wow, Seth, what a wonderful piece of writing. I adore your categories -- they are just spot-on, as are your opinions, so far as the books with which I am familiar. I'm not used to agreeing so thoroughly! Many thanks -- a million thoughts begin to swirl.

Amateur bread baking has its curse-like element -- you think you'd like to learn about baking your own bread and then, before you know it, the nice UPS man is dropping 25-lb. bags of organic short-patent flour from the Kansas Mennonites at your door.

At least, that's what happened to me.

Your is fortuitous, joining in congruence with a couple of other events that have me returning to levels of bread baking not seen in my kitchen in years. (I've baked all along, but you know the diff between subsistence baking and discovery baking. I've settled on King Arthur Flour, however, rather than the more esoteric flights of years ago ... the flavor and especially the consistency is fantastic.)

We installed a new oven just in September (we've put in bread-worthy ovens wherever we've lived, but tried for 6 years to make do with a very charming but woefully inadequate 1950s Gaffers & Sattler that came with this house), and, I took advantage of Jackal's generous offer to ship his sourdough starter. The recent Q&A with P. Reinhart must figure in here, too.

I'm just starting on the sourdough trip, something in all my years of amateur baking I'd not done. What a miracle THAT is, hewing closely to Jackal's comprehensive instructions. With sourdough baking I'm understanding a lot more about all my bread, I think, with no end in sight.

Lovely to read your thoughts and think again myself about my friends the bread books:

Clayton's French bread book is superior, almost in spite of himself, in a way. That pain Italian from the bakery in Monaco was a bread I made a lot, some years ago ... very dependable and good.

Joe Ortiz, the only time I've paid for a cooking demonstration was to see Joe and Gayle Ortiz -- his book is deep bread, and Gayle's book, The Village Baker's Wife, is wonderful as well -- don't miss a chance to visit their Gayle's Bakery in Capitola CA. I consult him a lot. Now I'd better add pepitas to the old Trader Joe's list, because I know just from thinking about it I'll be making his German multi-grain.

E. David, well, life-changing is not too strong when it comes to English Bread and Yeast Cookery. The flour material, as you say, is a benchmark. But I love all those homely type of sandwich breads -- not least because my family loves sandwiches.

I also agree about R.L. Beranbaum -- I'm a little galled by the Fill-in-the-Blank Bible conceit overall I suppose, but her naive hubris about such things as the wheat germ you mention really stick in my craw. Wheat germ in bread? See Seth's The Hippies, if not Giants of Prehistoric Times! Or, any bad health-food-store doorstop loaf, for that matter.

I would like to submit that the bread chapter in Madeleine Kamman's In Madeleine's Kitchen was very helpful to me a number of years ago. Her three-day minimal-yeast starter with a hit of cumin in it produced some of my best bread ever. Also the bread part of Mollie Katzen's The Enchanted Broccoli Forest(I think; could be the first Moosewood) ... I learned a lot, particularly about whole wheat.

Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen has Paul's mother's white bread in there, which, after eating at K-Paul's years ago, I was very very glad to find instructions for.

The King Arthur Flour people have been a tremendous resouce over the years, both of equipment and information. Their The Baking Sheet subscription newsletter is always pretty interesting too.

Just received Dan Lepard's book, haven't started on it yet though.

Of course lately I'm relying on Jackal's eGCI's sourdough class -- what a resource! Of course my dream is to have a bread oven out in MY garden, which is not entirely out of the question, depending on how deeply the reobssession roots.

Phew, so much material. I'm looking forward to hearing more thoughts on the individual titles.

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I must echo everyone who has said, "What a great thread!" Seth, in addition to the information contained therein, I especially love the way you categorize the books.

Must admit to having bought quite a few bread books knowing full well that I will never actually bake from them, but I haven't even much looked at them -- so it's great to know which are them are worthwhile as resources and reference material.

Amy Viny mentioned Alford and Duguid's most recent book. I'd love to hear more about that, as well as opinions of the breads in their Flatbreads and Flavors.

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This is so timely! I was just pondering on which book (my first bread book) to get. Thank you!

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"Maggie Glezer's new book "A Blessing of Bread," described as the many traditions of Jewish bread baking around the world is really good. The recipes seem very well researched and tested. They are written in volumetric, lbs. and ozs., and metric measurements. I would add that recipes are not the only (actually not even the main) reason to by books on bread making. It's a welcome addition to my library.

"Bread and Viennese Bread and Pastry" by the Lenotre School is very respectable.

"Swiss Baking" another volume in the Richemont School series is an excellent book designed for students and professionals, yet accessible to the home baker.

"The Ballymaloe Bread Book" by Tim Allen is a cool little book for a different slant on traditional breads.

An advanced book with excellent information is "The Student's Handbook Of Breadmaking and Flour Confectionery" by W. Fance. This is an English study and offers yet another mind set and excellent technical data.

For historical perspective, "Six Thousand Years of Bread" by H.E. Jacob and "The History of Bread" by Bernard Dupaigne are indespensible.

"Art of Viennoiserie and Festival of Tarts" by Bellouet is very good if you're into laminated doughs, brioche, etc.

"Baking --The Art and Science -- A Practical Handbook for the Baking Industry" by Claus Schunemann and Gunter Treu is a professional book with outstanding information, diagrams, etc. to aid in the understanding of the German method of processing bread.

"Boulangerie: The Craft and Culture of Baking in France" by Paul Ramballi, "Bread of Three Rivers" by Sarah M. Taber, and "Paris: Boulangerie; Patisserie" by Linda Dannenberg are good reads. The latter also includes recipes.

To respectfully disagree with Jackal10, I think that "The Bread Book" by Thom Leonard is relevant for anyone who loves bread, whether professionally or at home. The book takes the reader through the process from the field to the table with a sublte reverence that some books seem to go overboard with. The science and the methodology are accurate and easiy understood. This is one of the books that was at the forefront of the artisan movement in the USA.

I am not going to disparage any books here, but some of the books mentioned in the thread are written to be best sellers and to cash in on a public enamored of bread, not written to promote an understanding of good bread. I don't own them, but if they promote an awareness and appreciation of bread, I guess that I am thankful for that. That said, there are many books in the thread that I respect and refer to constantly.

Seth G, I too tip my hat to you for starting this thread and for your in depth descriptions.

Edited by boulak (log)

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This is indeed a wonderful thread. I love bread, I love baking bread and have been at it for nearly 50 years - beginning in my mother's bakery and attending Dunwoodie school in the mid 50s.

I have most of the books listed as I tend to buy every bread book that comes along, including just about all of the bread machine bread books.

I too have some favorites.

Probably my favorite is Crust and Crumb. TBBA is also a fine book but I like the "tone" of the earlier book. I can't explain why, just my personal preference.

I also like No Need to Knead, as I have become quite enamored of the slack dough breads and Dunaway has obviously given a lot of thought to this type of bread and the recipes are excellent and produce great results with much less work than usual.

I have a well-thumbed and dogeared first edition of Elizabeth David's book which a basenji friend brought me from England in 1981. I also have the "New American" edition that was published sometime in the 90s.

One of the earlier books that I found to be very helpful over the years when trying to teach bread making to my children or my helpers, is the Cornell book on bread. It is not very extensive, has only a few recipes, but for the basic technique and the principles of bread making, it is very easy to understand. Cornell book on bread. and it is very inexpensive.

I recommend it to people whose children want to learn to make bread.

Flatbreads and Flavors by Alford is another book that I use quite a bit, although this is a different product than regular breads, it is worth trying the techniques.

Bread Alone and the Village Baker round out my favorites.

Then there is Nick Malgiere's book How to Bake but it has a lot more in it than just bread.

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The Bread Book Linda Collister and Anthony Blake

And also their "Country Breads of the World" - i rushed to get this book right after reading

John Thorne's review of it, you won't find him that excited often :smile:

And besides, this is the only book i know of that has a recipe for Russian Borodinsky bread.

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I take back what I said at the outset about how the universe of serious bread books is still relatively manageable. So many books that I've never heard of have been mentioned in response to my inital post, especially in the arena of books written to train professionals! It's given me a whole new area to explore.

Thanks for all the positive responses. In particular, I thank Suzanne for not mentioning my shameless abuse of the em dash.

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