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Bread Books for the Home Baker


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I just purchased "Bread a Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes" by J. Hamelman. I haven't had time yet to really read, just thumbed through, but it looks amazing. I'm really excited to read and try some of his methods and recipes. I've been using "Bread Baker's Apprentice" since it came out and have had success, but its time to try new things.... :wink:

Just a simple southern lady lost out west...

"Leave Mother in the fridge in a covered jar between bakes. No need to feed her." Jackal10

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I just purchased "Bread a Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes" by J. Hamelman.  I haven't had time yet to really read, just thumbed through, but it looks amazing.  I'm really excited to read and try some of his methods and recipes.  I've been using "Bread Baker's Apprentice" since it came out and have had success, but its time to try new things.... :wink:

I got both books. They really enlightened me.

I am so grateful for both Peter and Jeffrey. :smile:

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  • 1 month later...

Seth! Thank you thank you thank you!

Your post alone is as good as any of the threads I have seen here.

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.

.

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  • 1 month later...

I feel really spoiled to live with a guy who loves making me fresh bread. He has always had a starter or two and has gone by his standard recipe for years. But he was delightfully intrigued with my Breads from La Brea Bakery, having made several loaves from that book.

But always looking for inspiration, I started perusing a handful of gorgeous books in the bookstore last night and got overwhelmed. Heck, I thought, I'll just check with the consummate bakers on eG and see what they like before I spend hard-earned moolah on another book...

What'cha think? Some that intrigue me are:

The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Ron Manville

The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum (I adore her Pie and Pastry Book)

Bread Alone by Daniel Leader

Yet another Bread Bible but this one by Beth Hensperger...

Or is there one I am missing that is specially good? I really only want to buy one more bread book. The top two on my list are my top two, but would love a discussion from other bread-aficiandos.

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I've been working from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads and haven't been thrilled with the stuff I've made from it, however my sister's vegetarian friends have loved the breads from it. Also been working from the Bread Baker's Apprentice and enjoying it very much. Dabbling with a bit of Beth Hensburger with really good results. Loving No Need To Knead by Susan Dunaway. Sunset book of breads is my old standby I've been baking from for over 20 years and I still love it. It has an incredible variety of breads from different cultures and you can get it dirt cheap online.

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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I have all of Peter Reinhart's books (The Bread Baker's Apprentice, et al)

and I have the rest of the books you listed as well as many, many more.

However, the book to which I have been turning more often of late is Jeffrey Hamelman's book

Bread "A Baker's Book of Technique and Recipes"

I like the format and even though I truly love Peter Reinhart's books, I find that the charts and detailed instructions are very helpful, particularly when I am teaching another person, because the explanations as to WHY are so informative.

Read the reviews, I bought the book a year ago after reading the reviews on Amazon.

The following are the particular reviews I found most important in choosing this book.

As one reviewed noted it is handy to make a copy of the technique sections - I scanned and printed out the specific pages and laminated them with the recipes themselves and stuck them into the book as place markers at the particular recipes I have made. When I am ready to prepare one, I pull the laminated sheets out of the book and stick them up on the front of a cabinet over my baking prep area.

"Still learning, March 20, 2005

Reviewer: mb_quilts (upstate NY) - See all my reviews

I'm a home-baker and found this book to be an amazing education. Although I've been baking bread on and off for years, I felt like I was starting over again and learning correct techniques and principles. At first I often felt like I was juggling as I tried to put new techniques in action, but as the new ways became more practiced the awkward feelings subsided and the bread improved!

I now have two starters going and make bread on a more regular basis with predictable results.

For those interested in learning more about how bread making works this is a great book. Dense in places and different from most cookbooks which give you complete info for each recipe. Hamelman discusses the general concepts and techniques first and then provides formulas which rely on those ideas. Expect to do a lot of flipping back and forth at first or make a copy of the technique or recipe so you can see both at once.

I'm still sampling the recipes but I've tried rye bread, basic sourdough, challah, bialys - all with good result.

If you want to know why something makes a difference and want to learn so that you can bake bread with confidence and understanding, this is a wonderful book to have. My recommendation is to get a good scale too, so you can weigh all your ingredients for best results.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:

Best of the Bunch, March 12, 2005

Reviewer: DANIEL T. DIMUZIO "Dough Dude" (Birmingham, Alabama) - See all my reviews

I'm a bread baking instructor at a culinary school located in the Southeast U.S. I've probably read every bread baking book aimed at the artisan bread movement, and there are quite a few that are worth owning. Hamelman's book is simply the best of them.

I have to take issue with one of the previous reviewers who suggested that the book is intended mostly for professionals. It is true that many of the recipes feature small quantities expressed as weights, but I believe this is done on purpose -- to encourage the beginner as well as the pro to rely upon precise scaling as the best starting point for a successful baking job. Digital scales are now inexpensive to own, and any serious baker -- whether amateur or professional -- should have one.

I use his book as the primary text for my class. Most of my students are not experienced bakers, and they appreciate his ability to write for both amateurs and professionals in a clear, concise style that assumes no serious experience with bread while resisting the urge to "dumb-down" the material covered.

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful:

The most advanced bread book I own, December 15, 2004

Reviewer: Robert M. Halperin (Champaign, IL USA) - See all my reviews

"Bread" is, by far, the best book on the subject that I own. It has large sections on breads made with yeasted preferments, sourdoughs and ryes. I made one of the ryes last week and it was superb.

This book is really written for the professional baker. The home baker is really an afterthought in this book. Each recipe is given in metric and U.S. wieghts for about 40 loaves. The last column of each recipe is for the home baker, but most of the weights are in fractions of an ounce. If you have a digital scale that will weigh out (say) 6.4 ounces of whole wheat flour, that is great. If not, you'll need to buy one. You can use the volume approximations in the "Home baker" column, but Hamelman highly recommends that you weigh. All recipes are also given in "baker's percentages" which, once you master the idea, should allow you to make any size batch of dough. The recipe I tried called for 1 teaspoon of rye sourdough culture. Can you imagine making rye starter for this small amount? I used my white sourdough starter and the recipe came out fine. There is a lot of arithmetic taught in this book. For example, it teaches the reader how to use baker's percentages. It also teaches the reader how kneading the dough affects the dough's temperature.

The book also uses terms such as "bulk fermentation" and "folding" which are probably not familiar to many home bakers.

Why did I five this book 5 stars? It is because I have been a serious home baker for over 30 years and this book is the next step in my enjoyment of this hobby. I feel ready for all of the technical material it throws my way. It is, however, NOT for the person who is just starting to bake bread at home.

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful:

Best bread book I own so far, November 8, 2004

Reviewer: agardenchair (Germany) - See all my reviews

There are numerous things that put this bread book above the other books about home-bread-baking that I own. Apart from the fact that the breads turned out exceptionally well from loaf No. 1. I have to insist that it is very clearly written and well structured. Side remarks are even in a different color, so you will not get distracted from the recipes.

The book discusses these methods for making bread:

- Breads made with pre-fermented dough using either a saltless starter, also known as "poolish" or "Biga" (or "Anstellgut" in german) or a starter made with a little salled called "Pte fermente"

- Breads made with levain (i.e. white sourdough)

- Rye sourdough breads

- Straight doughs (using no pre-fermented doughs)

(- Other assorted breads or baking goods, that didn't fit into the aforementioned categories)

Tthe author does a very good job of teaching how you can make a lot of breads out of small amounts of the starter. I finally got around to maintaining a levain and a rye sourdough culture! I didn't know it was that easy. And you only need to take up to two table spoons of any of those starters to have a great bread within 36 hours. The rye sourdoughs may not be as acidic as some of the breads you can buy here in Germany, but they still make very good mild rye sourdough breads.

The quality of the breads that I was able to make is astounding. I witnessed oven spring that didn't know was possible in a home oven.

I find it very amusing that I had to buy an american baking book in order to learn how to make a genuine "Vollkornbrot" or a good sunflower seed bread - both traditional german breads. And I wished german baking professionals were a bit more forthcoming when it comes to sharing their secrets. To be honest, I don't know one single german bread book that is even remotely as good this one."

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"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

 

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Just for the record, I've had my problems with some of Bernard Clayton's recipes too. But, enough dwelling on the negative .... :hmmm:

I actually made it through English Bread and Yeast Cookery, by Elizabeth David, surprising even myself. It's not exactly great literature, but any serious bread baker will most likely find it interesting. :wink:

My default bread baking book is the original edition of King Arthur Flour's 200th Anniversary Cook Book. It's simple, basic and, well, that's why I like it. :smile:

Then, of course, there's Baking With Julia (Child, need I add?), partly because of the gorgeous photos and partly because .... it's Julia! :wub:

SB

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Then, of course, there's Baking With Julia (Child, need I add?), partly because of the gorgeous photos and partly because .... it's Julia! :wub:

I have that and encouraged Kevin to look at that from my collection as well -- I think he was put off by the fact that there was so much non-bread/loaf baking in it (Martha's wedding cake, for example), but I adore that book.

I really appreciate these suggestions, everyone! Looks as though I might have to break down and buy more than one!

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I just counted the bread baking books in one bookcase as I try to keep my cookbooks grouped in categories, as much as possible - however there are more that are scattered here and there in stacks because I have been looking for some obscure recipes.

That one bookcase holds 181 books just on bread baking. I have to admit that there are more than a few from which I have never used a recipe. Some have been used a lot.

Such as,

Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking across America which contains some favorites.

Also Beth Hensberger's book, as you mentioned, I think I have all of her bread books.

Christine Ingram's "Bread Bible" (seems this is a favorite title) breads from around the world.

Several of the books are on bread machine baking.

Elizabeth David's book is interesting to read and I have baked a few recipes from it, but not recently.

Some are collectibles only, odd titles, such as the following.

"The English Bread Book For Domestic Use, adapted to Families of Every Grade, containing the Plainest and Most Minute Instructions to the Learner; Practical Receipts for Many Varieties of Bread with Notices of the present System of Adulteration and its Consequences; and of the Improved Baking Processes and Institutions Established Abroad."

by ACTON, Eliza

as you can probably guess, this one is a 1986 reprint of a book originally published in 1857.

They liked long, explanatory book titles back in those days!!!

Also, you might want to take at look at the bread books listed on the Bread Bakers Guild web site.

BBGA

They also have some recipes on the site that are excellent, I love the English Muffin recipe.

links and etc.

Perhaps your guy (or you) would like to join the Bread-Baker's mailing list. He can get it as a digest instead of individual emails which makes it easy to read through the titles at the beginning of the digest to see if there is a topic of interest in it.

There are quite a few professional bakers who post on the list. Rose Levy Beranbaum, Maggie Glezer and Peter Reinhart, Lora Brody are all frequent posters.

Bread-Baker's Mailing list

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"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

 

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I personally like Peter Reinhart's BBA for the depth of information he provides, and I find the recipes to be very good (also I like getting baker's percentage even for small-batch recipes). Having said that, I think the Hamelman book would be the one I would get if I had to have only *one* bread book. Also, FWIW, it's the standard text used by the baking program at the excellent trade school here in Edmonton.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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I bought Peter Reinhart's book Brother Juniper's Bread Book back when it was first published, because I was interested in the "slow-rise" method of developing more flavor in rustic breads. (1993)

I bought Ed Wood's World Sourdoughs From Antiquity (1996) after reading the National Geographic article about the re-creation of an ancient Egyptian bakery. I also purchased a culture from sourdo.com.

When Crust & Crumb was published I bought it and found that it further explained and refined these techniques that improved my baking exponentially. (1998)

And, of course, I bought Classic Sourdoughs when it was published in 2001. (also bought two more cultures, which I kept completely isolated from each other and maintained them for more than two years).

These particular books changed many of my ideas about what constitutes the "perfect" loaf and I did far more experimenting than I had done in the many prior years I had been baking bread.

In November 2004 I got the book by Jeffrey Hamelman and I recall spending much of the Thanksgiving weekend reading it and trying out a couple of the recipes.

I still love Peter Reinhart's Struan bread, in fact, I bought the Electrolux mixer especially for working this dough because I learned the hard way that it is much too stiff for a Kitchenaid.

The recipe, or a close relative, is posted here: Struan bread recipe.

One book I will not recommend is The Taste of Bread - there are a number of errors in the translation and some statements that do not make sense. For the price, one would think they would have had someone knowledgeable checking the translation prior to publication. Unfortunately I don't read French.

"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

 

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my favorite would have to be a tie between Bread Baker's Apprentice and Van Over's Best Bread Ever. But if I had to have one only, it would be Van Over's book.

Why? Because his food processor technique produces bread that is quicker to make, tastier, with a longer shelf life.

Weak point of Van Over's book is relatively little about wild yeast breads. But it's such a fantastic technique that he teaches, that it is well worth finding this out-of-print used and snapping it up (I have two copies.)

BBA is such a close runner-up and is the superior book in many ways...it just lacks the food processor method as the centerpiece. So it involves 10 or 12 minutes of kneading which is eliminated with the food processor technique.

That's why my response would be to buy both!

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The book is available through Amazon. for 29.95

and through ABE books for 22.50

"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

 

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Two top tips for me at the moment -

1. BBA as above... some great technical tips - abd my kitchen is currently filled with the wonderful smell of the Pain Poilaine - nutty and rich.

2. Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf - Dan was a professional photograper, and this book is a work of art, and is full of great recipes. His was the technique that finally got me baking really good sourdough! He is a regular here - and his posts occasionally come illustrated, and are always insightful.

I'm waiting for Crust & Crumb to be delivered.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 4 months later...

One of my first was the Il Fornaio Baking Book. Pretty simple recipes which are great to get you started.

The King Arthur Baker's Companion is a good, all-around book.

Then you can move into the Bread Baker's Apprentice, Crust and Crumb, La Brea Bakery, etc.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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In the beginning of this thread by Seth there is a list of threads on the subject.

I've had some good success with No Need to Knead by Suzanne Dunaway and the Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart as well as Bread for Breakfast by Beth Hensperger. No Need to Knead is the most simple but I think the BBA by Peter Reinhart is a good starter book too because it has so many photos and detailed instructions.

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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I would like to recommend

- The handmade loaf (revolutionized by home baking), and inspired me by providing a lot of interesting recipe's from around the world.

- The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. This book has a good introduction to "cereal chemistry", techniques for handling wet doughs etc. It also has some very good recipes for pizzza, foccacie, ciabata etc, using both natural leaven (sourdough) and yeast.

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I've tried a slew of breadbaking books, and I'm not enthused about any of them. Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice has a ton of information, mostly oriented to professional bakers, but I've had inconsistent results with the recipes. Suzanne Dunaway's No Need To Knead is easy but limited in the type of bread you can do well with this technique.

I learned how to bake bread well by taking hands-on classes. You can see and feel what the texture of the dough should be like, and feel more comfortable about baking with yeast. Also, if you practice bread at home, you can ask the instructor about any problems you may have had. Just a suggestion.

Edited by djyee100 (log)
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  • 1 month later...

Hi Stone --

My favorite bread book by far is Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand, by Beatrice Ojakangas. Fabulous recipes, provided in three sizes each, so you can do a small, medium, or large loaf... Includes some information on using a poolish / biga type thing, but is not exclusively focused on "artisinal" breads, which I like because often I just want to make a delicious whole grain sandwich loaf. Each recipe includes instructions for baking in a bread machine, as well as mixing the dough by hand, kitchenaid mixer, or food processor. Not one of her recipes has ever failed me, and I'd say I've made probably 12-15 different recipes out of the book.

Highly highly recommend it.

Emily

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The standard I remember from the UK is Elizabeth David's "English Bread and Yeast Cookery". Only you can tell if it'd suit you, but it's certainly worth including in your options.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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  • 2 months later...

Has anyone seen, read, used any recipes from Father Giuseppe Orsini's "Italian Baking Secrets"? I've just started reading the book, but haven't made anything from it- was curious about other's opinions, experiences.

Mark A. Bauman

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