The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread Science: the Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread

Bread Science: the Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread

The other day while noodling around the internet looking for interesting bread-related websites, I stumbled across this site: Two Blue Books. The book featured on the site, Bread Science: the Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread, is by an professional artisan baker and baking instructor who also has a Ph.D. in chemistry. I was fascinated, and contacted her to get ahold of a copy.

This book is great. When I got it I read it cover-to-cover in one evening.

In many ways it feels like two books in one: an baking instruction book and a bread science book. This isn't a bad thing: the science helps inform the instruction.

Chapter 2 is the science chapter. It is long, almost half of the book, and relatively dense, but the chapter is full of helpful illustrations and diagrams that help even non-scientific types get what is going on. I'll admit that I didn't get everything on my first pass through, though a few things, such as the difference between respiration and fermentation, I got better than I ever have before. I know I will be referring back to this chapter again.

The instructional chapters are solid too. The tone is very much like the tone I try to promote on this site (anything you bake at home is going to be better than most store bought bread, that making mistakes is part of the learning process, etc.). She is a much better baker than I am, and the diagrams and photos in the chapters on shaping and scoring better than anything on this site yet. Better than those found in most baking books I know.

This isn't a cookbook: though there are a couple of formula in the back, it is really about understand the process (what is happening inside of your bread) and figuring out how your technique can make the most of the good things you want to happen, chemically-speaking, and avoid the things you don't want to happen. It makes a nice complement to all of the baking books you have on your shelf that tell you things like "don't overknead" but don't explain why.

A big chunk of the book is available as a PDF than anyone can download for free. It is certainly worth one's time going over there and downloading it. If you like it, order a copy for yourself or to give to another bread freak you know. The book is self-published (very nicely typeset, and laid out, I might add... it does not feel amateurish as some self-published books do), so you are unlikely to find a copy in your local bookstore, but you can order it directly from the author's website.


Brokenspoke's picture

Sold me, just ordered it after reviewing the web site.  Look forward to reading this one.....



titus's picture

Thanks so much Floyd, for pulling our coat-tails to this!

Floydm's picture

My pleasure.

I noticed last night that Peter Reinhart is saying good things about this book too (read the final paragraph).

slidething's picture

 Very interesting ~ and worth getting after browsing her site -


KathleenH's picture

Wow - what a gem this is! I think 'empowering' is a good word to describe what happens when you read this book - as Emily Buehler says, "following a recipe is not an empowering way to make bread". She's not having a go at those who do this (like me!), just pointing out that when things go wrong, if all you've got is a recipe then it's hard to know how to fix things up. She demystifies the chemical process of bread making enormously. Even if you don't buy this bread book (it's only $24) you should get the free excerpt (it's 39 pages, with illustrations and photos).

Thank you for finding this for us!


ggaylmer's picture

I've read the PDF stuff on the breadmaking chemistry by Emily Bueler as mentioned above.

It leaves me perplexed.  The impression given to me is that gluten's role in rising dough and in the retention of bubbles is much exaggerated.  We are told lipids can stabilize bubbles too and poosibly better than protein if we add enough.  Try adding lots of fat to barley and see how well it rises!  Leaving aside the advanced science and looking at it logically:

1. High protein wheat makes better rising dough and wheat contains a lot of the protein gluten.

2. Other grains that do not contain much gluten like barley, rye or oats do not rise at all well.

3. Gluten is stretchy...experience tells us that stretchy dough will make for a light well-risen bread.

4.  Stretchy dough would logically be expected to accommodate more bubbles and pressure than stiff dough.

To me, the role of gluten must be extremely important in enabling the dough to rise and the bubbles to expand.


Chris Aylmer.

Tommy gram's picture
Tommy gram

I read the 35 page or so pdf that gives you a taste of the book. Certain things that are said in there I do not understand and I think could be explained better. She says I "would never want to use flour with18% protein."  Why not? I don't know, she does not say. What, will it make the bread too gummy, too lax, what? Tell me. Remind me. I probably knew once but tell me again. Supposed to answer questions and give explanations, not make me feel dumb for not knowing something. I'm sure there are a lot of wise breadbakers on fresh loaf who can answer that one in a snap, but seems to me she could use what five more words to give a little idea of why I would never want to use 18%. Another thing that did not add up to me is the two pictures of the sliced bread I believe it is on page 12? One was mixed in a vacuum and one mixed normally. The explanation accompanying the pictures baffles me. It says the dough mixed in a vacuum did not rise properly, however it looks like a more desireable loaf to me than the one that was supposedly mixed normally. I don't know, I'm a sucker for a good bread book, I Have many on my shelf and I bake my fermented bread a couple times a week. I know my dough. So far, from the sample pages I have seen, something about this book does not rattle right. Oh yeah, on page 28 she says, don't make the ends of the batard too pointy somebody might get wounded on the pointy crust . I sigh in frustration. Maybe we better start wearing helmets in the kitchen, kevlar vests, going to get hurt by a crusty loaf.