The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Which of these books do you recommend?

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ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Which of these books do you recommend?

I have several books stored in my Amazon cart, but don't want to buy them all at once, or get past my still-basic baking level. Which one or ones (up to three) do you recommend I get right away:

  • The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking - French Culinary Institute; 
  • Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers - Peter Reinhart; 
  • Classic Sourdoughs, Revised: A Home Baker's Handbook - Ed Wood; 
  • My Bread - Jim Lahey; 
  • Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza - Ken Forkish;
  • Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day: Fast and Easy Recipes for World-Class Breads 
  • How to Make Bread - Emmanuel Hadjiandreou; 
  • Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes - Jeffrey Hamelman;
  • 200 Fast and Easy Artisan Breads: No-Knead, One Bowl - Judith Fertig;

 FYI I already have the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice.

I have seen most of them in store, and my own favourites were the Lahey and Hadjiandreou books, because they lay things out in easy steps with lots of photos.

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

You will get an endless stream of opinions on this subject and here is mine:

Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes - Jeffrey Hamelman;

The other book I would recommend is Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice which you already own.

Jeff

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Thanks. I'm looking forward to the stream. I have read reviews on Amazon but at least here I know the reviewers are actually making bread, not just talking about it.

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

I  agree with Jeff.  IMHO, Hamelman is a clear winner at the top of the list, and I say that even though I usually only make 100% whole wheat dough.   I have read most of Reinhart's books, and own Whole Grains,  and have read My Bread, and Flour, Water, Salt and Yeast, and for my money,  Hamelman's book is the best. He does a great job explaining why he suggests doing things certain ways, and the recipes in the book are fabulous.  His Baguettes de Tradition are not especially great tasting ( he admits that himself ) but once you make them once, your eyes really open about how much gluten development you can get from 3 stretch and folds.  The one thing that all the books have in common is that it is very difficult to express certain concepts in words, and most of the books would be much more helpful with a dvd to show certain of the steps.  Hamelman has a few youtube videos, as does Reinhart, and if you get either of their books I suggest you check their videos. I would stay away from the no knead books, for my money, you can get most of the information you need from posts here and elsewhere on the web, but that is just my opinion, and others may disagree.  

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

I've written on this many times before here.  A beginner looking to learn from books could do himself a favor, in my opinion, by avoiding cook books at first and turning instead to texts intended to be used to build a foundation of information from the beginning up.  I agree with those who like Hamelman's but it is not written for the beginner.  That's not to say that some beginners have not like it, but for my money it's too advanced when just starting out.  I recommend examining DiMuzio's Bread Baking.  It's short, concise, and full of exercises that teach by doing.  It also has the advantage of being reasonably inexpensive and available used at Alibris and Powell's.  

I agree that as good as pictures are, videos can be better, and working along side a mentor even better still. The choreography of dough preparation, including the feel, learned from someone who's doing it and then watching you as you catch on, has taught me so very much.  Post a question on this site seeking such a person in your area.  Or take a course or two just to get your hands experienced in front of an expert.

And keep on practicing.  It's so much fun!

 

 

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Thanks. I added that to my list. I'm a voracious reader, and I really like the theoretical side too.


Just FYI, I took a course in the 70s in Toronto, and baked a lot of bread before I moved to a small town. Now I'm reviving that interest.

suave's picture
suave

Hamelman's book is a clear winner here, no one come close in reliability and sheer number of recipes.  However I think that Ken Forkish's book is also exceptional, I'd say it's the best new book in the last three-five years. 

The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking - too expensive, derivative, most of the recipes come from other sources, Hamelman, for example.

Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers - Peter Reinhart's book has been superseeded by his own newer better book.

Classic Sourdoughs - mostly a vehicle for promoting Wood's dried sourdoughs.

My Bread - this one is actually great, I highly recommend it, but it is very special in his approach to baking, so it's not for a person who wants to do it seriously.  Nevertheless, whenever we have friends over, the bread comes from this book.

Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day - it's a great intro book for a person who wants to try baking and does not know a first thing about it.  It is sort of like "revolutionary" book, but from a person who knows what he's doing.

How to Make Bread - one of the few bread books I have never seen IRL.

200 Fast and Easy Artisan Breads - derivate offering from a professional cookbook writer.   Worthless, IMO.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I recommend Bernard Clayton's The New Complete Book of Breads.  It has its downsides, such as all recipes use volume measurements instead of weight measurements, and its 1970's vintage shows through in terms of techniques and ingredients.  In spite of that, it contains a lot of very good breads, along with some folksy anecdotes about those breads. 

Paul

fotomat1's picture
fotomat1

book as well....good variety of recipes.Forkish and Hamelman yes and yes. A new one which is written very well is a Passion for Bread by Vatinet. Clear concise and well laid out with plenty of pictures and vivid descriptions. Saw it in the book store and had to have it even though I already own just about every book ever printed on the subject. I think it will be a top ten on people's list by this time next year.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Although I asked the same question three years ago, and declared Hamelman's Bread the winner based solely on TFLer's votes, I reached a more complex personal conclusion that Hamelman's Bread is the most inclusive for both professional and amateur bakers, DiMuzio's Bread Baking, an Artisan's Perspective the most instructive, and Ciril Hitz' Baking Artisan Bread the most basic, and easy to follow.

David G

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Thanks. My Amazon cart is rather full right now, so I either need to whittle it down or take out another mortgage. The "save for later" section is getting out of hand... it's a small library unto itself.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

:Bread. It contains most and more of the information a novice baker needs.  What it, and, in my opinion, most bread books and TFL posts lack is sufficient emphasis on process, procedures and discipline.

Process = what you do.

Procedure = how you do it.

Discipline = how well you replicate how you do it dough-to-dough, and bake-to-bake; i.e. consistency.

 David G

P.S.

I do understand your problem. Beginning when I was a tyke, books have been my first refuge to find "truth".

Skibum's picture
Skibum

. . . process, then forget the books and take looky loo at dabrownman`s posts. You have process, procedures and discipline in spades in this dudes posts.

There are many marvelous bakers on this site. elcome

Brian

Vicious Babushka's picture
Vicious Babushka

This is my absolute favorite==>

  • The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking - French Culinary Institute; 

Second favorite is Maggie Glezer's A Blessing Of Bread.

kat56's picture
kat56

is fun. She features bakers from around the US and their recipes. Not as good as Reinhart though.

The other thing that is interesting is that when trying to find diastatic malt, we emailed Reinhart and actually got a nice answer! he is the coolest

lafarm's picture
lafarm

Check out Lionel Vatinet's brand new book, "A Passion for Bread: Lessons from a Master Baker".  It was just released on November 5th and has hundreds of step by step photos and clear instructions that demonstrate every aspect of the baking process, including his "Seven Steps to Making Great Bread" and how to use a stainless steel bowl to create steam in your oven at home.

plevee's picture
plevee

I got this book from Amazon last night and must confess I'm a little disappointed. I had expected a book to equal or surpass the information in Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread but it is aimed at a much less experienced audience.

The recipes are for single loaves and include sourdoughs with instructions for making a starter. The measurements are pounds & ounces, grams and volume but I see no reference to bakers' percentages.

There is no inclusion of autolyse, retardation, bassinage or how to manipulate the degree of sour flavour in the finished bread. He uses a kneading technique similar to that of Ken Forkish.

I haven't tried any of the recipes yet. I expect they will turn out well - the instructions are clear and supported by numerous pictures. All in all it is a beautiful book, it's just not the one that I expected.

Patsy

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Hamelman ordered. The next book is causing me the quandary. Something with lots of photos showing techniques... but good technique, and of course, great bread at the end.,...

davidg618's picture
davidg618

a second book. Ciril Hitz, an accomplished baker, author and professor, has posted a large number of very good videos on many baking topics, and especially breads, on YouTube. I recommend you check them out. I've found YouTube to be a great source for technique demos.

Mean while when your copy of Bread arrives read Part 1 as if you're going to be quizzed and graded. Scan the formulae. The appendices are full of technical information intended, I think, more for commercial bakers than amateurs, but still a great source for the particularly curious.

Frankly, the only text I've found that sets a standard for teaching baking techniques is Advanced Bread and Pastry, authored by Michel Suas, the founder of the San Francisco Baking Institute, but it is quite pricey. I prefer video's. Sadly, while there are many posted on YouTube and elsewhere on the web, you have to winnow the wheat from the chaff extensively.

David G

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

I plan to watch the videos, too (and save a few to my hard drive) - but I'm looking for books I can read away from the computer. I read 1-2 hours every night before bed. A couple of bread books will round out my education nicely. I can check the videos later, when I'm online.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

DiMuzio's bread baking An Artisan's Perspective. Written as a textbook  It teaches one all the basics.

David G

embth's picture
embth

If you have access to shops that sell used books, check out their baking books.  You can often find bread cookbooks in good to excellent condition for a fraction of their original price.   About 1/2 of my rather substantial collection of cookbooks has been gathered that way.  (such authors as: Nancy Silverton, James Beard, Bernard Clayton, etc.) Also, I have acquired a nice collection of old baking and general cook books dating back to the early 1900's….all without breaking the bank.   Embth

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Thanks. I have checked them out... but will of course do so again. I haunt used book stores anyway for my other interests.

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Start with Hamelman, and also check out his youtube videos, they are pretty short, but informative.   I would hold off on another book until you have worked your way through the first several chapters and made several test loaves.  It is easy to get sidetracked by reading someone else who may have another approach, but it is much better to try to master one approach  ( or give it several attempts before you decide it doesn't work for you ) before you try a different approach.   

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

Thanks. Expect Hamelman to arrive today.

Gadjowheaty's picture
Gadjowheaty

Second Hamelman's book.  I've found the recipes rock solid, the information clear and informative, and a very enjoyable read to boot.  Today's boule, his Vermont sourdough (well, "Chicago-Upper Peninsula-Madison sourdough, dauntless creatures my levain has been!), w/w variation (the rye was consumed in a matter of hours).  I also really agree with Barry's point - I really get so much more from following one thing through to its center, as a means to learn how to approach a broader palette. 

Hamelman's Vermont, whole wheat 10%

The shape is weird as my peel stuck, a very rare thing actually (interestingly, I grabbed some KA bread flour to dust it, when I only use KA all-purpose for all but breads high in low-gluten stuff, in which case I use my own doctored hi-gluten flour).  I also OD'ed my burner with my steaming regime...lost a lot of heat and had to parse temperatures during the bake.  Not a painless few minutes, but it came out nonetheless.  (Thank you, Jeffrey, if you ever visit here.  Very much appreciate your book).

Gadjowheaty's picture
Gadjowheaty

Second Hamelman's book.  I've found the recipes rock solid, the information clear and informative, and a very enjoyable read to boot.  Today's boule, his Vermont sourdough (well, "Chicago-Upper Peninsula-Madison sourdough, dauntless creatures my levain has been!), w/w variation (the rye was consumed in a matter of hours).  I also really agree with Barry's point - I really get so much more from following one thing through to its center, as a means to learn how to approach a broader palette. 

Hamelman's Vermont, whole wheat 10%

The shape is weird as my peel stuck, a very rare thing actually (interestingly, I grabbed some KA bread flour to dust it, when I only use KA all-purpose for all but breads high in low-gluten stuff, in which case I use my own doctored hi-gluten flour).  I also OD'ed my burner with my steaming regime...lost a lot of heat and had to parse temperatures during the bake.  Not a painless few minutes, but it came out nonetheless.  (Thank you, Jeffrey, if you ever visit here.  Very much appreciate your book).

mariana's picture
mariana

Crust and Crumb by Reinhart is his best book. When I was learning how to's of sourdough breads, this book really helped.