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News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread by Hammelman

fsu1mikeg's picture

Bread by Hammelman

I recently purchased Hamelman's book and am still reading through it.  I was excited to buy it based on the overwhelmingly positives reviews I read on Amazon.  I was particularly interested in finding a book that had more German-style Ryes, and this one seemed to be the best option.  My problem with the book is that it seems a tad on the technical side and a little light on the recipe instruction side, not to mention a lack of photos of finished breads.  I only recently got into bread baking and my first book was Dan Leader's Local Breads.  Maybe I'm just spoiled by Dan's interesting personal stories, but I have found his explanations much more straight-forward and easier to follow than Hammelman's.  I do realize now there are quite a few errors in Leader's book, but that not-withstanding, it has helped me produce some really good bread and made me excited to learn more.  I really want to like Hamelman's book, but his formulas are confusing to me.  He only lists home baking in American measurements, whereas I've gotten used to scaling in grams using Leader's book.  What's more confusing is he doesn't specify types of flours to use.  He just puts "bread flour", which I think he uses generically for any white wheat flour.  Leader always specifies what the equivalent flour is (i.e. ap, hg, etc.).  I sort of understand from what I've learned thus far that certain white breads don't need hg flour like mixed ryes do, but it would be nice to get a little more specificity there.  I also see that Hammelman tends to mix very little and rely on folding quite a bit more.  His instructions for ciabatta for example, couldn't be any more different.  While Leader calls for long kneading at the highest speeds, Hammelman says to mix for a couple of minutes and second speed and relies on a couple of folds.  I guess I'm more inclined to trust Leader because I'm more familiar with his book and it allows the less-skilled to rely on the machine a lot more than the hands. 

Sorry for the lengthy rant.  Any thoughts?

sphealey's picture

Hamelman actually does give his formulas in metric units that you can use.  But it took me a long time to figure out how.  Once I had I realized it was one of those puzzles that are obvious after you figure out the answer but impossible before.  Give it a try and it you are stumped I will post the answer.


dmsnyder's picture

Hamelman can be challenging to the relatively new home baker. It seems to be written primarily for professionals, but his recipes are so good it's worth the effort to figure out how to gather the details you need to execute them correctly.

Hamelman provides information regarding ingredients and techniques in the introductory chapters and in the introductory pages to each section. He does not reiterate this for each formula. Until you are familiar with his techniques or at least with those pertaining to a specific recipe, it is worthwhile reviewing the introductory material each time before starting to make your bread.

Hamelman's approach may seem less than helpful until you have assimilated his general approach, but once you have done so, his recipes are quite clear and make wonderful breads.

I have read and re-read some of his introductory material several times, and I find new pearls each time.


jk13's picture

I suggest you read the section in the book on Baker's math. Once you grasp this relatively simple math, you will see that every recipe in the book is completely scalable using any measurements you wish.


sphealey's picture

(if you don't like puzzles ignore this post and check back tomorrow - either someone will have found the answer or I will post it) 

All very true - but there is an easier way for the home baker.  Look at a few of the recipes in _Bread_ again.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I simply start dropping or adding zeros.  His Metric list of ingredients is far too much for my baking but it is the % of 10kg.  I prefer the % of 1kg.  It is nice that there is plenty of room in the book to mark the margins. 

The easiest way to get grams is just to multiply the percent by 10g.  Looking at the bottom of the Baker's % column, the total weight of the dough is listed.  Example: If it says 208.9%  that translates to just over 2 kg (2089g) of dough.  If you prefer a one kilogram ball of dough simply multipy the % by 5g.  If you want to double, multiply by 20g.  It works easily enough.  I can do this in my head, but dig out a calculator and play around. 

For those who want to compare the lists, the HOME column is about 1/10 of the U.S. column and the METRIC column makes just a little bit more than the U.S. column.

Mini O

Rock's picture

Try this link.  This is a very good explaination of Baker' Percentage.

I think if you go over Hamelman's book a few times you will come to value it as much as I do.

Good Luck


TRK's picture

I absolutely love Hamelman's book, but I would never recommend it to a beginning baker.  It has excellent formulas and I am a convert to the short mix, multiple fold method of bread making.  My mixer broke about 6 months ago (too big batch of whole grain bread) and I haven't bothered to get it fixed because I mix gently by hand and fold all of my breads now.  I baked my way through Peter Reinhart's BBA, which is still one of my favorite bread books, which I considered my apprenticeship.  When I have time to dedicate to serious baking, I am going to do the same with Hamelman's book, which I would consider more like journeyman training.  Not that I would venture to call myself a master by any means, but I feel like diving right into that book without a fair bit of experience would be overwhelming. 

suave's picture

Hamelman's book is, without a question, the best and most useful of my bread books.  He may not have that many personal experience stories although there're quite a few, but he got his math right, when so many bread books didn't, or have math so fuzzy it hardly even qualifies as such.  Moreover his recipes are consistent - once you figure out what adjustment in hydration is needed it can be carried over to any recipe.  I absolutely love his reliance on folding, as it saved me from torturing my doughs into gluten window condition.  Also, I find stating the amount of prefermented flour in the recipe incredibly useful - it really helps to develop understanding of fermentation times.  Yes, it could have had more pictures, but I can do without them. 


Judon's picture

In Bread,  Chap. 5 - Levain Breads - pg. 145 - Flour Choice, Hamelman explains what type of flour to use in levain breads.

Before Bread, I made breads from Bread Alone and Local Breads - the outcomes were unpredictible. Jeffrey Hamelman's book taught me how to bake bread.

It really requires studying the'll be so glad you did.

Now I can bake from Local Breads and know what I'm doing.

There are helpful videos demonstrating stretching & folding here on Fresh Loaf. Read the forums - they're a wealth of tips, techniques and information. 


proth5's picture

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I flirted with the idea of being a singer.

So naturally, I sought out a teacher with whom I would study.

I spent a considerable amout of time - not singing songs - but doing vocal exercizes and building technique.  I chafed a bit (they are not thrilling things to do, if you've never done them) but was determined to get them right and to build the foundation. After all, my teacher said, you have to do the work.

I didn't become a professional singer - but I did my share of singing over the years.  My technique allowed me to sing through colds, minor sore throats and other types of upsets.

The songs are the end goal, yes.  But the technique made it all happen. If I had focused only on songs, so many things would not have been possible.

And so I view this book in the same way.  It has not got a lot of flash and many (not myself) consider it dry.  What it does is help to build a foundation.  But you have to do the work.

(and if you can read the Epilogue with a dry eye -  you are made of sterner stuff than I)

Happy Baking!

rainbowbrown's picture

I feel you with the longing for gram measurements. Here's what I do every time I make a bread from this book: before I even start the recipe, I go through all the ingredients and convert the small portion ounces to grams with a calculator and write that number next to the ingredient in the book. That way every time I go back to the formula, everything is already in grams. The conversion is 28.35 grams=1 ounce.  So just multiply all the ounces by 28.35 and your set in grams.

Don't give up on this book. You'll like it once you start spending some quality time with it, surely. 

strattor's picture

In regards to the different instructions Leader and Hamelman give for ciabatta, I'll say that both will work very well, and give very different results. Every bread book I've read has some method in it that the author tends to stick to throughout the book--for better or for worse. Many of the recipes for wet doughs in Leader's book call for very long, slow kneading times. Hamelman's MO is folding--mix a little for gluten development, then fold periodically to finish it. In Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads he takes a simple technique of overnight prep and extends it to every bread in the book. And in Beranbaum's Bread Bible, she uses (IMHO) a  ridiculous method of sponge preparation for many of the breads.

If you want to see a really great survey of different techniques, try Glezer's Artisan Baking Across America--every recipe come from a different place, with different techniques. 

 I have really come to love the folding technique Hamelman uses, but you could follow his formulas and use Leader's technique of long slow kneading, and still end up with killer bread.

breadawe's picture

Hamelman will not "hold your hand" like many bread books tend to do.  You have to spend time to understand what he teaches.  His explanation of Bakers Math is a good example.  I spent hours with other books learning formulas to make or change a recipe.  The only problem was when I wanted to work on a recipe I would have to look up the formula.  Once you understand his system you will not forget it and recipe modification is easy.


fsu1mikeg's picture

Thanks for all the responses.  I finally made one of Hamelman's breads--the 40% Caraway Rye.  It came out pretty good.  I've taken the advice to re-read the beginning and also the back of the book where the baker's percentage and other things are more clearly explained.  As far as the Caraway Rye, I didn't find it too difficult to follow his instructions.  I didn't read ahead far enough and started my sourdough in it's normal 1 qt jar, not realizing that the pre-fermented dough is a pretty substantial portion of the overal dough.  I had to scrape it out and place it in a larger container to rise overnight.  One thing I did that probably had a negative effect was that I refrigerated the starter during the day while I was working.  I have an early schedule (6a-2p) and like to bake in the mid afternoon after work.  It's warm (78-80F) in my house, so my starter tends to develop much quicker than the 8-12 or whatever is suggested.  It looked ready to use when I woke up, so I put it in the fridge so as not to let it overripen before I was ready to bake after 2p.  I think it might have been a little too cold to work properly, since I didn't notice much of a rise when I mixed it and let it ferment for an hour.  In the future, I will use some of the salt in the overall formula to slow the fermentation of the starter, like Hamelman suggests.  Despite the minimal first rise, the dough seemed to be the right texture.  I only have one brotform, so after dividing and shaping, one went in the brotform and the other I let rise on the counter under a kitchen towel.  Both looked ready for the oven after about 50 minutes.  They were easy to score.  I made a mistake of placing them too close together, so both breads blew out where they met.  Other than that, they both rose beautifully in the oven.  I guess the heat of the oven re-stimulated the yeast from it's cold slumber.  I think whatever volume I lost in the rising process was recovered by the great oven spring I got.  The crust was nice and chewy and the crumb tight but not dense or heavy at all.  It was very moist and tasted great, especially with the caraway mixed in.  So I learned some lessons and now feel less intimidated by the book.  But I still need to learn how to shape--I couldn't make heads or tails of his instructions or the accompanying drawings.  I will check out some of the videos posted on here and go from there.  Thanks again for all the encouragement.


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Mike.

As you are discovering, there is a myriad variables you have to juggle to obtain the bread you want. I'm impressed that you seem to have recognized what you need to do differently.

I'm glad you are getting comfortable with Mr. Hamelman.


fsu1mikeg's picture

I made another rye last week from "Bread", this time 66% Sourdough Rye.  I improvised on the flours a bit because I didn't have enough rye, but the results were pretty good.  I used 16% whole wheat to make up the difference, so it was really 50% rye, 50% HG bread flour, 16% WW.  I also believe the recipe called for medium rye,  but I only had whole rye.  At least that's how it's described in the bulk bin at the co-op I got it from (Champlain Valley is the brand).  It looks pretty fine to me, but it's described as whole.  I thought it came out well.  I would like to make more of the ryes in the book, but I can't find a source or an equivalent description for rye meal and rye chops.  I can't find those anywhere and I'm not fanatical enough to start mail ordering for ingredients.  I have no problem finding rye berries though.  Can I improvise something with the whole rye berries?  Can I use a knife to chop up rye berries to make my own "chops"?  Is there another term for rye meal or something similar to substitute?  It's a little frustrating that Hamelman doesn't give a better description of some of these items.  It really eliminates a bunch of his recipes that I would otherwise love to try.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Mike.

There are mail order sources for rye chops, but the shipping costs are greater than what they charge for the product. I have read you can chop rye berries in a blender, food processor, spice grinder, etc. I've not done it myself. I always have pumpernickel flour on hand, which is coarser than regular rye flour but finer than rye meal. I have substituted with satisfactory results, but I can't compare them.

As you get into special breads, it is likely you will encounter ingredients you cannot find locally, almost no matter where you live. There are good mail order sources for most of them.

In my opinion, you don't have to be "a fanatic" to mail order hard-to-find ingredients. I am a fanatic, of course, but it's not a strict requirement.


sphealey's picture

What Bob's Red Mill labels "pumpernickel" is actually what would be called rye meal elsewhere in the world I think: roundish granules of rye about 1/3 mm in diameter. If a local grocery store has a large BRM display you can ask the grocery manager to order some from the distributor.

I haven't found rye chops anywhere on-line (except for the place that sells 10,000 lb minimum). Who has it?


dmsnyder's picture
sphealey's picture

Thanks. Unfortunately for me personally I need suppliers who don't also offer "65 varieties of nuts" :-(


ehanner's picture

I posted in my blog how I was enjoying my new copy of Bread. I see by this thread that I'm late to the party. Many of the bakers who I respect are commenting on how great it is and I concur.

I have been using Bakers Percent since Mike Avery convinced me to get a scale and use grams 2 years ago. That turns out to have been great advice. When I opened the cover of Bread for the first time it was not a strange concept and I understand his method.

I'm looking forward to trying some specialty breads that sound delicious. I can't believe I'm stoked about a cookbook at this point in my life but then, Bread is so much more than a cookbook.


josordoni's picture

I have just received my copy of Bread, and I really like the look of it.  It is technical without being too technical, and I find that useful.  I would say though that I have been reading this forum and Dan Lepard's for a lot of information, before I even started to bake, and if I hadn't done that I would have been rather overwhelmed.  I have only been baking for just over a month, and so it is all new and exciting for me.

 I find the concept of bakers percentages fantastic.  I am playing about currently with working up from the amount of levain I have, and calculating the flour and water based on what I have in hand rather than the other way about, experimenting with different percentages of each flour and hydration percentages. 

So far I am getting edible results, and each bread is different and interesting for that fact alone. And I love the economy of not throwing away any starter...I am a terrible skinflint about throwing away good food.

kimemerson's picture

Just an aside: In my various readings I have come across the view that the baker's % is not necessary; that it is too much math; too complicated to bother with. When I read that I question the general quality of anything to come from those kitchens. But I am a cynic, born and bred.

One of the beautiful aspects of knowing the baker's % is that in assigning the value of 100% to the flour it doesn't matter if, for example, you find you don't have as much of any ingredient on hand as you thought, or if you simply want to increase or decrease the yield of any recipe, you can always adjust by % and still be on the money. And as we're talking about bread baking for the most part, flour is always going to be involved. Therefor, you never have less than 100% of it no matter what you do. This also allows the sharing of recipes easily. All I really have to do is provide the % of all ingredients and actual measurements don't have to be involved at all. 

I too started on Leader's Local Breads and have graduated to Hammelman's Bread. For me there's a sense that reading Leader first made Hammelman easier to learn whereas I imagine Hammelman first would not have made Leader any easier for a first timer. There's a ton of information in Bread I will never, ever use unless I am up for his job at King Arthur, but that I find fascinating anyway. At the very least if I can memorize some of the technical stuff I can always wow my non-baking friends with super scientific sounding insight and knowledge. That has to be good for something.

Sylviambt's picture

I'm really glad a Hamelman challenge helped bring me back to "real" baking. Because my house is under construction, most of my bread books are in storage (in our barn, actually), and so I had to borrow "Bread" from my local library. Don't know about you, but I make lots of notes in my books as I bake and cook, which means reliance on loaner wasn't going to make it. And so, I just bought a second copy. I thought about this re-purchase for quite a while before finally hitting the "complete the sale" button. Why did I do it? The great theory at the front of the book; well-written recipes; wide variety of breads represented; the quantities provided for both commercial and home baking. Definitely worth it. May gift it when done. May not.

Bronx-to-Barn Baker