The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

"Must Have" books

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SulaBlue's picture
SulaBlue

"Must Have" books

It's occurred to me that I should compile a list of "must have" books that I can take with me when I go to Half-Price books. Or, better yet, stick in my husband's wallet as he has a habit of sneaking to the book store when I'm not around. Just this last trip I found Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads" (which I already have), Beth Hensperger - "Bread for All Seasons" and Nancy Silverton "Breads from the La Brea Bakery" (both of which I bought). I'm admittedly not so sure about Ms. Silverton's book as of yet. If you could have 'The Ultimate Bread Baking Library' - what would you have in it?

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Jeffrey Hamelman's "Bread, a Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes."

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Peter Reinhart's books


Glezer's Artisan Baking


Leader's Local Bread and Bread Alone


Floyd has a list of books too:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/bookreviews


--Pamela

sphealey's picture
sphealey

No disagreement with any suggestions posted above.  In addition:


Rose Levy Baranbaum's _The Bread Bible_ (not to be confused with the other popular bread book of the same title).


Leader's _Bread Alone_ - if that book doesn't awake the romance of breadmaking in your heart nothing will! 


Glaser's _Artisan Baking Across America_ - another romantic book with great stories of bakeries and interesting recipes.


_The Bread Builders_ by Scott & Wing - fascinating information about brick ovens, but even if you aren't planning to build one the discussion of sourdough is worth it


_Build Your Own Earth Oven_ by Denzer - even if you can't build a brick oven an earth oven should be possible.


sPh

photojess's picture
photojess

I keep seeing the same names, and have looked at Floyd's list too, but for a relative newbie, who can do white bread and rolls.....which one would you suggest first?


Hamelman's or Reinhart's?

ericb's picture
ericb

I definitely agree with Floyd's book list: Reinhart's BBA is the way to go for your first book. After peeking at "Bread" on Amazon.com, I desire Hamelman's book in an almost-unhealthy way. However, it might be a bit intimidating for some relatively new to baking.


If you're at all interested in whole grain baking, Reinhart's WGB would be an excellent companion to BBA.


For what it's worth, your local library might carry both Reinhart titles. It might be helpful to check out both before buying.


Eric


 


 

sphealey's picture
sphealey

For a first book I would strongly recommend Rose Levy's _The Bread Bible_.  Her recipes don't extract the absolute maximum flavor or artisan aura as do Hamelman, Reinhart, or Glaser, but if a beginning breadmaker reads the chapter on ingredients and then follows RLB's directions exactly he/she will get a good result 95% of the time.  That success rate really helps to build confidence, and the breads are quite good too.  From there one can  branch out to more complex techniques and formulas.


I used to really recommend King Arthur's "Artisan Bread" video, because it gave great step-by-step instructions for making a basic poolish-based bread.  In fact is was that video combined with RLB's book that got me over the hump and able to make bread consistently.  But King Arthur has apparently let it go out of print :-(


sPh

merkri's picture
merkri

I'm going to go on a limb and suggest something that might seem unusual, but I might avoid Reinhart or Hamelman altogether for a first book. I personally highly recommend Bread Science: the Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread, by Emily Buehler, which is on Floyd's list. I would also recommend looking for videos on the internet and things of that sort. 


The reason why I say this is because over time, I've grown a little disappointed with books like Reinhart and Hamelman's. They're great--don't get me wrong, as I'd recommend them above most other books--but the recipes give a false sense of reliability. Although many of the recipes work well, others don't at all, and it's only by learning more about the "basics" of baking that I figured out what they were trying to convey. Something like Bread Science sort of provides an introduction to the underlying principles, that Reinhart and Hamelman cover but not in enough depth. I also think there are wonderful videos on the internet that convey much more information than even the best book.


I don't think you can go wrong with any of the books people are recommending, though. If I had to pick between Reinhart or Hamelman, I guess I'd pick Reinhart first, but as I said, I would recommend reading something like Buehler's book first.


Another author I haven't seen listed is Beatrice Ojakangas, especially her Great Scandinavian Baking Book. If you're at all interested in Scandinavian baking, it's a must. A lot of it is sweet pastries, but the stuff about bread is also valuable, as she goes into detail about breads that are often glossed over in other books (e.g., northern European ryes).

SulaBlue's picture
SulaBlue

Thank goodness it's not me. I made my first loaf, Reinhart's Light Rye, and it turned out -wonderfully.- After that... pft! My first sourdough starter by his instructions failed and died a fuzzy death. My first sourdough rye came out incredibly flat (but made very tasty croutons). My Bavarian Pumpernickel came out so wet in the middle (despite reacing 200F internally) that it would stick to the knife when cut even after allowing it to cool for a full 48 hours.


Right now I'm trying his stickybuns, and I have higher hopes for this. It's a much simpler, basic, all white-flour recipe and I think I really 'got' the feel of the dough this morning. This is such a breakthrough for me. I mixed and kneaded completely by hand and, for the first time really, I was able to FEEL it go through its stages. I think this 'feel' is much harder to get with a grainy rye as the texture of the rye itself prevents you from feeling quite that same supple, silky feeling that plain white flour dough does. I felt it go from that first shaggy ball, to something firmer but not quite stretchy just yet, to something completely satiny and finally to something that was just beginning to become tacky again and which sprang back from each fold and push. I knew, when it started to spring back like that, that I was done! This 'conversation' with the bread is not one I have had before. It seems almost appropriate to have such a revelation on Easter Morning!

SulaBlue's picture
SulaBlue

Is with the price on Beth Hensperger's "The Bread Bible"? (I looked because I saw that note about 'not the one by the same name.) Amazon is showing a price of $86 for a hardback copy and around $50 for a used one!? I know they have the paperback for closer to $15 - but seriously, what's the deal? Is the hardback just out of print and so they've jacked up the price?

LindyD's picture
LindyD

There are several Hensperger's "The Bread Bible" listed on Abe, varying in price from $10 to $95.  Visit the Abes/Hensperger link here.


I've purchased from Abe Books many times.  They are very reliable and have international resources, which is nice when a book you want happens to be sitting on a shelf in a London bookstore.

suave's picture
suave

While I agree that buying used can provide significant savings I think that going after a few pennies is not worth.  I, myself, have a rule of thumb that says that for a book in print it is not reasonable to pay more than 50% of the price of a new book for a used one.  In this particular case with paperback version selling for about $14 (hell of a deal for a well-regarded 500 page book, I must note) and the typical shipping around $4 I would not pay more than $3-4 + S&H for a used one.

JIP's picture
JIP

All of the above.  I have always been a fan of Gleezer's book.  It is anexcellent one and I have made her Baguettes many times.  Currently I am using Nancy Silverton's "Breads From Labrea Bakery" and as long as you don't mind using tons and tons of flour feeding your starter and a little bread snobberey the book is excellent.


 


I think I hve already posted this one but this is my most recent bread form her book.


SulaBlue's picture
SulaBlue

That is a gorgeous loaf.


And yes, I'm a bit disconcerted by the sheer amount of starter she calls for making. Is there any real reason, though, that one can't simply keep less starter on hand (and thus feed it less flour) up until close to needing it? At that point one should be able to triple or even quadruple it over the course of a day or two.

JIP's picture
JIP


Quote:

Gorgeous!

 


That is a gorgeous loaf.


And yes, I'm a bit disconcerted by the sheer amount of starter she calls for making. Is there any real reason, though, that one can't simply keep less starter on hand (and thus feed it less flour) up until close to needing it? At that point one should be able to triple or even quadruple it over the course of a day or two.


 


Well as far as her feeding schedule I will usually just feed my starter for a day with her ethod before I bake and that is usually all I need to get it going very strongly.  I pretty much neglect my starter and only feed it when I plan on baking and using her method has kept it alive and kicking for a good long time.  By neglect I am saying that I won't feed foe 2-3 weeks and it is still vigirous and makes an excellent loaf.  Now I don't know if it is her feeding schedule that keeps it that strong but I like to think so.  I do know that only feeding it once on her schedule instead of feeding it every day probably evens out in the end (or at least that's what I tell myself anyway)


 


If you want a good list of books just look in the background of this pic.  I don't know if you can see tham all but I pretty much have all the necesarry bread books.  And no I am not a billionaire I am just a savvy shopper and spent $12 or less for all the books you see.


 


LindyD's picture
LindyD

Bread books are great, as are videos, TFL, and other Internet resources.  But you can't touch, smell, bake, or taste the bread through these mediums.  


We can read about dough strength, but that won't convey the difference between weak and strong doughs to our hands.  We may think our sourdough culture makes great bread - and it probably does - but we can't make that judgment with any accuracy unless we have something to compare it to in real time.  


My suggestion is to find and attend a baking class conducted by an experienced artisan baker who bakes for a living. I did just that last week and while I have the books by Glezer, Lepard, Hamelman, Leader, and Reinhart (and they are all good books) if given the choice between buying the latest bread book or attending another class, I'd immediately choose the class.


There's no comparison between reading about baking bread and actually getting your hands in the flour and levain with a good teacher by your side.  

SulaBlue's picture
SulaBlue

Unfortunately, there's no such thing that I've found locally so far - aside of attending college (and having to take all the pre-reqs just to get to the bread classes) or the local CIA chapter. Central Market in -Austin- has bread baking this month, but not here in San Antonio. Much annoyance and chomping at the bit was to be had at this discovery as it's a 2 hour drive to Austin.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I was about to book a class at Zingermans, which is about  280 miles away.  Then I stumbled upon the artisan bakery's website (it's one hour away) and saw they offered classes in the winter.  I hope next winter is blizzard free, since I plan to attend every class they offer.


I still plan to drive down to Zingermans this summer - I'll just plan it as a two-day vacation.

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I made Nancy Silverton's starter some years ago, but couldn't afford to keep it going.  Now, I think I'd just use the starter I have to make her recipes.  As for good bread books, Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Bread, and James Beard's Beard on Bread are classics, both with extremely good recipes.  I have over 50 bread books, including 5 by Beth Hensperger who is terrific; I use her books a lot, but I could never afford her Bread Bible.  I've also got Beranbaum's Bread Bible, not one of my favourites at all.  If you're just starting out on your bread journey, I'd suggest you try a simple, straightforward book of bread recipes, and then you can start building up your library.  Just start baking the bread as often as you can, and pretty soon, you'll know what you want to try and you can start hunting down the books.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

My answer to this FAQ has been Reinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice" for a long time. The main reason is that it worked for me. It was not my first bread book, but it was had the right level of science and other technical stuff for me at the time I bought it. It also helps that Reinhart is a very effective communicator.


But, at this point, my answer would have to be "it depends." It depends on your current level of experience, the kinds of breads you want to bake, your learning style, your ambition - do you want to bake better bread than you get in your neighborhood supermarket, or do you want to bake bread as good as any on the planet? It also depends on how deep you want to get into the science and how geeky you are in general.


So, you haven't gotten any bad advice, but which advice fits you best is a question I suggest you ask yourself, with these considerations in mind. Then, ask us again.


I hope these thoughts help clarify rather than confuse your decision making. 


BTW, if you can't decide, my advice would still be BBA. It meets the needs of a broader cross section of home bakers than any others I personally know.


David

plevee's picture
plevee

A really great book, for beginners as well as experienced bakers, is Dan Lepard's "Handmade Loaf". It has excellent methods for making starters without using enormous amounts of flour, equally good istructions for yeasted breads, and unusual recipes.


Patsy

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

I will have to agree with Patsy on this one - The Handmade Loaf was the book that "hooked" me on bread baking


my first really good loaf of bread came after reading the book and making the sourdough starter.


it is a pleasure to read, it has very interesting and exotic bread recipes, the photography is beautiful


 


I will forever cherish this book, and my bookshelf would not be complete without it.

photojess's picture
photojess

It helps to know which books are beginner friendly.  As far as experience and ambitions......I have done basic white bread many times, and JoeV's buttery honey whole wheat, but I'd like to get into sourdough and some more difficult artisan types of breads.


I don't plan on baking tons of loaves per week, but to have healthy whole grains with meals is ideal.


Thanks again!

spongedaddy's picture
spongedaddy

The Tassajara Bread Book was my first bread book after I tossed my bread machine to the curb. It has virtually no baking science in it, but it is extremely friendly, and all the recipes I've tried worked beautifully (except for the muffins, avoid them).


My copy is enthusiastically falling apart. The cover is splotched with butter and crusted with dried dough. A half-dozen handwritten recipes act as bookmarks to others. Ten years on my jaded teenagers still ask for its cinnamon rolls and egg bread.


I also have The Bread Builders, and I'm looking forward to getting BBA.


 


 


 


 

nijap's picture
nijap

Impressive list of must have books.  Now, where can I buy some of them without spending a fortune.  "Half price books" where is that?

suave's picture
suave

Sadly, the cheapest way to buy most of the better books is to buy new from Amazon.  The average price of the used book is actually a decent indicator of its quality, and Reinhart, Hamelman, Greensteing and a few others are actually cheaper when bought new.  It was not so just a year ago, but homebaking is popular at the moment and there are many takers for well-known titles. 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I often buy new from Amazon, but I also use another site that searches almost all the used sites online.


bookfinder


I have found them to be very reliable.


--Pamela

nijap's picture
nijap

Thanks Pamela and Suave.  I will try both.