The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Best Bread Cookbook for a Beginner

hydestone's picture

Best Bread Cookbook for a Beginner

I am a beginner and am looking for a bread cookbook to explain the basics while I get my feet wet.  What is the best break cookbook in your opinion?

Muffin Man's picture
Muffin Man

There are so many it's hard to select.  For me, it was "Bread Alone" by Daniel Leader.  His enthusiasm is contagious and his commitment to quality is unsurpassed.  There are many others and I'm sure that other bakers have their favorites.  Enjoy.

suave's picture

If you are looking to buy your first artisan baking book, Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice is it.

drhowarddrfine's picture

I've read and baked from them all and the only one I recommend is Hamelman's "Bread". The others either have errors and/or stray too far from the basics.


Everything I made from Hamelman's came out good the first time. The same can't be said of BBA which has a number of errors and questionable techniques.


Lender's book worked well for me but tries to get fancy too quick.

ericjs's picture

What are the errors in BBA? Are they listed somewhere? I'm using this book, and would like to know before I find some of them the hard way... And which tecnhiques are questionable?

Muffin Man's picture
Muffin Man

While I can't fault any of the suggestions (I owen them all and many others too), You will find that you are in the best place to learn.  The participants here are, by and large, amateurs in the true sense of the word (i.e. they bake because they love doing it), not to make a living, but to make a difference.  There are suggestions galore and varying degrees of expertise here and no one seems to be presenting themselves as anything but what they are.  Collect books, yes, but, far more important, visit this site often for suggestions, tips, and recipes.  I treasure the day I stumbled onto it.


rossnroller's picture

I agree entirely. I have Dan Lepard's book, and good it is - and I have a swag of others in my Amazon shopping basket, waiting for the big click. BUT...

...the best resources around are other amateur bakers such as those who give so freely of their knowledge on great sites like this one. My best recipes are ones I've copied down from this site, and others such as WildYeast and Sourdough Companion. There's a tremendous camaraderie between home bakers, and online forums are the best place to tap right into that. And mercifully, for some reason I can't quite divine - but who cares why - there is a notable absence of ego-ridden rubbish! Very refreshing, when chest-thumping, self-righteousness and hubris is otherwise so prevalent in web interaction.

Cheers all!



leucadian's picture

Richard Bertinet's 'Dough' is a great all-around introduction to bread making. He covers a wide range of breads based on a few basic types. Other authors show how to reproduce wonderful breads they have discovered or invented. Bertinet, on the other hand, leads you through a series of breads that progresses from simple white bread to whole wheat to rustic pain de compagne to chocolate sweet buns. There is a full page photo of every bread, so you have a good model to work from. For the more complicated breads, there are detailed photos for the intermediate steps. One page that you might benefit from is a set of nine crust photos of a white bread at various degrees of baking, from raw dough through golden brown to over-baked.

He is the author of a favorite kneading technique on TFL, shown here, and included in a DVD in the book:

He's got a web site, and is on Twitter and Facebook, if you're into that.

What won't you get from Bertinet: Unfortunately, not much about sourdough. A little, but not much. Also, he prefers fresh yeast which may be hard to come by in the US, but he does explain how to used dried. Lastly, he doesn't address 'baker's math' which for me was a major revelation, but it's well described here on TFL. Just ask.

What you will get: a thorough introduction to making bread, with some novelties of his own invention to spice things up, in lessons from a traditionally trained French baker.

atlanticsunrise's picture

My personal favorite is Hamelman's Bread. It's not the first one I bought, but it has very thorough explanations of the steps of bread making, which I found enlightening. It's not the only book I bake from, but as drhowarddrfine said, I've not had anything come out badly from it, which makes it great for anyone!

spongedaddy's picture

Though it gets overlooked on this site, The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown is a terrific book for someone brand new to bread baking. The recipes favor whole wheat, but there is also a good chapter on sourdough. Everything I have made from it has become a favorite of friends and family.

If my house was on fire, all my loved ones safe from harm, I would run back into the house to rescue my well-used copy.

tananaBrian's picture

I cannot believe that nobody pointed out the HANDBOOK and VIDEOS here at The Fresh Loaf.  I would go through the whole handbook first, then go through the videos, and ask questions all along.  As a parallel effort, start making bread ...any kind.

BTW, what type of bread do you wish to start with?  Table bread such as sandwich loaves, rolls, challah, and that sort of thing?  Or artisan breads (typically french in origin)?  You CAN do either but I would have a very slight tendency to recommend the table bread route first even though baking artisan breads will require some changes in methods and what not (I call it unlearning the typical direct-dough methods.)  I lean towards the table breads category only because they are mostly going to be made with commercial yeast and are direct doughs (started and finished in one day, no retardations or extended cool ferments, no preferments such as poolish, biga, or levains etc.)

In any case, I think people have already recommended several books that help out in both categories.  For regular table breads, the Tassajara book and the Laurel Kitchen Bread Book (I think that is the title) are good starts.  For artisan breads, I recommend Hamelman and his "Bread ..." titled book, although it is a bit wordy.  You will want to supplement ALL sources of information and learning with good questions and discussions here at the TFL ...learn how to post pictures ...each is worth the proverbial thousand words.  Post your mistakes or failures in particular since you learn the most from them.  Nobody here will criticise you since we have all been there and done that, usually finding new mistakes to make all along the way even as we become more experienced.  That is the normal way of progressing!  Share and learn!

One comment that I will make, regardless of which books you start out with is this:  The number one mistake is adding too much flour and making the dough too stiff.  And something else that is confusing and misleading is how many books say to "knead until smooth and silky, not sticky", usually recommending or implying that you should be adding flour while you knead.  That is bad advice.  To some extent, you will indeed be kneading flour into the dough, but always err on the side of not adding enough.  You will gain a feel for what is right as you gain experience, and the experience will come very quickly.  The dough will become smooth and silky after being allowed to ferment (to "rise" for awhile).  That is when the magic happens.  There is nothing wrong with dough that is still sticky ...You will find that breads that are designed to go into loaf pans will be made with a bit less stickiness (lower hydration) and will have a tighter crumb while bread made to be baked on a stone will generally be stickier (higher hydration) ...but do NOT keep adding flour while kneading until all stickiness goes away and you will produce better bread.



sphealey's picture

Have failed to successfully get started with breadbaking many times over 20 years before I finally broke through, I will maintain that the most important things for beginner to gain from the first resource(s) are success and confidence.  Therefore I always recommend that the beginner get a copy of King Arthur Flour's "Artisan Bread" DVD (sadly out of print, but usually availble from the library {by interlibrary loan if necessary}) and Rose Levy Beranbaum's _The Bread Bible_.  If you watch the KA DVD a few times and try its receipe, then pick a straightforward recipe from RLB and make it 4-6 weeks in a row you will experience success and good tasting bread very quickly.

Eventually you may find that RLB's recipes have too many compromises to be super-quality artisan bread, and then you are ready for Hamelman, Glaser, etc.  But unless a new breadbaker is also a laboratory tech experienced in reading between the lines he/she is likely to fail with e.g. Hamelman and no easier reference.


BreadintheBone's picture

The book I really learned from, about 25 years ago, was The Breadwinners Cookbook by Mel London. It's made up of recipes from around the USA, from winners of various competitions. It's out of print, but you can get it on Amazon. Surprisingly, a new copy is listed at $190! That's just silly; used ones go from 87 cents. It's not an artisanal bible, but the many techniques by all of the home bakers will give you real confidence, and show you that bread is pretty easy. And fun!

The next book that shaped my bready life was The Italian Baker by Carol Field. This gives really clear and basic instructions, and I find it's hard to go wrong (although I still haven't mastered pannetone). She takes you through simple breads to hearty and fancy ones. And after that, there's all the other aspects of Italian baking, like holiday breads and . . . cookies! Yum!

Of course, now I'm using Richard Bertinet's book a lot. I read Reinhart's books, and others, though I haven't tried Hamelman yet. I've run out of room on my bookshelves. Reinhart is good, but I find that I don't really connect with his methods.