The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rose Levy Beranbaum "Bread Bible"

MommaT's picture
MommaT

Rose Levy Beranbaum "Bread Bible"

Hi,


Just picked up "The Bread Bible"  (or should I say the OTHER "Bread Bible") by Rose Levy Beranbaum.


I haven't been through thoroughly, but recently took it out of the library with an eye toward evaluating it for purchase.  It seems to cover an exceedingly broad spectrum of "breads" and the one hearth loaf I made from the book was very satisfying - fairly wet dough and pleasing flavor.  


I know I won't have the chance to evaluate it thoroughly, so am looking for your experiences.  Does anyone else use this book?  What are your thoughts on it?


Thanks!


MommaT

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I received it as a gift, and I've got to admit, I don't use it very often.  The ciabatta is excellent, but that's about the only recipe I really like.  Beranbaum admits to not liking whole wheat bread, which I found odd in someone writing a 'bible' about bread, and I find her recipes far too detailed.

MommaT's picture
MommaT

Thanks, Paddy, for your honest feedback.  There are so many cookbooks out there that I appreciate experienced feedback when deciding whether or not to take up space on the limited shelf.


MommaT

txfarmer's picture
txfarmer

But I've made exactly one recipe out if the book (beer bread). IMO, her recipes and formulas are not that "authentic", but her instructions are detailed, dependable, and accurate, which means, if you follow her instructions exactly, you will get her results, which probably don't have the biggest holes in ciabbata, darkest and most authentic pumpernickel, etc, but they will be tasty and good - in a "middle of the ground" every day bread kinda way. For instance, if I want to make an authentic baguette with very open crumb and crispy crust and maximum flavor, I will find other books, but if I want to make a good everyday sandwich bread, with some flavor variations, this book will deliver.


Even though I baked only one recipe, but I often reference it for technicle details like how much dough I should use for a cloverleaf roll, or how much time I should let my KA knead the dough if I want to make a sandwich bread, etc. Look at the breads in the book, if you like those results, then you will like her recipes, because they deliver exactly that, but if you are looking for more "extreme" breads like 100% WW, or European specialty breads, then you may want to look elsewhere.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

In fact, tomorrow is my birthday, and I'm hoping the package my husband got from Amazon last week contains this book as I've had it out from one library or another in our county continuously for months now and they're going to catch on to me one of these days.


Rose writes for ME, the home baker, with limited time and budget.  Her formulas are clear, precise, and provided in volume and weight by gram measurements.  Most of her formulas make one nicely sized loaf, not two or four or six gigantic breads that will exceed my home freezer capacity.  She gives detailed instructions and explanations for her techniques and the equipment and ingredients she uses. Her formulas do not demand expensive and unusual ingredients, equipment, or techniques.   If I had to summarize in one word, I would say this book is "accessible".  


I also have Hamelman's Bread.   It is my "go to" book when I have a question about the science of bread.   It is full of detailed and scientific explanation, but I have yet to tackle a single formula--they are too intimidating--everything must be controlled from the temperature of every ingredient to precise timing, etc.  He is clearly writing for a professional audience although there is a nod to home bakers by adding a section of each formula in pounds and ounces that still seems like too much dough for me to deal with in my limited time, kitchen equipment, and storage.  


RLB is neither a purist or a traditionalist. She doesn't rise to the standard of many bread geeks here in that she uses methods and ingredients that are easily attainable instead of following tradition.  But Hamelman's  orthodox methods are just not practical for my limited time and resources.  


I think if RLB had called it something other than the "Bread Bible" she would not incur such wrath.  It is not the be all and end all of books on baking bread.  The bad (actually good) news is that you will want and need other books to round out your bread baking library.  But I personally think this is a wonderful book to have in your arsenal, you will learn a lot and have a great time exploring bread with her.  

Ouibread's picture
Ouibread

I received this book as a gift.  I have never had a cookbook that elicited as much profanity and frustration as this one.  The order in which she describe each activity is convoluted and flashes back to opportunities missed. 


There is so much penciling in the margin that I gave up completely, re-wrote the recipe I wanted on a separate piece of paper and haven't pulled that book off the shelf in over a year.  My wife would know right away I was mid-recipe in this book and ask if I was making "The Piss Me Off Bread" again.


 


I would sell this book but I don't hate anyone that much.  That and all the scrawling in the margins.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I read the chart and throw everything in at once, then I read the written directions and see that she wants you to do an autolyse and oh, the yeast was later and that butter was only supposed to be added at the very end.  So I do re-write the list of ingredients in the groupings suggested by her written directions.  And when I have the book for my very own, I'll do it in the book


But even with errors caused by my failure to read through the directions first, the breads have been just fine.  


Is it just me or has anyone else noted that the male baking authors like Hamelman, Leader, and Reinhart are often venerated here, and equally august female authors like Nancy Silverton and Carol Field are rarely considered??? This particularly comes to mind when a female author can be criticized on the basis of her looks.  What's THAT all about???

LindyD's picture
LindyD



My wife would know right away I was mid-recipe in this book and ask if I was making "The Piss Me Off Bread" again.


 I would sell this book but I don't hate anyone that much. 



You are a very funny guy!

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

Rose Levy Beranbaum is not a hack, she's a very talented baker, even though I'm not crazy about her Bread Bible!  I have her Pie and Pastry Bible and her Cake Bible and I've used them both quite often.  I may not always follow her recipes to the letter, and I do think she tends to be over-wordy in her bread book, but she is a very accomplished baker.  And I don't care who you are, you don't insult a person's appearance no matter how you feel about her or her recipes.

GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture
GrapevineTXolda...

I can't recall if I've baked from her Cake Bible, but I have definitely consulted it as reference material.  I found it to be quite informative. 


Perhaps the truth is in the pudding.  It comes down to the style of each baker, how they process the written and visual.  I'm guilty of being lopsided when it comes to a particular bread guru. 


It's always interesting to read others opinions.  I value and gain much by being that little fly on the wall. 


Case in point:  I never thought I needed Nancy Silverton's bread book, that was until someone sent it to me.  Now I can't imagine how, or why I ignored it,


Go figure.  Age teaches me much.  Even this old dog can learn a new trick. 


:)

amsterdam's picture
amsterdam

I realy can't understand some of the acid and vile critics concerning RLB and the BB. I have been using the book for several years alongs side Hamelman's book and I must say that I have only great pleasure time and again. My sourdough culture's, following RLB instructions are know 5 years old are alive and potent as can be. I have used these cultures in Hamelman's sourdough recipes and they have never failed me. I have baked about 90% of the BB recipes and never had any problems.


I am not agreat fun of Reinhart or lepard's book's, but i will never use this kind of acid language used by some of the bloggers here to review these books.


I wonder if those bloggers have ever used RLB's BB before reviewing it or have they just decided to bash it just because... 

misterrios's picture
misterrios

I've read the front and back parts of the book- the non-recipe advice and it is okay. Nothing really new, but she does teach about specific kitchen equipment that she prefers. Aside from that, the book is meant to be comprehensive in that she covers not just yeasted breads, but also batter/quick breads.


The problem I have with the book is that it is somehow too specific. Where other books teach you the general idea, she goes really in depth to the recipes and procedures. Perhaps this would be good for a beginner that needs step-by-step instructions, but past a certain point, you can probably use the formulas as guides to make the breads.


I also don't like her writing style in the instructions for some reason, and I don't like it when she recommends to only use one kind of flour, though she justifies this by saying that the properties amongst US flours varies between brands- which is true, but it doesn't make me like it.


I would say, for a beginner it is a great book. But Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice is an even better beginner book that doesn't lose its relevance once one has progressed to an intermediate stage. In fact, it almost throws the beginner into the intermediate stage because it does not dumb down the process.


The book is quite comprehensive, and if you like the way it is written, then I would definitely recommend it. It is a beautiful book, and is a good book, but, for me, the book has its flaws, and there are other books out there that I personally find better.

Elagins's picture
Elagins

the biggest problem i have with RLB is that her recipes are way too controlled (and controlling) ... her anality tells me that she doesn't respect her ingredients or the fact that baking is not a carved-in-stone blueprint, but a continuing process of refinement and feel that demands that we understand our ingredients, understand that we never bake under exactly the same conditions (i.e., flour humidity, temperature, yeast activity, etc.) twice and that we need to be attuned to those things.

in my view, RLB's whole approach devalues time and experience and implies that anyone who follows her oh-so-precise recipes can immediately produce breads that most of us spend years striving for.

Stan Ginsberg
www.nybakers.com

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

to help them learn the technques and acheive consistent results. 


But that certainly doesn't preclude experienced bread bakers from riffing off her formulas and technques (and yes, I mean riFFing, not riPPing).  Nobody says you have to follow her instructions to a T.  The bread police won't come, I promise! 


Why is everybody so uptight about her book?  I am not the biggest fan of a particular book everyone else here seems to worship, but I'm not going to denigrate its author or look down on people who do like the book.


Different strokes for different folks!


And Stan, her book helps explain to new bakers exactly why they need some of the equipment YOU SELL.   Do you really want to bite that hand???

Elagins's picture
Elagins

i'm trying to become the preferred source for the basic tools and ingredients all bread bakers can use, whether they come from here, Peter Reinhart, Dan Lepard, Daniel Leader, Jeffrey Hamelman (now wouldn't that be cool!), and yes, even RLB. i have to say that my wife bought me RLB Bread Bible for Hanukah a couple of years ago and I spent about 2 hours going through it. I really had a problem with it and asked my wife to return it, which she did, in exchange for a copy of Local Breads, which I find much more approachable and intelligent.

by the way, it might be worth pointing out that since RLB is also a paid consultant to General Mills, chances are better than even money that a lot of "her" recipes actually come from GM's R&D people. I'll give her credit for cake, but IMO, her bread credentials are definitely suspect.

Stan Ginsberg
www.nybakers.com

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

I took one look at her caraway rye bread and said, FORGET IT.  Unreal. I think, even the spoon was supposed to have a certain temperature, lol.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

and he LOVES it (I don't like even the smell of caraway, so I never tasted it).  The crust and crumb were beautiful.  My husband keeps asking for more.  I'm going to make one without caraway so I can try it. 


It wasn't that picky to make at all.  I found it really easy to make as long as I read through the directions to know what order the ingredients were added.  The order is important because of her unique "layering" method of fermentation.  


 We call it "dinner and a show" at our house--over the course of the 4 or so hours the yeast bubbles up from the sponge layer and through the flour layer and it looks like a volcanic landscape in a clear dough container. 


(Yes, we do lead VERY boring lives in our house, LOL!  We also like to watch paint dry!). 

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

I run my caraway seeds through the coffee mill before adding to the dough. It gives the sourdough a wonderful rich flavor without screaming "caraway".  Maybe hubby can talk you into liking it :)

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Jan,


If caraway isn't enjoyable for you, you might want to try making rye bread with either dill seed or fennel seed, instead.  Both play nicely with the rye, although they are quite different from the caraway.  If you like either of those flavors, give them a whirl in your next batch of rye bread.


Paul

mbeatle's picture
mbeatle

I baked a number of the breads in the book and they have been excellent. I consider the book to be very reliable. Yes, the instructions are very detailed. But that is exactly what I want. I rarely have time to bake bread, and when i do, I don't want to waste that opportunity experimenting.


Off the top of my head, I've had great success with the challah, pita bread, and butter rolls.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

The sourdough challah recipe on her website?  She uses stiff sourdough starter as a pate fermente and the resulting challah is really great.  It has the best texture and balance of flavors of any challah I've ever made.  It is not sour at all.


The addition of sourdough also seems to keep the challah fresh longer.  I make one recipe into four small challahs, but the little bits of leftovers on Saturday are not dried out and stale.

TimandGlendaG's picture
TimandGlendaG

this is my first time to comment here. i have read with interest the various comments. I have not read her BB, but have used her cake bible. She seems to be very talented, but also approaches things from a this is how I do it view point. I think that is ok. Just use what you want, ignore what you don't want and enjoy the result. And if it makes you come un-nerved, throw it away and stop torturing yourself. :)

SydneyGirl's picture
SydneyGirl

I love RLB. She's so passionate but also so precise. You can tell that she has tried recipes over and over and she truly understands the magic of baking.


Even though I'm by no means a novice I've learned more about baking from her (cake bible, pie & pastry bible etc) than I have from any other baking book. Even if you don't use all or even any of her recipes, the book will give you more useful information than any other book I've seen on baking. 


I love the fact that she explains why a certain recipe works a certain way - even if yo never make the particular recipe, you'll pick up useful information you'll be able to adapt to other recipes. 


Also, it must be said, having measurements in grams is fantastic for someone who lives in "the rest of the world".  


I don't understand why people get uptight about precise measurements - I have no compunction about changing flour mixes or adding more or less water but her explanations give me the confidence to do that. 


I do agree that her range of breads seems to focus more on white bread types. My biggest disappointment was in fact that although she features a bunch of Italian and French bread types, she seems to largely ignore the fantastic range of German breads. Also, you do need to read carefully and note the steps, otherwise you'll be like me waiting for bread to bake at 2am.


Oh, and if you like to browse recipes, you might, like me, create a more detailed table of contents to stick at the front of the book. 

jkandell's picture
jkandell

I agree her challah with the addition of "old" sourdough as the pate fermentee is terrific. It stays fresh and is very moist. I agree a lot of her recipes in that book are good but not great. 

sustainthebaker's picture
sustainthebaker

I just received this book as a gift. I had been eyeing it for over a year now. I read it through, not all the recipes, just the text about baking. My initial synopsis is that this book is the perfect book linking the hobby baker and the-at-home baker to the professional baker. Her bias towards recipes, ingredients, etc offers a different approach to cookbooks. An insight clearly gained through extensive research and baking.


Everything you need to know about bread is in here - the science behind the interactions of water and flour, the role of yeast, and the importance of kneading and hydration. It is written in language that is easy to understand and employ. One thing I like the best,  are the tips and tricks sprinkled throughout the book. Simlar to Cooks Illustrated, these tips benefit specific bread recipes as well as the process of baking itself. Many of the recipes, include alterations and suggetions. Futhermore, she encourages experimentation with basic recipes to make them your own. She suggests you take a recipe and make it over and over, tasting each time, and making changes that you find acceptable.


Overall, I would suggest this book to anyone looking to learn more about the process. The amateur who wants to step into the professional realm. As for me, I want to make that jump and this book keeps me on the edge of my seat wanting to bake. The problem is, my wife and I can't eat all the bread.

Jessica Weissman's picture
Jessica Weissman

I've had the book for a while.  The recipes are scaled to produce ONE medium-sized loaf after a lot of effort.  That's not enough.


And it's easy to tell that she just doesn't really like bread as much as she likes cake and pie.  No natural affinity for it.  She actually says in the text that she doesn't like whole wheat bread or rye bread, and it shows.


That said, the Heart of Wheat bread is pretty good.  I no longer make any other recipes from the book.  There are better choices.

belle's picture
belle

Like most of us on this blog, I am overwhelmed by the number of 'bread-making' books on the market ...on a whim, I purchased this book as a Christmas gift for my one of my favorite Uncles for Christmas...overall, I am pleased to see that I made the right choice...Thank you MommaT for the perfect timing for asking this question!  Happy Holidays

Rick D's picture
Rick D

I've used this book extensively and overall, I've been satisfied. Most of the recipes are good, my favorite regulars are the Cinnamon-Raisin bread (I've adapted it to use a sourdough starter), the Sourdough Country Boule, New Zealand Almond Fig bread, Beer Bread, and the Mantovana Olive Oil bread. Some recipes do fall short, but most are a pleasure to make (and eat).


Her recipe to make a sourdough starter does not work, but the wealth of information in the book regarding bread is comprehensive and practical.


Sure, it's not the "best" bread book out there, but hey... we can't drink Montrachet every night.


--Rick