The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Best Baking Cookbook for a New Baker

plop808plop's picture

Best Baking Cookbook for a New Baker

I have been baking for close to a year now, but I've been gleaning all my recipes from the INTERWEB. What are some of ya'lls favorite or most useful baking cookbooks, specifically for a beginner?

Also, if you could list only one, or order your list from best to least best, that would be useful. I can only foresee myself buying one at this poor point in my life.

FoodHacker's picture

But then again I like all of his books that I have looked at or owned ... have you ever thought of becoming a member of your local public library?

Not sure about where you live but for me to be a member all it took was a driver's licence and/or proof of residence ie... electric or phone bill.

And then this way if you find a book that you do like you can always buy it later instead of buying it and then finding out that you wish you hadn't.

ra377's picture

I agree, if it's only one book, then it's Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I also agree that all of his books are great. Jim Lahey's My Bread is also good, but doesn't have the scope of Reinhart's books.

GermanFoodie's picture

Unless you want to go to something more sophisticated, like the "Village Baker".

plop808plop's picture

I am a member at my library, but I had never looked for cookbooks there.

foodslut's picture

.... I'd recommend the Bertinet books Dough and Crust - interesting dough manipulation technique, especially for wetter doughs, with great DVDs included.  If it's only going to be one, Dough is the one to try.

Also, at the risk of mentioning the blindingly obvious, don't forget to check out your public library or book store to preview books that might intrigue.

Let us know which you end up choosing, and why.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)


Slap-and-fold a dough for 20 minutes! Mein gott! Wouldn't that scare bakers away?

Here's a video of a French baker using that technique:

He's exhausted by the end of it. I'd be too.

There's more to Bertinet than this very manual method, right?

foodslut's picture

... as something for someone who's done a bit of baking on his own, but is looking for a first book to work with.  It's accessible, it makes great bread and stretches one's reliance on "press & squish" kneading.

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

but not for 20 minutes!!!

I get almost any lean, wet dough together in 3 minutes - some gluten development, beginnings of a windows pane, then I just do 2 folds during bulk fermentation.

The sweet dough is somewhat different, and the sweat is worth it. Great recipe, versatile, not too sweet. I made from it: Russian Braid with poppy filling, plum tart, cinnamon swirls, chelsea buns, Streusselkuchen ...

AnnaInMD's picture

Bertinet gives us an out by recommending the mixer kneading if not into slapping.


ehanner's picture

The BBA was my first bread book. No regrets at all. As you start to be more comfortable with different breads you will want to branch out. In my opinion, Bread by Jeffery Hamelman is the best all around book of formulas and techniques on the market, for the money. Some say it is aimed at the professional baker but many members here swear by it as the primary reference source for solid information. The BBA is good as a first book because it is easy to follow and has lots of drawings and photos for help. "Bread" is all you ever need if you were stranded on an Island with an oven and flour.


Cactus Country's picture
Cactus Country

Bread by Hamelman. Before you're even done the first chapter you'll feel like you've been initiated to the secret society of 'people who really get bread'.

AnnaInMD's picture

Reinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice"

and my other 10+ baking books for speciality breads and baked goodies, i.e.

Bourke Street Bakery,

From Tapas to Meze,

Bertinet's 'Dough',

Leader's 'Local Breads'



plop808plop's picture

I am going to get The Bread Baker's Apprentice, because I heard a lot of good things about it from this forum, but I've also heard good things about it in other internet discussions.

I like your idea of the library, though. I'm a member at a fledgling library back in my hometown, so I'll get online and see what they have. I never thought about them having cookbooks!

Thanks, everyone!

AnnaInMD's picture