The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Graduation gift for self

thihal123's picture

Graduation gift for self

So, I'm finally getting my doctorate! My committee has agreed to (finally!) sign off the dissertation. As a graduation gift to myself, I thought of getting one or two good bread books. I'm a novice baker, first having started off with no-knead bread, then to making partial whole wheat, and now all whole wheat bread. I find my breads to be quite satisfactory, and better than store bought loaves, at least in my opinion :) I have good oven rise in my bread, flavour is good, and I use the French knead method (so my doughs tend to be on the wet side, which I find more freindly to baking than drier doughs). Still, I'm a novice. I've baked from Bertinet's Whole Grain Book, Tassajara Bread Book, and Zen Monastery Cook Book. The latter one is not well-known in the bread world, I'd imagine, as it's more of a vegetarian cook book than a bread only book. 

Anyhow, help me decide which of the following I should definitely have as a staple in my bread book collection. Or, perhaps you have others to recommend? I would like to purchase about two as good reference-type books.

• River Cottage Bread Handbook

• Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book

• Reinhardt's Whole Grain Book

• Reinhardt's Crust and Crumb

• Baker's Apprentice

 • Bread Bible

• Hamelman's Bread Book (I realise Hamelman is coming out with an updated 2nd edition, with corrections, etc. If I do get this book, it'll be the 2nd edition coming out in November).

• Others to consider?


By the way, I can't afford to purchase all of these at once. I can only afford one or two right now :)

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

.. that I haven't stopped buying bread books yet, its something of a habit. Since you have a lot of enthusiasm for whole grain breads, Reinhart's WGB is certainly worth reading. I already own the first edition of Hamelman's "Bread" and have been going back to re-read it for three years now. I keep finding information that I didn't understand the previous times so I'm not selling my copy, even for the second edition.

If you're not burnt out from preparing your dissertation, I'd suggest you use your local library to borrow any of those books. If you have a B&N bookstore nearby, buy a cup of coffee or tea and look through the books you find available there. You might use Ebay when you decide to put out the cash for a book. Firefox had an app for its browser called "Invisible Hand" that compared prices across the internet for its users so you might consider that aspect.

Lots of us end up using the money we saved by baking bread on the books that are collapsing our bookshelves.


thihal123's picture

Thanks! I actually do have copies of all of these books (except the 2nd edition of Hamelman, obviously) that I borrowed from the local library. The thing is I don't fully trust myself to be a good evaluator of what is good. They all seem good, but I can only purchase one or two of them. So which one? :)

I would say that the Hamelman I'll probably buy. It seems very advanced though, but a good reference for the future or even now! For example, I JUST started making sourdough starter, as I'll be attempting to make sourdough bread within two weeks. I followed the directions of the River Cottage Bread Book, but later when I glanced at Hamelman's book, I realised he said we shouldn't use chlorinated water. Well, I did use direct tap water (unfiltered), so hopefully my sourdough starter will survive. The River Cottage Bread Book never cautioned us against using chlorinated tap water.

And you're right that I'm enthusiastic about whole grain breads. I don't like to have a diet of white bread. Occassionally is okay, but not okay (for me) as a regular thing. I have made some bread from Reinhardt's Whole Grain Bread book, but now am wondering if his doughs are drier than I'd like.

gary.turner's picture

I followed the directions of the River Cottage Bread Book, but later when I glanced at Hamelman's book, I realised he said we shouldn't use chlorinated water. Well, I did use direct tap water (unfiltered), so hopefully my sourdough starter will survive. The River Cottage Bread Book never cautioned us against using chlorinated tap water.
Do keep in mind that Hamelman is speaking to the commercial baker with production schedules to keep, so repeatability is at a premium. At home? :shrug: Close is generally good enough. Chlorine may or may not affect your timing. If it is a problem for  you, simply draw your water several  hours before you intend to use it; the chlorine will effervesce. 

For myself, I have never used anything but tap water directly from the faucet for my mother, my elaboration, or my final dough, all without detriment.



thihal123's picture

Gary, thanks for sharing the experience! Good for me to know!

proth5's picture

try to restrain myself in these "which book" discussions, but I'm in the mood to comment.

Wait for the second edition of "Bread..." I wish so much that book had been written when I started to bake.  Start right.  Read it (don't just bake the formulas - which is often repeated on these pages, but is so true.) Think about it deeply.  Build a good foundation and you will never regret it.

Happy shopping (and congratulations on your achievment)!

thihal123's picture

Thank you :) Yes, the achievement took a long time to get to! I'll just say it took over a decade but less than two! It was a very long and difficult process with a short hiatus in the middle. I was ready to throw in the towel midway through but later decided to give it one more shot.

Yes, think I'll definitely get the 2nd edition of Bread. Too bad it'll be coming out in November!

ldavis47's picture

You may want to also consider The Village Baker by Ortiz. It is a very interesting read about bread bakeries all over the world. 

thihal123's picture

Thanks for the suggestion! I'll definitely check it out. I remember now I encountered the title several months back. Isn't it both a book about Ortiz's adventures and artisan bread recipes? Sounds fun, if it is!

By the way, is Ortiz the baker for Gayle's Bakery in Capitola, CA? If so, I know that bakery!

Edit: Okay, I just found out he is! WOW! I use to live in Santa Cruz County. I've enjoyed their breads :) Okay, looks like I may be getting THREE books now :)

thihal123's picture

Okay folks, so I decided to get the following:

River Cottage Bread Book

• Hamelman's Bread (2nd edition)

• Reinhardt's Whole Grain

Village Baker

It's two more books than I intended, but I guess that's okay :)

longhorn's picture

That is a really nice list of books. Since you like whole grain, be sure to try Reinardts Spent Grain bread. Most artisanal/home brewers will gladly swap you their spent grain for bread and the results can be divine. Hamelman's is a book for a lifetime. Ortiz is very good. Don't have and have not baked out of FCBB.

thihal123's picture

I've made several whole grain breads from Reinhardt, but haven't tried the Spent Grain bread yet. I'll do so. First, my next bread is a sourdough bread. Making the starter now :)'s picture

I wholeheartedly endorse your book list, esp. Hamelman & Reinhart (not familiar enough with 1st and last in list).  I have essentially apprenticed myself to those authors and their books this past year with wonderfully satisfying results.

Hamelman's a slam dunk -- can't go wrong on any page.  My most enthusiastic recommendation from Reinhart WGB is his 100% WW Sandwich bread.  He should have given it a sexier name -- it deserves it.  Bulletproof formula and process, with much of work done night before and 2 h from mix to bake this time of year (warm kitchen).  I scale it up and now bake 1.5-2 kg hearth bread versions of that formula once or twice/week.  Great with Golden Buffalo flour, if you can find it.  That said, every time I mix one up, I think there's got to be an easier way than PR's epoxy method nonsense.  But that sentiment evaporates just about the time the knife enters the loaf.  They are so moist and more-ish that they border on junk food.  And they consistently meet with the approval of a very demanding consumer of whole wheat bread - my wife. 

Congratulations on completing your doctorate.  Good luck in the job market.  Tough right now, esp in non-technical fields.  Three-five year postdocs are becoming more and more common in my field (biology) :-(.

Happy baking!


thihal123's picture


Reinhardt's 100% WW Sandwich bread was one I tried in my earlier baking period, which was just several months ago. I liked it, but I also felt his doughs were drier than what I like. HOWEVER, the problem could be me:

1. I don't have a scale, which I know is a no-no for serious bakers, but that is all I got right now (volume measuring devices). It's a complicated, and sentimental story, but there is a reason why I don't have a scale yet. I could buy one easily, but I'm waiting to return to my parents' home to get my mother's kitchen scale, the one she always used for baking. The sentimental part is that my mother died towards the end of my dissertation writing phase. I actually had to put the PhD on hold to return to my parents' home to take care of her for the last 3 months of her life. I don't want to buy a scale right now, because eventually I will be in posession of my mother's scale.

2. I'm also a little bit more experienced now as a baker, so it could be that my technique wasn't that good earlier on. However, when I did make the Reinhardt 100% WW bread, I liked it, though it wasn't as good as I thought it would be.

Academic job market has been tough for a while now: two decades? My understanding is that in the sciences, it's the norm to go from graduate student to postdoc. This is unlike the humanities and social sciences where postdocs are not as common. It's more the norm to go from grad student to either a tenure-track position or a non-tenure one (adjunct or lecturer position). I'm in anthropology.'s picture

My condolences re: your mother.  Wonderful for her you could be there.  Wonderful for you as well, in the long run, though certainly not at the time.  Your patience will be rewarded when her scale falls into your hands.  However, if your mom used it for a while, it may be analog and therefore rather less useful (been there) for you than a digital one you can pick up for less than the price of one of the books on your shopping list.  Consider that.  Inaccurate scaling of ingredients is likely to be at the root of your disappointment with PR's WW Sandwich bread. 

Anthro.  Physical's hotter than cultural, in terms of jobs these days.  Or so I hear.  Good luck.



thihal123's picture

Thanks for the advice on scales. Indeed, my mom's is an analog one. She's been using one since she started baking around the 1970s. Well, maybe a digital one is good after all.

Yeah, I'm in socio-cultural.

thihal123's picture

Well, I did end up buying a scale just a few days ago. I think when I return to my parents' home, I'll still bring my mom's analog scale for memory's sake. I got the 5lb OXO softgrip pull-out display digital scale. The 11lb version is what seems to be most recommended of the two by folks on this board. However, it's a tad expensive at $50 versus just under $30 for the 5lb model.

Anyhow, for the first time I'm making a Reinhardt whole grain bread using the scale and I am learning a few new things. First weighing things out versus using the volume measurments gives me confidence to follow Reinhardt's water:solid ratio much more faithfully. In the past, I've added more water than what I measured initially because the dough seemed dry. Anyhow, will be finishing working this bread in the next two days! Seems like fun!

Oh, I've started receiving my bread books too. LOVELY! :)

longhorn's picture

You are entering a world where baking can become much less mystical and more predictable! Enjoy! And 

Bake On!