The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Book of bread recipes in baker's percentage?

  • Pin It
BakerNewbie's picture
BakerNewbie

Book of bread recipes in baker's percentage?

I'm looking for recommendations on a good book that lists recipes in baker's percentages. I would like the book to also explain what are the effects to the bread if the ratios of the ingredients are changed. I was looking at the book Ratio, but was persuaded against it because of this review (http://www.amazon.com/review/R1XD6BACB02CVE/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1416566112):

After reading through the book, I was left feeling that it should have offered me a lot more. Perhaps Mr. Ruhlman should have given the basic ratio, and then gone on to explain what the results would be. After that, he could have discussed how changing each ingredient in the ratio would change the results.

For example, a cook will get some decent bread by using the 5:3 ratio in the book and a standard breadmaking technique. However, if she reduces the water, the bread will be better for bagels and pretzels. If she increases the water, it will tend toward a ciabatta or pugliese. Changing the salt and yeast will affect the rise time and flavor. That's how knowing a ratio becomes useful. The cook knows altering it little in one direction will change the results in a predictable way. Some of this information was haphazardly indicated in the chapter introductions, but it would have been much more effective if it were thoroughly explained and organized in the context of the recipe ratio.

To me, this was the information missing that would have made this book an invaluable resource. It's not just knowing the ratios - it's knowing how to tweak them to get the results I want in each particular instance. I think any mid-level cook knows that adding a few herbs and spices to their homemade biscuits won't break the recipe. But if she wants to be able to tweak her basic biscuit recipe so that just a little more moist and tender to go with fried chicken, or a little more sturdy to stand up to a lot of sausage gravy, this book doesn't offer anything. Many problems with recipes can be solved by altering the ratio slightly: cookies spreading too much, cakes collapsing, biscuits not rising, bread too dense, pie dough overbrowning, etc. (Of course, these problems can also sometimes be solved by technique, but because technique is not the theme of the book, I'm not going to fault Mr. Ruhlman for hardly mentioning it.) If the book explained how slightly altering the standard ratio affects the result, not only could I have improvised the perfect biscuit for each situation, but I could have better used the book to fix unsatisfactory (but promising) recipes.

Since the entire book could probably be summed up in a chart (with baking times and temperatures when required), I think the price is way out of line with its value. Since most passionate home cooks probably already have a decent set of recipes that duplicate what the book offers, I can't say it's even worth the recipes. Two stars for a good idea.

Any recommendations?

Joyofgluten's picture
Joyofgluten

It's good to have a whole stack of them. If I had to recommend one though, that deals plenty with working with and understanding bakers%, it would be "Bread" 2nd edition by J. Hammelman. The effects of fats, sweeteners, salt etc are explained pretty well. For me the big bonus of working and thinking in bakers% is in creating and tweaking ones own formulas that are optimised to your setup and needs. After a while the stack of books are used only on occasion for reference purposes, or to troubleshoot.

The book that you mentioned in the review, I believe has much much more to do with cooking than it does with bread baking.

cheers daniel

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I'll second Daniel's recommendation.

Michael Ruhlman is a writer/blogger who bakes bread occasionally. 

Jeffrey Hamelman is a master baker who bakes bread for a living, teaches advanced bakers and the pros, and wrote a book titled Bread, a Baker's Book of Technique and Recipes.

You won't go wrong with the second edition of Bread.

Enjoy and learn.