The other day while noodling around the internet looking for interesting bread-related websites, I stumbled across this site: Two Blue Books. The book featured on the site, Bread Science: the Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread, is by an professional artisan baker and baking instructor who also has a Ph.D. in chemistry. I was fascinated, and contacted her to get ahold of a copy.
This book is great. When I got it I read it cover-to-cover in one evening.
In many ways it feels like two books in one: an baking instruction book and a bread science book. This isn't a bad thing: the science helps inform the instruction.
Chapter 2 is the science chapter. It is long, almost half of the book, and relatively dense, but the chapter is full of helpful illustrations and diagrams that help even non-scientific types get what is going on. I'll admit that I didn't get everything on my first pass through, though a few things, such as the difference between respiration and fermentation, I got better than I ever have before. I know I will be referring back to this chapter again.
The instructional chapters are solid too. The tone is very much like the tone I try to promote on this site (anything you bake at home is going to be better than most store bought bread, that making mistakes is part of the learning process, etc.). She is a much better baker than I am, and the diagrams and photos in the chapters on shaping and scoring better than anything on this site yet. Better than those found in most baking books I know.
This isn't a cookbook: though there are a couple of formula in the back, it is really about understand the process (what is happening inside of your bread) and figuring out how your technique can make the most of the good things you want to happen, chemically-speaking, and avoid the things you don't want to happen. It makes a nice complement to all of the baking books you have on your shelf that tell you things like "don't overknead" but don't explain why.
A big chunk of the book is available as a PDF than anyone can download for free. It is certainly worth one's time going over there and downloading it. If you like it, order a copy for yourself or to give to another bread freak you know. The book is self-published (very nicely typeset, and laid out, I might add... it does not feel amateurish as some self-published books do), so you are unlikely to find a copy in your local bookstore, but you can order it directly from the author's website.