The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Looking for some advice on next book

dawkins's picture

Looking for some advice on next book

First of all, hello all - I finally decided to stop lurking and start posting, having enjoyed reading all your tips and advice for a while.

I wonder if you kind people could give me some advice on my next bread book to buy, please. I've been putting my Christmas wish list together, and had narrowed my choice down to Secrets of A Jewish Baker by Greenstein, with How to Bake Bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou as a close second. However, reading the reviews on Amazon and a few comments on here have put me off the Greenstein title a little, due to the seemingly vague directions about how much flour is needed (as in say, 2-4 cups).

To give you some context, I already have Laurel's Kitchen Bread book, Bread Matters and Artisan Baking by Gleezer. I rarely use the latter, as it's seemed too complex for me in the past, but I've started looking at it again as I feel up to improving my skills a bit now. I dabble with sourdough, but am hardly competent with it; generally bake wholegrain but am not averse to unusual white breads and am looking for breads, not cakes etc. I love German and Scandinavian bread. Oh, and I'm in the UK, in case that has any bearing.

Any comments would be great, many thanks!

richkaimd's picture

Regular readers will have heard this before from me:  consider the difference between a bread cookbook and a textbook.  The former is a list of recipes with an order determined by the author.  It sometimes includes instruction in this or that about the making of breads.  A text book is specifically intended to teach a subject from the ground up, more often than not giving the reader enough general and specific knowledge to allow him/her to make educated guesses about things which cookbook readers cannot come to answers about.  I recommend a text book if you've never owned or studied bread making from one.  If you think of yourself as closer to being a beginner, get DiMuzio's Bread Baking.  A new copy doesn't cost more than $22 at Alibris.  If you are a serious home baker and want to struggle through the intense experience of a serious tome with EVERYTHING in it about bread making, try Hamelman's masterful book (whose name I cannot remember right this second.)  Beyond that are books like the CIA's text on bread and pastry.   If you're in the mood, these books will make you feel more grounded in bread baking than ever before. 

flournwater's picture

I certainly endorse richkaimd's suggestions.  The only thing I'd add (like rick ... I have a standard recommendation for questions like this) take a look at Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice".  IMO, it's broad in scope and comprehensive in detail.  If I had only three books in my bread library, they would be Reinhart's BBA, and Dan DiMuzio's "Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective", and the Ginsberg/Berg "Inside the Jewish Bakery"


foodslut's picture

It's helped me think more about the process and how I develop formulas.  While it is a textbook, it's quite an accessible one for a beginner or someone with a bit of experience.

Let us know what you decide, and good luck!

jcking's picture

Looking at the users profile, no thermo ~ cute but inaccurate non-digital scale, I think money would be better spent on a good scale and a good thermo.

Just my 2¢, Jim

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

scale and thermometer! how close are you to a decent library? or really any library? if they dont have the exact book you want, they can probably get it. check out everythong you can find and then buy the one (or probably more like ones) you like.

in the meantime, weighing ingredients and having consistent temps will make a bigger difference in your baking than any recipe can!


dawkins's picture

Sorry, I do have a set of scales that I use, they're just not digital - that's all I meant by putting 'inaccurate' about them - sorry for any confusion. The oven has a built in temp setting, but it sounds like I should definitely get an oven thermometer to check it, so thank you for the advice. Good tip about the library, but although our local library (which has survived the cuts, thank goodness) is pretty good, they don't tend to carry American cookery books so often. I've just got Hadjiandreou's title reserved from another branch after your suggestion, but need to wait for some other baking fan to return it first! The other books mentioned aren't in circulation here, more's the pity.

Chuck's picture

...scales ... they're just not digital - ... 'inaccurate' ...

If you have a "feel" for the dough so you can make small adjustments as necessary, it doesn't matter at all.

But if you're just learning and need to measure pretty accurately to get the recipe right, it depends on what size batch you're making. Small inaccuracies are probably okay for a couple large loaves at a time.

But they didn't work for me making only one 300 gram loaf at a time. Back then I was using a spring scale that had a small error of something like plus/minus ten grams, even when I was careful to always bump and settle the scale and read it straight on (it would have been a lot worse otherwise). I had all kinds of problems, backed down to making the exact same recipe over and over, and found I couldn't repeat anything. I eventually did the math, and realized at my very small batch size that small scale error was causing my hydration levels to vary wildly. I replaced that scale with a more accurate (happened to be digital) one, and my problems went away.

Now I could adjust a recipe as needed, and it wouldn't matter any more. But for just starting out it was an awful experience.

dawkins's picture

I hadn't heard of the DiMuzio book but that looks great - and affordable for a Christmas present too. I like your comment about the difference between cookbooks and textbooks, richkaimd - think it's time for me to get into the whys and wherefores, so thanks for the tip.

You're right about the equipment, Jim: I'm getting there slowly!

Thanks, all.

rolls's picture

its so hard to narrow it down to just one isn't ;) i have too many cook/bread books as is, and now you all have me thinking of the DiMuzio book.....

flournwater's picture

I didn't need to buy "Inside the Jewish Baker".  I worked with the team that tested a lot of the recipes for heaven's sake; so I have all of those I tested.  Nevertheless, I added it to my library and I'm so glad that I did.  The cultural background alone was worth the price.  A woodworker can never have too many clamps.  A bread baker can never had too many bread books.  It's a vortex ..... and I love getting dizzy.

Doeyo's picture

Hi all, I'm new to the site too.   Live in Vernon Hills, Illinois (about 25 miles north of Chicago).    I may be old fashioned or just older than a lot of you, but I learned bread baking from the Bernard Clayton books.   It's now 40 years from buying them but I still use them all the time.   His recipes have never failed me, never.    They are all still in print too--always a good sign.