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Solid, approachable book for newbie bread bakers?

shastaflour's picture

Solid, approachable book for newbie bread bakers?

I'd like to put together a gift basket for folks interested in baking bread -- those who haven't yet baked or have done very little of it. Along with some equipment, I thought a book would be appropriate. The trouble is, I can't figure out what book would be best!

It would be wonderful if the book wasn't intimidating, but also had enough depth that they could grow with it for quite some time.

Initially, I thought of Hamelman's Bread, but have heard it's a little deep for rote beginners. The next thought was Emmanuel Hadjiandreau's How to Bake Bread. And of course there are dozens more... (Wish Floyd's handbook was in hard copy.)

Any suggestions? Thank you SO much!

- Marguerite

SteveB's picture

Marguerite, I would highly recommend Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective by Dan DiMuzio.  It covers all the fundamental principles for baking quality bread in an easy-to-understand volume.


breadsong's picture

Hello Marguerite,
I have Mr. Hadjiandreou's book; this book has really good step-by-step photography, and instructions.
(The two breads I have tasted so far from this book have been quite delicious).
There is a review of this book here, and a listing of errata:

Best wishes for your book search!
(also wanted to say, I like your 'daisy-flour' avatar - so perfect for your username and actual name!)
:^) breadsong

ssorllih's picture

One of my favorites is "The Italian Baker" by Carol Field. The only real short coming is that it doesn't introduce baker's percentages.

shastaflour's picture

Loved the website, and thank you for the suggestion!

Glad you got a smile out of the avatar. I had so much fun pushing flour around on the breadboard to make it. Can't resist a pun. :) An old family friend nicknamed me "Shasta" years ago. A daisy by any other name would smell... uh.... Come to think of it, they don't actually smell that nice, do they? LOL.

- Marguerite

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb


As a maybe-no-longer-qualifying-as-a-newbie, let me first suggest that you not get tempted by Tartine Bread.  Beautiful bread, photography, binding, publishing etc.  But not for newbies, despite sincere effort by author and other appearances.  Having been there and done that, I vote for Jeff Hamelman's Bread It has saved my sanity for the past month or twoFormulas work, and there's enough background on the fundamentals and details of bread baking to satisfy your needs well beyond newbiehood.  Yes, it is geared somewhat frustratingly for both pros and home bakers, but we benefit more from that than do the pros who buy it.  One downside is that his home formulae (in the first edition at least) are in lbs/oz and not metric, whereas most of the world and ~all FreshLoafers are metric.  But converting is easy (28 gr/oz).  So that's my suggestion, from satisfied experience.  fwiw, I'm doing my own little 'Hamelman Bread Challenge" this summer, working my way through as many recipies as I can that sound appealing in it.  Not a dud yet in twice weekly bakes, one/week from Chapter 4 (commercial yeast preferments), one from Chapter 5 (natural levains).

Good luck and Happy Baking!


PeterS's picture

and could work nicely for a beginner baker if they are serious about their endeavor. I agree with Tom except for his observation about the measurements. The metric formulas published in the book scale very nicely for the home at 1/10 of the published amounts--no need to convert lb, oz to grams. 

Marguerite, You could give them Bread by Hamelman and your recommendations for a starting recipe--something from TFL or a copy of Lahey's no-knead recipe as published by Bittman in the NY Times.

Yerffej's picture

The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart is a wonderful and accessible book for bakers of any level.


Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

I concur with Jeff's suggestion of Reinhart's BBA primer.  "Accessible" is the operative descriptor here.  It really is.  Whereas Hamelman is a baker's baker, Reinhart is above all else, a teacher.  So it depends on how deeply into the dark arts of ovencraft your recipients are likely to delve.  Hamelman for deep, Reinhart for more shallow but perfectly adequate, accessible and satisfying. 

That being said, BBA is becoming dated in that you'd be hard pressed to find dough development techniques beyond old fashioned kneading such as stretch and fold or french fold in BBA.  From a recent post here, I've learned that PR adopted those in his more recent Artisan Breads Every Day .  I haven't seen it closer than across the bookstore, but might be worth considering for your giftees.



breaducation's picture

I would say Tartine Bread simply because the photography and story is so inspiring. If that book doesn't make someone want to start baking bread I'm not sure what will. Also it seems quite a few people have good success with his formula with relatively little baking experience.

Franko's picture

Jeffrey Hamelman's "Bread" in terms of formula/procedure reliability, and recipe format is the best one I have in my collection. Granted the procedures don't take you step by step through every single recipe, but the author's explanations in the early "Bread Making Process" chapter of the book give a very clear breakdown of all the standard steps needed to produce traditional hand made bread. Based on formula and procedural accuracy alone, I'd recommend this book to a new baker with little hesitation, my only proviso being it needs to be thoroughly read through as you would a text book, progressively. Early success is the key to giving new baker's confidence, reliable formula and procedure being essential to that end.


Nim's picture

When I seriously began baking bread at home (6 years ago), meaning not buying bread at all; I found Laurel's Whole Grain bread very useful. It kept me hooked on it for good and from there I went on to the more artisan books including sourdough baking.

sphealey's picture

Rose Levy Beranbaum's _The Bread Bible_ is always a good choice for beginners in my opinion.


Janetcook's picture

Hi Marguerite,

Another vote for Peter Reinhart's BBA.  His steps are clear and he presents enough variety to get someone started on making really good bread right off the bat.  I have all the other books mentioned above too but still recommend his for beginners.  A nice mix of good breads with info. as to why things are happening the way they are happening in a clear format that isn't too overwhelming for a new baker.

If you have a library close by you might check out the above mentioned books and see which fit for you and the people you will be giving the books too.  My library has saved me a lot of money.

You mentioned 'How To Bake Bread'....that would be a close second.  Really a beautiful book and easy to follow directions with a good array of basic breads too.

Tough choice.  Maybe you can give people which ever book you decide on plus a list of books they might be interested in if they get drawn into baking more seriously  :-)

Have Fun :-)


fatherjay's picture

I'd go for the Bread Baker's Apprentice too.  As a previous poster noted, Peter Reinhart is above all a teacher which makes this book brilliant for the beginner.  Admittedly, I had started baking some months before I got the book (several of my first loaves were from recipes on this very site!) - but Reinhart clarified so much for me.  And I think you can read all the science in part 1 - or not and still understand the recipes.  I'm finding the Bread Bible a bit less user-friendly...

shastaflour's picture

Thanks to each and every one of you kind bakers who responded to my question. I'm so grateful for all the terrific recommendations. It looks like Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice is the hands-down winner, with Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread a close second. Artisan Breads Everyday intrigues me as well because of it's inclusion of newer methods like stretch and fold. And then there's DiMuzio (a pricey one, that!), and Hadjiandreau, and Miss Laurel, and Berenbaum, and....

Aren't we blessed that there is no shortage of good bread books?

I am going to take Janet's wise suggestion and hit the library, where I know they have both Reinhart books as well as Hamelman's. Still intrigued by Hadjiandreau, and will probably have to visit a bookstore to look at that one...and others! The idea about including a "future reading list" is also helpful.

Can you tell that I need to beef up my own library and learning? You may shudder: I have only a wonderful gifted copy of Reinhart's Brother Juniper's Bread Book. (Although I have the faintest memory of an inherited copy of Beard on Bread?? Must look!) All the rest of the recipes and formulas I currently use, and the techniques, came largely from wonderful websites like TFL. So, though this started out as a quest to help others, I think a couple of good books are also called for at home. :) I guess that's how it is when you start out with a bread machine and then realize there's a whole world beyond it that you never knew about!

Thank you again so much for your wonderful suggestions and thoughts. I've pondered every generous one of them. I'll do my best to update when "the book" is decided upon, and also to share what I end up with myself.

:) Marguerite

shastaflour's picture

Hello Helpful TFL Gang,

As promised, the update: I decided to get Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice for the gift basket. Realizing that time was ticking and my local branch didn't any of the many options mentioned, I visited the bookstore. They lacked Hadjiandreau's book and Hamelman's Bread, but did have BBA and Artisan Breads Every Day. BBA seemed to have a gravitational pull. :)

Next I ordered that and three other books (for me) through the interlibrary loan system and picked them up just a few days ago. I started with BBA, and love it! That's not to say that the other suggestions aren't excellent, because they are -- just that I'm really thrilled with the choice. I'll read through the others too, and hopefully add a few new titles to the library around here in time.

Thanks again to everyone for your generous advice! I'll continue to reference this thread in the future. :)

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

I was a little surprised no one said Dan Leader's Bread Alone. Granted, it has its problems, but as a starter for beginners it is pretty approachable. It is only after you're not a beginner anymore that you start to notice its shortcomings. I think the BBA is rather intermediate, and somewhat technical and intimidating for beginners.

sphealey's picture

Dan Leader and _Bread Alone_ are great for the romance of bread and breadmaking, but his formulas are IMHO not so great for beginners.  To me the most important thing for a new breadmaker is to build up confidence, and personally think books such as Rose Levy's provide clearer instructions and more beginner-proof recipes.


joyfulbaker's picture

I started baking artisan loaves with Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking Across America, which hasn't been mentioned before this.  I found it inspiring, beautiful with stories and photos from bakeries all across the country.  It would make a great gift for any baker, even yourself, and Glezer's instructions are meticulous.  What a wonderful gift you've assembled, Margeurite.


Cyberider's picture

Guess I'm a bit late but I would suggest Bernard Clayton Jr.'s Complete Book of Breads.  I've been using this book for decades with great success and it has a huge variety of breads to bake with directions for each recipe by hand, mixer, or processor.  I love all the new bread books but when I can't find what I'm looking for I always return to this one.

shastaflour's picture

All the suggestions are very appreciated (for future use and personal enrichment), and I'm guessing others might stumble across this thread and be grateful, too. :)

heavyhanded's picture

...this is the book I have been using. I've got both BBA and Berenbaum's Bible from the library, but for a rank beginner the Clayton's helped me figure out the other two. I've looked at a few bread books and my next step is BBA. Please note, when I say rank beginner - I mean, yeah, really!



shastaflour's picture

I don't think anyone mentioned Richard Bertinet's Dough. I've read elsewhere that this might also be a good choice for beginners, esp. since it contains a DVD, but can't find one locally to look at. Any thoughts?

Also, apologies for repeatedly misspelling Emmanuel Hadjiandreou's name. You'd think with a first name like mine, I'd pay more attention to those vowels. :)

- Marguerite

ed9762's picture

Hi Marguerite,

You could try my ebook: Easy & Healthy Bread Recipes for Home Bakers ( It's very simple, you don't even need a scale! Since I have converted some of the measurement of the ingredients to tablespoon. If you like, I could give you the ebook for free in HTML format.