Looking for a new bread text book
Yet another "which book?" thread, although I am not so much after being recommended one specific best book, as I am trying to get the feel for what the various books are about.
First off, I have been baking bread for a year or two, sometimes a couple of times a week, sometimes less. After being inspired by a relatively superficial bread book by my current standards, I bought Hahmelman's "Bread". It was just what I wanted, and I have been using it thouroughly for the past six months. Many do not recommend it as a beginner's book, but for me, it was spot on. I am scientific in my mindset, and enjoy technical bread discussions as well as practical.
To be honest, the main thing I need is not a new book, but more practice :). That's being said, I am still looking for one or several new books on bread. I am looking for a text book, not a pure recipe book. The following are the things I am looking for:
- New perspectives. I thoroughly enjoy Hamelman, but every baker has their own techniques and approach, and I would like to broaden my perspectives with a book from another author. I do not want an introductory book. Reinhart's BBA seems to be recommended often as a very good book for beginners, and I wonder whether it will be somewhat redundant when it comes to the baking basics, seeing as I already own "Bread". The same goes for RLB's bread bible. I'm not implying that there's nothing there for me to learn, but maybe another book would be better in this respect. DiMuzio's book appears to be of the same format as "Bread", and could be a nice book in the same category. Reinhart's cold retardation in ABED seems interesting to me, and may be a fine addition to my repertoir, especially considering my time constraints, which lead me to...
- Time-saving techniques. More often than not, it can be hard to dedicate many consecutive hours to baking. Preferments and retardation, which allow me to spread the work load, and be flexible (for example dumping the dough in the refridgerator if something unexpected comes up) help with this. "artisan bread in five minutes a day" has given me mixed feelings, as I often read that it is a little dumbed down.
- Anecdotes, history, exotic breads. I have a hard time using pure recipe books, because I seldom get inspired just by looking at a list of ingredients. I enjoy reading a little anectode for each bread, or at least a note from the author of what to expect from it. "Bread" has numerous varied and good recipes, but a book devoted to somewhat unusual breads could be inspiring. Dan Leader's "local bread" seems interesting due to the variety of recipes and the stories, but ITJB or "secrets of the jewish baker" are probably candidates as well.
Given my level of competence and wishes, my candidates so far are DiMuzio's "bread baking" and/or Reinhart's "artisan bread every day" for the new perspectives and techniques. I think both make a point of trying to save labor time. Is this correct? For the inspiration, good read, and different breads, Leader's "local bread" looks good, except for the editing, I hear. What are your thoughts on my thoughts?
PS. I loathe volume and imperial units, and would not buy a book if it did not include metric or at least baker's percentages.
I started off with Reinhart's BBA, and I do recommend it, even as a second book. It includes many, many anecdotes, but more important, it is well written and consistent. One of the things I like best about it is that once you've read the text (which is about half of the book's volume), you should almost completely understand the recipes. For instance, the expected consistency of the dough is always mentioned. As well, many variations are mentioned and encouraged. The number of days/hours preparation time is listed for each recipe, as well as bakers' percentages, and weights are always included. Unfortunately, the units are Imperial, so I generally have to pencil in the metric equivalents. Once I'm through doing all the recipes that interest me there, I'll be looking for my next bread "textbook". I was considering Hammelman's Bread as well RLB's the Bread Bible. From what I understood, each author has a different approach (even to similar recipes). ITJB also sounds interesting. I, too, am also looking for something different to expand my horizons. I'm interested in both commercial yeast as well as sourdough breads. Formulae for managing preparation time is also something I value.
When I was searching for books to add to my baking repertoire, I looked for the top candidates at the public library. Thank goodness for inter-library loan! Over the course of 3 weeks (standard loan time here) I could bake several loaves of bread out of the book and get a sense if the author's techniques and recipes suited what I was looking for.
I did exactly that with Tartine...great breads only I couldn't quite get into Robertson's instructions and the flow of kneading and shaping his way. So the book went back, no harm done. Maybe when I get more experience it will be a good book for me, in which case I can borrow it again and revisit my decision.
I also did this with Glezer's Artisan Baking...a paperbound copy is now sitting on my shelf and Essential's Columbia is one of my favs. Knowing which books were perfect for me, I could time my purchases to sales and coupons at the bookstore (more $ to spend on baking toys).
Related note: have you considered Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads? Much of the prep--starter or biga, and soaker--are done the night before and he gives much flexibility in timing. I haven't made too many loaves out of the book but they all have worked perfectly. And true to Reinhart fashion, he gives back story and clear explanations of each bread.
Now if it wasn't so dang humid here and if I didn't have a freezer full of Leader's Ricotta Bread, I might just be baking!
andreab, now that I reread your post I'm a little clearer on what you are looking for. Seems like you would like to focus on professional technique rather than a particular genre of recipes. Do I understand that correctly?
I guess I was a little thrown off when you mentioned looking for time-saving techniques. I haven't taken a close look at Michael Suas's AB&P (heck, it weighs more than I do) but such a professional textbook may give you a professional's perspective on shortcuts that maximize quality of the finished product. But it is also focused on formulas...because that's what a training professonal baker needs.
History/anecdotes/backstory on breads: despite it's flaws, Leader's Local Breads makes for entertaining reading and a very personal feel for the origins of the breads. I have baked throughout the book and have had success using the metric measurements (imperial measurements are where most of the errors occur). Other posters on this site have been absolute heros to me by pointing out the errors, which I have duly corrected in my copy.
I mentioned Reinhart's WGB because you referred to wanting time-saving techniques. It is, primarily, a book of recipes...less formulas but more info on incorporating whole grains into breads and making whole-grain versions of familiar breads (there's a WW Challah which is lovely). Reinhart also offers options for gradually increasing whole grains in the recipes--100% rye isn't for everyone but 40% rye might be a good place to start. In this book Reinhart does a nice job of breaking down the steps of each recipe to enable a working person to put a high-quality bread on the table by doing a little bit each day. Biga and soaker can be held in the fridge for up to 3 days...if your life is anything like mine, a mini-crisis can occur any moment, meaning bread baking needs to be held off for a day or two. But this is strictly for the person who wants to increase use of WW, rye, and other grains in their breads.
ABED--I don't have the book but was given the recipe for the basic white loaf. It's ok--it's my "emergency bread" should we run out of bread mid-week, and it makes a pretty good pizza. But after 5 years of sourdough and preferments, I find the resulting bread rather mild with minimal wheat flavor. Meh. And I guess I'm into the whole kneading thing.
After all that--I'm not sure that one single book will meet all your needs. But that's part of the fun of baking--finding books, reading, and learning more about this craft.
for its emphasis on history and a personal feel for both the baker and the bread. I don't get much of a vibe re: Glezer herself--the book is written as if she's a journalist rather than a baker. Definitely NOT a textbook, but an interesting perspective on aspects of bread baking with each chapter illustrating the style of a baker and his/her bakery: small vs. large, rural vs. urban, straight dough vs. sourdough, daily bread vs. specialty bread. What I've made has been successful but some of the breads are esoteric (e.g., pear bread). It's not a must-have but it is an enjoyable read--think "Local Breads, American Style."
BTW, I absolutely refuse to consider any bread book that uses only volume measurement--for me it's weight or forget it, with metric being preferable. That being said, I would be delighted if someone revised Clayton's NCBB to include weight measurements.
but some of us are not in N. America or in places where English-language books are readily available.
What about a local Ebay site or an imitator? I found a not quite new copy of Clayton's "Breads of France" on Ebay for about $12 after shipping and handling. A few days later, used copies were going in the $50-60 range. Patience is required if you use Ebay but there are some opportunities for books at the right price.
@Meir: I note that you recommend BBA even as a second book. I am trying to figure out how this compares to Artisan bread every day by the same author. Seems BBA is a more complete approach, while ABED is more brief. As I mentioned earlier, Hamelman's Bread is so comprehensive, so I don't mind a more concise second book. I will probably get one of Reinhart's books either way. I can wholeheartedly recommend Hamelman's Bread; it has everything from the history of bread and leavening, to grains and milling, the mechanisms and chemistry in the dough,mixing and fermentation, and a good section on shaping various loaves, including good drawings. The selection of formulas are varied, and include breads from the light french bread to the classic german ryes, bagels,croissants and more, yeasted and sourdough alike. He included a large section on braiding and making decorative breads not for consumption which is largely uninteresting to me, but that doesn't ruin anything of the book. It's a very complete book, and while some say it's not good for beginners, I'd say that it's good for anyone who is quite interested.
I would recommend BBA as a first book, but I'm not sure as a second one for you. The ABED sounds like it will add an additional dimension over BBA in terms of time management, plus it was written several years later. Reinhart himself writes that he keeps improving recipes for the same type of bread from book to book, so that is also a plus. I assume you know you can "search inside" these books on Amazon and read the first few pages; if you haven't done so, I highly recommend it. I'd be interested in what you finally go for. Thanks in advance,
@Windischgirl: thanks for the library tip, but I as Meir do not reside in North America, and such books are not easily available in my libraries. Reinhart's whole grain breads maybe a good option. Does it delve into how to specifically get taste from, and to treat, whole grainbreads, or is it more of amcollection of formulas? The latter I don't really need, while the former is of interest.
Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach by Michel Suas reads like the textbook that it is. Some history but no RLB-level anecdotes or opinions. Metric and Baker's Percentage throughout, minimal Imperial. The text parallels the San Francisco Baking Institute's 18-week professional course and is divided roughly equally into breads, pastries, and chocolates and is priced like a textbook even on Amazon but available for $25 less at SFBI.com. The latter website also has many free resources including video, recipes, articles and the schedule of courses offered to home bakers and professionals alike: 5-day courses and weekend courses are limited to 16 student and fill early. Having taken two of the 5-day courses I can recommend them without reservation. Located in South San Francisco (separate city) just north of SFO, SFBI draws students from around the world; my class classmates included folks from the East Coast, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Puerto Rico and Thailand.
Ditto the comments from Zoologuy. Even better, take Artisanal I and get Michel to sign it for you! (Accomplish two things at once!)
Another really good "text" is Emily Buehler's Bread Science. Technically not a text book but it will educate you on what is going on. You can buy it direct from Emily at http://www.twobluebooks.com/.
Thanks for the link to Emily Buehle's Bread Science. Judging from the previews on her website I believe she well justifies the "science" in the title. It is a pleasure to read her explanations of biochemical events and processes without use of muddy metaphors that cause me to doubt the depth of understanding of some other authors. In my view Ms. Buehle joins Hamelman and Suas as masters of theory and practice.
Some suggestions deserve to have folks chime in. This is one. It is a serious book for serious craftspeople. You can subscribe to their videos if you need to have the visuals...
Mr Hamelman's book, this one, and one more (see below). That's all I own and if I think about each as profoundly as I should - probably all I will need for the rest of my life...
Don't bother with anything else. It's the text on the subject. Every recipe I've baked is spot on and the explanations are comprehensive. Not too mention that bread is about 10% of what the book covers. Want 10 different croissant recipes? It's got 'em. I'm afraid I'm going to get into the cookie chapter this winter when life on the farm slows down.
Bread Science is deficient as a science book because it has no discussion of damaged starch. However, it's good for shaping.
A couple of additional thougthts on AB&P seem appropriate.
RE: Timesaving. AB&P is very much about getting the highest quality bread (and pastry) from a practical perspective in a time efficient manner. This focus is because SFBI and the text is oriented to professional bakers (though lots of amateurs take the classes). A good example is their improved mix approach to mixing baguettes which yields baguettes that are FAR superiof to the intensive mix routinely used commercially [which makes bulletproof dough and insipid bread]) and is very close to the quality of a hand mix.
RE: Anecdotes. AB&P is long on detailed discussions but anecdotes are NOT part of the formula. Topics are discussed in detail along with techniques. But the recipes are mostly lists of ingredients and steps (for the techniques are discusses separately).
I appreciate your difficulty in looking at a formula and envisioning a bread, but one of the benefits of experience is that one learns the ingreidents and implications of factors such as hydration to envision the end result. While I often use formulas I am also very likely to decide, "I need to work off the remnants of that bag of spelt/rye/barley/kamut/etc." and simply invent a formula based on what I have on hand and what I want to get rid of. I find these breads as rewarding and often more interesting than recipes.
As others have suggested Leader's books are pretty good for stories. I don't have DiMuzio. Glazer is IMO okay but she doesn't push my buttons. I have Barenbaum's Bread Bible on my "Acquire list". From my perspective Reinhart's books are focused very specifically (and increasingly) on getting max flavor from minimal effort - which implies a compromise. While Reinhart's basic logic is very useful I think I would agree ABED is overly simplified and arguably carries the compromise too far toward minimal effort. I personally found his Bread Baker's Apprentice and Whole Grains books most useful.
Hope that is useful!
I would buy Calvel's book Le Gout du Pain, translated by Wirtz and MacGuire as "The Taste of Bread"
I heartily second this suggestion. Calvel has an amazing depth of knowledge. I own it in French (which is somewhat more economical if you are proficient in French) and understand that there were some additions and editing done during the translation - but it is all around excellent...
Calvel was certainly an authority, but 'The Taste of Bread' is ridiculously expensive and, for the price, I think the book is a bit patchy. Judging by the way it's written (in the third person), I think it's a reinterpretation of the original rather than a faithful translation. Definitely one to check out if you can get it on loan, though.
I have been checking books out from the library so am familiar with many of the books mentioned on that level. I love Hamelman's book, because once you understand the science and the formulas, it's just easier to work that way. So my intention is to purchase that book.
And I totally understand the oddity of that being one's first book as I am that way as well. I learned how to bake bread from my mom and for years have used Bernard Clayton's works to add variety to my repetoire.
As for a second book, I'm thinking RLB's Bread Bible. Her book is more down to earth, but the thing I like about her book that I haven't found so much in Hamelman's is that she tells you how much of various ingredients you can add as a percentage by weight of the total flour (aka using bakers math). She also is quite thorough with reviewing basic types of equipment - hers is the first book I've seen that mentions the Bosch and discusses its pros and cons along with the pros and cons of other common mixers. With information like that in the general sections, I feel far more confident in doing my own experiment rather than just having another book with a different set of formulas to follow. Hamelman gives interesting commentary on each recipe but it is more of a collection of formulas than RLB's Bread Bible. So I am pretty sure I will be purching this one as well.
As for Peter Reinhart, I've checked out a number of his books from the library and have yet to feel the love. I even own ABED and in it he seems to zone in on one technique - mixing the dough and then refrigerting it, in this case - and then all of the recipes follow the same formula with a little tweaking of the mixing times and ingredient amounts (bakers formulas are included but found in an appendix in the back). To me, that is not a launchpad for creativity but rather just another list of formulas to try, like Bernard Clayton or Aritsan Bread in 5-Minutes or Betty Crocker. I've checked out Whole Grain Breads and The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and I just can't fall in love with Reinhart. If you like Reinharts favorite methods, you'll like Reinhart.
Now, personally, I love Tartine Bread. But that is the same type of love that some have for Reinhart. I love that there is no kneading, I love that he starts with the 100% hydration of starter that I like, I love that he talks about making the recipe your own. I love Tartine Bread. Reinhart likes a 67% hydration starter (when he bothers to use it) and I don't like that (for taste and ease of use) so I have to translate all of his recipes to make them as I like them. I love Robertson's way of making the dough - it fits with my schedule, it gets good results, I feel like I am a part of the process (rather than a equipment operator as I feel when I use my Bosch). But I don't expect everyone to love Tartine Bread any more than I love Reinhart.
Some authors seem to have a favorite method - a sponge, a 67% hydration starter, overnight refrigeration, only spending 5 minutes a day, or whatever - and then have a book full of recipes like that. I would put Reinhart and Robertson and many others in that category. RLB's Bread Bible and Hamelman seem to have more variety in their approaches so they are an all-round good reference regardless of your personal preferences as a baker. So that is why those two will probably be in my very limited personal library.
One man's (fervently held) opinion: I define a text book as a book written for the express purpose of serving as a foundation for teaching a course of study. I don't think that Reinhardt's BBA book, however good it is (and it IS quite good), is a text; it's an educative cook book. Of the books recommended above, only Hamelman's is a text, by my definition. I have and use it, but I'd never recommend it to a beginner. It's far too dense. I recommend a beginner's text such as DiMuzio's Bread Baking. It's relatively inexpensive new, yet it can be purchased used fairly easily. I like it because it takes the student on a journey teaching about the general topics of bread baking from the very start to a well-accomplished end, especially if the student does all the graded exercises he proposes.
I know there are other texts. I've used this one. I like it because it gives a good foundation from which one can move out to other recipes knowing what one is doing and why. Used copies turn up at Alibris and Powells Books for less than $20.
@meir: OK. I was somewhat surprised when I thought you recommended BBA for me, now it makes more sense.
@windischgirl: yes, primarily better techniques rather than a specific genre of breads, although the latter could be interesting. Based on your comments, Leader’s book is winning my heart, while Reinhart’s WGB seems less interesting to me. I can enjoy an airy chiabatta just as much as a German pumpernickel – they’re both great in their own way. I don’t feel the need to include more whole grains in my breads; rather, I’ll make a whole grain bread on its own terms, if you understand what I mean? There are many different breads, and I don’t think white wheat bread is necessarily the default from which other breads can be evolved. I'm still open to the thought of making some familiar breads with WW, but it's no goal for me. And yes, I understand completely your "mini crisis" at the house.
@Zoologyu, longhorn, proth5, tn gabe: From your unanimous voting, AB&P seems to be the definitive text when it comes to, well, advanced bread and pastry. To be honest, as I mentioned earlier, my experience is really lagging behind my theoretical knowledge. This is why I am hesitant towards investing in said book now, but your comments have made me consider it. A guy like me can probably not have too many books after all.
@longhorn/Jay: thanks for your input addressing my points specifically. I should clarify what I mean by “looking at a formula and envisioning the bread”. I feel that I have a fair grasp of what can go into a dough in order to produce a decent bread. As you, I also sometimes throw together a dough based on leftover ingredients or the mood of the day. Actually this is mostly what I did during the first part of my baking career. I undoubtedly have much to learn here, and as you say, with experience, I’ll probably get better at envisioning the final result. While this is one aspect of inspiration, another is for me the history of the bread, its origin, some praise, etc. That’s part of why I frequent TFL, because so many people report about their breads. I often see the front page and think “yum, I want to make that!”. Again, thanks for your thoughts.
As for the suggestion of Le Gout du Pain, although I have seen it being mentioned on the forums, it doesn’t seem to be of the more popular books. Probably because it’s in French?
@pageta: Interesting reply. Along those lines of thought, I would likely enjoy RLB’s Bread Bible the most, seeing as you describe it as having a more varied approach than some of the alternatives. Although I am interested in things like Reinhart’s cold retardation, if it’s basically “put the dough in the fridge”, I’m probably able to to it without reading the book (partly joking here).
@richkaimd: Perhaps I was a little sloppy with my wording. Regardless of the definition of a text book (and I can surely adapt yours for the purposes of this discussion), I meant “text book” as opposed to “recipe book” or “collection of formulas” – that’s all. That said, your recommendation confuses me. I mentioned that Hamelman’s “Bread” was spot on for me, but that I was looking for some new input. You write that it is too dense for a beginner, and recommend DiMuzio’s instead. For me, it seems like a step down from Hamelman. Were you recommending Dimuzio’s for me or for a beginner? I’m not a beginner, but I’m not saying that Dimuzio’s won’t be a good read.
Thanks again for all the recommendations and thorough replies. Based on all the feedback, it seems that some of the books that I originally considered are perhaps not what I am looking for, while others have entered. I have yet to order, but I think Leader's "Local Breads" is on the top, perhaps just as much for the read as for the bread. RLB's Bread Bible and Suaz's Advanced Bread and Pastry are fighing for a second place, but they seem to be quite different books. Perhaps I'll have to include them all :)