The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Need a Sourdough book recommendation

butterflyblue's picture

Need a Sourdough book recommendation

I have Christmas money in the form of a Barnes & Noble gift card. I'm thinking I need a book on sourdough baking. I
figure you all could give me some suggestions.

I'm not as into Artisan baking as I am sandwich bread. I'm not likely to buy anything that focuses entirely on artisan bread. I would also like a few quick bread recipes, pancakes, that kind of thing.

Appleseeed's picture

I really like the Peter Reinhart method of sourdough in The Bread Baker's Apprentice. The only bread books I own are BBA and The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranaum. Peter Reinhart is very clear, simple, and effective in his sourdough techniques, in my humble opinion.

Nickisafoodie's picture

making plain white sourdough is easy, and a google search or using the search box in the upper left corner will show hundreds of recipes.  The part that warrants more attention is how to maintain a starter.  Suggest putting your effort into learning about how a culture works, how to feed, etc...  All of which is available on this site under tutorials. or using the search box under "starter" or "sourdough" . 

Re books, in addition to Rhinehart's, try "Bread" by Hammelman - good chapters on sourdough, cultures and more - in addition to  the artisan stuff you don't want now but may down the road...  Switching from yeast to a poolish/sourdough culture was the best thing I ever did - for all of the breads I now make.  Happy baking!

butterflyblue's picture

Yeah, I've got recipes for some basic breads already. I'm looking to branch out a little, but not get overly fussy with the steam, etc.

I want something with a little more of the science of the culture, the whys and the how to's - I get most of my information now from the internet, one way or another, but the problem with the internet is that everything is scattered around, not to mention the million different conflicting versions of how things work/how they should be done.  I would like something cohesive, comprehensive, and in one place.  Plus recipes, also in one place, to be perused at leisure. :)


clazar123's picture

Natural levain (sourdough) is just a form of yeast. It doesn't necessarily flavor a loaf of bread as sour but that is dependent on how the starter was maintained-some make a sour,sour bread and some make normal tasting bread with no tang whatsoever.(like mine).  Nickisafoodie is abosolutely right-maintaining a starter is key and is where the real learning curve is when it comes to "sourdough" bread.

Because there is not enough time in a day, I often use a combination of natural levain and a small amount of commercial yeast to make the rise time a little faster. A sandwich bread is usually at least a little enriched with milk,fat or eggs to soften the crumb but it is technique more than anything that is important in developing a good flavor and soft,flexible crumb.

Have fun!


timko's picture


Ive been using Chad Robertsons excellent Tartine Bread for a while - and comparing it with others on my shelf as I bake and reconsider. 

I have found the descriptons of the techniques used, what to expect and explanations of how to modify to your own taste extremely clear and delightful to read and re read. The basic country loaf may becom a staple in your house; it certainly has in mine.

all the best




marcoleavitt's picture

I just bought "The Bread Baker's Apprentice," and as much as I like it, I was disappointed to see how little information there is on sourdough. I'd really like to find a book on sourdough that is as definitive on the topic as TBBA. There sure is a lot of great information on these boards, but as with any site like this, it's difficult to research and there is always a lot of contradictory and anecdotal information. I'm not dismissing the value of all those posts as a resource, but I'd really like to find a book I can turn to and know that is "The Bible" on sourdough.

dwhitener's picture

I have BBA, and Hamelman's Bread - both excellent books and great references for all facets of bread baking in general.  However, I agree with one of the previous posters... both are a bit light on sourdough and levains in general.  The topics can't consume more than 10% of either book.  

I'd suggest you go take a look at Daniel Leader's "Local Breads" (link below).  It is almost 100% sourdough recipes and information.  Not only that, I loved his writing and descriptions of European bakeries.  It's a lesser-known book than the others, but I often pull it out to reference some of his recipes or his multiple different types of sourdough starters and all the info he has packed into that book about them.

butterflyblue's picture

I had looked at "Local Bread" and considered it, but a high proportion of the reviews complain that the recipes are not accurate. What has your experience been in that regard?

baybakin's picture

I own and use the Local Breads book quite a bit, and in my experience most of the incorrect portions are if you follow the volumetric or "lb + oz" versions of the recipies, with the ones in grams nearly entirely correct.  There is also an erra sheet floating around for this book, and quite the thread on it here.  Personally I've never had an issue with the formulas, but then, I always work off the grams side of the formula.

dwhitener's picture

I know the book has quite the reputation for typos and mistakes, but honestly they haven't bothered me all that much.  Just FYI, the corrections sheet I have found is here:

That list of corrections includes an email... I'm sure you could try contacting them to see if that is the most updated list of errors out there.

I second what baybakin said... look at the all the measurements of a recipe, and verify the math.  I do this for any recipe I get -- from the internet or even from the amazing Hamelman.  Double check the baker's math with whatever you prefer to weigh in (volume, US ounces, or metric grams).  Each recipe has a nice big table that lays out each recipe and make this easy to do.  I have found a few minor mathematical errors, but they seemed obvious to me and didn't affect any bread I ever baked from the book.

I would also like to point out that this book, for me, is not competing with BBA or Bread from Hamelman.  Both of those two books are almost textbooks (ok Bread qualifies as such!).  They attempt to teach you baking from start to finish... everything from baker's math to yeasted breads, a little sourdough, and everything in between and even a few muffins.  Leader's Local Breads is nothing like that.  He wrote the book with the clear intention of taking the reader on a tour of his favorite European bakeries, and telling you about their methods and the sourdough breads they specialize in.  He won't be teaching you bakers math, and you won't find any muffin recipes.  If you decide next week you're tired of all the sourdough, you'll probably never open this book again.  That's not the case for BBA and Bread... they attempt to be good at everything.  Leader put all his energy into European sourdough breads in this book, and he did a great job.

I should also point out there is more "reading" in this book than some others like BBA or Bread.  In each new region/city he features, there are a few pages describing their flours, their bakeries, and the breads unique to that region.  I really come away with a feeling of knowing that region's bread and when I imagine them, I see them all distinctly different after having read his descriptions.   So it's more than just recipe after recipe... it's a European tour.

I found this book while on vacation in a random bookstore.  I saw it on the shelves in the bread section and started flipping through it, never having heard of it before.  It was beautiful and I knew within minutes I had to have it.  Hopefully you can find a bookstore near you to flip through it for yourself so you can compare it to the others you're considering.  To sum it up, Local Breads is not a replacement or even competition for BBA or Hamelman's Bread.  In my mind, it lives in a different, more focused category than either of those two.  

All three are wonderful books and I wouldn't give up any of them.  Local Breads should be a part of any serious home baker's collection.  Maybe not the first reference they use to learn about sourdoughs, but definitely a great book for the advanced baker.

rossnroller's picture

I've got a shelf full of bread books, and there are some great ones among them, including those mentioned here. If I had to select just one, it would be Hamelman's Bread. You know what, though? I have learnt more on this forum than from reading any bread book. Further, most of my favourite recipes have been provided by people here, and in time I've developed my own. That said, Hamelman has some fantastic recipes; you'll never be short of something delicious to bake if you have his book. Just bear in mind that you may come to share my view, and that of many others, that TFL is the best resource of all.


plevee's picture

TFL rocks!

Nickisafoodie's picture

Local Bread - the chapters on German and Czech ryes are indispensable (given sourdough foundation), plus lots of good info on natural cultures, how they are maintained, how sour is regulated via hydration, time and temperature, plus interesting cultural anecdotes.  So if I had only two, it would be this book and Bread by Hamelmann...

butterflyblue's picture

Thanks everyone for the suggestions!  I've pretty much decided, I think, to get the Bread Baker's Apprentice.  I think I will get more use out of it, long term.  Also I think I'll get the Tassajara Bread Book, which of course no one mentioned here, although it does have a short section on sourdough, if I remember right.  I used to bake more with whole grains and would like to get back to it (and better at it).  Despite an assumption made above, sandwich bread does not have to be white bread, and mine often isn't. :)

Rocketcaver's picture

Classic Sourdoughs by Ed Wood is my favorite.  It is about sourdough exclusively.