The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Beranbaum vs Hamelman

Jezella's picture

Beranbaum vs Hamelman

I'm new to bread baking and to this point have only produced basic loaves. I find baking to be most enjoyable but do lack the knowledge required, to improve what I make. I have read a fair amount on TFL and learnt some and thanks is given.

I am interested as a home baker in some of the science behind the subject and as such, considered the following two books Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes which vs The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

I have also considered The Bread Baker's Apprentice where I am put off by the style of writing as I consider it to be much about the author. This is not to say the book is poor as I am unable to judge.

In the case of Rose Beranbaun, I am aware that many criticise her for being extremely precise and perhaps over wordy. In the case of The Bread Bible, unfortunately, amazon does not have a view inside. This being the problem, to get some idea of her writing style I have looked at some of her other books we a view inside is available and feel from this, that perhaps I would be happy with her writing. Having said this, I remain with the thought that the science is most important and have little idea as to the coverage of such in her bread book. Thoughts on this would be appreciated.

In the case of Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes I have ascertained that good coverage is provided on the affects of sugar, salt, yeast, milk and so on. Is good coverage of similar and more provide in the Bread Bible. I think I'm happy with the style of writing here also but unfortunately, Amazon does not show any recipes so have little idea as to how these are presented. Baker percentages I'm happy with as is the case with grams. I do not like cups alone though. Cups are too variable.

Basically, I'm looking for a book that has a good degree of coverage with a variety of recipes that would help the new comer to achieve good results and therefore encourager the new bread maker to experiment further. One futher point is that I would like to work by hand more than machine as I feel this would be very beneficial. Thoughts on The Bread Bible appreciated in this respect.

Why would you DISMISS either of the two mentioned books. Thanks for the input.

PS. I hear that there are mistakes in the Bread Bible. Are these as many as some make out and are they of detriment.

winstonsmith's picture

Im not familiar with The Bread Bible, but I have Hamelman's work. It's been suggested that it's not for the novice, however I'm not one with years of baking experience. I've been doing this seriously for not much more than half a year, but I have an interest in the "nuts and bolts" of bread, and a scientific and technical background. I love Hamelman's book. 

yy's picture

The "Book Reviews" page (link at the top of this web page) contains reviews of Reinhart's and Hamelman's books. If you use the search bar on the left, you'll find a lot of discussions about Beranbaum's book as well.


FlourChild's picture

I have baked extensively from both of these books, and like both, but for different reasons.  It might be worthwhile to start with the Bread Bible (BB) and then move on to Bread, as the BB is geared more towards the home baker and has enough detail that you don't have to worry about the recipe assuming that you have certain skills or details already under your belt.  Bread is a more advanced level book, geared towards the professional or ambitious home baker.  I don't think Bread has explicit instructions for hand kneading, so you would need to be able to judge for yourself when the structure of a dough has developed to the proper degree.  Both books have valuable, informative sections on the general method and science of bread baking; Bread is a little more advanced in this respect. 

The recipe selection varies a bit- BB has more commercial yeast recipes, though the short section on sourdough does give instructions for converting the book's commerical yeast recipes to sourdough.  Bread has more rye and sourdough recipes (both of which I consider to be advanced level recipes).  Beranbaum's book also has a section on quickbreads/muffins, etc. (baking powder rather than yeast).

Finally, both books have some mistakes, as does nearly any published book.  There are errata available for both, so be sure to find them and make notes in your copy of the book.  

You could request them both from your local library, try a few recipes, and then decide which fits your current needs.

pmiker's picture

I have both the new Bread book by Hamelman and The Bread Bible by Berenbaum.  Of the two, for a beginner, I would recommend Hamelman.  His recipes just seem easier for the home baker.  Rosenbaum can be difficult to get things to work just write.  More precision seems to be involved.  I'm not sure how else to describe it.  I had a lot of trouble in the beginning getting her recipes to work.  My fault not hers but it was way to complex for where I was at.

BTW, I also recommend Peter Reinhart books such as the BBA (Bread Baker's Apprentice) and Bread Science by Emily Buehler is you want to know the science part.  The book reviews suggestion is a great idea.

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

from the public library.  My local library offers many popular books on bread, and I love to check them out on occasion and bake from them.  I now own both of the books you ask about, and when I was just a beginner I had my best luck with The Bread Bible.  Once I got some experience I found Hammelman much more approachable than I did early on.  From the comments above, we are all just the same in this as in so many other ways:  we vary!  Both books are an excellent investment, and I still bake from them both.

Best of luck

Jezella's picture

Hi winstonsmith and thank for the input. I do fear perhaps just a bit that Hamelman's book maybe a bit OTT for me. Having said this, I'm happy to learn the ins and outs. YY, I've visited the book review section and am impressed with both books. Amazon users also rate both highly. In this instance I'm between the two books and need a little shove in one direction or other.

FlourChild (love the name). This was most helpful as you are able to comment on both books as you have each. Given what you say, I heading towards TBB due to the points you mention. It's just a pity that Amazon does not have a view book page here and I wonder why. In the case of Rose, I feel that she really does feel very passionate about helping the user in every step and this to my mind is what some consider as excessive control. No bad in my view as the reader should then have less questions. As for the library, no luck there on any of the big names in bread baking in my county.

Pmiker, again the input is appreciated here. There are many mixed reviews about TBB with so many saying that the results are perfect. As I said in my original post I do't mind being lead by the hand (in not those words, but implied) and after experience I'll try to experiment and see what happens. I'd like to know some of the science behind the subject as for example, the effect of salt. I know now to some extent, what the addition of oil does compared to butter for example. So many questions. I think in the case of TBB, results may be good with exact and precise recipes, though I can only surmise at this moment. I am put off the BBA as I consider that it devotes too may pages about the author.

OldWoodenSpoon. The library. Oh how I wish. In the case of mine the books are so limited it's untrue and that's even if I try and order from others within the same county. I'm very disappointed as I joined the library especially to borrow bread books.

Ouibread. I think I read your review on Amazon as I do recall a very similar comment. I'm new here but I do feel that perhaps you were harsh on Rose. I think overall, some give her a hard time for little reason. I honestly think she really tries hard to provide the best book possible. Her excessive text, some people hate and I dare say, once I got the hand of bread baking I may feel the same. Still, her high ranking of Amazon must say something about the quality of her product. She's been precise if overly to the point whereas some authors, will sell you 57 pages of how good they are and seldom receive poor comments.

Thanks to all.

pmiker's picture

Rose Levi Berenbaum does have a list of corrections for TBB on her website. 

Salt, butter vs oil and other topics are well covered in Bread Science.  For instance, is there a difference between soft butter and liquid?  Yes and the book explains why.  It also explains what order certain ingredients should be added for best results.

Jezella's picture

Thanks for the update pmiker. What a great places this is, people to communicate with world wide. I've popped over to the site of Rose and checked out a few things. Nice site and from a few comments on here, that I've discovered, she's a nice person too. I did a Amazon check on the "Bread Science" and given to cost, I'll have to give it a miss. Now, you having mentioned about the difference between soft butter and liquid gives me another question I want answered. I think it will be to do with coating the flour and absorbency rates.

hansjoakim's picture

Hi Jezella,

I don't own the Bread Bible, but I can whole-heartedly recommend Bread by Hamelman. I don't think there is a better English language bread book out there for the ambitious homebaker. To get a feel for the formulas and how they are laid out in the book, please have a look at the excerpt from the first edition of the book that is available at the publisher's site: Here you'll find all formulas (from the first edition) for breads made with a preferment and yeast. In addition to these, the book is rich with sourdough formulas (wheat and rye varieties), straight doughs and formulas for pizza dough, fougasse, bialys, hot cross buns etc. SFBI's tome Advanced Bread and Pastry is also terrific (and covers a whole lot of pastry in addition to bread), and is more in-depth than Hamelman on some topics. Of the two, I would say that Hamelman is more accessible for a budding homebaker and it's superior on formulas (again in my humble opinion), but keep the SFBI book in mind once you'd like to expand beyond bread.

Dot's picture

I was never much of a bread baker, baking only a couple of wholewheat sandwich loaves every week or so. I stopped completely a few years ago due to arthritis in my wrist as  I always kneaded by hand. A friend was thinking about buying a new stand mixer and asked me if I wanted her present one.  I thought it was a good idea to get back into bread baking but needed to refresh myself about the process.  I started going through my bread books which I hadn't looked at for years and also borrowed some more from the library.  I was then confined to bed for a few weeks so had plenty of time to read and peruse them.  I browsed most of the well known and highly commended books and I gained something from all of them.  However, one I had never heard of (although I knew the author as I used to visit the bakery he owned many decades ago when I lived nearby) but the one I thought the best by far, particularly for a beginner,  was Andrew Whitley's 'Bread Matters'.  It is easy reading and covers everything about bread making logically and simply. I believe it is a good first bread book for a beginner.

Donkey_hot's picture

Hamelman by all means. 

Jezella's picture

The latest edition of Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman is due to be released at the end of this month, in the UK. I think this will be the book I opt for. Having said this, and after now being a member of TFL for about 3 weeks, I see comments on the differences between flour between the US and the UK. This leads me to wonder if I may have problems with following recipes in this book. Could this be a problem.

ananda's picture

Hello Jezella,

I'm a baker based in Northumberland.   Welcome to TFL.

I held back from posting on this thread as I believe there are ill-concieved opinions held by some people on TFL that Hamelman's book is too difficult.   Thankfully these opinions did not appear in this thread.   It is a totally excellent and approachable book and I am happy to see you have arrived at the decisions you note in your post.

Regarding flour, there are no problems.   Apparently Hamelman's second edition has dropped use of high gluten flour anyway.   Were this to be called for, then it is perfectly possible to find very strong All Canadian flour here....Waitrose own brand or Marriage's [they are the same], and Sainsburys all offer this, and mainstream super strong flour from both Allinson and Hovis [primarily introduuced for breadmaking machines] will both suffice.

For Bread flour, any UK Strong flour is can choose supermarket own brands, breads such as Hovis and Allinson, or even Organic flour from the likes of Marriage's, Shipton Mill or Doves Farm.   They are all compatible with US bread flour.   You may need to adjust the hydration down ever so slightly, but frankly, I think that is unlikely.

Please note, however, that we do not have an equivalent of "All-Purpose" flour in the UK.   Our plain flour is not of the same quality.   You should stick to bread flours, and maybe try adding some plain flour if you find that the bread flour is too strong for whatever it is you want to make.....baguettes and ciabatta come to mind here [say 70-80% strong to 20-30% plain].   Please note however that Hamelman is Bakery Director at King Arthur flour, so I assume his recipes have been formulated using King Arthur flour.   Having looked at the specifications cited on the company website, I would add that King Arthur "All-Purpose" flour is at least as strong as most UK bread flours.

Best wishes


Jezella's picture

I'm reassured now. I've always baked with 100% bread flour. I started with Hovis and had a few disappointment so changed to Allinson. I'm sure my problems were down to my lack of understanding in general. Having come across TFL, it seems that bread baking has become a hobby. Pity I can't eat more. The only problem with TFL for the beginner is that there is too much information so one becomes over whelmed. My posting here about books was made after much reading and checks on Amazon to see ratings and a brief read when possible. With even further reading here, I did become concerned with various flours in relation to cross continent use where your comment has helped. Supermarket brands I am not sure about and even having tried checking on say Sainsburys, of this forum, seems little is said. Perhaps due to TFL being USA based. In general, I'm not sure which flour is best for me, but what I do know, is that it's more to do with my ability at this early stage than the flour itself. 

Thanks for the input. 


jcking's picture

All eratta aside. There is some good tips, for the home baker, in the Bible you won't find anywhere else. Such as her blanket method; a type of poolish is made up in the mixer bowl and final ingredients are added on top (not mixed). This is placed in the fridge overnight. Next day bowl back on mixer and away we go. Less mess and less to clean up. Need to cover that mixing bowl. A shower cap works well and can be used many times over.


Jezella's picture

The shower cap really is a good idea and that's the next thing I'll get. Good and cheap too. As for the book, I really have been back and to between 5 then 4, 3, 2 and now I'm down to selecting Jeffrey Hamelman Bread. I think I've taken this as my first choice because I'm sure that it offers more on the science of the subject than the Bread Bible does. Basically, at this moment, I'd really like to know a great deal more on the effects of ingredients such as salt, butter, oil and the like. Basically, I know what they do but hope to get a little more in depth on them. I think "Bread" will provide those answers and help solve future problems and therefore not having me waste TFL members time on trivial questions.

The Bible I think will be my second book where I'll possible receive far great benefit by having a better fundamental understanding gained from "Bread". At this moment, I would be more exited by the recipes in "Bible" though that's not the way forward. I will be honest here and say that it was almost going to be my first choice simple based on one of support for Rosa. I say this because I have read some extremely unfair comments over her publication. I have neither book at the moment so can't comment from first hand experience. Having said this and reading the Amazon reviews both on the US and UK site, she is highly thought of. Yes, she may well be a bit over powering in her preciseness and attention to every detail but that's what some new bakers need to succeed. Further, I think she is totally devoted to her audience and their progress and not just some "I'm some great God given TV personality" like the UK's foul-mouthed Gordon Ramsey.

lumos's picture

Hi Jezzella. First of all, welcome to TFL. I'm also based in UK, just outside London. Lovely to see another UK based member joining us. :)

I haven't read all the posts on this thread yet as it's grown so long,  so please forgive me if I'm repeating something that's already been said. Anyway...

I have read both books, but I only own Hamelman's. They are both extremely good books if you want learn about breadmaking in details with some theory behind it.  If you can have both, that'd be ideal, because they're different; RLB's book is more geared towards home bakers (of serious kind, perhaps) while Hamelman's was basically written to be used as a sort of reference book for professional bakers with added extra to make it serious-home-bakers-friendly. I found RLB's book have more interesting recipes than Hamelman and also enjoyed reading some episodes she scattered around in the book with recipes because many of her experiences and the journey she took to perfect a recipe overlap with our own experience as a home baker and there're lots of useful tips for home bakers with domestic kitchen. It was a good book to 'read' as well as great book for lots of yummy bread.  So why do I only own Hamelman's but not RLB's?  Biggest reason is because I have to be very selective about which bread book to buy as my bookshelf for cookery books is overflowing. Literally. And (this could be an interesting part for you) I can borrow RLB's book from library when I want to read it, while I want to have Hamelman's sitting in my bookcase 24/7 just in case I need to check something, because it's a great reference book.  Probably best ever.

You said your library didn't have RLB's book.  My local one doesn't either. But these days most counties' library services run online/on-lending (?) system within their county ; you can search for a book you want to read on their website's catalogue which gives you the list of all the libraries in your county that have the book. All have to do is 'reserve' it online and it'll be delivered to your local library. That's how I get access to her book (and many other books my local doesn't have) when I want to read it and copy some recipes. I'm sure your local library service has a similar system, too. Worth checking out, if you haven't yet.  :)

jkandell's picture

Both Beranbaum and Hamelman's books are among my favorites.  They are hard to compare, since Hamelman leaves a lot out between the lines, assuming you know it, or have read the technique tidbits sprinkled randomly throughout the chapters.  Beranbaum spoon feeds you everything in each recipe. She also covers technique, in a more organized fashion, but without the depth of training of Hamelman.

However, Beranbaum's actual formulas are excellent. I find them tastier than most other popular books, including Reinhart.  She has a bunch of breads among my favorites (heart of wheat, raisin walnut, seeded levain to name a few) and I actually prefer her's to Hamelman.  

You should also note that Hamelman's book is basically a german bread book: he has a whole chapter on German ryes that really set his book apart. He doesn't have the traditional UK or American breads you might expect, in contrast to Beranbaum.

But really you can't go wrong with either book.