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Sourdough books with reliable metric

Dether's picture

Sourdough books with reliable metric

Hi all.

I'm a fairly experienced home baker, but my sourdough tends to be a bit experimental and inconsistent. So I want to try and master it more.

I'm looking for recommendations for the best books on sourdough.

Specifically I'm looking for books with reliable recipes given in metric (and bakers' percentages too ideally). I'm British and always use metric, though the best books on sourdough baking seem to be from US baker-writers as the US has a much stronger sourdough tradition than the UK. But I'm wary about buying a book only to find its recipes are all in cups, and need painstaking conversion and testing. It can sometimes be hard to find out his info beforehand, hence the question.

For example, is Ed Wood's Classic Sourdoughs any good, and does it include metric measures? What's the metric like in Hamelman? And what about Daniel Leader's Local Breads? I see he includes everything, including percentages, which is handy. Any good?

Thanks in advance,


PS - over the years, my favourite general baking book has been Lepard's Handmade Loaf; I had a good phase with Bertinet's Dough, and I've also got Whitley's Bread Matters. I know Whitley has a sourdough book, and it's British and grams-based, but I never got on that well with his recipes so I'm heistant to splash out.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

before making a recipe.  That tells me more than the write up itself.

First I add up all the flour,  all the water and divide the water by the flour, that gives me the hydration of the dough.  Then run a quick check how that compares with the flours in the recipe.  While I'm at it, I quickly find out 2% of the dough flour in grams.  That tells me where the salt and any added yeast lies.  My calculator is just as important as my mixing bowl.

Cup recipes can drive you crazy but if you carefully read the book's intro, you can find out how a cup is measured and what standards are used for the book.   Always good to put an index marker on that kind of info.  I write some conversions as I run into them right on the recipes or at the back of the book in the blank pages.  I sort of enjoy converting recipes.  Makes me think thru it carefully.  I also have 3x5 cards with conversions stuck in my cook books (book markers.)  Also oven temps.  Some even taped inside my cupboards near to my baking area.  I do prefer metric recipes.  

There are a lot of Book reviews here at TFL and by typing the title and author in the search box, you can find discussions on the various books.  Also can type in:  metric cookbook    and see what shows up.

Hamelman's "Bread" Lists every recipe 4 different ways, Pounds for bulk recipe, Metric for bulk, Home recipe in oz. and  Baker's %.  It is easy enough to just move a few decimals over in the bulk recipe for a home size loaf.  There are wide spaced between the columns and plenty of room to write in your own preferred loaf size.   Cook books get published rather quickly and do check all books for error corrections.  TFL has also discussions finding and listing problems with certain recipes, so it never hurts to run a search here on any recipe and see what problems folks have run into.  Also tips.

AlanG's picture

Hamelman's book is excellent for its full discussion of all the variables.  Although his metric measurements are primarily for the commercial baker, you can divide most of them by 10 to get a more scalable amount for home use (this corresponds pretty well to his home amounts which are in ounces).  Also do not neglect the wonderful resource here on TFL where lots of folks have documented their successes with various sourdough recipes.  I would urge you to take a look at David Snyder's discussion of the development of San Joaquin sourdough and its evolution.  He does provide metric measurements.

Personally I keep a spreadsheet with all of my favorite recipes with metric measurements.  This allows me to scale things up or down quite easily.

pmccool's picture

As Mini notes, the formulae measurements are given in several different forms.  It is also one of the most reliable books I've come across in terms of accuracy, both for quantities and process descriptions.

Leader's Local Breads has some wonderful breads.  I would recommend it on that basis alone but the recommendation has to be tempered by the knowledge that it has a number of errors.  There's an errata thread here on TFL which is well worth the time it will take to read all of it, should you acquire the book.  There's an official errata page, too, although it is quite limited.  If you spend some time googling, you'll find even more.

Rose Levy Berenbaum's The Bread Bible is another excellent baking book, albeit light on sourdough.  If I recall correctly, it contains measurements in ounces as well as in cups but not grams.  I think.

The King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book also features weight measurements in ounces but not in grams.  It covers a lot more than just breads.

Those last two may not be readily available to you in the UK.


Dether's picture

Yes, I've been musing about Hamelman for years but I've never actually got my hands on a copy to check it out so I've been wary of international complications. It's pretty sourdough-oriented right?

Similarly wary of a book that has the caveat of errata. Maybe I'll wait for a revised edition of Local Breads.

Will also investigate San Joaquin sourdough thread here.



AlanG's picture

in addition to sourdough.  His pre-ferment yeast breads are absolutely delicious.  I've not seen fit to purchase any other bread book as this one is complete in terms of technique and recipes.  As noted, there are lots of sourdough recipes right here on TFL.

dabrownman's picture

thousands of great SD recipes in metric right here on the TFL.  The cheapest and best collection of SD recipes on the planet by a wide margin.  Just use the search box

Welcome and Happy Baking 

drogon's picture

It's not hard to find lots of bread books - some (sadly) are published for the US market though - e.g. I have a copy of Bertiniets original "Dough" book and it's got measurements in cups and ounces - I guess my wife bought it from a dodgy importer via Amazon. fortunately ounces are fine.

However, try "Bread Matters" by Andrew Whitley:

he sells his starter via that site too.

Or just go on a course - if you're ever in Devon... :-)


barryvabeach's picture

Dan,  I am a huge fan of Hamelman's book, and have read it several times, but if you are only making sourdough breads, you may be disappointed,  that is not the focus of his book.  I too am starting to spend more time on sourdough breads, and have not found a book that I can recommend, though I have used many of the resources here.  If you check the sourdough board, it is probably the most active, though admittedly, it is not broken down into chapters and set up like a book.  

Mike has a pretty good website, and offers sourdough books, though I have never purchased them, so can't say if you would like them, the one sample recipe is in cups, not weight.

Dether's picture

... for clarifying that Barry. I wondered about Hamelman's focus. Pity there isn't a copy in a local book shop so I can peruse before committing. (I live in a small town, with lots of second-hand book shops... but never been lucky enough to find any of these we're discussing.)

I know what you mean about the boards here - there's so much info, but it's not like sitting down at your own kitchen table with a good recipe book. Sometimes I just want a break from screens and internet.

pmccool's picture

Has 50 sourdough formulae.  So, even though it isn't a "sourdough" book, it has enough sourdough breads to keep a baker busy for a while. 


leucadian's picture

It used to annoy me to have to translate a recipe from cups to grams, but as I think about it, the only quantities that are really variable when measured by volume are the measurements of flour and salt. I do bake by weight, because it gives me consistency from bake to bake, if I use the same flour. I believe that flour varies so widely that a precise amount from a recipe doesn't mean too much unless I use the same flour the author used. If you ever get bored baking the same thing all the time, try a different flour, and see how it behaves. Different absorption, different strength, different autolyse, not to mention different taste. I still follow recipes for the most part, converting them to grams when necessary, but I analyze the recipe based on my calculated hydration level to see if it makes sense with my experience. Likewise, I know how much salt I use, so I make my own calculation of 1.8% and ignore the recipe. Where I put the most effort is in understanding and adapting the technique in the recipe, and documenting my own process so I can improve on the original.

As to your question about Ed Wood's book, he uses volume measurements in the 2001 edition I have. I haven't baked much from the book. Nancy Silverton's 'Breads from the La Brea Bakery' is almost exclusively based on sourdough breads. Yes the measurements are volumetric, and she has some peculiar ideas about creating and refreshing a starter, but the breads are interesting and varied. I go back to Hamelman's 'Bread' the most often, though. 

For the last several years I have baked almost exclusively with sourdough, and I believe that the advice and recipes from this site are my best resource, and by far the most dynamic. Where else will you find extensive discussions of how much starter to discard and how often? Happy baking, in cups or grams.

Dether's picture

Making a cake with a bog standard plain/all-purpose flour and chemical raising agent may be require more precision, but I agree, with yeasted or sourdough baked products, using different flours, for example, makes a big different.

I lived in Italy 2011-2013, and tried lots of different flours from the farmers market, lots of variations on "farro" (which is generally translated as spelt, but isn't always - see, lots of varations of durum wheat flours, etc. Then I've come back to Britain and I'm trying a lot more flours here too, some from English wheats, many stoneground. I do find the amount of bran, say, in a wholegrain/wholemeal flour can really throw hydration formulas.

That said, I still like a respectable formula, in metric as a starting point!

And yes, the consensus here seems to be to use the resources here, not any particular book!