The Fresh Loaf

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looking for first bread book

nebetmiw's picture

looking for first bread book

Hi all,

I am looking to buy my first bread bakebook.  I have been baking quick breads mostly and a couple of yeast breads out of other general cookbooks.  Hubbby has tried to make a loaf of basic white but it keeps coming out way to salty for us.  I found the other problem being the yeast which did not need to be proofed as it was bread machine yeast. 

So what I am looking for is a book geared towards those starting that has the breakdown on flours and yeasts, you know teck stuff, plus alot of recipes.  Not sure when I will be able to buy another bread book so I want one to last me with good varity.  What I have come across and would like Your opinons of is The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaun and the BBA by Peter Reinhart and the other is The Complete Book of Bread by Bernard Clayton.  Tell me your likes and dislikes of each, which do you think is a better one book buy.

pmccool's picture


I have all three of the books you mention.  My thoughts are:

The Bread Bible by Berenbaum - an excellent book that walks the baker through every step of the process for every recipe.  Very precise instructions and quantities; about the closest one can get to fool-proof in a cookbook.  Measurements are in both weights (preferred) and volumes.  Lots of tips for variations, too.  There is a list of errata that is published on Ms. Berenbaum's website, too.

BBA by Reinhart - another excellent book, though for somewhat different reasons.  The BBA contains a lengthy first section that addresses a tremendous amount of background information; just the kind of stuff that it sounds as though you want.  Pay special attention to the different phases that the bread passes through on its journey from raw materials to finished loaf.  My only nits to pick are that the weight measurements (it also includes volume measurements) are in English units only, no metric units; there's some misuse of terminology (the word "barm", especially); and that there are far fewer recipes in this book than either of the other two.

The Complete Book of Bread by Clayton - I have had this for years; it was my primary bread book for a long time.  There are a tremendous amount of recipes, though measurements are volumes only.  Some people gripe about Mr. Clayton's approach of providing three different approaches to each recipe (mix by hand, mix with mixer, mix with food processor); I haven't found it to be off-putting.  Lot's of short stories about the origin of many of the breads.

My guess is that your first pick should be BBA, followed very closely by the Bread Bible.  As you expand your repertoire, you will probably find The Complete Book of Breads to be enjoyable, too.

I hope this helps.


verminiusrex's picture

I'll second Bread Baker's Apprentice for a first bread book, it's the best primer for the new or relatively inexperienced yeast bread baker.

 I'll toss into the mix A Blessing of Bread by Maggie Glezer, which covers challah breads.  It's nice to mix up the types of bread occasionally.

nebetmiw's picture

Thanks all that was what I was after.  I could not make a choise because some had said on another site that is not about baking that BBA might be a bit to advanced.  I have read that a couple of times now.  Metric is not  concern to me and I already have a scale.  Got it for making soap.

My main concern was a break down on yeast and flour as things have changed.  As I said we were proofing a yeast that did not need to be.  Live and learn this is all new to me again since I have not been baking in a long time.  Not had the space or time before now have both and what to for health and cost.

holds99's picture

A book you might seriously consider for your first purchase is King Arthur's Baker's Companion - The ALL-PURPOSE Baking Book.  It has everything in which you indicated that you were interested in learning, plus it's loaded with a wide range of great recipes.  It is a very complete and well written book (600+ pages), which contains information on nearly everything from flour types to baking pans with some illustations.  It's available on-line from Amazon and is cheaper from Amazon than from King Arthur's web site...go figure.

I agree with Dougal's and Paul's comments re: BBA. Rose Levy's Bread Bible is a terrific book, albeit a bit more advanced than basic baking.  It contains many great recipes.  Her recipe for ciabatta was where I really began to understand and appreciate the benefit of high hydration (wet) doughs.  Her ciabatta recipe is a great one to try and produces an excellent loaf with very little effort.  However, because of its high hydration dough you'll need a stand mixer.  Just don't be tempted to add more flour than she calls for in the recipe.  It's a high hydration dough with open crumb (interior) with lovely large holes.

However, I do believe that if you are seriously interested in learning the craft and understanding the systematic process (11 steps) of baking, Jeffrey Hamelman's book Bread - A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes contains the keys to the kingdom, so to speak.  Maybe later on you might consider purchasing this book.  I would suggest/recommend reading and studing the first 92 pages of this book for an understanding of the 11 step process, along with techniques for executing these steps.  Once you understand the process half the battle is won.  Don't be afraid to use a highlighter on these pages and highlight and underline key passages and information---and refer to these pages when questions arise executing the 11 steps.  Most recipes "work" if you understand the process and can make the sometimes small adjustments needed, based on variables such as type of flour, etc.

Good luck with your baking adventures.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

nebetmiw's picture

Hmm the KA baker's compaion I had not even thought of.  Shall look into that one on amazon as that is where I buy all my books now because of where I live now.  I thought of Jeff Hamelmann's book but after reading many reviews it sound to big scale for a home baker.  As I am only baking for my hubby and myself and the dog :).  Thanks for all the great info and books suggestions.

holds99's picture

His book give recipes both ways: U.S. (i.e. 24 loaves 1 1/2 lb each) and Home (2 large loaves 1 1/2 lbs. each).  Whoever wrote the review hasn't read or used the book.

Check out the KA Baker's Companion.  I have it and it's a terrific "general baking book".  Sounds like just what you'r looking for.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

josordoni's picture

Hi - the central of the three measurements that JH gives might be industrial sized, but it is in metric, so if you have a set of scales, you can simply divide and multiply up to get the size you want.  I usually use this set of measures, divided by 10 and this gives me the right amount of dough for roughly two medium  loaves.




mcs's picture

I think there's a couple of important points that have been mentioned but maybe should be reiterated.  
-He does have recipes sized for household use (3 loaf range).
-He also has measurements in U.S. and Metric sized for larger batches or easy scaling up or down.
-His recipes are accurate (this should be a given, but unfortunately is often not with bread recipes)
-His description of the bread making process from beginning to end is very thorough.

Personally I'm not that interested in reading about the analysis of flour and the farinograph, but if you are, hey, it's in there too.
For me, 'Bread" is the 'go-to' book.


ehanner's picture

As stated by Howard and Mark and others, Bread is a very nice go to bread book. I've only had my copy for a little over a month and it has become my favorite book for understanding why things work in bread. Great examples of various bread types and methods with easy to understand recipes.


nebetmiw's picture

title says it all.  I think Hamelman's is way more than what I want.  Do not need the analysis of flour just want to know what types there are and what uses for them.  Same with yeasts in how to use different types.  I hate math with a passion so besides basic stuff I will not get involvd.  Doubling and halving is one thing but multiplying and dividing no thanks.  Might look at that one in library when I get there if they have it.  which is doubtfull small town very small library.

Oh here is a thought just out of curiosity any of these books have a dog bread  or biscuit recipe?  Not that I need it I can find that on the net easy enough.  Heck the biscuits I make now she begs for lol but I thought it would be neet to have one in a book. One I can put on my christmas list.