Hands down, my favourite book for helping you understand sourdough is James Morton’s Super Sourdough. He writes clear explanations and delves into the science just enough so that you can understand the process and learn what you may be doing wrong and make adjustments.
Making sourdough bread can seem complicated and scary but James Morton gives you the confidence to tackle it and I promise that once you have practiced a few times and you understand the basics you will be making the most delicious bread ever. Although, I will admit that even after years of sourdough baking and teaching other people how to do it I will have the odd failure. With sourdough it’s just something that the baker learns to accept. I used to worry that it was just me but after listening to many professional bakers on podcasts all of them will admit the same thing, sometimes the loaf isn’t as good as you hoped, or looks terrible (but will taste good). With sourdough that is part of the challenge – will this loaf be the perfect loaf? And even if you get very, very close to perfection there is always the hope that the next one will be even better.
My second recommendation is Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson.
This one is a classic for a reason. Sometimes professional bakers forget that you are baking at home with a domestic oven. There is a big difference between baking at home and baking in a professional bakery. In Tartine, Chad Robertson recruited home bakers to test his recipe, twiddle it and feedback the results. This means that the recipe (and there are many detailed pages for the basic recipe, 39 pages in fact) works well at home. The instructions, although lengthy, are easy to follow and allow for a consistent result. This book also popularised the use of the dutch oven for home bakers, which, if your budget can stretch to one, I highly recommend (I will be blogging about baking tools soon).
My third recommendation is for The Bread Builders, Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott.
Something clicked for me when I read this book. It was like having a lightbulb moment in my head. It doesn’t have the simplicity of James Morton’s book or the detailed instructions of the basic recipe of Chad Robertson but it does go into the science of bread making and really helps you to understand the bread making process and for the bread geek there is the added bonus of a section on masonry oven construction (one day, Kath, one day…). Alan Scott was a hugely influential figure in the Amercian artisan baker movement and Chad Robertson spent time learning his craft with Alan Scott (that’s a young Chad Robertson on the cover).
It’s difficult to choose just three from the array of books on the subject but if I had to, and I have had to for this post, then these would be my three top choices. I will add as a bonus Sarah Owens Sourdough, Recipes for Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savouries and More just because this book will open your eyes to the opportunities for using your sourdough starter in all of your baking including pastry, cakes and biscuits and is just a lovely book to dive into.
Next time I will let you know my favourite books for the advanced baker. If you have any favourite bread books let me know in the comments.