Tag Archives: bread books

Best Books for Advanced Bread Makers

This is the third in the series of my favourite and most used book recommendations for anyone learning to make bread. You can read about my three favourite books for anyone just starting their bread making journey or my top three (ok, four, I squeezed an extra one in) sourdough books. This one is all about digging a bit deeper into the art of bread. So if you feel like you have cracked the basic loaf and you are ready to learn more these are the books that I recommend for the book pile next to the oven or the bed, and I can’t just choose three this time either.

My first recommendation is Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery. This is a well researched and in-depth book and makes for a really interesting read. I definitely recommend that this one sits ready on the bedside table. David discusses the history of milling, talks in-depth about flour choices and other ingredients integral to bread making and has a really interesting chapter on the history of bread ovens and lots of recipes. It is a book that you can read and re-read. It deserves a place on everybody’s book shelf.

If you are as much as a bread geek as me then you will love to learn the science of bread and my top recommendation for this is Emily Buehler’s Bread Science, which is available as an e-book in the UK. Emily goes into the science of bread in great depth. Some of it boils my brain if I’m honest but that may be because I am not a natural scientist although the science of bread is my favourite subject and I can bore anyone with it within five minutes of meeting them. If you want to get a grip of the science of what is happening in your loaf then this is the book for you.

Another great book available to download if you want to understand the mystery of sourdough is Trevor J Wilson’s Open Crumb Mastery. It delves into the science of how to achieve the perfect open crumb (if that is what you are looking for and if I am honest I prefer a toast that can hold its butter) but the book is definitely worth reading as it can really help you to understand what is happening when you are making a loaf of sourdough.

A fantastic resource to have to hand if you are really serious about bread making is Michael Suas’s Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach. It has been designed for the professional baker so it might be a bit hardcore for anyone not completely obsessed with bread, but it is a book that I return to again and again for advice.

A book that is more suited to the enthusiastic home baker is Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. Again pitched at the professional baker but it is slightly less hardcore than Michael Suas’s offering. Hamelman’s book offers a formula for the home baker in every recipe and it is a great book to introduce you to the science of bread making so that you can understand the process in-depth which will help you correct any mistakes. The only frustration for me is that the home bakers recipes are in pounds and ounces rather than metric and my brain works best in metric these days, which means that I have to convert them. However, there is a bakers percentage given for every recipe so it isn’t difficult to convert the recipe and scale up or down.

It was difficult choosing which books should appear in this list but these are the ones that have been most helpful to me and that I return to the most, although there are lots of others that could be included here. Let me know if you have a favourite in the comments.

My Top Three Sourdough Books

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.

Super Sourdough by James Morton

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.

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.

Sarah Owen's Sourdough book

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.

Best Bread Making Books for Beginners

I sent out a newsletter last week asking what people struggled with when making bread. I am here to help you to understand bread making better so if people are struggling I want to be able to help with tips and answers. Jonathan got in touch with lots of great ideas for helping people understand bread making better. One of his requests was for recommendations on the best books to use when learning to make bread. This is something I have been meaning to write about for ages. So here we go with part one of a series of blog posts to help you decide which bread book you should buy or borrow from the library.

Starting with the best books for an absolute beginner and where best to start than with the book that started all of this for me. River Cottage Handbook No. 3, Bread, by Daniel Stevens.

River Cottage Handbook no. 3 Bread
My well thumbed copy

In 2009 I found myself in the position of taking a career break to look after my girls who were then aged 3 & 5. I wanted to learn new skills and have something to focus on whilst they were at nursery and school and so I set up my food blog The Ordinary Cook. It was my corner of the internet where I could share my recipes and hopefully inspire people to start to cook or bake. A couple of times a week I would try out a new recipe and if it was a success it would be posted onto the blog.

I have just looked back and you can see my first recipe for bread was on 22nd September 2009 where I finally find that I have made an edible loaf of bread. I can still remember the joy of that particular loaf, as prior to this, I had always struggled to make a good loaf of bread. My previous attempts had been heavy bricks that Richard had been very kind about. The recipe for this particular loaf came from another favourite cook book of mine and one that comes from the same source, The River Cottage Family CookBook, another firm recommendation for anyone wanting to learn to cook. It is a brilliant starting point as it sets out all the tools and the ingredients you will need and a step by step process which is aimed at children but is equally suitable for adults, even those who are already proficient at cooking. After this success, I dived into the River Cottage Bread book and practised and practised. The book is so good because every recipe works, mostly because the instructions are easy to follow and there is an in-depth guide to the bread making process at the beginning of the book.

This is my number one book that I would recommend for anyone starting out on their bread journey.

James Morton Brilliant Bread

My second recommendation is James Morton’s Brilliant Bread. Another book from which every recipe I have used has worked. He also gives you a clear explanation of the basics at the start of the book to help guide you through every subsequent recipe. I got the inspiration for the Marmite bread from this book and it is a bread that is loved in this household and, of course, either loved or hated by people who come along to the Bread Basics Full Day course. (I will also be recommending James Morton’s Sourdough book as my number one choice if you are diving into the world of sourdough when I do a full blog post on this subject soon).

My third recommendation for anyone beginning to make bread is Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s How To Make Bread. Again every recipe works and he gives full instructions, with photos, of the stretch and fold method that I use for all my doughs and that you can see me demonstrating in this video. This is the book which suddenly turned on the light for me and showed me how easy making bread can be.

So there you go, my top three recommendations for anyone starting out on their bread making journey, with the number one spot going to the River Cottage Handbook No. 3, because it has a special place in my heart as it was the book which ignited my obsession about bread. You can read about my favourite sourdough books and books for the more advanced baker too.