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Books about Bread

I promised to give my suggestions on books about break making. Down below I list a few books that are absolutely first rate, with every aspect showing a deep understanding. Further down I add a few extra books that have helped me along the way, although they may not be as comprehensive as the first part of the list.

Edward Espe Brown, the Tassajara Bread Book. Shambhala Publications, 1970, 157062089X

This was the first book that helped me to bake wholemeal bread. Reading it again today, the instructions on proving and kneading are spot on. The general section on breads is relatively brief, as he includes desserts, muffins and pancakes in the book. Incidentally, Tassajara Fruit Cake is by parts terrifying, awesome, and the iconic cake of the era for me.

Elizabeth David, British Bread and Yeast Cookery. Penguin, 1977, 0140299742

Largely of academic interest, and I don’t mean that slightingly. There is an absolute dearth of information about the documented history of bread cookery, and this is all that most of us will have access to. The recipes aren’t given to be baked from, but as background information about the history of bread.

Joe Ortiz, The Village Baker. Ten Speed Press, 1993, 0-89815-916-4

A very detailed account of the bread process, with emphasis on the modern French style. A third of the book consists of “professional” (scaled up and suitable for an industrial mixer) versions of the recipes given in the first section, which is a little odd. His techniques include poolish, old dough, etc.

Laurel Robertson with Carol Flinders and Bronwen Godfrey, The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. Random House, 1984, 0-394-72434-8

Strong advocates of the Flemish desem technique for making wholemeal bread with a chef starter. It also includes the lengthy section called “A Loaf for Learning”, which should really be published as a separate spiral bound and laminated pamphlet for reference in the kitchen. The Loaf for Learning is a detailed technique for making a single loaf of wholemeal bread with commercial yeast, which is as close to foolproof as you will ever find. This loaf is one of my favourites, and proved to me that a simple 100% wholemeal loaf can have as fully developed and bread like texture as any white bread.

Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery. Villard Books, 1996, 0-679-40907-6

Sound techniques for making naturally leavened artisan bread. Nancy gives an emphasis on the use of retarding doughs and a lengthy time span for baking. She mostly uses the French chef form of starter.

Daniel Wing and Alan Scott, The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1999, 189013205-5

Half the book is on building masonry ovens, but don’t be fooled; this book has the most detailed and accurate account of the process of baking bread given anywhere. This book is authoritative in areas where other books start to skimp.

And Also

Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno, Bread. Dorling Kindersley, 1998, 0-7513-0607-X

This book includes reasonable recipes for most of the classic European breads; the only flaw is a tendancy to insert commercial yeast into all their supposedly naturally leavened recipes. But a good starter on European techniques with lots of pictures.

George and Cecilia Scurfield, Home Baked. Faber, 1956, 0-571-09844-4

For me, this is quite a classic. My mother had read the two books by these authors, and they gave the basic process for hand baking bread that I followed for my first efforts.

Ed Wood, Classic Sourdoughs A Home Baker’s Handbook. Ten Speed Press, 2001, 1-58008-344-7

A detailed explanation of natural leavening, with many recipes for making uncomplicated breads. He uses the American batter style of starter for most recipes. Technically very sound, this book isn’t in the first section only because Wing & Scott is so incredibly erudite.

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