I'm often asked what books I would recommend for people who are interested in bread baking or looking to get started so I decided to compile a list here. These are all books that I own or have read and gotten something out of.
What to Look for in a Bread Book
Before I get to the recommendations, let's talk about what you should be looking for in a quality bread book. Some are definitely better than others and you don't want to start off going in the wrong direction with formulas and techniques that are less than desirable.
- Recipes are written in weight not volume! This is the number one thing and I can't stress this enough. Make things easy on yourself and bake out of a book that has you weight out your ingredients. You will be baking better bread more consistently. I would seriously question the quality of a book written in volume amounts. If you have books only written in volume measurements don't throw them out! They are still very useful for ideas and flavor combinations.
- Make sure the author is an actual baker and not a cook. Get your information from real bakers who know their stuff.
- Make sure it inspires you! If the book doesn't make you want to bake then you probably won't. Simple enough.
With that said, here are my recommendations:
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes By Jeffery Hamelman
This is the first bread book I started with when I was making my first few loaves and I'm incredibly glad that it was. Hamelman's book may be a little intimidating at first but take comfort in knowing that he's teaching you excellent technique and valuable knowledge. The recipes in this book have been favorites of many home bakers and professionals alike for years.
Hamelman covers every aspect of bread baking clearly and in great detail. Everything from ingredients, mixing, fermentation, shaping, baking to how to store bread. There is almost an endless variety of recipes that include baguettes, ciabatta, challah, a variety of sourdoughs, all kinds of rye bread, pizza dough and many many more. Almost all of them have been tested and deemed classics by bakers from all over the world. If I could only have one bread book this would be it.
Advanced Bread and Pastry By Michel Suas
If you are looking to go a bit deeper into your bread knowledge and develop a really strong understanding of what is happening with your bread then this is the book. Suas goes deep into the science of what is happening in your loaf and how to achieve the outcome you want in your bread. It gets very specific with times and temperatures. I can't tell you how many times I've referenced this book when I'm trying to troubleshoot a bread or was wanting to try a new technique. This book also contains a TON of high quality formulas for all kinds of different breads. If you're serious about bread baking then this is a must have.
This book is also completely invaluable if you have any interest in croissants or pastry as it goes into great depth on both. It's sort of like a master class in all things baking.
Tartine Bread By Chad Robertson
This book is amazing for a couple reasons. First, the main formula for Tartine's country bread is a classic that has been used by many home bakers to bake amazing loaves fairly consistently and successfully. Robertson explains the formula very clearly and precisely which makes it hard to end up with a bad result. The other reason I love this book is that it almost forces you to want to bake bread through its beauty and the story that Robertson tells. A very inspiring book overall!
The Bread Builders By Daniel Wing & Alan Scott
There are almost no formula's is this book but it more than makes up for it in sheer bread knowledge. Particularly when it comes to sourdough bread. When I first started out with sourdough I was constantly referencing this book and absorbing the information it contained. I remember finding many little insights and answers in this book that I couldn't seem to find anywhere else. If you are looking to fine tune your baking this is probably the book for you.
The second half of the book about constructing a wood fired bread oven is almost mandatory reading if you have any interest in building your own. This section is written almost entirely by Alan Scott who was absolutely legendary is the world of wood fired bread ovens and a true expert on the subject.
Tartine Book No. 3 By Chad Robertson
In Tartine No. 3, Chad Robertson expands on Tartine Bread and dives fully into whole grain baking. The formulas can be challenging but those who have already baked extensively out of Tartine Bread should find it rewarding with many new formulas and techniques to work on.
I would definitely consider this more of an advanced bread book for people who are trying to add something to their bread baking.
Other Bread Books
These are books that I haven't personally tried but have been either well received by home bread bakers or recommended to me by bakers I trust.
Flour Water Salt Yeast By Ken Forkish
Owner of Portland based Ken's Artisan Bakery, Ken Forkish, details his methods for bread baking. I haven't personally baked out of this book but I've flipped through it and it appears well written and very beautifully done. It seems that many beginning and advanced bread bakers alike are finding success with his methods and formulas.
Other Food Books
These are other books that aren't bread books but I've found helpful anyways for one reason or another.
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible By Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
I've found this book extremely helpful when trying to figure out what ingredients complement each other. It's basically a giant list of what works with what. Simply look up an ingredient and it will tell you all the other ingredients that pair well with it. It's incredibly useful when trying to develop new bread flavor combinations or just in your everyday cooking. I chose to include the vegetarian version here as it has a lot more information on various grains and seeds than the regular version. Plus, how often do you use meat in your bread?