Thursday, May 1, 2008

bread books

I am just about finished with "The Bread Bible." I learned a lot from it, and now I think it's time to move on and see some other perspectives on bread baking. I've definitely gotten a keeper-recipe from it: her "heart of wheat" bread, with wheat germ in it, is pretty darn delicious. It was also so easy to work with that I'm very concerned I was doing something wrong; it wasn't "extremely sticky" at all.

At any rate, the Bread Bible is headed back to the library. Unfortunately, the three books I want to try next aren't available at that venerable institution.

I've seen "Bread Alone," by Daniel Leader recommended in several places in the blogosphere. In some cases, it is recommended quite enthusiastically. But since Farmgirl is even more fond of his "Local Breads," which is at my library, I guess I'll be using that one, instead.

I started reading "The Bread Baker's Apprentice," by Peter Reinhart, on Amazon. That Search Inside function is brilliant; after reading the excerpt, I am dying to buy this book. Because deep down inside, I wish I was a bread baker's apprentice. I think that's the only way I'll really learn a lot of the things I wish I knew. Again, the library fails me... but they do have his "Crust and Crumb." I guess I'll try it out, as a substitute... *heavy sigh.*

Finally, of course, I want to get my hands on a copy of "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day." If you haven't read fifty posts raving about this book, then you must not read many food blogs. It is No-Knead Bread, 2.0. And I wants it, my precious, I wants it!

You know what else I want? I want a name like Crescent Dragonwagon. How awesome is that?!

Anybody have other bread-book recommendations?


tmaynard said...

This comment is rather tardy, but I was searching for "Heart of Wheat Bread" and found your blog.

I'm a bread baker (exclusively), and I've read all the books you mention (and more). Here's my take on them....

"Bread Alone" is (IMO) just "OK" -- it's Leader's first book and he admits in his second book ("Local Breads") that he just got some things wrong. "Local Breads" is by far a better book, with better recipes, and much more sound techniques. That said, a lot depends on you own level of bread expertise. "Local Breads" is at a slightly higher level than "Bread Alone" -- if you only read one, make it "Local Bread".

All of the Reinhart books are classics, and "Bread Baker's Apprentice" *was* his signature work -- and still is for white flour breads. His "Whole Grain" book is outstanding, but limited exclusively to whole grain (D'oh!) breads. BBA is the place to start, and move on to WG if you're interested/ready.

"Artisan Bread in 5" is (again, IMO) a ho-hum book. The authors keep beating a dead horse until it's deader-than-dead. If you've never tried no-knead bread, then start with the New York Times recipe. If you like it, and you'd like to bake some small loaves spontaneously, then go for the "Artisan in 5" book. Note that there are more than bread recipes in it -- they provide ways to utilize the bread and recipes to serve with the bread, etc.

But, when all is said and done, the "Bread Bible" is the most inclusive, with the widest variety of breads, clearly detailed and easy to bake. For scope and information I haven't found a book to beat it.

Someday I'll read Calval's "Le Gout de Pain" (about $100) and see if it's really the Holy Grail.

Best Baking,

McKaye said...

There are a great number of very good bread books out there, and I have even enjoyed many that others don't like much as well (shh, don't tell!). But I think I might pick and choose particular recipes a fair bit, looking for, as you describe them, 'keeper recipes'. I'm working through Sara Lewis' 'The Bread Book' at the moment, and loving her garlic and basil bread (so good with casseroles!). Her loaves are of sensible size for our small family, so that is a factor for me in appreciating a good bread book - I don't have to do any recalculating to get loaves of the right size for us. So I'd recommend her bread book for sure. The subtitle is 'the definitive guide to making bread by hand or machine', but that's a somewhat exaggerated claim for such a small book (less than 150 pages). Beranbaum's 'The Bread Bible' really qualifies for that title with it's 600+ pages. Sometimes that is a bit overwhelming and the smaller books can be dabbled in for fun.