07/07/2014

Baking Bread: Books

What to read instead of my ramblings ...

I am firmly of the opinion that, if you want to do something new, the first thing you need is a book about it. Aren't books great? There are so many about any given subject that you can spend your entire time reading about it rather than doing it - and then spend even longer wondering which of the many differing opinions are actually correct!

I went through a number of volumes when I starting baking bread. Most of them spend spend a couple of pages on tools and technique, and then have pages and pages of alternate recipes. For someone like me, starting from a knowledge base of zero, this was frustrating. Eventually I found some I liked; these are the books to which I return regularly. Both have plenty of recipes for you to try, but more importantly, they have useful information about the process.
Bread (River Cottage Handbook No. 3) by Daniel Stevens (2009)
Far and away the best book about actually baking bread. It starts with nearly forty pages of detailed steps about how to make bread: how to knead, how to make the dough into a ball and loads of other small things that I have never seen covered in any other book. For a beginner, it is invaluable. If this much information makes bread-making sound complicated, then don't be disheartened; it's all easily learned and understood. If I only had one book on bread, this would be it.
The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard (2004)
A bit of cult hit in baking circles, this is on my list for two reasons. First is his revelation that ten minutes of kneading is unnecessary; and second is his milk loaf recipe, which is a family favourite in our house. He has a lot of information about using a starter for sourdough-style breads, and covers bread in many different countries too.

Finally, a special mention has to go to Elizabeth David's classic English Bread And Yeast Cookery (1977). If you're interested in a really definitive work, including the history and culture around the subject, you can't do better than this.

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