The 12 Best Bread Baking Books I Use Most Often!
If you are new to bread and looking for beginner bread baking books or a seasoned pro looking for the best bread baking books to improve your skills, baking books are one of the best places to learn. All bakers have their favourites and here, I’m going to share mine!
Buying loads of these books will cost a lot, so I’ve reviewed my top 12 baking books from Amazon’s bookstore. I love the authors who explain their philosophy of bread, these people tend to offer more than a simple compilation of recipes. The ones in this list are written by bread baking masters from across the world, their thoughts and recipes are respected throughout the industry.
No matter what stage you are at you will learn something new from each of these 12 books about bread!
Please note it’s been really hard choosing an order for these books! It depends on what you want to get out of it. Some are easy to grab and get started like, some are more step-by-step tuition like “Tartine by Chard Robertson” and others cover the scientific side of bread in more depth.
1) The Bread Baker's Apprentice - Peter Reinhart
There are some books that you just can’t put down and this is the one for me and many other bread bakers. Regularly dubbed “The Bread Bible” this cleverly made book Peter Reinhart manages to captivate and drag you in with his passion and storytelling in the search for the world’s best bread.
There is a huge selection of recipes at the end of the book. They are properly calculated and though I’ve not tried many, but I’m told they are really reliable.
Peter goes into detail at each pinch point, without sounding too scientific. You’ve got shaping techniques (loads of them), a chapter on the differences in flour, every stage of bread making broken down, full-size tables on hydration and mixing methods for just about every bread you can think of…. It’s not a quick read, but a hugely satisfying one!
2) The taste of bread - Raymond Calvel
This bread baking book has made the biggest difference to my skills than anything else I’ve read or watched. First off, this is not a beginner book. It is quite draining to read due to it being translated and I find myself re-reading sentences to make sure that I absorb the information. It’s not broken down into sections very well. However, as a change in conditions or an element will affect many different areas of the bread it is hard to keep things under one heading each time.
So what do you get in this book…?
From the first page, you get hit with the most fascinating insight and knowledge that I have ever heard about bread. Not only is the content so useful, it’s abrupt as well. There’s little waffle or side stories in this book, there’s just a drive to make fantastic bread that stems from the author. Raymond Calvel takes every element of bread production and spins the classic methods of gentle mixing and time to develop dough and compares this to the high intensity, high-speed commercial bread that we see on supermarket shelves today.
What I like is that he clearly prefers the traditional methods however explains why the modern techniques work and how they can both be used (with a bit of love) to make fantastic bread, and when they shouldn’t.
This book is aimed at experienced bakers who want to maximise their breads quality. The recipes at the end of the book are fantastically straightforward but a lack of clear guidelines means this book isn’t suited to beginners. Again the recipes are fantastic and there are several variations for each bread depending on how long the baker has to make the bread and many other variables!
3) Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza - Ken Forkish
Flour Water Salt Yeast is broken into four sections; The Principles of Artisan Bread, Basic Bread Recipes, Levain Bread Recipes, and Pizza Recipes. Inside, you’re taken on a journey in baking bread from start to finish. Similar to the “Bread Bakers Apprentice", you learn the theory behind the recipes and then take them on. The recipes are built using bakers formula for professional production so working with decimal accuracy when weighing is something you might have to get used to (or rounding up).
The sourdough starter recipe calls for a massive amount of flour to be used which has caused many frowns from home bakers who can’t stand the waste.
The step by step tutorials are extremely thorough and clear, nothing is missed out. There’s pages and pages of information and they are all knitted together in a very readable way. Every baker take something from this bread baking book, which is why it’s comfortably in the top 5.
4) Dough - Richard Bertinet
I must admit I borrowed a few of these recipes and tweaked them in my bakery, especially the bacon and cheese slices, they were amazing, and I’d always have to make extra otherwise we wouldn’t have enough to sell by the time they had cooled!!
This is a book about bread that keeps things simple. It’s a fantastic book to get started with and offers some interesting recipes and styles. There is a run-through on the ingredients and equipment used in bread baking at the start before some basic techniques and recipes follow.
The recipes are built around one dough for each section, you then alter the dough to make the different breads, with the easiest at the start. This approach to baking is just like the majority of professional bakers follow and the bread I have made from following these recipes has always been top notch.
If you are taking up bread baking as a hobby and want reliable recipes from a professional tutor then Dough is the book I would buy first.
5) How to make sourdough - Emmanuel Hadjiandreou
If you want to make sourdough, there are plenty of books that can teach you. I have a step by step guide on my blog and there must be 100’s of others that do too! This How To Make Sourdough book really starts from the basics to teach you everything you need to know when getting started with sourdough baking.
To be clear, it doesn’t contain loads of troubleshooting or extra baking theory about fermentation or suchlike. But if you just follow his recipes, you can easily get started baking with sourdough quite easily without any stress.
There are some fantastic photographs inside demonstrating techniques such as kneading, shaping and cutting the bread. Emmanuel is possibly the leading bread baking teacher in the UK with roles in The School Of Artisan Food and Bread Ahead baking schools.
6) How To Bake - Paul Hollywood
Paul has got a bit of an odd reputation in the UK, his onscreen persona seems to be more about him and is tan than the bread. It causes many people in the industry to dismiss what he’s talking about. His bread sells in Harrods so he really knows his stuff, and this book proves that. The majority of his recipes are scaled back versions of the true thing which are tweaked for the home part-time baker.
What I like about this book is the step by step detail given when it’s needed and when keeping it simple is required, Paul does just that. It’s a good book that can be used by anyone to get started with baking bread. If you want to learn more professional baking tips however then choose another bread baking book
A guide on the basics of bread making, followed by loads of recipes to try. All the basic British and European bread recipes are included, as well as a few recipes for sweets and pastries which I’m not interested in, but others might.
7) Wholegrain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor - Peter Reinhart
You know when someone is special when they have two books in the top ten, but actually I debated adding “Crust & Crumb” to the list too! Peter Reinhart expands his use of soakers and cool fermentation in this book to provide several fantastic recipes for making bread at home with wholegrains.
For bakers who specialise in home-ground flour and healthy, wholemeal bread this is the book that sets the benchmark for others to follow. A truly fantastic collection of recipes and ideas to make fantastic bread.
It’s not a beginner book yet Peter Reinhart has a way of reeducating the reader on baking bread without feeling patronising or boring. A fantastic ready and an incredible selection of recipes. One of the very best baking books we will ever see.
8) The Bread Bible - Rose Levy Beranbaum
You really get a sense that Rose Levy Beranbaum wants to help you with her thorough tutorials on how to make bread. Follow ger recipes and you will make some really tremendous bread. The bread bible starts with 66 pages detailing the ten steps of the bread-making process which is followed by 150 bread recipes. Using Rose’s recipes you’ll find it really hard to go wrong, they are so thoughtfully put together.
Plenty of troubleshooting tips and information on how to get the best from your bread is listed at the start of each recipe, this is a book that lives up to its name. No pictures but plenty of illustrations.
It would be further up the list if it was a little easier to read, there are so many references and links to material that it gets hard to read and enjoy. The Bread Bible gives off the same vibe as the St Michaels cookbooks which Mum kept from the 80’s!
9) Tartine Bread - Chad Robertson
This book along with a youtube video has propelled Chard Robertson and the Tartine sourdough baking method into worldwide acclaim. Tartine does not have the same structure of How To Bake Info, followed by Recipes… etc. Instead we kick off with the story of Chad’s life and how he got into bread, how it took years of practice to perfect a recipe -though I’m not sure if this is really be a good thing to shout about!
Moving on from the about me section, we learn a basic country sourdough recipe over a short course of 35 pages. Yes! 35 pages for one recipe!! It really shows you everything about the tartine method so you can make the same bread at home.
Following this recipe, there are more recipes, but shorter this time.
Plenty of snazzy, surfer style photos litter the book, plus loads of bread pictures are found, not necessarily related to the topic being discussed.
The Tartine Bread book divides opinion, it really does well to build the bakery as a brand, it is also very thorough in what it does teach. If you want to follow this method then get this book and you will be an expert in the Tartine method.
If you want to learn many types of bread, don’t let this be your only baking book.
10) Bread Matters: Why and How to Make Your Own - Andrew Whitley
This book is for people who love bread and making bread. It is a bit of an oddball, Andrew speaks about the state of modern baking and what he believes we should do to fix it. Mr Whitley is a founder of the Real Bread Campaign which supports artisan bread producers in their goal of being successful.
After the Bread Matter set’s the scene we are then introduced with recipes, which I keep telling myself to try!
This is a really important book for bread lovers and the recipes at the back are pretty good. You will want some experience in baking before undertaking the recipes as there are no illustrations demonstrating the steps taken, yet there are multiple tips throughout in breakout boxes.
11) Bread Science: The Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread - Emily Buehler
Emily Bruehler’s book on bread science breaks down the bread-making process to probably the highest degree than the other books on this list. If you have a recipe or step by step baking book then Bread Science would be a fantastic next read. Learning about the science of bread making has really helped me make better bread and be more confident when approaching new recipes.
If you have never baked bread before this book will probably alienate you, but if you have some baking experience you’ll love Bread Science.
It’s well thought out, detailed, yet simple.
12) Baking School: The Bread Ahead Cookbook - Bread Ahead Bakery
The Bread Ahead school is one of the major baking schools in the UK. They are based in London’s famous Borough Market and have made those big doughnuts where the filling pours out from the hole synonymous with their brand.
Much as I love the things that they do, a reissue to tidy it up and streamline it would be really helpful. Many readers complain that the timings in the recipes are hard to follow. There isn’t as much detail provided compared with the other books in this about the science of bread making.
There are a few contrasting views without any reasoning to back it up, for example, “A bread dough at a temperature of 10-24C is a perfect place for yeast to become active”. This is not perfect for yeast activity, yeast prefers around 35C, that’s not to say that a perfect final dough temperature should be in the region of 10-24C, yet that is quite a broad range.
I think the working needs a bit of a look into but if you follow the instructions provided you will learn how to make fantastic bread in this book, no doubt about that. There is a conscious effort made to teach new bakers how to make bread like some of the top artisan bakers craft theirs.
You will notice how these recipes are more complicated than books that are designed for home bakers such as Paul Hollywood’s. The recipes are focused on making a beginner as good as a professional baker quickly so if you are ready to make that step then this book will be really helpful.
Which bread baking book is right for you?
Let’s be honest not everyone buys a book to read, some of us just like to display it on the bookshelf just to impress our visitors. In that case it's up to you which one you choose. But here is my top pick for beginner, intermediate and advanced bread books:
Best Beginner bread baking book
For this I would choose "Dough by Richard Bertinet", it's simple and really accessable yet the recipes are of a fantastic calibre. A nice mix of recipes and you'll be ready to get started with your first loaf pretty much straightaway.
Best Intermediate bread baking book
It's got to be "Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart", it really takes you on a story of bread, you'll feel motivated by reading it and learn loads about baking bread. This was closely followed by Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish, there is not much in it!
Best Advanced bread baking book
"The Taste Of Bread by Raymond Calvel" wins this hands down. I just keep reading it and learning something new! I've not even read every page yet, nor tried that many of the recipes. This book offers so much to bread bakers and will help anyone to master their craft.
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