It’s not hard to track my growing obsession with bread. Just visit me on Instagram or follow along with my Friday Reads posts: 52 Loaves, In Search of the Perfect Loaf , My Bread, Bread Alone. I’ve accumulated quite an impressive collection of bread books (you can see SOME of them in the above photo). As anyone who loves reading cookbooks can attest to, sometimes reading about cooking & baking is just as fulfilling as actually doing it. I find this especially true of bread cookbooks. Each stage of bread baking is meticulously described with such evocative language that you can almost smell the bread baking in the oven.
If you’re at all interested in becoming a bread baker, first of all let me say, with all the carb-fueled enthusiasm I can muster, that you should definitely give it a try! Bread is intimidating, I won’t argue that. Before I started baking bread I was already really comfortable in the kitchen. But bread is entirely different from cupcakes, cookies, and pastries. It’s deceptively simple. My first exposure to the world of bread was in a basement kitchen in Paris where a gorgeous chef yelled at me in French while attempting to teach me how to make baguettes. I was pretty much hooked after that. My first bread book was Jim Lahey’s My Bread, which teaches you some basics but doesn’t get into the more advanced stuff. In other words, it’s the perfect introduction to the world of bread baking.
After that you might want to dive a little deeper. I’d suggest Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman, or The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart. I also really love Josey Baker’s Bread, which I find myself turning to time and time again. His recipes are easy to follow and his casual, surfer-boy style makes the whole process a little less intense. But when you’re ready for some real bread books, do yourself a favour and pick up one or all of these:
by Chad Robertson
Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza
by Ken Forkish
Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and more
by Sarah Owens
I’m still adding to my collection every now again, most recently with used copies of Beard on Bread by James Beard and English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David. And if you really want to get into the history of bread, Six Thousand Years of Bread by H.E. Jacob is incredibly thorough, as its name suggests.
If you love bread but have no desire to bake it for yourself, please make sure you’re at least buying good bread from a local bakery whenever you can. The experience of eating real bread is worth whatever drive/walk/flight you have to take. Once you have a slice from an artisan loaf, maybe still warm with a little butter, you won’t be able to go back to grocery store loaves. And I think that’s a good thing.