Choose a bread recipe book to inspire you
Are you looking for a really great bread book? After all, there are so many. I asked two great woman bakers to add their suggestions to my own. These are books that are tried and tested. Ones we go back to again and again. Just for fun, I include a couple of ‘blasts from the past’.
Should you live near Brighton do check out Cookbookbake, Brighton & Hove’s wonderful independent specialist cookbook shop who will be featuring the books we recommend.
Sonya Hundal, Greenfield Bakers
Fellow Real Bread Campaign Ambassador Sonya Hundal of Greenfield Bakers. All of the bread is baked in her wood fired oven with flour from Maud Foster Windmill.
The book I keep returning to is Bread: a Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes, Jeffrey Hamelman, 2004, mainly because of the combination of technical and autobiographical information. There is so much in here; and what seemed like complex formulas and methods when I first picked up this book, are comprehensively explained. (I have this too).
Michelle Stratford, Founder, Planet Leicester Bakers
Michelle Stratford has over 25 years of experience working in the charity and community sector, at international and local levels. This included work as a tutor in community adult education and health projects. In 2013 she began to look at ideas to develop her own social enterprise and Planet Leicester Bakers was the result!
Without a doubt my current top choice bread book, which I always recommend, is from Bread Angels founder Jane Mason. It has just been republished as ‘Making Bread at Home’ (formerly ‘All you Knead is Bread’). I love it because it is up to date with great tips for the modern home bread baker as well as taking us around the world with bread from so many different countries and cultures. Jane writes in a really clear, accessible style, is reassuring and quite light hearted. Some bread books can be overly technical and prescriptive, which I don’t always find helpful with bread making – there are so many different ways of doing things. But some basic tips like not flouring your work surface are really valuable and included in Jane’s books when appropriate. After all, the Bread Angels is a network of home bread bakers who have taken the leap into selling their bread to their communities – so Jane’s books reflect the fact that bread making is for everyone and totally ‘doable’.
My other favourite books are more generic cooking or baking books. I often look in the contents when choosing a new recipe book to see if there is any bread included, because some of the real recipe gems are not in pure bread books. Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food is one. It is a lovely book on Jewish food, contains lots of insight into the history of food in Jewish culture and faith and is my ‘go to’ book for Challah, bagels and sweet, soft German/American Jewish pumpernickel.
In the past few years I’ve fallen in love with Nordic cookery too, and Trine Hahnemann’s ‘Scandinavian Baking’ is brilliant. It has some super Danish and wider Nordic bread recipes, including malted rye bread with mixed seeds, which is so solid I asked my dad to buy me a Danish bread slicer to cut it with! (I have to agree about this book, it’s on my shelf as well!)
So my tip is always to keep an eye out for generic cookery books with bread recipes included, even if only one or two. They are often the recipes you find yourself returning to time and time again.
Danielle Ellis, Severn Bites
Real Bread Campaign Ambassador, Bread skills tutor
I’ve got top ‘go tos’ that I always recommend, particularly to new bread bakers, and then a couple more I love to return to that are great for when you really want to get to grips with breadmaking.
I trained in France and now teach many of the techniques I learnt which are very similar to Richard Bertinet’s. I love his mantra “Show the dough who is boss”. I recommend, Dough, Crust and Crumb. All three of these are fabulous and really easy to follow. If you are a beginner I’d suggest starting with Dough and Crust. Although sourdough is mentioned in Crust, he really focuses on it in his latest book Crumb.
I particularly enjoy making sweet doughs and find A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets by George Greenstein indispensable. In addition to a myriad of recipes, there are tips on glazes and fillings and how to tackle the more tricky items. However, it is not illustrated so you might need to Google to see what some of the lesser known items look like!
Another favourite is the Larousse Book of Bread by Eric Kayser, France’s top baker with 80 bread and viennoiserie (sweet dough) recipes. It has a particularly useful appendix for serious bakers. I have to say, I prefer the cover to the French edition shown here.
Blast from the past
Elizabeth David’s Bread and Yeast Cookery was published in 1977. It is a fascinating history of bread with many original recipes included. Whilst you might not bake these everyday, it is a fascinating read. My copy is now falling apart at the seams.
Use Your Loaf written by Ursel Norman and illustrated by Derek Norman was published in 1973. I particularly enjoy the illustrations that accompany each recipe, although the techniques are not what I’d use these days!