With straightforward definitions, easy-to-understand diagrams, and big, glossy photos, Bread is my favorite book for beginner bread makers.
“I want to try it… it’s just so intimidating!” is, hands down, the most common reaction I get when I tell people that bread making is one of my hobbies. And Bread, by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno, is the book I refer them to first. It’s brief, for a cookbook (bakebook?) but densely packed with rich photographs that help novice — and even intermediate — bread makers understand just what the heck is going on throughout the bread making process.
While that familiar red-and-white DK logo may transport you back to childhood, and you may balk at the idea of using a children's book let me be the first to reassure you that this is not a children's book. (And even if it was, get over yourself, it's great! Don't be that person.) Just like the rest of DK's encyclopedia books, Bread covers the basic fundamentals of bread making — from the history of popular loaves to the ingredients they require to how to freeze your dough for storage — in a way that is easy to understand, simple, and completely accessible to bakers of all ages.
Most of the recipes included are for yeast-leavened doughs, but the book does also include explanations for things like sourdough starter and tips for using bread making machines, if that's of interest to you.
While Bread may not be as trendy as Flour Salt Water Yeast or The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, it's a perfect book for beginner bread makers looking for a project to fill an afternoon, rather than a few days. The recipes themselves are simple and straightforward, but they're actually not the best part of the book (I actually don't think I've ever used one of them) the best part of the book is the visual library that makes up the book's first half. In fact, you may not even ever use the recipes in this book. It's still worth a spot on your shelf.
The easy-to-understand encyclopedia of common ingredients, techniques, and histories of different types of bread which make up the first half of the book provide you with the knowledge you need to feel confident, no matter what recipe you're using. If bread making feels intimidating, this book serves as a form of permission to try new things with an understanding of what different results you might get.
Particularly helpful are the large, glossy photos showing the effect different kinds adjustments to your favorite recipes can have. Rather than seeing recipes as prescribed, strictly-followed sets of steps, you'll begin to understand why recipes ask you to do certain things and what to do if you aren't getting results on timeline the recipe has promised. Before you know it, you'll have honed your instincts for how to solve common problems that might arise, and be able to adjust your favorite recipes to suit your needs.
No matter what recipe I'm using, I've got this book at my fingertips to understand how to adjust those recipes, or what alternate ingredients I can use if I run out of something I need.
Ran out of eggs when you needed an egg wash? Here's some other ways to add an interesting finish to your bread:
Trying to think of other possible toppings for your bread? There's a whole page for that, too.
Found a recipe that calls for cake yeast but don't know what it looks like? Wondering what would happen if you used water instead of milk in the recipe you're using? This book has you covered:
Once you understand what’s happening when you combine flour, yeast, salt, and water and have some familiarity working with different kinds of dough, then it’s time to invest in tools like kitchen scales, proofing buckets, fancy flours, and so on.
But if you’re just looking to get started and familiarize yourself with the basics of bread making over the course of an afternoon, this is precisely the book you want to guide you.
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NOTE: I honestly can't understand why it's so hard to find a copy of this book anywhere. I think it's out of print? Or only printed in hardback? The paperback edition is the one I've reviewed here, and is available on Amazon, used, through third-party sellers.