Bake me like one of your French rolls
October 27, 2015 1:22 PM   Subscribe

What is the best baking cook book to teach about different kinds of dough, their use, and principles of baking?

I've been deeply inspired by watching The Great British Baking Show. Baking hasn't appealed to me much, though I have enjoyed making my own pizza dough every now and again. What I realized while watching this show was, "wait, if I know what dough does what and how, I could do all sorts of cool things!"

I'm looking for a cook book that isn't about making dazzling recipes but about understanding the fundamentals of different kinds of dough (and maybe a few recipes of fun/basic things to make with that dough) for a beginner. A book would be nice, but a website would be great. Bonus if it also includes instructions for how to work around not having a stand mixer.
posted by Tevin to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
If you're sticking just to bread baking, then my absolute favorite is The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum. She does an excellent job of explaining just why you add this or that ingredient, why you knead this way and not that way and for how long or short, etc. It's a great baking book, perfect for beginners or experts.
posted by dis_integration at 1:27 PM on October 27, 2015 [10 favorites]

Dorrie Greenspan is considered one of the best bakers in America, googling her name and recipes should get you to some interesting baking blogs.

Also, for more fancy interesting sweet stuff in interesting combos, look up Christina Tosi.
posted by TenaciousB at 1:30 PM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Bread Bible is good. The Bread Baker's Apprentice is also a pretty commonly recommended book, with a good approach to fundamentals and recipes that are not too fussy.

I only mix by hand, so a stand mixer is not a requirement. Also, my #1 recommendation is to get a digital scale - not having to futz with measuring cups and spoons makes clean up and putting together a recipe infinitely easier.
posted by Think_Long at 1:31 PM on October 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

I've really enjoyed The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (who has written another great bread book called "Brother Juniper's Bread Book.") Although it includes instructions on how to use a mixer and notes when you can use it, his methods center around doing it by hand in order to learn the feel of the dough.

It starts out with a tutorial on deconstruction of bread, including all the 12 different stages of bread from ingredients (weight vs volume) through fermentation through baking. He also breaks down the recipes into "formulas" so you learn about ratios of flour to fat to sugar to liquid for each of the different kinds of breads. The formulas he provides are for a huge range of breads, and I still go back to his book all the time for the ratios for different breads I'm attempting to personalize.

On preview: aha, already recommended, so seconding that recommendation!
posted by barchan at 1:34 PM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

King Arthur Flour has a great blog, Flourish. Search for "basic bread" and you will find lots of tips and recipes. You also might be interested in the bread posts in The Kitchn's recent "baking school" series.

The books recommended above (Berenbaum and Reinhart) are classics, too.
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:43 PM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I found Ratio to be interesting.
posted by Shanda at 1:56 PM on October 27, 2015 [6 favorites]

Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet is v. good.
posted by bifter at 2:29 PM on October 27, 2015

RATIO RATIO RATIO. That book is EXACTLY, PRECISELY what you are looking for.

posted by showbiz_liz at 6:01 PM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Bread by Jeff Hamelman -- Hamelman is a baker at KAF and describes in great detail how to make all sorts of dough, and the different factors that give rise to the different types of dough. He also gives some great insights on the technique and art of baking bread. In conjunction with Bread Bakers Apprentice, you will have a very comprehensive, almost authoritative, set of resources on baking bread at home.
posted by scalespace at 6:56 PM on October 27, 2015

For an online resource, try Joe Pastry. Here's his post on brioche. If you search the archives for 'brioche,' you'll find posts on the history and chemistry of brioche dough. He usually posts on the history of a certain type of pastry, then tries a number of recipes, then writes a full tutorial. He has a series on pizza, Panetonne, tea breads, etc. I've tried a number of his recipes, and they reliably turn out well.

For books, I'd second The Bread Baker's Apprentice.
posted by MrBobinski at 7:09 PM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would second Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice and Hamelman's Bread. Both great books that I use regularly.
posted by klausness at 5:35 AM on October 28, 2015

N'thing The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart - I've cooked several recipes from this book and it is AMAZING. He really goes through all the techniques, ways you can use the doughs, etc. Definitely don't need a stand mixer to use it.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:39 AM on October 28, 2015

I would also check out Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish. His book has great explanations (more details than I personally care, but my husband read it) and the breads are amazing. Everything is given in grams and ratios. I believe most (all?) of the recipes are no-knead as well.

I also like anything Rose Beranbaum. I currently own The Cake Bible and Rose's Heavenly Cakes, because personally, I have more of a sweet tooth.
posted by ethidda at 1:55 PM on October 28, 2015

If bread is your interest, try this website, and maybe get Calvel's book. Rose Beranbaum explains things well, as does Shirley Corriher.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 12:48 PM on October 29, 2015

Nthing Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. When I make his poolish focaccia and bring it to potlucks and the like, people weep with bread joy. Another book I like is Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:12 PM on October 30, 2015

Oh this thread is still up!

I ended up getting started with The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I don't want to exaggerate too much but this book has literally changed my life.

It gave me, more than any other cookbook I have encountered, the confidence and knowledge to feel like I could actually make bread that tasted good. I started off with the poolish foccaccia that is, no lie, one of the best things I have ever tasted. Period. I took it to work, to rave reviews.

Since getting this book at the end of October I have made two or three loaves a week. I eat homemade bread for breakfast every morning. Making bread has re-inspired my love of cooking and helped me realize I love to cook and led to seek recipe instructions that are as precise as break making. Before making bread and engaging with this book I would never thought it would be something I enjoyed. But read, let me tell you, I LOVE IT.

Furthermore! Let me take this opportunity to say thank you all for responding. This book was exactly the recommendation that I needed. It has started me on what I think will probably be a lifelong hobby. Thank you everyone. Some day if I ever see any of you at a meetup I'll be in tow with a sack full of my favorite hearth bread with your name on it.
posted by Tevin at 10:23 PM on January 28, 2016

Let me know if you succeed with his Portugese sweet bread. I can only seem to produce lumpy black bricks with it.
posted by Think_Long at 10:41 AM on January 29, 2016

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