The Nerdiest Sourdough
February 9, 2020 1:24 AM   Subscribe

What's the nerdiest sourdough book you know of? Which book will give me the most information about the process of sourdough bread baking and why I'm taking various steps? Ideally with a proper biological/chemical breakdown of the processes involved.

I'm getting into sourdough and have my own starter going, but it's bugging me that so many of the recipes out there boil down to 'do this, Because'. This also leads to me chafing at the bit because I'm bad at following instructions I don't understand the reasons for; consequently, a lot of my loaves are less good than they should be because I got annoyed and did the 'wrong' thing. I'm aware that there's an entire web community out there with lots of discussion of the process of sourdough, but I'd like to read a nice book about sourdough that will get me to properly understand why I'm doing things. Ideally it would have recipes, but they'd just have more informational backing than the ones I've read so far.
Note that I'm less interested in the business of how to build/care for a starter: I'm pretty happy with mine, it's nice and active and tastes good. I understand that most authors will dedicate some space to this, but I don't want it to be the main focus.
posted by Acheman to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
It's too expensive for me, but you asked.
posted by mumimor at 3:17 AM on February 9

Bread, by Jeffrey Hamelman. Written by a baker, for bakers.

Roughly half the book is explanations about the science of bread.

I've read a lot of bread books, a lot. It's my favourite of the bunch.
posted by smoke at 4:41 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

Traditional bread baking: Le Goût de Pain will explain the effects of when you add salt vs the autolyse, etc. It’s very detailed. Side note on fancy expensive books: the modernist guy now has galleries featuring prints of his photos, where for around a thousand bucks you can enjoy more fruits of his labor.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 5:08 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I second the Hamelman suggestion, his Vermont Sourdough recipe will set you up very nicely.

"The Bread Bible" by Rose Levy would also be an excellent addition to your library, plenty of technical information on sourdough and very detailed start-to-finish instructions.
posted by jeremias at 6:25 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]

An older book, but a good one, is Beard on Bread by James Beard. Tons of used copies available for cheap.
posted by gudrun at 8:35 AM on February 9

Hammelman's Bread is the one. The recipes are good and fundamental and the appendix has everything you'll ever need to know about starch damage, how to read a farinograph, etc. Every time I find myself dealing with something strange that's the one I reach for. My copy is dog-eared and water damaged and marked up all over.

Le Goût de Pain is good, but at this point it's a little anachronistic. It's interesting to watch Calvel build arguments for techniques like autolyse, but most everything in that book is accepted cannon at this point.

Bread Science: the Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread is a good resource. I find it sort of frustrating, because the first chapter is very simple and then the second chapter goes straight for the processes of enzymes at the molecular level, which is a little over my head.

If you're on instagram, @apieceofbread has a singular dedication to pouring through scientific papers on dough rheology and amylase activity. Instagram is not the ideal medium for his essays, but there is no question the guy has amassed a wealth of knowledge on sourdough and is committed to sharing it freely and widely.

Modernist Bread is kind of a big shrug for me. There is a lot of good information in there, but it is not super well edited. Just so many tangential pieces that seem like summaries of encyclopedia entries. Pretty pictures, but so enamored with the idea of including EVERYTHING that it is hard to find specific information.
posted by clockwork at 10:59 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

Breadit always talks about Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish.
posted by mareliz at 11:37 AM on February 10

« Older Seeing the Big Island after the eruption   |   Who was a gay icon of the 1970s? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments