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Feb 8, 2010 02:00 PM

Is the Bread Bible the best bread cookbook?

I'm looking for that one go-to bread baking cookbook for a friend who's newly into the process and wants to learn techniques, try out different recipes, etc. Any suggestions?

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  1. If you're referring to the Rose Levy-Berenbaum book, I adore it. Beth H____ (forget her name) came out with a book after the RLB one and it has the same title?!!??! Lame.

    Anyway, when I got my RLB I learned so much about flours and yeasts and so forth - just from the the sections in the front and the ingredients explanations in the back. The recipes are very good (the no-knead pizza great), and I've made many wonderful breads, with no failures. But mainly its appeal to me is learning about materials and methods. As with her other Bibles, she includes an explanation of why she employs various methods or ingreds (her "Understanding" sections) for most of the recipes. Love this. Minor criticisms:

    I find her unnecessarily wedded to instant yeast in a bid to make bread baking easier for her readers. For example, in the section about yeasts, she explains why pizza makers generally prefer active dry yeast, yet for her pizza recipe she remains resolutely mired in her instant yeast "ideology". As a result, I find myself converting the yeast-risen doughs from instant to active dry (b/c I'm not crazy about instant yeast).

    The recipes have volumetric and weight measurements (both avoirdupois and metric). Yay! But ... the amounts are calculated and converted rather than worked out for each type of measurement. So you get weird measurements like, say, 787 grams instead of 790. I'm assuming it's to avoid having to test for each measurement type. It doesn't present a huge problem, and you can't really blame the author for not wanting to do all that extra work, given that publishers have become notorious for deciding at the last minute not to publish weight measurements (e.g. Dorrie Greenspan's home baking book), despite the hard work that might have gone into it. In watching other people weigh metrically (who aren't used to it), I've noticed that many are needlessly exacting about it, which might be unnecessarily frustrating to some. Still, it shouldn't put people off; many of the books with weight measures included are doing this now.

    These are my only (very) minor complaints. I love it and have learned heaps from it. I would call it my go-to bread book.

    1. I think there are two books called The Bread Bible. One is by Hennesperger and the other by Beranbaum. Of the two, I think the Beranbaum's book would be more complete. But I don't know if there is any "best" bread cookbook. A lot depends on whether someone approaches baking through recipes or through an in-depth understanding of bread theory and techniques. There are at least half a dozen superb books that address the theoretical and technical side. For some, the finest to date would be Hamelman's book "Bread." Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Baking Across America" was my break through book, but only after reading the bread chapters in Thorne's "Outlaw Cook." Maggie's book also led me to Raymond Calvel's "The Taste of Bread," which is the most technical discussion of them all, and not a recipe book. Peter Rhinehart's books are very good as well. And I like the recent volumes of Bertinet. Ultimately, a lot will depend on whether your likes meticulous prose or is more visual and needs pictures. So take a look in the book shop and get a good book that you think will be helpful.
      In the end, it will not be the recipe books that will teach your friend to bake bread. It will be getting his or her hands into flour, water, yeast, and salt. A few sessions actually baking is the best teacher of all.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Father Kitchen

        Yes I like the Bertinet books too - well I like all the books you've mentioned, that I've seen. I didn't know Raymond Calvel had anything out in translation! Thanks for the tip off. Or maybe that's the book that's well over $100 . . .

        And I second your point that learning about bread is not about simply following recipes. I had to think a bit to even remember the RLB recipes. They're not the point of a bread book to me. So, yes, one's approach to the craft is everything in sussing out a bread making book.

        1. re: cinnamon girl

          Yes, Calvel is very pricey. I think I paid $75.00 for it when it came out about eight years ago. Try getting it by library loan. By the way, I misspelled Reinhart's name above, and gave Bertinet the wrong first name. It is Richard, not Patrick.

          1. re: Father Kitchen

            Thanks FK. I will look for it at the library and start trawling websites for second-hand copies too. I've read so many references to him over the years that it's a shame only to have read him paraphrased or quoted.

      2. I have the RLB Bread Bible and Love it. I have also borrowed Bread from my friend and it is also excellent.

        My take on the two? Th Bread Bible is a simpler book, but you will learn more from Bread. You will make fabulous bread with both.

        1. I just made RLB's Tyrolean Ten-Grain Torpedo and it is a stone cold WINNER. I've made three breads from the book now, one is forgettable, one is good and then this one from yesterday. If your new to bread baking, I highly recommend Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day for your first book. Its his latest, very simply written and so far every recipe a winner. I find this book much easier to understand than all the books mentioned here already, I have them all except the translated one somebody mentioned.

          I also recommend for information. Also there are youtube videos up the gazookie on shaping and a video is worth a thousand words. Good Luck !

          1 Reply
          1. re: saraugie

            Yes there was a wonderful video of Richard Bertinet on kneading very soft dough. As you say . . . worth a thousand words. Wonder if it's still there given Gourmet's demise. By the way, his books come with a DVD.