Five Essential New Bread Books (Yes, they are truly essential)
I had no idea I needed more bread cookbooks, but…well…it turns out I do. Actually, it looks like I need at least two more bread cookbooks (I already have three of the five recommendations below) because authors and bakers keep finding new takes on home bread baking (and side note: I might be a borderline cookbook hoarder).
Over the years, home bread baking has become my religion. And, at risk of sounding a tad self-help-y, there is something therapeutic about baking loaves of sourdough at home. It is one of the few times each week I can shut out the world and concentrate. I practically live for nurturing a starter, shaping the dough, and OMG that wonderful smell – you are an absolute sadist if you don’t appreciate the scent of warm, freshly baked sourdough wafting through your home.
In theory, you probably only need 4 or 5 recipes to riff on during your lifetime, but I have never been content with repetition (this is coming from someone that has made at least 30 different variations of a chocolate chip cookie within a span of 5 years). So, with each new bread book, I dig in. I look for the peculiar or different or fun recipe, and give it a go. The following crop of bread books appear to be aimed at the “slightly above novice to slightly advanced” crowd (this is just a cursory opinion and please note, I have only gone through 3 of these books as the others have not been released yet…er…at the time of writing this post).
That said, if you are looking for entry level books, I still recommend Flour Water Salt Yeast (start with the non-sourdough breads first to gain an understanding of methodologies, timing/scheduling, and basics) as well as the first Tartine Bread book (less complicated recipe for the basic Tartine loaf is here).
Alright, and now for my favorite new finds (and some that I can’t wait to get my hands on):
Sourdough by Casper André Lugg and Martin Ivar Hveem Fjeld
I am not sure when I first stumbled across the Instagram account of ille brød, but I am ever so thankful I did (one part inspiration + one part bread porn). The book which grew out of this project is perhaps my current favorite and the one I keep returning too. While the base methods are similar to Tartine (with some tweaks to the levain build), I find this book refreshingly approachable. While the authors (like many other current bread books) refer to one base methodology – exquisitely detailed at the beginning of the book – they also take care to walk you through each individual recipe with helpful headnotes as opposed to just throwing various formulas at you. Their simple Tin Loaf recipe is something I can’t stop baking and their 50% Spelt is a thing of beauty. It goes without saying that the photos are achingly beautiful. Note: this book (to the best of my knowledge) does not have a U.S. publisher so you might want to ask your local bookstore to bring it in or buy one used on Amazon or purchase via Amazon.uk.
Bageriet by Petrus Jakobsson
This book was gifted to me (ever so thankful for this gift). It is stunning, inspirational, aspirational, and completely in Swedish. I do not speak or read Swedish. Instead, I have been using the Google Translate app (with the easy to use photo translate feature) to piece together some recipes that I want to attempt. This has, of course, been a bit of a labor of love that has produced some interesting takes. For instance, the gorgeous looking Kavring recipe keeps translating as “Bitch” (Kavring is a Swedish Dark Rye)…and an instruction in the Smörfralla suggested “the drops are gay”. Homosexual drops? Happy drops? I don’t mind the detective work, and part of the fun is the discovery. And quite honestly, all the extra legwork just means I am learning more (paying more attention) and absorbing more. If you enjoy this sort of thing, I highly recommend the book. Or perhaps send a note to the editor begging for an English translation. Or, as one friend suggested, find a gorgeous Swedish person to whisper the English words in your ear.
Toast and Jam by Sarah Owens
This is perhaps one of the rare perfect follow-up books to a truly wonderful debut. I raved about Sarah’s Sourdough book when it first came out, and while I just got my hands on this book (I haven’t had a chance to bake from it yet), I am thrilled that at first glance it still has that percolating memoir feel that digs deeper than most cookbooks (well, some cookbooks aim for this but often feel less than authentic). The book is divided up into literally Toast (breads) and Jam (and spreads like nut butters and toppers like sorghum-roasted carrots). While, technically speaking, you don’t need Sarah’s first book to get a handle on her bread baking (she replicates how to begin a simple sourdough starter here), I highly recommend you purchase the first book as well. It is a true companion piece.
Meyers Bakery by Claus Meyer
The indefatigable Claus Meyer came stateside in a big way. His name is omnipresent throughout New York’s Grand Central Station with many types of savory/sweet kiosks and even one fancy restaurant. It is hard to believe that you can now grab a wonderful loaf of bread in one of the world’s busiest train stations (U.S. hubs of transportation are traditionally not known for their grab and go fare. They were – until recently – associated with Au Bon Pain and Subway and I am so happy that the times are a changing). That said, I picked up a Danish copy of this book (I assume it is the same book) when I was in Copenhagen ages ago and I am so thrilled to get an English translation. I do not have a copy of the English translation but (obviously) anticipate a strong Nordic influence. Lots of ryes and seeded loaves.
Modernist Bread by Nathan MyhrvoldI am equal parts terrified and excited about this five volume set which is well on its way to becoming a masterpiece even before full publication. While I have no doubt this this exhaustive book(s) will be thrillingly detailed and full of historical insight, it most likely will lack romance. Romance was never really the point for a book like this. It is more encyclopedia + text book, but with more visual flair. I have yet to pre-order this tome, the pricetag is eye-popping, but I will undoubtedly pick it up in a moment of weakness at 2AM while window shopping on my iPhone. This is not so much a book I crave, but I ABSOLUTELY NEED IT.