Learning how to bake sourdough bread is one of the most fulfilling baking techniques you can master because you not only bake bread, but you can nurture your own natural, wild yeast as well.
It’s not even as difficult as it sounds. Plus, it’s surprisingly inexpensive to produce mouth-watering, aromatic sourdough bread at home whenever the urge takes you.
If you’re new to sourdough, one of the best places to look for guidance is in a cookbook that’s devoted to this delicious subject.
What makes the best sourdough book? When choosing a sourdough book you’ll want to consider the level of content and how explanatory it is, but also the variety of the recipes, the appeal of the pictures, and the qualifications of the author.
In this article, we’ll share with you our favorite 7 best sourdough books to help you develop your sourdough baking skills. Let’s get started.
How to Choose a Sourdough Book
Baking sourdough may not be as difficult as you first imagine it to be. But it can also be a skill that develops into an art form. The right sourdough book can take you from beginner to bread-baking genius, ensuring you only have to buy one.
Before you buy the first book you find, try finding one that is easy to read, entertaining, and, most importantly, informative. Sourdough bread is not just one recipe! You’ll also want to choose a book that shares multiple styles of preparing and baking the bread.
Pictures help you understand what the finished product should look like, giving you a goal to achieve and motivation to take action.
It’s also a good idea to learn a little about the author or recipe developer as well. This helps you make sure the book has been developed by someone who actually knows their dough.
Sourdough begins with a starter, and so should your cookbook. The content of your book should not just tell you what you need, but explain why certain ingredients work best.
For example, have you ever wondered what the best flour for making sourdough starter might be?
This sourdough education should continue through all the stages of preparing and baking sourdough bread, from kneading to folding, shaping, rising, scoring, and, of course, baking.
The more you understand why each step is important, the better you’ll be able to customize recipes to suit your individual preferences.
Your signature sourdough recipes start with a solid foundation of the basics. Every great sourdough book should provide you with this knowledge.
A recipe for basic sourdough bread is an obvious necessity in any sourdough book, but it should not stop there. There are many ways to customize sourdough bread, let alone use sourdough in recipes other than bread.
The book you choose should have a few varieties of sourdough recipes, made with different types of flour, kneading techniques, added ingredients and designed for different purposes. Never settle for a book with fewer than 25 unique recipes or ways to prepare sourdough.
Self-publishing has changed the game. On the one hand, it is an incredible opportunity for individuals to share their expertise with the world without needing the fame, notoriety, or distribution abilities of a major publishing house.
There are some drawbacks, unfortunately. Other than a lack of quality assurance, the one that is most painfully obvious when it comes to cookbooks is the cost of printing a lot of beautiful, full-color pictures.
Of course, seeing the perfection of a golden loaf of sourdough is motivation. Gaining a visual understanding of how to tell if your bread has risen enough or when your starter is ready is also better portrayed through pictures.
Full-color images are, without a doubt, a highlight of any cookbook.
However, if a sourdough book exclusively features black and white pictures or hand-drawn diagrams, or only a few, strategically placed pages of photos, it should not be a reason to write off the book entirely.
If the author is knowledgeable, the content is great and the recipes are unique or specially designed to work within your life, you may be able to live without the pictures. Consider it vintage. Our mothers’ mothers didn’t have full-color pictures either, and they learned how to bake bread.
When you’re searching for a cookbook, don’t only look for names that you recognize. While there may be many celebrity bakers on television (Great British Baking Show anyone?), Youtube, or in blogs, there are many more skilled bakers who you’ve never heard of.
But that doesn’t mean the only good chefs and bakers are famous.
When you’re researching sourdough books, read about the author. Did they go to school for their art? Has their family owned a bakery for generations? Were they experimenting with sourdough starter before they learned their ABCs?
There’s more to a great baker than publicity.
If you’re looking at a self-published book, look at reviews. If someone took the time to develop and write enough recipes to fill a book, chances are good they’re an experienced baker, amateur or not.
Again, self-publishing is a great way for less notable recipe developers and artisanal bakers to develop a secondary income and expose their recipes to a wider audience. Reading the bio and reviews will help you judge who’s an undiscovered diamond.
Best Sourdough Books
We’ve compiled a list of 7 of the best sourdough books we could find. We considered all the criteria we already discussed, including content, recipes included, images, and the author’s expertise, and stand behind these books with confidence.
|1.||Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson||Most recipes and pictures|
|2.||Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa||Best for beginners|
|3.||New World Sourdough by Bryan Ford||Unique, Latin American inspired recipes|
|4.||Starter Sourdough by Carrol Pellegrinelli||Useful charts and indexes|
|5.||The Sourdough School by Vanessa Kimbell||Most complex education|
|6.||Classic Sourdoughs, Revised by Ed Wood||Combines authenticity with modernity|
|7.||Sourdough by Sarah Owens||Best gut health information|
Whether you’re getting ready to bake your first loaf of sourdough, are looking for inspiration to develop your own unique sourdough recipes, or have special dietary requirements that you want to adapt your sourdough baking habits to, there is a book within this collection for you.
Let’s give each one a closer look.
1. Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson
Chad Robertson attended The Culinary Institute of America and left with a double major in baking and pastry. If that wasn’t enough to convince you of his culinary skills, he also won a James Beard award.
Being able to cook and knowing the secrets of sourdough bread are different things, but Robertson is generally considered to be the best bread baker in the U.S.
This book isn’t exclusively dedicated to sourdough, but it is not a second thought either. For the ultimate education on sourdough from Robertson, co-created with his director of bread, Jennifer Latham, you may also want to listen to the audiobook, Getting Started with Sourdough: From Flour to Levain to One Great Loaf.
- Entertaining anecdotes are shared throughout the four, informative sections: Basic Country Bread; Semolina and Whole-Wheat Breads; Baguettes and Enriched Breads; and Day-Old Bread.
- There are 30+ bread recipe variations as well as multiple recipes for other bread-like goods.
- Includes hundreds of photos, including step-by-step guides and full-color finished products.
Biggest Drawback: The biggest drawback is that the entire cookbook isn’t dedicated exclusively to sourdough bread. The flip side of this drawback is that you’ll find plenty of opportunities to pair your new sourdough knowledge with techniques and methods more commonly used on other artisanal styles of bread.
2. Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa
Emilie Raffa is the brilliance behind the popular blog, The Clever Carrot.
She creates, cooks or bakes, and photographs all her own culinary creations, including this IACP-nominated sourdough book. Her work has been featured in all the most impressive publications including Oprah Magazine, Food & Wine, and Saveur, to name just a few.
As a professionally trained chef, Raffa translates her skills into a more home-based baker setting. The recipes in this sourdough book are accessible for first-time bakers, busy parents, and experienced bakers looking for simple, fresh inspiration.
- Written for sourdough beginners and busy bakers, but unique enough to inspire even professional bakers.
- 60+ recipes to bake and use sourdough in a variety of delicious ways.
- Includes full-color photos and step-by-step diagrams.
Biggest Drawback: The print in this cookbook is small. This means more content for a better price without sacrificing plenty of gorgeous pictures, but it also may mean you need a magnifying glass to check your measurements.
3. New World Sourdough by Bryan Ford
Byran Ford draws inspiration from his “Honduran roots and New Orleans upbringing” bringing his sense of flavor and style to develop incredibly unique recipes.
Ford’s signature recipe is a sourdough pan de coco. It’s worth buying this book for that recipe alone. If you enjoy using seasonal ingredients or bringing in flavors that are popular south of the border, this sourdough book is for you.
- Offers easy to follow detail on tools and techniques to help you truly understand sourdough.
- Includes 30+ creative recipes.
- Packed with beautiful full-color photos.
Biggest Drawback: This is not the best choice for beginners. Some of the recipes assume the baker intuitively understands conversions and optimal temperatures. Sometimes the book doesn’t list the basic steps seasoned bakers know to do without thinking but which new bakers may not know about.
4. Starter Sourdough by Carroll Pellegrinelli
Carroll Pellegrinelli’s sourdough book hit the Wall Street Journal’s bestselling list and has sold more than 10,000 copies to date. Her goal in publishing this book was to make sourdough accessible to everyone, removing some of the stigma and myth around the basic bread.
Pellegrinelli has bread baking in her blood, an art she learned first from her mother. This was followed by a 20-year career as the Desserts and Baking Editor at About.com, where she also developed thousands of pieces of baking content for a worldwide audience.
- Step-by-step guidance to creating sourdough starter and sustaining it in the long-term.
- Unique and creative sourdough variations and uses.
- Includes a few stunning full-color images and useful charts but no step-by-step images.
Biggest Drawback: This sourdough book doesn’t have many photos and there is not a visual example of every recipe. However, the useful features, such as measurement and conversion tables, flavor profile charts, and both a glossary of terms and a recipe index make up for the lack of pictures.
5. The Sourdough School by Vanessa Kimbell
Vanessa Kimbell didn’t just write a book about sourdough, she also runs The Sourdough School in Northampton, England.
She is entirely immersed in the world of sourdough, pursuing a Ph.D. in nutrition and the digestibility of bread, specializing in the effects of fermentation on the gut microbiome.
Kimbell’s biggest passion is working with wild yeast, and she shares her impressive knowledge, background, and skills in this sourdough book.
- Very detailed, sometimes complex, explanation about everything sourdough.
- The recipes in this book are more about helping you create your own signature sourdough style, rather than dictating to you specific recipes.
- Packed with step-by-step images and full-color portrayals of the perfect baked sourdough.
Biggest Drawback: The book is undeniably beautiful and the work of a true sourdough artist, but it can be confusing to follow at times. There is a lot of inter-page references and flipping between recipes required. Also, many of the recipes are quite complex, possibly too advanced for beginners.
6. Classic Sourdoughs, Revised by Ed & Jean Wood
The Woods have dedicated most of their adult lives to the science of sourdough bread, exploring techniques, ingredients, and unique methods used to create sourdough around the world. Their science-backed methods are inspired by sourdough cultures from more than 75 countries.
With a deep understanding of both antique bread-making techniques and modern science, the Woods are a creative and inventive sour-duo.
- Includes unique techniques that allow bakers to customize the flavor and rise of their sourdough with perfection.
- A great foundation of basic sourdough varieties paired with a number of creative varieties, uses, and preparation methods.
- Very few photos included.
Biggest Drawback: This is not a beautiful cookbook, especially compared to some of the others on our list. There are very few photos at all. The aesthetic might remind you of books published in the ’70s! Despite the lack of modern visual appeal, the authors deeply understand sourdough and communicate that knowledge well.
7. Sourdough by Sarah Owens
Sarah Owens is a baker who won a James Beard award for her first sourdough book, giving her plenty of clout in the cookbook space.
She is more than just a recipe developer and author, however. Owens is also an instructor in the art of baking and preservation as well as an educator on the benefits natural leavening has on the digestive system. You’ll feed your belly, mind, and gut well with this one.
- The content of this book focuses on the healing power of fermentation. It offers guidance for developing the best flavor in baked goods that are easily digestible.
- Contains more than 100 naturally fermented sourdough recipes.
- Beautifully illustrated with finished product photos and step-by-step visual guidance.
Biggest Drawback: There are a lot of unusual, rare, hard to find, and premium-priced ingredients used in this book, depending on where you live. They’re not just in a few, specialized recipes either, but rather in most of the recipes in the book.
If you’re looking to really get creative and stand out from the crowd with your sourdough, this is a great choice for you. If you thrive on staple ingredients, one of the other books might be better suited for you.
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