on March 9, 2000
Dan Wing and Alan Scott have answered all the questions I have ever asked about bread and ovens, and then some. After baking regular yeasted bread for years, I learned to make small, wood-fired ovens out of mud, and started making naturally leavened breads. In the process, I stumbled onto some of the "secrets" of good bread, for which I was very happy. For people who don't want to spend years stumbling, however, The Bread Builders is a thorough, authoritative, and inspiring door into the hows and whys of really good bread. For people who already know the "secrets," it's an absolutely brilliant explanation and exploration of what makes good bread (part of which is, of course, the oven).
If you want to understand the principles of what you're doing, this is it. And if you want to build a commercial quality oven for baking your own bread, here are plans and detailed instructions. I have had the pleasure of meeting, and learning a little about ovens from Alan Scott. I am very happy that now, in addition to having a master baker on my bookshelf, I also have a master oven builder as well. Thank you both very much.
on May 19, 1999
Date: Fri, 14 May 1999 16:33:05 -0700
From: Darrell Greenwood<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: The Bread Builders -Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens
I had a very interesting book pop through the mail slot yesterday, 'The Bread Builders - Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens' by Dan Wing and Alan Scott.
When Dan wrote me for my address so he could send me a review copy he noted in his enthusiasm for his newly minted book "It's a really good book." After receiving it yesterday I noted in my enthusiasm for his newly minted book, "It's a really good book" and it is :-).
You get for your $35 the best book I have read on "natural leavens" or sourdough. It has no recipes but sets out to teach you the basics underlying baking bread with no commercial yeast... and succeeds very well. The book is 254 pages, paperback, indexed, and well illustrated with color and b&w photographs, graphs, line drawings and a glossary.
Starting out with interesting introductions by Alan Scott and Dan Wing, the book's chapters wind their way through Naturally Fermented Hearth Bread, Bread Grains and Flours, Leavens and Doughs, Dough Development and Baking, Ovens and Bread.
Interspersed in the chapters are 'visits' where a separate article describes a visit to an interesting bakery or baking related location ranging from Vermont to California. The book's clear and easily readable style is assisted with sidebars and notes clarifying various points. I do like the notes in the margins as this book does rather than at the bottom of the page.
But wait, that is only half the book. You get thrown in for free another book, on how to design, build and operate a masonry oven. Its chapters range through Masonry Ovens of Europe and America, Preparing to Build a Masonry Oven, Masonry Materials, Tools and Methods, Oven Construction, Oven Management and A Day in the Life at the Bay Village Bakery. If you are not up to rushing out to build a masonry oven right away, 3 methods are given to approach the results in a masonry oven, cloche, baking stone, and you'll have to read the book to see what I am going to be doing with a metal pot, cookie sheet and pie plate.
All in all I believe this book is a good read for aficionados of sourdough, and they would find it a good reference work for inclusion in their library. As a book for someone switching from baking yeast bread to "natural leaven" bread they would probably regard ownership of this book as priceless gift. For someone starting out in bread baking it would allow them to get a really good understanding without all the "old wive's tales" that unfortunately dog some sourdough advice. I know it will find a treasured place in my library and be well thumbed through as it assists me in achieving the perfect loaf.
on June 10, 2000
This book is not a bread recipe (or formula) book, it is not a learn-to-bake book and it is not a baking reference book. It is a treatise on hearth bread and it is not one you want before you have already become very serious about bread baking and have become a full and fanatical convert to baking with natural leaven ("sourdough"). If you are not already there, then I recommend Peter Reinhart's "Crust and Crumb" and Paul Bertolli's "Chez Panisse Cooking" (it has a single great chapter about baking naturally leavened bread). Once you have arrived at good, satisfying, naturally leavened bread and bake it as a matter of routine, "The Bread Builders" will give you a very good understanding of what is really going on or what should be going on and what you can do to make sure it is. Even though I currently bake in a bottom-of-the-line, electric Jenn-Air oven, the book gave me enough knowledge, science, technique, hints, tricks and understanding that I could take my bread one or two steps further towards perfection, and for that it was worth buying. You also get to understand that the ultimate step towards perfection is baking in a brick oven. When I get around to taking that step and building my oven, this is the book that will guide me.
on February 19, 2000
this book teaches you how to bake the best bread you've ever ever had. and it's surprisingly easy.i've been making bread on the weekends and such for about 15 years now, ever since i saw a recipe for batter bread in an old joy of cooking. but although i'd tried many recipes and supposed "tips and tricks," i couldn't get a tasty or really beautiful european-style country loaf.so i would go to gourmet shops and spend US$5-7 a loaf and think,"o if i only had the fancy steam oven, the expensive mixer, then...."but daniel wing shows you how anybody with the most simple equipment can make incredible bread. although a lot of the book is devoted to building a brick oven, he explains how you can get that brick-oven effect with a regular home oven for only $50 with a special baking dish called "la cloche."if you've made a lot of bread, or read many recipes, you have certain ideas about"how bread should be made." it turns out a lot of the conventional wisdom is wrong! daniel wing includes a lot interesting scientific information that proves why his methods are superior to the conventional wisdom. following his methods gave me unbelievable results: crusty, tasty, made-in-a-french-village bread. i'll never go back to my old way of breadmaking. the best part -- the methods in this book are actually less work than the supposed "rapid" methods you find elsewhere.
on October 26, 2005
As a bkaer who was trined as an apprentice back in the 1960s before real bread was dismissed as being too time consuming, I remember much of what is discussed in this book. These methods are from ages past and still hold true today. To me it is amazing that young folk are re-discovering methods we took for granted in the production of bread of quality and substance.
To go back to baking in wood fired ovens amazes me and peel oven and the challange to the aker of baking breads in this methods add to the challange of baking quality bread. The research that has gone into the construction of these ovens is encouraging to see these skillls are not lost.
This by far is the best book on bread baking from the point of the chemistry and science of dough fermentation etc I have ever seen. I wished it was about when I was doing my trade schooling. It is explained in such away that any one can understand the rediuments of bread baking.One thing that does cause me great annoyacne in this book is the term where the author refers to "the coooking of bread". We don't cook bread, we BAKE it, that is one reason why they callle our trademan BAKERS. we bake in a dry heat of the oven.
And th construction of brick ovens is well researched and explained. Excellent work chaps.
I bought this book looking for oven-building instructions. As an architect, I can attest that the plans and step-by-step buidling instructions are excellent. I have mixed feelings in reporting that an outstanding bakery opened right down the street about the time the book arrived, and so I haven't been able to justify building my own bread oven yet, but I look forward to that first hearth loaf. Meanwhile, I've been able to compare the excellent bread from the new bakery with my own, baked in a standard oven according to Wing and Scott's recommendations. It is evident that I'm no professional baker, but my loaves do have a complexity of flavor and longevity that are promising.
Baking is a true craft. You can't just follow a recipe and expect excellent results [see my review of Rose Levy Beranbaum's flawed The Bread Bible]. There are endless little adjustments that a good baker makes in water content, flour selection/milling, rising temperatures, leavening formulae, loaf-shaping, etc., etc., etc. It takes years of patient pratice to get it right. Accordingly, no simple cookbook-like text will set you on the right path. True, you can make good bread at home with instant yeast and a little bit of care, but great bread requires much more attention and practice. The text of The Bread Builders never quite offers a recipe. Instead, it lays out the science and art of baking, attributing quite a bit to the "feel" of the baker. This has been at times frustrating to me, but it is the only true path to great bread. This book stubbornly and correctly refuses to offer one-size-fits-all recipes and simplifications. If you're serious about baking excellent bread, this is an outstanding source.
I should note that this book, under a thick stucco of flour and water, holds place of honor on the shelf at our new best bakery in town.
on October 22, 2004
I've read this book cover to cover at least three times, with some sections so mauled and tattered that frankly, I should replace the book. For that I'll await the next edition. I've lent this book to several bread-building friends and felt fortunate to have it returned - though usually not until their own copy arrives.
You see, besides being incredibly well written and edited, the primary contributor to this book is a life-long contributor to the community of baking fine breads. While Alan Scott does publish the plans for ovens described in this book - they are not included in the book. You would need to acquire them separately. He does however provide fairly detailed drawings, photographs and directions in the book for one of his ovens that are adequate for someone with a minimum of construction skills to build one of his ovens from just the book (I did).
This is hard to describe, but Alan Scott seems to be a person truly committed to the lifestyle surrounding the community of baking fine bread. Alan expresses this by defining (and these are my words) that a goal of our "culture" should be to create a community that can create and support the artisan who builds a fine loaf of bread, as well as the artisan with the knowledge and skills to build a fine oven to bake that bread. For me, this represents a refreshing break from the world of finance and technology that represents so much of my life.
This is a book that can change your perspective on the world. It's terrific and should be an important reference document in the library of eveyone who bakes bread, or wants to.
on May 18, 1999
I've been a serious amateur bread baker for more than thirty-five years. In that time, I have learned that magnificient bread can be made of the simplest of ingredients. Often, I have found it difficult to convey to friends that wonderful bread is "built" (to use the term in the book's title) upon the subtleties of technique rather than on the complexities of recipes.
Dan Wing and Alan Scott have provided bakers with a wonderful book that teaches these techniques and the principles that contribute to their success.
In addition, they provide detailed information about building that masonry oven I've been dreaming about for years. I think that it will soon become a reality.
Rarely have I felt so appreciative of a new book.
I offer these highly skilled authors my sincere thanks.
on March 22, 2000
This book is the best researched and informative work on bread since the Laurel's Kithcen Bread Book. So many books contain what I call bakery myths (rumors and speculation that bakers pass along to one another that have no basis in fact). These fellows put together a book that debunks many of these myths and offers real insight into both nutritional information and practical tecnique. Beyond a simple primer on one particular method, this book provides the information to allow anyone to develop their own breadbaking style, or improve upon the methods that they are currently using.
This book will serve well for a beginner, an amature hobbiest or as a tool for the most demanding professional baker.
Hats off to my esteemed colleagues
on May 17, 2000
This is a great book for the amateur artisan baker and it fulfills its two primary goals admirably. For the artisan baker, it provides the stoichiometry behind baking naturally-leavened bread - allowing one to adapt the basic formula and create new recipes that work! For those of you who, like me, try to recreate that hearth-baked bread flavor and texture in a conventional oven (only to fail), this book provides detailed plans and step-by-step instructions on constructing your own masonry oven! I have many bread cookbooks but this one is a real treasure! Buy it now!