- Paperback: 250 pages
- Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing; 2007 or Later Printing edition (July 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1890132055
- ISBN-13: 978-1890132057
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.7 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 137 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens Paperback – July 1, 1999
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In recent years, a revived and burgeoning interest in wholesome, locally baked bread has swept the country, with bakeries springing up in small towns and major urban areas alike, producing an astounding variety of interesting, crusty, tasty, handmade breads. The Bread Builders explains the grains and flours, leavens and doughs, the chemistry of bread, and the physics of baking in a big book filled with helpful drawings, photographs, recipes, and tips. In a unique angle for a book on baking bread, it also includes detailed diagrams and instructions for building your own masonry bread oven from scratch.
As Laurel Robertson, author of The New Laurel's Kitchen says, "This book is ice cream for a baker! We visit legendary bakeries, meet wonderful people, learn all sorts of fascinating scientific information with practical usefulness in bowl and oven, and best of all, get the skinny on masonry ovens, the cherished fantasy of us all." The enthusiasm of the authors in their search for the perfect loaf of bread permeates this detailed but lively and accessible book, and will offer much of use to both amateur and professional bread makers. --Mark A. Hetts
Review from Ecology Action Newsletter-
The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens, by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott, is a serious book, written for people who take their bread baking seriously. It is not a cookbook but one whose object is to help the baker understand all parts of the process that go into creating an excellent loaf. As such, it is a technical journal that thoroughly details natural fermentation, bread grains and flours, leavens and dough, and dough development. The second part is about masonry ovens and their construction, since both authors agree that such an oven is a necessary part of creating the excellent loaf. Each chapter of the book includes a visit to a commercial or private venture which is using some or all of the processes being described. The book is not a light read but should prove inspiring to those wanting more information about the baking process, how to construct a masonry oven or anyone who is glad to see that these traditional methods are being nurtured rather than forgotten.
"This book is ice cream for a baker! We visit legendary bakeries, meet wonderful people, learn all sorts of fascinating scientific information with practical usefulness in bowl and oven--and best of all, get the skinny on masonry ovens, that cherished fantasy of us all."--Laurel Robertson, author of Laurel's Kitchen
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Who this book is not for: If you are an afternoon baker looking to bake a loaf somewhat better than store bought, this book is not for you. In fact, the book implies that your efforts are doomed to mediocrity and are hardly worth the effort.
Who the book is for: On the other hand, if you maintain your own sourdough starter and don't mind sentences that start "Seventy-two hours before ..." then you are getting closer to the desired audience. However, if you are looking to start your own small bakery, make high quality breads, sell to just enough customers to keep you fed and happy, and along the way save the environment, the culture, the health and the karma of the world in doing so, then this book was written for you.
How good is the book? Books like this contain information, advice and instruction. They also tend to contain a certain amount of attitude. The book is very long on information. The author has clearly never met a fact he did not like. (It is hard to tell who is writing. One gathers that it is not Scott, but if that is clarified anywhere, I missed it.) It is much shorter on advice, but there is a lot there. It is shortest on instruction. It may be the nature of baking itself. There are many variables, and many desired outcomes and the reader will have to digest the information and advice in the book and come up with his/her own plan of attack. But there are no true recipes, no inch by inch plans, no step by step instructions, but there is much discussion of baking that comes close, and much discussion of oven building that comes close. The best description is that the book contains many guidelines, outlines, and lists of decision points and things to watch out for. There is a fair amount of attitude in the book. Much of it is hero worship. The hero in this case might be the mythical 19th century or earlier baker that produced a better and healthier product than is generally available today, but there are other individual heroes in the book that the author seems not to want to question. The authors seem to be experts but not masters. Thousand of years of baking and oven building have evolved a mass of knowledge that the authors can repeat, but not distill. I suppose the true master bakers out there are spending their time masterfully baking bread and not writing books. This book may leave some readers wishing for more instruction and less dumped information.
The writing is entertaining in spots, and pedantic and ineffective in others. There are many passages that will be clear to experts but not to others. I think this accounts for the large number of 5 star reviews. They are written by people very familiar with either baking or construction. The author does not claim that the book will teach masonry, nor will it teach basic baking. However, some very close reading will be needed if one wants to use this book to actually do anything.
The best thing about the book is the total atmosphere. In fact, if you are planning to open a small bakery and save the world, then you must read this book. More than anything else it will give you a very clear picture of what you are up against, what level of dedication you will have to supply to the project, how much learning you will have to do, and what amount of time and planning it will take. There are "visits" that the author takes to surviving establishments and these are very revealing.
Best individual piece of advice in the book: keep records.
Bottom line: Good read for the intended audience, but it will never be a stand alone book for that audience.
I drop my rating only because I would have loved to see two things included in the book. First, it would be an easy add to include 10-20 favorite bread recipes and products; a natural progression from all the book's lead-up. Secondly, it would have been great to have some sample material quantities listed for the recommended oven constructions.
I like the book, but the 'praxis' dimensions were left out. I felt like I was set up to go purchase the 'next book' coming to press.
A one of a kind baking text.
If you are have been thinking about building your own masonry oven, this book has enough information to make that possible. Don't believe a word of what the whiner from Japan with absolutely no literacy or mechanical skills has said: this book does indeed contain outlines, guidelines, drawings, and more that will go a long way towards making a DIY masonry oven possible. however, if you have to be led by the hand the entire way, and given exact specifications for every board and every brick, then I guess this book isn't good enough for you...
UPDATE (1/7/2012) --> I have now built a masonry oven following the plans laid out in this book. The oven takes between 3-4 hours to heat to 1000F and holds enough thermal energy to bake 100+ pizzas over a 2-1/2 hour period (we had a couple of huge pizza parties involving dozens of people). It vents perfectly, heats evenly, and produces crust TO DIE for!