There are very few aromas that stir the appetite like freshly baked bread. To a beginner, making bread from scratch might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. There are as many bread cookbooks as there are ways to make bread, though, and it's important to choose the right one for what for you need. You may just be starting your baking journey, or you may have mastered the basics and are looking for new challenges. Maybe you follow a gluten-free diet and you've been missing that perfect baguette? Regardless of where you are on your journey, this list of cookbooks will help you enjoy the bread-baking process.
The Bread Baker's Apprentice, 15th Anniversary Edition: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread
Over the last 25 years, baker and Johnson & Wales University instructor Peter Reinhart has written more than 10 books on bread and pizza. He's a distinguished expert who's passionate about the art of baking as well as teaching people how to cook. This James Beard Award-winning book, originally published in 2001, is perhaps his most famous, an extensive overview of techniques and recipes for everything from French baguettes à l'ancienne to bagels to sticky buns.
The book is divided into three sections, opening with the story of how Reinhart became fixated on baking the perfect bread after tasting the aforementioned pain à l'ancienne in Paris. The next section is all about technique and the science of bread-making, taking you on a conversational journey through different types of yeasts, the importance of delayed fermentation, and the 12 stages of making a loaf. There are extensive step-by-step instructions, with photos. Finally, the last section reveals the recipes: formulas for 50 styles of bread that are designed to be altered and riffed on to make your own original creations.
This 15th-anniversary edition of the book adds a few updates (including metric-to-imperial conversion charts), but it's been a classic since it was first released for its engaging, clear, and accessible guide to the advanced biochemistry and cooking techniques involved in baking flawless loaves of bread.
Price at time of publish: $40 (hardcover), $14 (Kindle)
Pages: 336 | Recipes: 50 | Published: 2016
Best New Release
Bread Head: Baking for the Road Less Traveled
Chicago chef Greg Wade earned fame (and a 2019 James Beard Award) running Publican Quality Bread, and now he's put his recipes into book form for all to enjoy. These are fairly advanced, professional-level breads, but Wade and his co-author Rachel Holtzman do a good job of explaining how and why you perform each step, with tips on adjusting the formulas for your kitchen's conditions.
"Bread Head" takes a surprisingly wide definition of bread, including recipes from around the world and creations using alternative grains, like sorghum, buckwheat, and oats. Besides savory classics including farmhouse sourdough, Georgian khachapuri, and Ethiopian injera, there's also a large dessert section featuring everything from buckwheat brownies to cornmeal whoopie pies.
Price at time of publish: $45 (hardcover), $22 (Kindle)
Pages: 336 | Recipes: 90 | Published: 2022
Best for Beginners
Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza
The basic ingredients are right there in the title: "Flour Water Salt Yeast" features a comprehensive collection of bread and pizza recipes that keeps you thoroughly engaged. The book is written with the home baker in mind, with precise and clear directions, and plenty of incredible photos. Whether you want to make a boule or a Neapolitan-style pizza, the step-by-step instructions make it easy to follow.
Tech geek turned pro baker Ken Forkish helps beginners understand complex concepts, including baker’s percentages, and creates a workable timeline for making bread. Throughout the book, he explains the reasoning behind tips like using warm water, folding dough, and fermenting in the refrigerator. This is not simply a recipe book; it's a thorough introduction to bread baking, helping anyone make exceptional loaves at home.
Price at time of publish: $35 (hardcover), $13 (Kindle)
Pages: 272 | Recipes: 42 | Published: 2012
Best for Sourdough
When San Francisco's Tartine Bakery first opened in 2002, its sourdough loaves and delicious pastries inspired lines around the block and daily sellouts. A few years later, baker Chad Robertson revealed his secrets in Tartine Bread, with detailed illustrated recipes and a reassuring, encouraging tone. If you want to learn or perfect your sourdough bread, this is the book for you.
Each step of the process is told in great detail. The book excels at explaining the alternative ways of managing fermentation and how any variance in it greatly affects the outcome. This a great resource to create a tangy, open-crumb, blistered-crust loaf of bread in your home kitchen. (If this book makes you fall in love with the Tartine philosophy of flavor, you can pair it with "Tartine All Day," a collection of sweet and savory recipes by the bakery/restaurant's co-owner, Elisabeth Prueitt.)
Price at time of publish: $40 (hardcover), $4 (Kindle)
Pages: 304 | Recipes: 70 | Published: 2010
Best for Whole-Grain Breads
Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor
Incorporating whole-grain wheat flour and ingredients like rye, oats, corn, and quinoa into baked goods gives you a whole universe of flavor possibilities, but whole grains also turn bread-making into a more complex challenge. Who better to walk you through it than Peter Reinhart, the expert behind our all-around favorite bread book?
"Whole Grain Breads" includes 55 formulas for classic loaves of all kinds as well as bagels, crackers, pita, roti, and more. It's interspersed with FAQs that help explain the individual procedures for each recipe as well as the science and techniques needed to get great results whenever you use whole grains. For lovers of rich and complex breads, this is a book that should be on the shelf.
Price at time of publish: $35 (hardcover), $13 (Kindle)
Pages: 309 | Recipes: 55 | Published: 2007
Best for Bread Machines
The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker's 300 Favorite Recipes for Perfect-Every-Time Bread-From Every Kind of Machine
The bread machine is kind of a miracle for busy bakers: Just load it with ingredients, press a few buttons, and walk away. A few hours later, you'll have a warm, freshly baked loaf of bread. But bread machines' instruction manuals usually only include a handful of different recipes, obscuring the incredible versatility the countertop appliance offers.
Beth Hensperger's book fills that gap. With 300-plus recipes for making white breads, whole-grain breads, quick breads, sourdough, buns, rolls, cakes, and more, "The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook" will keep you and your bread machine busy. The well-tested recipes work for a wide range of machine styles, with tips from the author on individual models, high-altitude adjustment, information about various flours, and tips on troubleshooting in case a bread doesn’t turn out the way it was supposed to.
Price at time of publish: $27 (paperback), $11 (Kindle)
Pages: 643 | Recipes: 300+ | Published: 2000
Best for Advanced Bakers
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes
If a writer has the temerity to name their cookbook just "Bread," they'd better have some serious credentials to back it up. Jeffrey Hamelman does. He's been a professional baker for nearly 50 years, including a long stint as an employee-owner at King Arthur, where he not only helped mill some of the country's best flours but also opened the company's in-house production bakery and cooking school.
With 150 extremely detailed recipes—40 for sourdough alone—"Bread" is like a technical manual for bakers wanting to master all aspects of bread-making. Especially helpful is all the visual guidance in the book, including diagrams and instructions for shaping loaves, scoring, and braiding. This 2021 third edition (the first edition came out in 2004) adds an "International Contributors" section, with local bread recipes from 10 chefs on five continents.
Price at time of publish: $62
Pages: 496 | Recipes: 150 | Published: 2021
Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Baking Revolution Continues with 90 New, Delicious and Easy Recipes Made with Gluten-Free Flours
Before the COVID pandemic made home-baked sourdough into a fad, the bestselling "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" launched a similar trend in 2007 with its clever no-knead method using slow fermentation in the fridge. The same technique works equally well when using gluten-free flours, and this sequel cookbook proves it. The recipes here include soft sandwich breads, crusty baguettes, caraway-packed "rye," and even pastries, such as brioche and pecan rolls.
Price at time of publish: $35 (hardcover), $17 (Kindle)
Pages: 304 | Recipes: 90 | Published: 2014
Best Gluten-Free for Bread Machines
The Gluten-Free Bread Machine Cookbook: 175 Recipes for Splendid Breads and Delicious Dishes to Make with Them
There's no way around it: Baking good bread without gluten is difficult. You can't just substitute gluten-free flour for wheat flour and expect great results, and that's doubly true if you're using a bread machine to do the mixing, kneading, and baking automatically. Thankfully, Jane Bonacci and Shannon Kinsella have already done all the testing and experimentation to adjust all the recipes for you.
"The Gluten-Free Bread Machine Cookbook" is educational and inspiring, with recipes that cover everything from standard sandwich bread to hot dog buns to pizza dough. The recipe headnotes explain the role of each ingredient to help you better understand how gluten-free baking works on a fundamental level, and we love that it includes two different master recipes for gluten-free flours that you can use anywhere.
Price at time of publish: $27 (paperback), $13 (Kindle)
Pages: 384 | Recipes: 175 | Published: 2016
Best for Flatbreads
Flatbreads & Flavors: A Baker's Atlas
Bread is an ancient food that's a staple in cultures around the world, and the word encompasses much more than just baguettes and thick loaves. Lots of the planet's breads are flatter, cooked fast and used to scoop up foods of all kinds. "Flatbreads & Flavors" includes 60 recipes for flatbreads using grains of many kinds, covering Armenian matnakash, Uighur and Afghan naan, Ethiopian injera, Mediterranean pita, Mexican tortillas, Italian pizza, Indian chapatti, French fougasse, and more. Those breads are accompanied by 150 recipes for things to eat with them, too: salsas, kebabs, lentils, and lots of other dishes you can eat with flatbread.
Chefs, travelers, and photographers Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid have published several books together about the foods of Asia, from Iran to Vietnam and beyond, but it's this one that earned them a James Beard Award. This set of varied but easy-to-follow recipes, along with sumptuous photos, is a great way to venture outside the limits of "traditional" bread-baking. This is a book that will take you places.
Price at time of publish: $43 (hardcover) $26 (paperback)
Pages: 464 | Recipes: 200 | Published: 2008
Best for Aspiring Pros
If you're someone who's gotten really into bread (or if you're buying a gift for someone who has), there are few better options to advance your skill than a culinary-school textbook on the subject. If you dream of opening your own bakery (or just cooking like you could), it's a way to get all the most complex techniques and highest-level recipes all in one place. Now in its eighth edition, "Professional Baking" has been a standard part of most any pro baker's or pastry chef's library for almost 40 years.
This book is incredibly comprehensive, with four chapters on ingredients and techniques for making yeast breads alone. Those are followed by detailed sections on quick breads including muffins and biscuits; doughnuts, pancakes, and waffles; pastries, pies, cakes, and cookies (and decorating all of them); and even a final chapter on making edible showpiece centerpieces from chocolate and sugar.
The book was first published in 1985, but this 2021 edition has added tons of online content, including links to technique videos, quizzes, pronunciation guides, and more.
Price at time of publish: $121 (hardcover), $96 (Kindle)
Pages: 816 | Recipes: More than 300 | Published: 2021
For a baker at any level who wants to master techniques and bake a variety of breads, we recommend "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." If you're on a gluten-free diet and want to start baking at home, we recommend "Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day."
What to Look for in a Bread Cookbook
Recipes That Use Weights
Any time you're using lots of flour or other dry ingredients, you should be weighing them. Measuring cups and spoons don't serve up the same amount of flour every time; you need a scale to achieve the accuracy required for bread recipes. If a cookbook makes this basic mistake and measures flour in cups and tablespoons, it's a sure indication that its recipes will be suspect.
Why and How
A book with simple lists of ingredients and directions for how to use them might work well for stovetop cooking, with which there aren't a lot of unique procedures required, but bread is as much about technique as it is about ingredients. Detailed explanations of what to look for during kneading and rising are important in a bread cookbook, as are recommendations for what to do when things go wrong. Lots of photos are really helpful, too, as they can illustrate the often-hard-to-explain ways to properly shape and decorate loaves and pastries. In general, extensive headnotes or introductory sections that explain the process and principles are a good sign.
What tools do I need to get started with bread-making?
Besides a great bread cookbook, it’s worth investing in nice tools if you’re serious about baking. First on the list would be high-quality flour, which is the basis for almost all bread. (Remember that not all flours are the same; you likely want bread flour as opposed to all-purpose.) Baking pans and mixing bowls of a few sizes are great, and if you're going to be making bread frequently, a stand mixer might be a good investment to save labor with kneading.
More advanced bread-making equipment includes a bench scraper for cutting and shaping dough, a lame for scoring and decoration, a proofing basket (also known as a banneton), and a rolling pin.
What are bread-making mistakes to avoid?
As with any skill, there are mistakes you’ll want to avoid. Here are a few common errors in bread making:
- Under-proofing: You need to let the dough rest long enough to create air bubbles.
- Over-proofing: Resting the dough for too long will make all the air bubbles pop.
- Incorrect measurements: Making bread is a science and requires accurate measurements in order to work properly.
- Not covering the dough: Prolonged exposure to air will lead to a film on the dough.
- Opening the oven during baking: This will release the heat and result in a soft crust and unrisen bread.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
As a chef instructor, teaching people to cook delicious and healthy food from scratch is one of Renu Dhar's passions. She believes in equipping people with proper techniques and providing them with the right information to make cooking a joy. She has a keen interest in the anthropology of food, cookbooks, and food as medicine.
Allison Wignall and Jason Horn updated this article and are both staff writers at The Spruce Eats. Experienced food writers and cooks, their work has been featured in publications such as Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Southern Living, Cooking Light, Serious Eats, and Playboy.