I'm a Professional Chef but This Book Taught Me to Think Like a Baker

The Perfect Loaf teaches you all the sourdough secrets

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The Perfect Loaf The Craft and Science of Sourdough Breads, Sweets, and More

The Spruce Eats / Renu Dhar

This post is part of our 'This Is Fire' series, where our editors and writers tell you about the products they can't live without in the kitchen. 

The mere mention of sourdough evokes some sort of spiritual feeling. Afterall, the process of creating a delicious and beautiful bread out of a heap of flour and some water is meditative and rather magical. The world of sourdough baking is full of mysticism because it makes bakers let time, temperature, and yeast do its thing. In learning the craft of sourdough breads, everyone discovers something new or different every time. You use a different flour, add in an additional ingredient, or move to a different place, and you relearn to read the room aka the sourdough one more time. 

Many years ago, I learned how to refine and adapt my sourdough craft from Maurizio Leo’s detailed blog posts, technique videos, and his general advice for his baking community on social media. I discovered that I had to change the way I think about baking when baking sourdough. A turning point in my journey was the most important lesson: “With bread, there's always something to learn.” Maurizio’s teaching style and the way he shares what he himself has learned is what a beginner sourdough baker, like myself and many others, finds inspiring and motivating.

The Perfect Loaf: The Craft and Science of Sourdough Breads, Sweets, and More

The Perfect Loaf: The Craft and Science of Sourdough Breads, Sweets, and More


What We Like
  • Teaches various facets of sourdough

  • Extremely detailed

  • QR codes for technique videos

  • Includes technique photos

What We Don’t Like
  • A few errors in recipe instructions

With “The Perfect Loaf: The Craft and Science of Sourdough Breads, Sweets, And More,” Maurizio helps you understand the language of dough in an easy and practical manner. I was excited to order my copy of his book, but I was also slightly anxious to receive it. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? His blog already had so much helpful knowledge, what more could he write about? Turns out, a lot more.

Baked Sourdough bread with great air pockets and a golden crust

The Spruce Eats / Renu Dhar

The book’s calm, helpful voice guides beginner bakers, and yet provides an in-depth look at Maurizio’s approach to sourdough. This allows more experienced bakers to take a step back and analyze their craft from a different perspective and strengthen their intuition, or take his recipes as an opportunity to craft something new. At no point does it feel that the book is filled with confusing or overwhelming jargon.

The book’s calm, helpful voice guides beginner bakers, and yet provides an in-depth look at Maurizio’s approach to sourdough.

The book is divided into five sections that are really a step-by-step process to understand the craft of sourdough baking. After introducing the readers to ingredients and tools, Maurizio turns their attention to  their first loaf and a lesson on the anatomy of bread. I love that he takes the eager baker onto the journey of creating a sourdough starter and a first loaf so soon in the book! This is where he really shines as a teacher. He throws in just enough science and lets that sink in with practice and troubleshooting advice. Only after you bake the first sourdough loaf, does he delve deeper into the science of fermentation and techniques. The end of the book is filled with recipes that range from easy to challenging, and from plain to savory to sweet.

Hands dimpling focaccia dough in a metal pan

The Spruce Eats / Renu Dhar

My favorite part of the book is the scattering of QR codes that take you to video demonstrations of techniques, so you don’t have to search for “how to” on the internet. I also love the formulas for rolls, flatbreads, enriched breads, and sweet breads. There are notes on how to tinker, helpful notes on troubleshooting, and some cheat sheets, so your questions are answered even before you know you have one. Did I mention there are recipes to use up the sourdough discard that are not just pancakes or crackers? Hello, skillet cornbread and the flakiest drop biscuits!

Baked Focaccia bread with tomatoes baked in

The Spruce Eats / Renu Dhar

The recipes are written with both baker’s percentage and weight, and are divided into sections: free-form loaves, pan loaves like sandwich bread and brioche, pizzas and flatbreads, buns rolls, recipes with discards, and sweets like babka and cinnamon rolls. The instructions are detailed, and at no point do you have to go back and forth to figure out what autolyse is or how to bulk ferment. Each technique is explained with photos, a link to a video, and commentary on what to look for visually. No matter where you are in your journey of sourdough, you can attempt the recipes in the book. And that is what a great cookbook is all about.

The perfect loaf book and cut loaf of white bread

The Spruce Eats / Renu Dhar

Pages: 432 | Recipes: 60 | Date Published: 2022

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

Renu Dhar is a personal chef and culinary instructor who is passionate about making cooking approachable, developing easy and nutritious recipes, and finding tools that help make cooking fun and easy for everyone. She integrates her professional kitchen expertise, knowledge of ingredients and world cuisine to research and write for The Spruce Eats.