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Some Sourdough Resources

There are many good resources that can help you with your Sourdough baking. And depending on what you need, different sections might be helpful.

If you have favorite resources you'd like to share with us, just drop me a note through the "Contact Us" page.

Select what you are looking for - Books, Classes, Blogs, Web sites, Mailing Lists or news groups.

Books:
I have listed some of my favorite baking books here.

Many of them are out of print. As a service to those who might want to find them, I have provided links to isbn.nu. isbn.nu does what half.com used to do, it looks around and finds the best price it can on books for you. They don't sell books, they just help you find them. Since I have no control over who they show or who you buy from, I can't guarantee your transactions, but I've had good results with all the vendors to which isbn.nu has connected me.

"An Introduction to Sourdough" by Mike Avery. Is it hopelessly self-serving to include the sourdough book I wrote here? As the first book in the list? Probably. Oh well. I feel that it is a very good introduction to sourdough baking, and that many readers have benefited from it. A sample is available at no cost on our downloads page, and you can order it at Mike's Bread Shoppe.

"Bread Science" by Emily Buehler. Emily is unique among bread writers. She is not only a professional baker, she has a doctorate in Chemistry. She explains what is happening in the dough, in the rise, in the bake, and in the bread at a very fundamental level. It is an incredible book, and one which I cannot recommend enough. She is self-publishing it, and it can be purchased from her web site.

"The Taste Of Bread" by Professor Raymond Calvel. Professor Calvel is regarded by many people as the baker who brought about the resurgence of interest in good bread in France. His book is instructional and inspirational. Sadly, the English version is also quite expensive. But it is worth it. Many of the best bakers I know re-read the book annually, and refer to it constantly. It has a number of excellent formulas in it, but the love of bread that shines through every word in the book is the greatest treasure it shares. This is an excellent book for any baker who wants to move from good to excellent. isbn.nu can help you find a hard back edition.

"Beard On Bread" by James Beard. While James Beard wasn't a fan of sourdough, this remains one of the best introductory reference books to bread making around. I highly recommend this book to beginners. The last publication of this was in 1995, but when I researched this page, isbn.nu helped me find a 1979 hardcover edition, a 1981 paperback edition, and a 1995 paperback edition.

"The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook" by Pasquale Bruno, Jr. This book has nothing to do with sourdough, but it is a marvelous pizza resource. The dough recipes are easy to convert to sourdough, and the results are spectacular. Having trouble with your pizza crust? Chances are Pasquale Bruno, Jr. explains the problem in his book. isbn.nu can help you find two different editions, at vastly different price points. An inexpensive paper back or a much pricier paperback. I've only seen the less expensive book, and it was just fine.

"Bread Alone" by Daniel Leader I'm still digesting this book, but so far, I like it. Clear instructions, good recipes, lots of nice information about bakers in France. However, I do think he makes things harder for himself, and you, than is necessary. Still, it is recommended and isbn.nu can find a 1993 hardback.

"Flavored Breads - Recipes from Mark Miller's Coyote Café" by Mark Miller and Andrew Maclaughlin A very good book on flavored breads. One of our favorites is the black bean and chipotle pepper bread, which we modified to use sourdough (we include our sourdough version in our "Introduction to Sourdough" book.) Their use of sourdough is limited, and makes the usual mistakes with sourdough. Despite this, it's recommended. isbn.nu can find a 1996 hardcover, and a 1996 paperback.

"Great Whole Grain Breads" by Beatrice Ojakangas. This is, for my money, THE reference book for whole grain breads and baking. Very highly recommended! Several of our favorite breads come from this book. Sadly, her sourdough section isn't very strong, but it's easy to convert recipes. It isn't in print, but it is available on special order in local libraries. isbn.nu can lead you a 1984 hardback or a 1993 paperback or a 2002 paperback.

"The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart is a very beautiful book, but unlike most beautiful bread books, there's a lot of substance here. This book has caused lots of talk in all the baking forums I'm a member of, and the praise is all but unanimous. It's a good book to get your juices flowing again. Lots of good recipes, and excellent instructions. Just what you'd expect from an award winning baker and baking teacher. It isn't a surprise this book won the 2002 James Beard baking cookbook Award. Peter Reinhart's strengths are as a baker, as a teacher, and as a cheerleader for the artisan bread movement. Sadly, his scholarship is at times weak and he misuses terms which has led to considerable confusion in the bread-baking community. isbn.nu usually has the 2001 hardback.

"Secrets of a Jewish Baker" by George Greenstein. Lots of information about his life in a Jewish bakery, lots of hard to find recipes. Not a good source of sourdough information and the sourdough recipes I've tried haven't been all that good, which could be a matter of taste. However, several of the recipes in this book, when converted to sourdough, are just stunning and were consistent best sellers at our bakery. A number of friends swear by this book, and a friend who grew up in New York raved about the Korn Bread I made from a recipe in this book. Recommended to people who miss the breads of their youth from Jewish bakeries in New York. isbn.nu can point you to a 1993 paperback and a 2007 revised edition.

"The Bread Builders" by Allan Scott and Dan Wing. This is not a recipe book, there is only one recipe in it, a recipe for a French Pain au Levain which makes about 370 pounds of dough. We scaled down the recipe for this Pain Au Levain, and it is one of our favorites. However, the book explains how baking, sourdough, and masonry ovens work at a level untouched by any other book. Want to know about the differences in flours? This is your book. Interspersed are photo essays of visits to different bakeries around the USA. The book is inspirational. And very highly recommended. Half.com has the 1999 paperback.

"Build Your Own Earth Oven" By Kiko Denzer Many people would love to build a masonry oven, but find that it is too time consuming, too expensive or requires skills they neither have nor can afford to hire. Some people could afford a masonry oven, but really don't bake enough to justify the expense. For these people, Kiko Denzer's delightful book details how you can build a cobb, or earthen, oven. You won't need to spend much, and the results can be breathtaking. Kiko is an artist, and some of the ovens he has built are works of sculpture art in themselves. isbn.nu can help you find the 2007 edition.

"The Complete Sourdough Cookbook" by Don and Myrtle Holm. Lots of good historical information, lots of good folklore, a fun read, but not a terribly good sourdough cookbook. He suggests the use of commercial yeast, which suggests he doesn't understand, or trust, his sourdough culture. Recommended for fun, not for sourdough baking. Half.com has the 1972 paperback.

"The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book" by Laurel Robertson. A very good bread book. Her grasp of sourdough is somewhat limited, suggesting the use of commercial yeast to start a sourdough starter, but she taught me how to make a light 100% whole wheat bread. Recommended. isbn.nu can point you to a 1984 hardback, a 1985 paperback, and a 2003 revised paperback.

"The Village Baker" by Joe Ortiz. Many people think this is THE book on baking. It has gorgeous pictures, and is a veritable love affair with bread. Despite this, I think Joe Ortiz spent a lot of time making things too difficult for himself and his reader. Not really recommended. isbn.nu can point you to a 1993 hardback, and a 1997 paperback.

"World Sourdoughs From Antiquity" by Dr. Ed Wood. A wonderful work on sourdoughs. Some people don't like his recipes for breads, as they aren't purist enough for them. Whether or not you like his recipes, he sets the standards on how to handle cultures. A new version is supposed to be out soon. Highly recommended. isbn.nu can point you to a 1989 paper back, and a a 1996 paperback.

"Sourdough Cookery" by Rita Davenport. The biographic information about Rita Davenport tells us she is a home economist and a time management expert. That will come as no surprise to any sourdough purist who reads this book. It is a triumph of time management over sourdough. She uses commercial baker's yeast to start and maintain her starters, and more commercial baker's yeast to make her recipes rise. The pictures are beautiful, the recipes look good, but this is more of a book about using poolish than sourdough, since her starters will never achieve the status of being sourdough starters. I can't recommend this book as a sourdough book, and I am so appalled by it that I won't put the usual pointers to isbn./nu in place. If you're a fan of this book, and it has many fans, please understand I'm not saying it's a bad baking book..... just that it's a terrible sourdough book - or more precisely, it's no sourdough book at all.


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Classes:
There is no substitute for a hands-on class when you are learning to bake. Words won't convey what dough should feel like, what the difference between a firm and a slack dough is. Words won't tell you how to tell when you're done kneading. Touching an instructor's dough, or having the instructor touch your dough and make suggestions clarifies a lot.

With the growth of interest in baking, there has been an increasing number of classes in baking in general, as well as in bread and sourdough baking. Start by looking in your area - many areas have local colleges that have classes in their extension department. Many food and foodie stores offer classes. There are also specialty schools that offer only baking classes.

If you are in North Central Texas, also called the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, I teach several sourdough baking courses from time to time. The classes are all around 1/2 to 1 day long, usually on Saturdays, and cost $35 to $100. We took some class pictures and put some information on line. I am also willing to travel to your location to teach classes there.

Both the San Francisco Baking Institute and King Arthur Flour teach courses. You can check out their web pages for more information.


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The Internet:
Of course, the Internet has a remarkable amount of information. A search at Google will drown you in information. Still, here are some good sources of information. Please remember that the web is constantly changing and yesterday's great resource is today's 404. Please use the "contact us" page and let us know if any of the sites we are linked to are gone, or if you have found a great new site.


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Blogs: I used to be pretty negative on blogs, but I keep finding more and more interesting blogs. I don't agree with all of them, but that's to be expected. I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do!

MC's "Farine" is an amazing blog where MC visits bakers, bakeries, mills - reporting on all of them. She takes lots of classes and reports on them as well. She is an inspiration! The blog is at once inspirational, aspirational, educational and a total joy! I don't visit the blog nearly often enough!

Jeremy Shapiro's Stir The Pots blog is beautiful and an inspiration. It covers food, baking and the life of a very talented chef. The blog is a diary of things Jeremy is working on. As a chef in a busy New York City restaurant and a fanatical baker, that covers a lot of territory. Stir the Pots is beautiful and inspiring. However, if you're looking for a recipe, this isn't the best place to go. You will see great dishes and great loaves. Many times, I've used Stir the Pots as an inspiration and then my favorite search engine, to find sources of information to move me further on my quest of the week. Jeremy is also well worth following on Facebook.


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Web sites:
Baking911.com is a very good general baking site, covering just about any baking topic you can think of, not just breads. I feel our sourdough information is more solid, but that's the difference in going to a specialist site, like ours, instead of a more general site. For general information, baking911.com is excellent. A great starting point for many kinds of baking information, and for a lot of things the only place you need to go.

Connie Q Cooking has a wide range of cooking information, along with links to many other cooking related sites. We especially like her bread making videos, which are a good starting point in baking bread. However, we do some things differently than Connie Q, so don't be too confused when you see different advice on our web site.

Wildfermentation.com is a fascinating exploration of all sorts of fermented foods. Many of the foods we enjoy are fermented in one way or another, and this web site's creator, Sandor Ellix Katz, aka Sandorkraut, seems to revel in all of them. A wonderful resource for people wanting more information about fermented foods.

http://samartha.net/SD/index Samartha's home page has a wealth of information about sourdough, rye breads, and real pumpernickel. Well worth a visit!

Northwest Sourdough Experiments is a very nice, friendly web site. They sell their own starter, and show you how to use it painlessly. Another site that is well worth a visit.

http://carlsfriends.net/ The home of Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail sourdough starter - available for the cost of a stamped, self addressed envelope. A marvelous starter, a marvelous price.

http://www.sourdo.com The Sourdough's International home page, Dr. Ed Wood's company. Some good information, and a place to buy some very good starters.

http://www.grainfields.com/sourdough "The home of sourdough" A nice page with lots of links and good information.

http://www.sfbi.com The San Francisco Baking Institute. They offer classes, support, and sell baking supplies at very reasonable prices - and their newsletters are free and exceptionally good learning tools. Download them all!

http://www.kingarthurflour.com King Arthur Flour's home page - a good source of flour, supplies, and information. They sell by mail order.

Honeyville Farms has a great selection of grains, flours and more. Not only will they ship to you, shipping is a flat $4.99 per order. Sometimes I've found other vendors to be less expensive - until I considered the cost of shipping. And, yeah, shipping counts! It's the cost to the door that really matters!


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Mailing lists:
Mailing lists are one of the oldest forms of communication on the Internet. I suspect that about an hour after email was invented, mailing lists followed along. Mailing lists allow people to send emails to all the subscribers on the list. Most mailing lists only allow members to send messages, which greatly reduces spam.

Many mailing lists send each message out as the server receives it. Others save the messages and send them out as a digest. Some digests are daily, others are weekly. Others are daily or weekly, unless there's too much mail.

At this time, I can recommend three mailing lists. One is a mailing list I host, "Mike's (More or less) Weekly Baking Tips". As the title suggests, once a week (more or less), I send out a baking tip. I also put in plugs for my cookbooks and classes. However, I like to think each issue has lots of good baking advice, and is well worth the asking price. If you are interested, just fill out the form below. And, oh, yeah, the asking price? It's free.

Join "Mike's (more or less) Weekly Baking Tips" Email List


A weekly baking tip. Maybe a long one, maybe a short one. Maybe a product or web site recommendation. Plus class announcements from Bake With Mike!


[?]
You may enter a privacy password. This should prevent others from messing with your subscription. Do not use a valuable password as it will emailed back to you in clear text. If you choose not to enter a password, one will be automatically generated for you, and it will be sent to you once you've confirmed your subscription. You can always request a mail-back of your password when you edit your personal options.

Just fill in the blanks and click subscribe! You'll receive a confirmation email. We won't share or sell your email address!

Another excellent mailing list is The Bread Baker's Digest. It's a nice list, only available as a digest. The moderators, Regina and Jeffrey Dwork, do an excellent job of keeping discussions civil and on-topic. However, it is a once a week mailing list, so communications take a while. To sign up, surf over to The Bread Baker's Digest web site and sign up.

The third mailing list is an amazing resource to the professional or serious amateur artisan baker. It has helped me more often than I can count, and the people there are just amazing. To use this mailing list, you have to be a member of the Bread Baker's Guild of America, which is a bit pricey if you aren't all that serious. Still, for more information, surf over to the BBGA web site.

As most readers of this web site know, I'm not a big fan of bread machines. Still, they have their uses, and they do get some people eating fresh bread who otherwise would not. Still, I think they tend to create middle-of-the-road styles of breads, since they have trouble handling very wet or very dry doughs. Despite that, I am recommending the Yahoo groups Bread Machine Recipe Club. A nice group of people, and nice recipes. You can click on the graphic below to join up.

Subscribe to BMRC


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Newsgroups:
With all the attention placed on the World Wide Web, many people think it is the Internet, but before there was a web, there were newsgroups.

News groups are similar to mailing lists, they are distributed around the world, and people who share interested meet on them to discuss what matters to them. Sadly, news groups, like mailing lists, attract strange people and spammers, so not all the news you see will be to your liking. Worse, there are people there who are totally unfamiliar with the concept of civility, so arguments are frequent, frequently long, and all too unpleasant. Still, it's worth looking into.

Ask your ISP about accessing their news server, or go to Google Groups.

I used to be a regular in alt.bread.recipes, rec.food.baking, and rec.food.sourdough, but have been too busy to go there for a while.


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