Updated on 04/28/2020
If you’re anything like me, you’re forever on the hunt for different sourdough cookbooks to find new recipes and techniques to help you perfect your own personal recipe.
I’ve compiled this list of cookbook reviews as a helpful guide for the beginner baker looking to make traditional sourdough bread – that is, using only flour, water and salt.
There are some books in the list that stray from this method, using apples in their starters and requiring fresh yeast, for example. I’ve included them because they’re also wonderful to practice with and learn from.
The sourdough cookbooks below are listed in order from the highest rated to the lowest. Each section talks about the author, a synopsis of the book, what’s great, what’s not, and my overall rating.
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My personal favorite sourdough cookbooks are over on my Resources Page.
If you’re looking for gift ideas for a sourdough baker in your life, check out my list of 10 Essential Tools for Baking Sourdough for more gift ideas, or to help you get started on your own personal sourdough baking journey!
By the way – the best resource for a variety of different sourdough cookbooks is your local library! This is where I find my books and if I really love them, I buy them for my home library.
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5 Best Sourdough Cookbooks in 2020 (For All of Your Sourdough Baking)
1. Tartine Bread
Chad Robertson wrote Tartine Bread in 2010. Robertson is renowned, not just in the relatively small sourdough world, but within the greater baking and cooking community as well. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America, apprenticed alongside Richard Bourdon, then opened a bakery, Bay Village Bakery in Point Reyes Station with his wife. Together, they moved it to the heart of San Francisco and called it Tartine. They now have four locations within San Francisco, two in Los Angeles, and even three in Seoul, South Korea. He has authored and co-authored three books under the Tartine name, two of those sourdough cookbooks.
I couldn’t possibly write a sourdough cookbook round-up without including the book that got me started on my own personal sourdough journey. Tartine Bread is an addicting read, leaving the reader wanting to know more about sourdough. The recipe for a basic country loaf is easy to follow and great for beginners. Robertson himself says “The thought […] is that anyone can pick up this book and make a good loaf of bread using this chapter alone.” I can attest to this – Tartine was my inspiration to begin sourdough baking, and I continue to reference it. My copy is heavily annotated, with lines highlighted and sticky notes all over. While Tartine doesn’t go as in-depth as The Sourdough School in terms of microbiology and scientific terminology, his approach is more humble: the power is in the bakers’ hands. Any oven will work. You don’t need expensive bannetons. Reassurances such as this resonate throughout the book, making the beginner baker feel at ease. The remainder of the book has varied recipes for your day-old bread, from Porchetta to Waffles to Aioli & Rouille.
Sourdough as a technique and as a bread is explained very clearly. Also, if you’ve ever wondered how sourdough bakers find their passion, this book outlines that very clearly through Chad’s personal experience. Each step of the sourdough making and baking process is described in explicit detail, and the photos are extremely helpful. They make each step very easy to follow, and clear up any ambiguity there may be within the written instructions. This is a great sourdough cookbook for beginners.
Personally, I find the day-old bread recipes in the back a little too fancy for my taste. For example, I don’t typically have goat’s milk caramel or orange blossom water stocked in my pantry, so these recipes would require some planning and shopping. But the sheer usefulness of the instructions, techniques, suggestions and photos in the beginning earns Tartine Bread a full rating. It is one of the best sourdough cookbooks out there.
Overall rating: 5/5
Like how it sounds? Buy it here!
2. The Sourdough School
Vanessa Kimbell wrote The Sourdough School in 2018. As a child, she moved from the UK to southwest France and was surrounded by sourdough. She later trained as a chef and baker. At the age of 24, she learned she couldn’t digest wheat and swore off bread altogether. It wasn’t until years later when she returned to France and dove into a loaf of sourdough that she realized she was actually able to digest sourdough bread and experienced no ill effects. She was determined to find out why, and to share this secret. Today, Kimbell leads the sourdough category of The World Bread Awards, she is a regular contributor on BBC Radio 4’s Food Program, and she teaches the art of sourdough bread making at The Sourdough School, located in Northamptonshire, England.
This sourdough cookbook is great for beginners. It walks you through the basics of sourdough and prepares you well for the process. It’s written as if a friend is giving you advice on how to bake sourdough. Kimbell even states in the beginning: “This book isn’t about my bread. It is about your bread. I know my kitchen, I know my flour, and I understand the timings and process. This book is about your bread.” She takes such time and detail explaining the process that you won’t find step-by-step instructions until page 80. She geeks out sometimes, talking about which species of lactic acid bacteria provide which types of flavors – but it’s so interesting it never feels overwhelming. (Like, how cool is it that Lactobacillus sanfrenciscensis is named after San Francisco?) Each section of the book is presented like a lesson, as if you were really in school. This makes learning exceptionally easy.
The approach is so warm and enigmatic that you start to fall in love with baking sourdough without even knowing it. Kimbell’s obvious love of sourdough baking, her experience, and her technique, combined with the lessons and the photos, create an experience. She really emphasizes the importance of learning your kitchen and the subtle nuances of the dough, plus factors that affect it. As far as sourdough cookbooks go, this is one of the best.
The only negative to The Sourdough School book is that it may be redundant for seasoned bakers. That said, I firmly believe that we should always seek out opportunities to learn and improve our craft, so I would recommend this book to beginners and non-beginners alike.
Overall Rating: 5/5
Like how it sounds? Buy it here!
Jeffrey Hamelman published Bread in 2004, then released a second edition in 2012. Hamelman is a professional baker, and is one of the few Certified Master Bakers in the U.S. He is the bakery director at King Arthur Flour, and teaches classes through their Baking Education Center.
Bread is a thorough, comprehensive book with 140 recipes, 50+ of them for sourdough breads. While some sections offer explanations for fundamentals of bread, most of the book seems to speak to the experienced or even professional baker. If you’re looking for a vast selection of recipes with great guidance on technique, this is a great book to add to your collection. While it’s not sourdough-specific, the recipes for sourdough breads are vast. I have yet to try a sourdough recipe from this book, as it uses a different approach than I’m used to; for example, the autolyse occurs without the addition of the leaven, and uses a stand mixer instead of hand-mixing. Someday I will try this technique, and when I do I will update this post.
The technical details in this book are fantastic. For example, there are five entire pages dedicated to scoring techniques. The suggestions for shaping loaves, boules and baguettes are also incredibly helpful.
I find the recipes a bit hard to read and follow because they’re written with bakery quantities, in U.S. and metric, as well as quantities for home baking. It’s a lot of numbers to look at and you have to be careful to read the correct one. It’s also written less for the beginner and more for the experienced and/or professional baker.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Like how it sounds? Buy it here!
4. Baking Sourdough Bread
Göran Söderin and George Strachal are both Swedish bakers and pastry chefs with a love for sourdough. Söderin is award-winning and renowned; Strachal calls himself an amateur baker and “pastry experimenter”. Together, they author Baking Sourdough Bread, a sourdough cookbook that appeals to beginners and experts alike.
Baking Sourdough Bread is a less traditional pain au levain type of cookbook. Traditional sourdough breads consist of flour, water and salt – no additional ingredients. That’s not to say that adding more ingredients is bad, it simply deviates from what most consider “true” sourdough. The recipes in this cookbook include many more ingredients. The recipes look fantastic (like the Carrot Bread!) and I gave their Olive Bread a try. It tasted good but the texture was heavy; I used my basic SF starter instead of their recommended starter, so that could be why.
The pictures make me want to try every single recipe. It’s a very inspiring cookbook – I’ve never wanted to try brioche until now!
Their comprehensive section on starters refers to a starter simply as “sourdough” which is a little confusing for the beginner. Also, some simple explanations – such as how to shape a crescent bun – are lacking and would be helpful for beginner bakers. I want to give this book four stars, but I gave it one less because it strays from traditional sourdough.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Sounds good? Buy it here!
5. Wild Sourdough
Yoke Mardewi worked in fashion and then finance before settling into a career with her first love, cooking and baking, specifically with sourdough. She teaches classes on baking sourdough, and is a member of Slow Food and the Artisan Bakers Association. She passionately supports organic and bio-dynamic farming. Wild Sourdough was published in 2009.
Overall, Wild Sourdough is a less comprehensive guide to sourdough. Some people may prefer this; the scientific explanations may overwhelm. Personally, I really enjoy learning about the microbiological aspect of my sourdough and starter, so I found the lack of explanation made the book feel rushed. That said, the recipes seem simple and straightforward, with time estimates for each step, which is helpful for planning. I noticed the autolyse period in this book is only 15-20 minutes, as opposed to the more traditional 30-60 minutes or more. The kneading is also different – instead of turning or folding, “air kneading” is recommended; this means the dough is thrown in the air and slapped onto the work surface repeatedly for 5 minutes. The pictures aren’t stellar, but this could be because this sourdough cookbook is now eleven years old.
The timing estimates besides each step is helpful.
Interestingly, nothing in this sourdough cookbook is mentioned about scoring the dough, although the photos show scored loaves. This would result in disappointment from the beginner baker on the appearance of their final loaves. Without scoring, oven spring is compromised, and the loaves simply burst and make tears in the crust. This can be appealing, but showing scored loaves with no instruction on how to do so is misleading. I also noticed Mardewi doesn’t explicitly state dry weight vs cooked weight when adding additional grains, such as millet and barley, and this could prove disastrous for a recipe.
Overall Rating: 2/5
Want to give it a try? Buy it here!
What did I miss?
I hope you found this list useful! If there’s a sourdough cookbook that you absolutely love and I don’t have it listed here (or below), leave me a comment below! I love hearing from you.
Stay tuned – I will update this post with more cookbooks as I read them! Next up… Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish.
9 More Sourdough Cookbooks to Read
- New World Sourdough by Bryan Ford (coming June 16, 2020)
- Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish
- Sourdough by Sarah Owens
- Open Crumb Mastery for the Intermediate Sourdough Baker by Trevor J Wilson
- Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa
- Wild Bread: Sourdough Reinvented by MaryJane Butters
- How to Make Sourdough by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou
- Alaska Sourdough by Ruth Allman
- Sourdough: Four Days to Happiness by Martina Goernemann
- Sourdough by Casper Andre Lugg