If you’ve ever been befuddled by the difficulty of baking, you owe yourself a trip to the bookstore. Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman (John Wiley & Sons, 2004) is an extraordinary text that manages to explain the complex science of baking without ever becoming dull. Hamelman’s writing is as inspiring as it is educational. Be sure not to skip over the first couple of chapters that explain ingredients and their functions, and take you through the 12 basic steps of baking. You’ll soon see that creating lovely loaves is more about technique than it is about recipes.
You won’t be able to finish this book without a new-found confidence that you can become a successful home baker. And you’ll likely have a new appreciation for one of the world’s oldest foods and why it has always taken center stage. As Hamelman says, ‘Bread, after all, holds its place with wine and cheese as one of the three great fermented foods of Western culture.’
I found this chart from Chapter 1: The Bread Making Process From Mixing Through Baking, to be extremely helpful in detailing what’s going on in the oven as bread bakes.