Bread has so many of the things that we love in a topic. Bread may seem simple, but in fact, it is highly technological and scientific. Making bread is so technique intensive that small variations in the method can make huge differences in the outcome. There is a tremendous amount of skill involved, to the point that bread-making can be daunting to home bakers and professionals alike. During the baking process, bread’s simple ingredients go through such a mind-blowing transformation that the product that comes out of the oven bears almost no resemblance to the flour, water, yeast, and salt that went in.
In the space of five volumes plus a kitchen manual, Modernist Bread tells the story of one of the world’s most important foods in new and different ways. Through this story, we hope to enlighten, delight, and inspire creativity in others who love not only bread but also the science, history, cultures, and personalities behind it.
Just seeing the words “Modernist” and “Bread” juxtaposed in a book title seems like an oxymoron—after all, bread has been around since prehistory, and techniques for making it are well established. There tends to be a romanticized notion about bread from the past. However, Nathan and our team believe that some of the most delicious bread can and is being made today. Our in-depth look at bread’s history convinced us that the past wasn’t really a golden age after all. The downside of the relentless look to the past is that is has stifled innovation. We believe that Modernist bread—bread that looks to the future, not the past—should be celebrated. Creative bakers around the world have made some amazing new loaves. Science and technology are not the enemies of great bread. The laws of nature govern baking just like they govern everything else in the world. Knowing which laws affect your bread helps; understanding technology helps, too.
Modernist Bread isn’t just about new recipes, though—it’s about the way we think of bread from the ground up. Why is it, for example, that almost all artisanal breads cost $5 to $8? Why does the farmer get just $0.05 of that? In the 21st century, questions like these deserve our attention.
Modernist Bread aims to be a resource for both home bakers and professionals, including restaurant chefs. Our own testing and research led us to develop new solutions to baking problems. Some of them center on new techniques, while others involve new ingredients—or at least ingredients that are new to the artisanal bread world. The way we view it, bakers in both groups have the same hands, and the flour and water are similar for everyone. The main difference between home bakers and professionals is the types of ovens each group uses, which is why we tested all our recipes in several different ovens. We wanted people of every skill level to be able to learn something from Modernist Bread, whether it be about the history of bread, learning different shaping methods, or trying new recipes.
Modernist Bread is just as disruptive, just as comprehensive, just as visually appealing, and just as thought-provoking as Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. Like its older sibling, Modernist Bread spans five volumes plus a convenient wire-bound kitchen manual, however there are key differences between the two books.
The most notable difference is that when we started writing the first book, innovative chefs had created a genuine movement of their own, albeit one for which many of the techniques weren’t published or easy to learn. Our task with Modernist Cuisine was to write down all of what those chefs had learned. Along the way, we devised many new techniques, yes, but we had the benefit of a framework that many chefs had already provided. Not so with Modernist Bread. There is no recognized Modernist bread movement, so to speak. Our recipes are written and tested in baker’s percentage, metrics, and volume.
The five-volume set includes 2,642 pages published on high-quality art paper using advanced stochastic printing technology and includes a durable stainless-steel slipcase and kitchen manual. Such high production quality is costly to write and produce, but we set out to make a book that anyone would be proud to own. We believe that it is a good value for the price; we hope that you will agree.
The book is divided into five volumes and is 2,642 pages in length. We also included a separate kitchen manual featuring the recipes and reference tables. Volume 1: History and Fundamentals lays the foundation for what’s to come, including the history of bread and a look at the relationship between bread and health. In Volume 2: Ingredients, we look closely at how bread is made by focusing on the ingredients that go into making it. There are individual chapters on grains, flour, leaveners, and other ingredients. Volume 3: Techniques focuses on the set of discrete steps that is required in order to make bread. We begin with a chapter on preferments followed by chapters on mixing, shaping, and final proofing. In Volumes 4 and 5, we present our lion’s share of recipes—over 1,200 of them.
We wanted to design a completely new case for Modernist Bread. We ultimately chose stainless steel over the clear acrylic material we used before. We like the durability of stainless steel—not to mention its super-sleek look. We also rethought the shape of the case, which has tapered edges and spacers to prevent damage and make the volumes easy to access. After seeing the prototype, we decided to offer a version that can be ordered online for Modernist Cuisine. The difference between the 2 versions are the die-cut letters on the two sides: “MB” for Modernist Bread and “MC” for Modernist Cuisine.
The recipes in Modernist Bread are organized by type of bread and start with a master recipe. From there, we classified recipes based on variations such as dough hydration level or ingredient inclusion. We designed our recipe format so that experienced bakers can dive right into baking, while even beginners can get a good assessment of what’s involved with each recipe and how to prepare to take on the challenge. Graphic-friendly dashboards provide an at-a-glance summary of the required time, difficulty level, and yield of each recipe, as well as the potential shapes for the loaves and the ideal ovens for the dough.
Yes, Modernist Bread includes a 442-page, wire-bound kitchen manual that makes it easy to bring all of the recipes and reference tables into the kitchen in one compact collection.
You can bake out of this book no matter what kind of equipment you have. All the recipes in Modernist Bread were developed for professional and home ovens, and include different mixing methods and mixers. The book also includes recipe guides that tell you where to start based on experience or how much time you have. Bakers of all levels will gain a deeper understanding of the baking process, new time-saving options for common frustrations, and recipes for traditional and Modernist breads.
We worked hard to make sure you can bake out of this book no matter what kind of equipment you have. All of the recipes in Modernist Bread were developed for professional and home ovens as well as for different mixing methods and mixers. The book also includes a guide to stocking a bakery, which features tools that are easy for home bakers to find.
We have made it our goal to include something for everyone who loves bread in this book. The book devotes an entire chapter to gluten-free recipes. The breads in that chapter are some of the best gluten-free breads we’ve ever tasted, including a gluten-free bagel. Our gluten-free recipes took considerable effort to perfect. Many commercially-available gluten-free options are disappointing, which is why we think our recipes will be like mana from heaven for people who are unable to eat wheat because of celiac disease—or for anyone who wants to explore new and different breads for other reasons.
We wrote the book so that it is self-consistent and functions as a whole set. Nearly every page includes references to material in other volumes. Like Modernist Cuisine, we have no plans to sell volumes separately.
Yes, Modernist Bread is available in French, German, and Spanish.
Modernist Bread is available where all fine books are sold, as well as through online booksellers throughout the world. This includes North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.