The Art and Science of Bread - Modernist Cuisine

The Art and Science of Bread

MCMay 14, 2014

We are frequently asked what our next big project will be, and for almost a year we’ve alluded to “having something in the works.” In actuality, our culinary team has been working overtime baking and learning about bread. From crust to crumb, we are excited to finally reveal that our next book will be entirely devoted to the art and science of bread.

Why bread? Because it’s so ubiquitous that we now have vast, daunting selections of breads to choose from at most grocery chains. Many of us have started taking the bread course for granted when dining out. But bread shouldn’t be an afterthought on the table or simply a building block for sandwiches—breaking open a good loaf of bread, fresh from the oven, is an experience that can evoke nostalgia for years to follow. For many of us, however, baking bread at home is intimidating and shrouded in mystery. Unlike cooking, most breads are made by varying the amounts of four simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, and, of course, yeast. Yet the simplicity of these ingredients is complicated by the intricate science of the bread-baking process and by the fact that bakers must contend with an ingredient that is alive and sensitive to its environment.

With thousands of years of wisdom that inform techniques still used today, the art of baking bread is steeped in tradition. As such, we are researching bread’s rich past and studying the science therein. We have been fortunate to meet a number of talented bakers and chefs who are sharing their expertise and knowledge with us, and we remain on the lookout for new experts and resources.

This project comes with another exciting announcement as we welcome to our team Francisco Migoya as head chef and Peter Reinhart as assignments editor. We are incredibly lucky to have recruited two individuals whose contributions to pastry and baking have already set the bar high.

Team_Francisco Migoya_MG_1805

Under the leadership of head chef Migoya, our bread program has blossomed in a relatively short time. His passion has led him to push the boundaries of pastry arts in savory, pastry, viennoiserie, and bread. Chef Migoya pairs sublime flavors with Modernist techniques to create exquisite, avant-garde pastries and chocolates that are almost too stunning to eat. Having worked as executive pastry chef at The French Laundry, and most recently as a professor at The Culinary Institute of America, his work has earned him recognition as one of the top pastry chefs in the country by both the Huffington Post and Dessert Professional, and he has been imparted Medal of Master Artisan Pastry Chef by Gremi de Pastisseria de Barcelona. Chef Migoya has authored three pastry books, winning a 2014 award for The Elements of Dessert from International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).

Peter Reinhart Photo Credit Ron Manville

One of the leading authorities on bread, Peter Reinhart will lend his extensive expertise to this project. As a full-time chef on assignment at Johnson & Wales University, Peter teaches courses on baking and the juncture of food and culture. A best-selling author of nine books, his approachable methodologies and techniques have been embraced by home bakers and earned him numerous awards, including Book of the Year (2002) for The Bread Baker’s Apprentice from both IACP and the James Beard Foundation. Additionally, he won James Beard Foundation awards for Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads (2008) and Crust and Crumb (1997), with a nomination for Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. His newest book, Bread Revolution, will be released in the fall of 2014.

Our hope for this project is that, by revealing the history, science, and techniques of baking bread, we will create an in-depth multivolume set of books that will be useful and accessible to amateur home bakers, passionate bread enthusiasts, restaurants, and small-scale bakeries alike. But because we are in the beginning stages of this book, we do not know how many volumes it will be or when it will go on sale. There is a lot for us to decide, but we will stay true to the approaches used for Modernist Cuisine, so readers can expect the same level of rigor and detail in our writing, illustrations, and photography as we attempt to showcase bread in a new light.

If you have a burning question about this project, or would like to contribute your expertise, we would love to hear from you. Please contact

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25 Responses to “The Art and Science of Bread”

  1. Marcus

    +1000 Dave. I’m very excited, maybe if you can include an extensive section on the dark art of making mother doughs that would be greatly appreciated. I know it was covered briefly in MCaH with Poolish, but it would be great to get an understanding of the critical temps/humidity involved. Also if there are hacks for the home cook using average equipment that would be great. Cheers

  2. Linda

    So excited to hear about this. I have long been pursuing teaching myself to bake sourdough & wholegrain breads. I have read and used much of Peter Reinhart’s work and plan to attend the Grain Gathering this summer. I am always learning and look forward to this work from Modernist Cuisine!

  3. Hey,

    I recently did this at home. It is really fun and good value, but it takes a while to get it right. There is a great company called King Arthur Flour and it has everything the artisan needs for home baking.

    Looking forward to reading your tips.


  4. I have been a cuisine chef for years and a couple years ago a fellow chef gave me some sourdough mother. I’ve been baking in a Dutch oven every week since applying to some degree techniques from TARTINE. I’ve kept the mother alive and “she” has taken on several identities as I have used various wheat flours to feed her. I’ve even used levain to marinate meat. This is exciting news as I’d like to hone even further what has become a passion. After years in the kitchen I don’t know why I have not gotten into this aspect sooner!

  5. When I’m not pressure cooking I’m bread-making so I’m really looking forward to the fruits of this new collaboration.

    I make a weekly sourdough focaccia and for the last five years with a starter I got from Carl’s Friends. Just when I perfected my recipe to “Carlo’s” eating and rising habits he did not survive my absence last summer – but the focaccia must go on!! Now I get that special “fermented” flavor by substituting my recipe’s liquids with Kefir.

    I can’t wait to see what the combined knowledge of these bread-making super-stars, testing, and equipment will produce to “up” my weekly ritual!



  6. Demelza

    I hope you can include formulas using gluten-free flours and procedures. That would be definitely an asset!!! I’ve been a Peter Reinhart fan for a while and I respect his work so much. So glad that he’s part of this new project.

  7. I grew up in a family where baking, of all sorts, was a a major component of our daily life. Restricted to gluten free has curtailed that significantly. Gaining an in depth understanding of how the various gluten free flours work, and work together, would allow sharing the “bread of life” with my family and grandchildren.

  8. urbanix

    I’m really looking forward to this book. There are few culinary pursuits that are more rewarding than baking bread. It’s quite astonishing that a dollars worth of simple ingredients can become something as enjoyable as the most expensive cuts of meat and seafood.

    Except for trouble handling high-hydration doughs, my main problem is inconsistencies when it comes to using sourdough. My sourdough starters generally produce good results, but they are very variable, even when I try to feed then on a proper schedule. I would love some tips on how to either keep their performance stable, or on how to measure and correct for their activity level at the time they’re used.

    • We’re so glad to hear that you’re looking forward to the project and will also pass on your suggestions to our publisher. We’re going to update the site as much as possible with bread news as we continue to work on the new book.

  9. I love bread. I love baking it, sharing it, and eating it. I’m really looking forward to this volume to see the techniques and equipment required to make all the different varieties of bread. There really are so many different types, from pullman loaves to corn tortillas, unleavened breads to pie crust. I’m interested to see everything that will be covered, and hope that there may even be some coverage of pastas. I don’t know if that will count, but I’ve had so many unsuccessful attempts at making hand pulled Chinese noodles it would be nice to find a recipe that works. There’s something they’re not telling me…. but that may be another book.

  10. Mike Macdonald

    Looking forward to the release of this project given the general state of our collective health hopefully a emphasis on whole wheat and sourdough

  11. Brad is vital for my family. we love bread. I love baking bread at home with Zojirushi Bread machine. I love using different recipe while baking. I hope you will include some Bread Machine recipes for us.