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In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker's Odyssey

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  527 ratings  ·  104 reviews
An irresistible account of bread, bread baking, and one home baker’s journey to master his craft

In 2009, journalist Samuel Fromartz was offered the assignment of a lifetime: to travel to France to work in a boulangerie. So began his quest to hone not just his homemade baguette—which later beat out professional bakeries to win the "Best Baguette of D.C."—but his knowledge
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 4th 2014 by Viking
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Amir Sharifi Yes there are a limited number of bread recipes in the book.

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Heather K (dentist in my spare time)
As an aspiring (but supremely crappy) baker, I've been interested in books about bread and how to turn my exceptionally dense logs into something more edible.

In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker's Odyssey by Samuel Fromartz had some very, very good parts to it and some that will test your ability to stay awake while reading. I was particularly interested in his techniques and recipes, especially in the early chapters, because I wanted some tidbits I could use in my daily life. I was also
Jun 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
IF you really like BREAD, I mean, Really, Really, REALLY like bread, then this is the book for you. Does have some recipes, could have used more, but the Author's search for that perfect 'how to make' bread is, well, something else. He seeks out the elite bread makers from all over the world and tries his best to form his own - bread making. Quite the Adventure.
I like Bread --- I'll eat the homemade stuff and also buy from the grocery store to satisfy my taste buds for a good bread.
Curt Fox
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Via Goodreads First Reads:

I'll confess to a fondness for books of a culinary bent, especially when they're presented as a journey or a quest. So yes, Fromartz's book is, by default, up my alley. But it's the overall strength and coherency of the telling of his journey that makes this book enjoyable.

Now, do not expect a cookbook. Yes, it has recipes, but they are rather few, and they anticipate some measure of breadmaking experience on the part of the reader. If, like me, you are not a veteran h
Amberle Husbands
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway.
At first, I was a little bit disappointed to see how few recipes were included in this book, compared to the bulk of storytelling prose. Then, as I began reading, I began to appreciate the story being told a lot more than the recipes anyway. The narration is effortless, elegant, and mildly addictive; I was midway through the book before I realized I was hooked. The author has a good habit of tricking you into reading things you probabl
ok I got about halfway through and I feel like I am going to die from reading about all these different varieties of WHEAT
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food-cooking, history
As a bread baker, Samuel Fromartz is wa-a-a-a-y out of my league, and his book is more than I ever thought I wanted or needed to know about everything about baking bread. Nevertheless I found In Search of the Perfect Loaf an entertaining read, and along the way I actually did learn some helpful things that I hope I can incorporate into my not particularly frequent experiments in the art of home bread baking.
More of a history book with a lot of science and agriculture thrown in, Fromartz is an e
Suzanne Arcand
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food
I just finished, “In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey” by Samuel Fromartz. It’s the second book in a row that I’ve been reading on food or beverage, the other being The Monk of Mokha. I don’t know what it says about me or our current foodies culture but both where delectable and instructive. “In Search of the Perfect Loaf” narrates the quest of an amateur baker to turn out the perfect loaf in his home kitchen. Amateur is should be used very loosely since the author goes way bey ...more
Marc Faoite
Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Some reviewers seemed to be under the misconception that this is a recipe book. It's not - though there are a few recipes included.

This is a book for bread nerds and is as much about grain as it is about bread, in the way wine books after often more focused on grape varieties than the finished product, which makes sense, though I don't think I had really thought about the relation of grains and flour and bread in quite that way before.

I lived a long time in France and experi
Oct 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: foodie-files
Breadmaking requires all the senses: the way the dough feels in your hands while kneading, the way it looks when it's ready, the way bread smells when it's done, even the hollow sound a well-baked loaf makes. The book could have used scratch and sniff paper for the smell of bread. It does have some recipes but that's not the point, as even the author acknowledges. The point of baking is hands-on practice. Along the way, he discusses biodiversity, cultural differences, journeys around several cou ...more
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I guess I am a real bread nerd-- I found this book very informative and entertaining, and except for the long passages about the chemical basis of fermentation, a compelling reading experience. The author visits bakers and farmers in the US and Europe as he seeks to expand his baking skills, and in the process learns about ancient grains, how Romans made sourdough, and how wasp gut bacteria contribute to baking, etc. The few recipes he's included look worth trying too.

I am also a fan of William
This book is fascinating, but to be clear, it is not a cookbook or instructional guide for bread making, although it includes a few recipes. It is a story of personal exploration and learning that shares information about all aspects of bread. That includes the genetic history of wheat and varieties of grains used through history, diversity of sourdough cultures, specially built wood fire ovens, various mixing and shaping techniques, etc. It is for readers who are serious about bread!
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Written by a local D.C. amateur baker, this wide-ranging book gives an introduction not only to a variety of bread-making techniques but also to the history of cultivated grains (and concern/optimism about the future), as well as the science and biology behind it all. You probably have to be interested in the topic to enjoy the book, but if you are, it's a quick and enjoyable read. ...more
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I learned a ton about the intricacies and benefits of sourdough, using rye flour, and the history of the baguette. Someday, I'll have to take a trip to Germany to try all the rye breads he writes about. ...more
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Super-readable account of Fromartz's quest to perfect certain breads, plus some history of the agriculture of wheat and where it's led us. Recipes look good but a bit advanced - will be trying some for sure. ...more
Pat Urban
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
I thought I knew a few things about wheat, but I was clearly wrong. Combining copious amounts of information about baking bread and wheat, with his ownquest to perfect his hoe baking, the author shows what a true compulsion means.
Apr 10, 2015 rated it liked it
I read it as a cautionary tale of what would happen if I let my own quest for the perfect loaf get out of control.
Sharla Moody
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I felt like I was reading and learning from a friend about bread. I really enjoyed it.
Stephen G. Viegas
This book was a birthday gift from my daughter. I'm a long time homebaker. The book had recipes but is more about the author's insatiable desire to perfect his bread baking knowledge and skills. I learned a great deal I hope to incorporate into my baking. ...more
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received this book to review as a Goodreads First-reads. I really enjoyed this book, but I also love to bake. But I erally got caught up in the author's journey to learn about bread and grain and how to make the best loaf possible.

I now want to try to grow heirloom grains and grind them myself and see how much better a loaf of bread can be. This is something my mother did when I was a child (bake bread I mean), and I would like to pass this art down to the next generation, especially to my on
Koji Iwata
Oct 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What an informative and inspiring book for an aspiring home baker it is! I learned about a few bakeries I want to try. I am inspired to start a sour dough starter, try making rye breads, and breads using freshly ground flours and heirloom wheats. Initially, I had no idea where to get these things in San Francisco, but a little Internet search actually found me stores (the Mills for freshly ground flours and local heirloom flour from Community Grains at Bi-Lite market) very close to our shop, Q S ...more
Fangning Tan
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Be warned: Fromartz's descriptions of bread will leave you hungry and wishing you had his job.

An enjoyable read spanning the history, culture, and science of bread-making that made me look at bread in a new light. Fromartz also has a knack for storytelling, I enjoyed how his personal experiences on his bread-making journey were weaved together with larger observations about the culture of the breadmaker. Personally, as a bread lover (but not so much a baker, at least not yet), I read and liked
Amir Sharifi
Aug 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food-memoirs
As the title reveals, this book is about a home baker's quest for perfection. Sam Fromartz is the pilgrim who travels around the world, searching for his perfect loaf. You really need to be in bread to enjoy this book, as there are parts that get too detailed and scientific, which one might find boring. The stories told in this book are easy to connect with, as the author himself is not a professional baker, but a fellow who is looking to perfect his craft, a job that a lot of us are after. ...more
Christophe Belanger
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I am fixated on baking perfect bread. I'm not there yet but any scrap of information I can add to my well of knowledge is welcome. I picked up a few scraps here (I would have picked up more but I already know a lot about bread baking). This book would be quite good for new bread bakers starting from scratch. Worth reading. ...more
Tammy Hastings
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads-wins
Received from First Reads.

This was not at all what I thought it was going to be, but it was actually a very interesting read. I'm very glad that I won it.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Bread, bread, and more bread. An amateur baker, Fromartz delved deeper and deeper into the world of bread in pursuit of twin goals: to report on the bread world as a freelance writer, and to bake a better loaf of his own.

This is probably a better book for active bakers than it is for the casual curious reader—as the latter, I enjoyed the pieces that dealt with bakers and bakeries and actually physically digging into the dough, but the deep research on growing wheat and investigating yeast and so
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Let's start with this: this isn't a cookbook. While there are some recipes included, it's an account of Fromartz' journey to becoming an expert bread baker, or being able to bake the perfect loaf. His writing style is compelling and he conveys the reader seamlessly from memoir to food history to cookbook and back again. As he narrates his progress as a baker, you also learn more about the ingredients and the process. You learn about different grains and their resulting flours. You meet all of th ...more
Aug 31, 2020 rated it liked it
the reviews sold me on the book

"This fascinating, beautifully written memoir reveals Sam Fromartz as that rare breed of cook: craftsman, historian and scientist all in one, following his senses and questing after what is delicious, authentic, and pure."
Alice Waters

"In this lovely book, Sam Fromartz offers a signature mix of baking insights and wonderful storytelling as he hits the road to find his perfect loaf. If you make bread—or ever intend to—you need to read this book."
Ruth Reichl, former
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker's Odyssey

I read most of this, but not enough to feel like I can mark it read and give it a Goodreads rating. I thought I was interested in bread, and I am interested in bread, but apparently I'm not all that interested in bread. I failed halfway and gave up trying.

The details of aging and feeding the sourdough, learning the feel of the kneaded dough, smelling the starter for the best mix of bacteria, and judging the skin of the dough ball for just the
Aug 29, 2019 added it
Shelves: food, 2015
An experienced journalist with a weighty list of credits, Fromartz got That Call in late 2008. The economy was in a downward spiral and he lost two major long term gigs on the same day. When a travel publication appeared on his horizon, he pitched a story about going to Paris to learn how to make the perfect baguette, that iconic symbol of the Parisian boulangerie. The editor accepted, and that initial article was the starter for this book.

Fromartz, an experienced home baker, had tried to make t
I am no where near the skill level of Formartz in making bread, but I do love playing around with the dough and I LOVE to eat the end result. I am not on a quest for the perfect baguette, but a very good edible wheat bread. Also, the adventure of visiting and working with all those crafts people really was fun to read. The book is very well put together as it progresses from a super story of how he sucked himself in this job in a boulangerie so he could pursue break making, write the story, and ...more
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“Sourdough Starter Ingredients Organic whole rye flour Raw honey Filtered or spring water (so bacteria-killing chlorine is removed) Mix 3 tablespoons (30 grams) lukewarm water (about 80˚ to 90˚F) with 1 teaspoon raw honey. Add 3 tablespoons (20 grams) rye flour and let this sit in a covered container for 1 to 2 days. The amount of time depends on the ambient temperature. If your kitchen is cool, the organisms will be less active and you’ll need more time. Ideally keep it at around 75˚F (24˚C). An oven with the light or pilot light on works well. If you can maintain an ambient temperature of 75˚F (24˚C), this first phase will probably take a day, which would be the case on your kitchen counter in the summer. If you simply ferment it in a cold kitchen in winter, it will likely take two days. When you pass by the starter, give it a mix with a spoon every now and again: your animals like oxygen in the initial stages. If they are happy, you will begin to see tiny bubbles forming on the surface of the starter as the organisms belch out carbon dioxide. This should occur after 1 or 2 days. At this point, add 3 tablespoons of rye flour, 3 tablespoons of water around 75˚F (24˚C), and 1 teaspoon of honey. Let it sit for 24 hours. Stir occasionally. Discard half the starter. Add 3 tablespoons of rye, 3 tablespoons of water, and 1 teaspoon of honey. Repeat this last step every 24 hours until the starter is bubbly and begins to rise noticeably. Once that happens, usually by day 5 or 6, you can stop adding the honey. The starter might weaken at that point (you’ve removed its sugar fix, after all), but proceed anyway. It will come alive again. When the mixture doubles in volume within 12 hours, you can think about making bread. Here’s the test to see if the starter is ready, after it has risen: carefully remove a bit of it (a tablespoon will do) and place it in a bowl of warm water. If it floats to the surface within a couple of minutes, you’ve got an active starter. If it sinks like a stone and remains under water, let the starter mature for another hour and try again. This whole process might take a week or more, especially in the winter. With my kitchen hovering around 65˚F (18˚C), it took me two weeks to achieve a predictable starter, with feedings every one to two days. Once the starter is bubbly and active, you can switch to whole wheat, or a mixture of equal parts white and whole wheat flour, in place of the rye. You can also increase the volume by using, say, 20 grams of the mature starter and then feeding it with 100 grams flour and 100 grams water.” 0 likes
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