So, Who Really Writes Bread Books?


There is a buffoon who I occasionally see on TV plugging his now relatively famous book about getting free government grants/money. Michael Lasco I think is his name, but I once went to a writer’s workshop where he did a session – very interesting! Where most writing workshops tend to suggest an aspiring writer pick a subject they know something about for their potential book, this guy’s approach was that you spend your energy getting other people to share their know-how -for free, of course- and then you only have to edit and give attribution. Easy as pie – and if we can believe this guy – and why not? – most of the folks he asks are happy to share their expertise with him. It’s a process that has made him a rich man, even if he knows almost nothing about the subjects of his many books!

I have read, and I own, enough books on bread baking that I have a pretty good feel for whether the author(s) knows anything about what they write about – and I get the sense that some know far less than I do about the subject, and I have no bread books to my credit (nor should I). I have even been party to the process of one relatively famous bread author’s gathering of information for one of his books – I have several of his books myself, and each time I re-read one of his recipes, I wonder where it really came from, and about its reliability.

I’ve reached the point in my bread baking experience where I don’t care to waste my time with a recipe from a source that may not be trustworthy – I want to know that the recipe I’m considering comes from a real baker, and that it’s been actually used and enjoyed – and that has brought me to the place where I’m currently enjoying several of Daniel Leader’s books – both for pleasure reading, and for baking the occasional loaf as well.

Leader is a real baker, running a real bakery, Bread Alone, in the Catskills of New York state – if he offers to share a recipe, I know I can trust it. If he cautions about something, and he often does, you can trust he learned this the hard way – and it’s wise to follow his advice. It’s not that Leader “invents” his recipes – in fact, he’s almost proud of having secured them from other sources -always other bakers- which he proudly reveals.  But I know that the only reason why he is sharing it is because he has baked it, and thinks it’s good. I love his passion, which shines through his recipes, and through the many snippets of information about bread and bread making that accompany his recipes. Leader is the kind of author I want writing the bread making book I’m using.

One of Leader’s passions is sourdough. And it’s one that I share with him. Often, when I’m reading a bread book, I get the feeling that the only reason why the author is including a recipe using sourdough is because he/she will be expected to do so – not because they have ever baked a sourdough loaf. But with Leader, you know immediately that he is an evangelist for sourdough, and he first wants to convert you to the fold, and then lead you into the flock of sourdough believers. His latest book, Local Breads, is a sourdough treatise – if you are not into sourdough baking, the only reason to read this book would be as an intro to sourdough baking – and I know of no better way to do so! Fascinating. (Only problem with this book is that apparently, it was rushed into print without a through proofreading – there are many print errors in the book, but they are pointed out on Leader’s site for correction, if you own the book. Yes, this is a bad sign – but how many other authors are as willing to point out their book’s errors so willingly?)

Recently, we got into the mood for raisin bread, but we have a deep love for pumpernickel raisin – so I went looking for a sourdough version, – I suspected that I’d find one in one of Leader’s books – and I did. On pg. 137 of Leader’s first book, Bread Alone, is the recipe for Dark Pumpernickel with Raisins, and I made that one. I’ll share that recipe with you, but I’m going to shorten Leader’s detailed instruction because I think it’s a bit of overkill, and you’re not supposed to quote verbatim anyway. If I make any personal comments, I’ll put them in quotes.


Dark Sourdough Pumpernickel with Raisins

Daniel Leader – Bread Alone

page 137


  • 2 cups/10 ozs. raisins

  • 1 ½ cups/12 fluid ozs. spring water, heated to boiling

  • 2 cups/18 ozs. rye sourdough starter*

  • 1 cup/8 fluid ozs. brewed espresso or strong coffee

  • ½ cup/2.5 ozs. rye flour

  • 3 ½ cups/19 ozs. whole wheat flour

  • ½ cup/1.5 ozs. unsweetend cocoa powder

  • 1 cup/8 fluid ozs unsulphured molasses

  • 1 Tbs/.75 ozs. fine sea salt

  • 3 – 4 cups/15 – 20 ozs. 20% bran wheat flour (or use a 3/1 mix of white bread and whole wheat flours)



  • Preparing Raisins – Cover the raisins with the boiling spring water – let them soak overnight or 8 hours. When ready to make dough, drain raisins and save 1 cups/8 fluid ozs. of the soaking liquid – set aside.

  • Mixing/Kneading – Mix the reserved raisin water, the starter, and the coffee together in a large bowl – mix well until frothy. Add all other ingredients, except the 20% bran flour – stir well. Slowly begin adding the bran flour until the dough is difficult to stir – turn out on your board and knead, carefully adding additional bran flour as needed – remember that any rye dough retains a good deal of stickiness throughout the kneading process – be judicious about adding too much of the bran flour. Knead until the dough is soft and smooth, about 15-17 minutes. You may also work the dough with a stand mixer for about 7-8 minutes – dough is done when a small piece pulled away from the ball springs back quickly.

  • Fermenting (3-4 hours) – Gather the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl – turn the dough ball over to coat all sides with oil – using an instant read thermometer, take the dough’s temperature, the ideal fermenting temp is 78 degrees – if above or below the ideal temperature, adjust accordingly. (Leader includes a long series of instructions here, that basically say, if dough temp is lower than 78, move to a warmer place to ferment, and if dough temp is higher than 78, move to a cooler place to ferment. My dough was cooler than ideal, so I placed my dough into my oven with only the light on – this is an environment that averages 90-100 degrees – my dough’s temp was 68 degrees, and at the end of the fermenting time in the oven, it still hadn’t reached 78 degrees – I think it’s very difficult to get this right in a home environment.)  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 3-4 hours – it should only rise by 1/3, (which isn’t much!).

  • 2nd Fermentation (2 hours) – Move the risen dough to your board, deflate, and reform into a ball again – take the dough’s temp and using the above instruction, determine where to place it for its 2nd fermentation. Return dough to the bowl, add more oil if necessary, and recover with plastic – place in an appropriate fermenting environment for 2 hours – again, it will only rise by 1/3rd.

  • Divide and Shape Dough – Cut the dough into 2 equal parts – shape as desired, but be sure to keep a tight surface tension on each loaf. (I did boules)

  • Proofing (2 hours) – Sprinkle the proofing surface with cornmeal, place the loaves on it, and cover with a moist towel or plastic wrap – place in a warm environment (74-80 degrees), and once again, allow to rise by 1/3. (If you don’t have a stone in your oven, do this on a baking sheet pan.)

  • Bake (1.5 hours) – One hour before baking time, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Set oven rack/stone to the center of the oven. Dust tops of loaves with rye flour, and score with shallow cuts (¼ – ½ inch – no more) – this is important! Use whatever method you wish to get maximum steam into your oven  (I used both a pan with boiling water in the bottom of the oven, and sprayed the loaves when first placed in oven, and at 5 minutes into baking). Dust your peel with a generous amount of cornmeal and move the loaves to your stone. Bake for an hour and a half. To test for doneness, remove a loaf from oven, turn loaf over and tap hard on bottom with your finger – if the sound is hollow, your bread is done – if not, return to oven for an additional five minutes or so. Cool completely on a wire rack.

* My starter is a 100% hydration white flour starter, so if I’m going to make this bread, I’ll use rye flour for my last two starter refreshes (previous day am and pm feeds), and increase the volume to get the required amount – might even suggest, if you can plan better than I, that you do a week of daily rye feedings prior to baking.

The Exploding Loaf - Scoring Too Deep!

The Exploding Loaf - Scoring Too Deep!

    There are three things which make this bread different from the norm:

  • First, it does not rise as much as you might expect, so don’t over-proof or extend Leader’s times too much!

  • Second, the oven spring is phenomenal, totally making up for minimal rise during proofing – be careful when you score or you will suffer the same fate as I (see my “exploded” loaf pic).

  • Third, the baking time is correct! Do not assume it’s wrong and shorten the time – all denser rye doughs need extended baking times – I’ve even read of one type taking 16 hours to bake!

This was a delightful bread -not light and airy– it’s a dense European dark bread. We are enjoying it immensely, and will for awhile, since 3/4s have been wrapped and frozen. It has that wonderful combination of bitter and sweet, that makes your tongue dance with joy at the taste stimulation. And it would be hard to find a better piece for morning toast with your first cup of coffee.


I’ll be submitting this to Susan at YeastSpotting today.  If you enjoy bread, check out this site.

About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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13 Responses to So, Who Really Writes Bread Books?

  1. Mimi says:

    What a delicious looking loaf. I’ll have to try it soon. I made corn rye this week to eat with smoked salmon, but your loaf would definately be a better breakfast bread with some cream cheese.

  2. drfugawe says:

    Hi Mimi,
    Damn, that sounds luscious! Why are there so many tastes out there waiting, and so few calories to spend on them?

  3. Pingback: YeastSpotting October 16, 2009 | Wild Yeast

  4. Captain Batard says:

    the bread looks beautiful…
    thanks for the link to the corrections….
    I love the book but heard about the formula errors
    and was a little shy to bake from it….

  5. Margie says:

    Beautiful bread! I will definitely be trying this one.

  6. Drfugawe, this is beautiful bread! I am glad I checked at Susan’s and found your site, wonderful! You make me want to bake up some raising bread right away.

  7. drfugawe says:

    Thanks for visiting and commenting folks – Hope you guys get a chance to taste this one – if you do, let me know what you think.

  8. MC says:

    Beautiful bread! I’d love a slice for breakfast. What you write about books and bakers is so true. Some books you can trust (even if they contain typos and mistakes) because the author is a pro and it shines through. Some others you read for pleasure even if they are not technically reliable. I find I enjoy both albeit for different reasons and at different moments.

  9. Pingback: Pierre Nury’s French Rye Ciabatta « The Lost World of Drfugawe

  10. Laddavan from Thailand says:

    I like your bread, it looks yummy! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  11. Pingback: Another Slice of Pumpernickel Raisin « The Lost World of Drfugawe

  12. Joyce says:

    can you tell me where you got the corn rye recipe?

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