Sourdough Book Review: Comparing The Sourdough School and Tartine Bread
This post will share my thoughts on which book is best for a beginning baker, and which is best for an experienced baker, and pros and cons of each sourdough book.
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The Sourdough School by Vanessa Kimbell is well-rated, very popular book. It has very pretty photography done in a very modern style (chipped bowls, rough-hewn wood, moody tones, etc) and the introductory chapters are very well written. I will say that it is clear to me (as an English teacher) that her first language is not American English as there are many spots sprinkled throughout that cause small spots of confusion- referring to “jugs” for example when in America, a jug probably isn’t what’s meant. This is fine of course if you’ve made sourdough in Europe, but it was one of many issues I had with this book.
There’s many headings in the book that indicate it’s attempt to be beginner friendly. It couldn’t be less beginner friendly, unfortunately. The “recipes” are a selection of ingredients that an experienced baker can assemble into bread if they know how to do that. There’s no directions for how to do that IN the recipe section. It feels absolutely intermediate-advanced to have this arrangement.
The next giant problem with The Sourdough School is that there’s no helpful photography whatsoever. There are NO photos that are truly HELPFUL. There’s lots of photos of vaguely European kitchens and homey bowls of dough (what stage is the dough in? Is this when it should be turned? The photo isn’t going to say) but there’s no INSTRUCTIONAL photography.
My takeaway is this is a pretty book with an engaging intro that got me jazzed to bake and the last ¾ of the book are appropriate for an intermediate baker.
Tartine Bread couldn’t be more different in ways that matter. The photos are also beautiful, but are brighter, and much clearer in terms of what you’re actually looking at. The intro was also engaging, interesting, and energizing.
Tartine Bread teaches with MANY step by step photos how to make a basic country loaf (of all our dreams, frankly) in clear, understandable directions. With this loaf as a base, there are recipes after it that build/add on that basic one (adding olives, for example) and there are again, MANY EXCELLENT PHOTOS that help a beginner understand what the dough should look like, what cues to look or feel for, etc.
The jargon used is limited, meaning a person who is really new to the baking scene would understand the directions. This was an important departure from The Sourdough School.
The recipes beyond are all clear and easy to understand and are things you’d be excited to make and they don’t use obscure ingredients.
My takeaway is that Tartine Bread is a far superior book in terms of clarity of direction, helpful photography, and recipe arrangement and inclusion. It is ideal for a beginner and surely would be valuable even to an advanced intermediate. That said, The Sourdough School is beautiful, and the “recipes” DO look tempting. Gift this book if you know a skilled baker.
Ready to make your own sourdough starter? Read this post where I share the 4 types of sourdough starter with step by step directions.