The Bread Builders is a unique book it is not a recipe book, per se, but more of tome of information. As the title suggests it is a guidebook for baking hearth breads, i.e. naturally leavened (most commonly known as sourdough), and a definitive guide at that. What makes this book truly unique, though, is its focus on masonry ovens.
There is no question that like their breads and ovens this book was a labor of love. The Bread Builders was written by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott who have both been baking hearth loaves and building ovens for quite some time. Daniel Wing is a biologist and physician by training he has written for various publications, including Fine Homebuilding and The Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Mr. Wing lives in Vermont where one might see him traveling the roads with his "gypsy wagon," a wagon of his own design and construction that naturally includes an oven. Alan Scott is a craftsman and metaphysician who has a lifetime's worth of experience in metalwork, farming, and masonry oven-building. Originally from Australia, Mr. Scott lectures widely and conducts workshops nationally on the subject of oven-building he owns a masonry oven-building company, Ovencrafters, which is based in Petaluma, California.
The Bread Builders begins with an interesting introduction on what hearth breads actually are, and why they are better when baked the old fashioned way-in brick ovens. The following chapters travel through the making of naturally leavened loaves, including their ingredients and dough development. The section on what yeast is and the lifecycle of bread dough is the most interesting and informative I have ever read, and at the same time it is easily readable and in no way overly complicated. Although the area that this book truly shines is in the chapters following, which describes how to custom build a large variety of wood-fired ovens. Much of the directions are made even more explicit and easier to understand with beautiful and intricate illustrations, which were done by Elayne Sears. Throughout the book are highlighted sections labeled in the table of contents as "visits." These are basically short biographical articles on various bakers across the country all of the visits, of course, carry pertinent information to the chapters in which they reside. There's also an entire chapter dedicated to "oven management," which focuses on such topics as caring for your oven, firing the oven, monitoring temperatures, etc. The last chapter follows a professional bakery through an entire day of operation.
The book ends with a thorough list of sources of supplies-baking and building-and there is also an in-depth glossary and bibliography. What I found extremely interesting was an interview with Michael Ganzle, who at the time of the interview was a graduate student in Sourdough Microbiology at the University of Hohenheim, Germany.
The Bread Builders is an excellent book on its subject the writing is informative and interesting. If you've ever thought about building a wood-fired oven for your home or business, or simply want to read about the process, this book is a must have. If you've never made naturally leavened bread you will after reading this book, and it will also make you want to build masonry oven. Some books are instant classics in their field, and this book is one of them.