Beard on Bread, first published in the early 1970’s, is one of the bread baking classics. There are around 100 recipes, illustrated with black and white line drawings. It’s not a bread book to reach for when you want to look at beautiful food photography. My copy is a small paperback edition published in 1981, though there is a current re-release in trade paperback. Some of the notes on flour are a little dated in mine, since at the time bread flour was difficult to come by, but now it is found easily in most grocery stores. i don’t know if the current edition has updated any of that. I suspect not, since Mr. Beard died several years ago. This book also uses active dry yeast, and most of the newer bread cookbooks use instant yeast. Substitution is easy, though.
Despite that, this book is a classic for a reason. It presents bread baking in a very approachable manner, and the author is very enthusiastic about bread. In the introduction he says “You can throw a recipe together, or you can be meticulous and, chances are,both approaches are likely to produce good bread. It is a mysterious business, this making of bread, and once you are hooked by the miracle of yeast, you’ll be a breadmaker for life.”
The first twenty pages are a concise introduction to breadmaking: yeast, gluten, flours, equipment, and cutting, storing, and eating bread. The rest of the book is recipes, and he presents a wide range, including sandwich bread, french-style bread, one or two sourdough breads, flatbreads, quickbreads, whole-meal breads and more.
The first recipe, the basic white bread, follows what is now an accepted convention of bread books, that of presenting very detailed instructions, including kneading and shaping, for the basic loaf. After the first loaf is mastered, then the other recipes are easy to follow using the skills learned in the first loaf.
I haven’t made many of the recipes in Beard on Bread, though the ones I have made have all worked well (including microwave English muffin bread). I enjoy this book, but I bought it at the same time as Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Breads, which has even more recipes, though many fewer illustrations, and whose instructions I tend to like better. So often I end up going to the Complete Book of Breads when I am looking for a recipe.
One of the advantages of a book that has been out awhile, such as this one, is that it is easy to find secondhand, and at very affordable prices. Even the current re-release is lower in price when compared to the newer, photo-heavy books. If you really want a book that goes more in-depth on the science of bread, this is not your book, but if you just want to learn to make bread and have a lot of recipes to try, it might work well for you.