Silverton, Nancy. Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery. New York, Villard, 1996.
I baked bread for quite a while before I started sourdough baking in grad school. Maintaining the starters and baking was a good distraction from grad school reading and writing. I had both a white and a whole wheat starter and kept them going for more than ten years, toting them from Arkansas to Texas to Georgia and finally to Pennsylvania. At some point in the 1990s I bought Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery (Amazon link), a great book for bakers who are looking to move up a notch. I’m not sure how it would work for beginners, but don’t let me discourage you from trying it. The recipes might seem complicated to beginners, but I would approach them as tutorials that require commitment. Armed with a good cookbook, you can be your own cooking school.
I would call Silverton’s book an inspirational book, leading you to new ways to approach thinking about your doughs, from yeast to loaf. I eventually fell in love with the wet dough of the rustic bread that makes a roughly-shaped loaf with a wonderful crust and big holes in the dough. It is great sliced and grilled or just drizzled with olive oil.
Eventually, my bread baking ran its course and I gave the book away to my daughter who went through her own bread baking period. I’m not interested in doing it anymore, but I was reminded of it when I made the pizza earlier this week. Maybe you know someone who would appreciate this cookbook as a gift, if you aren’t interested yourself.
Here’s a nice episode of Martha Stewart visiting Silverton in the bakery: http://www.marthastewart.com/913166/la-brea-bakery-nancy-silverton#913166
Read about the book at Goodreads, including the comments at the bottom of the page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/620176.Nancy_Silverton_s_Breads_from_the_La_Brea_Bakery