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Baking in America: Traditional and Contemporary Favorites from the Past 200 Years Hardcover – November 1, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Greg Patent, recognizing that many of America's worthiest breads, cakes, and other sweets have disappeared over time, retrieves them in perfected, easy-to-follow form, while also providing a selection of contemporary favorites, in his book Baking in America. From the first American cookbook, American Cookery, published in 1776, to and beyond the works of influential American cookbook writers including Eliza Leslie, Amelia Simmons, and Fannie Farmer, the book serves up such temptations as Mrs. Goodfellow's Dover Cake (a fine-grained, rice flour-based pound cake); Cornell White Bread (an exemplary sandwich loaf developed at Cornell University); and Chocolate and Gold Ribbon Cake (a Pillsbury Bake-Off prize winner). Among the newer delights are Ricotta Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce, Spicy Icebox Oatmeal Crisps, and Rhubarb Raspberry Crunch Bars. Building upon often-sketchy formulas, Patent has seamlessly bridged past and present to produce a unique collection.

The book's organization--chapters cover topics from savory yeast breads and sweet yeast breads and doughnuts to pound cakes, layer cakes, cheesecakes, fruit desserts, and more--gives some idea of the arc of American baking, which has changed as kitchen technology has advanced. (The arrival of yeast-displacing chemical leaveners, for example, made the layer cake possible.) But American bakers have always been avid experimenters, Patent maintains, and have produced singular delights like Jalapeño, Cornmeal, and Cheddar Bread; Golden Pumpkin Loaf; Persimmon Cream Cheese Cupcakes; and, of course, brownies, for which the book gives variations including White Chocolate Chunk. With amusing advice from old cookbooks and other historical asides, profiles of cooking teachers, and useful glossaries of ingredients and equipment, the photo-illustrated book makes the re-creation of our charmingly homey baking past practical for modern cooks. --Arthur Boehm

From Publishers Weekly

In this wonderful collection of baking recipes, Patent (A Is for Apple) takes classics from old American cookbooks and makes them work with modern-day ingredients, encompassing all aspects of baking from Savory Yeast Breads through Pound Cakes to Pies and Tarts. After explaining the ingredients and equipment, he moves on to the recipes, which include timeless treasures of America's baking tradition such as Parker House Rolls, Lindy's Cheesecake and Lady Baltimore Cake. Most recipes have a brief history or description along with full, simply stated instructions that make them suitable for all skill levels. Interspersed are extracts from historical books and pamphlets that add color and create windows into bygone ages. These panels also convey additional information, which, combined with step-by-step pointers at the start of each chapter, enable the cook to produce treats like the subtly flavored Spice Pound Cake or the moist but light Orange Sponge Cake. Some recipes are more modern e.g., Cashew and Golden Raisin Biscotti with White Chocolate Glaze but all have been popular at some point with the American public. By including recipes from so many areas of baking, Patent has produced a volume that will provide a full repertoire for any cook as well as providing superb insight to the traditions and influences that have made American baking so varied and rich.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 552 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; 1st edition (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618048316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618048311
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #557,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

I was born in Hong Kong, eldest son of an Iraqi mother and Russian father, and spent my first 10 years growing up in the bustling metropolis, Shanghai. For many of those years, we lived with Granny, my Iraqi grandmother, and she cooked all our food. She was also a fabulous baker, as was my Russian grandmother, Baba. My grandmothers instilled in me their passion for baking, and I began on my own path at the age of 11 when we immigrated to San Francisco. Although I cooked and baked from that point on, it never occurred to me to pursue cooking as a profession--even after I won a cash prize at the 10th Pillsbury Bake-Off as a teenager! Instead, I pursued science as a career. I have a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of California, Berkeley, and I held a full professorship at the University of Montana for ten years. Thanks to Carl Sontheimer, who hired me as national spokesperson for Cuisinarts, Inc. more than 25 years ago, I gave up the academic life and plunged headlong into the world of food. I've written articles for most of the major food magazines, and I write two monthly columns for my local paper, the Missoulian. I also contribute food columns to the Missoulian's quarterly magazine, missoula.com. My cookbook, "Baking in America," won the James Beard Award in 2003, and "A Baker's Odyssey" won the 2009 Cordon d'Or Academy Award. His new blog, all about the magic of baking, is at www.thebakingwizard.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Patent sifted 200 years of cookbooks, journals and newspapers to select these 250 recipes, tested and adapted for the modern kitchen. Organized by type, from yeast breads to quick breads to doughnuts, pound cakes, layer cakes, pies and tarts, cheesecakes and more, this is a solid all-round baking book, with clear directions. Sidebars sprinkled throughout offer quotes from old cookbooks and advertisements and brief prefaces give the provenance of the original recipe, serving suggestions and a few words about its character. Patent also offers tips on choosing and handling ingredients, and cooking techniques, such as deep-frying doughnuts, pound cake pointers and step-by-step layer cakes.
A section of full-color pictures (Coconut Layer Cake, Lemon Genoise with White Chocolate Buttercream and Raspberries, Rhubarb Strawberry Pie) should be kept away from dieters. From Martha Washington's Currant Cake to Jalapeno, Cornmeal and Cheddar Bread, Patent does justice to the American baking scene.
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed reading this cookbook. I learned so much about the history of American baking, the ingredients that were and are used in baking, and about the origins of some of the foods that I bake for my family. I read it cover to cover, like a history book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then I started baking from it. The first thing I tried was the honey apple torte, and it was one of the best baked goods I have ever made or tasted. It disappeared in a day--my family couldn't stop eating it. And it is a beautiful cake, too. I am looking forward to baking it for company. Next I tried the lemon sour cream pound cake, and that too was exquisite. I can't wait to try some of the other recipes. I found the recipes very original, and there were many that I haven't seen in other cookbooks. I also enjoyed reading the introductions to each recipe, which give history of the recipe or the ingredients contained in it. After reading (and baking from) this book, I feel like I have a better understanding of American culinary history. This was a very enjoyable cookbook. Thank you, Greg Patent.
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Format: Hardcover
This baking book was disappointing. It represents itself as a survey of 200 years of baking in American kitchens. In the end, the result is a rather ordinary collection of baking and pastry recipes. This collection is supposed to be a collage of 200 years of baking recipes. The book has numerous references to old, out of print recipe books. Then, the author takes these recipes and updates it for the modern kitchen and grocery store.
In the bread chapter, for example, all of the dough make-up procedures are virtually identical. This is suspicious, as the sources, hydration percentages, and ingredients for the bread recipes go all over the place. I suspect that the author here has cheated a bit. Also, the procedures do not have very extensive descriptions of how to form the doughs into loaves. Some of the instructions for preparing the various fruits are either incomplete or wrong, as are procedures for cooking sugar into syrups, caramels, etc.
I like the fact that the procedures (for the most part) are very detailed, and many of the little steps that are often overlooked are thorough described here. The recipes often have as many as a dozen steps. The beginning of each chapter has some baking tips and hints, although they are far from complete. At the head of each chapter is a list of recipes, which is very convenient when you are looking for something specific. The most valuable part of this book is the bibliography, which lists many historic cookbooks, many of which are still available in facsimile editions. Very valuable, and hard to find, are the dozen or so recipes for doughnuts; these alone are almost worth the price of admission.
On the other hand, many chapters are collections of fairly standard recipes that you can find in almost any all purpose cookbook.
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Format: Hardcover
I own this book and it is without a doubt the best baking book I own and one of the top cookbooks that I have ever seen.
The Introduction alone will get you hooked, with Greg Patent's intriguing preview of how thousands of years of cultures have been combined, modified, and enhanced to create the modern cooking of today.
And what about the recipes? I have tried many and they are flawless. Particularly delightful are the Lemon Sponge Cloud (p. 348), the Boston Creme Cakes -- that's right -- cakes (worth the price of the book on their own -- p. 252), and the irresistable Malted Milk Chocolate Cake (p. 276).
But this is much more than just a cookbook of delicious recipes. It is a culinary geneology full of rich accounts of how the cooking of today came to be.
So while you are waiting for your sponge cake to bake, you can pass the time learning how it used to take 4 hours of beating to produce its predecessor back in the 17th century. And when you bite into that delicious and fluffy treat, you will thank Greg Patent, but you will also appreciate those folks along the way who were part of the evolution of American baking.
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Format: Hardcover
Baking in America is one of those rare cookbooks that both experienced and beginning bakers will treasure. My copy already has 14 sticky notes marking recipes that I've tried or want to in the near future. The introduction sets the tone for the book - lots of helpful information about various ingredients, tools and equipment, intermixed with interesting historical tidbits. The color photographs seduce the reader into marking yet another recipe that just has to be tried.
Then on to the "meat" of the book - the recipes and insight into challenges bakers have faced in past generations. Each recipe has tips that beginners will appreciate ("adjust an oven rack to the center position" or "beat for one minute," "stir constantly for 2 minutes"), as well as new ideas for more experienced bakers ("cake is covered tightly with foil for the first 10 minutes...").
I'm still getting kudos and demands for a repeat of the Irish Whiskey Fruitcake with Spiced Walnuts and Pecans (p. 208) even from friends who don't like fruitcake. The Cranberry Muffins from Nantucket (p. 105) are easy and delicious. The Spicy Buttermilk Pecan Layer Cake with Pecan Buttercream (p. 295) that showed up on the Thanksgiving table has become the cake-in-demand for family birthday cakes.
Some recipes include tips about ingredients that can make a big difference, like using whole citron chopped at home instead of the packaged grocery store variety, or home-grated nutmeg. A source list of books, ingredients and equipment at the end of the book is an invaluable part of Baking in America. It puts truly distinctive recipes within easy reach for any baker. This cookbook makes readers feel like they are baking with a knowledgeable friend in the kitchen - easy-going, dependable, innovative, and full of quirky historical gems.
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