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Baking Illustrated [Hardcover]

Cook's Illustrated Magazine Editors
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The mysteries of cream of tartar revealed! How to make maximum use of blackening bananas! The hidden meaning of folding in dry ingredients until just blended! Perfect pie crusts for perfect fools! It's all here in Baking Illustrated, from banana bread to pecan bars, and everything imaginable in between--500-plus pages of densely packed, illustration rich, photo finished information all devoted to baking. Tools, techniques, ingredients, tips, and perfect, tested recipes.

There's cooking and there's baking, and the two should never be confused. Good cooks are ever commendable. Good bakers, on the other hand, have something about them bigger than skill or imagination, something that reaches back to the beginning of agriculture and the first inklings of civilization. Good bakers are their own mystic society. So hats off to Cook's Illustrated for throwing open the doors and sharing the mysteries with the rest of us. Baking Illustrated absolutely has it all. You'll find chapters devoted to "Quick Breads, Muffins, Biscuits, and Scones"; "Yeast Breads and Rolls"; "Pizza, Focaccia, and Flatbread"; "Pies and Tarts"; "Pastry"; "Crisps, Cobblers, and Other Fruit Desserts"; "Cakes"; and "Cookies, Brownies, and Bar Cookies". No mean undertaking, all that. Tools are tested and names are named. Techniques are stripped back then rebuilt. Cook's Illustrated carries all this off with a style and relish for inquiry and detail that sets a standard. Nothing is taken for granted because there's no fudge room with baking. It works or it doesn't. So trust is a big issue. And the end result of all the mighty labors of the Cook’s Illustrated staff is text you can trust. This is a baking book that works.

And those blackening bananas? Simply keep adding them to a Ziplock bag you store in the freezer, then use them when you wish and as you like. --Schuyler Ingle

From Publishers Weekly

With refreshing wit and patience for the home cook, the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine present their collective wisdom in an easy-to-use format. Whether readers are baking Brownies or Peanut Butter Cookies, or want to try the more advanced Crescent-Shaped Rugelach with Raisin-Walnut Filling or Fallen Chocolate Cake, or if they're in the mood for something savory, such as Soft Pretzels or Buttermilk Biscuits, they'll find everything (and possibly more) here. The criteria are stringent: a brownie "must not be so sweet as to make your teeth ache, and it must certainly have a thin, shiny, papery crust... offering a contrast with the brownie's moist center." Lengthy prologues explain the tests the editors conducted to arrive at each recipe, with humorous characterizations of what not to do (for example, readers learn to avoid the "lean, mean, whole-wheat-flour oatmeal scone"). The testers often start with professional chef recipes, tinkering as they go. Blueberry muffins get an overhaul in the "Blueberry Muffin Hall of Shame," with mug shots of the guilty muffins' characteristics (e.g., mashed, sticky surface, flat top). Even casual readers will appreciate the editors' narrative flair and baking science (e.g., quiche gets cooled on a rack to prevent condensation), and there's a refreshing absence of diet-conscious recipes here. With step-by-step illustrations on everything from how to remove bar cookies so they don't crumble to chopping nuts, and a section on ingredients that goes as far as to recommend specific brands, this is an indispensable, comprehensive baking reference.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Baker’s bible is worth its weight in gold" -- The Seattle Times, April 6, 2004

"The best instructional book on baking this reviewer has seen." -- Library Journal (starred review) on Baking Illustrated

From the Publisher

This book has been tested, written and edited by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen, a very real, 5,000-square-foot kitchen located just outside of Boston. It is home of Cook’s Illustrated magazine and is the Monday through Friday destination for close to two dozen cooks, editors, food scientists, tasters and cookware specialists. Our mission is to test recipes over and over again until we understand how and why they work and until we arrive at the "best" version. We start the process of testing a recipe with complete lack of conviction. By that I mean we accept no claim, no theory, no technique, and no recipe at face value. We simply assemble as many variations as possible, test half-dozen of the most promising, and taste the results blind. We then construct our hybrid recipe and continue to test it, varying ingredients and techniques, and cooking times until we reach a consensus. The result, we hope, is the "best" version of a particular recipe, but we realize that only you can be the final judge of our success (or failure). As we like to say in the test kitchen, "We make the mistakes so you don’t have to."

All of this would not be possible without the belief that good cooking, much like good music, is indeed based on a foundation of objective technique. Some folks like spicy food and other don’t, but there is a right way to sauté, there is a "best" way to cook a pot roast, and there are measurable scientific principles involved in producing perfectly beaten, stable egg whites. This is our ultimate goal: to investigate the fundamental principles of cooking so that you become a better cook.

You can watch us work (in our actual test kitchen) by tuning into America’s Test Kitchen on public television or by subscribing to Cook’s Illustrated magazine, which is published every other month. We welcome you into our kitchen, where you can stand by our side as we test our way to the "best" recipes in America.

About the Author

Founded in 1980, Cook's Illustrated has emerged as 'America's Test Kitchen', renowned for its near obsessive dedication to finding the best methods of home cooking. The editors of Cook's Illustrated are also the authors of the range of best-selling cookbooks and they present America's Test Kitchen cooking show on public broadcast TV. The show features editors, test cooks, equipment testers and food tasters and has its own web site www americastestkitchen.com
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