on January 20, 2008
This is a GREAT baking book. I've tried several recipes already and they were all mouthwatering! So many varieties of baked goods are covered in this book, it's almost like a breakfast baking bible. Every recipe has an "At A Glance" box which tells you what kind(s) of pan you need, how to prep the pan, rising time (if necessary), oven temp, baking time, and difficulty so you can choose recipes based on time requirements, difficulty, etc. Recipes also tell you ahead of time if any advanced prep is required, such as refrigerating overnight.
The only problem I've found thus far is a few editorial errors, such as in muffin recipes that only make a dozen muffins... it tells you to use one muffin pan and put the oven rack in the lower third, but later says to rotate pans from top to bottom and back to front during cooking, which is clearly copied and pasted in every muffin recipe, including the ones that only use one pan. This isn't a huge deal. One glaring error, however, is in the "Streusels, Glazes, Frostings and Spreads" chapter. It appears that whoever edited this book, or possibly the printers, screwed up a couple of the recipes. The instructions for Carole's Favorite Streusel are correct, but then are repeated verbatim for part one of the Almond Crunch Streusel (which makes no sense for the ingredients required). Then under the Butter-Nut Streusel recipe, you can find the correct instructions for part one of the Almond Crunch Streusel. This isn't much of a pain once you realize the error. The Butter-Nut Streusel cannot be made, though, since there are no leftover instructions I could find under any of the other recipes in the section. After skimming through the book, I didn't find a single recipe that requires the Butter-Nut Streusel topping, so again, it's not extremely crucial. Just something to note if you try any recipes containing the Almond Crunch Streusel (I think there's only one). Otherwise, everything else seems to be very clear (with drawings to help out for complicated recipes, like braiding dough, etc). I still give this book 5 stars because I think that the errors I found are insignificant compared to just plain bad recipes you can find in other books. Buy this book, it's really great! Just be aware of that little mix-up with those 2 recipes.
It would be difficult to expound on Laura Stokes-Gray "Cookbook Lover's" comprehensive review. The primary weakness of the book is the dearth of photographs - don't get me wrong, there are photos, but a rather small selection considering the number of recipes. Luckily, one of Walters' greatest strengths is her detailed instructions. The recipe measurements are given in cups and teaspoons, not grams and mL, and they are geared toward home bakers. Each recipe has a difficulty rating, with detailed prep instructions listed in a sidebar.
A couple of cons: the book could have used just a few more pictures of some of the more complex or interesting finished desserts. It could also use more careful editing. For example, it seems like the editors just cut and pasted the instructions for Carol's Favorite Streusel into the other streusel recipes, even though they do not make double batches of streusel.
I think that some of the most useful chapters in the book are those dealing with strudel and danish pastry. Walter provides lengthy, detailed instructions for these baked goods, plus mouth-watering recipes. A wonderful, wonderful book. I've baked about 12 things out of it, and everything has been very well received.
on February 13, 2008
Review by "Retired Geek's Wife": This cookbook is excellent! The directions are clear and well-written, with all the details needed for techniques you may not be familiar with. Each recipe is rated for difficulty, so if you are inexperienced you can start with the "1 cup" recipes. Then, as you build your confidence, move onto the more difficult recipes. The variety of recipes is wonderful and everything I've made has been delicious. The one small problem I've had is on the ingredients list. For example, it will indicate 3 1/4 cups flour in the ingredients list. Then in the detailed directions only 3 cups are used in the mix and the extra 1/4 cup is for the kneading process. It would be better to have it noted in the ingredients list separately. A minor problem, and if I read directions more carefully, not really a problem at all. If you are only going to buy one dessert cookbook, this is the one to get.
on April 18, 2011
I absolutely adore this book. Usually, corrections to cookbook recipe errors can be found from the publisher; just e-mail their customer service department and ask.
Here are the corrections for "Great Coffee Cakes" according to Random House and are found at: [...]
CORRECTIONS TO GREAT COFFEE CAKES
ALMOND CRUNCH STREUSEL (PAGE 351)
Steps 1 & 2 should read:
1. Position the shelf in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with Silpat or Release aluminum foil. Set aside.
2. Beat the egg white in a small bowl until foamy. Add the sugar and almonds and toss to coat. Spread the almonds on the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and using a spatula, turn the almonds over and break up the large pieces as best you can. Bake for another 8 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown. When cool enough to handle, break the nuts into smaller pieces.
BUTTERNUT STREUSEL (page 353)
Makes: Enough for one 10-inch round or 9 x 13 x 2-inch coffee cake
Or 16 -18 muffins
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
' cup slivered almonds
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 ' cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
' teaspoon salt
1. Place the butter in a heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan and heat until almost melted; remove from the heat.
2. Place the sugar, almonds and extract in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse 6 - 8 times, then process until the almonds are finely chopped. Add the flour and salt and pulse to combine.
3. Empty the almond mixture into the butter, and then toss with a fork until crumbs are formed. Gently squeeze the mixture with your hand to form larger lumps, and then break them apart with your fingertips. Before using, let the streusel stand at least 10 to 15 minutes.
NUT CRUSTED ORANGE POUND CAKE (page 28)
Step 6 should read: Add the "orange zest" and mix....
SOUR CREAM MARBLE CAKE (page 46)
Correct measurement for baking powder should read:
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
on March 3, 2008
I love this book. I am forever on a search for the perfect crumb cake and I think my quest has finally come to an end. I love this recipe. I have had the book a few weeks and I've already made it a couple of times. The book has lots of homey good recipes for muffins (like the vanilla ones with chocolate chunks...mmmm), cakes, etc. You won't be disappointed.
on January 18, 2008
Carole Walter's book is excellent. Extremely detailed descriptions of all the recipe steps and ingredients. You always know that the recipe will work exactly if you follow her step by step method. All of her books are worth buying, esp. the Cake and Pie books. I have never had a failure with a Carole Walter recipe.
on November 18, 2007
Every recipe I have tried has been a keeper. I own a LOT of baking books and this one is definitely a must for bakery quality goodies!
I admit it; I could happily live on breakfast alone. More specifically, luscious quick breads, muffins, and pastries. I have over two dozen baking books, but I still enjoy seeking out new recipes for pound cakes, quick breads, and international pastries such as danishes, croissants, and strudels. I bought Carole Walter's "Great Coffee Cakes" while on vacation in Petoskey, MI (if you happen to be in town, check out the divine kitchen store Cutler's, where I purchased this).
The first recipe I tried was the sticky buns, which were a flop. However, that was due to the fact that I was trying to proof yeast with no thermometer (baking on vacation in a sparsely equipped rental unit is always an adventure), so it is quite likely that I used too low a temperature to activate the yeast. The sticky topping was excellent, though. Once back home, I made several other recipes, and all were delicious, particularly the cherry almond cake and the Greek semolina cake (if you like Middle Eastern cuisine, this is quite similar to basboosah, a semolina cake soaked in a honey syrup).
The recipes are rated according to level of difficulty, which is illustrated by measuring cup graphics (one cup means easy, while three is difficult). The ingredients are largely things that you probably already have in your cupboards or pantry; there are few exotic ingredients other than crystallized ginger or flavored liqueurs such as Grand Marnier. The ingredients are clearly laid out, and if a recipe calls for another recipe from the book, the page number is given. There are numerous helpful sidebars with practical advice to help you make the most of your creations, such as working with yeast, what to do with scraps, freezing yeasted doughs, and baking advice. Nor is the book limited to breakfast; Carole also provides luscious cookies such as glazed ricotta cookies, biscotti, black chocolate madeleines, and several variations on rugelach, bar cookies, and spreads (cranberry orange, maple pecan, dried pear, toasted walnut, and blue cheese) to round out your day.
As other reviewers have noted, there are a few small errors and omissions, but nothing major (Carole has thoughtfully posted the corrections on her official website). If you live for muffins, sticky buns, and comforting old-fashioned pound cakes, this book is for you. If you're looking for divine danishes (a bit more advanced), croissants and strudels, you'll find those as well. There's something here for all levels of bakers from novice to pro, and I loved the international touches such as babka (Polish yeast bread), Greek coffee cake, stollen, and pain au chocolat. I would have liked to see a few more illustrations (there are color photos in the center), but that's a minor quibble for an otherwise outstanding guide to breakfast baked goods.
on January 11, 2008
I can't add too much to the above comprehensive reviews, but must say this book is wonderful. It's well thought out and organized, easy to follow and a joy to read as a novel, which is the way I always read a cookbook the first time! I own every major baking and bread cookbook that's come out in the past 15 years, and this is definitely right up there with my favorites. Plus, the recipes workl!
on December 23, 2009
I have enjoyed this book and have been practicing with the various scone recipes of late. What's interesting is that each of the scone recipes uses a different techniques -- one uses cubes of butter and a stand mixer and another shaves the chilled butter and mixes it in by hand, for example. I have followed the recipes exactly, but have also used the techniques interchangeably with great result. (Unlike most people, I tend to overwork dough when I do things by hand, so the mixer or food processor methods are much better for me.) Common sense substitutions have not been a problem either, which means these are good basic recipes. Practice them and you'll have some real tools in the baking arsenal.
The book is divided into chapters based on the type of baked good (e.g., biscuits and scones). At the beginning of each of these chapters is an "About" section (e.g., "About Making Biscuits and Scones"), where there are some great tips. What I find frustrating is that the tips the author provides in "About" are not also included in the recipes. For example, About Making Biscuits and Scones says, "Chilling the dough before rolling makes it easier to handle," yet this step is not part of any recipe for biscuits or scones. OK, so this was common sense for me since I already know how to make pies and work with pastry, but if you're new to these kinds of things, make sure you read the "About" section, and you'll be more likely to turn out some great stuff!
In a related vein, do the right thing and read the recipe through completely before you start. I find it annoying when a cookbook is always sending you somewhere else in the middle of a recipe, but that's what this one does. Need toasted pecans? See page 391. Plumping raisins? That's on page 389. Not that these are tricky techniques or anything, but REALLY, is it asking too much to just include these steps in the actual recipe?
Others have noted issues with cut-and-paste and missing pages, but I must have a newer copy and these have been corrected, so are not issues in my book.