43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is filled with both anecdotal and culinary gems.
It begins with a brief chapter entitled "joy the baker kitchen tips" which discusses common, but crucial, myths and missteps frequently encountered in baking. For example, why you should care whether you are using jumbo vs large eggs and how the difference can translate to perfect vs dense cake batter.
The subsequent chapters center on breakfast foods (smoothies, biscuits, coffee bacon...), comfort foods (milkshakes, chili cheese fries, cookies...), celebration foods (pies, cakes, a variety of frostings...), chocolate foods (mint chip marshmallows, fudgepops, biscotti...), & dessert foods that travel well (crostadas and other impressive but easy-to-make goods).
My first tested recipe was actually the first recipe in the book- scones. I always knew tiny bits of cold butter was important... but from this recipe I learned a crucial trick: to freeze butter and shred it into tiny pieces with a box grater. This is the secret to a perfect scone and I was almost terrified by the difference in height achieved by this trick alone. Its such a good trick, that I almost feel like this is the kind of secret you share with very few people.
PRO: Pictures to accompany EVERY recipe. I think pictures are crucial and am surprised whenever I see cookbooks without ANY pictures. I generally flip through cookbooks to find something by eye, and I think a lot of people do this too.
I like the single serving cake. I dont have to waste 4 cups of flour and go through a huge production to have a small portion of cake.
CON: Joy tends to have a set of photos that demonstrate the making-of, which I always find helpful. Although they are not in this book, you can find them when you look for recipes (which are organized by booze, bread, breakfast, chocolate, cookies, cupcakes, drinks, fruit, gluten-free, holiday, pie, savory, snacks, vegan) on joythebaker.com
This book boasts 100 new recipes (~90% not seen on joythebaker.com) and is priced very very low for what you gain.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I have been a BIG fan of Joy for about a year now via her terrific blog.
Her recipes are stunning and her writing is colloquially elegant. Joy has a way of making you feel like her truest friend. Her heartfelt blog has made its way into my daily routine and my heart and tummy are better off because of it.
This book is designed very well and is easy to read.
It is organized into clear sections and features beautiful full page pictures.
There are MANY new recipes in this book that are not from her blog. Each recipe has a little note from Joy at the top, but it otherwise feels like a professional cookbook.
The "kitchen tips" type section at the beginning was wonderful! I'm excited to try some of them... AND all the other recipes in the book. I love that Joy features so many 'basics with a twist' while also branching out. I would say that this cookbook is perfect for the average cook who is willing to experiment a little and try something new.
ONLY con is that it is mostly a "sweets" book... I would have like to see a tad more variety... But hey it is a "celebration of butter and sugar"! It does have a great healthy cracker recipe, two smoothie recipes and a few others.
Just tried my first recipe from the book...coffee cake... and it is SMELLING UP MY DARN HOUSE with the most beautiful aroma! It is taking all the patience I have to wait for it to cook all the way :)
36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2012
Many basic recipes for basic stuff, but with a little twist and a beautiful photo, makes you feel like making it. The recipes are for basic pancakes, muffins, pudding, pie, cookies, ice cream, popcorn, smoothies, cake, frosting, chocolate sauce, etc. and are either straightforward (nothing new added), or they offer up one or two different ingredients in them, like browned butter or vanilla bean. This is a great book for a beginner or someone who just enjoys a new little idea here and there, and fun photos. There are some tips up front but again, basic, yet for people who didn't know these tips, they can make all the difference.
Every recipe gets one page for the recipe and one page for the photo. Easy to take into the kitchen. Nice!
She absolutely does not go on and on about getting a boyfriend - she talks about her family, but most of all she talks about the forthcoming recipe. And there are NOT tons of avocado recipes like one reviewer said. psh!
I made the Dark Chocolate and Anise Biscotti (photo in the photo area top left). Turned out great but the shaping directions left me a little flustered (only 2 dimensions were mentioned when there are 3 dimensions to an object, and it just didn't look right), although it all worked out. Another example of confusion is that I wanted to make the Araby Spice cake (sounds interesting) but the recipe calls for a 9" round cake pan yet the photo of it is a cake with a hole in the middle (remember My Big Fat Greek Wedding?), yet it didn't look like a Bundt Cake - it was too shallow. Made me wonder how the cake would turn out in a regular round cake pan. But even more so, I wondered why it wasn't photographed in the recommended form? Did it not look as pretty? Probably. Another area of confusion was the title Dark Chocolate Biscotti, yet the recipe ingredients calls for semi-sweet. A Google search taught me that semi-sweet is a form of dark chocolate, but hey, most people don't know that. Why not just say chocolate and not confuse people?
It sounds like I'm being picky, but those were my first three recipes I looked at. And I don't want to have to wonder and do internet searches to feel confident in getting started on a project.
Some of the recipes out of the 100 are BASIC STRAIGHT UP BAKED GOODS:
Texas Sheet Cake, Hot Fudge Sauce, Hot Chocolate, Buttercream Frosting, Apple Crisp, Cheddar Chive Biscuits with Jalapeno, Cinnamon Rolls with Buttermilk Glaze, Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies, Granola Bars, Pecan Pralines, Banana Bourbon Bread Pudding, Gingerbread, Caramel Corn, Trail Mix Cookies, Individual Molten Chocolate Cake, etc etc.
Some of the recipes out of the 100 are BASIC, BUT WITH A SLIGHT SPIN:
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (add Bourbon), Lemon Bars (add lavendar), cream cheese frosting (add cocoa powder to make chocolate), malted milkshake (add pineapple), ice cream pie (add coffee), Banana Cake (add rum), Chocolate Pudding (add crushed cookies with whipped topping), Banana Cream Pie (add toasted coconut), Black and White Cookies (make the cookies Pumpkin instead of plain), Pancakes (add oatmeal & raisin), Chocolate Bread Pudding (add malt powder), Caramel Sauce (add salt), Banana Blueberry Smoothie (add toasted oats), Fudge Pops (add chocolate chunks & fresh raspberries), Snickerdoodles (add vanilla bean), Roasted Cashews (toss them with honey & dried mustard first), Rice Krispie Treats (add browned butter & peanut butter).
Some of the recipes are FROM JOY'S WONDERFUL BLOG, but with a slight change:
Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies (same as on blog but adds more sugar and chopped peanuts), Dutch Baby Pancake (make it tropical with toasted coconut, banana & pineapple), Pie Crust (push it in the pan with your hands instead of rolling). Probably more but I don't want to take the time to compare recipe by recipe.
Every single recipe is one page recipe and one page photo, so for Hot Chocolate, you get a big photo of Hot Chocolate and a whole page of a 4-ingredient recipe.
I think this would make a great gift for someone who is 30ish and younger and/or is new to making their own treats and/or wants to support young, hard-working entrepreneurs and/or loves new cookbooks with good photography.
FOLLOW UP 1 YEAR LATER: I was wondering why a couple people thought my EXTENSIVE review was "Not Helpful". So I re-read my review and realized that I actually only made one recipe, and it did turn out fine, but only after googling other biscotti recipes to see what the shaped log is supposed to look like. Plus I've read others' reviews by now who were honest about recipes that didn't work out. So in summary, I think this is one of those cookbooks in which some recipes will work for you and some won't. And some people will be able to figure out the inconsistencies, and others won't. Some will be pi**ed off about a recipe that didn't work out or was difficult to make work, and others won't. Personalities and expectations vary.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on February 29, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I absolutely love this cookbook! I preordered it so that I could receive it as soon as it came out. I received it yesterday and already made the peanut butter birthday cake with the cream cheese and peanut butter icing. AMAZING! Everything in the book looks delicious and I am happy to report that all of the recipes can be made with easy to find ingredients. I didn't have to go to the store to buy anything in order to make the cake--the ingredients are all very basic kitchen staples! The photos in the book are warm and comforting, the instructions are clear and simple and so far the end product is delicious!
36 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2013
Also, Cranky the Reviewer, so cut me some slack. This cookbook is a disappointing flop. For a cookbook about baking, there are an awful lot of popcorn, milkshake, and frozen desserts. Many of the recipes are for pancakes or savory items. There are so many inconsistencies and mistakes in the instructions, and above all, the recipes I tried were pretty mediocre. None stood out as anything special or worth repeating, and many were failures.
I don't think Joy the Baker ever learned basic measurements or ratios either. Weights are not given, which would have been very helpful when using fruit and other non-standardized items. For example, the Apple Crostada was a disaster. The instructions say to roll the dough to 8 rounds with a 1/4 inch thickness. There is literally not enough dough to even make the rounds, even with an 1/8 inch thickness, let alone contain the massive apple filling. You must either double the dough or half the filling. The recipe calls for 1/4 CUP of cinnamon and 1/8 CUP of nutmeg. That seemed insane and I figured it was a typo, so I used 1/4 tsp and 1/8 tsp. The cinnamon and nutmeg flavors were strong with my correction. No idea how it'd taste if I had used the stated amount.
The cranberry orange poppyseed cookies were very disappointing, too. They were surprisingly bland, despite pressing the orange zest into the sugar as suggested in the intro. The instructions said to roll into a 1 inch diameter tube and slice into 3 dozen cookies. A 1 inch tube ran the length of my fridge shelf and made 80 tiny cookies. I tried it again with a 2 inch diameter and got closer to 3 dozen (maybe Joy meant a 1 inch radius? Basic geometry, people! Stay in school kids).
The pineapple malt shake was nasty. I love pineapple and I love malt, but this combination should never be made. Even the kettle corn recipe did not work. You can't heat butter at a temperature high enough to pop corn without scorching it.
The recipes don't have flavor. It seems to be a problem with ingredients and balance of flavors. She talks about the importance of sifting flour in a brief paragraph in the intro, but does not indicate in any recipe whether she is using sifted flour; some recipes were so doughy that no flavor other than flour came through. She uses unsalted butter, presumably because actual chefs prefer it, but doesn't put back salt into the recipes; salt is very important to balance sweetness. I salvaged one chocolate recipe by sprinkling salt on top of the baked cake to help improve the flavor.
What I do like is that there is a photo of every recipe and the cover/binding combination made it easy to keep this cookbook open. The problem is that the photos are more reminiscent of those that your friends post to social media sites, and do not do much to help figure out how a recipe should look.
Online food bloggers tend to have loyal audiences that will follow them into the very bowels of food hell and praise their recipes, regardless of whether they tried them or not, so I expect a fair amount of hate and don't care. These recipes are expensive to make due to prices of butter and eggs, and are not worth your time or effort. If you want to bake something tasty, I would suggest that you trust real bakers, not a "self-taught" food enthusiast. I've always had success with Better Homes and Gardens, Pillsbury, and Martha Stewart baking recipes. You wouldn't trust a "building enthusiast!" or a "medicine enthusiast!" or a real architect or pharmacist, so don't trust your baking to an enthusiast either.
I give it 2 stars simply because it's a good format and makes a good coffee-table cook, as long as you don't plan to actually use any of the recipes.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2012
So far I have made the cheddar chive biscuits, whole wheat goat cheese biscuits and Flax Seed Crackers. I loved the cheddar biscuits, the whole wheat biscuits were just OK and the crackers were a learning experience. I had always wanted to make crackers and my first attempt here wasn't a fail but it wasn't totally successful either.
Pros: The book is lightweight and not cumbersome to carry or keep open on the counter when cooking. The photos are very nice and instructions are clear. (I recommend the cheddar biscuits.)The book is well indexed.
Cons: I don't know if this is fair to call a con but the chatty preamble gets old. I started just reading the recipes. Also, there are some funky avocado recipes for pound cake and fries which didn't appeal to me. Joy is a California girl though so avocados are probably a staple for her. I have had many cookbooks where you find a few recipes you just don't like though.
I did make the following recipes so far. Links with recipes/photos/comments are here:
Cheddar Chive Biscuits
Whole Wheat Goat Cheese Biscuits:
Flax seed Crackers:
NEW Comment on my Review: I just noticed my hyperlinks for each recipe was not included so, if you would like to see the posts/recipes/photos please google the words Squirrel Head Manor (really, I'm not kidding) and you will find 3 of my posts/photos for the recipes mentioned above. Thanks!
27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2013
I signed the book out from a local library, and after leafing through it wanted to buy it almost immediately, without trying any of the recipes.
-the photos are gorgeous
-the recipe directions are clear
-the recipes look tasty and would really appeal to my family
Since it appears that many of Joy's fans are here responding to negative reviews I need to say that I'm not new to the world of blogging. I specifically signed out her book as soon as I noticed that it was by a blogger because I expected it would be fabulous. I have never read Joy's blog, nor have I started. Honestly I got the book strictly for the food, not the stories. I tend to skip over stories in recipe books and in blogs because I'm really only interested in the recipes. The food is what I'm reviewing here, not Joy or her blog.
I've tried three recipes, and all have been really disappointing. Consistently I've found that baking times or temperatures seem to be off or things just don't work. I'm no stranger to the kitchen and know how to make granola, biscuits or those chocolate melty cakes, but Joy's recipes don't really work well. Kneading biscuits make them tough. The melty cake, even though it was baked for longer than the maximum time, was one big liquid mess. The granola, instead of crisping and drying, simply burned even before the minimum baking time. Since the easier recipes were all flops I didn't even bother trying the more complicated. Instead I returned it to the library. In my experience, people want a book where they don't have to change things on the fly to try to figure out how the end product will be. I want to be able to slightly trust the bake times to be somewhat accurate. Here, not so much. In all my years in the kitchen I haven't ever used a baking cookbook that was so off. Ever.
I'm sad to say that I wouldn't recommend this book. I really wanted to.
21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2012
OK, to be fair. Some of the recipes I tried were OK, not crappy. I fully admit to keeping cookbooks on the shelf for years, taking them down to enjoy dreaming of making the dishes and drooling over beautiful pictures. This cookbook would do just fine if that's what you're looking for. It appears though, that if you actually want to make some delicious, indulgent (i.e. no skimping on butter and sugar) food, this is not your cookbook. And its such a disappointment. Still. I scan the book and everything looks so freakin' wonderful. And then I make it and... a waste of calories, basically.
I got this book about four months ago and have since baked peach cobbler muffins (a bit dry, nothing added by browning butter, a disservice to the gorgeous, ripe local peaches I used). I opened the cookbook one day and was inspired to make the zucchini and potato pancakes (but really didn't need a recipe to make these as they're very straightforward). Next, baked the banana rum cake with brown butter frosting (glorified banana bread).
My ex-pastry chef sister-in-law came to visit and tried the blueberry muffins (again, a bit dry, same experience with browned butter) and the orange gingerbread squares (sat on the counter uneaten for a week).
Final straw was making the "man-bait" apple crisp last night. The flour:fruit ratio is totally off and the whole thing was just a gummy, gloppy mess. My man chose to have his ala mode, hold the crisp
I don't know what to say. Joy is indeed a beautiful gal and the photography in the book great food porn, but I suspect anyone who baked before they bought would not end up buying.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2012
I'll admit I'm a frequent reader of Joy's blog and a fan, but to be totally honest I wasn't blown away by the recipes in this book. This is a hard one to review because she has such an extensive array of really great recipes on her blog, including some really hearty, healthy savory recipes (kale, sweet potato soup, anyone?) in addition to sinful sweets and I can't help but compare that entire catalogue of those recipes to this book which leaves me feeling a little luke warm on the whole thing. I just wish she would have included a few non sweets recipes...oh well, maybe in the next one? :) What this book is not lacking though is heart. Joy has clearly put A LOT of work into this book and her unique voice, quirky personality, and hard work definitely shine through. If you're already a fan of Joy's from reading her blog, I would recommend purchasing this book if only to show your support, but if not, I'd direct you to her blog instead.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I love reading her food blog and maybe it was my fault for not trying the recipes on the food blog before buying the cookbook but WOW, Yuck. Let me start by saying that the layout of the book is great, pictures beautiful, on the surface it appears to be a fun read. However I tried 3 recipes and all of them were disgusting! The first recipe I tried were the S'mores brownies, how can you mess that up, right? Well, let me say Joy has no idea what a brownie is. The brownie was bland, the consistency was wrong. The brownie ended up more like a poorly flavored chocolate cake. I figured it was a brownie thing so I tried the carrot cake pancakes next. No luck, they came out a flavorless mess with a frosting mixture on top. So then I thought maybe its the pancakes, I'll try something safe, cookies. I'll save you the long story on that one. Let's just say - not yummy. I wanted to like this book, I tried very hard, but I was disappointed. I know she has made a career on her baking but perhaps the draw to her is her beautiful food photos and fun stories on her blog and not so much the baking.