Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
presents the doyenne of the Better Way in tip-top form. Or rather, it offers the work of a dedicated team who, under Stewart's stewardship, has devised over 200 baking recipes for both savory and sweet treats, ranging from the traditional likes of buttermilk biscuits, gingersnaps, blueberry pie, bagels, and chocolate angel food cake, to the more novel pleasures of Sausage and Feta Hand Pies, Cherry Fragipane Gallete, Carrot-Ginger Cupcakes, and even the buttery-sugary to-die-for yeasted pastry called kouign amans. Also present and accounted-for are Stewartian showpieces like Mocha-Pistachio Wedding Cake.
The greatest virtue of the book, apart from the clarity of its recipes, lies in its organization: the chapters, which cover all baking stops, begin with relevant tips, followed by notes on equipment and techniques, all photo-illustrated. These set-ups supply context that maximizes the possibility of pleasurable, goof-free baking. Photo-illustrated how-to's in the formulas further the cause. A quibble is the absence in many of the recipe headnotes of descriptive material about the baked good they introduce--it's important to provide info on techniques and ingredients, as the headnotes do, but baking recipes in particular cry out for descriptions of what, for example, sfogliatelle (an Italian pastry), or lime-glazed cookies are. This said, the book is immensely appealing and will excite as well as instruct a wide range of bakers, from the would-be to the accomplished. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Six years after Stewart's now classic Hors D'Oeuvres Handbook
reinvented canapés, here is an end-of-the-meal sequel. General baking tips start things off, most of which are beginner focused ("Read a recipe all the way through"), along with an illustrated guide to baking equipment. Along with expertise, Stewart is also selling the fantasy of wealth; she keeps a vast collection of pots, pans and implements in her own pantry. At times, readers may wish she would offer more suggestions of substitutions for these tools and gadgets (for instance, nearly all the recipes require a stand-up mixer). All the same, this work is, as promised, an essential guide. The recipes include 42 different cookies and 30 cakes, plus pies, tarts, coffee cakes, scones, biscuits, muffins, crackers, bread, fine pastries and more. They range from Classic Apple Pie to twists on standards, like a Tarte Tatin that involves cooking the apples entirely in the oven (instead of on the stovetop) and international goodies like Torta della Nonna. Instructions and sidebars are exhaustive yet accessible. Naturally, the book is exquisitely designed, with beautiful food styling and the spare, closeup photography that's become a hallmark of Stewart publications. Additionally, Stewart includes instructions for decorative crusts, coconut shavings and pastry twists that make her creations look so appealing. (On sale Nov. 1)
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