Most helpful positive review
165 of 165 people found the following review helpful
Believe the hype
on November 17, 2010
I live in Chicago and had never heard of Sarabeth before this cookbook, but the preview on Amazon looked great so I tried it. All I can say is it is AMAZING. I am not a baker -- I have baked, and enjoy cooking, but I'm not remotely proficient at baking. With this book, I feel like the real thing. As others have said, her descriptions are very-very detailed and the pictures are wonderful. They are especially important for the dough. I made the Raspberry-Lemon Cake for a birthday party, and it is not an exaggeration to say people thought they were eating a professional wedding cake. It was the best cake I've ever made by a long way. The blueberry preserves are also out this world. Next, I'm going to tackle the croissants. I think I might actually be able to do it.
Word of warning, this book is not for the faint of heart. Some of the recipes are wonderfully simple (e.g., the preserves, cookies), but many of them have a number of steps. At least, the ones I've tried do. She is excellent at explaining which steps can be done ahead, which is a godsend. And you really do feel great when your recipe turns out. She does not shy away from listing the materials that are ideal for a recipe, but as someone who does not plan to turn into a baking machine, I make do with the materials I have on hand. My substitutions have been fine (e.g., one kind of rolling pin, not two or three; regular round cake pans, not special cake rings for layering). I don't skimp on the ingredients, but there is nothing exotic listed -- cake flour, bread flour, butter, sugar, etc. She has a great tip for working with vanilla beans, btw, but she also tells you when pure vanilla extract will do.
If you feel like taking a shot at baking, this book is very worth your effort. And if you are already an accomplished baker, I'm guessing you'll still love the luscious recipes in the book.
Update 11/21/10 - made the croissants over the weekend. They were way, way easier to make than I expected, and they were perfectly flakey and delicious -- a huge hit in the house. Total time I spent measuring, mixing and rolling was maybe half an hour. The rest of the time the dough just sits. I've read the directions in other books for how to make croissants, and the method Sarabeth came up with is dramatically easier than anything else I've seen. It's worth the price of the book on its own. Next I'm going to try the puff pastry and make some turnovers.
btw -- the size of the croissants she provides are about half the size of bakery croissants. It's a nice size for a party or if you don't want overkill. To have a typical bakery-size croissant, I roll out to a single 24" x 8" rectangle, and then mark a 6" base for each croissant. It took a bit of trial and error to come to these measurements, so I thought I'd share them.