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Baking Illustrated: A Best Recipe Classic Hardcover – March 1, 2004
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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 Cooks 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.
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Being the geek that I am, I read through 75% of the book before trying my first recipe. I have learned quite a bit about baking from this book that I had never learned in my days of baking. The first recipe I tried in this book was the Banana Bread. I have been making Banana Bread for over 30 years and had received many compliments on my Banana Bread... The recipe in this book was the absolute best Banana Bread I have ever tasted! Not dry at all, a wonderful banana taste and absolutely heavenly. I would say that the Banana Bread recipe alone was worth the price of the book.
I am looking forward to trying one of the cake recipes tomorrow. This book will be a staple in my baking for many years to come. It is a great book for the novice or for someone who has been baking for 30+ years ;-)
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