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Baking Illustrated: A Best Recipe Classic Hardcover – March 1, 2004
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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This is a fantastic cookbook for both the novice cook as well as the experienced home baker. The chapters are divided into 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. Like in the magazine, there are a number of drawing and some photographs that show you want you want to achieve, as well as how some recipes go wrong.
Baking Illustrated will start your mouth watering when you leaf through it. This is one of those cookbooks that you will keep going back to, and probably will get smudged with flour, butter and sugar.
Oh, it's also a pretty hefty book. It takes up as much space as three other cookbooks, but it contains more valuable information than most of my other cookbooks combined.
I've been thrilled with their creme brulee, carrot cake, Boston cream cupcakes, and cream cheese brownies... And look forward to making more from this cookbook.
Pros: A great selection of recipes. Their discussions before every recipe are informative, and have the potential to teach you a lot about baking. I have never had a recipe turn out less than perfectly.
Cons: The book is formulaic. If you're an advanced baker or someone for whom instinct and creativity play a major inspirational role, you may find this book stiffing. This book also occasionally assumes the baker has certain equipment on hand- for instance, the carrot cake recipe is made almost entirely via food processor. If you don't happen to have one, you need to work your own way through the recipe. (Which, if you're even a moderately confident baker, is not overly difficult.)
Over all- this is a great buy, full of varied and wonderful recipes. It's formulaic nature makes each recipe pretty fail-safe, but it may not inspire you to get creative.
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