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Baking Illustrated: A Best Recipe Classic Hardcover – March 1, 2004

4.8 out of 5 stars 164 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 Cook’s 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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 515 pages
  • Publisher: America's Test Kitchen; 1st edition (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0936184752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0936184753
  • Product Dimensions: 11.6 x 8.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Important Information

Ingredients
Example Ingredients

Directions
Example Directions

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This volume, `Baking Illustrated' is a compilation of articles and recipes from `Cook's Illustrated' magazine. This is the same source as many other volumes presuming to provide the `best' recipe for various dishes. Overall, I find the recipes in this book very good, but with several reservations.
I am really happy to see the `America's Test Kitchen' crew turn their attention to baking. Unlike savory cooking, baking is highly dependent on accurate measurements of weight, volume, and temperature. Therefore, it is an area where a scientific approach of varying various quantities will have a more beneficial result than in the savory world.
This book is subtitled `The Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker'. This means the book is directed at the amateur home baker. This facet does not really distinguish the book that much from dozens of other baking books I have reviewed. In fact, I would warn occasional bakers who simply want recipes that this book might just be a bit too wordy for you. You may be much better served by a general baking book by Maida Heatter, Nick Malgieri, or even Martha Stewart. On the other hand, if you love `Cooks Illustrated' or simply reading about cooking and baking technique, then this is a book for you!
My biggest reservation with the whole `best recipe' approach by `Cooks Illustrated' is that a recipe is best only by a certain set of criteria. What may be the best FAST recipe may fall flat on its face for ENTERTAINING or for MOST HEALTHY. The `Cooks Illustrated' team generally goes for a good compromise between fast and tasty. A corollary to this reservation is the presumption that the `Cooks Illustrated' approach has a unique insight into baking truth. This is simply not true.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved the Cooks Illustrated "The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition with 1,000 Recipes" so much I asked for this for Christmas based on the glowing reviews here. Big mistake- this book is just the baking chapters from that book with 1 or 2 recipes added in each chapter and a couple of pages of color photos. Buy "The New Best Recipe" instead. It is the same price and you get 90% of the recipes in this book, plus 600+ other recipes!
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I like the way Cook's presents recipes. They tell you how they experiment which give you, the home baker, the skills to experiment on your own! This is great.
There are a lot of recipes here and they are all well-written. Please note, there is an error in their Basic Pie Crust recipe. It should be 1/2 cup of shortening rather than one cup. This was sent to me in an email from the America's Test Kitchen website.
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Format: Hardcover
On the whole, I like this collection of baking and pastry recipes. When I have never baked something before and need a failsafe recipe, this is the first book I pick up. It is a good source of reliable, if fussy, recipes. Although I have serious reservations about much in this book, I do recommend it, but not for the kitchen neophyte. It is disturbing how many best-selling baking and pastry books published in the last few years with a famous chef on the cover are chock full of recipes that simply do not work; Baking Illustrated is a happy exception.

One myth about this book (produced by the same people who publish Cooks Illustrated magazine) should be dispelled from the beginning. It is not a collection of the best recipes of a particular baking or pastry item, nor is it an effort to take a classic, old fashioned recipe and do it correctly. Most of the recipes start out with a goal with a specific combination of texture, flavor, and appearance in mind (cf. brownies). The result very often is something that lacks the character you would normally expect from that dish. So, before you forge ahead with one of the recipes in this book assuming that it is the best of it's type, read the introductory material carefully to see the end result the authors were shooting for (as prime examples of a failure in this vein, I cite the recipes for Corn Muffins and Sacher Torte). In particular, I object to the dampness of many of the chemically leavened baked goods. I also find the flavors generally to be bland. Not enough spice is fixed by adding more, but other problems like not enough richness or not sweet enough, is not easily fixed unless you are willing to re-engineer the recipe.

This book has many shortcomings, but none of them fatal.
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The best general book on baked goods out there.

THE GOOD:

The recipes -- as with all Cooks Illustrated books, the people at America's Test Kitchens have tried every variation reasonably possible to come up with baked goods that taste the best to a majority of people and don't contain any wasted steps (such as macerating apples in sugar before baking them in a pie). For instance, for their cranberry nut bread, which is one of the most delicious baked goods I've ever tried, they experimented with different sweeteners (sugar, brown sugar, orange juice, etc.), different liquids (milk, buttermilk, yoghurt) and various leveners, all to come up with a moist, not-too-sweet, flavorful treat.

The organization -- the book is organized into types of baked goods: quick breads, yeast breads, cakes, pies and tarts, cookies, etc. Each section has an index that lists the recipes in that section plus the variations on each main recipe. For example, under apple pie, there are varations for apple-cranberry, apple-bluberry, apple-ginger and so on.

The pictures -- there aren't a lot of pictures, but the ones ther e are are gorgeous and inspiring.

The illustrations -- there are myriad illustrations showing how to do such things as line a baking pan to make removal of bar cookies clean and easy, how to roll out pie dough, how to toast nuts, etc. These illustrations help make the instructions particularly easy to follow and show how to simplify complicated baking steps. Easily the best thing about this book.

The instructions -- amounts are given in both volume (cups) and weight (ounces) so that bakers with scales can use the most precise measurements but that bakers without scales can use the recipes, too.
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