- Hardcover: 518 pages
- Publisher: Cook's Illustrated (October 1, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1936493586
- ISBN-13: 978-1936493586
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.2 x 10.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 186 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #141,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cook's Illustrated Baking Book: Baking Demystified with 450 Foolproof Recipes from America's Most Trusted Food Magazine Hardcover – October 1, 2013
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"Like Cook's Illustrated, and the magazine's TV spin-off, America's Test Kitchen, this book is a comprehensive, no-nonsense guide … a well-thought-out, clearly explained primer for every aspect of home baking." -The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
Cook’s Illustrated is a widely renowned America’s Test Kitchen brand that is the work of over 60 passionate chefs based in Boston, Massachusetts, who put ingredients, cookware, equipment, and recipes through objective, rigorous testing to identify the very best. America’s Test Kitchen brands are well-known for top-rated television shows with more than 4 million weekly public television viewers, bestselling cookbooks, magazines, websites, and a cooking school. Discover, learn, and expand your cooking repertoire with Julia Collin Davison, Bridget Lancaster, Jack Bishop, Dan Souza, Lisa McManus, Tucker Shaw, Bryan Roof, and our fabulous team of test cooks!
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The book is well bound. It is obviously heavy--you'll be using both hands and probably your lap if you carry this to bed for a little late night studying. It also stays open well on its own if you cook without a cookbook stand. The recipes are written in the well-known Cook's Illustrated style which includes a handy few paragraphs preceding each recipe on what makes the recipe work so well for the home cook whether that be using room temperature butter or whipping egg whites in a copper bowl. It's the basic science of the recipe that is covered in these introductions without getting too technical if that turns off the home cook. Many of the recipes also have some cooking techniques illustrated in the simple but easy to understand black and white line drawings that many readers are accustomed to seeing in the magazine. The index seems to be well cross-referenced and easy to use. Some may find the font in this book on the small side although I had no problems with it.
I enjoyed the beginning chapter on Baking Basics. It educates beginning cooks or simply curious cooks on the virtues of ingredients and cookware using one and two page spreads. A total of four pages just on the particulars of the types of butter and chocolate and the most useful home techniques associated with using them better in your kitchen? Sure, count me in.
I must sing the praises of this book's recipe for No-Knead Brioche. It was a breeze to prepare although I tend to be a little ham-handed when making breads. My husband can eat a loaf per day when I make it, and I tell people that it's "almost a croissant in loaf form". I also particularly enjoy the Marbled Blueberry Bundt Cake. The lemon and blueberry compote that I made to swirl through the cake batter was well-balanced and rich and almost ingenious in it's use of pectin. Every single time I've ever made it, I've had friends looking at me with doe eyes begging for the recipe. The Chewy Brownies recipe has officially ended my search for a home recipe that tastes as moist and fudgy as a boxed brownie. My spouse says that he doesn't care if I ever make another kind of brownie again. The Cinnamon Babka dough was a bit more fragile than I would have liked it to be when I twisted it, but even with my overzealous handling, it turned out to be quite good. We also are now eschewing other cinnamon bun recipes in favor of this book's Quick Cinnamon Bun recipe. It was amazing how soon we were able to enjoy cinnamon buns without laboring for half a day in the kitchen. The buttermilk icing was slightly too tart so we will likely use whole milk for our next try.
The most frequent complaint I hear about Cook's Illustrated books is that they recycle recipes from one book to the next. This is definitely true of this book. While I do not own the 2004 Baking Illustrated by them, I do have a copy of their 2011 Cook's Illustrated Cookbook. In checking the index of both under "bananas", I see overlap for Ultimate Banana Bread, Banana-Caramel Coconut Cream Pie, Banana Walnut Muffins, Banana and Nutella Crepes, as well as German Chocolate Cake with Banana, Macademia, and Coconut filling. A quick comparison of "Bar" Desserts in the two books yields similar results and then again with a cross-comparison of "Blueberries". If you already own books by Cook's Illustrated, you may not want this book.
I would also like to point out that there are no color photographs in the book. I do not normally care about complaints or reviews regarding photographs in cookbooks, but in a book this large and well made (and knowing how beautiful my recipe results have been at home), I will concede that it is a shame to use big black and white photographs of the recipes. If you are curious if there are photos for each recipe, no there aren't. I think dessert is all about excess, and in a book like this, stark and dreary black and whites just seem like a cop out, a cost saving measure.
My bottom line? It's a good, dependable dessert book. Ere on the side of caution if you already own Cook's Illustrated books. If full color and decadent photographs are important to you, pass on this book. Otherwise, enjoy some remarkably great food at home because these recipes really do deliver.
The chocolate chip cookie recipe is the best I've ever had. The cornbread is amazing. The chiffon cake is simply unreal. The cinnamon rolls...I don't even have the words. There are outstanding pizza and bread recipes. I've attempted over 20 recipes from this book, and they've all come out perfect, first try.
It's approachable for entry-level bakers. You must, however, keep in mind that baking is not cooking. It's chemistry, so use this as you would a textbook. The Test Kitchen people have done all the dirty work for you, and nothing is left for you to guess or wing. Do not substitute or eyeball ingredients. Measure everything out painstakingly and follow directions precisely, and you'll be amazed every time. People will think you've been baking all your life.
In fact, I'm convinced that my favorite local bakery uses this book, because when I make something they also feature on their menu (the molasses cookies, macaroons, several others) it tends to taste identical.
I anticipate buying all of Cooks' other books based simply on the strength of this one (and their great magazine). They're an invaluable resource.
One caveat: you really should buy a kitchenaid mixer with this book. Many, if not most of the recipes inside require a quality stand mixer.
I made the Apple Upside Down Cake and the cake itself was marvelous, but there was way too much apple mixture piled on top - the ratio of apples to cake was lopsided. I would make the cake part itself over and over, but either reduce the apples in half or leave them off all together.
I always like the descriptions and "why" of each recipe. However, I was annoyed that half of the brownies and bar section was one kind of brownie base and little paragraphs with ways you can change it. I don't know why, but that minimizes the recipe to me - I rarely pay attention to the "oh, yeah, and you can add xxx to make it different." If a recipe is outstanding, then put the full recipe - don't make me go back and forth through the book for the complete recipe. The rest of the chapter (5 pages or so) had a few different recipes at least.
The cookie chapter looked promising, but it was also a lot of a base recipe and things you can add to make it different. Most of the cookies are crunchy crisp cookies and I prefer soft, chewy cookies. In fact, no one I know likes crunchy, crisp cookies. You might as well buy packaged grocery store cookies.
All of this is, of course, my opinion and subjective which is why they have a review section. I will be trying some other recipes, but it won't be my go-to baking book. I have yet to find an excellent baking book, but will keep looking!