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I'm Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking Hardcover – October 1, 2004
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Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking should be required reading for those who truly want to learn how to become great bakers. In his own off-beat style Alton explains the science behind the process simply and in a manner you will not only remember, but subconsciously apply to all your baking endeavors. What is salt's role in the baking process? Why use eggs? Why is the way you mix important to overall success? Stylized and presented like his first book and popular Food Network show Good Eats, Baking is more like a goofy textbook rather then a pretty, photographed book with a bunch of recipes. If you are looking for a couple of quick, simple recipes to make cookies or bread, keep looking. If it's an education about the "Whats," "Whys," and "Hows" of baking with the intent to lift your skills to a new level: welcome!
Baking is a precise science that needs to be followed to the letter if you want success. It is highly recommended to read the introduction and "The Parts Department" section before attempting any of the recipes in this book. The essence of Alton Brown's book is not to simply follow recipes, but to get a deep understanding of what is going on during the baking process. The introduction goes over the layout of the book and how it should be used (the ingenious "method flaps" for instance), the low down on how to read recipes, the importance of measuring by weight vs. volume, and baking's five core steps. The "Parts" section explains just that: ingredients. What is the chemical make up of proteins, carbs, and fats? Why is their interrelationship so important to success? How well do you know flour, eggs, sugar, and baking soda? Once you have the basics down and your parts measured it's time to get mixing. The rest of the book is smartly broken up by the six major mixing methods (Muffin, Biscuit, Creaming, Straight Dough, Egg Foam, and Custards). Each technique is explored in detail with recipes to follow. You won't find any ultra fancy recipes in Baking. The focus here is on the basics and getting the basics down right. Rediscover some old favorites like chocolate cookies and muffins, buttermilk pancakes, biscuits, shortcake, multigrain loaf bread, and good old fashioned cheesecake. There is no denying it, follow Alton's advice and you will be a better baker. Guaranteed. --Rob Bracco
From Publishers Weekly
Less a cookbook than a course book on baking, this entertaining and certainly educational follow-up to Browns Im Just Here for the Food offers up formulas for basic cakes, muffins, pies, custards and breads, as well as information on the components of each. Like a quirky, affable professor with a mad scientists flare for facts and figures, Brown takes readers through the "Molecular Pantry," examining the properties and functions of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Those familiar with his Food Network show, Good Eats, will be well-versed on these building blocks, and those who arent will find his explanations and diagrams easy to comprehend. Unlike other baking books, this one is organized by "mixing method" rather than by food type, which means that recipes like Banana Bread, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake and Buttermilk Pancakes are clustered together under the same umbrellathe Muffin Method of mixing. According to Brown, this is because "mixing is more important than ingredients and even cooking method." While some bakers would be quick to counter this claim, Brown supports it well, using diagrams to illustrate how mixing and over-mixing the same ingredients can yield different results (i.e., by over-mixing muffin ingredients, one can end up with cupcakes). As Brown states early on, this isnt a recipe book. Rather, its an instruction manual for people who want to be better bakers. Those looking for appetizing photos of sumptuous dishes wont find any here, but they will find plenty of practical tips (use a food processor instead of a traditional flour sifter) and sidebars that can be both informational and anecdotal (Browns story of his struggle with a 50-pound blob of dough bent on expansion is particularly amusing). Anyone who has a yen to learn the science and methodology behind good food will find this a fascinating read.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Good things about this book:
- solid binding and pages, perfect for leaving open while baking
- recipes by both volume and weight
- a large quantity of recipes, almost every page is a recipe
- good explanation of techniques and why they are important
some things to consider:
- if you are used to his other books, there aren't as many pictures. There are plenty, especially for the techniques where they are most important. Just don't expect as many as you may be used to
- If you aren't used to baking this book will take some time to figure out. Recipes are in a slightly different format (which is GREAT for baking, just not necessarily what non-bakers are familiar with)
Now, if you're like me, this is great stuff. Alton takes the complexities of baking (which is unforgiving compared to merely cooking) and explains why various ingredients and processes work or fail. I am an accomplished cook, but could never produce great baked goods before reading this book. I have now had success with more than a dozen of his great recipies and basked in the warmth of praise from my family and friends! In fairness, AB does admit that a lot of the information in his book is useless to the home baker.
So if you're not like me, and just want to bake some really "good eats" from the oven without all the scientific explanations, skip the first 90 pages or so and just jump into the recipies. They'll work fine, if you follow them religiously and make no substitutions. Indeed, the ones I've made are the best I've ever eaten. Hands down.
But if you enjoy AB's sense of humor and wit, at least give the opening sections a look-see. I'd love to spend some time with this man. He must be a hoot in person.
Oh yeah, the book is divided into easy to understand "methods" for creating the five types of baked goods AB has identified as a grouping plan for all things from the oven (a few recipies can be done on the range top). These logical taxonomies teach how "food x mixing + heat = baking" to produce the best darned grub you've ever had. In short, good eats!