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The Vanilla Bean Baking Book: Recipes for Irresistible Everyday Favorites and Reinvented Classics Paperback – November 8, 2016
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About the Author
Sarah Kieffer, founder of The Vanilla Bean Blog, is a self-taught baker who has worked in professional bakeries and made the decision to become a home baker after her two children were born. Her work has been featured on Today and America’s Test Kitchen in The New York Times, Saveur, Pure Green Magazine, Food52, Mashable, The Kitchn, The Huffington Post, and Food + Wine, among others. She also contributes regularly and develops recipes for the websites Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Food52, and Handmade Charlotte. When she’s not baking, she enjoys reading and rereading favorite books, spending time with her husband and two children, and drinking too much coffee.
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Top Customer Reviews
There's a common thread of flavors in the recipes - cardamom, coffee, chocolate, (burnt) honey, pumpkin, lemon, raspberry, and mint. While there are some "typical" dessert recipes here (banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, apple pie), there are some stunning, original desserts here as well, like the lemon meringue cake, yellow cake with burnt honey buttercream and bittersweet chocolate, pear-chocolate galettes, olive oil sugar cookies, lime-mint bars, blackberry-white chocolate cake, chocolate ganache cupcakes with basil buttercream, just to name a few of the ones I'm most excited about.
The styling of this book is similar to the blog, with easy-to-read font, appealing white space, and a lovely photo of the finished treat accompanying every recipe. The recipes include weights and volumes. The directions are easy to follow and whenever Sarah directs you to something a bit out of the ordinary (like reverse creaming) or more challenging (meringue frostings), embedded in the header/directions is an explanation of why. For things like her chocolate braided bread and cream cheese danishes, there are very clear pictures of the steps to take to succeed with the dough. She explains the process in such a way that making her beautiful creations seems doable, this isn't just a book of pretty pictures that will never get used.
Unfortunately, while some of the recipes are contained on the same page, a lot of them spill over to a back page, which makes it a lot more difficult to use in the kitchen when you have to flip back and forth. Especially if you're doing something that requires a lot of care or is messy.
For the curious, there are a number of repeated recipes. There are many fantastic, new ideas in here, so I definitely think this book is worth it, but there is some overlapping content between the blog and the book:
The chocolate bread is basically the same as her blog's chocolate loaf cake, but the ingredient list is reordered. The intro even reads exactly the same. The coffee blondies are the same, but the recipe in the book has been halved. Same for the banana bread (although there's a mix of sugars now). The maple cinnamon granola is identical and the peanut butter chocolate granola recipes are the same minus a missing 1/2 cup of oats in the book. There's a pumpkin pound cake in the book and the blog too, but the recipe has slightly different ratios of ingredients. The blog and book versions are different for Sarah's "the chocolate cake" and her spice cake with coffee buttercream. The most overlap is in the no-churn ice cream chapter. Almost all the recipes in the book (~7 of the 9) can be found online, except in the book they have 2 oz of cream cheese to "add some tang". I get that there may be some overlap between a blog and that blog's book, but I do wish some explanation was provided for why those specific recipes were repeated here, especially in the ice cream chapter.
Edit: 11/16/2016 - I really love this book for the recipes and I definitely think it's worth buying. I adjusted the stars from 4/5 to 5/5 because the actual results are incredible, which is ultimately what's most important in a cookbook, but I do think it's worth knowing about the recipe formatting and undiscussed repetition of recipes.
In order to do this without spending a fortune, I requested 25 books on baking from my local library. Some were from 10 years ago, others were from the current year. "The Vanilla Bean Baking Book" was the most recently published book out of the 25 I checked out. I tried going through two recipes in each book (easy enough to do if you're baking every morning). A few of the other books had decent results. And I may have gained a few pounds in this process. But by far, the best book of the lot was this one.
Not only are the recipes spot-on (which is the point of a baking book, right?), but the pictures are simple, elegant and constructive. There's no design that's gobbed on the page like sloppy frosting. There's not a hint of clutter throughout and the recipes are thought out, thorough, and solid. The simplicity and the beauty of the layout also appeals to me, and frankly, motivates me to bake even more.
Also needing a mention for this baking tome: the carefully crafted prose that accompanies the food. Like a conversation that lingers long after the crumbs are scooped from the plate, Kieffer's stories remain in the mind, an effect possible from the sweetened light lit that graces these pages.