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Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking Hardcover – October 1, 2003
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From the Inside Flap
Hot cinnamon rolls sticky with caramelized sugar and spice. A tart-sweet strawberry-rhubarb crisp, it's juices nearly bubbling over the sides of the pan. A platter of chewy, fragrant gingersnaps alongside a pitcher of ice-cold milk. A warm apple pie cooling on the windowsill. A loaf of olive bread in the oven, filling the kitchen with its enticing aroma. A featherlight chocolate souffle towering above the rim of its dish. The secrets behind making these irresistible sweet and savory baked goods and dozens more can be found in Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking.
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They work. And not only that: they work well.
For example, I made the Classic Pumpkin Pie recipe for Thanksgiving a few weeks ago and people actually asked me where they could buy one (the pie, not the book). If I hadn't already proven myself to be a *fantastic* baker, no one would have believed I had made it. Yes, it was that good.
The Brioche is unbelievable (and believe them when they say you will be Huffing and Puffing if you do it by hand).
The Chocolate Meringues melt in your mouth. As does the Chocolate Shortbread.
As if that wasn't enough, the photographs (a must in my opinion; who wants a cookbook without photos) are sublime. The only thing better than this book is the WS website (where they have tons of free recipes).
But for me, what does it is the information. How much does a cookbook tell about the recipes? ingredients? equipment? WS starts every chapter with a brief backstory, including photographs of techniques and "This Is How It Looks When You've Done It Wrong". I love the way they give you instructions for hand-mixing, mixer-mixing (hand or stand) and/or food processor (where appropriate). The recipes are in volume and weight (if this matters to you) and the ingredients are neither wildly expensive (like Barefoot Contessa) nor WS "exclusives" (like sometimes happens with King Arthur Flour).
I think this book is geared towards mid-level home-bakers who want a book of recipes they can trust, a good blend of standards (blueberry muffins) and special occasion recipes (Black Forest Cake), with some instruction for tackling new-to-them trickier areas like pastry. If you're more of a serious yes-but-HOW/WHY-does-to-work? baker, try The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts
I do not recommend this for people that love overly sugary desserts. These are beautifully subtle recipes that are still full of flavor. If that makes sense...
Williams Sonoma books are generally a cut above most and this one doesn't disappoint.