Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Baker's Dozen Cookbook

No, no, I'm not publishing my own cookbook!  Did you know, though, that there is ALREADY a Baker's Dozen Cookbook?  I had no idea, until just recently.  But it should come as no surprise that a cookbook that shares my (soon to be renamed) blog's name is excellent!  I'm currently cat-sitting for a neighbor who is an avid cook with an extensive cookbook collection, which is how I stumbled upon this volume.  Although I've been here for nearly two weeks, things have been so busy that I haven't had much time to delve into the collection.  However, I immediately picked up The Baker's Dozen Cookbook because of the title, and have enjoyed browsing it while I've been here. 

The Baker's Dozen is a group of professional (and well known) LA and San Francisco-area bakers who started meeting in the late 80s and have continued to get together to share tips and test recipes; this book contains the collective baking wisdom of these accomplished ladies and gents.  It's an astounding resource for us simple home cooks who don't always have the time or inclination to test a recipe using five different kinds of flours or with egg whites at several different temperatures, as they have done, in pursuit of the best-possible version of every recipe.  The combination of science and expertise is like equal parts Alton Brown and Baker's Illustrated (I imagine--I haven't actually gotten my hands on a copy yet, but it seems like the stuff that BI would talk about, because it's serious like that).  Obviously I love to bake, but I allow myself to skip over steps when they seem extraneous or arbitrary, if no explanation is offered.  For example, I often let cakes or quick breads cool for hours in the pan, even if the recipe says to turn them onto a cooling rack after 15 minutes, because I figured, what's the harm?  But I learned from The Baker's Dozen that the reason you shouldn't do this is because steam gets trapped in bottom of the pan and causes the cake to stick to the pan...and I always thought they stuck because I did a bad job greasing the pan!  And, speaking of greasing, the book notes when pans should be greased, when they shouldn't, when you can use non-stick pans, and when you shouldn't.  And then there's the glass pans, the ceramic pans, steel pans, aluminum pans to consider...I  always thought they were interchangeable, but apparently there are appropriate times to use all of them!  I also found out when to use 60 degree eggs (for soft meringue), when to use 70 degree eggs (the rest of the time), why rack position actually matters, when to mix a lot, when to mix a little, the list just goes on an on and on....

This isn't one of those big, glossy books full of mouth-watering photos but only a few recipes and sub-par instructions.  In fact, only a handful of its 350 pages are dedicated to photos (but those few are mouthwatering--my only wish is that there were more!)  Nor are there tons of trendy recipes and hard-to-find ingredients.  It's just good, wholesome, delicious baking for every occasion.  The book's highlights include its encyclopedic glossaries of both tools and ingredients, its tried-and-true recipe instructions and helpful tips, and of greatest interest to me, the explanations of chemical and physical reactions that occur during baking.  Oh, and of course, there are are the recipes!  135 of them, nearly all of which I would love to try, (if only I had the time and that many occasions....)  Cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, quick breads, yeast breads, really covers everything! 

I don't usually rave about cookbooks, even though I love reading them.  And I'm not raving about this one just because this cookbook happens to share the name of my blog; as I said before, it is a complete coincidence.  It's just a fantastic and thorough reference book that covers so much--excellent for any home baker who wants to learn more and improve their skills.  Perhaps one day I'll even get my own copy! 

Note: Out of curiosity I checked out the reviews on, which were for the most part as positive as mine, although a few drew my attention to some editing mistakes and typos in the book.  For the most part these are minor, and certainly do not diminish the book's overall value.

No comments:

Post a Comment