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pattimw

ABC of baking

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pattimw   

I'm one of those cooks who doesn't do much baking, but I woud like to change that. I've dabbled in bread making (need some work) and I am quite skilled with cheesecakes. Done cookies and brownies here and there, and have done a few pastries and cakes.

On the whole, though, I am pretty new. Can you recommend, a good baking/pastry book(s) that could help me get started?

TIA!

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rickster   

I'd recommend How to Bake by Nick Malgieri, or just about any book by Nick Malgieri, but this is the broadest. Also The Cake Bible and The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. All three are good introductions that cover a wide range of baked goods other than bread (although I think the Malgieri book has some breads in it). If you're particularly interested in bread, I'd go to one of Peter Reinhart's books like the Bread Baker's Apprentice or one of the books by Beth Hensperger.

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JFLinLA   

As an amateur who bakes a lot, I think that the Reinhart and Berenbaum books may be a bit intimidating for someone starting out. If you truly want to learn the hows and whys of baking (i.e., the science) and want a lot of technique, they're great. If you want some great recipes to get started there are other ways to go.

Anything by Nick Malgieri, Flo Braker and Maida Heatter are great. Also, Baking with Julia -- one of the Julia Child books, though they're not her recipes. With any or all of these, you can start with the easier, fool-proof recipes and work your way up as you become more daring and skillful. Move on to Berenbaum once you start weighing, rather than measuring your ingredients, want to understand how to make your buttercream without it turning into cottage cheese, and are ready to try working with sugar syrups.

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rickster   

I thought about Baking with Julia, but my issue with the book is that it is really a collection of specialized recipes, ie, the recipes that the bakers made on episodes of her show. It is broad in the number of types of baked goods it covers, but narrow in that there are very few recipes for each type of product.

I'd agree with all the other books you mentioned. I don't think though that the Pie and Pastry Bible is that advanced. I would recommend the Hensperger books before Reinhart for a beginner in bread.


Edited by rickster (log)

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JFLinLA   

Rick:

I think we're on the same wavelength. I don't have the Berenbaum Pie and Pastry book so I can only go by the Cake Bible. Nor do I have the Hensberger books. (Darn, more books I have to get.)

As far as Julia Child goes, first of all, I believe in anything she does or is even affiliated with. Secondly, when I was first getting into baking, I found her discussions of technique much more accessible than some of the others -- even Fanny Farmer or Joy of Cooking. And, finally, I've never, ever had a bad result from anything of Julia's recipes. As someone who has experienced, and learned from baking disasters, I really appreciate that about Julia.


Edited by JFLinLA (log)

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Another vote for Malgieri's How to Bake. His writing is very clear and easy to follow. Not intimidating. It's one of my go-to books and I have yet to be disappointed.


Edited by bloviatrix (log)

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pattimw   

thanks- I'll check it out!

thegoodcook.com (AKA howtothrowallyourmoneytocookbooks.com) has it....will be my next purchase!

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although the cake bible is a great reference, beranbaum tends to make the instructions/methods a little more complicated than they need to be. once you get better at things, you can figure out how to work around them.

i think the advice regarding nick malgieri's books is great. he had a book out a long time ago called "perfect pastry" or something like that. i haven't seen it recently but it is a great reference. pictures, techniques, basic recipes. everything to give you a great foundation. maybe he revised it and it is now the book "how to bake", i'm not sure.

one thing i learned from peter reinhart (as a student, not from his books), is that most bread recipes are "dump"-able. you can dump everything in the mixer at one time (unless you're making a starter), mix until the gluten is developed and voila! proof (slow rise) and bake!

it is a lot easier than you think.

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rickster   

I agree, I think Beranbaum overcomplicates things too but the recipes generally work and the books are pretty exhaustive. Malgieri's Perfect Pastry was one of my first and favorite baking books. It's not incorporated in How to Bake. I'm not sure it's still available.

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Do you know what you want to learn?

Sorry but I can't agree with the votes for Nick M.'s books-any of them. Every recipe of his I've ever done was purely average at best. Also came across a couple that didn't work and were way off. I'm just not a fan of his work. Rose Levy B.'s books can be hit and miss too. I find them too wordie and although she's published several great recipes most of them are average (she covers too much ground, more isn't always better), I think she's more of a scientist then a baker.

I do reccomend Baking With Julia, there are many fine recipes in the book (from wonderful PC's). But you'll be left to understand technique and the science of baking on your own.

But if you could buy just one book and it also had to seriously teach you about baking, I'd reccomend Glissen's book, "Professional Baking". I know you asked for a beginning level book but I think this delivers a beginning to intermediate level. Most of the recipes are NOT complicated, very easy to follow, work well and taste pretty good. It covers a wide range of baked goods and non-baked items. You could work from this for a long time with-out out growing it.

Another beginner level book that will also provide some education (or at least a dozen or more great keeper recipes)is "The Bakers Dozen". There are many really good recipes, plus some explaination of technique.

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I'm a huge fan of Beranbaum's "Cake Bible" and recommend it to every home baker I meet - not so much for the "Pastry Bible" which I think is overly fussy and iconoclastic. I also think "A Piece of Cake" (re-released as "The Perfect Cake") by Susan Purdy, "Sweet Miniatures" by Flo Braker (she's a baking Goddess), and Baking with Julia (which was written by Dorie Greenspan) are also essential.

Another book I would recommend is the "Dessert Bible" by the Cook's Illustrated folks. Great in-depth background on all the recipes and many variations. My only peeve with the way it's written is in the introduction chapter he says that all professional chefs use scales instead of measuring cups and goes on about how much faster and more acurate it is - then he writes all the recipes in cups and tablespoons! :angry:

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TuWanda   

Hmmm - I'm really surprised by so many recommendations for Nick Malgieri. I've found his books to be average to poor. I had the feeling that he didn't test his formulas very well. As a matter of fact, I gave the two books I had by him away. I just didn't like them.

As for RLB - well, I love The Cake Bible. But - I didn't care for The Pastry Bible very much. Do love her Christmas Cookie book.

If you are fairly experienced in the kitchen, you shouldn't need a book that is too uncomplicated. Personally, I think Baking with Julia is one of the best mass-market baking books produced. Dorie Greenspan did a fantastic job editing and coordinating that book. If you follow the directions exactly, you can't mess up; there is plenty of detail. I have made probably 60% of the items in that book and haven't found a single thing that wasn't wonderful.

Another book I would recommend is Cocolat by Alice Medrich. One of my most used baking books. She has a section in the back called "building blocks" that is practically a bible of mine. Her instructions are very simple, and her formulas are meticulously tested.

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BettyK   
Hmmm - I'm really surprised by so many recommendations for Nick Malgieri.  I've found his books to be average to poor.  I had the feeling that he didn't test his formulas very well.  As a matter of fact, I gave the two books I had by him away.  I just didn't like them.

As for RLB - well, I love The Cake Bible.  But - I didn't care for The Pastry Bible very much.  Do love her Christmas Cookie book. 

If you are fairly experienced in the kitchen, you shouldn't need a book that is too uncomplicated.  Personally, I think Baking with Julia is one of the best mass-market baking books produced.  Dorie Greenspan did a fantastic job editing and coordinating that book.  If you follow the directions exactly, you can't mess up; there is plenty of detail.  I have made probably 60% of the items in that book and haven't found a single thing that wasn't wonderful.

Another book I would recommend is  Cocolat by Alice Medrich.  One of my most used baking books.  She has a section in the back called "building blocks" that is practically a bible of mine. Her instructions are very simple, and her formulas are meticulously tested.

I assume the 40% you haven't tried include all of Nick Malgieri's recipes? There's actually quite a few of his recipes in Baking with Julia.

I just found this out when I decided to make a Table of Contents for that book so I could get more use out of it.

I'm not a fan of NM but I'd like to try his Amaretti when I get a chance to bake. Ever made these?

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pattimw   

wow- didn't realize this would spark os much debate!

I'll check the library for both Malgieri and Julia Childs's book and see which I like better.

as forwhat I want to learn - well, I would just like to be proficient with bread baking, pastry, and dessert, especially souffles and cakes.

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mpav   

Odd to see so many references to How to Bake by Nick Malgieri today, just because I was up early baking scones for breakfast, and it's one of the few times I've used the book since I got it years ago. I think the book is mis-titled. It has many recipes for baked goods, and includes some tips for getting good results, but "How to Bake" suggests that technique would be stressed. This book does not tell you "how to" as much as I expected.

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Even though Rose Levy Beranbaum's methods in The Cake Bible and The Pie and Pastry Bible are indeed advanced and exacting in many respects, I nevertheless recommend her books for beginners. First, these two books are excellent, with no-fail methods and recipes; that's the ultimate test of a cookbook, in my opinion. Second, I came late to her books, after I had been baking -- and making stupid mistakes in baking -- for years, and I wish I had started off with her books, for the superior methods and for the understanding she (a chemist by training) gives her reader of the whys and hows of baking. What I have learned of the chemistry of baking has helped me develop my own recipes and be more creative in my baking.

How I rue of the many, many years of bad pie crusts before Rose Levy Beranbaum . . . .

I am eagerly awaiting her The Bread Bible, which is scheduled to be released in October 2003.


Edited by browniebaker (log)

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TuWanda   
Hmmm - I'm really surprised by so many recommendations for Nick Malgieri.  I've found his books to be average to poor.  I had the feeling that he didn't test his formulas very well.  As a matter of fact, I gave the two books I had by him away.  I just didn't like them.

As for RLB - well, I love The Cake Bible.  But - I didn't care for The Pastry Bible very much.  Do love her Christmas Cookie book. 

If you are fairly experienced in the kitchen, you shouldn't need a book that is too uncomplicated.  Personally, I think Baking with Julia is one of the best mass-market baking books produced.  Dorie Greenspan did a fantastic job editing and coordinating that book.  If you follow the directions exactly, you can't mess up; there is plenty of detail.  I have made probably 60% of the items in that book and haven't found a single thing that wasn't wonderful.

Another book I would recommend is  Cocolat by Alice Medrich.  One of my most used baking books.  She has a section in the back called "building blocks" that is practically a bible of mine.   Her instructions are very simple, and her formulas are meticulously tested.

I assume the 40% you haven't tried include all of Nick Malgieri's recipes? There's actually quite a few of his recipes in Baking with Julia.

I just found this out when I decided to make a Table of Contents for that book so I could get more use out of it.

I'm not a fan of NM but I'd like to try his Amaretti when I get a chance to bake. Ever made these?

You are correct - I have avoided Chef Malgieri's formulas in that book because of the less than stellar results I got with his How to Bake books. Although - I have a sneaking suspicion that the recipes in BWJ are probably wonderful, given that Dorie Greenspan was the one who edited and put together Baking with Julia. She meticulously tested every recipe so that the instructions were very detailed. I'm betting those sweet little confections of Chef Malgieri work after Dorie took care of the testing and editing. The instructions for making brioche are the best I've ever seen, and then all the recipes taking brioche and making other things - Chef Greenspan did a fabulous job.

Don't get me wrong - I've met Chef Malgieri and while I didn't particularly care for him, I have no doubt he's a talented chef. I just think that his books weren't kitchen tested as thoroughly as they could have been, and that whoever edited his book did a fairly poor job. If you are going to write a book called "How to Bake" it should be about HOW TO BAKE, not just a collection of recipes.

Ah - but that's a whole other subject :rolleyes::biggrin:

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JFLinLA   

I'm not a fan of NM but I'd like to try his Amaretti when I get a chance to bake. Ever made these?

Yes, I've made his amaretti recipe and I like it very much. Hmmm, I've got some almond paste sitting at home that is needing to be used. I have another recipe that I like better that starts with blanched almonds rather than paste.

I do like many of the recipes from his Cookie Book.

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tan319   

I've got to weigh in here too.

A wayyyyyyy long time ago, I got the Cake Bible and it wasn't a very easy read, then or now. I found the Albert Adria book an easier read, and it's in Spanish!( i don't mean to sound so catty, sorry)

The Nick Malgari stuff I never found really talking to me either.

Some of the best dessert recipes I ever did in my early days were out of savoury chef books, Stephan Pyles, most notably. But that's no suprise,considering he worked with Lenotre.

It's really shocking to read that the dessert bible went on about weighing and then used volume measures. Pastry books should just start saying 'get a scale, do this right' from here on in.

Richard Leaches book, 'Sweet Seasons', gives you the option, although I wish he would have used grams rather then millilters.

His book is pretty solid, as far as I can tell. Anything I've made from it has

turned out great.

BTW, has anyone used any of the Gale Gand books?

I would like to see what people think of her books and the results they get.

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artoeat   

there is a new cookbook out called the sweet kitchen (enough said on the topic) i work in a kitchen store and many food professionals have raved about how user friendly and de-mystifying the way the text is written. i do swear by rose b- and if you can find her christmas cookie book you will never need another cookie book again!

saw nick teach a class at the store and found him to be a fat pompas queen with everyone until the students showed and he turned on the charm- i will not buy his books.

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alithea   
Even though Rose Levy Beranbaum's methods in The Cake Bible and The Pie and Pastry Bible are indeed advanced and exacting in many respects, I nevertheless recommend her books for beginners. First, these two books are excellent, with no-fail methods and recipes; that's the ultimate test of a cookbook, in my opinion. Second, I came late to her books, after I had been baking -- and making stupid mistakes in baking -- for years, and I wish I had started off with her books, for the superior methods and for the understanding she (a chemist by training) gives her reader of the whys and hows of baking. What I have learned of the chemistry of baking has helped me develop my own recipes and be more creative in my baking.

How I rue of the many, many years of bad pie crusts before Rose Levy Beranbaum . . . .

I am eagerly awaiting her The Bread Bible, which is scheduled to be released in October 2003.

I'm of the very same opinion; I wish I started with these books too. There were so many times as a beginner when I made a recipe and it didn't quite work and I had no idea what I did wrong. Rose usually tells you about a problem (Genoise didn't rise?) and its probable cause (oven insufficiently preheated). Just knowing that next time you won't make that mistake again is priceless. And her pie crust recipe is indeed fantastic.

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there is a new cookbook out called the sweet kitchen (enough said on the topic) i work in a kitchen store and many food professionals have raved about how user friendly and de-mystifying the way the text is written. i do swear by rose b- and if you can find her christmas cookie book you will never need another cookie book again!

saw nick teach a class at the store and found him to be a fat pompas queen with everyone until the students showed and he turned on the charm- i will not buy his books.

"In the Sweet Kitchen" has been out for a couple years, and I think we've discussed it in several other threads. I have to say I was rather unimpressed with it, and of the three recipes I tried, two were inedible failures (though the third was quite good).

Someone mentioned Gale Gand - I have her "Just a Bite", and while I think there are some really good ideas, I've had mixed success with her recipes. If you are looking for a similar book with rock-solid recipes and directions you would do better getting "Sweet Miniatures" by Flo Braker. Everything I have made from it has worked exactly as she describes (including chocolate macarons) and was delicious.

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BettyK   

Thanks TuWanda and JFLinLA for your feedback. I will definitely try the Amaretti soon...maybe tonight if I feel ambitious. :biggrin:

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JFLinLA   
I will definitely try the Amaretti soon...maybe tonight if I feel ambitious. :biggrin:

Be sure to tell us how you do.

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Don't laugh, but after checking almost all of the suggestions out from the library, I found one of the most helpful books to be Desserts for Dummies. Give it a try.

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