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hjshorter

Baking Cookbooks

38 posts in this topic

I've been making do with Fannie Farmer and assorted other generic cookbooks for my baking recipes, but have decided that I need an actual baking book. Any good suggestions?


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Try Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible.  Her instructions may seem a bit too detailed, to the point of being anal, but if you follow them to the letter, you're guaranteed a perfect pie crust.  I love this book.  I love all of Beranbaum's books.  She's quite simply meticulous.  I admire that.

This is from the Perfect Pie Crust thread. I don't know if this is sort of book you are looking for. For a more general cookbook that has good recipes, try The NYTimes Cookbook, or the like. But, actually, I too would be interested in anyone has any good book suggestions.

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Maida Heatter has a series of wonderful dessert cookbooks. All include a mix of quick/easy and more challenging desserts; she tells you what to expect at each step, which makes even complicated dishes accessible. I can't recall ever having a failure with one of her recipes.

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You might also enjoy Rose Levy Beranbaum's "Cake Bible" and Nick Malgieri's "How to Bake". Both contain good 'mother' recipes and the recipes are easy to follow. :biggrin:

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What kind of baking do you like to do? Cakes? Bread? Pies and tarts? General desserts? Do just want basic, family-style recipes or are you looking to challenge yourself with some more advanced stuff?

If you're looking for a comprehensive resource with a wealth of technique and background info, a good investment is The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg. It may seem a little intimidating because it's so big, but don't let the "Profesional" part of the title scare you off.

Oh, and Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan and Julia Child is also work a look.


Edited by nightscotsman (log)

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I second the Baking with Julia recommendation. It has a great variety of recipes and none of them have ever failed for me. Baker's Dozen Cookbook is also good, but I still prefer BWJ.

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I second the Baking with Julia recommendation.

you beat me to it. :wink:


"Never eat more than you can lift" -- Miss Piggy

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I have The Dessert Bible (forgot who author is) but it is great if you need to have a couple different approaches to the same recipe and explaines why, for example, you take oatmeal cookies out of the oven before they look completely cooked. It is informative and the desserts are great.

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Christopher Kimball.


"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." -Ernest Hemingway

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What kind of baking do you like to do? Cakes? Bread? Pies and tarts? General desserts? Do just want basic, family-style recipes or are you looking to challenge yourself with some more advanced stuff?

I'm looking for a good dessert baking book. I have Beard On Bread for things like breads and rolls. I worked in a bakery for a while in my youth, and know that I don't have the patience or equipment to produce "professional" stuff so definitely soemthing for the home cook.

Baking With Julia was on my list to look at. I just hate shelling out for an expensive book without getting some opinions first. I've tried Maida Heatter's recipes when published in mags and they're generally good.


Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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You may also see if you like Richard Sax's Classic Home Desserts. Lots of recipes and the ones I've tried have been good. There aren't the fancy knock-your-socks-off type of desserts as you would find in Pierre Herme books, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

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BAKING WITH JULIA and, for more advanced baking (if you can get your hands on it) Patisserie by the Roux Brothers.

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I find Regan Daley's In The Sweet Kitchen a valuable reference guide, as well as a source for lovely (and some unusual) recipes for desserts including cakes/pastries. The first 350 or so pages of the book are dedicated to info, info, info: explanations of baking ingredients, a chart of ingredient substitutions, a list of ingredients and compatible flavours, etc. She's thorough, but doesn't come across as anal as Rose Levy Beranbaum (whom I also like, by the way).

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Baking With Julia was on my list to look at.  I just hate shelling out for an expensive book without getting some opinions first.  I've tried Maida Heatter's recipes when published in mags and they're generally good.

I always try and check books out of the library before I buy them. Great way to decide if you want the book.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Baking With Julia was on my list to look at.  I just hate shelling out for an expensive book without getting some opinions first.  I've tried Maida Heatter's recipes when published in mags and they're generally good.

I always try and check books out of the library before I buy them. Great way to decide if you want the book.

Our library doesn't have a very good cookbook collection, or I would. :sad:


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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For bread The Village Baker is the best explanation of the craft I have yet seen.

I think there's a sister volume The Village Bakers Wife which does cakes

cheerio

J


More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

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One thing I feel pretty strongly about, Heather, is that home cooks can do a better job "baking" at home than they realize--or that they have been conditioned by popular authorities to accept. The problems I have with some of the sources cited in this thread and in the other thread are that 1) simplifying or dumbing down the "process" is weighted much more heavily than "flavor" and 2) the process is really not that tough or inaccessible to begin with and 3) the "form" of the final product is important and good form can be achieved easier than you think. Homey rustic and sloppy is just that--sloppy. It isn't inherently more flavorful. When you write "I worked in a bakery for a while in my youth, and know that I don't have the patience or equipment to produce "professional" stuff so definitely something for the home cook" I sense you're already drawing a distinction--a line in the sand--that you don't really have to.

With all this is mind, my first recommendation for you to try would probably be the readily-accessible Claudia Fleming book. (If you can get your hands on Lesley's book or the Roux Brothers book, do that as well.) I think dessert-wise it is the best currently available as far as balancing accessibility, process, form and flavor. Plus, all this builds on itself--you develop a confidence and familiarity which feeds on itself and you'll be surprised what you can accomplish.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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After checking out Steve's website, I certainly bow to his genius and will rush right out to get the Fleming book which I do not yet own. If you want an inexpensive first book, I would recommend a book I've had for years, Cakes and Pastries at the Academy from the California Culinary Academy. The CCA publishes a series of "workbook" like cookbooks (I own two, pastry and ice cream - wish I had a few more) that can be great general references for basic techniques (I still dig this out for the pate a choux recipe). I don't know how the book reviewers on this site feel about them, but I like the CCA books for a beginning. You might too.

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Mentioned in the earlier thread, but worth a another prop, is Lindsey Shere's Chez Panisse Desserts. A good introduction to home cooks, completely accessible, without the smoke and mirror garnish stuff. And coming from the Chez Panisse camp, you can be sure there is a great emphasis on flavor and quality of produce. And Shere was early to use herbs and flowers; just realizing it was published 18 years ago, she likely introduced then-exotic fruits like Meyer lemons and blood oranges to the rest of the country.

Also not aging too badly is Emily Luchetti's Stars Desserts. Not the vanguard by any means, but similar in style and simplicity to the Fleming book.

I haven't looked at an issue in quite a long time, but do members find Chocolatier magazine, the older sibling of Pastry Art and Design, a useful resource for the home cook? Too easy, too difficult, or simply irrelevant?


Michael Laiskonis

Pastry Chef

New York

www.michael-laiskonis.com

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I actually don't do much baking because I don't like "rustic and sloppy" very much, and haven't had enough practice recently to satisfy my perfectionism. A little training can be a dangerous thing!

What would be helpful in addition to recipes would be a book with some equipment suggestions. I have most of the basic pans, but lack some of the specialty stuff.

I will check out the Fleming book, and Regan Daley's the next time I can get to a bookstore.


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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You really need less specialized equipment than you might think. I know, this coming from someone who has a TON of specialized equipment and talks about it all the time. You can do all sorts of fantastic things with a rubber spatula, a silpat, a sheetpan, a rolling pin and a saucepan. Stuff you probably already have. But to get you going on basic pastry and baking equipment, you might also want to work your way through "Dessert Circus" by Jacques Torres. I'd add this book to my recommended entry level book list as well--which would now be Claudia, the Roux brothers, Lesley C's book and Dessert Circus. Books by pastry chefs who bake--not by bakers. (Plus I am a big fan of the Bill Yosses book in the Dummies book series. It's quite good, especially for someone who self-identifies as baking-challenged.)


Edited by Steve Klc (log)

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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One book I use quite often is Good Housekeeping's Book of Baking. Below is a link to info and reviews, but first, I'll tell you why I like it.

Every single recipe I've tried from that book has been a success. From the basic chocolate layer cake to the spanakopita (this book includes both sweets and savories) I've been very satisfied with the finished product -- and I certainly can't say that about some of my other baking books. In terms of technique, equipment explanations, and ingredient dictionaries. This book gives you just the info you need which leaves room for more pictures and recipes.

Also, you *might* consider Nick Malgieri's How To Bake. A lot of people love this book. Personally, I'd like to recommend this but don't. The book lacks pictures and tends to overcomplicate simple processes. For the more experienced baker, this book is an interesting and informative read. However, I didn't start to really read this book until I already knew a thing or two about baking. I'm also suspicious of some of Nick's recipes. For instance, he includes a chocolate chip cookie recipe that does not contain any vanilla extract (yuck!) and he recommends baking a loaf of sourdough bread at 450 for 45 minutes. The cookies I didn't bother with. The bread, I burnt.

If you're interested in mostly cakes, The Cake Bible is good, but it does not contain savory pies, pizzas and casseroles.

And Chris Kimball? I love the test kitchen books and like Chris's style of trial and error. Sadly, the end result (after all the dilly-dallying about) has never been that great. I have not read his baking book, but if the recipes are as disappointing as the other Cook's Illustrated recipes I've made, then why bother?

Again, I highly recommend the Good Housekeeping book. It's basic but does not cut corners, has brief explanations and diagrams and it's packed with recipes. I own this book and use it like crazy.

Another book I recommend is Greg Patent's Baking in America. While I don't own this book, I've made a few recipes from it and like Patent's simple, direct writing style. The Patent book is on my wish list.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detai...=books&n=507846

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I just went back to reread the last thread on this topic and the suggestions were great. Depending what you actually plan to bake, here are a few more. Flo Braker has two superb books from which you can learn most of what you need to know. They are The Simple Art of Perfect Baking and Sweet Miniatures. I have dozens of books from which I use one or two recipes including the Alice Medrich books, the King Arthur 200th Anniversary Cookbook, The Chocolate Bible by Christian Teubner, the Farm Journal cookbooks and many of the Pillsbury Bake-off pamphlets. For more elegant productions, I second the Bugat and Healy books and the English language Lenotres. All of these should be available used at www.bookfinder.com.


Judy Amster

Cookbook Specialist and Consultant

amsterjudy@gmail.com

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Thanks everyone; I really appreciate all the responses. Looks like I have some reading to do - and some book shopping. :biggrin:


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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As if you don't have enough suggestions already I'd like to add two more .The Art Of Baking by Paula Peck. This may be out of print, but it's worth looking for.She was a disciple of James Beard and wrote two books, The Art of

Cooking and the above. Both are excellent. Also I am partial to Desserts by

Nancy Silverton.The recipes can be complicated but they always work well. A really excellent linzer torte recipe in the book and her cookie recipes are well worth the price of the book.

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