Friday, February 18, 2011

Baking by James Peterson

While other women or men, amass things fashion or trendy, I love cookbooks and periodicals. Over the years I have accumulated to almost 60 cookbooks and alot of periodicals that simply pleases my eyes and tempts my palate. Long before my days in the kitchen, while having a career as a lawyer, I already started buying culinary magazines just for the picture perfect cakes and dishes that makes me imagine and drool but never got round to trying out the recipes.

After finally putting the recipes into the real cooking and baking for my family, my selection for cookbooks has now been more selective and I don't simply spend money on any look alike and regurgitated same contents books. Realize how many cupcakes cookbooks there are in the market now? Or the all similar Grilling books and vegetarian collections donning one whole shelf at your local bookstore? For the periodicals, they tend to look like a continuation of the same magazine on the racks and definitely in competition with each other trying to catch your attention but when you finally tone it down, you will realize they are actually all talking about the same ingredient of the month! After a few years of compulsive buying and finally learning the real basics of cooking and baking, I finally have come to curb my enthusiasm of all cookbooks and focuses on the good and useful ones only these days.

I bought this Baking book around summer time last year. For the price tag of US$40, the book is pricey for a stay home baker like myself but I think worth my every dollar! But of course being a prudent buyer too, I got this book at a discount from online suppliers. Although I have many other baking books, none is as precise as this one and the first thing that caught my attention about it was the step by step photos of the process of baking breads. When comes to baking, bread is my staple and more nowadays as I am trying to eat super healthy and hopefully to bring in the whole family into the process of building a good and healthy eating habit. Store bought breads are just getting too expensive these days and too many varieties in the grocery simply means competition among the marketers and I am simply lost every week when I go to the bread aisle. And I find that today's loaf of bread you buy doesn't necessarily taste the same the next time you buy it again, lack of consistency in taste and flavor.

I find the photos very helpful when I wanted to learn on how to shape the breads. Like most people, I seldom go for cookbooks that doesn't have a photo or two to support their recipes unless the contents are very good like Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads of which I have in my shelf. Besides having a good recipe, one must also learn on how to present their cooking and baking and I think this Baking book helps me out in that particular skill. I followed its step by step Boule shaping and shaped my Oat Wheat Bread .

I also referred to the method in the book to make my French Apple Tart last summer and it turned out very successful too.

The Book is very comprehensive with topics touching most of the essentials of bakings, including Cakes, Breads, Pastries and a whole section for the accompaniments of mousses, fillings and desserts. Unlike other cookbooks that mostly get straight to the recipe, there is always a brief description of the end product and what to expect when in the process of baking and this gives me a headstart before going all wrong during the making of a cake or bread. And in the beginning of each chapter, the book clearly detailed the most essentials to look into like the types of flours involved in making bread and the many ways of kneading depending on whether the dough is dry or wet.  After experimenting with so many breads and buns in the past, I do noticed the bread dough doesn't always turn out the same and my breads were sometimes soft and sometimes too dense. Through this book I learn the differences of everything.

I think this book is good for a novice baker entering the more complex baking of artisan breads and cafe  cakes like myself who has been baking for quite some time now and know most of the basics of baking but not wholly informed as the exact ways on doing it perfectly yet. I highly recommend it to interested bakers who are new to baking too as it really helps you to understand on how ingredients work together to a successful baking in your kitchen and the step by step photos are all clear and precise, all neatly positioned in one page for easy reference.

All in all, this is the Baking book that shows you the bakings of bread, cakes, tarts and cookies you always wanted to know how to make and yet doesn't appear that complicated to shoo you away from trying, provided you read the details in the book first. The author didn't try to include too much info on different and fancy ingredients but only used those that you are likely to get and available at your grocery stores. The only thing is that it is hardcover and bulky and you may have to invest on a kitchen book stand too!

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