Friday, June 18, 2010
Yum, yum, yum! Once again it is time for Fat Friday. I know I originally stated that I was going to do this once a month, and that is still my intent, but I fully acknowledge that I missed doing one in the month of May.
A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman is an outstanding baking book. The first chapter is all on baking secrets and should not be skipped. She also includes at the end of the book a source guide so that bakers everywhere can find some of the rarer ingredients she uses. I've only made a fraction of the recipes in this book as many are yeast doughs and I have zero experience with traditional yeast doughs. However, the recipes I have made have all been fabulous.
From the Giant Sweet Cheddar Biscuits, to the Pralines and Cream Pecan Caramel Muffins, to Pumpkin Pocket Cookies, this book is jammed with wonderful recipes. The Caramel Swirl Hunks (which are essentially giant chocolate chip cookie bars with homemade caramel) are out of this world. The Best-Ever Little British Butter Cake is the best shortcake I've ever had and the directions for it are extremely easy. I'm dying to try the Chunky Cheese Bread, the Double Garlic Fougasse, the Brittany Butter Cookies, and the Toronto Blueberry Buns. I'm getting hungry just thinking about these things!
The book has chapters on the following: Loaves, Rolls Baby Breads & Buns, Pizza & Other Flatbreads, Scones & Biscuits, Muffins, Cookies, Biscotti, Bars & Squares, Quick Breads & Coffee Cakes, Pies Tarts & Pastries, Sweet Yeast Baking, Cakes, Cheesecake, Holiday Baking, Grainy Goodness (which has the healthier fare), and Baker in a Hurry.
One of the pitfalls for cookbooks is incomplete directions which fortunately is not the case with this book. Nothing is more aggravating when you trying out a new recipe than to get to a point in the directions and have no idea what the author is talking about. This could be because you have no idea what "soft ball stage" is, or because they simply aren't specific enough with the steps. The only time this comes into play in this book is when she offers alternative baking options (making something smaller, making in a loaf instead of muffins etc.), because she does not always include alternative baking times for these options. (And also, there are no carrots listed in her carrot cake recipe. I thought at first it was simply a typo on the ingredient section, but no, there is no mention of them anywhere in that recipe. Can't exactly be carrot cake without them now can it?). Overall though, I find her directions to be quite complete and easy to follow.
The book is not for everyone. Many of the recipes are fairly labor intensive, although none of the techniques are exceedingly advanced. I'm a primarily self-taught baker and if you take the time to read the chapter on baking secrets you'll be just fine. But if you are looking for quick and easy recipes seek them elsewhere. Also, most of the recipes are not cheap to make. She uses high quality ingredients, and these recipes are laden with butter, eggs, sugars, extracts and where applicable, fruit, chocolate and cheese. However, that's really what I'm looking for in baked goods, explosions of flavor with great texture and heft.
I fully endorse this book, and while I will possibly let friends borrow my copy, (I'm pretty possessive of it, and frequently read it at breakfast) I won't share any of her recipes on here. Recipes can't be copyrighted (which is a whole other issue, and one I profoundly disagree with*), but I still won't do it. I don't think it is fair to her in the least and you really should have the entire book. If you want to check out some of her recipes I can recommend going to her website, Better Baking, and seeing some of the freebies she puts up there. The rest are obtained through subscription or paying per recipe like on itunes. Like the title of the book says, she has a passion for baking, and it shows. Now I want to go home and bake something.
*It makes sense that an ingredient list can't be copyrighted, but I think the procedures that are detailed (which frequently make all the difference) should be. I know that two people can independently come up with the same methodology and I understand that it would be an extremely thorny issue to try and regulate, but for professionals to not be able to protect their work is grossly unfair.