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Starting with Ingredients: Baking
Quintessential Recipes for the Way We Really Bake
By Aliza Green
ISBN: 076243158x
Publisher: Running Press
Publication date: November 2008
Format: Hardcover
List price: $39.95 
Type: Baking
Sample recipe: Key Lime Cheesecake Pie in Coconut-Pecan Crust
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive coffee-table Biblical stature
Competition: outclassed follower in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 ≥300
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: 7-Eleven airfare required online pantry supermarket
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose bare-bones full-figured educational
Time conscious: unconscious outright lies white lies realistic honorable
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant balanced generous
Photos/drawings: none distracting decorative instructive glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine considerate work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging tolerable clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy dubious years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: non-existent hard-to-find spotty sufficient every page
Table of contents: AWOL frustrating passable useful excellent
Index quality: none tragic adequate good a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writer: beginner food writer writing cook personality auteur
Cook: unknown self-taught chef teacher celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short almost there satisfactory exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward best friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: This is an excellent book. Its big problem is just that – it's too big. At more than 4.5 pounds and 900 pages, it's hard to find a comfortable reading position, and this is a cookbook that wants reading. The author tells the stories in wonderful detail of more than 60 of the fundamental ingredients used in baking, which, in addition to 350 recipes, adds up to a good bit of reading.

The covered ingredients stretch across all baking categories, including grains; leaveners; eggs; fats; sweeteners; seeds and spices; fruits and berries; dairy products; vanilla; nuts; chocolate; coffee; alcohols; flowers; gelatin; and vegetables. There is a wealth of information in these sections.

We do not understand the book's subhead at all – Quintessential recipes for the way we really bake [publisher's emphasis]. We know almost no one who bakes like this. That is, the recipes are from all over the world: from Argentina to the Ukraine and Denmark to Australia. Aliza Green says they are from home baking traditions, and says she has not neglected the recipes of the United States, but if you bake your way through this book, you will be an international, and possibly world-class, baker.

One way to shorten the book (somewhat), would be to drop the paragraphs in each section that point to recipes highlighting certain ingredients, techniques, or regions. It's like having an extra table of contents or two in every chapter. They're hard to read, they take up a lot of space, and it would be fine for the readers to just stumble upon the recipes as they read. The introduction includes 10 pages of recipe titles and page numbers in the text, and it's virtually impossible to plow through it (but don't let that keep you from getting this book!)


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