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!)