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The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking

By Shirley Corriher
ISBN: 1416560785
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: November 2008
Format: Hardcover
List price: $ 40
Type: Baking
Sample recipe: Shirley Corriher's "Touch of Grace" Southern Biscuits
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: We, along with so many others, are huge fans of Shirley Corriher. Part textbook, part cookbook, BakeWise is the long-awaited follow-on to CookWise, the book that blended scientific explanation with the promise of "no more failed recipes."

Although Cookwise dealt with baking a fair bit, this new book is dedicated to it, and works to show us how and why recipes work (or don't) and tries to teach us how to perform modifications that will transform a bad recipe into one that works. Most of us may not have the experimental skills necessary to pull off more than simple transformations, but in any event, the book is a goldmine of good information and includes around 200 recipes. There are sections on cakes, muffins, pastries, pies and crusts, soufflés, meringues, cookies and brownies, and breads, as well as frostings and icings, ganaches, whipped cream, and fillings.

There are redundancies in the book. Apparently Corriher doesn't think you will read from cover to cover. Indeed, it is a long way to travel – more than 500 pages – but if you can set aside the time and muster the fortitude, it will be well worth it. You'll feel as if you've had a series of master classes in baking, and come out ready to tackle any of the recipes.

We are not impressed with the publisher's or editor's decision to put call-out quotes on page after page. As a design element, they add little to the book, and only heighten the redundancy issue. Another troubling production issue is that the book is in a one-column format, making the sentences stretch all the way across the page. In Corriher's earlier book (from a different publisher), most of the text is in a much more readable two-column format.


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