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Best of the Bake-Off Collection:
Pillsbury's Best 1000 Recipes
ISBN: 0470395591
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: August 2009
Format: Hardcover
Number of recipes: 1,000
List price: $29.95
Type: Baking; History
Sample recipe: Spicy Apple Twists
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive encyclopedia coffee-table
Meal part: all breakfast/brunch lunch dinner dessert
Competition: outclassed a bit behind in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: airfare required online specialty store supermarket pantry
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose minimal complete educational
Time conscious: not conscious bald lies white lies realistic scout's honor
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant ample generous
Photos/drawings: none drawings b&w photos occasional color all color
Art contribution: disappointing distracting decorative beautiful 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 kind work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging ok clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy delicate years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: hard-to-find spotty sufficient most pages every page
Table of contents: missing frustrating minimal helpful excellent
Index: none confusing adequate nice a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writing history: beginner writer/journalist food writer writing cook personality
Cooking heritage: unknown self-taught teacher chef celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short satisfactory successful exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward good 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: Many people of a certain age wish they had the cookbook or cookbooks they grew up with. That explains the continuing popularity of Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, first published in 1950 and brought out in a facsimile edition in 1998.

Now Pillsbury offers the same experience with the facsimile edition of the first 10 years' of recipes from its Bake-Off competitions. These 1,000 recipes all won in some category (senior, junior, bride, best of class, etc.) in the national competitions from 1950 to 1959

The Bake-Off has always been a way to promote the use of Pillsbury's flour, so every recipe includes at least 1/2 cup of flour. That hardly limits the categories, though. There are chapters on yeast breads; quick breads; main dishes; cakes; frostings, fillings, and toppings; cookies; pies; and desserts.

The formatting is different from what we're used to today – a list of ingredients followed by step-by-step instructions. The Pillsbury book is similar to the Joy-of-Cooking model – instructions and ingredients presented all together in paragraph form. While the ingredients are set in bold type, you still have to be alert not to leave something out. Hence the wisdom of always reading through the entire recipe first.

There are scads of photographs (mostly black and white). The color photo on the inside cover of the bake-off in full swing in a cavernous hall (which doesn't even look like a photo by today's standards) is almost worth the purchase price of the book. The only difference between this book and its ancestor of 50 years ago is a warning up front to use pasteurized eggs in the 62 recipes that use uncooked or undercooked eggs. The reader will note that the book was edited and adapted by Ann Pillsbury, a lovely woman and home economist of the same lineage as Betty Crocker (though more than two decades younger).

We constantly receive requests from people seeing to recreate a dish their mother/great aunt/grandmother/third cousin twice removed (now sadly deceased) used to make. It may be that some of the dishes our readers are seeking are hidden in this treasury.

There certainly are tips, definitions, and recipes that are meaningful today. In general, we don't cook this way anymore, but for someone looking for a few special recipes from his or her childhood (or a parent's childhood), or just a look back in time, this book is rich in nostalgia, history, and good old-fashioned flavor.


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