Saturday, June 5, 2010

The James Beard Foundations Essential Baking Books


I'm not sure you're anything like me. 

Lately I've been noticing that when I want to make a purchase I'll fly over to Amazon and read the pros and cons of specific books or pans or hammocks. If Amazon doesn't have it there's always Consumer Reports or online forums or my mother or something. 

My husband does not. He wants to test drive it, compare prices, and go. 

Because of this sometimes I find him too impulsive and he sighs and hopes I'm done researching before the deals are gone. Marriage is kinda built on putting up with each others little quirks and the occasional nudge into a more common direction. 

Anyway, I like reviews. I like recommendations. I want to read the rants and the raves and the comparisons to other things. Personal experience in quantity is what I crave. 

The James Beard Foundation put out a list of their baker's dozen (13) essential baking books, and since I just happened to pick up Dorie Greenspan's Baking: from My Home to Yours this week at the library I found it interesting. 

I read a lot of baking books. If you ever notice my list of books at the bottom of the page, you'll often see at least one baking or cookbook. Baking...because I'm good at it. And I like carbs a lot. At one time in college I ate nothing but mashed potatoes or waffles. It was easier to circumvent the cafeteria that way. And if I mess up baked goods no one goes hungry and the birds (or dog) have a nice meal. Cooking...because I'm not just not good at it. Too much pressure. 

I was very impressed with Greenspan's book. It walks that difficult line between too technical or strange for a home kitchen and too boring because the recipes are already in every book. There were quite a few things I've never made, but most of them seem within reach and looked delicious. It's going on my wishlist. 

While I was doing a search to get the title correct for this blog I noticed this list from the James Beard Foundation. It came out in April. 

Essential Baking Books According to Some Committee

1. Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006).
2. Beard on Bread by James Beard (originally published 1973; reprinted by Knopf, 1995).
3. The Book of Great Desserts by Maida Heatter (Andrews McMeel, 1999).
4. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed, 2001).
5. The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (William Morrow, 1988).
6. Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000).
7. Cocolat by Alice Medrich (Warner Books, 1990).
8. The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham (Gramercy, 1996).
9. Great Pies and Tarts by Carole Walter (Clarkson Potter, 1998).
10. The Italian Baker by Carol Field (William Morrow, 1985).
11. Martha Stewart’s Cookies by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, 2008).
12. My Bread by Jim Lahey (W.W. Norton, 2009).
13. The Simple Art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker (Chronicle, 2003).


From these I have The Bread Baker's Apprentice (wonderful for an amateur who's made bread before but wants to take it up a step), and I've read Greenspan's and Beranbaum's books. All well-done. I think I have a  challenge on my hands. 

Anyone seen baking challenges online lately? People get together and bake through a baking or cookbook and then share their experience. What they liked, what they don't like, what they changed. The gift of human experience. Sounds like something I'd like. 

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