September rolls around, the kids go back to school, and fall is suddenly in the air. Or, if you live in Northern California, like I do, it’s still in the 90s, but you know it’s fall everywhere else. And that means BAKING! Luckily, America’s Test Kitchen Bread Illustrated: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Bakery-Quality Results at Home arrives to my kitchen to add fuel to my fire to bake up a storm. This is the first bread book put out by America’s Test Kitchen. I have a feeling it’s going to be good. After quickly flipping through the pages, my mouth starts watering. For a carb-o-holic like me, it’s like a drug.
I begin reading the book’s introduction. I’ve been a baker pretty much all of my life. I learned from the best: my grandmother, whom I playfully nicknamed “Baker Grandma.” Whenever she came to visit, she taught me how to make pies and cookies. She instilled the love of creating baked goods in me, which carries through to today. The things we, as adults, remember from our childhood hanging out with a grandparent always have to do with either being in the kitchen with grandma or tinkering outside with grandpa. Teaching a child to cook is a memory we can give them that will last forever.
But grandma never really taught me why we use different flours for different breads or what the various yeasts yield. That’s what this book taught me. It even went over the basic bread-baking equipment you may wish to invest in — most of which we already have on our shelves. However, I will admit that I’ll be purchasing a bread thermometer. That little thing can be invaluable. The pages detailing the bread baker’s pantry lend to all sorts of cooking — not just bread baking. So, even if you’re not into bread (GAH, shame on you!), read these pages. It will enhance your everyday cooking knowledge. The book is also very nicely indexed for easily finding recipes.
The book’s photos are delicious! Everything is laid out so nicely. One of the best parts I found about this book was how to know if you’ve kneaded the dough enough. It’s a simple test that I tried for the first time in my life on the recipes I made from the book.
Sod I sat down at the kitchen table, like so many of us when we get a new cookbook, and marked the recipes I wanted to make. So many good ones. But I settled on three that I wanted to make that week.
Granted, I haven’t made ALL of the recipes from this book — and I WILL — but I will always lean towards the America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks because I let them work out all the kinks in a recipe. I can’t tell you how many recipes I’ve tried from online where I said, “It was good, but it needs something….” You just can’t go wrong with any of their cookbooks. This one will carry me through the winter this year…if California ever gets there.
Reviewed By: Heidi Komlofske