I think it's safe to say that with the Cook's Illustrated Baking Book, you need never buy another basic baking cookbook again. This book has it all. Literally. Whether you're hoping to make the perfect loaf of sandwich bread or you're chasing the ultimate shatteringly-crisp crust on your crème brulée, you'll find all the help you need between the covers of this beautiful book.
• Who wrote it: Cook's Illustrated
• Who published it: America's Test Kitchen
• Number of recipes: 450
• Recipes for right now: Cranberry Pecan Muffins, Popovers, Sticky Buns with Pecans, Parker House Rolls, Challah, Chewy Sugar Cookies, Hermit Cookies, Best Shortbread, Coconut Layer Cake, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Pear Crisp, Linzertorte, Deep-Dish Quiche, Croissants, Chocolate Soufflé
• Other highlights: I honestly think baking is where the Cook's Illustrated methodology really shines. Here is one area in the kitchen where exact oven temperature and an extra half-teaspoon of baking soda can mean the difference between fist-pumping success or abject failure. It's pretty intimidating! But with Cook's Illustrated, we know that each recipe has been tested from every possible direction and that if they tell us we need to mix on high with a whisk attachment, we will most definitely mix on high exactly as described. Knowing this, and trusting the cooks at Cook's Illustrated, erases all baking anxiety.
The chapters in this book truly cover the full spread of baking possibilities: quick breads and breakfast baked goods, yeasted loaves and pizza, cookies and brownies, pies and cakes, pastries, and even custards. If it involves a dusting of flour or the use of a whisk, it's probably in here. The recipes themselves stick close to the basic, traditional recipes you'd expect — chewy sugar cookies, basic bagels, apple pie — but if you're in the mood for adventure, there's lots to explore in the variations included with many of the recipes. Plus, as you gain confidence in a basic recipe, it becomes easier to use it as a springboard for your own creations.
As with all of America's Test Kitchen's recipes and publications, I love the detailed introductions and side bars that accompany each recipe. I'm one of those nerdy bakers who likes to know exactly why I'm using an extra egg white in this recipe or why it's important to beat them for exactly five minutes, and America's Test Kitchen provides. I feel torn on the black-and-white photos — the stark design is classically beautiful and certainly in keeping with the style of the Cook's Illustrated magazine, but I'm also an unashamedly visual cook and there are certain recipes where I crave the vibrant color that I know is lurking just behind the black-and-white filter.
I will say with complete confidence that you cannot go wrong with this baking book. America's Test Kitchen has proven again and again that they are one of the most reliable sources of recipes around, and this cookbook is an encyclopedia for anything and everything you might want to bake. Consider it an investment in your baking future.
• Who would enjoy this book? Bakers new and veteran.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Cook's Illustrated Baking Book
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)