Before I even share my confession about my baking, let me state right up front....this is a perfect book for the experienced baker, the one who is learning to be an experienced baker and ...now the confession....the ones like me, who feel challenged when it comes to baking. It sometimes takes me days of angst before I actually bake anything harder than simple drop cookies or brownies.
Karen DeMasco was the pastry chef at the over-the-top Craft Restaurent in NYC and was the James Beard 2005 Best Pastry Chef Award winner. Heady credentials, so I knew this would be the perfect gift for the fantastic bakers I know. That said, I was still leery about it being a good book for the likes of me. I have many a terrific baking book on my shelves, but most of them...even with tip & technique chapters....have me second guessing myself. The Craft of Baking from Random House takes all that guessing out of the equation.
Let me give you a perfect example....it was my grandson's first birthday party and while mummy & daddy took care of the real birthday cake, I decided to try my hand at cupcakes and what sounded delicious for the kids in all of us ...
The recipe for the cupcakes was simple enough...even for me. My challenge normally would have come with the icing...when I have to whisk eggs/egg whites and sugar together, then add the butter. I never know when is enough and I'm always worried that I'll overdo it and turn it into curdled something-or-other. No worries here. Karen actually tells us how long it should take. The whisking of egg whites and sugar over a saucepan of simmering water "should feel warm to the touch, about 3 minutes" and that the next step in the whisking process should take five minutes and look "translucent and shiny and form soft peaks". Needless to say, the cupcakes were a huge hit.
So I tried my hand at something a little more complicated (at least for me)...
These came out a tad darker than I would have liked, but that's because my trusty oven thermometer grew legs and ran away. Not knowing it was too hot and that I should have reduced the temperature like Karen suggested = too dark. But I learned a cool trick with vanilla beans. I've never tried a recipe where you beat the split vanilla bean with the butter, sugar,etc., and then that you can rinse the bean off..let it dry out on the counter and then wrap it and recycle it. She has lots of cool tips like that.
But I digress...again with very clear instructions for the novice baker...you experts need only glance to make them come out perfectly ....they were perfect and so interesting with the added touch of rolling the refrigerated cookie dough in Demerara sugar before slicing and baking.
Whatever your sweet tooth...from muffins, scones, quickbreads to cookies, brownies & candies, to tarts, pies & crisps, cakes & cupcakes, custards & puddings...even ice creams and roasted or poached fruits....there are recipes to delight.
And whatever your level of expertise with baking...you'll find this book a wonderful "go-to" guide.