I’ve been using King Arthur Flour products for what seems to be a lifetime. Don’t get wrong, I’ve tried the local store brand flours, to some more expensive to some significantly less expensive. The thing is, I know for a fact that every time I use KAF flours i get the exact same expected result; perfection. Over the years I got to ‘know’ some of the bakers there as well. With the advent of Facebook and blogs, I’ve become a regular on their FB wall.
I had received this book several years ago and was blown away by it. It’s simplistic written; almost ‘homey’ and comforting. It’s written with care and passion. It’s written as not only a cookbook but as training guide often offering up explanations instead of “just add this” and “do it like this”. If you’re like me, you want to know the hows and whys of things. Not to be told what to do and you’ll get this. This book is written with passion and pride.
I would say this book is for the every day home user from the beginner to intermediate baker. It’s well written however my only real complaint is *I* prefer to see pictures of what the recipe is to produce. But taking into consideration that this book is over 600 pages long, adding pictures to each recipe would pretty much rank this book to the size of “War and Peace” and most likely a highly inflated price tag. The book is fairly marked on their website for around $23 and honestly worth every penny!
No home baker should be without this book! This will be your go-to book and I can guarantee that if you’re like me, you’ll have more pages marked in this book than any of your others.
I have to first start off by saying “THANK YOU” to the bakers and authors of this book for giving you in the very beginning a guide on measuring and telling you exactly what the difference is with cups to ounces and so forth. People tend to argue over what a cup of flour weighs. Honestly it depends on how you measure out that cup first – do you sift it first, do you spoon and swoop or do you just scoop it up?
The first real chapter discusses Breakfasts.. god I love breakfast foods! I could so eat breakfast for dinner! Now while I’m not generally a fan of waffles, pancakes or heavy stuff like that I have to recommend their recipe for Pumpkin Prailine Waffles with a side of the Butter Pecan Syrup. Seriously sinful!
Next we venture on to Muffins. Glorious muffin recipes are abundant here! What I’m huge on with any recipe is versatility. They’ve done this with their All-Star Muffin recipe giving you at least 10 different adaptions you could make based off of one basic recipe! And for those that are looking for something less sweet you can dive into their coffeecake recipes, fritters or quick breads.
Buckels, Crisps/Crumbles and Cobblers.. oh my! That’s what you’ll find in the next chapter. So tell me, do you know what the difference is? I had an inkling but was never 100% certain. KAF clearly explains the differences and now it ‘makes sense’. Let me give you a little secret here.. they have a recipe for Pear Crumble… AMAZING! To kick it up a notch, add in fresh blueberries and lemon zest. Oh dear LORD!
Crackers and Flatbreads making up the next chapter. It wasn’t until about 5 or 6 years ago did I attempt to make my first batch of crackers. I was always pretty intimidated by it. Trust me… it’s SIMPLE and you will never EVER buy store bought boxed crackers again!
Now when one thinks of King Arthur Flour you immediately think of flours and breads. Well this book does not disappoint you at all. Probably one of the biggest chapters in this book is about yeast breads. Growing up my mother was always making homemade breads. I can remember her getting up very early with me tugging on her apron strings. She’d pick me up, put me on the edge of the table with my own rolling pin, a cup of flour and glass of water. She would bring out her big flour board, dust it with flour and get to kneading and making her bread. In the beginning I ended up making more of a mess and yes, paste, than actual dough. But eventually I started paying attention and mimicking her, kneading the dough with love and coupling it ever so gently. A lot of these recipes in this chapter remind me of those days from long ago. Probably one of my favorite bread recipes in this book is for Brioche. It, for me, is one of the most universal breads. It’s eggy and dense but almost “light” at the same time. Sunday mornings were filled with french toast at our house made from fresh Brioche she made the day before. This recipe reminds me of Sundays at home. In this chapter you go from your basic white breads, to brioche’s, to Sweet braided bread, to bagels to pretzels and so much more! Just for this chapter alone, this book is worth it!
This whole chapter on breads flows nicely into another favorite of mine, Sour Dough. Once you have a great ‘mother’, you are set for life. This starter will last you a lifetime and through out generations providing you take care of it. I did a 8-day posting on here on how to create your own mother/starter from scratch and including instructions on how to take of it. What I like most about this chapter is the discussions and explanations. Don’t get the wrong, the recipes are great too but the sidebar notes are really interesting. Remember.. I’m a very analytical thinker and need to know the hows and whys. KAF explains it quite nicely!
Now smack dab in the middle of the next chapter, Cookies and Bars, are the only color photographs in the book. Lemme tell you what people… for those that eat with their eyes.. You will LOVE LOVE LOVE this! My word these pictures, sparse they may be, are divine! Again, just like the last chapter, the side notes (how to keep cookies soft, crispy, when to roll and so forth) are awesome! There is a recipe in this chapter for Vanilla Dreams.. oh my dear heaven! Just like the recipe says, it’s unlike anything you can bake using baking soda or powder. They literally melt-in-your-mouth!
The next chapter we tackle Cakes. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with using a boxed cake mix. It’s inexpensive and pretty simple (add oil/eggs and water). The outcome is pretty good but until you’ve made one from scratch, you have no idea what you’re missing! There’s a section in this chapter just on Pound Cakes. Lord knows I love a good pound cake. There is one in there for a chocolate pound cake. Make that one, slick it about 1/2″ thick. Between 2 slices of cake add a layer of mascarpone spread (whipped mascarpone, crushed strawberries and a smidge of sugar). Make it like a sandwich and grill over medium. When it’s done, drizzle fudge sauce and top with fresh berries. You can thank me later! As a perfect accompaniment to this chapter they a sub section dedicated to frosting, fillings and glazes. You can put down the tub of canned frosting after this!
Pies, Tarts and Quiches are discussed in the next chapter. I have a confession to make. Up until about 20 years ago I was truly intimidated on making a pie crust from scratch. I mean they looked so incredibly hard and delicate. Until one day, I decided to give it a whirl (okay truth be told, the store was out of pre-made ones). I sat there and read my Mother’s recipe and sadly it didn’t work. It just crumbled and was tough. The crust was thick and dry and just blah. It was until I sat down and looked at it logically. You want that light airy flaky crust but also sweet (providing you’re making a sweet pie). It make sense to use ice cold ingredients, including butter chunks to make it stay that way. As the butter melted it would leave pockets in between the layers of flour thus making it flaky and airy. It took me several years to finally perfect my recipe and now it’s like a piece of ‘cake’ to turn out a new pie crust. What’s great about this chapter is KAF explains the basics about types of pie crusts (flaky, savory, sweet, tender, etc…). Plus their recipes are killer! And let me tell you what, they have a recipe in here for Cheddar Cheese Piecrust. HOLY MOLY!!! Make this and add a seafood type filling with chives. OMG it’s to-die-for!!!
The next chapter, Pastry and Viennoiserie (basically made from a yeasted dough), is for the intermediate-to-advanced bakers. The recipes in this chapter require patience but if you can hold off and follow the recipes, you will wow’d with the end results! I’m sure most of you buy your puff pastry frozen or your croissants pre-made. I HIGHLY recommend taking a weekend and making one of these. Fresh chocolate croissants are pure magic! One of my all time favorite desserts are in this chapter, Napoleons. I think I would honestly eat one of these every day for the rest of my life. This recipe here is really good!
Coming towards the end KAF discusses Ingredients. They are the Flour experts so it’s natural they dedicate several pages discussing and teaching you about the various types of flours. And let me tell you what folks, they go into great detail. No you can’t use All Purpose Flour in an angel food cake recipe. You need cake flour. Why? This chapter explains it quite nicely. You will have an ‘Ah ha!’ moment! Moving past flours, they discuss the various fats, creams, spices, leavens, sugars, chocolates and vanillas plus so much more!
This takes us to the very last chapter, Tools. We all like ‘kitchen porn’ and KAF discusses when you should/shouldn’t use items – pastry wheels, bowls for proofing, stones, lathes and the like.
Over all I would recommend this book for someone that is really wanting to get into baking. It’s geared for the novice to intermediate baker. No one recipe is too difficult or beyond one’s head. This is my go-to basic book. This book is ‘home’ to me. It’s comforting.
My only issue is that there aren’t many pictures. I like the idea that I have something to compare my recipes outcome to. For that reason and ONLY that reason I’m giving this book 4 1/2 oinks