I'm Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking by Alton Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Mad kitchen scientist Alton Brown is back for another installment, this time looking at the process of baking and the chemical compositions that make it work. He divides his recipes into mixing method because it determines the consistency and texture of the final product. This makes a lot of sense for this book and also for anyone anxious to pick out the patterns in a wide variety of recipes. Every section provides examples of the type.
For my money, I thought this book was a little better than the first, though some of the metaphors / illustrations are stretched a mite too thin. Maybe it's because baking is more precise and scientific, so Alton's exacting methodology has less tendency to seem like overkill; maybe it's purely personal, because baking is my favored arena. Regardless, I also found the recipes in this book less basic and more generally interesting - this is a book that lends itself to being used as a recipe book.
However, the way the recipes are laid out and printed significantly hampers this. I always photocopy recipes so I can hang them up in my kitchen and not damage the book - well, several of the recipes are 4-5 pages with illustrations and wide spacing. Even if this isn't your habit and you prefer to have the book on hand, that's a lot of flipping, propping, etc to refresh yourself of the steps. I would have preferred the detailed explanation and then a separate page with the compact recipe. (I can't really complain about the flaps with the Mixing Methods rather than repeating it in every recipe, since Brown's intention is for you to memorize them instead of continuously referring back. It's a good idea ... though I pulled the flaps forward for my photocopies anyhow. I'll get there.)
But the rest of the book is entertaining and clever. It starts with the building blocks of baking and examines their composition and their purpose in baking - whether they strengthen, leaven, weaken, etc. It's a delicate balance ... but one gets the feeling that by deeper review and perhaps some additional information (for instance, what ratio of X to Y would balance out?), you could alter recipes in a more complicated manner than simple 1:1 substitution - and that's invaluable.
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