Sherri's Reviews > BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes

BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher
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's review
Mar 17, 11

Read from January 08 to March 17, 2011

I wanted to love this, I really did. After seeing the author's numerous appearances on Good Eats, I was excited to dive into her work and learn all about the science of baking. But in reality it was rather disappointing. The book is packed full of useful reference information - baker's formulas, scientific explanations, discussions of ingredients. I instantly learned why the sheet cakes I had tried to make for my son's birthday didn't rise and wished I had read the book beforehand. However, as I made my way through it I constantly found myself wondering who on Earth edited the thing. The entire volume was rife with typos, insufficient information, nonstop copy-and-paste of whole paragraphs, and disastrous organization. I desperately wanted to attack it with a red pen and send it back. Pictures are few and only of the finished product, and diagrams are completely absent. My eyes (and brain) swam while trying to decipher paragraphs of instructions for folding and shaping bread dough, when a few stepwise pictures or simple illustrations a la Joy of Cooking would have made the process crystal clear.

Organizationally, at the chapter level everything's more or less fine - cakes, steam (pastries & meringues), pies, cookies, and breads. Within the chapters, though, one must constantly flip around to find recipes within the text. More frustratingly, many times recipes grouped together consistently reference a technique that has yet to be discussed, and while there is a pointer to the appropriate page, it would have made much more sense to put that information ahead of where it is needed rather than after.

I found the writing style itself to quite irritating. So many recipes have long, cutesy names: "All-Time Favorite E-Z, Dee-licious Sour Cream Cornbread." Really? Ugh. The text is quite personable and conversational, but heavy use of copy and paste is employed, so the same passage repeats over and over. Not such a big deal (quite useful, in fact) in recipes, but when it happens in the reference text - and it does, MANY times - it gets old, fast. Very fast.

Finally, there are the recipes themselves. I can't fault Corriher for researching her recipes and combining techniques from the masters to create the "ultimate" recipe. I do it myself when creating something new or trying to improve a less than ideal dish, although as a home cook my sources are obviously less renowned. Further, I have no doubt that her research produces fantastic results. But the fact is that the end recipe winds up being so complicated that it just completely turns me off of trying it at all. Sure, I'll take and extra one or two steps if it will improve the product, but not 5 or 6. I'd venture to say that most home cooks agree.

Overall, I'm happy to own the book despite its faults. The text is something I'll refer to again and again, even with its deficiencies and the annoyance of the near-constant restating of information. I may even try some of the recipes. Most of them, however, I won't.

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