by Nicole Rees, published by Wiley, 2009
Most of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I bake and blog because I love it, however what brings home the bacon is my very cool job at Buy.com. Now, Product Managers at the office are always receiving the latest video games, electronic gadgets, etc to review. Us on the tech side well, we have to wait to see if we find any treasures (a very rare occurrence) in the “Free Stuff” box in the lunch room. 😀
So, I thought hmm… I don’t think it would hurt to ask if I could help review some cookbooks. I worked up the courage and told one of my co-workers I was looking to add a cookbook review section to my blog and wanted to know if she could put me in touch with a publisher for some material for me to review.
Fast forward a week or two and guess what? A nice hefty box arrived at the office with some true gems…
The very first book I pulled out of the box was Baking Unplugged, honestly I hadn’t heard about this book nor had I seen it while browsing through the book store. Have I been living under a rock?
Nicole is an Oregon based writer who has worked at Chocolatier, Pastry Art & Design, and Woman’s World magazines. She is currently a recipe developer for Fine Cooking and The Oregonian.
In Baking Unplugged Nicole brings us back to the basics… baking basics that is. This is a great book for someone who would like to start baking but feels intimidated, it is a good primer. She throws the old saying “Bakers are born, not made…” totally out the window.
Baking Unplugged is made up of 8 chapters, the first three chapters focus on the essentials of baking. Minimum equipment you need to get started, and I mean bare minimum such as measuring cups, bowls and whisks. In the next chapter she moves on to give an explanation of the ingredients used in her recipes, why use table salt and not kosher salt, salted vs unsalted butter, etc. Finally before we get to the recipes she shows us how to read and follow her recipes (very important).
OK, now on to the good stuff… the recipes!
In chapter 4 Nicole shares with us Treats for the first half of the day which contains recipes for the usual breakfast staples, Uncommonly Good Pancakes (p. 37), Everyday Buttermilk & Wheat Germ Waffles or Pancakes (p.38), a few muffin recipes, Honey Granola (p. 54), and then we get to the Brunch treats, coffee cakes, & quick breads sub-section, this is where you will find a few scone recipes such as this little baby, Brownie Scones (p. 62) I would have bought this book for that recipe alone. In this chapter she also touches up on a few yeast breads such as Cinnamon Rolls (p. 76), Doughnuts (p. 79) and Overnight Yeast-Raised Waffles (p. 87) .
In the following chapters you will find Cookies & Bars, Cakes, Fruit Pies, Fruit Tarts, & More, and last but certainly not least we find a chapter on Creamy Desserts.
One of Nicole’s favorite cookies in this book are the Cranberry Shortbread Streusel Bars (p. 120) with a hint of fall in the air I decided to make her Maple Walnut Leaves (p. 106) which were well received by the boys albeit not as well received as the Brownie Scones, but ‘cmon that is a hard recipe to top! In the Cakes chapter she presents us with a recipe for Moist Vanilla Pound Cake (p. 165) plus 5 variations, including Eggnog Pound Cake with Spiked Glaze. In the Creamy Desserts chapter there is a recipe for Bourbon Vanilla Pastry cream (p. 225) which doubles as Plain Old Pudding. In this same chapter you will even find a simple and straight forward recipe for Classic Tiramisu (p. 228).
I’m awarding this book 3 out of 5 whisks. Overall I enjoyed the book, her directions were clear and easy to follow. Having said that, I feel since the focus of this book is geared towards beginner bakers or those intimidated by baking it would have been very helpful to include at least of few pictures to give an idea of what the finish product is supposed to look like. I guess I’m just biased towards books with pictures. 😉