Alton Brown explores the science behind breads, cakes, cookies, pies, and custards, explaining it in his own inimitable style. Recipes cover all the basics, from pie crust to funnel cake to cheese souffle. The book also contains appendices and equipment lists.
Less a cookbook than a course book on baking, this entertaining and certainly educational follow-up to Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food offers up formulas for basic cakes, muffins, pies, custards and breads, as well as information on the components of each. Like a quirky, affable professor with a mad scientist's flare for facts and figures, Brown takes readers through the "Molecular Pantry," examining the properties and functions of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Those familiar with his Food Network show, Good Eats, will be well-versed on these building blocks, and those who aren't will find his explanations and diagrams easy to comprehend. Unlike other baking books, this one is organized by "mixing method" rather than by food type, which means that recipes like Banana Bread, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake and Buttermilk Pancakes are clustered together under the same umbrella--the Muffin Method of mixing. According to Brown, this is because "mixing is more important than ingredients and even cooking method." While some bakers would be quick to counter this claim, Brown supports it well, using diagrams to illustrate how mixing and over-mixing the same ingredients can yield different results (i.e., by over-mixing muffin ingredients, one can end up with cupcakes). As Brown states early on, this isn't a recipe book. Rather, it's an instruction manual for people who want to be better bakers. Those looking for appetizing photos of sumptuous dishes won't find any here, but they will find plenty of practical tips (use a food processor instead of a traditional flour sifter) and sidebars that can be both informational and anecdotal (Brown's story of his struggle with a 50-pound blob of dough bent on expansion is particularly amusing). Anyone who has a yen to learn the science and methodology behind good food will find this a fascinating read.
Alton Brown is the master of explaining the why behind every recipe.