90 of 92 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a very thorough and well-written book, which is sponsored by one of the most respected cooking schools in the world: Le Cordon Bleu. Please note that this book is not for the occasional home baker/cook, but rather for the professional or serious amateur.
First off, one of the most important aspects of this book that may surprise people is that most of the recipes measure ingredients by weight (e.g., grams, ounces, pounds, etc.), NOT volume (e.g., cup, teaspoon, tablespoon, etc.). But don't let this turn you off--at least not yet. There is a very good reason for this. In order to make a consistently good product, you need to know that you're putting in the correct amount of an ingredient every time; and measuring by volume is NOT as accurate as measuring by weight. For example, I'm sure that most of us have made chocolate chip cookies at least once in our lifetime and have noticed that the recipe calls for lightly packed brown sugar. But how much do you pack it? I might pack some brown sugar into a measuring cup and think that it is "lightly packed", but another person's definition of "lightly packed" may be different and he/she might pack more brown sugar into the measuring cup. But if we both measured 8 oz. of brown sugar, no matter how we packed it, it would still be 8 oz.--no more, no less. Therefore, potential buyers of this book need to realize that purchasing a scale is almost a necessity in order to get professional results.
If baking is an occasional pastime or if measuring ingredients by weight is just not your cup of tea, then there are PLENTY of great cookbooks out there for the occasional baker that measure ingredients by volume. However, if you have the personality that wants and loves to try to make that absolutely perfect cake or pastry, then this book will help you do that.
Previous reviewers have complained that this book is "smoke and mirrors" and not for the home cook, or that the recipes were faulty and tasteless. To be fair, you have to take the book for what it is. The title is called "PROFESSIONAL Baking", not amateur, not home. It is very clear from the title that this book is not for everyone, especially with the weight/volume issue that I mentioned. As for the "faulty"/"tasteless" claim, my instructor has studied and worked in Hong Kong, France, and Austria. And in each class, she demonstrates each recipe and the results have always been spot on (which is more than I can say for myself and my classmates). Personally, I think that it is too easy to blame someone or something else; rather, I always look to myself first and then elsewhere. But enough of my two-bit philosophy.
One last thing that often confuses people and is probably the cause of many of their mishaps are the instructions regarding what baking pans and times to use. For instance, let's say that a typical recipe will make 5 lb. of dough, batter, whatever. The recipe will give you instructions and baking times for multiple baking pans (because professional bakers will use many different shapes and sizes depending on the job, right?). Therefore, the instructions will say that a 8-inch cake round needs 1 lb. of batter, that a 9x13x2 rectangular pan needs 2 lb. of batter, etc. But didn't the recipe yield 5 lb. of batter??? What the !@#$%??? This is confusing. How much do we make? What pan are we supposed to use? Let me explain: Since professional bakers use many different pans for the same recipe (e.g., a baker may make a chocolate cake in a 9-inch round or a full sheet, right?), they will adjust the recipe to get the exact amount of batter that they need for that particular job. So, if the recipe makes 5 lb. of batter and you only need 1 lb., then just divide all the ingredients by 5 and you'll get a yield of 1 lb. Or, just make the regular-size recipe and just weigh out 1 lb. of batter and make five of them. After you understand this, you'll begin to realize that it all is actually pretty simple and straightforward. I think that most people just don't like to weigh things or do a little math. They're just used to measuring by volume and having recipes designed to produce a single product, rather than multiple. And like I said before, that is perfectly fine and there are tons of great books out there that will suit that purpose.