This review was prepared by Michele Durante of Veggie Num Nums.
If you’re looking for a book about baking that gives you step-by-step instructions and lots of big color photos, let me suggest Baking by James Peterson. I purchased the book for myself a couple months ago and I’m loving it. The instructions are so clearly stated and the recipes are almost foolproof. According to the cover of the book, there are 350 recipes and 1500 photographs — that’s a lot of photos. It’s an oversized book and it’s one you’ll enjoy just flipping through for ideas.
I tried to pick different types of baked goods to test for this review. I made Coconut Cream Pie, Apple Tart, Shortbread, Focaccia, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Two-tone Sablee Cookies, Puff Pastry with Cream Cheese Filling, and Pecan Pie. Everything was good, and a couple things were out of this world amazing.
The one recipe I had trouble with was the Shortbread. For some reason it seemed that some of the butter leaked out during baking. The shortbread still came out okay, but not as good as I was expecting. It’s definitely a possibility that I made a mistake with the recipe, though I’m not sure what I could have done wrong. This is a recipe I’ll have to try again.
The Chocolate Chip cookies were really good and unique in that the chocolate was very finely chopped, so that there were no whole chocolate chips. I like this approach as the chocolate is throughout the cookie, not just in certain bites. The Sablee Cookies were wonderful, and they look gorgeous. The dough is a bit hard to work with as it gets soft once it gets warm, but I re-chilled it several times while rolling and forming the cookies. I made the white sablee dough as well as the chocolate dough, and then put them together to make half and half cookies. They were so impressive looking!
The Apple Tart was simple to make and very tasty. It wasn’t overly sweet and was full of apples. I made the Cream Cheese Filling since I had some puff pastry I needed to use up. It’s so easy to prepare and tastes pretty much just like cheesecake, and it is so versatile you can use it for all different kinds of pastries.
The Focaccia dough was so nice to work with, and the crust baked up crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. I topped my focaccia with caramelized onions, red peppers and olives; and it was wonderful.
I saved the best for last because the two pies I made, the Coconut Cream and the Pecan, were just outstanding. They were truly perfect pies and I was just amazed at how easy the recipes were to follow.
The pecan pie was just full of nuts and not lots of gooey filling like so many other pecan pies. It also wasn’t so sugary sweet that your teeth ache after taking a bite. It’s just so much better than any other pecan pie that I’ve ever had.
The coconut cream pie was also crazy good. The recipe calls for 14 ounces of coconut in the pie, and you can make the custard with coconut milk instead of just regular milk, so this is a very coconut rich pie. Even the crust is delicious—substantial but still tender. There is a layer of custard filled with shredded coconut, a layer of slightly sweetened whipped cream, and then a topping of more shredded coconut. It is truly one of the best pies I’ve ever tasted. And, it’s not difficult to make!
Baking by James Peterson is a lovely cookbook for novice bakers, but even experienced bakers will find much to love about it. This has become my go to baking book if I need to find a specific recipe, or if I’m just looking for inspiration. If you’d like to order the book you can get it from amazon.com through The Daring Kitchen site.