Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking should be required reading for those who truly want to learn how to become great bakers. In his own off-beat style Alton explains the science behind the process simply and in a manner you will not only remember, but subconsciously apply to all your baking endeavors. What is salt’s role in the baking process? Why use eggs? Why is the way you mix important to overall success? Stylized and presented like his first book and popular Food Network show Good Eats, Baking is more like a goofy textbook rather then a pretty, photographed book with a bunch of recipes. If you are looking for a couple of quick, simple recipes to make cookies or bread, keep looking. If it’s an education about the “Whats,” “Whys,” and “Hows” of baking with the intent to lift your skills to a new level: welcome!
Baking is a precise science that needs to be followed to the letter if you want success. It is highly recommended to read the introduction and “The Parts Department” section before attempting any of the recipes in this book. The essence of Alton Brown’s book is not to simply follow recipes, but to get a deep understanding of what is going on during the baking process. The introduction goes over the layout of the book and how it should be used (the ingenious “method flaps” for instance), the low down on how to read recipes, the importance of measuring by weight vs. volume, and baking’s five core steps. The “Parts” section explains just that: ingredients. What is the chemical make up of proteins, carbs, and fats? Why is their interrelationship so important to success? How well do you know flour, eggs, sugar, and baking soda? Once you have the basics down and your parts measured it’s time to get mixing. The rest of the book is smartly broken up by the six major mixing methods (Muffin, Biscuit, Creaming, Straight Dough, Egg Foam, and Custards). Each technique is explored in detail with recipes to follow. You won’t find any ultra fancy recipes in Baking. The focus here is on the basics and getting the basics down right. Rediscover some old favorites like chocolate cookies and muffins, buttermilk pancakes, biscuits, shortcake, multigrain loaf bread, and good old fashioned cheesecake. There is no denying it, follow Alton’s advice and you will be a better baker. Guaranteed. –Rob Bracco