Every Wednesday I review a cookbook to help weed out the good the bad and the ugly. This week I am reviewing The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet. I love baking. I guess it is the engineer in me that loves the precise measurements and the ability to use cool cooking tools. Honestly, the fact that the recipes are so precise and need to be that precise is comforting to me. When it comes to precise measurements and exactness, this book does not disappoint. It includes conversion tables and measurements of ingredients based on weight. I love using kitchen scales. I may be weird, but this book is awesome.

After reading the first chapter of this book, I knew that it was going to be my new favorite baking book. They discuss every basic ingredient from flour to sugar to milk. Each section has a description of the basics for the ingredients, the history, how they are made, how they interact with other ingredients, and best of all, the differences between the varying types of each ingredient. For instance, butter has coloring added to it as winter and summer butter varies in color. This is because of the types of food that cows eat during the varying seasons. During the winter cows normally eat dried grain leaving the butter pale in color. During the spring and summer cows normally eat green grass leaving the butter yellow and more appealing in flavor. So yellow coloring is added to butter to make is so that spring/summer butter can be found year round.

This book is part of the Sur La Table culinary series of books. This is awesome as there is a section on culinary equipment. This might now sound like much, but they describe each piece of culinary equipment and provide you with a maximum amount of dough/batter that can and/or should be placed in the equipment. Pages 12-13 of the book include a baking pan volume chart. This describes each type of baking pan and the maximum capacity by volume for each pan. Extremely helpful when you are trying to figure out how much bread dough to put in a 8.5 x 4.5 x 2 loaf pan. Just so you know, 6 cups.

The book is laid out nicely based on type of baked good you are trying to make. Yeast breads, layered pastries, quick breads, pies, tarts, fruit desserts, cookies, cakes, custards, souffles, and finishing techniques. In each section they list the recipes for each food and further include random “what the pro’s know” tips and Tips for success throughout the book. These include tidbits that can make or break your baked goods. For instance, the easiest way to inhibit fruit from turning your muffins blue is to use buttermilk. The acidity in buttermilk stops the color change.

I would like to point out that the book has a sole section of souffles. Souffles scare the crap out of me. Every time that I make them they fall, aren’t cooked properly or are just plain bad. This book in just 3 pages describes the process and techniques used in making the perfect souffles. After reading this section I felt as if I could go and make a perfect souffle right then. I have never read a cookbook that explains hard techniques in such a way that I immediately felt that I could make them without a problem.

Overall this book is amazing. It includes great recipes, great pictures and great information on baking. The book is a great reference for not just recipes but for conversions, cooking equipment and various other tips that are included with almost every recipe. I would recommend this book to everyone that is interested in baking. Plus it includes a great recipe for pizza dough. I love pizza.

The Art & Soul of Baking is available wherever books are sold and is available on Amazon for around $26.

Rex is an avid griller, barbecuer and bacon enthusiast. He is the Pitmaster for the Rex BBQ competition team. Rex was also featured on the TV show American Grilled. If you have any questions or wish to have Rex decode your favorite dish, click on the ASK REX link in the menu above.

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