Best-of-the-Rest Cookbooks

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Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking
Photo: Randy Mayor

Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking

Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking By Shirley Corriher, Scribner, 2008. Hardcover. $40; 532 pages

At first, we admit we were skeptical of Corriher’s legendary “Touch-of-Grace” Southern Biscuits. She uses self-rising flour, which feels like a cheat. She describes the dough as “a wet mess—not soup, but cottage-cheese texture.” But these are the secrets to the lightest, fluffiest biscuits you may ever taste. In fact, a few of us on staff witnessed Corriher at a food conference a few years ago, scooping up that wet, sticky, shapeless dough and baking biscuits for hundreds of folks in the middle of an expo. And though prepared under less than ideal circumstances in a makeshift kitchen, they were shockingly, consistently perfect.

Baking is all science, and in Corriher’s hands, we can all become junior scientists and darn fine bakers. The book is organized by category of baked goods: breads, cakes, pies, and the like, with tons of valuable explanations about the best ingredients for and ways to approach making each. Lest you feel intimidated by heavy sciencespeak, don’t worry. This is baking advice for the everyday cook, not just science geeks or professional bakers. Corriher precedes every recipe with a “What This Recipe Shows” box so the budding baker understands why and how the recipes work (in the case of those biscuits, “A very wet dough makes more steam in a hot oven and creates lighter biscuits”). It’s all trustworthy advice with a takeaway more than just recipes—this book truly teaches the fundamentals of baking science so that your piecrusts will be flakier, your muffins more moist, your biscuits absolutely ethereal. 

GIVE THIS TO: Any cook interested in baking, from novice to pro. —Julianna Grimes

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