J and I have been religious subscribers to Cook’s Illustrated for years. We keep every issue, and occasionally drag the whole pile out and paw through it looking for that really great shrimp recipe we remember seeing – was it last month? Hmm, no, actually, it was two years ago…so we get to see all the old issues again and maybe find something new to try. And don’t get me wrong, Cook’s isn’t always perfect – they know nothing about Mexican food, and frequently their product reviews have not a single thing that’s available on the west coast. But many of their recipes have become gospel in our household, and sometimes you just want to be able to find it quickly.
Here’s where Baking Illustrated comes in. Every single baked item I’ve ever tried and loved out of the magazine is in here, along with further suggestions and explanations. The sweet potato pie has become an annual event for our family’s Christmas, and the pecan pie has taken first place in J’s affections over his own mother’s version. The tomato tart was lovely. The muffins are perfect. The spanakopita was excellent (well, how can you mess that up unless you forget the butter?) I have not made a single bad recipe out of this book.
This produces a problem for me. I have a lot of cookbooks. I mean, a lot. And I like to have favorite recipes from each one – I make the buttermilk biscuits from Kitchen Sense, the rhubarb pie from The Joy of Cooking, all cakes from The Cake Bible, pizza dough from Home Baking, Hum Bao dough from the recipe written on a piece of cardstock stuck into my copy of China Moon, and so on. But now I’m afraid, what if the version in Baking Illustrated is better than any of these? It might take all the fun out of having all those different baking books, which would be a shame.
No matter how good it is, it can’t make me change my recipe for quiche.
Update: Last week I tried the Devil’s Food Cake with Coffee Buttercream – fantastic cake, one of the better chocolate cakes I’ve made. The buttercream was tasty, but curdled after being brought back to room temperature (next time, use immediately!) I also tried their recipe for popovers, which was easy and fairly successful but not actually quite as superlative as the other recipes.