Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cookbook Review: The Fearless Baker, not just for beginners

Emily Luchetti has the reputation for being one of the best pastry chefs in the country and has received the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef.

The San Francisco Chef has published another cookbook, The Fearless Baker.  This book is aimed at beginning bakers who might even be afraid of the whole prospect of being in the kitchen, but don't be put off by that if you are more experienced  and skilled.  I think it would be a good choice even for those of us who are more experienced bakers.

There are good, solid, basic recipes created by pastry chef Luchetti which I think are good for any of us to have in a single cookbook.  Those of us with more skill can then add our own flair in the decoration, presentation, and perhaps even addition or substitution of ingredients.  We can use it as a springboard for our own creative imagination.

You might have 100 cookbooks, but still be missing these recipes.  You might have 101 fancy cupcakes, a 1001 unusual cookies or a zillion other outrageous desserts, but many cookbooks ignore the basics for the elaborate.

These recipes are easy and most of them are pretty fast, yet tasty and many are even gourmet.  That's not just for beginners, that's also for all of us with busy lives, and admit it, that's every single one of us.

For those who are beginners, even the most fearful of bakers, there are step by step directions and the book stylist, Lisa Weiss, includes a section each time a new skill is introduced with Luchetti and a real, live, fearful baker bantering in Q & A style.  It's like getting mini baking lessons from Luchetti herself.

As far as esthetics of the book design, at first I was a bit surprised and disapointed that there were no glossy color photos of the desserts.  The book is mostly type and white space.  There are color illustrations reminicent of the 1960s and a few black and white photos of those fearful bakers, but that's it, not much beauty at all.

As I kept reading and thinking about it though, I began to realize that this type of design created some big positives.

First the pages are smooth and you can easily write on them.  Add your notes, annotate your additions, what worked, what didn't.  When did you bake it and for whom?  Their reactions.  Was the cake better the third time around?  See how your skills evolve.

Second, there are no daunting photographs that only a professional stylist could reproduce to dictate to the baker how each recipe must look, so no fears, no intimidations, no disappointments, no failed expectations.  Besides, we all know what a chocolate chip cookie or a brownie looks like.

Third, this is a cookbook you won't need to be afraid of using or storing in the kitchen.  It can become your baking workhorse, because if you want to bake, I'm pretty sure you'll be using it often.  This is not going to be one of those coffee table cookbooks that you dare not take into the kitchen for fear of grease damage.

Fourth, the chef's recipes are the stars, not the book design, and there's value in having truly good recipes, not just pretty photos to look at.

All in all, I think it's a good book.  I even gave a copy to one of our son's friends.  He's not a fearful baker.  He wants to become a chef one day, and this book will teach him the basics right from one of the best chefs.  He doesn't need to waste his time with inferior recipes.  Nor do the rest of us.

Title: The Fearless Baker
Authors: Chef Emily Luchetti and Stylist Lisa Weiss
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Emily Luchetti's Website and Blog
Category: COOKING
Publish Date: 05/2011
Price: $29.99/$32.99
ISBN: 9780316074285
Pages: 288
Size: 7-1/2" x 9-1/2"
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  1. Wow. This sounds like a must have recipe book for my collection. Going on Amazon right now!

  2. Nice review! I love your points about the photography, for a new baker I can see how it could be intimidating to have their baked good not look as perfect as the books. Never thought about that! This sounds like a book I need to add to my collection!!

  3. I went to go check this out on Amazon. I love the quirky retro-style illustrations. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing!


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