November 03, 2012

Taste of Home Baking Book

This review is from the Amazon Vine Program.

**I have made 19 of the recipes in this book**

Alright, I've sat on this book for a year without reviewing it. And why is that? Because I tell myself I have to make a certain number of recipes before I can review a cookbook, and since I'm a single person, I can't make something every day or I wouldn't fit out my apartment door. But that day has finally come and I wanted to make known what a terrific book this is.

You'll notice that this is quite a large book, set up in a binder format so that it can lay flat. There are two plastic covers that come with it, that you can set over a page to protect it from splatter. I'm too lazy to use them, but they seem like a good idea. Next, the inside covers have food equivalents and substitutions tables on them. This is almost my favorite part because it is so handy. Then we get into the actual book itself.

The first tab is baking basics and this is just a short section explaining methods, measuring tools, what kind of bakeware you should have, and the difference between eggs sizes and other such things. For someone who's new to the world of baking (or an expert who may not know a couple of things) this chapter is very useful. But enough about that, on to the food!

The first section is cookies and because cookies are easy to make, this is where I spent most of my time. The Cherry Pecan Dreams were pretty good and the Butter Wafers were easy to make and turned out light and crispy, as they should have been. Next, the Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies were also delicious. But then there was the Chocolate Chunk Shortbread which was terrible and not very good tasting at all. Luckily, that was one of the only not so good things in this section. Further into the chapter, the Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies were addicting, and I'm pretty sure that I ate the majority of them myself. The Orange Cinnamon Chocolate Chips Cookies were unique and I shared them at work where they were scarfed down instantly. And despite having made these cookies, there were much much more in this chapter that I haven't yet had the chance to make but am excited to try, like the Walnut Crescents.

The next chapter was Bars & Brownies. This section is a little shorter, but not by much, there are quite a few bars and brownies to be had. The Caramel Pecan Bars were easy to make, but a little overly sweet. But the Triple Nut Diamonds were faintly reminiscent of Pecan Pie and not hard to make despite looking complex. The Toffee Bars were also easy to make and tasted very good. I will say I wish I had made the Tiramisu bars already, they look delicious! It will definitely be on the list to try soon.

Cakes I didn't really get into that much. I'm not much of a cake eater, nor do I enjoy making them. They have about every cake and frosting you could think of listed in this section though, so if you do like cake, I'm sure you'll find something here.

Cupcakes are kind of like cakes, I don't find myself being drawn to make them either. But this was also a very small section compared to the rest so it may have just been that none caught my fancy. There are some Pumpkin Chip Cupcakes that might be good for the holidays though.

Cheesecake I can't stand, I've only ever made it for other people who like it (and I'm beginning to sound like I don't like sweets at all from the last three chapters, I do, really, I'm just picky about sweets). They certainly have some exotic sounding cheesecakes in this chapter though, like the Pina Colada Cheesecake or the Mexican Cheesecake (yes there are some savory ones listed).

The Pies and Tarts section is especially timely for the holidays. The Never Fail Pie Crust is definitely a recipes that someone who always has troubles with crusts (like me) should use. It was easy to make and use and tasted just fine for the pies in this chapter. For Thanksgiving last year, I made the Vermont Maple Oatmeal Pie which was definitely unique and enjoyed by the family and the Ginger Streusel Pumpkin Pie, which was a fancy take on the classic and probably the best loved pie at the holiday. I do have to say that I may make the Black Forest Tart for the holidays this year, it looks sinfully delicious.

The next section's title always makes me laugh because it's titled desserts. I thought that was everything in this book, but apparently not. There are a lot of cream puffs in this section, but I haven't yet made any of them. I have however made the Strawberry Pizza, which was among the favored desserts that I took into the workplace this year. And best of all, it was simple to make. The Banana Brown Betty was also easy to make, but turned out mushy and the taste was only ok. I think Brown Betty's should probably stick to other fruit.

I love Quick Breads. Easy, no time to rise, and usually delicious, they're great to take to potlucks or as a contribution to a group dinner. And there are several in this chapter that were successful. Like the Chocolate Zucchini Bread and the Lemon Bread, which had a light lemon flavor and a somehow dense yet light at the same time texture. The Lemon Blueberry Tea Bread was also nice, and had a cake-like texture to it. The Coconut loaf was a good idea too, but it was a little too dense in texture. I do wish I would have tried some of the savory quick breads in this chapter, but just haven't gotten to it yet. The Amish Onion Cake looks amazing.

Muffins, Biscuits and Scones is the next chapter in this giant of a book. I actually haven't tried anything from this section yet, and I'm not sure why. There's a bunch of different savory and sweet muffins, biscuits and scones in here. And the Pepperoni-Olive ones especially sound like a good snack.

Yeast Breads is a good section too. I actually like the process of kneading dough, it's a great way to get frustrations out. I actually made the Vermont Honey-Wheat bread the other day and it tasted just as a honey wheat should. Although it did take some very pricey ingredients like maple syrup and honey and a good amount at that. Still, it was perfect when toasted and slathered with peanut butter. The Pepper Cheese bread was good too, although a tad crumbly. And there are so much more in here, like the No-Knead Harvest Bread, that I would definitely like to try. There's even recipes for stromboli in this section.

The next section is Coffee Cakes and Sweet Rolls. As I scan this section I'm beginning to realize that I haven't really made it through this book much at all. There's just so much here! From doughnuts to sticky buns, it's a large section.

Almost Homemade I must admit that I largely ignored. I don't like using packaged mixes and that's what the majority of this is. Sure it's convenient, just not my style. In a book filled with so many other good things, this is just a section I'd avoid.

Trimmed Down Favorites is a section for those who want to indulge without killing their waistlines. The Makeover Frosted Banana Bars were really good and easy to make, but alas, I like full fat so they're the only thing I made in this section. They did have some gluten-free in this section as well though.

The last chapter is Holiday Classics and while I consider this all to be Holiday foods, Taste of Home gets specific. Nearly every holiday is represented here, from Christmas to Halloween to Easter. There's even St. Patty's day cupcakes.

And we end the book at the indices, which are general and alphabetical and a lot easier to find certain things than flipping through the book is. There's just so many recipes that it makes it hard to find things otherwise. Especially when you can have up to four per page. But even with that many recipes, there are still pictures of some of them on every page, which is nice. I like to compare what I make to the pictures to see if I did it right.

I really like this book and refer to it often if making something to share at work or at a group meal. Things are simple to make and understand, the instructions easy to work with, and the food more often than not delicious. Also, most of the ingredients are easy to find at your local grocery store. It can be overwhelming at times due to its sheer size and amount of recipes, but I try not to let it intimidate me too much. If you're a big fan of desserts or just like to bake this is probably the book for you. In fact, it might be the only one you need because of everything in it.

Oh, and before I forget to mention it, you also get a free year's subscription to Taste of Home magazine, which was a nice little surprise to come with the book.

Review by M. Reynard 2012

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