How recipes should be written! September 28, 2000
This is not only a book for those who love to be entertained, it
is also for those who love to cook and want to make their
cooking the best it can be. Christopher Kimball is one of the
great researchers of our time. His attention to detail is
remarkable. As an aspiring cookbook author myself, I see this
book as an example of how recipes should be written.
My favorite sections are the detailed scientific and
descriptive essays which are intriguing and entertaining to
read. The information on chocolate is extremely accurate. By
reading this book you will find out why some flaky pie crust
recipes call for eggs, which tools are the best for preparing
apples, and why evaporated milk helps to deepen the flavor of
For some recipes, an extended explanation proceeds the
recipe. When discussing "Individual Fallen Chocolate
Cakes," three pages are devoted to explaining how the
perfect recipe was achieved.
I am so pleased this book uses "chiles" instead of
"chilies" since I had to prove to my editor that this
was a valid spelling. In the winter, a "Chili Con
Carne" is delicious and directions are given for spicing it
up if you want more "heat."
I was also intrigued by recipes for: "Braised Lamb
Shoulder Chops with Figs and North African Spices," Bread
Stuffing with Sausage, Pecans, and Dried Apricots,"
"Penne with Portobello Mushroom Ragu," "Bruschetta
with Red Onions, Herbs and Parmesan." While those sound
very gourmet, there are also recipes for "Minestrone,"
"Tabbouleh," "Polenta," "Fried
Chicken," "Roast Turkey," "Curry,"
"Cornbread," "Boston Cream Pie,"
"Popovers," Peanut Butter Cookies," and
This book actually contains the Best Recipes from the pages
of the magazine: Cook's Illustrated, which was first published
in 1993. When creating these recipes, the editors started with
the goal of developing the best recipe for "meatloaf"
or "chocolate pudding." Cook's Illustrated is known
for a near-obsessive dedication to finding the best recipes.
Here is a good example of Christopher Kimball's writing
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
"Sometimes the heavenly smell of cinnamon swirl bread
emanating from the oven is the best part of the bread. Often
after baking there are gaps between the swirls of cinnamon
filing and bread, and the filling is prone to leaking out and
burning in the pan.
We wanted to solve these problems when developing our recipe.
We also wanted the baked texture to be moist and light, yet firm
enough to be sliced fresh the first day and toasted for a few
days after. To achieve the best texture and crust, we knew we
needed to perfect the baking time and temperature as well as
fine-tune the ingredients. While we were at it, we decided to
use this recipe to develop a technique for the ever-popular
My husband agrees that the "Molasses-Spice Cookies"
are the best he has ever tasted. After years of searching for a
recipe he would love....Christopher Kimball saved my
marriage....I am kidding, but my husband was quite pleased.
You will also find a recipe for Key Lime Pie. (Have you ever
noticed that you can smell Key Lime pie when someone mentions it
or you see it in a cookbook? It happens to me all the time. I
have vivid food memories.) The beauty of this cookbook is that
the science of how a dish evolves is also sometimes included. On
page 496, the science of how "Key Lime Pie Thickens"
is explained in detail.
Another aspect of this cookbook, is the delightful
information on kitchen equipment.
"Years ago, free-standing mixers were a kitchen staple.
Grandma probably had a "mixmaster," which is a generic
term for a free-standing mixer, thought it is actually a brand
name for units manufactured by Sunbeam. .....If all you want to
do is whip egg whites or cream, or if you only make cakes from a
mix, you don't really need a heavy-duty standing mixer."
This is the first book I reach for when I have a cooking
question or want to validate my beliefs. You could say this is
my cooking Bible. I also like the fact that there is a real
author and not just a corporation standing behind these recipes.
I find it refreshing to find that the author is interested in
his readership and really does want you to have success the
first time you make a recipe. Thank you Mr. Kimball for helping
us clarify the technical details and solve the cooking
confusion. I can't wait for the next book. I hope to be
reviewing the new Dessert book soon.
~The Rebecca Review