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The Best Recipe

The Best Recipe


5 of 5 stars 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 some dishes.

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 "Asparagus Frittata."

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 style:

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 cinnamon rolls."

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." page 351

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 


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