Cookbook Review: Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

The moment after we decided on our visit to India for diwali, I was on amazon and flipkart, looking for the cookbooks I wanted to buy. Being more used to browsing though the physical books in the book store at a lavish pace. Till I got the “looks can kill” stares, I would flip through them all. But here this virtual shopping was not going so easy without the ease of actually knowing the book from cover to cover. This is where the mighty word “review” came in the picture. So I thought to at least put my experience of cookbooks I own in perspective, which might help others.

The novice baker that I'm, I was very excited to buy my first ''baking” book. And after a usual hard time in making a choice amidst the selected few baking books available over here - Bahrain (even Dorie Greenspan's book was not available here), I settled for this one.

So here's my opinion and experience of this baking bible, in hope that it helps someone else in making a choice.

Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook: Review from my kitchen

Many of you might question the need for buying a cookbook from someone who already has almost the same recipes on her website. But I expect that if you are reading this, you form the other half – like me. Someone who would love the touch and feel of a physical book, the confidence of baking, while keeping the book on the kitchen shelf and many a times for the sheer joy of owning a glossy, shiny beautiful book with all you ever want in your kitchen. Adding to it, if you don't own a family cookbook with all the grandma's recipes of butter cakes, cookies, pies, breads and tarts (like me), then this baking handbook is what you need.

About the Author:
Martha Stewart hardly needs any introduction. An American business magnet with a strong line of food, home and publishing businesses, she has made a strong place in the kitchens across the wold. Her first cookbook “Entertaining” itself was a NewYork bestseller. And since then she's grown by leaps and bounds, helping and guiding us more and more in our homes & kitchen.

What works: 
The Baking Handbook is a nicely organized book (which should be the case, so no big deal) with 6 different sections of – simple baked goodies; cookies; cakes; pies, tarts, cobblers and crisps; pastries and yeasted baked goods. And a section of basic recipes. In all it has over 200 recipes spread all through these sections. But the best part of the book is that it works for both the novice baker and experienced baker as the name suggests – baking Handbook. So its' actually a hnadbook of all the key baking recipes. From the everyday buttermilk biscuits, sugar cookies, drop cookies, almond hazelnut biscotti, cinnamon raisin bread; to the special occasion new york cheesecake, petit fours, upside down cake to the elaborate croissant, – its all there. You need go no further for learning and practicing your way around the oven.

Well explained/illustrated techniques 

And what makes it the most user friendly book is the fact that it has colorful pictures for each of its 200+ recipes. Yes nice, clear and bright shots of every booked goodie, the book talks about. After all not everyone wants to put opious amount of butter, dozen eggs and cups of flour in a cake, without seeing how it looks. At least I wouldn't. Yes for a baking book it's a critical factor and this is where Martha's book scores over Dorie's book, which has a picture for only 1/7th of its recipes.

Colorful eye catchy pictures

The other good part of the book is the easy way of explaining a recipe with helpful baking tips and techniques like how to marble a cake, how to transfer pie dough to dish, how to select a baking dishes, etc. It also suggests good substitutes for many of its recipes to play around. And the handy recipes like buttercream frosting, lemon curd, meringue, etc is well...really very handy.

Not so great aspect:
The only flip side of the book, if I want to nitpick is that it doesn't have many new flavour combinations or as you might say, some exciting recipes for the adventurous bakers. In fact I was disappointed to see not as many layered/ party cake recipes. So when I needed to bake a cake for a birthday party, I had to search elsewhere, since the book has hardly has any variation of chocolate or vanilla cakes. Or for that matter only one brownie recipe. I guess for all my sugary chocolatey temptations, I need to pick “Chocolate” or “Flour: Boston bakery”.

But then the purpose of the book is not to making your cake/brownie  list bigger, but to have a plethora of trustworthy recipes for all occasions. And this is where it succeeds highly.

Also another tiny aspect, which I guess is the case with all books of this size/pages is the binding. Since its difficult for the double spread to lay open for long, I have to keep wights on the pages, when I take it to the kitchen. (Yes I know I'm getting into minute details, but then you can see in the above pictures itself, that they are not very kitchen-top friendly).

Tried and Tested: 
As the truth lies in the taste of the are the samples of my experience from the book. I have tried 5 recipes from the book and all have come excellent. Yes that reminds me that one of my favourite recipes of Martha – molten chocolate lava cake is not from the book but from her website. So if you are unsure before picking this book, please visit her website, which is a goldmine of great recipes. Try some and then pick the book.

In Brief: Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook: Hardbound. 415 pages. The residents in India can order the book from here and the Amazon link is this. 

Really a Baking Handbook:
So for me this is a keeper of a book..which as the cliché goes, would have been passed to my daughter (if I had one) to practice till she can outgrow it to bake some unconventional stuff.

Verdict: Trustworthy 200+recipes for all occasions, with great tips, friendly instructions and colorful pictures for all recipes. Perfect baking book for the amateurs to mid level home bakers. 

Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion and I have not been reimbursed monetarily or otherwise by the publication or anyone. 

And here's a quick view of what lies next to my bed, for browsing..

You Might Also Like