January 16, 2009

Two Spoonfuls: Good Reads

Welcome to another episode of Two Spoonfuls with Ginny & Jenn. We've decided to get the new year started with a little help from Alton Brown of Good Eats fame. Cheesy logo and theme song aside, Good Eats is a great show! Naturally, you can watch the show, but Jenn and I would like to introduce you to a couple of Alton's books. I'll be talking about the baking side of things with "I'm Just Here For More Food" and Jenn's going to tell you about Alton's first book, "I'm Just Here For The Food", a sort of general cooking primer.

First, I'm going to let you in on a little secret about me. I'm not one of those Food Network junkies, so it takes a lot to get me watching a cooking show on a regular basis. I know I have a lot to learn about cooking and baking and the way Alton presents information really works for me. It's one thing to open a box, add some eggs & maybe a little milk and throw it in the oven, but I want to know why. That's what's so great about this book. I'm learning what the difference is between wheat flour & cake flour, and how to measure it properly. Did you know that once you've opened a can of baking powder it's only good for 6 months?! I didn't.

"I'm Just Here For More Food" is divided into sections as follows:

Introduction - All about good baking habits, equipment, measuring and other basics

The Parts Department - The ingredients in the ingredients and the stuff in your pantry like flour, sugar, butter and eggs.

The book is filled with cool illustrations and diagrams that appeal to my visual side.

Then there are the methods of mixing:

The Muffin Method

The Biscuit Method (mmmmmm) and The Pie Variation

The Creaming Method

The Straight Dough Method

The Egg Foam Method

and The Custards

Along the way are tons of factoids, diagrams, notes and other little tidbits that really make this book stand out. I love a cookbook with pictures, but it's even better when you get actual helpful information and knowledge that will help you make the recipe a success.

What I've Learned So Far:

I'm only in the Parts Department section but I already know enough to notice that when I tried a recipe from my new Ben & Jerry's cookbook last week, something was wrong. I followed the directions for Blonde Brownies to the letter, I used the pan they said to use and this is what I got.

A big cookie. Not brownies. There was definitely a lack of moisture in the batter and the pan they suggested was obviously way too big. Perhaps the 1 egg should have been 2? Maybe there should have been milk? Anyway, the big cookie was really tasty, it just wasn't brownies. My point is, that now that I'm reading Alton's book, I feel confident enough to try adding something next time to make the dough into batter. I knew there needed to be more moisture in the recipe. I hope to get a lot of knowledge out of Alton's book and I plan to read it cover to cover.

Now I'm anxious to see how Jenn's doing with "I'm Just Here For The Food", because it's next on my reading list!


LeeAnn said...

I love Alton Brown too. We have his regular cook book and love it. With Alton's help I discovered how to make the perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie. Too bad when I made these perfect cookies I discovered my husband doesn't prefer my version! Sucker. More for me. :)

Jenn Maruska said...

Yay Alton! These books are huge - so this ought to keep us out of trouble for a little while, at least! ; )

I think after you've finished this book, you should have a "Brownies Revisited" post, where you figure out what was wrong with that recipe and correct it using your new skills.

Can't wait! : )

Junie Moon said...

Lots of very helpful information, thank you! I did not know that about baking powder and will not go and check my pantry for wayward containers.

Marty said...

I'm secretly in love with Alton Brown. Never mind that I probably have 15 years on him!

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