Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cookbook Review: The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book

This is the second of four cookbooks I'll be reviewing this fall. As you might have guessed, I'm a bit of a cookbook junkie; I seem to collect them like bad habits. I am also a huge fan of Canadian Living Magazine, which I subscribe to and look forward to getting every month, so I was super excited to see that the fine people at CL were coming out with a baking book this fall.

Released today, The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book contains seven chapters covering specific categories of baking: Cookies, Bars, & Squares, Cakes, Pies & Pastries, Yeast Breads, Quick Breads, Spoon Desserts, and Sauces & Garnishes. There are a host of tips, techniques, and helpful information for your typical home baker. The recipes use commonly found ingredients and utilize basic baking equipment, and the food photography is up to the magazine's usual high standards.

Though I couldn't wait to rip open the parcel and devour this cookbook page by page, it's position on my limited shelf space is precarious. This is a gorgeous book, no doubt (although I thought it could have benefited from having a lot more photos in it, actually), but I was disappointed.

First, many of these recipes come from Canadian Living issues I've already seen. In fact, I've already made many of them. Remember the soft pretzels of this post, and why I couldn't figure out why the recipe is no longer available on CL's web site? Well, this book answers that: the recipe is now in the cookbook, available for you to buy at $34.95. As I went through my recipe binder yesterday, I recognized even more of the pictures and recipes I cut out from the magazine and saved in my collection. So, I was disappointed that there didn't seem to be anything new in this book for me to sink my teeth into.

Which brings me to my second point: the recipes I hadn't seen before weren't all that exciting. This is a basic cookbook for your typical home baker, and I am beyond basic and not a typical home baker. This cookbook is too basic for me - and I'm not being a snob or a braggart; I'm just a trained, experienced, professional baker who needs more of a challenge than what the recipes in this book had to offer.

I made two recipes from this volume, the Crusty Crown Loaf on page 218, and the Brown Sugar Shortbread found on page 61. The loaf turned out to be bland and, to my palate, had a strange flavour - probably because of the high olive oil content. The cookies turned out OK after I had to add some milk to the dough because it wouldn't come together at all. In the end, I rolled these out and cut leaf shapes, but that is a post for the future (come back tomorrow!). I have, however, made far tastier shortbreads in my life.

So, if you're a beginning home baker with a small repertoire, then this would be an excellent book for you to get the basics down. If you're a more experienced baker and looking for something to challenge you, I don't think this is the book for you. If you are either and you've been getting the magazine for a few years and still have old copies hanging around or have clipped out some of the recipes that have tickled your fancy, this book might be slightly redundant. I am leaning towards re-gifting it.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Interesting, even if too basic for us!



Meg said...

Sorry it wasn't as exciting as you hoped!!! Love the pic of the bread with the cookbook page.

Wandering Coyote said...

I'm sending the book off to my mom, who will totally love it! So, all's not lost...Like I need another cookbook taking up room on my shelves!

Cherie said...

Hey your mom will be delighted with your regifted gift. Have to say, that bread you baked looks good. Like a lot of eats, some things look better than they taste. Thanks for this review!

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the review. My MIL just asked for this for Xmas and I wanted to "see" if it was good.

Tianne said...

even though i consider myself quite advanced, there's something attractive about this book. i'm still deciding whether to buy it or not... i've borrowed it 3x from the library already though :)

Cuffys DSLR Adventure and knitting said...

Hi there, I just found your blog. I have the Canadian Living Baking book. My first recipe attempt was the Crusty Crown loaf. Yeah, I tried three times before accepting that it wasn't going to look like the picture. I love the rest of the book. My next recipes will be the shortbreads. I'll let you know what I think of the brown sugar recipe but I need to know how you got the results in your photo of the Crusty Crown Loaf.


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