Sometimes, it's the basic things that can trip you up..... When I was working on…
Well, when it comes to food that is…..
There is nothing like a great reference book when you are working on a recipe or trying to figure out what went wrong with the “well-tested” recipe you got off the Internet. These are books I have on my bookshelf and are my “go-to” sources when I need information about a particular ingredient, process of why something works, or more often – why it didn’t. If you want to learn more about the food world around you, these are great sources you should have on your shelf!
The two books I reference more than any other were written by my friend Shirley Corriher. Shirley is an amazing lady and a walking treasure trove of all information culinary. Her two books, Cookwise and Bakewise take the approach of explaining a particular aspect of cooking, whether it be an ingredient or method and then provide recipes that demonstrate the concepts. (Don’t miss the Take-Your-Breath-Away Lemon Pound Cake on Page 25!) Bakewise has been a great resource for me – as many of you know, baking is more of a science and there is a balance between the liquid, flour, sugar, eggs and other ingredients. Shirley does a great job of laying out these formulas. I had a cake recipe I was developing that just wasn’t coming out quite right – Bakewise was my next stop for figuring out what was going on. Using the formulas, I determined that I had all of my ingredients balanced, so why wasn’t it working? A few pages over, Shirley was talking about the effects of pH on baked goods and BINGO – there was the problem, I needed a little more acid in the cake. Switched the Dutch Processed Cocoa to Natural Cocoa and added a little Cream of Tartar (Tartaric Acid) to the egg whites and presto, had a FABULOUS chocolate cake!
My next go to book is “The Science of Good Food” by David Joachim and Andrew Schloss. I’ve had the opportunity to meet both David and Andrew through IACP. Their approach is different in that they take a more “encyclopedic” organization. They list ingredients and techniques and provide a tremendous amount of information about each one. If I want to look up some fact I need, this is a great resource. I use this book when I’m preparing a cooking class for background information for the class.
Besides Shirley, Harold McGee is one of the other leading food scientists around. He has written many books, but the two I use are: “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” and “Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes.” Harold’s approach is more of a deep dive and when I can’t find the information I need or I just want to really understand something better, then I go to one of these books.
There are a number of other reference books, (and I own a number of them!) however, these have about everything I’ve ever needed to know. If you have books that you like to use, please let me know which ones they are – add them to the comment section.
Bottom line, if you want to improve your cooking and understand more about the inner workings of the ingredients while you are cooking you need to have some reference material. As you can tell from the pictures, I have all of these books, but if I could only have one, it would be “Bakewise.” (That’s a really hard choice because all 5 have a lot of value to me.)