BAKING STEP BY STEP: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO START BAKING NOW! by Better Homes and Gardens

PUBLISHER:  BHG, 3/2015
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A-

FROM PUBLISHER: Better Homes and Gardens Baking Step by Step is the ultimate guide and idea-generator for anyone who wants to learn to bake or hone their technique. This stunning book uses clear, step-by-step photos—more than 900 of them—to illustrate essential skills from folding batter to forming a lattice pie crust. Home bakers can make 350 classic and modern treats, both sweet and savory.

Learn to roll and bake the perfect flaky tart or frost and decorate a celebration-worthy cake—or start simple with Peanut Butter Blondie Bars or Blueberry Crisp; Skill Level icons flag recipes easy, easier, or easiest to make. Complete with an Intro to Baking covering everything from stocking the kitchen to using a rolling pin, this colorful book makes baking fun and accessible for everyone.




THINGS I'VE BAKED 

TWO-CHEESE VEGETABLE QUICHE


Now this was good and is something I'll make for the rest of my life. It has eggs, a little milk, two cheeses, finely chopped carrot, condensed cream of broccoli soup, garlic, pepper, and I used dried chives in place of fresh green onion. This is basically a frittata in a pie crust with the addition of soup- anything you'd add to your scrambled eggs/omlet you can add to this, including leftover finely chopped cooked veggies and any seasonings you'd like. You could also use condensed cream of potato (which has good flavor. I use it for pot pie) or cream of mushroom.

You prebake the pie crust for about 15 minutes at a high temperature, which I don't think is necessary, pour your egg mixture into it, and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. That will happen after the top browns slightly and puffs up. Mine baked in 37 minutes on 350 degrees. It was almost 1 1/2 c. too much mixture for a standard 9"/1qt. pie plate so I had to throw the extra out. Next time I'll use my 10" pie plate. I think there's a bit too much cheese, 1c. total, so I'll cut back next time. I finely chopped my cheese instead of shredding it in the food processor. I won't use a crust next time either- I'll line the pie plate with foil and spray it generously with nonstick cooking spray and pour the mixture right into it. The egg will set up and be firm and will come right out of the foil-lined dish. If you love the taste of store-bought or homemade pie crust, use it. I don't care for crust so the foil method will be what I use.

EDIT: I made this using foil sprayed heavily with nonstick cooking spray and the egg stuck just a little in a few places. I made it again a few weeks later using nonstick foil and nothing stuck at all.

The quiche bakes up to a pretty thin layer, just under an inch in height. This doesn't get that awful browned egg taste either.



HERBED CHEESE AND BACON BISCUITS

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These didn't turn out too good. They're doughy inside, outside has a smooth batter-type look, and they barely browned on top. The flavor is alright. I can't taste the herbed cheese much and I can't taste the cooked onion at all. I didn't use bacon. The bottom of the biscuit has a good taste. I definitely wouldn't make these again.

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CHOCOLATE CAKE


This cake is perfect but needed a pinch more salt. Tastes like a boxed devil's food cake and uses unsweetened cocoa powder. I made half the recipe and lined the bottom of the pan with wax paper for easy removal of the cake. There was too much batter for a 9" x 1 1/2" round pan but it didn't spill over. You can see in my photo that the cake is thick because of it. I recommend using 9" x 2" round pans for this if you have them. It took 28 minutes to bake.

You can't really see it in the photo but I made a chocolate pourable frosting for this then put my own thicker vanilla frosting on top of that. This recipe gives you several frosting options but I chose to use my own. Very good and very simple to make, and I'll definitely continue to make this.



CHOCOLATE CHIP-OATMEAL CAKE


This is a unique cake. You soak quick oats in boiling water for a short time. This also has a minuscule amount of unsweetened cocoa powder in it, 1 tablespoon for full recipe, and full size chocolate chips. It's very moist but has a slight spongy texture and needs more salt, probably 1/4 teaspoon more for half the cake. It's a bit off-tasting but that seemed to get better the next day. The chocolate chips sunk to the bottom. Because of the sponginess I wouldn't make this again though it's not a bad recipe.

I made half the recipe in an 8" x 2" round pan. I lined the bottom of the pan with wax paper for easy cake removal. It baked in 30 minutes. The recipe didn't call for vanilla extract but I added some. I used mini semisweet chocolate chips in the batter and they sunk to the bottom. I didn't sprinkle nuts and chocolate chips on top before baking like the recipe stated to do but did make my own pourable chocolate frosting for it and sprinkled it with lightly toasted and chopped pecans.

Pourable chocolate frosting: In microwave-safe quart size bowl heat together 2 tablespoons butter or margarine and 4 1/2 teaspoons whole milk until the butter has melted. Add to that 1 cup powdered sugar, one tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Mix well and pour over cooled cake. It will firm up slightly as it sits but will remain a bit moist. You can make this a thicker frosting by using room temperature butter and room temperature milk and beating all ingredients together at once with a hand mixer.




SUGAR COOKIE CUTOUTS


I added lemon extract to this dough. I formed the dough into a plastic wrapped log and refrigerated it to make them slice 'n bake cookies instead of rolling them out and using cookie cutters. I got twenty-two 1/2" slices/2" diameter cookies that baked up to be 2 3/4" wide. I baked them for nine minutes. These smell and taste good but they're cake-like and I'm not happy about that. The dough never got very firm and I just don't think this would make a good rollout dough. I through the remaining dough in the trash.




STREUSEL COFFEE CAKE


I made half of this in an 8" x 2" round pan. I lined the bottom with wax paper. This cake is supposed to have blueberries and a mixture of brown sugar and pecans layered between the batter and sprinkled on top. I used drained tart pitted cherries tossed with almond extract in place of blueberries, ground almonds and a mixture of light brown sugar and white sugar in the streusel instead of all brown sugar. The recipe had no salt in it so I added 1/4 teaspoon and it was perfect. The cake is alright, nothing special, and not as moist as I'd hoped. The flavor is decent but the moisture from the cherries mixing with the sugar from the streusel made it soggy in the middle. The amount of glaze I made was enough. You'll need to use at least three bowls to make this. I wouldn't make this again.



CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE


This recipe turned out to be almost perfect. I overcooked mine a little, which caused the pecans to overbrown, be a touch bitter, and store-bought crust to crumble away on the outside (which is fine by me since I don't like crust). I made half the recipe in my mothers ancient (from about the early 1980's) clear mini Pyrex pie plate. It's has a 2 1/2 c. capacity and measures internally 7" x 1 1/2".

I don't know why this recipe didn't have salt in it but I added 1/4 t. and it was perfect, even with the salty margarine I used. I used 1/3 c. bittersweet chocolate chips since I didn't have semisweet and I used 2/3 c. chopped pecans. It cooled at room temperature for almost three hours before I cut into it. It was still slightly warm but it held its shape perfectly when cut. This will be my go-to pecan pie recipe, with or without chocolate, and I'll make sure to not overbrown it. The pie didn't taste as burnt as it looks!




WHITE CAKE


These cupcakes turned out perfectly. I made just half the recipe and made cupcakes instead of a round cake. I used foil liners. I got ten standard size cupcakes that baked in 16-17 minutes. To the batter I added half of a small jar of maraschino cherries that were drained and puréed in the food processor for four seconds. The cake uses egg whites, not whole eggs, that don't have to be whipped up separately. It's extremely moist. I added 1/8 teaspoon of almond extract, which I always add to batter that uses maraschino cherries, but I couldn't taste it so I'll need to use 1/4 teaspoon next time. I made my own buttercream frosting for it though the recipe gave me several frosting options to use with it.




CHERRY COBBLER


This was great. I love tart cherries but hardly ever use them. I made a little less than the recipe stated. I used three cans of drained tart pitted cherries plus part of another can, for about 5 cups total, not six like the recipe stated. I used 1/4 cup less sugar and slightly less corn starch. I added 1/4 teaspoon of salt though the recipe called for none. Salt is 100% necessary in this filling. I added 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract and its taste is subtle and perfect. The mixture is a little too juicy and needed more corn starch. Next time I'll spoon off some of the sauce before baking it. The topping is a moist drop topping. You cut cold butter into dry ingredients then stir in an egg and milk and drop it evenly over the batter. I added 1/4 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract to the mixture. The topping needs more sugar but other than that, it's good. Good recipe and I'll make half next time.

I used Oregon™ red tart cherries. One can drained is about 1 1/2 cups.




CRANBERRY POUND CAKE


I cut this recipe in half and made six jumbo cupcakes (twice the size of standard ones) instead, using a heaping 1/3 c. of batter for each one. As you can see that was all the batter needed to fill these. I added orange extract too and slightly more dried cranberries than called for though they needed more. These could use more sugar too. The texture is nice but these aren't as moist as I'd hoped even though the batter has sour cream in it. In fact it's pretty dry. I also made a glaze for them. They baked in 25 minutes. I don't think I'd make these again.




DESSERT OVEN PANCAKE


This is baked egg custard so I'm not sure why they've called it a 'pancake', which is nothing like custard. It's very good and very unhealthy. It's made with three eggs, cream, whole milk (I just used half and half), and some other basic things.

I used very thinly sliced apples layered between the batter in place of plums or pears and I added cinnamon to the batter. Some of the apples rose to the top. I can't taste the salt at all so I'll double it next time to 1/4 teaspoon. I used far less vanilla than called for. I baked this the full time given, 55 minutes, in a 9" pie plate (1 quart capacity). It deflated to just under 1" in thickness. We were to 'generously grease' the dish so I just lined it with nonstick foil. I dusted the top with powdered sugar just for looks. This has the right amount of sugar in it. This tastes very good and I'll continue to make it. This can be made in a round or rectangular dish instead of a pie dish.





CHUNKY PATH BROWNIES


Chocolate never tasted so good. These cake-like brownies are make with a small amount of cocoa powder that you heat with butter and water, then mix into the rest of the ingredients. I made half in an 8"pan and they baked in 25 minutes. They're pretty thick, about 1 3/4", so I'd make them in a 9" square pan next time. I didn't put mini marshmallows on top nor did I make the chocolate 'topper' to pour on top of them. These needed double the salt since I can't even tell these have any in it, and that's with me already doubling the salt to 1/4 teaspoon. I dusted the top with powdered sugar and cut them into six pieces.


 

MY THOUGHTS: What fun it was baking from this for months. The book is a large paperback that's in full-color. There's photos for every recipe though not always of the finished product. The recipes are very simple to make, nothing complicated, fancy, or too time consuming, except for some yeast bread recipes. This has mostly sweets/dessert recipes with only a few biscuit and yeast bread categories. I would have liked more cookie recipes.

Only five out of twelve recipes that I've made are ones I wouldn't make again. There are so many more that I plan to try in the future. The two-cheese vegetable quiche recipe alone is worth more than the price of the book, as well as the chocolate cake recipe. The biscuits were the most disappointing.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.





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