King Arthur Flour is well known in the world of baking for their specialty flours and grains, but I love them just as much for their fabulous cookbooks. This special commemorative edition celebrates the company’s 200th anniversary as “purveyors of the finest flour in the world” and gives a nod to all of us who appreciate those products. I think the inscription on the first page “Dedicated to the Pure Joy of Baking for 200 Years” shows that this company really understands the heart of a baker. I love that!
This definitely is not a fancy, high-end cookbook. There are not glossy photos of finished products, but rather hand drawn illustrations scattered about on the pages. Although I do love the slick cookbooks, there’s plenty to love here too. The writing is so down to earth – drastically different from any other cookbook I own. It feels as though someone is patiently explaining the intricacies of baking to me in the most understanding way. They know that yeast can be scary, that we are sometimes running short on time, that we fear a fallen cake, or lament that our pie crusts aren’t as flaky as our grandmothers’ were. As a result, there is a ton of great advice offered on exactly these topics and more. King Arthur intuitively knows exactly where a baker might falter, and offers tips accordingly.
The Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook is an all purpose baking book, with every type of baked good imaginable presented, split into ten chapters. You could literally bake your way from morning to night, starting with pancakes and waffles and ending with a sampler of small pastries. Each chapter begins with a basic primer of that particular type of baked good. These explanations are really fascinating, as they are written from a different view – that of a flour purveyor. These people sure know their ingredients and the effect they have on the finished products. For example, pie crusts are explained in terms of flakeage, with recipes provided for short flake crusts, medium flake crusts and long flake pastry. My favorite was the Sourdough chapter, which thoroughly explains the fermentation process and the different ways to create sourdough starter.
Another distinctive quality of The Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook is that some of the recipes have been in the company for years, while others have been contributed by staff members, customers or business associates. I like reading the little background to each recipe – it makes me feel like I’m getting a tiny story with my scones. Try Brown Bag Banana Bars, a recipe sent in with a customer’s order, or Norwegian Cookies, originally devised in Norway but currently being made in Chicago. I have my eye on Doris Sands’ Oatmeal Crispies (all those grandkids can’t be wrong) and Bert’s Buttermilk Biscuits, made by King Arthur retiree Bert, who bakes just for fun.
So, whatever your areas of hesitation in baking may be, you’ll find the solutions here. Let King Arthur show you the way to flakier pies, fluffier biscuits and cookies that will make the neighbor kids’ knees buckle.
Jen lives in Michigan with her husband and six year old son. She writes reviews of children’s books on her blog, FIRR-Kids and loves filling her own shelves with cookbooks.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Countryman Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.