"The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook"

Pros: Inexpensive, delicious recipes; fabulous reading; wonderful explanatory material; huge number of recipes
Cons: None yet!
Rating: 5 out of 5

First posted 7/10/2000

I’m a big fan of the King Arthur Flour Company. I’ve used their flour for years because it has more protein and gluten than regular flours. I’ve ordered from their catalog because although their prices are a little high, they have wonderful baking supplies. When I visit my mother in Vermont I make it a point to drop by the KAF store, where I always spend way too much money.

This last Christmas was one of those visits. I looked at the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook for the fifth time in as many years and debated. It’s sort of one of those “a little bit of everything” cookbooks, and I’m not all that fond of those. My fiancee and I have so many cookbooks that usually we don’t buy another now unless we find something a little unusual, or a cookbook on a cuisine or type of food that we don’t know much about yet.

Then I decided, what the heck. We put it in our basket. We’d picked up even more stuff than usual that Christmas, and the folks at the cash register gave us the cookbook for free in thanks – their usual friendly, warm customer service.

I started reading the cookbook on the way home (don’t worry – I wasn’t the one driving!). For the next few days, whenever I had free time I read the book. It’s absolutely fascinating reading. It has a lot of explanation as to why things are done in various ways throughout the recipes. It also has personal stories behind a lot of the recipes. It’s one of the few cookbooks I’ve enjoyed just sitting down to read, instead of simply combing for recipes.

Then we got home from our visit and started cooking. Now, we have a rating system for recipes with which we mark up cookbooks; it means we won’t re-make something that sucked, and if something was really good we’ll remember to make it again. It’s fairly fine-graded. One to three + signs for lousy to mediocre recipes, followed by one to three *s for good to really good food, and a really huge star for truly great food. We have never made anything from this cookbook that didn’t get a great big star!

First of all, this book is huge. You won’t get to the appendices and index until page 567! All that for a standard price of $24. It’s all about baking: Chapter 2 is pancakes, popovers, waffles, and crepes. Chapter 3 is quick breads, muffins, biscuits and scones. Chapter 4 is yeasted breads and rolls, as well as coffeecakes. Chapter 5 is cakes, crumbles, crisps, and puddings. Chapter 6 is cookies, bars, crackers, and flatbreads. It goes on, through pies and pastries, pasta, whole wheat, sourdough, and fun recipes for kids.

When they call this the 200th anniversary cookbook, they don’t mean that these are recipes that have been collecting dust in someone’s cupboard for 200 years. They mean that these recipes have been tested, re-tested, and perfected for 200 years in King Arthur Flour’s test kitchens.

The sausage, cheese, and apple bread is soft, moist, and delectable, with lots of flavor. The almond cream cake, which somehow I expected to be average, had the most delicate almond flavor and creamy texture. We served it with strawberries and maple-sweetened whipped cream. There’s a curry pizza that is surprisingly delicious, with a marvelous sweet-tartness. The recipes tend to come with many suggestions for variations and serving methods.

If you only have the money to buy one baking book, this is it. It’s designed for the home cook, with simple methods and ingredients. Directions are explained well, and you’ll understand why they do things the way they do them. Besides, it has recipes for EVERYTHING!

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