On Reviewing Cookbooks

Any time I review a cookbook I make recipes from it first. You can have a gorgeous cookbook written by a famous chef that’s full of errors, and you can have some ugly little book written by someone you’ve never heard of that produces fantastic food. None of which you’ll find out without trying at least a few of the recipes. My rule of thumb is never fewer than three recipes. More if the cookbook is particularly large or has a wide variety of types of foods or recipes. I try to find several types of recipes: something I’m familiar with so I can judge the results against the results of other recipes I’ve tried. Something that sounds off-the-wall ridiculous that I wouldn’t expect to work, just to see if they know some cool thing that I don’t and can make it work. Also, at least one semi-random recipe as extra data to work with. (More if there are other things I’d like to check.)

Right now I’m going through a review cookbook called Bread Revolution. As it turns out, I’m not going to be able to test most of the recipes within the time frame I have. I can get sprouted wheat flour, so I can try out a couple of recipes that use that. Much of the ‘revolution’ the author (Peter Reinhart) is talking about, however, is the concept of “whole-milled flour” which has some differences from regular whole grain flours. I can’t find whole-milled flour in my town so far (and yes, I’ve checked the Whole Foods), and there’s a limit to what I’m willing to track down and pay for in order to write about a book someone gave me for review. Also, in searching for whole milled flour, I found a bunch of flours that didn’t use that particular phrasing but from the descriptions might qualify as what Reinhart’s discussing. So no, I’m just not going to be reviewing recipes that use whole-milled flour.

If I find it later, if it does become as big a thing as the author seems to think it will, then I’ll come back and add to the review when I can make more recipes from the cookbook. Think of it as a two-stage review. I believe this may be the first time I’ve had to do this.

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