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Looking for book on Food Science &amp...

Mary's picture

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I'm looking for a book that explains the why's of baking. I just bought _Cookwise_ by Shirley Corriher which is pretty good, but I'd really like more info on baking - specifically cakes, muffins, quick breads, cookies and brownies - how to change ingredients for different textures, etc.
I also thought about looking into _The Cake Bible_ or maybe even _The Curious Cook_. Does anyone have suggestions for a book on this subject?

Thanks

Sandra_'s picture

(post #59452, reply #1 of 24)

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Mary
There is a relatively recent book that explains food chemistry for the layperson. I think it's called "Food Science," but can confirm or correct that info for you a bit later. Will get back to you with the name, author and publication info.

Gerard's picture

(post #59452, reply #2 of 24)

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Mary,

No book that REALLY does what you need as far as I know. Forget the cake bible, anything with a name that pretentious should warn you away. Rose can't bake period. The only way to get what you want is to do the training.
Even the professional books from the CIA barely scratch the surface.
The reason for no books is once you do the training theres no need to read about what you know, more importantly, you can't learn a trade from a book.

What exactly do you need to know, I know it all but can't spend 20 hrs a day typing.

Regards, Gerard (just a baker).

Juli_R's picture

(post #59452, reply #3 of 24)

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Try searching for books by Harold McGee, he's an authority on kitchen and food science. He's got a few books out. I have his "On Food and Cooking" and it's extremely comprehensive on all food science, not just baking. I'm not sure if it'll cover your baking needs, if you're looking for the rules on how much baking powder you need to leven a cup of flour, etc.

You could also try Cooks Illustrated's publications.

Carolina's picture

(post #59452, reply #4 of 24)

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The first book that comes to mind is THE CAKE BIBLE, the second is THE PIE AND PASTRY BIBLE; both by Rose Levy Beranbaum. They are both excellent. BTW, THE CAKE BIBLE didn't win Cookbook of the Year-1998 from the International Association of Culinary Professionals for nothing!

Jean_'s picture

(post #59452, reply #5 of 24)

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Every once in a while I think I detect a little teensy-weensy bit of professional rivalry in these posts--I know it couldn't be jealousy!! :-)

Sandra_'s picture

(post #59452, reply #6 of 24)

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Hi -- data on the book I mentioned:

Rosenthal, Sylvia & Shinagle, Fran. How Cooking Works. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc. 1981.

Sorry, my memory was that the book was much more recent than it is. It may be out of print, but you might be able to track it through a library. BTW, doesn't Joy of Cooking have some info on the subject?

Gerard: some of us are just interested in the chemistry of food for the sake of being interested -- doesn't make us better cooks, but might make us better conversationalists...

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #59452, reply #7 of 24)

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While The Cake Bible is a wonderful cookbook, that is what it is - strictly a cookbook. One suggestion is to go to Amazon.com and do a search on "food science" or "food chemistry". I am betting that the list it will give you (if there is indeed a selection) will in no way resemble cookbook titles.

It's good to have a basic understanding of why cream of tartar keeps egg whites fluffy and what ingredients should and should not be combined but don't drive yourself crazy or you will see the contents of your KitchenAid bowl as a mathematical equation instead of a yummy batter!!

Carolina's picture

(post #59452, reply #8 of 24)

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Hey, Jean......Nahhhhhh! :-) But you got to love him. Anybody with an ego
i that big
has to have
i something
going for him!

Carolina's picture

(post #59452, reply #9 of 24)

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Sandra,

I've got that book and thought no one except me even
knew it existed. What a surprise! I guess, as they say, "Great mind think alike!"

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #59452, reply #10 of 24)

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Try Professional Baking (Gisslan)..Before you guys jump all over me, I know all of the recipes suck, but at least it has some theory not found in most cookbooks.
Also, With all due deference to Gerard, I happen to like Carole Walters books (Great Cakes,Great Pies and tarts) as well as both of Rose's books. However there is little science, but some very good recipes. OOPs, I forgot my favorite (the edit does work) Nancy Silverton's Desserts.

Gerard's picture

(post #59452, reply #11 of 24)

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I think those cookbooks are better than scientific knowledge, I once taught a community baking class called "cooking is an art and baking is a science but lets not make it rocket science".
The other downside to the science is it does nothing for the cake in the end, 99 out of a 100 good bakers have no idea of the science because if you can do it right first time every time?

Willie has more science than I care to want to know about but theres some good info on chemistry.
http://users.accesscomm.net/~prejean/

I don't believe in acting humble, I'm not that great.!

Cheers, Gerard

Gerard's picture

(post #59452, reply #12 of 24)

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Hi Sandra,

>some of us are just interested in the chemistry of food for the sake of
being interested -- doesn't make us better cooks, but might make us better
conversationalists...
>>

Its interesting for sure, but unless you grasp the big picture of how reactions interelate between products....

The action of Baking soda in a batter is one thing but does something different with egg whites.
I've never seen a book that puts it all together in a cogent form. I have a lot of very good professional books but they just touch on the chemistry in one section, we're supposed to know already, the other reason it isn't addressed is because its irrelevant.
I had one of the baking science books put out by a school and couldn't see the connection between the science and the practical application.

For instance, culinary school grads will inform you that eggs coagulate at (duh?) degrees when trying to make a creme anglais, I consider that to be useless infomation. A pastry chef has to learn how to work without a thermometer in the pan or they'll never learn the skill, the books also don't teach how to fix it when it seperates and a thermometer won't help there either.
A certified master chef I know says to test cheesecake with a thermometer because eggs coagulate at (?)F , again, he's making rocket science instead of developing the simple tricks that comprise an acquired skill. Which can only make a baker wonder who's certifying these guys?

Regards, Gerard

Sandra_'s picture

(post #59452, reply #13 of 24)

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Gerard, I really love the name of your baking class -- if I lived in Boston the name alone would have had me signed up! Have to agree that getting too hung up on the science of baking is a dead-end -- nobody ever turned out a napolean in a petri dish. Still, it is fun to know approximately why & how things happen in the kitchen.

Gerard's picture

(post #59452, reply #14 of 24)

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Sandra sez,

>>Still, it is fun to know approximately why & how things happen in the kitchen. >>

Yeh, some things are fascinating.
I don't know if I ever posted info on chocolate, I actually just stumped the cocoa mfgers board with this.

WHy can't you make chocolate in the kitchen.?
I'll send you the cocoa mass/cocoa butter/sugar etc.
(No, its not the conching machine...as they thought)

What chemical is it in a yolk that allows it to form emulsions so effectively.?

Or the history of eclair dough, choux - french for cabbage because the paste was formed from potato and eggs, shaped like a cabbage with a spoon and baked. The Parisien pastry chef Avice developed the modern method in 1760 with flour cooked into the butter/water and added eggs which made it puff.
HE got it from earlier developments of fried doughs which have their genesis in Saracen? Arabia and were brought back by the French crusaders.

Fascinating but useless info for the professional.
The only reason I know is because I get asked too often.

Cheers, Gerard

Jean_'s picture

(post #59452, reply #15 of 24)

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Gerard, your last comment was a riot--may I quote you on that?

Mary's picture

(post #59452, reply #16 of 24)

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MC,

Unfortunately, Silverton's book is out of print! I might still be able to get it, but I'm curious as to how complicated or sophisticated her desserts are since I'm just a home baker and have more ambition than talent. Would you consider these "profesional" recipes or not that much more complicated than Cake Bible or Pies and Tarts?
Thanks
Mary

Rebecca's picture

(post #59452, reply #17 of 24)

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Fine Cooking and Cooks' Illustrated are good sources since they very often address the science part of recipes.

Also, Cook's Illustrated often goes through many variations on a theme to achieve various results as the original poster is interested in (you also get a rundown, sometimes comical, of various methods they tried but failed to get good results from).

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #59452, reply #18 of 24)

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Same level of difficulty as cake bible, Great Cakes etc.

Sandra_'s picture

(post #59452, reply #19 of 24)

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Okay -- I'll bite.Why *is* it impossible to make chocolate in the kitchen?

Gerard's picture

(post #59452, reply #20 of 24)

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You can't get the sugar in, its not dissolved but processed in by a roller machine.
Corn syrup and glucose have way too much water for use in chocolate.

kai_'s picture

(post #59452, reply #21 of 24)

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Hi Sandra,

I, too, am interested in the science behind certain food "secrets," and find I retain information better if I understand the "whys" rather than relying on memorization of facts (and this pertains to all aspects of learning for me--if I understand the "why" it's easier to remember the what).

One example is making meringue--this has taken quite a while to absorb, as I am not much of a pie baker, but I now know (I think) that the bowl should be copper (why?) and it and beaters should be cold (why?). But I can never remember if the egg whites should also be cold!

Another example that I DO understand--leaving chunks of butter or whatever in a pastry crust to make it flakey--the chunks (well, they get flattened after rolling) form a bit of a pocket of air, lending lightness to the crust.

I visited the site (prejean?) that Gerard recommended, and agree that it is a bit much; however, I like a bit much :) Guess I was born with the curse of excessive curiousity--sort of a science geek type. On another board, I am constantly bugging one person about the elementary ("elements") of this and that (I think she has a chemistry background).

Should you find some good online sources or books for this information that we both crave (whether for conversation or just plain food junkie knowledge), please post!

TIA,
kai

Gerard's picture

(post #59452, reply #22 of 24)

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Kai,

You don't need copper for egg whites, supposedly the electrolytic reaction between the bowl and the blah blah blah, either you can make good meringue or you can't.
Heres better info on egg whites, they expand or inflate exponentially, 2 egg whites will give a volume x6 but 3 egg whites expand on the order of 14...and so on. The numbers are not exact but they give you the general idea. The biggest danger is overwhipping when people try to get too much volume out of a couple of whites.

On the bowl and whip...why would a bowl be hot as opposed to cold? swiss and italien require some heating either on a flame or by introducing boiled sugar, so ordinary meringue would see a cold bowl.
Ditto for the whip, eggs are often left out at room temps, they are easier to seperate and probably do handle better in general, I still don't bother refrigerating eggs, as long as there are no cracks in the shell nothing can get in.
Salmonella schmalmonella.
Anyway with the coming of radiation for eggs that won't be an issue anymore.

There are no secrets, maybe things we haven't learned yet.

Regards, Gerard

kai_'s picture

(post #59452, reply #23 of 24)

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Oh my goodness! Thanks Gerard! See how little I knew, even when I thought I knew a little something! (A little knowledge may not be dangerous, but may be just that--a little...and wrong.)

And, now I guess I don't have to throw out the eggs I didn't bother to refrigerate :) -- although I don't look forward to the radiation thing.

You are a gem, Gerard. (I'll probably still be buying, rather than making, my pies, however. Make mine lemon meringue, please.)

best,
kai

Gerard's picture

(post #59452, reply #24 of 24)

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Hey Kai,

Whilst I haven't seen any ONE book I do have and use the Professional French Pastry series by Roland Bilheux and ALain escoffier, 4 pastry books for $200 approx. I bet I could pull $500 worths books from your collection that you wish you didn't buy.
The series I quoted would never fit that description.
They are the only professional books that actually accomodate the amateur with smaller quatities , approx 5 photos on every page. They give the history of each item and chemistry background.

I've only found a couple of items that I could improve on in the book (madelaines and flan), this is one rare instance where I trust a book blindly.

You'd look at this set and throw away the others.

Cheers, Gerard