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Old 01-05-2005, 08:24 AM   #1
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American Culinary Institute is on my black list

I just purchased "Baking at Home" by the ACI. It looks like a very nicely arranged book, with some good looking recipes, and some interesting variations on the classics. I thought it might occupy a nice middle ground between my "Essentials of Baking" (Williams Sonoma) and "Professional Pastry Chef" (Bo Friberg) but I am totally disappointed.

I have tried two recipes, one for challah, and the other for mudslide cookies. Both were completely unworkable as written. The batter for the mudslides was liquid, and the cookies spread out to the size of pankcakes, burning in all but the centers. The challah was simply bizaare and couldn't possibly work as written in the book. After muddling through the recipe, I managed to produce something barely edible.

I have had baking disasters in the past, but I always (rightly) blamed myself, rather than the recipes. However, in this case, having had extensive experience with both challah and similar cookies, I can say with reasonable certainty that the recipes just plain don't work. These recipes are garbage. Not only don't they work, I am doubtful that they CAN work under any circumstances. I am tempted to throw this pretty (and expensive) tome in the trash. Anyone thinking of purchasing this, beware.

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Old 01-05-2005, 08:33 AM   #2
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Why is it some recipes don't work when following exactly? Ever wonder if they work out for others?
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Old 01-05-2005, 02:03 PM   #3
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I had the same problem with the "MasterCook" software. The recipes looked great and many of them were fine but most of them simply didn't make sense, obviously an editing problem. For example, the list of ingredients followed by cooking instructions: "add pureed tomatos and stir." What pureed tomatoes? They weren't on the list. How much? Many of the recipes have this problem. Some of them even lack baking instructions! I don't use that software anymore.
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Old 01-05-2005, 05:29 PM   #4
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Having a few cookbooks under my belt, and working on a couple more, I can safely say that many recipes are written by memory. Often times, the author is poorly trained as a writer. And I would suspect that not all of the recipes are tested.

It is quite tempting to throw in recipes that one would think will work. All I'll say about that (and not to sell my own work, but to point out to others on these boards who may be attempting such a project as writing a cookbook), always test the recipe, even if it's tried and true. That way you can accurately quantify the ingredients, and make sure the technique is correct. Also, a few courses in Tech report writing, at the university level will help you turn cooking jargon into something understandable to the reader. And finally, proofread the work a minimum of 5 seperate times. Then have someone else proofread it. After the rewrites are done, then you may have something that resembles a useful cookbook.

As was said by Thomas Edison, genius is 10%inspiration, and 90% perspiration. I believe that wholeheartedly.

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Old 01-05-2005, 11:46 PM   #5
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The frustrating part was that the recipes were very precise. (even if they don't include mass measurements, which is a big minus) The challah recipe, for example, is very specific: it says mix this for 4 minutes on low speed, knead that for 4 minutes on medium speed. (since it is for "home" bakers I can only assume that they expect you to be using the standard kitchen aid mixer.)

Yet, after following instructions exactly, the dough is CLEARLY not kneaded enough, and is a sticky mass. There clearly isn't enough flour to make it workable.

There is no way this recipe could work as written. Your dough is a limp mass of mush, with almost no gluten development, and it's sticky as hell on top of that. Normally, some hand kneading at the end allows you to work out the kinks, but not so with this dough; you can knead it as much as you want by hand, and even add a cup+ of extra flour, and the dough remains stubbornly sticky and unworkable.

On top of that, it is just a weird recipe. It calls for mixing active dry yeast in with the flour prior to mixing the wet ingredients. Everyone knows that while this method may work for AD, it is not the optimal method, so why do it? Why go out of your way to do things the WRONG way, against all conventional wisdom? Also, why is the loaf so huge? (it is nearly double the mass of a normal loaf in just about every other challah recipe I have seen) Everything about this recipe is just awkward and bizarre.

And this recipe book is very professional looking, making it all the more puzzling.
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Old 01-07-2005, 10:43 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonr
The frustrating part was that the recipes were very precise. (even if they don't include mass measurements, which is a big minus) The challah recipe, for example, is very specific: it says mix this for 4 minutes on low speed, knead that for 4 minutes on medium speed. (since it is for "home" bakers I can only assume that they expect you to be using the standard kitchen aid mixer.)

Yet, after following instructions exactly, the dough is CLEARLY not kneaded enough, and is a sticky mass. There clearly isn't enough flour to make it workable.

There is no way this recipe could work as written. Your dough is a limp mass of mush, with almost no gluten development, and it's sticky as heck on top of that. Normally, some hand kneading at the end allows you to work out the kinks, but not so with this dough; you can knead it as much as you want by hand, and even add a cup+ of extra flour, and the dough remains stubbornly sticky and unworkable.

On top of that, it is just a weird recipe. It calls for mixing active dry yeast in with the flour prior to mixing the wet ingredients. Everyone knows that while this method may work for AD, it is not the optimal method, so why do it? Why go out of your way to do things the WRONG way, against all conventional wisdom? Also, why is the loaf so huge? (it is nearly double the mass of a normal loaf in just about every other challah recipe I have seen) Everything about this recipe is just awkward and bizarre.

And this recipe book is very professional looking, making it all the more puzzling.
I'd like to see that challah recipe, if it's not too much to type. I have a CIA cookbook, and I believe it is the text for the cooking program. If yours is a text book, it should include weights for dry ingredients. does it?
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