Sunday, October 29, 2006

Plonk Wines

I just discovered that the Boston Globe has a column devoted to the best plonk of the month. The explanation of the column from their website:

"This is a monthly column on $10-and-under wines we call "plonk," which began as British slang for the cheapest drink served, and is now widely used to mean simple, inexpensive bottles. "Plonk of the month" appears on the last Wednesday of the month and is posted on

Wines are selected to go with the season, so winter's heartier fare might lean more toward reds, but whites appear more often as the weather warms. We list several shops where you can buy these bottles, but check with your local merchant."

Here's the link to this month's column:, as well as a backlisting of their columns for the last few months. The Globe has also recently published an article entitled "Plonkapalooza" wherein they tasted 50 wines sold for around $10 or less per bottle and chose their favorite top 10: Three cheers for good wine on the cheap!

Comfort Cookies

I grew up in the Midwest during a time when going out to eat was still considered a rare luxury and the whole idea of 'take-out' was still catching on. We had the odd Pizza Hut pizza, and I can distinctly remember a few celebration meals at Sarah's, a bone fide American steak house in Algona, Iowa. But for the most part all of our meals were cooked and eaten at home. My parents both cooked--Dad mostly managed the garden and made the breads and soups, and Mom...well, Mom did pretty much everything else. From a young age, my brother and I were corralled into chopping vegetables, stirring soups, punching down bread doughs (ok, we actually fought over who got to do that one), cutting fruit for salad, and a host of other meal prep tasks.

This all sounds very wholesome and apple-cheeked, I'm sure, but in reality, my brother and I fought all this home-cooking tooth and nail. Whole-wheat bread tasted gross and the slices were too thick for sandwiches. Home-made cookies weren't "cool" enough when packed into school lunches. Hamburgers that didn't come from McDonald's just weren't the same. We adored Halloween with its abundance of commercially-made sweetness. I'm sure Mom and Dad thought they'd given birth to palate-challenged morons, but still, they persevered. A few 5-minute time outs on the back stairs and commands to eat now-cold plates of brussel sprouts (grown in our backyard, of course) didn't faze them in the least.

Still, something must have stuck because
my brother is happily employed as a line cook in a restaurant in Wisconsin, and here I am gleefully spending a Sunday afternoon dividing my time between my foodie blog and going through back issues of Bon Appetit, Saveur, and Gastronomica. In the past few months, my mother has repeatedly said, "I never would have thought this is what you and Andy would end up getting into"--always in the same slightly incredulous voice.

So when I find myself in need of some comfort food, what I crave is chili that's been simmering all afternoon, thick-sliced bread--toasted and buttered, and perhaps most of all, home-made chocolate chip cookies. It could be that I love these chocolate chip cookies just because they're familiar, but I haven't found another cookie anywhere else that I would take over my mother's. A few years ago when I was first living on my own and had a hankering for them, I called her up one afternoon and--for the first time ever--asked her for the recipe.

This recipe is basically the same recipe that's off the back of the Nestle chocolate chip bag, but with a few modifications of ingredients and procedure. First of all, use only one stick of butter instead of two. Surprisingly, the reason for this is not to cut down on the fat but to improve the texture of the cookie. More butter will make the cookie flatter and crispier. Less fat makes a denser cookie that is chewy without being cake-y.

Second (and this is my own modification), use dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar. Dark brown sugar gives the cookie a deeper flavor with the subtle taste of molasses. I feel this creates a nice balance to the sweetness of the white sugar and compliments the semi-sweet chocolate.

Third, all of the ingredients should be room temperature, especially the butter and eggs. It's best if you let them come to room temperature on their own, but in a pinch you can microwave the butter for a few seconds until soft and put the eggs in a bowl of hot tap water for about 5 minutes.

And fourth, add the flour last (except for the chocolate chips) and mix very little to avoid forming any gluten. Developing the gluten in the flour will make your cookies hard and tough. You want a little gluten development for the chew (which is why you use all-purpose flour instead of pastry flour) but not too much.

Everyone has their own version of the perfect cookie, and this one is definitely mine. Chewy and moist, plenty of chocolate chips, not too sweet--it takes me right back to those school lunches trying fruitlessly to trade them away for Kudos bars and Chips Ahoy. But really? I was just as glad to keep them for myself.


Francis Family Chocolate Chip Cookies
modified from Nestle's Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe

Makes about 36 large cookies or 72 small cookies.

3/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
1 stick real butter (softened)
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
~2 c. (about 1 bag) of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the two sugars together in a medium sized bowl. Mix in the butter gobs at a time. Mix in the eggs and vanilla, and then the salt and baking soda. Mix all of these ingredients as much as possible until the batter is smooth, shiny, and a rich brown color.

Add the flour all at once and mix as little as possible (to avoid forming gluten, which makes tough cookies). I prefer to fold the flour into the batter until it's evenly incorporated. To do this, run a long-handled spoon or spatula around the edge of the bowl under the batter. Smoothly lift the batter slightly and fold it toward the center of the bowl. Continue doing this at intervals along the entire circumference of the bowl and then continue until all the flour is incorporated. The dough will look like a grainy, light brown paste.

Stir in the chocolate chips all at once, again mixing as little as possible (and again, I prefer to fold the chocolate chips into the batter).

Drop batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet using a full tablespoon (for larger cookies) or a well-rounded teaspoon (for smaller cookies).
Space them about two inches apart--they will spread a tiny bit as they bake. Bake for 9-11 minutes until the 'peaks' on the cookies are just starting to brown (leave cookies in longer for crunchier cookies). Allow to cool for about 5 minutes on a cooling rack before devouring. (I know it's hard, but it's worth it. If you eat them right away, not only will you burn your tongue and thus not be able to enjoy anymore tasty treats for a while, but when it first comes out of the oven, the cookie is actually still quite liquidy and will collapse on itself and on you until it has a few minutes to set.)

-->Large cookies are about 3 inches in diameter and are about 3 WeightWatchers points each.
-->Small cookies are about 1.5 inches in diameter and are about 1.5 WeightWatchers points each. (By the by, these smaller cookies definitely do not feel skimpy. They pack the same flavor, chew, and chocolate as the regular cookies--they're just portion controlled. I think the small cookies are the perfect size for feeling like you really had a good, satisfying treat.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bagels n' Brunch

'Twas the Engineer's birthday this past weekend and we had his family over for brunch. Yee-haw, what a spread! Never was there a more perfect union of breakfast and lunch, or a better brunch been brunched. As we all sat there patting our stomachs and dabbing butter from our chins, the Engineer said, "We should really do this more often! No, really!" There was a little bit of something for everyone: the Engineer crafted gigantic omelets with cheese and ham and onions and peppers (from my garden, in fact!); we bought the "fancy" (read: slightly more expensive) bacon; the Mother of the Engineer arrived hidden behind a bowl of cut fruit that was half the size of our dining room table; the Father of the Engineer produced lox and cream cheese like a magician; tea and cider and organic pomegranate juice were drunk with reckless abandon. And what, you ask, was my contribution to this Brunch Debauchery? Well, one can't exactly have lox and cream cheese without bagels, now can one?

Bagels are one of those mythical bread products that home cooks speak about in hushed voices and wit
h much incredulous shaking of the head. Well, the biggest mystery seems to surround this whole issue of boiling. To boil or not to boil? How long? Why boil in the first place? WTF?!

The secret to baking a good, chewy bagel is actually a combination of boiling the bagels very briefly and then baking until golden brown on the outside. Bagels should be boiled for a total of at least 20 seconds and certainly no more than 30 seconds. This is just long enough to cook the outside layer of dough, which kills the yeast on the surface (making a tight, chewy skin), caramelizes the outside starches, and gives the bagel its nice shine. Boiling the bagel for any longer just makes the skin thicker and and more inelastic, and gives you a final product as dense as a hockey puck. You want some elasticity in the skin so the bagel can still rise a bit in the oven and so that the bagel is still...well...edible.

One other essential step to making good bagels is a retarded rise (a long, slow rise at a low temperature) overnight in the refrigerator. This improves the overall taste of the bagels and the structure of the interior crumb. (For more info on the how and why of retarded rises, click HERE.) Using high-gluten flour
will also help improve the internal structure and chew. It's great if you have access to it, but for the home-baker, all-purpose flour works just as well.

It takes some planning and some trial 'n error, but making good quality bagels at home is not nearly as mysterious or as impossible as rumor would have you believe. For those of you out there saying,
"Bake bagels, who me? Naw, I couldn't!" Oh, pshaw, y'all! Read on:

from Breads from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton

Makes about 18 bagels

12 oz (~1 1/2 c.) water
2 tsp yeast
13 1/2 oz (~1 1/2 c) sourdough starter*
2 lbs (~6 1/2 c) all-purpose flour
2 oz (~1/4 c) sugar
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp barley malt syrup**
6 tbsp milk powder

*If you don't have SD starter, substitute 6.5 oz water and 6.5 oz flour. You shouldn't notice anything too different in the final flavor or texture--I'm just a SD fiend, so I throw it in everything!
**It took me a while to find barley malt syrup--try Whole Foods, Wild Oats, or another natural food store. (Trader Joe's does NOT carry it.) It's not 100% essential to the quality or the baking of the bagel, but does enhance the flavor.

Making the Dough

(note: bagel dough is very dense and stiff, so it's easiest to mix it in an electric stand mixer, at least for the initial mixing of the ingredients. Keep a close eye on your mixer, though, to be sure it's not straining too hard to mix the dough and wearing on the engine. Also completely fine to mix by hand.)

Step 1: Pour water into a bowl and add yeast. Allow yeast to dissolve and ferment for about three minutes, and then mix in the sourdough starter. Add sugar, salt, malt syrup, and milk powder, and stir to combine.

Step 2: Add in flour one cup at a time. This is one bread where you actually want to add as much flour as you can. Having said that, keep an eye on the dough--you don't want it to get too dry. The dough should be moist and slightly tacky too the touch, but shouldn't stick at all to your hands or the counter. The dough will be very stiff and dense. The recipe calls for 6.5 cups, but I usually end up adding about 5.5 cups.

Step 3: Turn the dough onto a floured counter-top and knead the dough for 15-20 minutes until all the flour (or as much as you can get into it) is incorporated and the the dough springs back when you press your finger into it. As the dough is so stiff and difficult to knead (dang, those arms get tired!), I recommend doing the kneading in two shifts of 10 minutes, letting it rest for about 5 minutes in between shifts.

Step 4: Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Shaping the Bagels

Step 5: Cut the dough into 18 pieces (about 4 ounces each). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 15 minutes. (These "rests" give the gluten time to relax and make it easier to shape the bagels. Without resting, the dough would tend to tighten up and spring back from whatever shape you give it.)

Step 6: Working one piece of dough at a time, shape the dough into a rope 6-8 inches long by gently rolling the dough between the palm of your hand and the counter top. As it forms into a rope, use two palms to continue lengthening.

Step 7:
Take one end of the dough rope between your thumb and forefinger. Wrap the dough around the back of your hand and overlap the two ends by about an inch or so. With the overlapped ends at the center of your palm, seal the ends by rolling the rope back and forth against the counter top. If the ends keep unsticking, use a dab of water to 'glue' them together.

Step 8: Stretch the finished bagel a bit to make the hole bigger and then pla
ce it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat Step 6 and Step 7 with the rest of the dough, spacing the bagels about two inches apart on the baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 -24 hours (this is the 'retarding' step).

Boiling and Baking the Bagels

Step 9: About an hour before baking time, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. About a half an hour bef
ore baking time, set a large stockpot filled with at least 4 inches of water to boil. Just before the water begins to boil (about 5 minutes before bake time), take the first sheet of bagels out of the fridge (leave any other sheets in the fridge).
Note: All you want to do here is take the chill off the bagels. Do NOT let the bagels come completely to room temperature or they will 1) stick to the parchment paper and you won't be able to boil them and 2) they will get all wobbly and lose their shape. If this happens, put the tray back in the fridge for 20 minutes or so.

Step 10: Once the water is boiling, drop three bagels into the water. Initially, they will probably sink to the bottom and then float to the top. If the bagel hole closed up over night, you can gently stretch it out again just before dropping in the water. Let them boil on one side for 10 seconds and then flip them over onto the other side for another 10 seconds. In reality, if you're doing three bagels at a time, by the time you've put the third bagel in the water, the first one is read to flip over, and by the time you've flipped the third bagel, the first is ready to come out. Don't worry too much if you can't tell which one went in first or which ones have/have not been flipped--it's not an exact science. The idea is that the bagel has been briefly boiled and then removed from the water.

Replace the boiled bagels in their original positions on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Allow the water to return to a boil and then boil the rest of the bagels in batches. (In the picture to the left, the bagels on the left side of the picture have been boiled and the ones on the right have not. You can see that the boiled bagels have a slight caramel tint and the surface looks rubbery instead of doughy. Huzzah!)

Step 11: Once the all the bagels on the first tray have been boiled, bake them in the oven for a total of 20 minutes. Rotate the bagels about halfway through for even baking. Keep an eye on them--depending on your oven, they might be done sooner or later than 20 minutes. You're aiming for a deep caramel brown color and a shiny crust. You should see little 'fish eyes' on the surface of the bagels--little bubbles in the crust where carbon dioxide was trapped (click on the image to the left to enlarge it and you can see the fish eyes).

Repeat with any other trays of bagels.
Unlike regular bread that needs a longer cooling time to set the crust, bagels can be eaten immediately. They are best served when they've cooled just enough to be able to bite into them without burning your mouth. Any leftovers will keep in a zip lock bag or Tupperware for about a week and are fantastic toasted.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Red Truck Wine

I don't think anyone would ever confuse me for a 'picky' wine drinker. Only once can I remember loathing a bottle so much that I actually poured it down the drain: a particularly atrocious and vinegary red that I couldn't even bear to use in tomato sauce. Occasionally I find myself present at a dinner where a sample of some $50+ bottle of wine finds its way into my glass. (Yay verily, it is good to know folks with expense accounts. Yay.) But really, I'm quite happy sticking to the top half (ok, top quarter) of the wine list, and I find myself pretty happy with everything in that range. For reds, I like syrahs, Chiantis, and Merlot. For whites, I go for pinot grigio and pinot gris. My standby red is Yellow Tale Shiraz (retails at about $7), and my go-to white is Grigio Luna (retails at about $5.50). In my opinion, these are good, solid, dependable wines that are always good in a pinch.

But then a few weeks ago, something happened that caused my hand pause, hovering uncertainly, on its familiar course toward the Yellow Tail and my eye wander nervously toward the rows of neighboring wines. I had come across a blog called "The Cellar Rat" by Alan Baker: a blog discussing all things wine-related wherein he finds nothing shameful in picking from the top of the wine list and enjoying a bottle for $10. He says as long as you enjoy it, drink it. On his blog and in his podcasts*, he documents his exploration of the wine-making industry from the vine to the bottle. Baker worked in broadcasting in Minnesota for years, and then about two years ago, decided he was in need of a life change and moved to California wine country to explore the wild and gnarly world of wine making. He worked at a vineyard for a season and is currently experimenting with bottling his own "Rat Cellar" wine. His blog and podcasts include everything from explanations of the wine making process and wine vocab for the layman, coverage of local wine-tasting events, interviews with wine-makers, and of course his own opinions on various wines. Baker's blog (with links to his podcasts) is (or click HERE). Since I started listening to his podcasts, I feel like I've been given permission to go forth and sample, dismissing that which is gross, and happily collecting that which I like.

On a recent trek to Trader Joe's, I picked up a bottle of Red Truck 2004 California Red Wine for $7.99. I'd heard this wine recommended a few times over on, but hadn't tried it because I'd previously assumed that blended-grape wines were "uncool." I have no idea where I got that impression, but with my new found, Cellar Rat-inspired confidence, I didn't even hesitate before putting a bottle in my cart. Now, I'll tell ya, rarely do I open a bottle of wine, take a sip, and actually stop to say, "Wow." This stuff was good! It's a blended Syrah, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Mourvedre. It's dark and berried, but with none of the bite or acidity that I tend to associate with many dark red wines. This is a wine meant to be drunk from a tea cup and is perfect for an evening wrapped in a blanket with a good book. It would likely pair well with red meat, spicy foods, and a chocolate dessert, though I unabashedly admit that I've been drinking it by itself all evening!

I like this new freedom of wine choice.
I'm hooked now, I'm afraid. What to do but sample more wine?

*If you're asking yourself, "Podcasts? What the heck are podcasts?" you're not alone. Apparently these things have been around for the past several years, but who knew? I've only discovered them recently myself and am still trying to master all the Cool Kid Slang so that I don't sound like a big McDork when I talk to all the Cool Kids. Essentially (and as far as I can tell), podcasts are radio shows that you can download to your computer or mp3 player and listen to whenever you feel like it. They're generally free and, much like websites and blogs, anyone and your mother can produce one and make it available for downloading with some basic electronic equipment. Check out the National Public Radio website (click HERE) and the New York Times website (click HERE) for some nationally syndicated ones.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Fall = Ginger Snaps

My version of heaven would be endless autumn. And not just the beautiful crisp weather or the flaming trees against the bluest sky, but all of it. I love wearing my winter coat for the first time and finding a few left-over memories from the previous winter stowed away in the pockets. I love going to the Farmer's Market in Copley Square. I love seeing all the fruits and vegetables spilling out of their baskets and watching the people mill around fingering the last tomatoes and asking each other how the pears are this season. I love smiling at my favorite vendor, handing him a bag of apples--a different kind every week--and asking him about the harvest. I love drinking red wine out of a tea cup, making vast pots of soup and chili for my friends and family, and leaving ginger snaps out in bowls. I love the anticipation of the holidays to come. I love that I truly believe I can finish every single one of the crafty projects I have planned as gifts for the people I love. I love it all. Autumn is a season of change and I love the feeling of living on the cusp of something new. It makes me feel like everything is possible. Everything is moving and changing. It's the moment before the adventure begins and the hero sets out with his backpack slung over a shoulder.

On my runs through the park the past few weeks, I've been listening to The Power of Myth, conversations between Bill Moyers and Joseph C
ampbell recorded before Joseph Campbell died. There are many things in these conversations that speak to me as a writer and a person in her late twenties and as a person traveling through her life. But there is one phrase that I keep coming back to. Moyers and Campbell are talking about the beginning of the journey and the types of people who become heroes in the traditional myths. The most puzzling kind of hero is the one who comes upon his adventure unexpectedly, like Han Solo in Star Wars who gets unwillingly swept into the adventure. Campbell calls this the 'serendipitous adventure,' and Moyers asks if this kind of adventurer is still considered a hero. Campbell has this reply: "The achievement of the hero is one that he is ready for, and it's really a manifestation of his character. It's amusing the way in which the landscape and the conditions of the environment match the readiness of the hero. The adventure that he's ready for is the one that he gets."

That's the line that keeps drifting through my mind as I walk through the Farmer's Market or look at the changing trees on my bus ride back from New York: "The adventure that he's ready for is the one that he gets." I feel on the verge of an adventure. I feel my life changing around me, threads of possibility and change rippling outwards. I've been playing with a lot of ideas about what I want for my future--both the near future and the far future, for my individual self and my career and my life with S., et cetera, et cetera. More specifically, I feel that my life has been moving in the direction of merging cooking and publishing and writing. This has been slowly developing over time, mostly without my knowledge, and it's a surprise to see them coming together now. I'm not sure exactly how these different things will unite, but I feel very sure that they will. For the moment, I'm happy to be on the edge of this change, feeling it grow, and not pushing things too quickly.

And in this spirit of movement and possibility, I give you my favorite cookie recipe: ginger snaps. Perfect for an afternoon snack with tea, evening dessert, or even a quick breakfast-on-the-go, the ginger snap is certainly the embodiment of possibility! My college roommate, R., was the first to introduced me to ginger snaps. A master storyteller herself, she had many eloquent things to say about the union of sweet sugar and spicy ginger, the balance of chew to crunch, and the harmony of the overall cookie. I still remember sitting in the window seat of our dorm room with her. I like to think it was autumn and maybe some afternoon sunlight was coming in through the window. She was eating a ginger snap, stolen from the dining hall, with her head tilted back and her eyes closed. S
he very precisely ate one bite of cookie, chewed thoughtfully, and handed it to me for the next bite.

Ginger Snaps
from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook

Makes six dozen 1 1/2-inch cookies

2 1/3 c. (9 3/4 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 c. (4 7/8 oz) shortening
1 c. (7 oz) sugar
1 large egg
1/3 c. (4 oz) molasses

for topping: 1/2 c (1 1/3 oz) cinnamon-sugar (2 tsp cinnamon mixed into 1/2 c. sugar)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Sift together the flour, spices, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat the shortening, sugar, and egg together until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses. Stir in the dry ingredients to make a soft, smooth dough.

Measure out slightly rounded teaspoonfuls of dough, shape into balls, and roll each in cinnamon-sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes until cookies are golden brown and ‘cracked’ on top. Cool on wire racks and store in a tightly closed container.

(Nutrition: 50 cal, 2 g fat, 0 fiber)--> Weight Watcher's = 1 point per cookie

Possibilities for decadent future versions:

* Before baking, press a thumb or a back of a spoon into each ball of dough to make a depression in the cookie. After the cookies have cooled, fill with straight cream cheese or cream cheese frosting and a bit of candied ginger.

* Instead of just powdered ginger, maybe try using a combo of powdered ginger, freshly grated ginger, and candied ginger. I think the candied ginger would be especially good for having little bits of chew in the snap. Definite danger of over-ginger-ifying the cookie, though. Experimentation required...

Monday, October 2, 2006

Books: Bread Alone

Bread Alone: Bold Fresh Loaves from Your Own Hands
by Daniel Leader and Judith Blahnik

Bread Alone provides a good, solid introduction to artisan bread baking. Daniel Leader begins with a thorough description of the equipment, ingredients, and care that go into making a good loaf of artisan bread, imbuing the reader with a real sense of the romance and long tradition of bread baking in European history. The detailed recipes are interspersed with stories of bakers and bakeries that Leader has encountered on his European travels. The recipes for classic country-style hearth loaf, sourdough starter, and pain au levain are perfect for introducing new bakers to the fundamentals of artisan bread baking, and in fact, these are recipes that I go back to again and again as springboards for experimentation.

At times, however, Leader’s reverent and weighty language can be intimidating for the novice baker and makes ‘the perfect artisan loaf’ appear attainable by only the few learned and experienced master bakers. The repetition of the even most basic instructions in every recipe and the reminders to ‘conserve your plastic wrap!’ and ‘use only the best organic ingredients!’ can feel off-putting and condescending. An added frustration is the durability of the physical book--or lack there of. After only a few uses, pages of my favorite recipes started falling out of the spine. Ultimately, I had the spine cut off (we have a nifty machine at the noodle factory that does this in about five seconds! Fancy!), punched holes in the pages, and put it in a three-ring binder. Still, practicing the basic recipes found in this book is an excellent way to begin exploring the diverse world of artisan bread baking.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Books: The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook

This hefty cookbook is a veritable Mecca of recipes, baking advice, and resource information. Not only do the authors walk you through basics like white bread, chocolate chip cookies, and muffins, but they will then coach you onwards and upwards to such lofty aspirations as croissants, elephant ears, and sourdough artisan bread. If one of the ingredients is flour, I guarantee there’s a recipe for it in there. The tone throughout the book is friendly and familiar, never assuming prior baking knowledge but also including plenty for even the most experienced baker to get excited about. In addition to the recipes, boxes with helpful baking tips and background information on ingredients and recipes are scattered throughout the book. The appendix descriptions of the various equipment and ingredients one could possibly use for baking along with opinions on the merits of each item, how they can be used, and where to find them. This hard cover, 640-page book will withstand being propped up, pressed opened, dribbled upon by errant goos and powders, and still live to see another baking day. If you like to bake, this is one book that deserves a permanent place on the shelf.