Science, soul, and savvy are among the reasons to check out three recent books about baking.
BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking, by Shirley Corriher (Scribner, $40), is the long-awaited treasure for those who want a little science with their scones.
Corriher applies her biochemistry degree to cakes, popovers, cookies and pastries. And she writes with enthusiasm and encouragement through more than 200 recipes. If there's a downside, it's too few photos, and uninspiring ones at that.
The Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet and Sur La Table (McMeel, $40), isn't for the faint of heart, which may be the primo selling point for the bring-it-on baker. Mushet shares what the pros know about buttercream, how to avoid crystallization, that you get the most cocoa flavor by blending the powder with boiling water. The 250 recipes are extraordinarily detailed; the photos, both beautiful and instructional. Whether you'll opt to melt butter by applying a propane torch to the side of your mixing bowl is up to you. At least you'll know how.
The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book ($34.95) tells its story by the numbers: 700 recipes, 800 photos, untold hours of testing. This ring-binder cookbook casts a Betty Crocker vibe across recipes such as butter horn dinner rolls, pinwheel icebox cookies, and angel food cake. This book is like having a dozen really smart grandmas at your elbow.