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The press release for the brand new Better Homes and Gardens Baking begins with “Whether novice or pro,…”

That is the perfect summary for this very accomplished all-in-one baking tome. Baking is an encyclopedia covering literally every aspect of home baking. It’s the size of an encyclopedia too: over 520 oversized pages, 350+ recipes, and 600+ photos. I’m fond of cookbooks rich with photos. While a recipe title may entice me, a photo will seduce me. There is seduction aplenty in Baking.

The pathways of our daily lives have guideposts that are important and often icons. When I go out on the street in the morning, I can turn north and see the Empire State Building. For better navigation, I use my iPhone with that perfect design. As the cars zip by, I may see a Thunderbird and recall the heyday of the “real” Thunderbird. Do any of you remember 77 Sunset Strip from 1961?

In our kitchen, we have icons. One certainly is the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook. “Where’s that recipe?” Suzen will ask me. “Purple book, two rows up and over from Better Homes,” I will answer. Even unopened, the red-and-white checkerboard cover is our kitchen compass.

Baking has the potential to be that fundamental a cookbook. It’s strange actually to page through it — which I did — and just see the perspective about contemporary American baking. Compared to cookbooks of two or three generations ago, Baking has an amazing spectrum of recipes. And a very different perspective on what people will be baking at home.

There are 17 chapters including:

  • Cookies
  • Bars and Brownies
  • Decorated Cakes
  • Cheesecakes
  • Holiday Baking

The difference between “old” and “new” baking attitudes is easily seen in comparing those first two chapters: Cookies versus Bars and Brownies. The cookie chapter is good but slim. I suppose that is a reflection that we all bake cookies less than we did — I know that I more frequently go for something “big” instead of wafer thin. If you want richness and goo, you hit that bars and brownies collection that includes:

  • Cream Cheese Marbled Brownies
  • Best-Ever Bourbon Brownies
  • Triple Chocolate and Espresso Brownies
  • Dulce de Leche Marshmallow Fluff Brownies
  • Fudgy Saucepan Brownies

If you think those titles sound interesting, you should see the full page photos. Lickable.

Other chapters offer new ideas that are certain to intrigue:

  • Chocolate-Walnut Bread Pudding with Coffee-Kahlua Cream Sauce
  • Brown Sugar-Bacon Monkey Bread
  • Potato-Bacon Batter Bread with Caramelized Onions
  • Chile-Cheddar Casserole Bread
  • Rustic Chocolate Tart
  • Butterscotch Cream Pie

The casserole breads, for example, are ones that a novice can undertake but that any pro will be proud of. These are literally new bread ideas that would make a full warm meal on a crisp fall night.

Baking is filled with hints, ideas, suggestions for recipe options to “make it your own,” and of course many instructional photos. The recipe for Fudgy Saucepan Brownies is a mini-course in brownies, telling you the impact of changing the proportion of ingredients and how, in this case, you don’t want to do that “toothpick in the center” test for doneness.

There’s a wealth of detail in Baking, but gracefully packaged. You won’t be overwhelmed by Baking. But you will be awed.