I love to cook. I love putting together ingredients and making something yummy. I love the whole creative process of baking. It probably is such a novelty to me because I never made anything until I had a husband (who suffered much during my initial efforts) and then children (who have suffered less since I spent some time experimenting on my husband). I didn't bother to learn baking from my mother since it was seemed so terribly domestic and boring at the time and because my other sisters were interested enough to take the attention away from me. I was an artist. I was planning on starving and eating take-out for many years to come. Well, starving and taking-out got me through college, but it was a good thing I got married and had kids or else I never would have discovered King Arthur Flour.
I can't even remember how I came about looking at the King Arthur Flour website, but I did and tried their 100% whole wheat bread recipe and loved it. I was journeying into the realm of bread-making at the time and was not having much luck. I had gotten a bread machine for Christmas and was dying to make a successful loaf. Once I tasted success, I had to try more and more. Not a single recipe of the website failed me and I've tried several. Here's the shameful part. I'm too cheap to buy their flour. It's expensive! But I love the recipes. The website has oodles, but the books they publish are even better. I checked out three of them from the library almost a month ago and I am very reluctant to give them back.
The first cookbook King Arthur put out is the "The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion". It's a standard volume of all things baking. I'm a weirdo who reads every sentence of introduction and explanation and this volume does not disappoint in it's readability. The chapter on high-altitude baking was great, since I live at 6,000 feet, but I really haven't had too much trouble needing to adjust for altitude using their recipes. I love the science behind baking and the sourdough section of the book was fascinating to me. I've experimented with sourdough in the past, but I'm even more excited to try again now that I have a little more knowledge. The pound cakes and cobblers are calling to me and I don't think I can resist much longer. All in all, I would pay the $35 for this cookbook. Hopefully less on Amazon.
The second major baking volume they put out was "The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion." Oooh, cookies. Um, I love 'em. I don't care much for candy, but if you present me with a well-made cookie, I'm yours. What makes this book different from any other cookie cookbook is the Essential Recipe pages and the differing recipes whether you want a crunchy cookie or a chewy one. I always go for chewy. I hate bothering to make a cookie recipe with it to turn out crunchy or crisp when I wanted chewy. This cookbook is 500 pages long, so they obviously have a lot to say about cookies.
The third book is "King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking" and it was the most interesting just to read. There's a lot of food science in this cookbook and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I would love to learn how to make artisan breads and having them be whole grain breads is even better. They go to great lengths to explain their recipes and why they need to be made they way they do and I appreciate being informed. My neighbor was over to borrow my wheat grinder and saw this book on my counter. She borrowed it, made the lemon raspberry cake from the cover, then returned the book with a slice of cake. Yum. It was a bit dense, but I think she used a more coarsely ground flour than the recipe called for. The perk of having a wheat grinder is being able to grind your wheat as fine or coarse as you like it. Anyway, this book is awesome. It's going on the Amazon wish list.
If I had unlimited time and unlimited funds, I'd make everything from scratch. And if that day ever comes, I will own all three of these books and try all the recipes, from ciabatta to tortillas to neopolitans. In the meantime, I'll keep making my 100% whole wheat loaves and daydreaming about going to the King Arthur Baking Education Center in Norwich, Vermont. A week of intense baking sounds like so much fun!