About Professional Baking: The Essentials

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Book review of About Professional Baking -- the Essentials by Gail Sokol.
If you've ever dreamed about taking your baking up a level or two (or five or ten), then this is the book to help you do it. Literally lessons in professional baking in book form, if you seriously learned everything in this book, you would have all the baking skills you'll ever need - whether your ambition is to become a professional or stay a talented (legendary?) amateur.

Precise and detailed, About Professional Baking contains over 700 full-color photographs of both the process of accomplishing the techniques and creating the recipes, along with the finished product.

Note that this a book that will teach you the baking side of Professional Baking - it is not a business book, so you won't learn anything here about the business of Professional Baking.

The best way to get you acquainted with the immense quantity for information contained in these pages is to list the chapters:

Working with Yeast in Straight Doughs: Defining Yeast; Yeast and Fermentation; The Correct Temperature to Ferment Yeast Doughs; How Gluten traps Carbon Dioxide Gas; Developing Flavor in Yeast Breads; How the Amount of Water in a Yeast Dough Can Affect Hole Structure; Ingredients That Negatively Affect yeast Breads; The 12 Steps of yeast Dough Production; Two Basic Types of Yeast Doughs; Determining Which Flour is Best.

Starters and Preferments: Two Categories of Preferments; Yeast and Bacteria Living Together; Reliability and Hardiness of Starters; Developing Flavor in Sourdough Breads.

Laminated Doughs: Laminated Doughs Defined; Solid Fats and Plasticity; Preparing a Base Dough; Enclosing Fat Inside the Dough; Folding and Layering; How Laminated Doughs Puff Up and Rise; Choosing a Flour for the Base Dough; Dimensions of the Base Dough; Tips for Successful Laminated Pastries; Freezing Laminated Doughs.

Working with Fats in Pies and Tarts:
The Difference Between tenderness and Flakiness in a Pastry Crust; Choosing the Right Fat; Three Different Types of Pastry Doughs; Six Ways to Ensure a Tender, Flaky Pastry Crust; Blind Baking; Helpful Tips to Roll Out a Pastry Crust; Preventing a Soggy Bottom Crust.

Using Chemical and Steam Leaveners: Chemical Leaveners; The Important Role of Air in Leavening; Steam Leavening; Two Methods to Bake Eclair Paste.

Quick Bread Mixing Methods:
Differences Between Yeast Breads and Quick Breads; Different Mixing Methods; Preparation of Muffin Pans.

Cake Mixing Methods:
Two Categories of Cakes; Cake Batters as Emulsions; Mixing Methods for Cakes High in Fat; Knowing Which Fat to Use in High Fat Cakes; Mixing Methods for Cakes Low in Fat; How To Tell When a Cake is Done.

Frostings: Frosting Defines; Four Reasons to use Frostings; The Seven Categories of Frostings; Pairing the Cake with the Appropriate Frosting; Basic Tools to Properly Frost a Cake; How to Frost a Layer Cake; Egg Foams Defined; Three Types of Meringues.

Cookies: Categories of Cookies; Three Basic Cookie Mixing Methods; Understanding the Characteristics of Cookies and How to Manipulate Them; Tips for Making Successful Cookies.

Building Blocks with Sugar: Three Basic Steps in Preparing Sugar Syrups for Desserts and Confections; Two Ways to Determine When a Sugar Syrup is Done; Understanding the Process of Crystallization; Ways to Control Crystallization; Two Methods to Prepare Caramel; Where Caramel gets Its Flavor; Using Caution When Working with Sugar; Tips for Preparing Sugar Syrups; Storage of Confections Made with Caramel.

Frozen Desserts and Dessert Sauces:
The Importance of Good Sanitation When Preparing Frozen Desserts; Two Categories of Frozen Desserts; Churn Frozen Desserts; Why Churning is So Important; Between Churn Frozen and Still-Frozen; Still-Frozen Desserts; Factors That Contribute to texture; Summing Up Texture with Mouthfeel; Building Flavors in Frozen Desserts; The Power of Sugar and Salt in Preparing Frozen Desserts; Tips for Preparing Successful Frozen Desserts.

Chocolate: The Origins of Chocolate; Cocoa Butter and Mouthfeel; The Most Common Types of Chocolate; Water and Chocolate; Properly Melting Chocolate; The Fat Crystals in Cocoa Butter; Why Chocolate is Tempered; Determining When Tempering is Necessary; Tempering; Two Methods of Tempering; Determining When the Chocolate is Tempered; Commercial Tempering Machines; What To Do With Tempered Chocolate; Blooming; Ganache; Dense Versus Light truffle Centers; Molding Chocolate.

Healthy Baking:
How To Modify Ingredients Containing Refined Grains with Healthier Alternatives to Enrich Baked Goods; Fats - Why They Are Necessary; Substituting Healthier Fats for Less Healthy Fats; Some Healthier Fat Substitutions; Replacing Sugar with Sugar Substitutes; Easy Substitutions; How to Modify a Recipe's Ingredients with Healthier Alternatives; Antioxidants and health; The Health Benefits of Chocolate.

Troubleshooting: What Can Go Wrong? Custards; Yeast Breads; Pies and tarts; Quick Breads; Cakes; Frostings; Cookies; Working with Sugar; Frozen Desserts; Chocolate.

Appendices: Baking Tools and Equipment; Preparing Pans; Weights and Measurements; Canned Goods; Glossary; References.