I borrowed this book, The Essential Baker, from the library after browsing through it at the bookstore. I liked the variety of recipes included but, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. These days, I try to test out a cookbook before deciding whether or not to purchase it.
The recipes are grouped, not according to type (e.g. cookies, cakes, pies), but according to key ingredients, such as chocolate, fruit or nuts. The recipes themselves are laid out in a slightly unusual format; instead of listing all the ingredients at the beginning of the recipe, each recipe is divided into steps, and the ingredients used/added at each step are listed to the side of that step. Also listed, to another side, are essential equipment you will need, instructions for keeping the baked goods, ways you can streamline the process or do things ahead of time, and suggestions for changing the recipe and adding decoration.
As with too many cookbooks these days, the author assumes you have a food processor. I don't. Since I couldn't throw my carrots into a processor, grating the carrots is what took the longest time. I knew there was a reason I hadn't made carrot cake before! And, even though I know using a food processor is a very good way to cut butter into flour to make pastry...well, darn it, doesn't anyone do things the old-fashioned way anymore? Also, if you did want to make the pie crust in a food processor, could you get away with using a 7-cup processor, or do you need an 11-cup - or even a 14-cup - machine? These were my only problems with the cookbook.
The carrot cake turned out really well. It wasn't super-dense and loaded down with oil as some carrot cakes are, and it tasted great. It did make quite a lot of cake, though!
There are a couple more recipes I want to try: key lime pie, chocolate cake, lemon meringue pie. Overall, I give this book a thumbs-up.