Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed

Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed

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by Shirley O. Corriher

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Can you tell whether a recipe will work before you cook it? You can if you really know what's cooking.

In the long-awaited CookWise, food sleuth Shirley Corriher tells you how and why things happen in cooking. When you know how to estimate the right amount of baking powder, you can tell by looking at the recipe that the cake is overleavened and may fall.

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Can you tell whether a recipe will work before you cook it? You can if you really know what's cooking.

In the long-awaited CookWise, food sleuth Shirley Corriher tells you how and why things happen in cooking. When you know how to estimate the right amount of baking powder, you can tell by looking at the recipe that the cake is overleavened and may fall. When you know that too little liquid for the amount of chocolate in a recipe can cause the chocolate to seize and become a solid grainy mass, you can spot chocolate truffle recipes that will be a disaster. And, in both cases, you know exactly how to "fix" the recipe. Knowing how ingredients work, individually and in combination, will not only make you more aware of the cooking process, but transform you into a confident and exceptional cook — a cook who is in control.

CookWise is a different kind of cookbook. There are over 230 outstanding recipes — from Snapper Fingers with Smoked Pepper Tartar Sauce to Chocolate Stonehenge Slabs with Cappuccino Mousse — but here each recipe serves not only to please the palate but to demonstrate the roles of ingredients and techniques. A What This Recipe Shows section summarizes the special cooking points being demonstrated in each recipe. This little bit of science in everyday language indicates which steps or ingredients are vital and cannot be omitted without consequences.

Among the recipes you'll also find some surprises. Don't be afraid of a vinaigrette prepared without vinegar or a high-egg-white, crisp pâte â choux. Many of the concepts used here are Shirley's own. Try her method of sprinkling croissant or puff pastry dough with ice water before folding to keep it soft and easy to roll.

CookWise covers everything from the rise and fall of cakes, through unscrambling the powers of eggs and why red cabbage turns blue during cooking but red peppers don't, to the essential role of crystals in making fudge. Want to learn about what makes a crust flaky? Try the Big-Chunk Fresh Apple Pie in Flaky cheese Crust. Discover for yourself what brining does to poultry in Juicy Roast Chicken.

No matter what your cooking level, you'll find CookWise a revelation. Different people will use CookWise in different ways:

  • Home cooks will value CookWise as a collection of extraordinarily good recipes.
  • The busy chef can use CookWise as a reference book to look up and solve problems. Major headings are shown in the Contents and 42 At-a-Glance summary charts make problem solving quick and easy
  • Beginning cooks can use CookWise as a howto book with easy-to-follow recipes that produce dishes looking and tasting like the work of an experienced chef.
  • Food writers and test-kitchen chefs who are developing recipes can find the formulas and tips for successful recipes,
  • Anyone who wants to improve a recipe can use CookWise as a guide. Here is how to make cakes moister, a pate A choux drier and crisper, a dish lighter or darker in color; how to make muffins peak better, cookies spread less, or a roast chicken juicier.
  • Everyone who cooks needs to be able to spot bad recipes and save the time, money, and frustration that they cause. Many of the At-a-Glance charts point out specific problems.

CookWise is not only informative, it's engrossing, and many sections react like a mystery story. The knowledge you gain from its pages will transform you, too, into a food sleuth, an informed and assured cook who can track down why sauces curdle or why the muffins were dry — a cook who will never prepare a failed recipe again!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Corriher, a research chemist, food writer and cook, promises no more failed recipes for those who take up her hefty, scientifically based work disclosing how to make just about everything and why. The background to nearly 250 recipes crosses a broad culinary landscape explaining such processes as gluten's role in breadmaking and the affects that the different ways in which vegetables store glucose have on cooking methods. Besides the background procedures and transformations discussed in chapter introductions, Corriher spells out the science lesson to be learned from each of the recipes, e.g., chilling potatoes in the fridge converts some of the starch to sugar and promotes the browning process in Oven-Fried Herbed Potatoes. While some of this material is covered in Christopher Kimball's The Cook's Bible without quite as much solemn scholarship, Corriher, passing up nochance to inform, is a persuasive tutor with many terrific ideas. Dissolving salt in water distributes flavor evenly in a Flaky Butter Crust; lemon juice inhibits cheesy stringiness in Fettuccine with Mozzarella, Mushrooms and Tomatoes; adding corn syrup to sugar in Caramel Grand Marnier Sauce promotes caramelizing without crystallization. Curious-minded home cooks who are satisfied as much by the process of cooking as by its other rewards will find much to relish here. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Corriher is a well-known culinary consultant and problem solver whose answers to kitchen mysteries have appeared in many food publications. Now she has set down some of her vast knowledge in this big, wide-ranging reference/cookbook. In seven basic chapters, from The Wonder of Risen Bread to Sweet Thoughts and Chocolate Dreams, she explains why recipes work, what to do when they don't, and how to make them even better (anyone who's ever wondered why the same cake recipe always tastes better when her neighbor makes it will find out the probable reasons why). More than 200 recipes interspersed throughout demonstrate Corriher's explorations and explanations. Also included are At a Glance charts for easy reference (e.g., Finetuning Cookies), trouble-shooting charts (Yeast Bread Problems), charts on the basics (Whipped Cream: What To Do and Why), and dozens more. Although the recipes are deliciousand surely foolproof, this unique work will be far more valuable as a reference than as a cookbook. Highly recommended.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.61(d)

Read an Excerpt

Artichoke Leaves with Hollandaise

Makes 3 to 4 Hors d'oeuvre servings

This old-time classic hors d'oeuvre is hard to beat.

What this recipe shows:
Microwaving is a quick, simple way to prepare an artichoke.

2 large artichokes, rinsed and stems cut off close to the base, sharp leaf tips trimmed if desired
1 recipe hollandaise (see below)

Wrap each artichoke in microwave-safe plastic wrap. Microwave one at a time for 6 to 7 minutes on High. Let stand 5 minutes. Push the leaves down to spread out and make them easier to remove. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold with hollandaise for dipping and a plate for the leaves, which are discarded after the edible portion has been eaten.

Classic Hollandaise

Makes about 1 1/3 cups

What this recipe shows:
Once the yolk-lemon juice mixture begins to thicken, it has reached a temperature high enough to kill salmonella.

Whisking in the melted butter over hot, not boiling, water off the heat prevents the yolks from scrambling.

Adding salt to the hollandaise after the ice cubes are added and the hot water has cooled prevents the yolks from scrambling.

4 large egg yolks
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 tablespoon water
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Place the egg yolks, lemon juice, and water in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl resting over the top of a medium saucepan of simmering water. It is important that the top of the water be well below the upper part of the double boiler or the bottom of the bowl. Have the melted butter ready to drizzle in. Whisk constantly. Thesecond that the yolk mixture begins to thicken slightly, remove the top of the double boiler or the bowl from above the hot water and continue whisking. Turn off the heat. Add four ice cubes to cool the hot water a little. Put the pan or bowl of yolks back above the hot water. Whisk in the melted butter, drizzling it in very slowly. If at any time the sauce looks as if it is about to break, remove bowl and continue whisking to cool it down or whisk in 1 teaspoon cold water. With constant whisking, whisk in the salt and cayenne. When all the butter is incorporated, taste and add more salt or cayenne as needed.

Copyright © 1997 by Shirley O. Corriher

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Cookwise 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, quite simply, is the best book for anyone left-brained or detail-oriented who loves to cook. If 'why?' is a question you've -ever- asked about food, buy this book. Buy two copies. Give one to a friend. Buy another. Sounds silly, sure, but once you've read it and realized the science behind what you toss down your gullet, you'll agree. There's nothing finer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book can't be beat! If you're wondering why your cake is lopsided, you're cookies are too crumbly, or you just don't know what to do with chocolate, this is the book for you! Easy to understand, includes recipies to show you how the ingredients effect each other, and trouble shoots recipies you've found and my want to try. I feel like a better, more prepared, cook now that I've gone through this book. I can guestimate how a recipie will turn out before I even start, and I know what's going on during the preparation and cooking time. I recomend this to anyone who feels cooking is a hobby for them!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Even though I have baked hundreds of cakes, I never knew why I had to cream the butter and sugar before I added the eggs and why it is important to add the dry ingredients after the wet ones are combined, and now, thanks to Shirley's book, it is no longer a mystery - although the explanations can be a bit technical, overall it is a great book, that compliments all my other cook books, now I have cookwise open along with the other cookbooks I use, cooking like a professional.