A Good Bake: The Art and Science of Making Perfect Pastries, Cakes, Cookies, Pies, and Breads at Home: A Cookbook (Hardcover)
From the James Beard Award nominee, a comprehensive baking bible for the twenty-first century, with 120 scientifically grounded recipes for sweet and savory baked goods anyone can master.
"A very good combination: Baking science all of us can understand and a splendid collection of recipes. . . . A baker’s must!” —Dorie Greenspan, author of Dorie's Cookies and Everyday Dorie
Melissa Weller is the baking superstar of our time. As the head baker at some of the best restaurants in the country, her takes on chocolate babka and sticky buns brought these classics back to life and kicked off a nationwide movement.
In A Good Bake, Weller shares her meticulously honed, carefully detailed recipes for producing impossibly delicious--and impossibly beautiful--baked goods. A chemical engineer before she became a baker, Weller uses her scientific background to explain the whys and hows of baking, so home cooks can achieve perfect results every time. Here are recipes both sweet (Pumpkin Layer Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream and Brown Sugar Frosting) and savory (Khachapuri with Cheese, Baked Egg, and Nigella Seeds); beloved classics (Croissants and Chocolate Babka) and new sure-to-be favorites (Milk Chocolate and Raspberry Blondies)--as well as Salted Caramel Sticky Buns, of course . . . all written and tested for even the most novice home baker to re-create.
With gorgeous photographs by the award-winning Johnny Miller, and tutorials that demystify all of the stuff that sounds complicated, like working with yeast, sourdough starters, and laminating dough Weller's book is the one guide every home baker needs.
About the Author
MELISSA WELLER received a James Beard Award nomination for Outstanding Baker in 2016. A French Culinary Institute graduate, she trained at Babbo and Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. She was chef-partner at High Street on Hudson; head baker at Per Se, Bouchon Bakery, and Roberta's; an owner and founder of Sadelle's; and the head baker at Walnut Street Café in Philadelphia. She lives in Brooklyn.
CAROLYNN CARREÑO is a James Beard award-winning journalist, the author of the cookbook Bowls of Plenty, and the co-author of thirteen cookbooks. She lives in San Diego and Mexico City.
"A Good Bake is a very good combination: Baking science all of us can understand and a splendid collection of recipes. Weller, who is rightly famous for her breads, yeast pastries (the best kouign amman ever) and cookies, generously shares all her signature recipes with instructions that are clear, detailed and smart. There’s something to learn and something to savor on each page. A baker’s must!” —Dorie Greenspan, author of Dorie's Cookies and Everyday Dorie
"Melissa Weller worked as a chemical engineer for a decade. Now she is one of the country’s most respected pastry chefs — and the ideal combination of scientist, professional baker and home cook to produce A Good Bake, a magnetic book written with Carolynn Carreño. She has worked out how to make the top of a sugar cookie extra-crackly (bake the dough when it’s warm), how to make toppings stay on focaccia (spread whipped cream over the surface) and how to make whole-wheat sandwich bread with a soft, light crumb (it involves butter). The book has thoughtful recipes for basics like chocolate chunk cookies. But the point here is her detailed guidance on sourdough breads, lattice crusts and projects like stollen, danish and babka." —Julia Moskin, The New York Times ("The 14 Best Cookbooks of Fall 2020")
"The pastry chef Melissa Weller worked her way up through the ranks of restaurants in New York City, from composing desserts at early-days Babbo to working with bread at Sullivan Street Bakery and Per Se, and getting us hooked on babka at Sadelle’s. Her debut, A Good Bake, reflects the patience and perfectionism required of such a career — as well as of her previous life as a chemical engineer. This highly creative dough engineer is worth following through each exacting step. Her pie crust is flawless — better still when layered with custardy apples and a sour cream topping that is frozen for three hours before being Cuisinarted to bits. Weller ranges from New York classics like rugelach and challah to all-American cookies and pies to laminated French pastries, with lots of personal modernizations — say, using that challah dough to make date tahini knots. Success with a few of these recipes might just give you the courage to tackle her croissants. If you’re willing to lean in and nerd out, A Good Bake will definitely make you (or your loved ones) a good baker. Think of this as a gift that could yield delicious benefits." —Christine Muhlke, The New York Times Book Review ("The Best Books to Give This Year")
"Weller, a chemical engineer-cum-baker who worked at Babbo and Per Se before opening Sadelle’s in New York City, takes a scientific approach in this tight collection of intriguing recipes. A clever format separates tips and instructions with various font colors in running subheads along the left margin, making recipes exceptionally accessible . . . Numerous master class and tutorial sections transform this from a cookbook with excellent recipes into a series of baking lessons . . . Each chapter includes recipes both traditional and experimental . . . This will thrill home bakers who want to bake like the pros." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"In certain culinary circles (really good ones, where the cake is always terrific), Melissa Weller’s name is uttered only in tones of the greatest reverence. Weller is a savant of doughs and batters—she created the baking and pastry programs at multiple restaurants known almost entirely for their baking and pastry (High Street on Hudson, Sadelle’s)—who got her start as a chemical engineer. In this book, her first, she translates her meticulous, perfectionistic mode to home cooks, with detailed plans of attack for stollen, babka, pies, and more. Yes, these recipes go into intricate detail, but when it comes to baking that’s cause for excitement, not alarm: it means all you need to do is follow the instructions to the letter and you’ll be rewarded with some of the most exquisite baked goods of your life." —Helen Rosner, The New Yorker ("The Best Cookbooks of 2020")
"It’s clear that A Good Bake by Melissa Weller is one of those cookbooks that will be used, not simply admired. Indeed, my own copy bore butter stains within a week. Read through any publication's baking coverage and you'll likely spot Weller's name—and maybe her swirled cover-star babka, which she's been making for years. Its mass appeal was the first element that jumped out at me about A Good Bake: I’d be just as inclined to gift a copy to my Julia Child–loving aunt as I would my 23-year-old sister who finds most of her recipes on Instagram. . . . Weller’s recipes are more of an investment from an everyday one-bowl bake (though there are recipes for cookies, bars, quick breads, and “casual cakes” in the collection as well). She covers laminated pastry, enriched dough, savory bread, and deep-frying—all of which can be quite intimidating. But she takes the time to explain technique in a clear, detailed way, so that even a first-time baker could flip open the book and make a batch of kouign-amanns successfully." —Rebecca Firkser, Food52
"When Sadelle’s, a re-imagining of a Jewish deli from New York’s Major Food Group, opened in 2015, the buzz hummed loudest over Melissa Weller’s pastries: the exceptionally delicate dough of her rugelach, the crackling layers of her salted caramel sticky buns, her plush take on chocolate babka. Behind the comforting sweets is a mind of science. Weller was a chemical engineer before switching careers, and she brings the discipline to breads and viennoiserie — and also to layer cakes and brownies. Which is to say: Don’t be daunted by the length and detail of the recipes. Weller, who authored the book with Carolynn Carreño, writes in a precise but familiar voice. When she suggests letting the dough for oatmeal cookies rest in the refrigerator for four days to achieve an ideal crisp-chewy texture, trust the process: They are exceptional." —Bill Addison, The Los Angeles Times ("Best New Food Books to Add to Your Collection")
"James Beard Award nominee Melissa Weller is responsible for some of the most exquisite babka, bagels, sticky buns and other American treats in New York. She’s also a chemical engineer by trade, which makes her first cookbook a triumphant combination of creative sweet and savory recipes and easy-to-follow, scientific explanations for what works and what doesn’t. Instructions are clear and abundantly detailed, with separate sections that get into the nitty-gritty of trickier techniques like laminated pastry as well as photo spreads that demonstrate tasks like assembling a latticed slab pie, step by step. The results — from pillowy khachapuri oozing with cheese to simple, crackle-topped chocolate cookies — speak for themselves." —The San Francisco Chronicle ("The Best Cookbooks of 2020")
"There is some serious competition in the baking book category this year. [A Good Bake] is among my favorites . . . I am a sucker when it comes to Carrot Cake, so I decided to start by testing Weller’s version. Her's differs from most recipes in two ways: crushed pineapple is pureed with fresh lemon juice to add moisture and a bright, acidic fruitiness to the cake batter, and toasted pecans are ground up and added as well. The result is a nutty, moist, beautifully simple cake. The directions were precise and easy to follow . . . Perhaps with Weller’s assistance, this will be the winter I master laminated pastries like Croissants, Pain aux Raisins, and a stunning looking Blueberry Blackberry Cheese Danish Braid. Also included is a pandemic favorite: a primer on Sourdough Starter — everything from beginning your own starter, to feeding and maintaining it, and, of course, recipes for how to use it." —Kathy Gunst, NPR's Here & Now ("Cookbooks of the Year")
"Her recipes are challenging but provide huge payoffs, so I recommend the book for any dedicated baker in your life." —Amanda Kludt, Eater ("A Food Editor’s Guide to Holiday Gifting")
“Rest assured that any recipe you try from A GOOD BAKE will be a smashing success, as Melissa Weller has provided the most detailed and clear steps to recreate her masterpieces. Her secret weapon: she was trained as a scientist -- a chemical engineer -- whose principal is perfection. Brilliant!” —Nancy Silverton, author of Chi Spacca
“For science-obsessed bakers, this comprehensive baking book written by chemical engineer-turned-James Beard-nominated baker Melissa Weller is the ultimate gift.” —Lynn Andriani, MarthaStewart.com (“Holiday Gifts Home Bakers Will Love”)
“The first time I had one of Melissa Weller’s bagels at High Street on Hudson, I was absolutely floored. I’m not the most confident baker, which is why I’m especially thrilled to make my way through Weller’s carefully constructed only-what-you-need-to-know recipes for pies, cakes, cookies, and more. It’s a hefty volume—nearly 500 pages—which is good, because I’ll have a lot of time on my hands this fall and winter.” —Food & Wine Magazine
"Before she became an expert baker, Weller was a chemical engineer, and as such, she tackles recipes with a scientific approach, getting the fermentation, proofing, and pH balance of her dough down to, well, a science . . . If you’re a quarantine baker who’s mastered sourdough and is ready for the next challenge, consider Weller’s takes on NYC classics like chocolate babka, spelt scones with raspberry jam, and even traditional hot dog buns." —Eater
"An ex-chemical engineer, Weller uses the scientific method to develop her recipes from salted caramel sticky buns to chocolate babka. The neutral-toned tome is as beautiful as the bakes are delicious." —Anna Hirschorn, Saveur ("Our 20 Favorite Cookbooks to Gift This Year")
"The former chemical engineer gets into the science of baking with extremely detailed recipes and technique tutorials. And fans of her chocolate babka and salted caramel sticky buns will be delighted to find the recipes for those treats within." —Stained Page News
"Rarely do you come across a baking book that’s as rigorous as it is encouraging with exhaustive, clearly written instructions. Each recipe is broken out into steps on the left, often with little helpful hints to set you up for success . . . In a three-page recipe for soft pretzels, Weller starts with a “get prepared” section before moving into more than five-hundred words on shaping those pretzels. Is that overkill? Not if you want to make stellar baked goods, regardless of your starting skill level. (I’m a mediocre baker, and even I am sure I would nail any recipe in this book.)." —Lauren Joseph, Epicurious
"[Weller] gives you not just recipes, but the tools to think critically and help your own creativity as a baker." —Jeremy Repanich, Robb Report