The phrase “boot camp” probably inspires thoughts of sweat and long days filled with intense physical activity – most likely cardio, push-ups and similarly athletic endeavors. In Baking Boot Camp those physical activities are more along the lines of whisking, kneading and moving hot pans in and out of the oven. The book is the story of one woman’s trip to a real baking boot camp. The boot camp a multi-day workshop put on by the Culinary Institute of America, and the book actually chronicles two boot camp: baking and pastry. The CIA actually hosts a number of different boot camp programs with specific focuses, from BBQ to French Cuisine.
The book is set up almost like a journal, recounting the events of the day with personal commentary on teachers, other students and cooking techniques from the author. It also includes fairly detailed explorations of each of the topics covered during the boot camp (making flaky crusts, tasting chocolates, going out to set dinners). The book starts with the basic baking boot camp, which lasts for four days, and touches on basic elements of baking: the Creaming Method, the Rubbed Dough Method, Enriched Doughs and Lean Doughs. This is followed by the five day pastry boot camp, which picks out more specific subjects from the world of baking: Custards, the Foaming Method, Puff Pastry, Mousse and Cream, Quick and Elegant Desserts (chocolates, sauces, cake decorating. It’s an entertaining read and full of good tips about baking.
The second part of the book is where you’ll find the recipes mentioned by the author, including quick breads, cookies, pies, yeasted breads and other desserts. Most of the recipes are on the basic side, with some ideas for ways to dress them up or change the flavors. You’ll notice that although the book mentions that the CIA (like most culinary baking schools) works by weight rather than volume, the measurements for the recipes are still given in cups, etc. Personally, I find that this makes the book a bit more convenient to use for home bakers and lets the book fill a gap between basic cookbooks and more advanced ones. So, the book is a good, entertaining read if you’re looking for some CIA-sourced baking tips and hints that will probably improve your baking (even if it’s jut a bit), with a nice variety of recipes as a bonus.