Cookbook Review: Bake From Scratch

If you’re a baker and also a reader (like me!) then you may have come across a magazine at Barnes & Noble or your local Walmart called Bake From Scratch. The colorful, bright, and salivating-inducing photography on the covers of the magazines would pique the interest of everyone, not just bakers. After a solid year of trying not to purchase a copy of the magazine, I finally told myself that the time had come.

But first, I did my research. The magazines are on the expensive side, roughly $12.99 per issue. Not wanting to spend that kind of money on what may turn out to be a crappy magazine, I first decided to get one of their cookbooks from my local library to see if the recipes were worth their salt.

What Is It?

The most recent edition of the magazine.

Bake From Scratch is a magazine that is published six times a year. Also, the following year, the company published a hardcover cookbook featuring all of the recipes that were published in all the issues of the magazines the previous year. So far there are six of these hardcover cookbooks and the seventh one is due out at the end of May. (The website for the magazine has a store where you can buy the cookbook individually but also as bundles.)

In addition to recipes, the magazine also features a few articles related to specific ingredients, baking techniques, or profiles on famous bakeries or bakers.

One of the things I really love about the magazine is the lack of ad space. There are a few ads throughout, but they are always related to food or baking in some way. Also, I’d imagine that since the space devoted to advertising is small, that’s one reason that the magazine is on the more expensive side. The magazine is printed in full color and has some really intriguing recipes.

The Cookbooks

The cookbooks, for the most part, come out once a year and feature all the recipes that appeared in the magazine from the previous year’s publishing cycle. The cookbook also has really stunning photography. The cookbooks are organized by recipe type, not by magazine issue. For example, all of the single layer cake recipes are together, all of the pastry recipes are together, regardless of which issue they appeared in from the magazine.

One thing that I really appreciate is that each hardcover cookbook has a color scheme on the spine. If one were to possess each of the (soon-to-be) seven books, would have a lovely rainbow of spines sitting on their shelf. For book nerds, like me, this is a lovely addition to the print version.

The cookbooks are large volumes, often in the 400+ pages. The recipes are clearly written and amounts are given in cups, ounces, and grams. Even the smallest measures such as teaspoon and tablespoon have even been converted to grams. This isn’t something I’ve seen before with American cookbooks.

While the pages are colorful and bright, some of the recipes are difficult to read in order to make everything fit. Layout could be improved a tad. The use of multiple columns and incomplete sub-recipes can prove challenging, unless you are a seasoned baker. They definitely want the photos to dominate the pages, which I understand, but if you can’t read the recipe, how can you make the recipe?

The Magazine

The magazine is published six times a year, and typically features a theme. Two issues I have are the current one (May/June 2023), and the previous one (March/April 2023). The first one focuses on spring themed desserts, including recipes made for Easter and Passover. There are also a few cake recipes for spring and the main article features strawberries pretty heavily. I’m sure the Fall and Winter issues focus on the respective seasonal themes, but I’m curious to see what the other two editions would feature since they already fall between major holidays and seasons. The May/June issue appears to be promoting how much fun sprinkles can be since most of the recipes in the magazine use them in some capacity.

Much like the cookbooks, the photographs dominate. The recipes can be challenging to read due to the glare of the glossy magazine paper. The articles are well-written and lengthy, but considering you have two months to read them, I think they’re fine. Most of the ads are tied in to a recipe of some kind that is also featured in the magazine. These recipes usually correspond to an upcoming holiday such as Easter rolls in the March/April issue.

Still, the photography is what really sells this magazine. And for good reason. It’s gorgeous. But the real question is: how are the recipes?

The Recipes

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been making some recipes out of the cookbook I checked out of my local library (Volume 2) and the magazines I purchased earlier in the month. When deciding what to bake, I thumbed through every page of the cookbook multiple times. The first time was just to see what’s offered. There isn’t a master list of recipes in this book. I also took the time to appreciate the pictures during this first round.

The second time I looked through the book was to figure out what I wanted to make. It’s here when I realized that many of the recipes include complex and different flavors. Think stuff you would see on the Great British Baking Show and not Food Network. For example, tahini appears in a few recipes. And sesame seeds, and these are not used in traditionally savory bakes.

Eventually, I settled on a Bundt cake (I’ve been really into Bundt cakes lately). I chose this recipe for a couple reasons. Mainly it was easy and I had all of the ingredients. Pantry staples for the win! The recipe was an Italian Cream bundt cake.

Making it, I remembered how much batter is actually needed for a Bundt and it baked up wonderfully. I brought the cake into work and it was gone within two days. We’re a small staff, too, so it really was a feat. I then decided to try making another recipe from the cookbook. This time, a pound cake with a strawberry sauce. Even though strawberries were featured in one of the magazines, this recipe did come from Volume 2 of the cookbook.

This recipe also baked up really well and wasn’t too difficult to make. I will admit that I think my oven took longer to bake it than what the recipe said. I’m trying to learn to rely on the bake times in recipe less. I loved how the strawberry sauce gave the cake a swirl of red throughout each slice.

The Verdict

So what do I think of Bake From Scratch? While their recipes are wonderful and their magazines are bright and eye-catching. I’m not sure I’ll become a subscriber. Instead, I may wait to purchase the cookbook each year. It’s about half the price of the cover price of all six issues of the magazine would be. And frankly, I’m not as interested in the articles, just the recipes. And since recipes don’t really go out of fashion, it isn’t as important to me that I have to wait an entire year to get them.

One thing I do like about the magazine is that it’s about baking. There aren’t too many magazines out there that are dedicated to baking and this one does the hobby justice. Perhaps if you are a “more serious” baker and willing to experiment with unusual flavors and new techniques, then maybe you will get something out of the magazine beyond just the photographs. I found most of the recipes (from the cookbook) uninspiring and too challenging for my skill level. There was A LOT of pastry recipes in there. If you have the time to make your own phyllo dough from scratch, more power to you! But I don’t. I’ll take my store bought, Pepperidge Farm-made pastry squares anyday.

My recommendation, pick up a copy of the latest issue and see for yourself. And if you want to burn a $150+ whole in your pocket, you can get all the back Volumes of the cookbook shipped to you from their website. Of course, individual volumes are also available. While I don’t think I’ll run out and purchase one of their cookbooks right now, I may look to see if I can find another one from a local library. If I’m gifted one in the future, then I’ll be happy to start the collection. Like I said, the spines are colorful and the food photography/styling is hard to beat!


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