This book is written by the die-hard perfectionists behind Cook's Illustrated Magazine, a wonderful publication that prides itself on giving its readers the best of everything. The way they develop their recipes is simple: collect every version of a recipe you can find, make them all, and decide which one is perfect. Usually the best version ends up being a combination of several different recipes, and this is where the education comes in. Each recipe has a full explanation of the process they went through to reach the final version - what ingredients they tried in what measure, the effect each change had on the final product, and why they decided on a particular combination. And believe me, these people are thorough; one cake recipe combines techniques used by two different bakers who lived two centuries apart!
The best part is how they often get into the actual chemistry of cooking (especially in the baking section), so that it is far more than a collection of recipes, it is a cooking master class. I have often looked up a recipe only to get completely absorbed in the fascinating process of how cooking works and ended up reading an entire chapter. I have had my copy for years and I still learn something new every time I open it.
While they can occasionally go a bit overboard on the number of steps they require to reach perfection, most of the recipes are quite manageable by anyone - and it is great to know that you always have access to the tried-and-true best version of a certain recipe, even if you decide to cut a few corners now and then, or alter a recipe to fit your own tastes.
Anyone who enjoys cooking will find this book both fascinating and educational. It's also a real confidence builder, like having an expert chef at your side explaining things as you go. And needless to say, the recipes are fabulous!