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Case Number 08659: Small Claims Court

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Martha's Baking Favorites

Warner Bros. // 2005 // 204 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // February 22nd, 2006

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger makes a spectacular Jello pudding and Cool Whip "mousse."

The Charge

"Like all good teachers, I find myself repeating some of the same phrases."
—Martha Stewart

The Case

I'm going to take a stab in the dark here and guess that you, the reader of this review, are familiar with Martha Stewart. You know, the perfectionist who turned a love of baking and crafts into a highly successful media conglomerate; the lady whose measured, picture-perfect dollops of homemaking wisdom inspire either devotion or loathing.

Aside from a collection of Martha Stewart cloth napkins that I picked up in K-Mart one day to prepare for a last-minute dinner party, I was unfamiliar with Stewart before watching Martha's Baking Favorites. The first spoken line of this DVD had me headed for the loathing camp before I could even adopt a studied expression of neutrality. "Like all good teachers," Martha intones without irony, "I find myself repeating some of the same phrases." As I said, I'm unfamiliar with Stewart; maybe she's won the Best Cooking Teacher award for twenty years running. But humility is apparently not among her attributes.

As Martha went through her vignettes of baking wisdom, my early ire wore off. "Wow!" I thought to myself, "maybe making a flaky, cohesive pastry crust really is this easy. Maybe I could amaze my wife and friends with my carefree pâte brisée." Between you and me, summoning that amount of baking enthusiasm in this torte-phobic pastry reject takes near-godlike abilities. It's easy to see why Martha has garnered such a passionate audience.

Yet reality lurks, even in the spotless corners of Martha's TV kitchen. If making a pie crust were that easy, experienced bakers wouldn't struggle so much to perfect them. Martha and her guest instructors tell you how easy it all is, and they stick to the facts in doing so. After all, a pie crust is just flour, butter, sugar, and various other dry goods mashed together. The physics don't lie. Yet these professional bakers are relying on something we cannot glean from seven minutes with Martha: years of experience. Be it the color of the mix, the texture, or the size of the granules—something tells these chefs when to stop mixing. They intuit when to stop rolling. They know when to throw more flour on the table or when to let the butter soften.

If you have a modicum of baking know-how and just want the goods, here's what is covered in this DVD:

Techniques
• Baking Pans 101
• Basic Pie Crust: Pâte Brisée
• Standard Tart Dough: Pâte Sucrée
• Crust Decorating Techniques
• Freezing Pie Dough Tip
• Blind Baking Techniques
• Cake Stenciling "Good Thing"

Cakes
• Ultimate Chocolate Layer Cake
• Lemon Meringue Cake
• Coffee Crunch Cake
• Chocolate Angel Food Cake
• Red Velvet Cake
• Boston Cream Pie
• Hummingbird Cake

Pies, Tarts, and Cobblers
• Blueberry Crumble Pie
• Black Bottom Pie
• Peach Cobbler
• Square Pear Peg Tart
• Plum Puff Pastry Tart
• Mini Apple Tarte Tatin
• Banana Cream Pie

Cookies
• Kitchen Sink Cookie
• Rhubarb Shortbread
• Lime Meltaway
• Chocolate-Filled Lace Cookies
• Lemon Sandwich
• Pecan Squares
• Chocolate Chip Meringues

Special Features
• Classic Pie Gift
• Bloopers
• Printable Recipes and Instructions
• Baking Pantry 101
• Decorative Icing Pastry Tip Glossary
• Cake Decorating Tips and Techniques
• Meringue and Whipped Cream: Soft Peak vs Stiff Peak
• Leftover Dough Treats
• A Crisper Crust Tip

Each pastry is more appealing than the last (well, except for the homely-looking Coffee Crunch Cake). If you didn't know better, you'd swear they were all simple combinations of ingredients with a little heat added. The Kitchen Sink Cookie seems almost foolproof, so I'd start there if I were you. There really isn't much more to say about the content: they are recipes, and Martha talks you through them. The video is clean considering its television roots, and the set is miked well enough to carry Martha's soothing voice across clearly.

That might be all there is to it if the Special Features weren't deeply broken. See, the printable recipes don't print. I couldn't even get them to show up on my screen at all. Why? Well, I told the spyware-ridden nightmare known as InterActual to buzz off, so I get bumpkiss where the most vital part of the disc is concerned. Neither did the tips work. In fact, the only special features that worked were the Bloopers and the Classic Pie Gift.

The Bloopers are hands down the best part of this DVD. From exploding lightbulbs to spattering grease to little fires, there is plenty of action. Even better is our opportunity to see a partially unguarded Martha Stewart. As one of her guests walks off in a fit of embarrassed laughter after the tenth flubbed line in a row, hissing the "S" word through clenched teeth, Martha cracks up and protests her innocence.

Martha's Baking Favorites nearly got me excited about baking. I was ready to get off the couch and show my wife a thing or two about meringues. But discretion suggests it would be best to follow the lead of the Classic Pie Gift featurette: carefully bundle up the recipe and ingredients into a vintage linen towel and let someone else do the pie making.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 204 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Instructional
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Classic Pie Gift
• Bloopers
• "Printable" Recipes and Instructions
• Baking Pantry 101
• Decorative Icing Pastry Tip Glossary
• Cake Decorating Tips and Techniques
• Meringue and Whipped Cream: Soft Peak vs Stiff Peak
• Leftover Dough Treats
• A Crisper Crust Tip

Accomplices

• Martha Stewart Living








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