Archive for the ‘Magazines & Cookbooks’ Category
A cookie swap is when a group of people all bake batches of cookies then get together and share both the cookies and the recipes. One Sweet Cookie is a kind of cookbook version of a cookie swap, featuring recipes from dozens of cookie recipes from well known chefs, pastry chefs and bakers. Most of the chefs are based, or were based, in and around the New York Area, where they shared signature cookie recipes and personal, family favorites with Tracey Zabar, who translated the recipes for home cooks and compiled them all in this volume.
The book has a brief introduction to the essential ingredients that you will need to start baking, but it gets straight into the recipes within a few pages. The chapters include: Brownies, Bars and Cakey Cookies; Nuts, Chips and Oatmeal Cookies; Pastry, Petit Fours and Chocolate Cookies; Meringues, Macarons and Macaroons; Biscotti, Spice Cookies and Seed Cookies; and Sugar Cookies, Shortbread and Donuts. The cookies are mostly arranged by type, but you’ll notice even from the chapter titles that there are a few recipes that aren’t quite cookies that snuck in – although they still make delicious desserts. The recipes all include a note about the chef who provided the recipe and what makes it so delicious, while the recipes themselves are easy to follow along with to recreate them. You may notice, however, that most of the recipes call for half sheet pans instead of just a “baking pan” or “cookie sheet,” and you might want to double check that you have the correct pan sizes for some of the bar cookies before starting your baking, though the drop cookies and shaped cookies won’t give you any problems.
The photos of the cookies are beautiful. Not only do the cookies look delicious, but they are presented in a way that makes them look like delicacies worthy of a special occasion – a nice reminder that cookies are just as worthy as being an “occasion” dessert as a cake can be, even though you definitely don’t need anything more than a craving for a cookie before starting to bake. The book has a tremendous variety of flavors in it, but I actually like the fact that there are different versions of a few of the recipes, such as Snickerdoodles, that come from different chefs with slight variations, too.
Basic bread has very few ingredients and seems like a simple thing to make, but bread is an intimidating thing to bake for many people. There are many reasons that people get intimidated and most of them come down to a lack of understanding of how to make a good bread. In short, they are missing out on the basics that make a bread recipe seem as easy as a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Nick Malgieri’s Bread is an overview of bread making, a book designed to take some of the mystery out of baking bread and set readers of any skill level up for bread-baking success.
The book starts out with an overview of the ingredients you need to make good bread. Malgieri is specific – without getting to scientific – about the ingredients you need and why you need them, as well as what essential kitchen equipment you need to have. The idea behind this introduction is not that you can’t make bread without these ingredients, but that you are setting yourself up for success by stocking your pantry with the right tools to make great breads at home before you start any baking. The introduction also covers the basic techniques and bread terms – such as kneading and “turning the dough” – used in most bread recipes to help demystify some of the terminology that comes up over and over.
Following through with the same precision he uses in the intro, Malgieri uses the same level of detail in the recipes that make up the rest of the book, breaking them down into very simple, clear steps that are easy to follow. The recipes range from very simple One Step Breads to more complex Filled and Sweeted Breads, but all of the recipes will deliver an excellent product. Most are illustrated with photos of the finished products, as well as step-by-step photos of any details of that particular recipe. Better still, Maligeri includes recipes that you can make using the bread recipes in the book, from bread salads to bread puddings, so you can start enjoying the fruits of your labor and, hopefully, make bread baking a regular occurrence in your kitchen.
A pie is one of the most satisfying baked goods you can make in your kitchen, but pies don’t seem to get baked quite as often as cookies, cupcakes and other baked goods do. This could be attributed to the fact that pies take a little more time to make than some other dishes, since they require a separate crust, or to the fact that many people are simply intimidated by the prospect of making a crust and baking a pie. Fortunately, pies are much easier to make than you might think and a basic pie crust is a must-have recipe that you can use for dozens (if not hundreds) of different recipes.
Crazy About Pies is a pie-centric cookbook that is a great place to start when you don’t have a lot of previous pie experience. The introduction is a comprehensive guide to pie baking basics, outlining tools and ingredients that you need, as well as baking and serving techniques. The basic recipes for crusts are all found at the back of the book, which means that you get to jump into the recipes much more quickly when you start reading. Most of the recipes are accompanied by beautiful photos of the finished products, as well a tips about what is in season or ways to garnish a finished pie.
The book’s friendly tone and straightforward recipes are very approachable for both experienced and novice bakers. The recipes cover a very wide range of both sweet and savory pies, and most of the pie recipes also include variations on the basic filling. Dessert pies include everything from classic Deep Dish Berry Pies to more exotic recipes, such as Mango and Pineapple Empanadas. Savory pies include Chicken Pot Pie and Cornish Pasties. The only drawback to the book’s layout is that the table of contents only lists the recipe categories – Fruit Pies, Birthday Pies, Dinner Party Pies, etc. – instead of listing the individual recipes, which can make it slightly inconvenient to flip directly to a recipe that sounds interesting and easy to miss recipes when you are flipping through the book looking for ideas. Fortunately, this also forces you to flip through the book and a recipe that you might not have expected could catch your eye, motivating you to try out a totally new pie recipe that you might not have chosen before.
Preserving fruits and vegetables, whether you’re making strawberry jam or a batch of homemade pickles, is one of the more time-honored traditions in cooking. It is also one that isn’t done quite as much as it used to be, since we can now buy hot-house fruits and imported vegetables all year round. But off season veggies never taste quite as good as those that are harvested in season, at their peak, and that is one reason why it is worth trying your hand at making preserves at home. The other reasons are that it is both fun and delicious to make your own preserves, and with The Art of Preserving, you will have a very good place to start.
The book opens with a quick overview of the equipment that you need to get started and with so tips from preserving pros that will make your journey into preservation go as smoothly as possible. The recipes include jams, jellies, preserves, conserves, marmalades, fruit butters, fruit curds, pickles, salsas, relishes and condiments – and there is literally something for everyone, whether you like more exotic marmalades or something as simple as homemade ketchup. There is a tremendous variety of fruits, vegetables and flavors in the recipes, too. The recipes are very clear and straightforward, so both novice and experienced cooks will find them to be very approachable and non-intimidating. The recipes also don’t make huge batches, which makes them easy to work with when you’re cooking them, as well as easy to use and store in your kitchen without having to dedicate your pantry to one type of homemade jam.
In addition to the recipes for the preserves, the book is also packed with recipes that use them. They are a fantastic addition to the various preserve recipes because it means that you’ll start out with at least one or two recipes that use what you’ve just made. The recipes are both sweet and savory, so you can use raspberry jam in a Coconut-Raspberry Layer Cake or preserved lemons in Roast Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Herbs. As if the preserves themselves didn’t sound delicious enough, the photos of both the preserves and the recipes that use them will get your mouth watering and push you in to trying some of these recipes yourself in no time.
Vanilla is one of the most important flavors in a baker’s kitchen. It is included in most recipes because it boosts the flavor of other ingredients and makes everything from chocolate to berries taste even better. It also, of course, tastes fantastic on its own and deserves a little time in the spotlight. Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques is a cookbook that focuses on vanilla and lets it be the star of each and every recipe in the book. Now, “vanilla” is often used to describe something plain or boring, but you won’t find any “vanilla” vanilla here, as the recipes are designed to maximize flavor and let the sweet, complex floral flavor of real vanilla stand out.
The book opens with a brief history of vanilla, one of the most expensive spices on the planet, and how it came to be so popular. It then goes into how vanilla is processed and the different types of vanilla that are available for use by bakers, such as whole vanilla beans, vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste, just to name a few. Avid vanilla fans will appreciate the tasting notes that describe how vanilla from one region differs from others – since vanilla from Indonesia, Mexico and Madagascar all have their own unique flavors – and everyone will benefit from the vanilla FAQs, which include quick tips on how to store vanilla and what exactly is imitation vanilla.
From the intro, the book goes into the recipes and it focuses on dessert. The chapters include Breakfast, Cakes and Pies, Cookies and Bars, Candies and Confections, Custards and Creams, and Drinks – and every recipe is vanilla oriented, from Baked Vanilla Bean French Toast to Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes. There are recipes for making homemade vanilla extract, vanilla syrups and vanilla-infused liquors that will give readers many new ways to use vanilla, too. The photos are beautiful, but the promise of all that vanilla flavor really is enough to make every recipe sound appealing even without them, so the most difficult thing about working with this book – if you are a vanilla lover – is deciding where to start.