Archive for: cookbooks
The Secret Lives of Baked Goods is another book from Jessie Oleson Moore, the author of both the book and blog Cakespy, and it features the histories of some of the most beloved baked goods that we make. The stories attached to all of the recipes on the book describe how the recipes and and their components evolved over time into the very recognizable treats that we all know and love – like the chocolate chip cookie.
The book is divided into chapters by category – Classic Cakes, Timeless Cookies & Bars, Traditional Pies, Lost & Found, Foreign Affairs, Commercial Favorites and Curious Confections – and each features several very well known recipes, as well as the somewhat surprising stories behind them. In the Cookies chapter you’ll learn the difference between blondies and brownies, and that blondies actually came first. In the Commercial Favorites section, you’ll discover how Oreos became one of the most iconic cookies in the world. And in the Curious Confections chapter, the urban legend behind Urban Legend Cookies (a.k.a. Neiman Marcus cookies) will be uncovered. Some of the stories might be familiar to you, and some might be complete new, but stories like these are fun to learn and will get you more excited about baking and giving the recipes a try in your own kitchen.
The stories are told in a very fun, conversational tone and that carries over into the recipes, which are very detailed but simple enough that you’ll feel like you’re making an old family recipe. There are photos for every recipe, if the stories alone aren’t quite enough to motivate you to start baking. Once you’ve baked, you’ll definitely start to share the stories and facts from the book with friends and family, making the baked goods even more exciting to everyone who eats them.
Simple syrup is a mixture of equal parts water and sugar that many home cooks and bakers are familiar with. It’s a versatile syrup that can be used for sweetening all kinds of things in the kitchen, but it is especially useful when it comes to sweetening drinks. The only problem with simple syrup is that it is very plain, so the drinks that you add it to – take lemonade, for instance – need to be very flavorful before any syrup is added for them to taste good. Learning to make flavored syrups can greatly improve the range of recipes that you can make and take your drink-making skills to a whole new level. Make Your Own Soda: Syrup Recipes for All-Natural Pop, Floats, Cocktails, and More features recipes for more than 70 different syrup flavors, all made with completely natural ingredients and delivering a lot more flavor than you could ever find in simple syrup alone.
The syrup recipes are made with no corn syrup, no artificial ingredients and no artificial colors. Instead, they’re made with real sugar and flavored with ingredients that include berries, coffee, hibiscus, herbs and spices – just to name a few. The book emphasizes using in season fruits and produce to get the best flavor in your syrups and provides a guide to help you do your shopping, as well as tips for preparing the fruits and getting the most out of your ingredients. The syrups have naturally bright colors and flavors and simply mixing them with some soda water will give you artisianal, small batch sodas that you and your friends will love.
These syrups don’t need to be used with any special gadgets and the book gives you all the information you need to make your own drinks from scratch. If you do already have something like a SodaStream, however, you are likely to get a lot of use from the syrups in this book because they are so much better than the premade soda syrups that are already out there. In addition to sodas, there are recipes for soda fountain favorites, such as floats and egg creams, as well as a variety of cocktails that you can make with them. The photos alone provide plenty of inspiration, but the syrups are so versatile that you are sure to come up with your own ideas after you’ve made a batch or two.
Soft pretzels are a favorite American snack, sold at both malls and at sports games, and enjoyed for their salty taste and chewy texture. But pretzels are much more than a gameday snack. In Germany, as well as neighboring countries, they are as ubiquitous as the baguette is in France and are a popular part of both snacks and regular meals. Pretzel fans will tell you that nothing compares to a warm, chewy pretzel that has been freshly baked – and if you love pretzels but have never experienced that yourself, then you might want to try your hand at the recipes in Pretzel Making at Home, which is dedicated to the love of eating and art of crafting homemade pretzels.
Pretzels are known for have a distinctive yeast and mineral flavors to them that sets them apart from other types of bread, regardless of which type of flour or flavorings you incorporate into your dough. One key ingredient in many of the recipes in the book is beer, which boosts the yeast flavor of the dough, and another is lye, which is used to brown and flavor the exterior of the pretzels. Despite these slightly unusual ingredients that you might not bake with on a regular basis, the recipes in the book are straightforward, so you will be able to make the doughs with ease and only need to worry about trying to get that classic pretzel shape before baking. The recipes include soft pretzels, hard pretzels and a dozen sweet and savory dipping sauces that you can serve with them.
It is much more common to see recipes for soft pretzels than for hard pretzels, which most of us pick up in bags at the grocery store instead of trying to bake, so it is great that the book includes such a diverse array of pretzels. The photos illustrating the recipes are wonderful and will definitely put you in the mood for some salty snacks. I recommend making sure you have a good supply of ingredients before reading too much into the book because once you start, your mouth will start to water and you’ll find yourself wanting to eat (after baking, of course) a few batches of pretzels yourself.
I tend to think that cakes, especially layer cakes, look the best just after you first slice into them and you can see the moist cake and layers of frosting within. Most of the time, you get what you expect when you slice into a lovely looking cake, but there are also times when the cake surprises you by looking even more impressive on the inside than it does on the outside. Bake It Like You Mean It: Gorgeous Cakes from Inside Out is a collection of recipes that delivers just that effect, with recipes that look just as good as they taste.
The book isn’t just about cakes, although it is cake-focused, and it actually offers an interesting variety of recipes. The chapters include Sponge Cakes, Cheesecakes and Mousse Cakes, Meringues, Butter and Pound Cakes, and Yeasties. The last chapter focuses on yeast-based recipes. The recipes are very technique-driven, which is to say that there are a variety of different techniques used in the book and you’re not just making one recipe with different flavor variations. It is likely that you will pick up some skills that are new to you – or that you might not have used in a while – while working with these recipes. Some are simple cookie recipes that would fit in at any occasion while others are multi-layer tortes with impressive – and edible – garnishes that look like they would steal the show at a big party. Fortunately, all of the recipes are very clearly written and easy to follow, even for the recipes that involve multiple components.
The book covers a range of recipes, from very simple to more complex, which means that novices have somewhere to start and can improve their skills as they work through the recipes. More experienced bakers can flip through the pages and start with whatever recipe catches their eye – and there is no doubt that at least a few of these eye-catching cakes will do just that. The photos in the book are stunning and the cakes look so good that you will want to reach out and touch them.
Every family has some recipes that are traditions, recipes that pop up on holidays and at special gatherings that really complete the table. Even if your family wasn’t comprised of cooks who could hold their own in an Iron Chef challenge, there was always at least one or two dishes that you looked forward to. The problem with these family recipes is that many of them were not shared widely, if they were passed on at all, and that means that the traditition might be harder to keep up as time goes by. Sweet Home: Over 100 Heritage Desserts and Ideas for Preserving Family Recipe is all about preserving those family favorites, starting with recipes that were part of the author’s own family traditions.
The book is broken down into four sections: Preserving, Celebrating, Giving and Creating. Celebrating centers around holidays, birthdays and other gatherings, with recipes that are sure to be a hit at parties. Giving features recipes that are ideal for gift-giving occasions, from simple housewarmings to edible gifts that you can pack and ship around the holidays. Creating offers recipes to serve as inspiration for starting new family traditions, with some flavors and formats that your grandmother probably wasn’t using or that have only recently become family favorites. The recipes are fun to read through because you get a sense of family just from flipping the pages, and you can feel the warmth that the author gets from each and every dish. The recipes – unlike your grandmother’s recipe cards – are clearly written and easy to follow, so you’ll get great results every time.
The format of this book is wonderful, because it not only gives you a good resource in the form of included recipes, but it inspires you to start putting together your own volume of recipes to keep – and perhaps pass on – as a tribute to your own family. The Preserving section, which is at the beginning of the book, outlines some tips for collecting family recipes, starting with how to gather the recipes and how to document and store them. You might opt to start a family blog, or you might stick with a traditional recipe book. No matter which format, you’ll put together a collection that you will cherish for years to come, and you’ll find that you get at least as much satisfaction from putting together a family treasure as you might from baking and sharing a wonderful batch of chocolate cookies.