All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray (Chronicle Books). For one year, the author (a producer at National Public Radio’s program All Things Considered) brought in a cake to work every Monday, and this book is the result. It is a fantastically entertaining book. The recipes are a mix between previously published recipes, and the author’s own (bequeathed by friends and family, or tweaked and ‘co-opted’ for personal use from other sources), so of course they have been tested and retested. What I love about the book is the author’s voice, the way the instructions are written, the stories, all of the written text. What I do not like about the book– you need a 10″ tube pan to make the majority of the recipes, or you need shortening. If you live in a place where it’s difficult to find either (especially the latter), you’re out of luck. Comb the internet to find a shortening alternative. If you can get over those two things (I’m still smarting), then this book is a winner. There’s even a chapter on non-cakes (cookies etc)!
Spending my time with someone who works in cookbook writing and testing has made me look at books in a whole new way. My own experience with books made me appreciate the hard work that goes into the organization, but to see first-hand how much testing and skill goes into each recipe makes me have a whole new level of respect for cookbook authors. We’ve been so fortunate to see some gorgeous books come across our desk at work lately, so I thought I’d share some of my personal favorites that I plan to be cooking from over the holiday break. I tend to lean heavily on sweets, so many of these are dessert books (not sure if I should apologize or celebrate that fact) which I hope will still work for everyone. If not, we’ve got an in-depth post coming up tomorrow about a great new recipe book that celebrates the savory as much as the sweet. Happy cooking!
“The idea for the magazine Kinfolk,” Nathan Williams writes in his introduction to The Kinfolk Table, “was born in the course of trying to describe those evenings spent with friends when the hours pass effortlessly, conversation flows naturally, cooking is participatory, and the evening ends with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.” We’ve been huge fans of Kinfolk ever since its inception—not just because of its stunning imagery and down-to-earth writing, but because of this laid back, communal philosophy towards entertaining. Throughout the pages of Kinfolk magazine, it is apparent that the lifestyle being espoused is not one of lofty, exclusive soirees, but of calm, familial gatherings, one where easiness and enjoyment are key. The Kinfolk Table, the cookbook that accompanies Williams’ quarterly lifestyle journal, seems the natural extension of this entertaining philosophy. Within its pages, numerous cooks, artisans, and craftspeople share their own recipes for delicious food and beautifully simple gatherings—a warm antidote to overly-fussy and antiquated ideas of entertaining.