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!
Living in Italy, I feel quite deprived of world cuisine and therefore have noticed that my collection of books dedicated to helping me satisfy those cravings has grown. Joel’s recipe for porcini tapioca cakes also happened to remind me of “world cuisine” coming all the way from Australia. So I thought I’d do a round up of a few ‘well-rounded’ cookbooks that offer a wide range of cuisine type, just in case you get bored easily. If you’re looking for more mushroom recipes, try A Cook’s Book of Mushrooms by Jack Czarnecki (Artisan). If, instead of mushrooms, you want to try out an easy chutney recipe, see the end of this post! Have you got a favorite cookbook with a wide variety of cuisines under one binding?
“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.
The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox (Clarkson Potter). [TOP IMAGE ABOVE] I was so looking forward to this book, a collection of recipes which are a bit less common than you’d normally find in American baking books– recipes like like Lamington cupcakes, pine nut tart with rosemary cream, nut and cherry nougat. As a whole, the collection of recipes is elegant- definitely a notch above average. You’d make a great statement if you served one of these recipes to your friends. And although I had a bit of difficulty with the Ultimate Chocolate Brownies (The cooking time didn’t work out for me?), my shortcoming has been like a challenge to me, which has made me want to come back and try more recipes in the book, maybe toward Christmas when I usually try to bake up five to ten different baked goods and give little boxes of mixed goodies to friends as gifts (You always want unique things people haven’t tried before in those gift boxes). For people who like to experiment with different flavors and adapt recipes for different types of desserts, you’ll appreciate the notes after each recipe which offer tips on how to do just that! In sharp contrast with Baking Unplugged, there are plenty of pictures in this book of the final recipes up close, so you can compare and see how your efforts measure up! While the recipes are generally quite easy to execute, this is definitely the type of book for the person who believes that a tiny bit more effort can produce great desserts.
Skull Garland DIY: We crafted these charming hanging garlands using Paper Source’s Sugar Skull Gift Wrap, Rhombus Black Paper, and Raised Grey Floral Paper . Skulls were cut out according to the pattern and circles were cut from the other papers. The cutouts were then attached, back-to-back, to black and white twine with a glue stick.
On the daily: In the a.m., leave the computer and phone off and go outside for a walk or run before I do anything else. At the end of the day, I geek out on my “Sleep Ritual.” I turn off my computer and phone and leave them both downstairs so I’m not tempted to scroll through Instagram in bed. I have an electronic pillar candle that I turn on around 9–9:30pm and carry that baby to the bathroom where I have an epsom salt soak. Then I climb in bed and read by “candlelight” for 20–30 minutes, then I’m out. Honoring this time has changed everything for me. My sweetie jokes with me and calls it “Frontier Time,” but I wake up rested and energized, and my mind is ready to take on work with a clarity that motivates me to Sleep-Ritual for life!
Baking Unplugged by Nicole Rees (Wiley). Baking Unplugged is the hands down winner in my spot recipe testing. The recipes are good, easy, and practical. The simple philosophy behind the book is that you can make great desserts without any electrical equipment (except an oven, of course). The preliminary chapters at the beginning review tools, ingredients, methods, and how to read a recipe. The books chapters are then divided into types of baked goods, with no dearth of explanation of technique. The book is clear and concise, easy to understand. I wish I had had this book when I started out baking. This is a book for anyone who wants to get back to basics in the kitchen, someone who has a small kitchen with only a few tools, someone who is lazy and doesn’t feel like plugging in the equipment. It’s a perfect book for beginners– I am a firm believer in the ‘learn in the manual way’ in order to excel in the automated world. I really really like this book. One last important note– there are no photos at all in the book. But please don’t let this discourage you.
I decided that I wanted to go to “a city” when I received my degree in graphic design at a university in West Virginia. My senior year, I went to Chicago for a wedding, fell in love with it, and when I returned to school, got to work contacting the most respected design firms in Chicago. Eventually, I landed a 3-day-a-week contract gig for 3 months at a small boutique firm. I sold my truck, packed up my kitties, and used 80% of what was in my bank account to rent a small apartment in Chicago. From that point forward, momentum snowballed and over the course of 16 years, I was able to work for many of the firms I’d long admired.
Fortunately, I had a co-author, so I didn’t have to worry about recipe headnotes (which I understand can be very challenging to write well) or features (research, research, and more research), both of which give voice to a cookbook and help inform and connect the reader to the recipes. I also didn’t have to handle the manuscript edits! I could focus on what I enjoy most — food and photos!
If you’re anything like me, Halloween has a tendency of sneaking up on you like Freddie Kruegar in a nightmare. One minute, you’re installing your air conditioner in May and all of the sudden —BOOM— there are trick-or-treaters at your door. I have no idea how this keeps happening to me (early-onset dementia, perhaps?), but when October 31st rolls around, I often find myself sans-costume and sans-plans. So—if Halloween (two days away, you guys!) has snuck up on you this year, but you still want to get a little festive—don’t worry, y’all! Design*Sponge gotchu covered.