Late February marks the time of year when winter’s charms begin to wear out. Sweaters and scarves, once donned excitedly, are now put on begrudgingly. Snow, which once seemed magical as it fell to the ground, is now just an unwelcome reminder that cold days still lie ahead. While one might prefer to simply hibernate until spring arrives, there are things one can do to shake up the midwinter doldrums. You can, for instance, go winter camping! Or, if going out isn’t your thing, take the excitement indoors with a dinner party! Dinner parties are excellent cold-weather diversions — they bring your favorite people together in an intimate setting full of warmth, laughter and that winter-weather essential:
Few things make me happier than good things happening to good people. And if anyone ever deserved to be a raging success, it’s Cheryl and Griff Day from Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia. Let’s put it this way: When I decided to get married in Savannah, the very first call I made was to Cheryl. Before anything else was booked or signed, I’d already begged her to make my cake (thankfully she obliged, and it was amazing). I’ve been enjoying Cheryl and Griff’s delicious food and baked goods since my first trip to Savannah and have been honored to share their friendship over the years, as well. They are quite simply great people making great food that comes straight from the heart. So I’m overjoyed to share and celebrate the debut of their very first cookbook, The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook (Artisan Books), on p today.
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.
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)!
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.
The Hungry Girls’ Cookbooks are more like art-based magazines than straightforward cookbooks, and they are handmade, designed and written by three friends, Rachel Pitts (recipes), Katherine Bird (design and illustrations) and Leah Holscher (photography). It’s awesome when friends come together to produce something creative, and these girls have really done it well. Each copy is hand-bound with cloth and made on 100% recycled paper in Australia. Volume 3 just launched last week, and I think they’d make a spectacular gift for the foodie in your life. They celebrate fresh, local food while looking as beautiful as the food is tempting to eat. Click here to check out more online.
After a decade of co-authoring and recipe developing for some of the most successful and meaningful cookbooks on the market, Julia decided to write her very first solo cookbook. That book, Small Victories, is the sort of book you can only write once: a book that combines all 31 of her years of life experience and passion for cooking at home into one giant love letter to all that she believes in. Small Victories celebrates the way so many of us cook: one step (or “small victory”) at a time. Each recipe of her book (which contains over 100 recipes and hundreds more spin-offs) starts with a tip, trick or technique that you can use to create something delicious, and then offers how to alter or expand on that dish to make something new and different. There are recipes for everything from delicious chocolate cake with raspberry jam and morning muffins to Julia’s beloved Caesar dressing and a Korean clambake.
Above image: We fashioned a tiny Eiffel Tower out of a single piece of copper wire. Bend a length of copper wire so there are about 4 inches on one side. Twist at the bend about three-quarters of the way down. Twist the longer side of the wire upward from the bottom, curve it across to the other leg and twist back down. Cut off any excess. Red striped dinnerware set from West Elm Market.
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?
I started small, blending veggies into smoothies. Then I started to create healthy versions of my favorite comfort foods and wrote everything down. Eventually, I had a binder full of recipes that I thought I should share with others, so I started YumUniverse.com. Then I started sharing resources that could be downloaded by anyone, anywhere. I wrote a book, I’m finishing a second cookbook, YumUniverse: Pantry to Plate, and I’m launching my first 4-week gluten-free baking course in early 2017.