Title: Feed the Resistance: Ideas for Getting Involved
Author: Julia Turshen
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Julia Turshen, chef and cookbook writer, is a book for activists. Wait this is is a baking blog! Why review a book appears counter to the standard cookbook?Turshen, concerned with the changing political tide and social injustice, attended a Citizen Action of New York meeting in her neighborhood. After the meeting she was approached and ultimately recruited to cook for everyone who attended the meetings. She obliged realizing that meetings would be less stressful if participants didn’t have to worry about eating or making dinner. This book happened quickly for her. Turshen writes, “To think deeply about food is to also think deeply about the environment, the economy, immigration, education, community, culture, families, race, gender, and identity. Food is about people. All people.” The book is divided into three categories:
- Easy Meals for Folks Who Are Too Busy Resisting to Cook
- Feeding the Masses: Foods for Crowds
- Baked Goods and Portable Snacks
The book has historical and powerful vignettes that introduce each recipe reflecting not only the diversity in America but also how and why those recipes matter. The Chocolate Espresso Pie Bars and its connection to the 1950’s Civil Rights Movement to fund transportation during the bus boycott is inspirational. This little book is a powerful reminder of food and community connection. All proceeds of Feed the Resistance go to the ACLU.
Title: The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen
Author: Yasmin Khan
Photography: Shahrzad Darafsheh (Travel Photographer) and Matt Russell (Recipe Photographer)
Designer & Illustrator: Sarah Greeno
Food Stylist: Rosie Reynolds
Prop Stylist: Tamzin Fernando
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Yasmin Khan takes the reader on a journey into her beloved Iran in search of traditional recipes. The photography in this book is stunning and the recipes spice profiles are striking. Khan has shared with us her personal journey and the cultural world of a country, so often misunderstood.
Three standout recipes, traditional with a modern spin, for the holiday season are: Pomegranate and Sour Cherry Sponge Cake, Persian Love Cake, and Sour Cherries and Dark Chocolate Cookies (topped with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel). Though the book was released in 2016, it appears as if the book has caught on for 2017 year as I am hearing and reading more interviews with her. This is a wonderful gift for anyone who enjoys history, culture, and food.
Title: Downtime: Deliciousness at Home
Author: Nadine Levy Redzepi
Photographs: Ditte Isager
Book Design: Ashley Tucker
Publisher: Pam Krauss Books/Avery
I know hygge is the newest trendy cultural appropriation from the Danes but really no one does it better than the Danes. Redzepi’s book is hygge.
The photos are warm and homey, the recipes are comforting, and because Redzepi’s recipes are accessible for any skill level, preparation is not stressful. Yes some of the recipes take time to make but relax and embrace the hygge energy this earthy book brings. While many of the desserts are fruit based the showstopper is the Giant Macaron Cake. It’s more impressive than the smaller cookie macarons. The Old Fashioned Apple Tart is perfect for the holiday season.
Title: The New Sugar and Spice: A Recipe For Bolder Baking
Author: Samantha Seneviratne
Photography: Erin Kunkel
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
If you don’t have The New Sugar and Spice: A Recipe For Bolder Baking in your cookbook collection you are missing out. Samantha Seneviratne has written a book that creatively utilizes global spices. Sri Lankan in heritage and raised in America, Seneviratne has worked as a tester at Saveur and in Martha Stewart’s test kitchen Everyday Food as food editor. Seneviratne writes in her cookbook, “My goal is to make spice an equal partner to sugar.” The creative flavor combinations are unusually surprising. Combinations such as: Thai Chili and chocolate, parsnip cake with cardamom and ginger or buttery shortbread infused with coffee and Cardamom bring refreshingly sweet and savory combinations onto the dessert plate.
Title: Sweet Sugar Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors To Wake Up Your Baking
Author: Maleeka Ameen
Book and Cover Design: Shubahani Sarkar
Publisher: Roost Books
“If I were a spice I would be cardamom. It is the queen of spices, well rounded and complex with so many wonderful attributes.” Says Maleeka Ameen, former pastry chef at Chateau Marmont. While Cardamom is at the top of my favorite spice dish, it’s her yummy Chewy Chocolate Devils that turned me onto the spice urfa biber. Urfa has become my favorite go to spice when I am baking with chocolate and want to integrate it with a subtle heat. Ameen’s use of heat is balanced and isn’t overwhelming with fiery flavor. If heat isn’t what you want in a cookie try her Chocolate Hazelnut Clouds. The toasted hazelnuts and cardamom with bits of cocoa nibs make for a decadent meringue cookie. If you’re not in the mood for chocolate then try her refreshing Lime Crunch Cake. Finally, the glossary.
The glossary in the book -Allspice to Za’atar -has beautifully photographed images of spices and is also helpful in understanding aroma, color, and freshness. For example, Urfa Biber: “Urfa biber, from the Urfa region of southeast Turkey, is a deeply purple chile with a unique taste that is at once rich, fruity, and hot. Urfa biber is often described as tasting like raisins and coffee, and its heat is deceptive. At first taste it can be mild, but that mellow heat builds. Urfa biber is typically sold round into flakes. It should be vibrantly colored and retain some moisture from the pepper’s high oil content.”
Ameen’s book is a real gem and deserves a place on your cookbook shelf.
Title: The Art of Flavor: Practices and Principles for Creating Delicious Food.
Authors: Daniel Patterson and Mandy Aftel
Publisher: River Head Books/Penguin Random House LLC
The Art of Flavor is the book for anyone who is interested in aromatic cooking or baking. Patterson, a James Beard Award Winner and Bay Area Restaurant owner along with Aftel, an internationally recognized American perfumer have put together a book unlike any other cook/baking book around. This book focuses on the importance of trusting your senses, particularly, the sense of smell (“fragrance, the noblest of all food additives”). While the recipes are accessible to anyone who enjoys cooking, the book “isn’t about learning recipes, it’s about learning to think about ingredients, process, and flavor in a new way.” It’s easy to forget that some ingredients are a “multiple of ingredients,” which makes a difference in how we know and understand texture and aroma. This book is a great teacher in experiencing and finding pleasure in flavor.
Title: Brave Tart: Iconic American Desserts
Author: Stella Parks
Photographs: Penny De Los Santos
Publisher: WW Norton & Company
Level: Advanced Beginner to Skilled
Stella Parks, a Culinary Institute of America graduate and senior editor at Serious Eats is a storyteller and has written the marvelous Brave Tart: Iconic American Desserts. This is a fun homey book. Parks is a storyteller and provides historical insights into how some of these one hundred year old recipes have stood the test of time. It took her five years to develop these recipes with a modern twist. It’s quite a book and the photographs beg the reader to get up and make those Oreo Cookies, or those yummy Vanilla Wafers or those light Buttered Vanilla Marshmallows, or the tangy Key Lime Pie. I have a feeling this book will take its rightful place in culinary book history.
Title: The Home Cook: Recipes to Know by Heart
Author: Alex Guarnaschelli
Book Design: Stephanie Huntwork
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Level: Advanced Beginner to Skilled
I admit it- I watch Food Network television and I love the program Chopped. My favorite judge is Alex Guarnaschelli. She takes food seriously and it shows in her keen savvy feedback she gives to the contestants. She is an Iron Chef, is the executive chef at Butter and author of several cookbooks. The Home Cook is her most recent and it is inviting. Though most of Guarnaschelli’s book is more hor d’oeuvres and entrees with a few cocktail recipes, she lets the reader know that she is “highly invested in the baking recipes.” She is particularly fond of layer cakes. I made her Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake as well as her Pecan Pie. Two scrumptious desserts for any occasion. A nice gift to give.
Title: The Art of Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life
Author: Kate McDermott
Photographs: Andrew Scrivani
Publisher: The Countryman Press
Level: Novice to Skilled
Every time I look at social media baking blogs I am inundated with baking perfections from frostings, confections, to crusts. As a novice baker, I admire the perfect photos but often I am left feeling uncertain as to whether I can bake to that sort of aesthetic. Then I found The Art of Pie. McDermott’s book alleviates that stress. Oh, how I love this book! It’s a non-intimidating approach to pie baking. Her insights, rules, and recipes are helpful and reassuring. Her recipes for baking different types of pies crusts-double crusts, cheddar crusts, to gluten free- are written in a way that gently ease the baker through the process. The Apple Cranberry Walnut Pie recipe is just what Thanksgiving dessert ordered. Pie has also taught McDermott some life lessons: “Pies has been a taskmaster, a teacher and a healer for me. I’ve learned a lot from this vocation, and in some ways I feel that its life lessons have saved me from some very challenging times.” If you love baking pies or want to become more skilled at it then buy this book!
Title: Vanilla Bean Baking Book
Author: Sally Kieffer
Book Design: Jan Derevjanik
Publisher: Penguin Random House LLC
Level: Novice to Skilled
Sarah Kieffer’s Vanilla Bean Baking Book has over 100 recipes of sheer delight. Her first-person headnotes are clear, friendly, and supportive. Her advice, like many other bakers, is to try and try again until you get it right and are comfortable with the recipe. The photography in this book is clean and not over stylized. The photos are lovely. Her blog is a comfortable read with photos that invite the reader to continue with her on her baking journey. She was the winner of SAVEUR’s Best Baking and Dessert Award.
Title: Mimi’s Cookie Bar: Organic Cakes & Cookies
Author: Mimi Council
Delaney Council Designs
Level: Novice to Skilled
Mimi’s Cookie Bar is located in Mammoth Lakes, California. The bakery’s goods are known for its eco -friendly organic ingredients. Mimi’s Cookie Bar: Organic Cakes & Cookies recipes reflect that. I’ve baked several recipes from this book and they do not disappoint. Some of my favorites are: Frosted Carrot Cookies, Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread Cookies, Peanut Butter Espresso Cookies, and Brown Butter Pecan Bundt Cake. The recipes in this book are balanced in flavor and texture and are not cloyingly sweet. This book is a good one for anyone who loves cookies and cakes!