Tag Archives | cookbooks

Cookbooks: Real Sweet

Real Sweet cover

Despite the spotlight we’ve all been shining on them lately, naturally sweeteners are still something of an undiscovered country. I’ve spent the last year finding ways to use these flavorful sweeteners in preserving, and I’m always excited to see how other authors use them in baking, cooking, and canning.

liquid sweeteners

One recent book that takes on a wide swath of natural sweeteners is Shauna Sever’s Real Sweet. It’s an engaging look at baking using coconut sugar, muscovado, turbinado, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, and more. As someone who regularly pulls apart recipes for things like quick breads and muffins in order to make them with these natural sweeteners, having this book on my shelf has been wonderful.

homemade graham crackers

The recipes in the book are organized by the events where each item might be most appropriate. This means that instead of classic categorizations like cakes or cookies, you’ll find sections that are entitled Bake Sales and Edible Gifts, Picnics and Potlucks, and Dinner Party Fancies. I think this is a brilliant method, because it ferrets out how most of us are really cooking and baking.

brigadeiros

Because I am someone who is always dashing out the house without planning ahead for the next meal, I like to have a few quick snacks tucked into a jar in the fridge or freezer. Shauna’s Breakfast Cookies on page 29 (sweetened with date paste and maple syrup!) are on my list of things to make this weekend.

maple and vanilla roasted fruit

I hear that stonefruit are going to be coming into season any day now around these parts and I’ve got the recipe for Maple and Vanilla-Roasted Fruit on page 236 marked with a sticky note for the moment I have some in my hot little hands. I can’t wait to stir a freshly roasted apricot or peach half into a bowl of yogurt.

Real Sweet back cover

And next time I’m asked to bring a dessert to dinner with friends, I’m making the Maple Chocolate Cake on page 101. It’s a one bowl cake that can be frosted or served with a dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream. I’m ready for a slice right now!

If you’re someone who is looking to use less refined sweeteners in your baked goods, make sure to seek out a copy of this book. It’s a worthy contender for space on your bookcase.

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Be a Recipe Tester for my Natural Sweeteners Book

plum jam

Friends, I am delightfully honored and just slightly overwhelmed by your excitement and interest in being recipe testers for my new book. Over 300 of you have signed up since I published this post earlier today. Thanks to this abundance in volunteers, I am closing the tester sign-ups.

If you missed your chance, please know that I will be sharing a few new, naturally sweetened recipes here on the blog this summer, so you’ll get a chance to preview some of the types of recipes you’ll see in the book. 

One of the things I came to understand while I was writing the recipes for my next book is that they were going to need more external testing than I undertook with my first two books.

Because there’s been so little work in the area of naturally sweetened preserves, I didn’t have nearly as deep a well of knowledge on which to draw when developing these recipes. Additionally, just because something works in my kitchen doesn’t always guarantee that it’s going to work in yours.

So I’m asking for your help. There’s a form at the bottom of this post where you can sign up to be a recipe tester. Tell me what sweeteners you’re interested in working with, how many recipes you’d like to test, and if there are any fruits you avoid. In about a week, I’ll send you some recipes to try.

Recipe testing is a volunteer gig for which you purchase the supplies (but also get to keep the results). When I send you the recipes, I’ll also include a short questionnaire that you’ll complete for each recipe you try. Of course, I will thank all the recipe testers profusely in the acknowledgements of the book!

I have no idea what kind of response I’ll receive to this request, but I will do my very best to include as many people as possible. All recipe testing will need to be completed by August 15, 2015, so please do take that into account before signing up!

Thanks to you all!

Cookbooks: Seven Spoons

Seven Spoons cover

If you follow the food blog scene, you may have heard that long-time blogger Tara O’Brady recently released her first cookbook, Seven Spoons. I have seen this beautiful book everywhere lately, coupled with glowing praise and pictures of delectable food.

Seven Spoons chia pudding

Tara’s book landed in my mailbox during that crazy phase when I was finishing my own book draft and while I took a cursory glance, I didn’t pay it the attention it merited. However, since turning in that document, I’ve been clearing out the piles and turning my focus to the neglected pile of review copies that gathered in an unwieldy stack next to my desk.

Seven Spoons spiced candied nuts

Friends, this book deserves all the love it has received of late. I’ve spent many an hour falling into these glorious pages and my copy is now riddled with hopeful Post-Its. It has that perfect balance of inviting story telling, appealing recipes, and spare, beautiful photography.

Seven Spoons soused tomatoes

I also love that in a world where cookbooks seem to require increasingly narrow lenses to be salable, this one simply features Tara’s favorite recipes. This means that you’ve got recipes for seeded bread alongside braised beef. I so appreciate the diversity and inspiration these pages deliver.

Seven Spoons pickled jalapenos

In addition to the recipes I’ve pictured here (which I very much want to try), I’m also hoping to make the Fennel and Chard Puff (page 95), the Pickled Strawberry Preserves (page 111), and the Rhubarb Raspberry Rye Crumble (page 219) as soon as is reasonable.

Seven Spoons spine

What cookbooks have been delighting you of late?

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Cookbooks: Fika

fika cover

I have always been drawn to the coffee and tea rituals of other countries and cultures. When I was seven or eight years old, I tried to convince my mom that we should take up the practice of afternoon tea a la Great Britain (of course, I was mostly in it for the promise of cake).

fika spine

So, you can understand that when I heard that a book called Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break (by Anna Brones & Johanna Kindvall) was coming out, I was all in. I pre-ordered a copy for myself, but before it shipped, a review copy from Ten Speed landed in my mail box. Within 24 hours of its arrival, I’d read it cover to cover and was dreaming about instituting my own daily fika.

what is fika page

Fika is the Swedish tradition of taking a daily break in which one takes the time to have a coffee (or tea, if that’s your thing) and nibble a baked good (homemade if you can manage it). As a born and bred United States person, who has been conditioned to believe that coffee is best drunk in transit or while working (as I’m doing right now), the idea of a cultural imperative that requires you stop in order to enjoy a cup and a snack hugely appeals to me.

fika rye bread

If you also feel drawn to the idea of fika, this book will help get you oriented and ready. It begins with an introduction to fika and then proceeds to address the history of Swedish coffee. In that chapter, you’ll find also find recipes for the seven traditional fika cookies.

They’ve also included sections on modern fika treats, things to make during the summer months when time can be spent outside, fika for celebrations, and finally breads, sandwiches, and ways to turn fika into a full-fledged snack.

fika jam thumbprints

I marked a number of recipes to try, including the Jam Thumbprint Cookies pictured above (I love that they are more like tiny tarts than the thumbprints we’re used to), the Almond Tart on page 58, and the Quick Buns on page 70. There are also a few jam recipes tucked here and there throughout the book, and they are sensible, non-nonsense takes on preserving which I appreciate.

fika back

Instead of using photography to depict the recipes, this book relies on Johanna Kindvall’s charming illustrations. I love this element, but if you buy cookbooks for the images, this might not be the right book for you.

I predict that this is a book that I’ll keep in regular rotation, both for the approachable recipes as well as for the reminder to take step away from the phone/computer/camera/stove for a little while each day.

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Cookbooks: Better on Toast

Better on Toast cover

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have noticed that I’m a big fan of putting things on toast (though lately, I’ve been on something of a soft boiled egg kick). I think that toast is an equally good vehicle for pickles and kraut as it for jams and butters and I have made many a meal over the years out of a slice of toast topped with a few scraps of cheese and a goodly layer of relish.

toast picture from Better on Toast

So when I heard that there was a book coming out called Better on Toast by Jill Donenfeld, I made a point of searching out a copy. I figured it would contain some good inspiration for my own toast practice, and also might offer some ideas for those of you who looking to use up your preserves in fresh ways.

salmon rillettes Better on Toast

The book opens with a introduction that goes deep into Jill’s love of toast and the many ways you can transform a humble slab of bread into toast (traditional toasting, grilled, pan toasted, or oven toasted). Then, it proceeds into sections devoted to breakfast, hor d’oeuvres, non-veg toppings, veg toppings, and finally things to do with your extra bread.

Pesto Swirl Better on Toast

I think the beauty of this book is that while it offers a number of actual recipes, it should be used more as an inspirational guide. Because Jill’s ideas can easily translate to the specific contents of your own pantry without too much issue.

Grilled Cheese Better on Toast

For instances, the recipe above for Grilled Cheese with Romaine and Bosc Pear (page 123). When pears aren’t in season, you could just as easily make this with canned pears from your pantry, or even with a couple dabs of pear vanilla jam. A few pages later, she’s got you heaping golden beets on a piece of toast topped with yogurt that’s been spiced with vadouvan. Steal the idea and use your own pickled beets instead.

Better on Toast spine

If you struggle how to use up your preserves and love toast (I realize it’s an endangered species these days), this might be a good book to add to your wish list or library queue.

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Cookbooks: Dessert for Two

cover of Dessert for Two

There is just so much to like about Christina Lane’s new book, Dessert for Two. It’s got page after page of gorgeous photography. The book is hefty and feels good in your hands. And all the recipes it contains for cookies, cakes, tarts, bars are scaled to serve just two or three.

Dessert for Two contents

Released last month and bearing the same name as her very clever blog, Dessert for Two is arranged by kind of treat. There are cookies (never more than a dozen), bars (including, but not limited to several varieties of brownies), cakes (including a petite wedding cake), Southern delights (Christina is from Texas), and candy (because why not!).

, brownies for two

I’ve used her recipe for brownies several times since the book landed on my doorstep and I’m always delighted both by their flavor and the fact that there’s not a whole pan of them hanging around my kitchen. You bake them in a loaf tin and the yield is just two generous brownies (though I often cut them into thirds so that they stretch a little further).

blueberry mason jar lid pies

And then, there’s the novel way that Christina uses mason jar lids. She flips the flat lid upside and turns it into a tiny removable bottom pan. You’ll see her do this for both tarts and pies and the result is both practical and adorable.

chocolate caramel mason jar lid tarts

If you have a small household and you like homemade desserts, this would be a very good book to add to your collection!

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