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May 7, 2012 12:27 PM

What cookbooks have you bought lately? Springtime edition, part 2 [OLD]

Having hit 300-ish posts on the last go-round on the topic, it's time for a new thread so nobody gets scrollitis of the index finger (or sweepitis on a touchscreen). I received the new Medrich desserts book and "Couture Chocolate" from my TGC sale buy this weekend. Had a peek in the chocolate book, which is gorgeous, but a bit over my head (I'm not a candymaker, yet) but the Medrich is awaiting my being fully over this bug so I can enjoy it properly.
Shopping my shelves I have really enjoyed rereading Paula Peck's "The Art of Fine Baking", which came out in the early 60s and introduces methods subsequently thought of as innovations now, such as reverse creaming and cooking part of the fruit for blueberry filling. There are several recipes I'm itching to try.
I'm still in pursuit of a suitable celebratory cake and am looking through RLB's "Heavenly Cakes" and Alford & Duguid's "Home Baking" (roxlet noticed a walnut torte in it that might do the trick, despite my general dislike of the authors' smug, self-congratulatory style). Come to think of it, Ms Duguid has a book coming out on a southeast Asian -- Burmese? -- cuisine, I believe, that I'll doubtlessly grit my teeth and buy. We shall see.
And how about you? What new or revisited delights are you enjoying?

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  1. Well, I haven't bought it, nor have I cooked from it, but I did give it away -- Homesick Texan. I have a friend who is from Texas whose birthday is today and who also had a medical procedure this morning. So I decided to give her this book along with the red velvet cake I cooked. Now I'm wondering if I should buy this book again, so I'm asking if anyone has cooked from it, and what the results were.

    2 Replies
    1. re: roxlet

      Homesick Texan has beaucoup fans on CH but I ain't one of them. The recipes didn't grab me. Read through the whole book when I got it.

      1. re: roxlet

        I've had great results with her recipes both from the cookbook and online, but the food is pure comfort food for me so I might be a bit biased. I had some friends over for a cocktail and snacks evening a few weeks ago and served the chorizo empanadas, queso cookies, chorizo jalapenos, and one of the salsas to rave reviews (using the homemade chorizo in the book). I haven't had much of a chance to cook main dishes from the book yet, but the enchilada recipes I've tried from the web site have gotten me through more than an occasional bout of homesickness.

      2. Buttertart, I'd been wondering about the new Alice Medrich.. alas, the Toronto Public Library does not have it yet. Serious Eats Sweets is doing their "Cook the Book" series on it for the next few weeks...
        I got Lisa Yockelson's "Baking by Flavour" out of the library last week, but haven't progressed from avidly reading it in bed at night to actually baking from it yet... I just haven't decided what to make yet!

        7 Replies
        1. re: rstuart

          I don't have anything by Yockelson. What is appealing to you in this volume? I gave the new Yockelson (didn't it win an award?) to someone for Christmas, so I only perused it briefly...

          1. re: roxlet

            I had a look at it at Christmastime in a bookstore and for once in my life wasn't seized by possession lust. What do you like about it, rstuart?
            You need to get your mitts on that Paula Peck.

            1. re: buttertart

              My mother had a few of her cookbooks when I was younger: Country Pies and Country Cakes. She made some really great recipes out of there.. I think that she still has them. So I've always been a fan. In fact, I think that the chocolate cream cheese cake that was then carefully shaped into a cat and iced for my 13th birthday was from Country Cakes ;)
              I think that it was the fact that the cookbook was divided up by flavour.. and with the exception of Almond and Apricot, I love all of the flavours. I really need to try some.. I have a colleague who is retiring next week, and I think that I will try something from the coffee section for her.. she has loved my other coffee-flavoured baking..

          2. re: rstuart

            The new Medrich is fun. I read most of it this morning and there are lots of things I want to make in it. Her usual unusual and pleasing flavor combinations abound.

            1. re: buttertart

              I found it appealing. I will be turning to her "easiest" melted-butter, press-in-pan tart crust to try next time I need a sweet tart crust.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                I will too, although it was fun making Paula Peck's one by hand this morning...would have banged it in the fp but it had bread starter in it.

              2. re: buttertart

                Library now has it on order...I'm the second person to put a hold on it!

            2. Home Baking is nicer than I remembered. There are a few recipes that I think would be clunkers (a proto-baklava with thin flatbreads i/o pastry) but on the whole it's quite good. And it has a recipe for butter tarts in it! And due homage is paid to Edna Staebler and Mme Jehane Benoit, groundbreaking cooking experts of our home and native land (mine and rstuart's, anyway) when I was growing up.
              (The walnut torte won't do for the bday cake, too eggy.)

              1 Reply
              1. re: buttertart

                I've got Home Baking (along with all their other books), and I think I've only baked from it once or twice. I have made a few cakes from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, and they are always delicious, though the instructions are hilariously fussy. Lately I've been using Warm Bread and Honey Cake a lot, and Bourke Street Bakery, though not for big celebration cakes. The German Chocolate in RHC is fantastic if you like that sort of thing.

              2. Not a book I've recently bought but one I have from the library...

                Honey From A Weed by Patience Gray, an English cookery writer who is said to have had more influence on English cooking and the embracing of the Mediterranean way of life than the revered Elizabeth David. Patience was born on October 31, 1917 and died on March 10, 2005

                As I said, the book I'm reading is a library copy but I dare say it will soon be on one my library shelves. It's a fascinating account of her Mediterranean odyssey that took Patience and the man she called 'the sculptor', Norman Mommens, to Carrara, Catalonia, the Greek island of Naxos and, finally to southern Italy, where in 1970 they settled in Apulia, in a primitive farmhouse they named Spigolizzi.

                Her explanations of the reasons behind certain cookery procedures such as using a mortar and pestle, for example, make one want to discard all modern kitchen conveniences... almost. I love this book, though. Authentic rustic recipes for native produce and seafood are interspersed throughout the chapters so I can't really call it a cookbook, but one gets a feel for what cucina povera is really all about but it all sounds so cucina raffinata somehow. There are charming line drawings throughout by her former daughter-in-law.

                The following is a quote from her obituary in The Telegraph:
                "Patience was a woman of strong emotions and opinions, her prose muscular and full of character. So, too, was her cookery. While Plats Du Jour had been largely derived from books and home experiment, Honey [from a Weed] was more in the way of field notes of an anthropologist, but one who had gone native herself. To her last years, she would not have the normal conveniences of refrigerators, gas cookers, electric light, telephones or water closets at Spigolizzi. It was only growing frailty, and the urging of her son Nicolas, that allowed some compromise with modernity."


                ETA: Just searched EYB for this book and indeed it's there... and.... there are 219 recipes.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Gio

                  I've been reading about that book since the 70s. Must have a look.

                  1. re: Gio

                    Ah, now I see your post Gio, I didn't even realize we had a new Cookbooks thread underway...not that I haven't been buying books, I just haven't been confessing ...err, reporting them!! LOL!

                    Thanks for sharing that Guardian link.

                    I've read most of this book but haven't cooked from it (for lack of time/too many books etc) I'm hoping we could make it a COTM once day. Even if I never were to cook from it though, it was well worth the investment as it's such a fascinating read. A true food lover's book I'd say.

                    1. re: Gio

                      I've had Honey from a Weed for many years. It's an excellent read, a memoir as well as a recipe book. It significantly changed the way that I thought about food and cooking.

                    2. I just received American Century Cookbook by Jean Anderson and barely had time to flip through. Looks charming but for the life of me I can't remember what possessed me to order it. I know there was a good reason discussed on these boards, but what was it?!!

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: herby

                        I love Jean Anderson. She has been writing about food pretty much as long as I've been reading about it. That book is an interesting history of 20th C food and is definitely worthwhile to read. I've only made the grapefruit cake out of it and we weren't crazy about it (recipe worked fine, flavor didn't appeal as much as I expected it to). Books of hers to cook out of are the Portugal one (inspired me to go to Lisbon on holiday), "Jean Anderson Cooks" (very personal and enjoyable boook), and the new one on braising. The Southern one is excellent but I haven't cooked from it. She is one of my heroines!

                        1. re: herby

                          Don't have American Century, but in addition to the books mentioned by buttertart, I have her food processor and microwave cookbooks. I don't use either for cooking that much (although she has some excellent recipes in both books), but her timing charts are along worth the price of the book. In fact, I just made myself an artichoke for dinner, checked the instructions in Micro Ways, and had a perfectly cooked artichoke, as I knew I would.

                          Jean is also the author of The New Doubleday Cookbook (which is no longer very new), which I think is the best of all the old compendium cookbooks--better than Joy, Good Housekeeping, and Fannie Farmer. One of the reasons is because Jean is just about the best recipe writer in the business. Her instructions are always clear and the recipes always work.

                          I have cooked from A Love Affair with Southern Cooking which, by the way, is as much of a joy to read as it is to cook from, and it didn't disappoint. I bought Falling Off the Bone just before leaving the country for a couple of months so haven't had a chance to cook from it yet. But when I returned, I found a note tucked into the book from the friend who was staying in my apartment. She said, "Love, love, love this book! If veal shanks weren't so expensive my husband would insist I make that ossobuco recipe every week."

                          1. re: JoanN

                            The veal stifado-style stew (cooked uncovered) in it is divine.

                            1. re: JoanN

                              Thank you for your replies, BT and JoanN! I have Falling off th Bone and made something out of it that was good but do not recall at the moment (and do not have book with me). Will try her osso bucco which everyone in the family loves as well as the veal stew - thanks for suggestions! I would love to buy a good solid Portugese book - do you think that Jean's is the one I should consider?

                                1. re: herby

                                  No question. You never go wrong with Jean Anderson.

                                  1. re: JoanN

                                    I heartily agree, I have the two you have, A Love Affair with Southern Cooking and Falling...and I'm so glad I bought them.