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Nov 3, 2013 03:37 PM

What cookbooks have you bought recently, or are you lusting after? November 2013 edition! [through 11/30/13]

Hi all, a day or two late here...but better late than never.
I got the books I ordered from TGC -- first impressions, the Medrich Seriously Bittersweet is very good (except for the introduction, in which the fact that higher cocoa mass percentages in chocolates demand different techniques and work differently in recipes that were written for the lower-percentage chocolates that used to be the only ones available is stated about 20 times more than necessary)...Patisserie at Home looks useful...haven't looked at the Vietnamese one yet, will report...and Payard Desserts is interesting but the recipes are quite demanding and not terribly clearly written in places. The photos are also a bit amateurish-looking to me considering the high level these are pitched to. I love his first, Simply Sensational Desserts, but this one is not going to be nearly as useful.
How about you? What books are keeping your bedside lamp lit, keeping you padding about with your iPad, and/or keeping your Kindle kindle-ing?

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  1. I have been on quite a cookbook buying binge lately, and what I have is mostly first impressions. I, too, have the Payard Desserts book, and it's a book I wish I had looked at before buying. I fell victim to TGC's 4 books for $40, so I don't feel too bad about it. The complaint that I will add to buttertart's is that every recipe seems to include some sort of ice cream or sorbet, something I might want to have with a dessert in a restaurant, but not something I'm anxious to make all the time to go along with a whole, big complicated recipe. Sadly, this book will be donated somewhere since I find it extremely unlikely that I will cook from it.

    Another book that I found somewhat disappointing is the A.O.C Cookbook, the follow-up to Sunday Suppers at Lucques. My main complaint here is that too many of the recipes include a sweet component, something that neither I nor my husband is that fond of. That being said, there were a few other recipes that I look forward to trying, but had I perused the book in a store, I think I would have been unlikely to purchase it. (Hmmm. Seems to be a theme here...)

    I gave my husband the new Patricia Wells book for his birthday since he is a huge Patricia Wells fan, and sadly, I must say that this book disappointed me too. It just seems very thin, as if she were scraping the bottom of the recipe barrel in order to come up with enough material to put together a cookbook. The recipient of this this book hasn't weighed in yet, so maybe he'll find something here to get excited about.

    I also gave my husband the new Grand Central Oyster Bar Cookbook, which he described as being fun, but somewhat basic. I haven't looked at this one yet.

    The real stand outs for me in my recent haul are Southern Italian Desserts, by Rosetta Costantino, and Caramel by Carole Bloom. I have several Italian Dessert cookbooks, but few have gotten me as excited as this one. There are old favorites here, but there are also some desserts that were entirely new to me, and a few cookies that will definitely make it to the Christmas table this year. Likewise, Caramel is filled with recipes that I want to make. Caramel is one of my favorite flavors (I'm probablyly alone in liking caramel more than chocolate!), so I am definitely biased here, but I can tell that this book will be well-used.

    12 Replies
    1. re: roxlet

      I'm with you on the caramel. Unfortunately the opinion is not shared here.

      1. re: buttertart

        Oh, I'm a heap big fan of caramel (added treat for old Monty Python fans out there).

      2. re: roxlet

        Please report back about your experiences with "Caramel". I can resist most sweets except anything with caramel in it!

        1. re: meatn3

          Ditto---I would love to hear your comments about any and all recipes you make from Caramel. Another I-love-caramel-more-than-chocolate fan here :0)

        2. re: roxlet

          Southern Italian Desserts has so many interesting recipes that I'd never heard of. Really happy with it.

          1. re: roxlet

            Love caramel! Love chocolate - dark and bitter - and lemon is the third flavour I love. How can I say which is better when they all are :)

            1. re: herby

              Me too. This Caramel book is on my wishlist for the next TGC bundle sale. I am a sucker for anything caramel and if it happens to be combined with dark chocolate so much the better. Don't even get me started on lemon...we recently moved back to California and immediately planted a Meyer lemon tree. A Eureka lemon is next. BTW easy and really good caramel sauce.

              I use unsalted butter and add some sea salt - about half a teaspoon.

                1. re: roxlet

                  Your standard supermarket lemon.

            2. re: roxlet

              Roxlet, have you made anything from Southern Italian Desserts yet? This book has been on my radar for a while and my library does not have it.

              1. re: herby

                No, I haven't, but I will soon. I'm still in birthday cake mode, so I'm making the Momofuku Milk Bar chocolate chip cake again today for a friend's birthday on Sunday. He had it here last week for my son's birthday, so when his wife invited us for his birthday on Sunday, I said I'd make it for him. I'm also making additional pie crusts, which I'm taking to San Diego with me to make pies at my SIL's house. She has a terrible kitchen, so it's just much easier to make the pie crust here. After I get back home a week from today, I plan on turning my attention to both the Southern Italian Desserts book, and Caramel, the other book I bought at the same time. I'll be starting to plan my Christmas/New Year's Day baking then, and I think there will be many things in both that I'll be making.

                1. re: roxlet

                  You are an amazing baker! I read your post on the baking thread this morning about teaching pie making and was super impressed. My quilting teacher was like you, always went way beyond what was expected of her.

                  Please post about your experience with SID either or on the baking thread. I'll wait to hear what you have to say before buying the book. I think I need the Momofuku book but will bake a few things out of the library copy before succumbing :) I have to make that chocolate chip cake but before I do I need to find a ring and acetates - will check Cnd Amazon but it usually does not have much.

            3. I purchased several the other day.

              Momofuku, after lusting after it forever.

              The New Midwestern Table - I love this book.

              Pok Pok - my favourite of the bunch.

              7 Replies
              1. re: kaymbee

                Please tell more about Pok Pok! The book is in my Amazon basket since I first heard about it but reluctant to buy without either flipping through at a store or have strong chow endorsement :)

                1. re: herby

                  I haven't yet done a deep dive into the book, but what I have read has been fantastic. I love the layout and there are so many gorgeous photos. It's quickly moving up the rankings of my must-have list.

                  I have made several of Ricker's recipes in the past and they have turned out perfectly so I'm excited to try my hand at a few more. I will report as I go!

                    1. re: herby

                      Another way to get a sneak peak: JJ Goode, who cowrote the cookbook, is guest editor on Food52 this week. I just saw his first article, they will be sharing recipes from the cookbook and interviews with Ricker all week. :)

                  1. re: kaymbee

                    kaymbee, Have you had a chance to cook anything from The New Midwestern Table yet? rasputina has set up a thread for us to talk about our experiences cooking from the book. Please do join us!


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I haven't yet although I have bookmarked so many recipes. I've been following the thread though and will definitely post about the recipes I try! I'm excited to dive in - its a great cookbook for the winter.

                  2. I broke down and bought Maida Heatter's Cookies - found a used copy for something like $3. Lulu and I have decided to do it up cookie-wise for Christmas this year, so I'm hoping this will come in handy. We're taking a Christmas Cookie making/decorating class together, but it doesn't take place until something like 12/23, which sort of takes away from its usefulness (except, of course, to Santa).

                    16 Replies
                    1. re: LulusMom

                      LLM, you might want to cruise through the Maida Heatter cookie threads here (not a ton of reports, but worth a look):

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        Thank you so much Caitlin - I had no idea that there was a thread (and don't even remember this special dessert COTM happening!). Any tips on what was good (or bad) will definitely help.

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          Maida is above reproach. i love her recipes.

                          1. re: buttertart

                            I'm so used to almost instant gratification with amazon, but buying used from an outside seller means I'm having to wait ... and wait .. and wait. Tapping my foot with impatience here.

                      2. re: LulusMom

                        Maida Heatter's cookie recipes are excellent, but I also must recommend Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies to anyone who wants to do it up cookie-wise. Medrich is absolutely reliable and has very interesting recipes and flavor combinations.




                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          Both of these are on their way to me now! I really have been on a bit of a spree lately. Glad they come highly recommended.

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            The kindle edition just went on my wish list, likely will be bought this afternoon.

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              I have Chewy Gooey and made a few cookies from it including excellent ginger cookies. Planning to make her lemon bars. Previously was making Ina's and wonder if I should stick to them or try AM's?

                              1. re: herby

                                Her ginger cookies are fabulous. The first time I made them, my husband said, "These are the best cookies you've ever made." Naturally, I have made them many times since.

                                1. re: herby

                                  herby, I haven't made Ina's lemon bars, so I can't offer a comparison, but I find most lemon bar recipes far too sweet to my taste, and AM's is tart and well balanced. I also really liked her apricot lemon bars (but be sure to use a not-too-sweet apricot preserve).

                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                    Thank you Caitlin! I do not find Ina's lemon bars too sweet and this is one reason I like them. Will try AM's this time :) Apricot lemon sounds intriguing - will consider them for sure. Have to mark them up in the book right now otherwise I'll forget as I have a tendency to be forgetful at times ...

                                    1. re: herby

                                      Here is what I had to say about the apricot lemon bars in that linked thread in my post above/EYB note:

                                      A nice twist on standard lemon bars with apricot preserves added to the topping and some chopped hazelnuts added to the typical shortbread crust. The topping is tangy and sweet, but not too (the preserves I used weren't super-sweet), the lemon and apricot work well together, and it's a pretty pale-peach color. The hazelnuts didn't register much, so I'd either use more or skip them.

                                      Another CH made these and posted somewhere (maybe one of the what are you baking threads) that she found them too sweet, but she had used a standard preserves, whereas I had used a less-sweet brand, hence my note in my post above.

                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        What brand of apricot preserves do you use?

                                        1. re: walker

                                          When I made these bars, I used the apricot fruit spread from Mountain Fruit Co. It's got a high percentage of fruit vs. sugar. It's a bit runny and not chunky, but worked really well in the recipe. It's this:

                                  2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                    Definitely, the Medrich books are great.

                                2. I am a huge fan of La Farm Bakery in Cary, NC:

                                  I would also like to pick up the Indian Slow Cooker cookbook that came out a few years back.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Westy

                                    Westy, sorry I can't find our original conversation about this, but I thought I should let you know that I saw octopus at the Harris Teeter today! It was the Chapel Hill one at U Mall, and I almost pee'd myself I was so excited. You might want to call before heading there if you're not close to this particular HT, or try calling whichever one is closest to you, but ... wow.

                                  2. I finally bought David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert, new at a bargain price. I know there are some repeats from the books of his I already own (Ripe for Dessert and The Perfect Scoop), but I'm looking forward to the rest. He has a slightly different method for candying citrus, where you simmer whole peels until tender, then scrape out the pitch and slice before cooking in syrup, instead of repeated blanchings. That'll be the first thing I try.

                                    1 Reply