Category: book (page 1 of 4)

Up your dessert game with Joy the Baker’s Homemade Decadence

Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson
I’ve been a fan of Joy Wilson’s gorgeous blog Joy the Baker for awhile. Though I don’t read it daily, I like to pop over, skim through her posts, and get some inspiration when I’m thinking about creating a new recipe. Joy has a wonderful voice, her photography is drool-worthy, and you can’t beat her fun and creative recipes.

Her first book, Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes, was published in 2012, and now she’s back with a gorgeous followup, Homemade Decadence: Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats.

I think the title says it all, and it doesn’t hurt that one of the most decadent cakes from the book is front and center on the cover (just look at those pretzels!). With 125 recipes (and wonderful photos to match), there’s a little something for every baker. The book is broken into 5 sections:

Cookies, Brownies and Bars
Pies, Crumbles and Cobblers
Layer Cakes, Cupcakes and Skillet Cakes
Ice Cream Social

I’ve already made note of a couple pies I want to make (Hello, Apple Pie with Cheddar-Bacon Crust????!!!!!), and the books already looks fantastic on my cookbook shelf.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Stepping into David Lebovitz’s Paris Kitchen

My Paris Kitchen by David LebovitzI might be a little late to the David Lebovitz fan club, but I fell in love with The Sweet Life in Paris when I read it 2 years ago. As a former French student, it was fascinating to see what life is like in Paris outside of the confines of a text book, and the sprinkling of recipes was a nice touch.

Now we have a more intimate invitation to join him in My Paris Kitchen, and wow. What an invitation. The book is absolutely stunning — the photography is mouthwatering, but somehow ernest (nothing feels flashy). And with 100 recipes, ranging from savory to sweet, to choose from, there’s definitely a little quelque chose français for everyone.

While I’ve had a copy of this book for a bit, I haven’t cooked from it just yet, simply because I’m a bit overwhelmed and awed by the recipes. But I do look forward to making my first selection and feeling like I have David at my elbow, guiding me.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Fried & True: Stepping away from the oven and up to the skillet

Fried and True

Though it’s not baking related, I HAD to share this new book, Fried & True by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman (with a sassy and thoughtful foreword by Whoopi Goldberg). The big pull for me, I have to admit, was that this book contains THE recipe for some of the most amazing fried chicken I’ve ever eaten, from Federal Donuts in Center City, Philadelphia.

The book contains more than 50 recipes for fried chicken, and yes, if you didn’t think it was possible to make fried chicken 50 different ways, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out how wrong you are.

Fried & True is broken up into the following sections:

  • Southern Inspiration
  • American Originals
  • Pacific Rim
  • Sandwiches, Wings, Li’l Bits, and Special Diets

And it offers a little something for everyone, including delicious side dishes such as biscuits, hash brown casserole, smothered cabbage, as well as recipes for rubs, sauces, brings and more.

I was happy to see that the book doesn’t skimp on food photography … almost every other page has a stunning photo of fried chicken and sides. Of course, excellent photography adds to the visual appeal of flipping through a book, but I also think it’s extremely helpful to be able to look at food photos for guidance. Does my chicken look like that? Yes? Ok then … time to eat!

The front of the book, even before diving into the recipes, has a full photograph tutorial showing how to break down a full chicken, as well as a spread explaining the variety of fats and oils that can be used (I totally geeked out while looking through the book for the first time on the couch with Ray, exclaiming, “Ohmigod, it includes the smoke points!!!” I’m such a nerd.)

My only criticism is that paperbacks don’t always make for the best cookbooks because they’re hard to keep open without weighing them down with something, and then things can become awkward. But if that’s the only beef I have with this book, then I can look past it.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Anatomical sugar cookies in honor of Mary Roach’s ‘Gulp’

Sugar cookies for Mary Roach

I am a HUGE fan of Mary Roach’s books. Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers may be my favorite, and in the summer of 2010, Ray and I went to see her book tour talk for Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Now it’s 2013, and Mary Roach has a new book out, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal. She came to the Free Library on Thursday to talk about her new book and be interviewed by the hilarious and super smart Anna Dhody, curator at the Mutter Museum.

I tweeted at her to see if cookies would be acceptable to bring, and the response was great:

Mary Roach tweet
For those who might not know, “villi” are small projections that protrude from the lining of the intestinal wall. Fun, right?

So, in honor of Gulp, I made 4 round cookies decorated with royal icing stomachs (freehand!) and then using a weird little worm cookie cutter, I made 3 intestine cookies with a cutaway revealing the villi (sprinkles, or as some say in this part of Philly/South Jersey, “jimmies”).

The talk was great (Mary and Anna are a great match), and I gave Mary the cookies when she signed my copy of Gulp. She LOVED them! Even asked if I was a professional baker, which really made me feel awesome.

Review: Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever

Pure Vanilla

Confession: I’ve been one of those people who thinks vanilla is boring. Vanilla ice cream? Maybe with pie. Vanilla cake? Well, maybe, depending on the frosting. However, Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques by Shauna Sever has proven me very, very wrong.

Vanilla is anything BUT boring. Sever lays down some really fascinating details about the vanilla bean even before she digs into the recipes. Here are a few I found to be interesting:

  • Vanilla beans are the second most expensive spice, following the No. 1 saffron.
  • The beans have to be harvested by hand (hence the hefty price tag)
  • Vanilla beans are the seed pods of a specific type of orchid that prefers hot, humid climates, approximately 700-1,400 miles from the equator.
  • Thomas Jefferson had a sweet tooth and was an avid ice cream maker–who would have known? When he was the ambassador to France in 1789, he fell in love with vanilla and brought some beans home with him. His vanilla ice cream recipe is kept at the Library of Congress.

And vanilla is the top-selling ice cream flavor in the U.S. So, okay, okay, I’m obviously missing something here and need to turn my thoughts around!

Luckily, Sever’s book makes it easy to get into the groove. With recipes ranging from breakfast items to cookies, cakes to candies and custards, there’s something for everyone, and almost all skill levels. I also like that there is a balance of typical recipes (vanilla pound cake) and the not-so-typical (twinkie bundt cake and vanilla nougat candies). The book’s photography is stunning, and even the inside cover space is put to work, providing readers with a vanilla lover’s cheat sheet (so if you don’t have a whole vanilla bean, you can figure out the equivalent of extract you use) and a metric conversion chart.

I decided to take one of the recipes for a test drive and baked the Big, Soft Frosted Vanilla Sugar Cookies on page 77. I used Sever’s suggestion and added instant espresso to the cookie batter and frosting, making them Big, Soft Frosted Vanilla Latte Sugar Cookies. The recipe was easy enough to follow, though the first instruction of beating the butter and vanilla together until creamy does not yield creamy results (really, you need to beat the butter and sugar together first, THEN the vanilla, but I made it work).

I used brown sugar, since I’m running low on granulated, but otherwise stuck to Sever’s recipe. I cut the frosting recipe in half, however, because I didn’t want heaps of frosting taking away from the cookie (you can see my cookies in the top photo of the collage above).

The cookies are very vanilla-y, not so latte-ish, and I like how the edges are crisp but the centers are soft. However, I can taste the oil in the recipe (it calls for 1 cup butter and a 1/2 cup oil), which distracts me. If I were to make these again, I’d sub in butter for oil.

So, if you’re a vanilla fan, pick up Pure Vanilla for your bookshelf, or give it as a gift for any of your baking friends … they’ll definitely enjoy it!

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher. However, my opinions are my own.

Review: Cake Balls by Dede Wilson

Cake Balls by Dede Wilson

You’re probably familiar with cake pops, due to the work of Bakerella and her popular confection on sticks. Now, a cake ball is just like a cake pop, sans stick. And I think I prefer them that way.

There’s a bit more work involved in creating cake balls and pops than in cupcake making, since you’re baking the cake, cooling it, breaking it down into crumb, and then reconstituting it into bite-sized balls with a binder and final coating. It’s not difficult, but you’ll want to set aside enough time (or break it into multiple days), and having a good resource for recipes makes things much easier.

Enter Cake Balls: More Than 60 Delectable and Whimsical Sweet Spheres of Goodness by Dede Wilson. The books begins with a great upfront section that walks you through Dede’s techniques, preferred ingredients and equipment. If you take the time to read through her process, you are guaranteed to make perfect cake balls (granted you follow your recipes correctly!)

I like that she provides the baker with a wide assortment of bases, ranging from yellow and chocolate cake to brownies. From there, she provides a variety of binder recipes and finishes up with some coatings. I even learned that frosting isn’t your only option for binding; you can use jam, ganache, even liqueur!

Following this section, the reader is greeted by a variety of cake all recipes, many with gorgeous photos accompanying them. Dede has a recipe for everyone, and it seems easy enough to customize them even moreso to your liking (something I do a lot).

My only complaint is the book’s binding (picky, I know). The book is spiral bound with a perfect cardboard binding surrounding it. The spiral binding roughed up some of the pages, and also makes it sometimes difficult to turn the pages, but that’s certainly forgivable, given that you have so many recipes to play with.

Check back later in the week to see what kind of wild and booze-infused cake balls I came up with using Wilson’s book.

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher. However, my opinions are my own.

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