Cook the Collection #10: The Fondue Cookbook

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Sep 072015
 

Header illustration for cook the collection projectThis project is well-intentioned but boy is it slow. All this time and I’m just on the tenth book – that’s kind of ridiculous. I’ve got this dead wood of not-great cookbooks hanging over me that I would like to pare from my collection, but I feel I should cook at least one thing from each before I do.

The Fondue CookbookThe thing is, there are cookbooks that have great, accessible recipes, and there are cookbooks that have luscious, aspirational photographs and head notes, and a few treasured cookbooks have both. Then there are the cookbooks that might not be so great but they’re meaningful in some way (for instance I like to bring back a cookbook as a souvenir when I travel), and the books that are family heirlooms. Another group of cookbooks are the workhorses of the collection – the reference and technique books and the general books that get turned to over and over again. Finally, there’s a large group of books that have marginal recipes, poor illustrations and uninspired writing. These are my bane! These are the books that I want to toss into the recycle bin (or at least the donation box at the local library).recipe page from The Fondue Cookbook

The Fondue Cookbook, however, is not one of those dreary books. This book is a specialty book for sure – we got it as a wedding gift along with a fondue pot (and no I was not married in the 70’s, surprisingly) – and it is full of fondue recipes and nothing else. The very first recipe, for traditional cheese fondue, is a solid recipe that gives great results. This is my go-to cheese fondue recipe, and when my daughter asked if we could have fondue the other day, it’s the one I turned to. Later this month I’ve promised the kids we’ll make chocolate fondue, and I’m sure I’ll turn to this book again.

Cook the Collection #9: Better Homes & Gardens Cookies Cookies Cookies

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Apr 212014
 

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Better Homes and Gardens Cookies Cookies Cookies is an older cookbook (published in 1992) which is a bit of a novelty book – half of the book is called “Any – Day Treats” with basic recipes for peanut butter cookies and snickerdoodles and when you flip the book over and turn it upside down you have “Christmastime Treats” with more elaborate shaped and decorated cookie recipes. It’s a pretty no-nonsense book generally, with spare header notes and straightforward, easy-to-follow directions.  I’ve had this book for 20 years and I don’t know that I’ve ever baked anything from it before (why do I hold on to these books? It’s crazy, I know).

My little guy wanted to bake Chocolate Chip Cookies the other day and  instead of just using the recipe off the back of the chip bag like I usually do, I pulled out this book to give it a try. The ingredient list was pretty much what I was expecting except that it called for a half cup of vegetable shortening – which I don’t usually keep on hand and didn’t want to buy just for these cookies. What I did have in the pantry was a jar of coconut oil so I substituted it with a 1:1 ratio. It ended up giving the cookies a subtle coconut flavor, but I thought it was quite a nice addition. After baking these cookies I’ll probably give another recipe from this book a try since the one I tested was easy and successful.

chocolate chip cookies

(Disclosure: The cookbook link in this post is an affiliate link and if you happen to make a purchase via the link I’ll receive a small percentage of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)

Cook the Collection #8: Falling Cloudberries

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Mar 052014
 

header draft(Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a small commission)

 


Time to get back on the ball with the cookbook challenge – at this rate I’ll never get though them all – especially since I’ve acquired more since I started. Most recently I baked from the intriguing cookbook Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes by Tessa Kiros. This is a lovely book to read, full of family stories and remembrances of grandparents, in-laws and family friends. Its a very eclectic collection of recipes, drawing from around the world with just the unifying theme of the author’s family, but it works, especially when you read the headnotes of each recipe. There’s something in that eclectic mix that reminds me of how our family eats, drawing our culinary influences both from family recipes and the world around us.

I baked Apple Cake with Toffee Topping and it turned out delicious – good apple flavor with a yummy caramel toffee topping. The recipe was straightforward and easy to follow but the best part for me was the way it got the gears turning in my mind. For me, the best recipes get you thinking as you make them and eat them; I was quite inspired by this recipe and can’t wait to work on my own variations.

apple toffee cake 2

May 312013
 
 
  (Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a small percentage of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)


I’ve been craving potato leek soup for a few weeks now, and thought I’d better get to it while the weather’s still cold and dreary and calling for warm soups (such is the end of May in the Pacific Northwest). When I went to the bookshelf to find a good recipe I knew just which book I hoped would have one: The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. Hooray – happily there was a potato leek soup recipe and I was good to go. Its such an easy soup with just a few ingredients but with great flavor, and the family loved it and ate it all up.

All of the recipes in this book really highlight individual ingredients and let the flavors of each shine through. This is a book that encourages the reader to not just cook but to be a cook, by offering lots of potential variations on recipes and by honoring the cook’s intuition and skill. For example in the potato leek soup recipe one of the handful of ingredients is salt, but there is no amount listed. Its up to the cook to add the amount of salt that they feel the recipe needs. This book is a great read and also great to cook from – a winning cookbook combination!

I’m sharing this post at some of these great link parties – check ’em out!

Cook the Collection #6: The Bread Bible

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May 272013
 
 

(Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a small percentage of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)



I had the chance to hear Rose Levy Beranbaum speak years ago at a reading and book signing and she was just what you’d expect a baker to sound like: warm, witty, compassionate and helpful. She took questions well past the scheduled end of the talk and was thoughtful and thorough in her replies.

The Bread Bible“, her companion book to her popular book “The Cake Bible” is just like that – a serious book, just like you’d expect with ‘bible’ in the name, but thoughtful and warm as well. It’s comprehensive and thorough, covering breads from quick breads and muffins, through flatbreads, sandwich breads and rolls to  hearth breads, sourdoughs and brioches. All the recipes include three types of measurements: cups and spoons, metric and imperial weights. I like having the choice of how to measure because weighing the ingredients gives great results, but sometimes I’d rather be less fussy and just toss everything in.

So we made scones from this book and OMG they were the best scones ever! We usually just use the Fisher Fair Scone Mix which is quick and easy and makes pretty darn good scones, but these scones blew those scones right out of the water. These were amazingly good scones, like ‘eat too many in one sitting’ scones. These scones were so good they made me want to immediately bake from another recipe in the book.  Of course I probably won’t do that right away because I have so many more cookbooks to cook from (on that note – my lovely children got me a cookbook for my birthday (“Kids Parties!” – I think there was a bit of self-interest at work) so now my collection total stands at 153.

Look at this mint leaf – I think its prettier than the scones!

Cook the Collection #5: Simply Classic

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May 092013
 
(Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a few cents of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)

Let me just start by saying if anyone ever wants to invite me to anything hosted by a Junior Leaguer I’m in -because apparently those Junior League ladies can cook!  I’m so excited to be able to tell you all about  Simply Classic: A New Collection of Recipes to Celebrate the Northwest, compiled by the Junior League of Seattle. This is one of my top five cookbooks and everything I’ve made from it has been delicious. Not only that, the recipes always get rave reviews – this is my go-to cookbook when I need a no-fail potluck dish or family dinner contribution. You can tell that these are recipes from real-world kitchens – with easy-to-find ingredients and common equipment they are easy to replicate at home. The recipes are comfort food with a Northwest twist, new American cooking with a global hint. Some of my favorites are the Tomato & Basil Tart, Sweet & Spicy Black Bean Salad, Green Bean & Feta Salad and Northwest Stew with Dried Cherries.

The book is a joy to flip through and read as well – illustrated with beautiful paintings of classic Seattle scenes, menus to suit any Pacific Northwest occasion and recipe head-notes that evoke a certain iconic Seattle style. I love to give this book as a gift and it would be perfect as a souvenir of Seattle or for someone with a special spot in their heart for the city.

I’ve cooked from this book many many times before, but for the purpose of the Cook the Collection challenge I prepared the Northwest Autumn Salad at a family gathering this past weekend.  This is one of my go-to green salad recipes and although it’s titled as an autumn salad, the dressing is light enough for any time of year and lends itself so well to adaptations. Of course I made a number of changes (I just can’t help myself) – pears instead of apples, walnuts instead of pecans and lime juice for lemon juice. We ate it alongside a knock-out grilled pork tenderloin and a simple fruit salad that was just right.

I’m sharing this post at some of these great link parties – check ’em out!
Apr 102013
 
(Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a few cents of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)

 I guess I needed to bake something else this week as a palate cleanser after those cupcakes and I had a bunch of bananas going seriously brown so I grabbed the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook down from the shelf and whipped up a loaf of their Banana Bread. The recipe header calls this banana bread one of the best they’ve tried, and it is really good. Its already my go-to banana bread recipe with the substitution of chocolate chips for walnuts, but I was feeling frisky this time and added toasted coconut and 68% cacao dark chocolate, and it was spectacular.

I also substituted honey Greek yogurt instead of plain yogurt and I think it made the bread a bit drier than usual, which makes sense because the Greek yogurt is thicker than the regular style. I’ll have to keep that in mind for the future because the drier texture actually works better as a bread and for toasting, while the regular moister texture is more cake-like. Besides just eating the banana bread as a snack, I sliced it into thick slices, toasted it under the broiler, then topped it with vanilla ice cream and drizzled caramel sauce over the top (this idea was courtesy of the cookbook, as well) and that was a hit with us and our dinner company.

This cookbook is another good general baking book, with lots of extra information about the ‘whys’ of baking as well as recipes from ranging from quick breads to yeasted breads to cakes, cookies, pies and pastries. This one does get some use in my kitchen and I’d recommend it for beginning to intermediate bakers.

Cook the Collection #3: Baking Illustrated

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Apr 032013
 
 (Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a small percentage of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)

I’m still on the baking kick, but I think this week’s recipe is going to make me take a break for awhile (either that or I’m going to have to bake something else to get the taste out of my mouth). I cooked from “Baking Illustrated” which is a baking cookbook from the Cooks Illustrated library. I usually have great luck with the Cooks Illustrated recipes and their book “The Best Recipe” is one of my favorites but. . . not this time.


I made yellow cupcakes and instead of frosting them with the chocolate ganache in the recipe I used the vanilla buttercream recipe from the same book. The recipes were clear and easy to follow but I just wasn’t very happy with the results. The cupcakes tasted dry to me, and the buttercream was too buttery for my tastes. It was disappointing because I love a good cupcake and I was really looking forward to this one. I’ve baked other things from this book before that were more successful, but its definitely not one of my go-to baking books and the next time I have a choice I’ll try one of my others first.

 

Cook the Collection #2: Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook

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Mar 292013
 
(Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a small percentage of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)

Apparently I’m on a Seattle bakery kick, because the next book up is the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook. Macrina is a longtime Seattle institution, located in the trendy Belltown neighborhood (with two more popular locations on Queen Anne Hill and in SODO as well). The bakery is known most for its breads and cakes – the special occasion cakes are absolutely divine – but its cafe turns out delicious meals as well, and this cookbook highlights both the savory and sweet.

I tried out the Challah recipe the other day – I’m a big challah fan but I never make it at home for some reason. The recipe was easy to follow and the bread looked great. It was a bit dry and the crumb seemed lighter in color than I’m used to, like it wasn’t quite eggy enough. I’d make it again if I didn’t have another recipe, but as it is I’ll probably try another source next time. I feel like I’m selling this book a bit short though, because its pretty comprehensive and all the recipes sound great. I actually wish I had made one of the bread pudding recipes because it might have wowed me a bit more. The final verdict is that this book will stay on the shelf, and I’m looking forward to the next recipe I try from it.

You can see the previous posts in my Cook the Collection challenge here.

Cook the Collection #1: The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

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Mar 152013
 
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  (Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a small percentage of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)

If you’ve ever been to Seattle, there’s a good chance you’ve eaten at one of Tom Douglas’ restaurants. At last count he’s operating 11 restaurants in the city, plus a catering venue and a line of dry rubs for cooking at home. Frankly they’re all pretty great and even the newer restaurants seem to become instant classics, but the grand dame of them all is the Dahlia Lounge – and its offshoot the Dahlia Bakery. Last year the Douglas empire released its newest cookbook: The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook.

the dahlia bakery cookbook link
I received the cookbook this past Christmas and baked some cookies right away (the molasses ginger cookies, which were excellent) but then set it aside for awhile. I picked it back up again this week and was reminded right away by what a great instructive book it is. The recipes are written clearly and simply and there are plenty of baking tips (like quickly warming up refrigerator chilled eggs) that will improve my baking even when I’m not  baking from it.

I was looking for a quick recipe and decided on the Prizewinning Pecan Brownies. Now I have to confess I’m a boxed brownie gal (really embarrassing confession time – I’ve never made brownies from scratch before) but these brownies are the best ones I’ve ever eaten. Really. The best ones ever. I’d make another batch right now except then I’d eat the whole batch myself, so I’ll refrain.

Embarrassing confession #2 – even though these are supposed to be pecan brownies, I don’t care all that much for nuts in brownies and we didn’t have any pecans in the house so I skipped that ingredient altogether. Also, I love a bit of cinnamon along with the chocolate in brownies, so I added a half teaspoon of that to the recipe. This recipe alone is worth the price of the book, and this cookbook’s earned it’s place on the shelf!

Do you have the Dahlia Bakery cookbook? What do you think of it?