Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Baking with Adriana

by Adriana

Once again, publishers are cranking out titles at a frightening pace in time for the holidays, and cookbooks seem to be leading the pack. If you don’t believe me, come in and take a look at our table in the cooking section. We couldn’t fit in any more books if we tried (and believe me, we tried). As always there are new offerings from Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart, Thomas Keller, and Gordon Ramsey, and I’m sure all are fine in their own respect. But I would much rather talk about some of the books that I plan on using this holiday season. One book I’m particularly excited about is the only one on my list specifically aimed at the Christmas shopper. Originally slated to come out last November but just recently released is Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Christmas. I would never normally buy a book dedicated solely to Christmas and all its glory, but being as I’m a dedicated Nigellite, I must. Luckily for us she does not disappoint. The recipes she shares are as decadent and indulgent as ever, whether you want a gleaming maple cheesecake or bourbon-glazed ribs. American reader’s should not despair and think that she presents us only with an English version of Christmas (star-topped mince pies, anyone?), although she includes that just in case that’s what you fancy. She actually has a deep appreciation for American cuisine as shown by her inclusion in this book of a promising recipe for fully loaded potato skins (yum). I know potato skins don’t really scream Christmas, but who doesn’t want nibbly bits while the bird’s roasting? You’ll be kicking yourself later if you don’t also try and make her gingerbread. I spent a year testing various gingerbread recipes to match the one my British husband so fondly remembered from his youth and never quite managed to get it right until I tried this recipe. Thankfully for myself, this one really, really worked. Your kitchen has never smelled this good!

Another book I’m crazy about right now is Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table. Wizenberg, creator of the wildly popular food blog Orangette, has delivered a charming memoir with food at its center. Whether she is discovering Pain au Chocolat as a child visiting Paris with her folks or working her way through what seems like thousands of roast tomatoes during her father’s last summer, Molly’s stories will never fail to make you laugh, cry, and feel like part of the family. I embarrassingly found myself crying in our break room, clinging to a tissue hoping no one would open the door. Molly shares with us intimate and cherished moments with us as if we were her dearest friend. Luckily she has opted to be generous and share the recipes that have meant so much to her over the years.

Last but not least, I would like to talk about a book that I bake the most from and has never failed to disappoint. Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito. Although this innovative cookbook came out last fall, it is invariably the one cookbook I have out at all times as it is the one I most want to cook from. Most cookbooks are hit and miss, with a sprinkling of good recipes versus ones that somehow don’t come out right. Baked, however, is not one of those. Every single recipe has come out exactly like the picture, no tweaking necessary. It is a great book for beginner level bakers, and different enough for the seasoned as well. One word of advice: proceed with caution if you decide to make the baked bars. It is so rich and so decadent it could possible incite an attack of gallstones as it did for my husband. Perhaps make that one for the office. I suggest you try the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip loaf instead. This is perhaps one the easiest and tastiest recipes I’ve tried. The beauty of it is you don’t need a mixer, just a little elbow grease. If you want to try something more holiday themed, you can make their chocolate bourbon pecan pie. Easy enough for someone who has never made a pie (me, before this book), or someone who simply wants to jazz up the pecan pie already in their repertoire. Happy cooking!

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