We bake and blog (and eat). Though baking takes up a lot more of our life than blogging.
September 13, 2016 / By Matt
above image from Better Baking by Genevieve Ko
I am desperately trying to “Marie Kondo” my life right now, because I don’t really have a choice. My apartment is tiny by national standards and average by New York City standards and I am running out of room. Precious square feet are being eaten alive by big, beautiful, gorgeous books. So, I pile them up – giant swaying towers – and organize them and (sort of) fondle them and hope they “spark joy”. Many do. I keep these. Other’s don’t. These go to The Strand or Housing Works. I am setting them free.
Again I don’t have a choice. I have to make room for all of the wonderful new cookbooks (and fiction and non-fiction and art books) coming this fall. Some of the below I already have in my possession. Some I have seen only in pre-release snippets. The rest will be in my kitchen soon. It is an embarrassment of riches and I can’t wait to share them with you.
Let me tell you why you need this book: First, the author is a friend (she was our first cookbook editor), she writes a brilliant blog, and her first book – a memoir – was as comfy as a roaring fire in a log cabin in winter. Another reason you need this book: the recipes. Yes, it is a compendium – without being overwhelming – of all the German greats. Some of my current faves: Butterkuchen (Butter-Almond Cake) and Brezeln (Soft Pretzels) but I also have my eye on the Russischer Zupfkuchen (Chocolate Quark Cheesecake), which I have yet to make.
This book is coming at the exact moment in time that I need it. Yes, I NEED IT. I have been on a home bread-baking/sourdough tear for nearly four years now and yet rye still puzzles me. I have made really great rye breads and really terrible ones and yet, I still can’t get a feel for rye. I can’t instinctually tell where it all goes so wrong or so right for me. Stanley’s book promises all sorts of rye insights and in-depth recipes spanning the globe and I can’t wait to spend all of January (seems like the best month to get down and dirty with rye) hunkered down with some freshly milled rye and this book.
I dare you to find another book that pairs desserts and booze so perfectly. As you know, I am already in love with Allison’s prior book, First Prize Pies – and her second outing (with co-author Keavy Landreth) is just as fun as the first. Actually, considering that this book has three takes on boozy caramel corn (Dark and Stormy Caramel corn please) I would venture to say that this book is even more of a pleasure to cook from. And the next time you visit New York City, I highly recommend a visit to the Author’s bakery/bar hybrid from which the book is named.
Confession: I have not seen previews of this book yet, but I own all of Dorie’s previous tomes and treasure them with a near religiosity. This one looks like another “must-have” and I am always down for cookies. By the way, on the few occasions I have met Dorie, I have basically fallen in love. She is as kind and sweet and smart as they come.
This is not a fall release (it was released earlier this year) but – if you care about me at all – I insist you go buy this book. This book gave me so many feelings. First, it is a love letter to Rome. And I LOVE ROME. So many lovely photos and notes about Rome and food and history and the intersection of all three. And the recipes…Oh, I could go on about the recipes. I have made so many wonderful things from this book and I fully intend to share them with you once I figure out how to properly photograph pollo alla romana or supplì cacio e pepe (one of my favorite recipes thus far from this book).
“Better Baking is pure joy. The recipes, while casually tricked up with more wholesome ingredients than your typical baking compendium, never feel like lectures on nutrition. Instead, each recipe pops off the page – a blend of elegance and fun. Oh, and do yourself a favor, run home with this book and make the Double-Date Sticky Toffee Pudding Cakes stat. They have become our go-to dinner party dessert.”
I have made a bunch of recipes from this book, and I love the way Genevieve has incorporated alternative flours and fats into near classic recipes without any straining. Instead of feeling belabored, the recipes let the (better for you) ingredients shine. Next up on my list: Buckwheat Cocoa Banana Bread Bars.
I bake quite often, but cook infrequently. And, if I cook, I tend to skew Italian (well, actually, I always skew Italian). In an effort to branch out and renew inspiration, I have immersed myself in a handful of cookbooks, but it is Small Victories by Julia Turshen that I have been returning to over and over again as of late. Julia’s recipes exude an effortlessness – a casual coziness – that so many cookbooks lack. Not only are the recipes accessible, but they have a simple, clean-eating vibe (not for nothing but Julia co-wrote Gwyneth Paltrow’s whopper of a best-seller It’s All Good). I have made many successful dinners from this book, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that the Kinda, Sorta Patatas Bravas is an instant classic. Oh, and the Small Victories in the title – these are the tips and ideas and know-how that Julia folds into every recipe.
I am so thrilled that our Red Hook neighbors, The Good Fork, are publishing a cookbook. Though I have yet to see an early peek of the book, I have been to the restaurant many times and will go many more. Sohui and Ben, the wife and husband owners, have created the rare hybrid of both a beloved neighborhood joint and dining destination. It is everything you want a restaurant to be – warm, cozy and delicious. The cookbook promises to include the famed Korean-Style Steak and Eggs and Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffles. And if you haven’t been to their place in Red Hook: please go as soon as humanly possible.
I am sure there are so many more wonderful books I missed and for that I am deeply sorry. I can only squeeze so many books on to my shelves. Get in touch with me (via comments section or social) to let me know about any “must-have” titles I missed. And, as always, happy Fall baking/cooking.