Category ... Book Review
Nov 14, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
I first met Annabel Langbein when we were attending the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Provence where we were nominated for our cookbooks. When she invited me to visit her home in south New Zealand, I was determined to plan a trip, and Elliott and I had the good fortune to do so just a few years later. I have visited many countries, but I found New Zealand to be the most beautiful of all with the most amazing vistas (Lord of the Rings was filmed there.)
Coincident to the name of Annabel's new book (her 22nd!) what stands out most in my memory were the muffins we enjoyed for breakfast. The color was so bright and sunny I asked Annabel if she added saffron. But no! It turns out the eggs were from her free range chickens. She explained that the yolks were so bright orange other visitors objected thinking there was something amiss.
The Free Range Cook Simple Pleasures is a companion book to Annabel's tv show of the same name. Some of the recipes have QR codes which when scanned with a smart phone will take the reader to a video of Annabel making the recipe. (You can also access the videos at annabel-langbein.com.)
The recipes in this book, from around the world, make me want to leap in and start cooking. I love Annabel's innovative ideas and combinations of flavor. Her lemon and candied ginger ice cream is a truly inspired flavor combination and best of all, it has a beautifully billowy and creamy texture without the need for an ice cream machine. Next up will be the Crispy Topped Cauliflower Cheese which is cooked in a cheddar cheese mustard sauce and topped with a Provençal crust of breadcrumbs, herbs and anchovies. I'm also eager to try her Ultimate Chocolate Brownie. She writes that her secret ingredient is dates and I can already imagine the deliciously chewy texture they will impart.
Annabel bakes and cooks by measure rather than by weight but she offers a conversion chart, on page 313, where she lists all-purpose flour as 150 grams per cup measured by "scooping" which we in the US call the dip and sweep method.
I was especially delighted when I received the book, as the stunning photos brought me back to the incredible beauty of New Zealand.
Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook
Sep 29, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
And what better title could there be for a cookbook!
As co-editor of Dessert Professional Magazine, and author of four other baking books, Tish Boyle is an experienced pastry chef and writer of baking instructions so I knew I was in for a treat. As Tish and I share the same editor (and publisher) and are long-time friends and respected colleagues, I was immediately eager to try out a recipe.
I love that Tish lists weights in addition to volume and the way the book is organized by yes---flavors. And as caramel is my personal favorite flavor it was the Chocolate-Caramel-Almond Tart with Fleur de Sel that called out to me. Described in the head note as "This seductive tart has a deep, butter caramel almond filling topped off with a thin ganache glaze and a sprinkling of crunchy fleur de sel," it certainly seduced me!
As a baker and author myself, it is a challenge to make recipes from another baking author. We each have different approaches so it is difficult to set aside one's own techniques in deference to another's. But the rewards can be learning new ideas and saluting a colleague's expertise as was the case here.
If it is true that "the devil is in the details," then we pastry people sure are devilish. We choose different details to highlight, for example, when making the syrup for the caramel, Tish suggests washing down any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan with a wet brush. This is good advice because these crystals can cause the entire syrup to crystallize rather than melt into a smooth caramel. My approach has been to stir the sugar and water carefully to ensure that no crystals land on sides of the pan. But rethinking this, I now realized that not everyone is going to be as careful so I'm going to add this to my own upcoming book.
One detail that I like to add to my tart recipes is to set the tart pan on a baking sheet, because it is all too easy to inadvertently separate the sides of the tart pan from the bottom when moving it. Also, there is always a little butter that leaks out the bottom.
I was intrigued by Tish's pie crust. It is different from any pie crust I've ever made or seen. While my first choice of flour for a flaky crust is pastry flour, Tish calls for unbleached all-purpose flour. If I used this in my crust recipe it would be tough as cardboard but knowing Tish I knew this would not be the case and sure enough, the added 3 tablespoons of sugar was enough to make it perfectly tender and flavorful indeed! On analysis, it is a cross between a flaky pie crust and a cookie pie crust (pâte sucrée)--less flaky than a flaky crust and welcomingly less sweet than a cookie crust. It is even tender enough when eaten cold from the refrigerator (which is how I like to eat this tart as the caramel becomes slightly chewy.) It is easy to make and rolls and transfers beautifully to the tart pan.
The caramel filling glides into the baked crust and the ganache topping floats over the chilled filling. If you work quickly, you can tilt the pan from side to side so that there is no need to spread the ganache with a spatula, keeping it mirror smooth. The tiny touch of fleur de sel is just the right amount to serve as an accent to the caramel.
This is a beautifully conceived and complex recipe made simple and utterly delicious. I'm confident that further exploration will unveil many other treasures in this exciting new book. The recipe is at the bottom of this posting!
Flavorful: 150 Irresistible Desserts in All-Time Favorite Flavors
Continue reading "A Book Called Flavorful: Pub Date Today!" »
Sep 21, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
Fear of Dying: A Novel
There are many kinds of writers: Writers of fiction, the memoir, science, technology, recipes. There are also some writers who merge two or more of the categories. I am a recipe writer merging science, technology, and the memoir. But I am relatively safe from criticism because I make sure that my recipes work and that my scientific theories are substantiated. I've been lucky so far to have avoided most negative criticism but that which has been leveled my way still hurts. This makes me aware that there is no writer more vulnerable than the writer of a memoir or even one who rides the cusp of fact and fiction because her or his essence becomes available to the often non-gentle judgmental world at large.
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said: "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." If you are what you eat, then a writer is what she or he writes. I once heard the following quote, comparing the biography to the autobiography: If you want to know about the person, read the biography. If you want to know the person, read the autobiography. Although I know for a fact that Erica Jong's newest book Fear of Dying is part fiction, I was deeply moved by how she not only faces her fear, but is fearless in her willingness to open her heart and soul to her readers.
Erica and I were both students at the same time in the High School of Music and Art in New York City, but we never met as we were not in the same year. Yet from the moment I read her first book Fear of Flying, I felt such an inexplicably strong connection that I wrote an inscription to her in my first book The Cake Bible "If I had a sister I wish it could have been you."
Fear of Flying was published in 1973. It was 1988 when The Cake Bible was published, and also the year that my mother and I independently discovered Fear of Flying. My mother swam every week at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan and one day she told me with great excitement that she had met a fellow swimmer who happened to be Molly Jong's nanny. And that was how I was able to send my book to Erica. It was almost 30 years later that, through a recommendation from a dear friend, I chose a lawyer to negotiate another book contract who happened to be Erica's husband Ken Burrows. And that is how I received an advance copy of Fear of Dying.
I read the book at every opportunity in under a week. I didn't want it ever to end.
It is a book of warmth and compassion, humor and poetry, eroticism and longing, and is the embodiment of two of my favorite qualities: curiosity and joie de vivre. It will reach deeply into the heart of those who have experienced great loss and will serve as a reminder, for those who inevitably will, to embrace the present. My favorite passage in the book, page 182: "When you feel fear, you have to lullaby it to sleep." This book is, above all, a celebration of life.
Until now, I missed knowing about the second book in the Jong 'Fear' Trilogy: Fear of 50. But it's not too late to address it backwards--I just ordered it.
Sep 19, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
J. Kenji López-Alt, managing culinary director of the widely successful blog Serious Eats, has just published the cookbook of cookbooks. With its enormous scope (938 pages) and innovative techniques based on massive years of testing and scientific evidence, and excellent step-by-step photos taken by himself, he has opened my eyes to new and better ways of cooking without the need of high tech specialty equipment. This is an extraordinary and invaluable cookbook. The first recipe I made was the Hasselback potatoes pictured above. It is now my top favorite potato dish.
I first discovered Kenji on the internet when I was questioning the use of baking soda to make chicken wings more crispy. My husband found that the baking soda gave it a metallic taste and so did Kenji who recommended baking powder. Yes! I hungered to know more and then discovered that Kenji was about to publish an entire book of information along this line. Be still my heart--I realized I had discovered a true kindred spirit.
For those who are put to sleep by scientific explanations, you can ignore the clear and exquisitely detailed explanations and go right to the terrific life-changing recipes. But my bet is that curiosity will get the better of you and you'll want to know the reasoning behind why for example steaming and shocking with cold water makes hard cooked eggs easy to peel, or how it's possible, with the use of hot water, a beer cooler, and an accurate thermometer, to make tough cuts of meat meltingly tender and tender cuts still more flavorful and luscious, or why using part processed cheese in baked macaroni makes the creamiest pasta cloaking sauce.
For those who think that science is a dry and somewhat grim subject, you will stand corrected as you enjoy the cleverness, humor, and passion with which Kenji writes, not to mention his delight in discoveries that make the most of every ingredient's potential.
When I was growing up, my mother's most severe condemnation of certain people was that they "just don't care." Kenji is one who cares, and he shares--not just his excellent recipes but so much of the fascinating underpinnings of his thought processes. Not only does he possess the brilliance of invention, he also has the rare talent of fine-tuned communication. You will "get it" and without having to read a single sentence more than once.
I trusted Kenji from the outset because of what he wrote about science in the introduction, which demonstrates his humility, devotion to integrity, and approach of the true scientist:
The first rule of science is that while we can always get closer to the truth, there is never a final answer. There are new discoveries made and experiments performed every day that can turn conventional wisdom on its head. If five years from now somebody hasn't discovered that at least one fact in this book is glaringly wrong, it means that people aren't thinking critically enough.
He goes on to write what I consider to be the most appealing, poetic, and clear explanation of "science."
Science is not an end in and of itself, but a path. It's a method to help you discover the underlying order of the world around you and to use those discoveries to help you predict how things will behave in the future. The scientific method is based on making observations, keeping track of those observations, coming up with hypotheses to explain those observations, and then performing tests designed to disprove those hypotheses. If, despite your hardest, most sincere efforts, you can't manage to disprove the hypotheses, then you can say with a pretty good deal of certainty that your hypotheses are true.
This perfectly defines my approach to my work and way of life. A light bulb went off in my head when reading this. I remembered the fateful day 50 years ago when I passed the open door to the food lab at University of Vermont to see a student taking the temperature of a sugar syrup with a long glass laboratory thermometer. I didn't understand at the time why this image so grabbed me but now I think it must have been my inborn appreciation for quantification and exactitude that ultimately led me on the long and joyful path to where I am now.
Not that I agree with everything I have read so far (and I am reading this book from cover to cover). But Kenji invites us to challenge his theories and I'm sure Kenji will delight in reading this: Theoretically it's true that baking soda will cause pancakes to brown more and that it reacts with buttermilk to neutralize the acidity, but I discovered in my own experimentation that buttermilk does not need to be neutralized with baking soda and it actually offers a more interesting flavor with the use of baking powder. Also the pancakes brown beautifully if cooked on high heat.
I look forward to the day when I can meet Kenji in person and bless him for his masterful contribution to our profession and to people's every day enjoyment of food.
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
Note: For those of who are as taken with Kenji's techniques which use a beer cooler for sous vide cooking, like me you will want to spring for his alternative and more controlled recommendation of a water circulator/heater--the Anova. When I first discovered sous vide cooking several years ago, the devices were more appropriate for restaurant use but they have now become much more affordable.I've just gotten mine and will be posting the results of my using it in the near future.
Anova Culinary Precision Cooker (Black)
May 09, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
David Lebovitz is alive and well and living in Paris. In fact, he is living my dream. This is not to say that I wish my life had turned out differently, but once upon a time I was planning a move to Paris. When I discovered that the only job I could get without a green card would be as a typist at UNESCO I used all the money I was saving to go to India for a month, and on my return I started putting down some deep career roots in America where I was born and grew up.
I first met David many years ago when he was working in the pastry department at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, when he offered to drive me back to San Francisco after lunch at the restaurant. The next time I ran into him was in Bordeaux at Vin Expo when I was invited to a wine event given by the California wine growers. He was walking down the steps of the chateau as I was looking up admiring the building. I don't think at the time he spoke a word of French. Things have certainly changed. Reading David Lebovitz's books about his life in Paris is a totally vicarious experience. His powers of observation are so acute and his writing so fluent, clever, amusing, honest, and delightfully personal, I would be content with just that. But the recipes--oh the recipes--are exactly to my taste.
The first recipe that seduced me to the stove was the poulet a la moutarde (mustard chicken). I was thrilled to discover that it was the deep mustardy sauce of my fantasy that will now be part of my savory favorites. Next I tried the green beans with escargot butter. Leave it to David to realize that escargot butter was not just fabulous for snails. Rarely have I met such a kindred spirit in the food world. Next, I can't wait to try the Panisse Puffs, which look very much like my favorite popovers but contain chickpea as well as wheat flour.
Hats off to a darling man who could make the daring leap, fully immerse himself in a different language and culture, and then bring it home for the rest of us to enjoy.
My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories
May 07, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
The Oxford University Press has published several encyclopedic style books on food and beverages. Their latest book, edited by award winning author and editor in chief Darra Goldstein, is The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. This stunning, beautifully organized book takes you in alphabetical order from a la mode to zuppa inglese, 800 pages later. An extensive appendix and index are included as well.
Oxford's apt description of the book is:
Most comprehensive reference work on the idea of the sweet ever published, with entries on all aspects of sweetness, including chemical, technical, social, cultural, and linguistic.
Woody and I attended the Sugar and Sweets book launch at Jacques Torre's Chocolate location in lower Manhattan. I was proud to have contributed to the sections on two of my favorite subjects: sugar and pastry tools.
It was great finally to meet editor Maxwell Sinsheimer in person and to congratulate my much esteemed colleague Dara Goldstein.
The book's pub date was May 1st and has already been well received by the press. As well as being available in hardcover, it is also available on Kindle.
The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets
Apr 20, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook
I love this book! I knew I would love this book. When author Kristen Miglore asked me for a recipe contribution for her weekly "Genius Recipes" posting on Food52, I gave her my "Fresh Blueberry Pie" now also appearing on page 205 of this book, along with the advice that she write a book featuring all of these recipes. And at last, here it is!
What a genius concept. Kristen features recipes of renowned food professionals that are not only delicious but also employ one or more brilliantly effective techniques. And she highlights them in a separate section on the recipe page titled "Genius Tip." This is an excellent teaching tool.
I have already made several of the recipes that appeared on line in Food52 or in other places such as Marion Cunningham's amazingly ethereal, crisp, and flavorful "Raised Waffles" that she gave me permission to put in the Cake Bible 27 years ago. And now, looking through the gorgeous photos in Genius Recipes, I want to try just about everything.
Kristen Miglore is a first rate researcher, writer, and food stylist. Her descriptions, recipe details and explanations of what makes the recipes special are a joy to read. I encourage you to get this book and rush right over to page 102 for Michael Ruhlman's "Rosemary-Brined Buttermilk Fried Chicken." Not only is it the best fried chicken I've ever tasted or made, it is the only one that doesn't spatter grease all over the kitchen floor.
Mar 30, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
Winner of the International Association of Culinary Professionals Best General Cookbook!
I am often asked about current food trends. My personal perception is that over the past few decades cooking has become increasingly complex, often sacrificing quality to "originality," and moving further and further away from the simple goodness I had so appreciated at the start of my love affair with food. I've begun to realize that I have enough recipes to last a lifetime, but what I value most are tips and techniques to improve them.
When I read about the book Twelve Recipes, it rang a bell of familiarity and pleasure. Beautifully illustrated with photos and drawings, this book, by a former artist who has been a chef for two decades at the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkley, California, was inspired by his oldest son's move to college and his desire to be able to cook well for himself in the spirit to which he was accustomed. It is not surprising, therefore, that Chef Peternell's directions are clear and direct and his voice friendly, caring, honest, and down-to-earth helpful.
Many years ago, at a lecture by Jacques Pepin at the French Culinary Institute, where he is one of the deans, I was stunned to hear him describe his philosophy on cooking in a way that exactly reflected my own. He said: "Get the best ingredients and try not to screw them up!" Cal, however, goes one step further: "It is an enduring truth that the best-tasting ingredients will yield the best-tasting dishes, but I believe as strongly that if you are missing things, or what you have is not the best, you should cook anyway. The ways in which various parts add up to the sum of a wonderful meal are many. The quality of the ingredients and the way they are prepared are important, sure, but so are the personalities of the group of eaters . . . their moods . . . the room . . . the occasion. The right equation will make the table a success even if the salad wilts, the meat is overcooked, or the cake falls."
Cal admits that there are many more than twelve recipes in the book, including variations, but that if one were to cook one from each chapter, this would constitute a good basic repertoire. This special book is also filled with sunny humor and delightful anecdotes. I have not read my way through every page yet, but I fully intend to do so. Here is an example of just why I love this book so much: On ingredients: "Dried herbs are like dead flowers: if you can't bring them fresh, probably better to not bring them at all. Most dried herbs--parsley, basil, tarragon, and cilantro--are truly atrocious and can be ruinous, while others--thyme, rosemary, and sage--are grudgingly acceptable in certain applications. Dried oregano and bay leaves are the only ones that are really okay." Music to my ears!
Jan 17, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
I have been an admirer of Alice Medrich's baking since I first visited her jewel of a shop Cocolat in Berkeley many years ago. I adored the beautiful elegance and deliciousness of her creations and applauded that, to my taste, they had the perfect level of sweetness.
When we were speakers at the JCC in San Francisco, on book tour, I was impressed by her description of the motivation behind writing her most recent book Flavor Flours.
Rather than focusing on the trendy theme of gluten intolerance, Alice went beyond it to take up the challenge of utilizing other flours to make the most of the unique flavor and texture they have to offer. We tend to think of flour as wheat in origin but actually myriad substances such as nuts rice, corn, and even seeds are considered flour when ground to flour consistency. Flour refers more particle size than to origin of ingredient.
As soon as we returned from book tour, I lost no time in trying out one of the recipes whose description intrigued me the most: the Bittersweet Teff Brownies. Alice's headnote reads: "These moist and deeply chocolate brownies have a light, rather elegant melt-in-your-mouth texture. Teff flour has a nuance of cocoa flavor to start with, so it is a natural choice for brownies." And they were just as promised!
The day they were baked they were quite fragile but on the second day they held together beautifully.
Alice advices that the brownies can be refrigerated for up to three days but, as we were away for a week on continued tour event, we discovered that they were still fabulously moist and having found some ganache stored in the fridge, along with some caramel sauce made many months ago that still had not crystallized, they made an absolutely terrific dessert!
Nov 24, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose
Here are links to reviews by some of my favorite colleagues, friends, and now new friends. Each comes from an entirely unique perspective. They are listed in order of their appearance.
St. Louis Post Dispatch
NYU Alumni Connect
Diane Boat for Eat Drink Films
Nov 23, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose
After a near life-time as a New Yorker, I have been a New Jersey resident for well-over a year now, and loving it. Here is a wonderfully informative profile on me and my new book The Baking Bible in the current issue of New Jersey Monthly Magazine. One of my favorite parts is the title "Rose Knows." This was the title of my bi-monthly on-line column for Food Arts Magazine which, sadly, is no longer in print. But now the title lives on.
Nov 11, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose
The Renée Fleming Golden Chiffon
Dédé has written another engaging story about the cake from The Baking Bible which I dedicated to the glorious opera singer Renée Fleming. Click on this link for the story and also the recipe.
Renée Fleming just sent Woody and me each a disc of her latest release Christmas in New York along with a lovely note.
Nov 04, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
Last week there were several reviews that appeared related to my new book The Baking BIble. I thought you might especially enjoy the Epicurious one on baking tips.
And here's an interview I enjoyed doing from Jewish Light.
Also, I was delighted to see The Baking Bible included in the Food Network Cookbook Gift-Guide.
Today Woody and I are off for the first leg of our book tour: Wellesley, MA.
We'll try to answer questions from the road but please chime in as you always do to help answer questions or if they can wait until our return around Thanksgiving we'll be sure to answer them then.
Can't wait to hear feedback about the recipes from the book!
Oct 28, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose
Yes! Today, at long last, we have arrived at the official publication date of The Baking Bible.
Dede Wilson has posted her clever, exacting, and articulate review, together with one of my favorite recipes from the book, on Bakepedia. This marks the final third and fourth posting that Dede has done on me and the book. Here is the link to the current ones.
Oct 24, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose
Although an author never tires of reading the reviews of her or his book, at the risk that this just may not hold true for others, I am posting just one more review, partially because I love how it is written, but mostly because they are offering one of my top favorite recipes in the book: "The Heavenly Chocolate Mousse Cake." This is the one that Ben Fink, the photographer, and I, had the most trouble staying away from during the photo shoot last November. Check out Foodista.
Oct 23, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose
As posted on "Serious Eats."
Oct 15, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
to be included as one of the 11 "best new dessert cookbooks," featured on The Tasting Table site!
And 1 of 24 of "our favorite titles" on Food 52!
Oct 14, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose
I'm so delighted that the review is now on line as there is a link to one of the recipes and it's now easy to read on computer!
Oct 07, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose
The Meyer Lemon-Rosemary Campagne Boule from Kathleen Weber's New Book (My step by step photos will be at the end of this posting.)
Della Fattoria Bread: 63 Foolproof Recipes for Yeasted, Enriched & Naturally Leavened Breads
When I saw the photo of this bread and read the headnote, I knew I would have to make it even though it would mean waking up my sleeping beauty starter which I have been feeding faithfully since its creation over 12 years ago but, in recent years, only using to supplement commercial yeast in my breads. To my amazement, after the first feeding it doubled in just 5 hours rather than the expected 2 to 3 days.
Kathleen writes in the headnote that the lemon zest and finely chopped rosemary are mixed with olive oil to make a pesto-like slurry that appears as a bright and delicious swirl along the underside of the crust. When I asked her if this was her original concept, she said that she came up with the slurry just thinking of a pesto like thing to carry the flavors and that she didn't want it to mix in the dough, looking for something cleaner.
Sourdough, without any added commercial yeast whatsoever, is always a thrilling but scary proposition. Kathleen herself was reminded of when she rode a three wheel bicycle for the first time and her father let go of the seat, which feels like the perfect analogy to me as well. She also wrote that she never takes the power of sourdough starter for granted and it always seems like a miracle when the loaf comes out the oven.
Continue reading "Della Fattoria's Signature Bread" »
Sep 25, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose
People Magazine has included The Baking Bible as one of the 16 must-have cookbooks.
"The gigantic beautiful dictionary delivers on the title's promise: This is the bible of baking."
And for a TBT (Throw Back Thursday) here's the photo from when The Cake Biblein 1988.