Category ... Book Review
Apr 17, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
On the way to the book party I saw proof that Spring has indeed arrived! The weeping cherry trees across the street have never been more ethereally beautiful.
And never have I seen a larger turn out for a first book. Caitlin and her wonderful husband James Freeman, of Blue Bottle Coffee, brought a dozen Mondrian cakes--the image that graces the cover of the book . Though baked three days before, in San Francisco, they were perfectly moist and exquisitely beautiful. The Cava accompaniment was lovely.
I invited my friend Eunice Choi, pictured at left, whom I first met at a Kitchen Aid event in Michigan 3 years ago when she was my prep assistant. She's now working as a special event planner for Food and Wine magazine.
Caitlin spoke eloquently and sincerely about her background and how the book came to be written. And she signed a whole pile of books, embossing them with a specially designed message of encouragement: "You can make the Mondrian!"
I predict that this book will be the launching pad for a future of myriad possibilities for the uber talented Caitlin Williams Freeman.
Apr 16, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose
Today is the long awaited pub date of my dear friend Caitlin Williams Freeman's extraordinary new book Modern Art Desserts: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Confections, and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Art
It is so extraordinary that I was moved to write the foreword to this book that is more than just a cookbook; it is also a work of art in itself.
Eat Your Art Out!
I first met Caitlin in 2004 when I visited her Miette Bakery production in Oakland. The purpose of the trip was to interview top bakeries for an article for Food Arts Magazine called "High Tide in the Bay Area Bakeries." The concept was that although San Francisco had led the way in artisanal bread baking, it had lagged behind in the area of pastry. Michael Battery, visionary publisher of Food Arts, perceived this as changing and assigned the article.
Meeting Caitlin turned out to be the highlight of the interviews. I had been given a set of questions to ask each baker. When I asked Caitlin where she and her partner Meg had gotten their training, to my astonishment Caitlin's answer was that she had started with The Cake Bible (my book). Was it any wonder that she captured my attention? But beyond the compliment, and in addition to her solid organizational and technical skills, I was struck at once by Caitlin's extraordinary creativity. The signature Miette cake, which she named the Tomboy, consists simply of three unadorned dark chocolate layers, filled and topped with a contrasting white buttercream, and decorated with just one small pink sugar rose in the center. Caitlin most generously gave me permission to include the recipe in my book Rose's Heavenly Cakes and even sent me some of the pink sugar roses for photography. The art director loved the cake so much she used the photo to span the end pages, and by enlarging it created an impressionistic dreamy appearance, contrasting spectacularly with the all-dark chocolate cake I had designed for the cover.
Over the years, as I watched Caitlin's work evolve, I saw that generosity, creative genius, and integrity were the hallmarks of her personality and character, permeating everything she touched. With every project or visit Caitlin continued to gain my respect and ultimately a deep friendship evolved. It may sound like a small thing, but any baker will realize how much it meant to me that when I travelled to San Francisco to make my friend chef Daniel Patterson's wedding cake, Caitlin loaned me a turntable from her bakery, and not just any turntable but the one that turned the most smoothly. She also drove all over the Bay Area amassing the equipment and special ingredients I deemed essential for my production.
When my most recent book, Rose's Heavenly Cakes, was ready to launch, it coincided with the opening of Caitlin's husband James Freeman's Blue Bottle Roastery in Oakland. Caitlin came up with the inspiration to have a book party at the new roastery and invite bakers from the Bay Area to make their versions of recipes from the book. Caitlin and Leah made artistic renderings of the Diebenkorn using my génoise, mini Mondrians using my white velvet cake, and a Josef Albers cake using layers of my carrot cake, quail egg cake, and red velvet cake, each covered with rolled fondant from The Cake Bible. People came from all over the Bay Area to taste the cakes, enjoy a special coffee drink created for the occasion, meet the bakers, and the author who never stopped meeting, greeting, signing books, and talking for a solid three hours.
I remember first meeting James Freeman at the Oakland Farmer's market when Caitlin and he had just started dating. I remember thinking that he had the same reverence for the quality of his coffee as Caitlin and I had for our baking. Given the grace, harmony, and focus of her life choices, is it any wonder that Blue Bottle coffee happens to be the best coffee I have ever tasted? Happily Blue Bottle coffee and Caitlin's wonderful pastries are now available in New York City as well as the Bay area.
When Caitlin started to create recipes for SFMOMA inspired by designs from paintings she loved I knew this would be the perfect expression of her talents as artist and baker.
Three of Caitlin's edible art desserts, featured in this book, that I find the most enchanting are: the White velvet cake and chocolate ganache, consisting of cake squares and rectangles of different sizes and colors held together by thin lines of ganache--a perfect replica of Piet Mondrian Composition (No. III) Blanc-Jaune / Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue, page 79;
© 2013 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International USA
the Pistachio & honey parfait with cardamom/white chocolate--a stunningly simple cube constructed from thin white chocolate squares, charmingly decorated with line drawings of bees, and containing a deliciously ethereal filling, inspired by Richard Avedon's, Donald Fisher, Beekeeper, page 127; and the adorable Salted chocolate and vanilla bean ice cream sandwich--shaped to emulate the poodles in Katharina Fritsch's Kind mit Pudeln (Child with Poodles), page 163.
I'm so proud and honored that Caitlin chose to use two of my cakes as the base for some of her creations. She asked permission, saying:"They are perfect as they are--I'd rather credit you than adapt and change them."How like Caitlin not to change things just for the sake of 'owning' them. To me that is the ultimate sign of creative integrity and shows such a strong sense of certainty and security in her vision. Beyond the visual beauty, and engagingly accurate renditions of the paintings that inspired them, Caitlin's desserts are also uncompromisingly delicious. This book is unlike any other and a perfect reflection of the soul of Caitlin Williams Freeman. It is with great pleasure that I welcome this dear friend and fellow baker to the world of cookbook writing.
For an enchanting video showing Caitlin at work click here.
Mar 21, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose
Candace Walch, who has written a most unusual and terrific food memoir, will be doing a reading this Sunday, March 24, at 7:00 at Bluestockings (172 Allen Street). It's free to the general public and if I weren't going to be out of town I would not miss it!
Here's the description of the event, the author, and the book:
A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity
Lambda Literary Finalist Candace Walsh concludes her bicoastal Licking the Spoon book tour at Bluestockings. This lively, literary page-turner is a tale told through the lens of food, from childhood's tattered Betty Crocker cookbook, to closeted Cuban arroz con pollo, Women's Studies potluck hummus, Alphabet City Martha Stewart Thanksgiving, and on through marriage, motherhood, divorce, falling in love with a woman, and legal gay remarriage in New York...plus recipes! Walsh is the editor of the anthology "Dear John, I Love Jane," the managing editor at New Mexico Magazine, and she writes about food at AfterEllen.com. A New York native, Candace lives with her wife and two children in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
If you go, please be sure to say "hi" and "congratulations" for me.
Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity
Kindle Edition: Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity
Jan 03, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
Julia Moskin, in The New York Times, did a fascinating write-up of this cookbook along with a video of the panel presentation I attended back in December. It's really fun to watch.
Nov 10, 2012 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
Fall always ushers in the new group of cookbooks from top authors and chefs and this fall is especially rich in high quality baking books.
Alison Pray and Tara Smith of the Standard Baking Company in Portland, Maine, have just come out with their first cookbook, Pastries, and anyone who has ever visited the bakery will want to have it. I met Alison and her husband Matt James, who does the bread baking, on my first trip to Portland and was deeply impressed by both of them and all of their baked goods. On my second trip, I also visited her other bakery, Two Fat Cats, where I discovered the best Whoopie Pie ever and put it in my most recent book (Rose's Heavenly Cakes).
photo credit: ©2012, Sean Alonzo Harris, from Standard Baking Co. Pastries, Down East Books
Pastries is filled with enticing photos of the pastries but they are not on fancy glossy paper. Rather they appear as warm, rustic and highly approachable. The recipes are very clearly written in a friendly voice. Yes, Alison is a professional baker but Tara, as she writes in her introduction, is also a joyful home baker. Between the two of them, they know what home bakers need to know.
Standard Baking Co. Pastries
The first recipe I couldn't resist trying was the luscious apricot and cream cheese babka filling. SInce Maine is known for its extraordinary wild blueberries which are tiny and intense in flavor, next will be the Wild Blueberry Oat Scones. Luckily Whole Foods market has the frozen Maine blueberries!
I know that Alison would love to have had weights in the book but having lost that battle with the publisher (as so many of us do) she made sure to tell how she measures flour (dip and sweep method--dip the measuring cup with an unbroken rim into the flour bin and without shaking or tapping the cup level it off with a straight edge spatula or knife.)
Now that they know first hand how much fun it is to write a cookbook, let us all hope that there will be Standard Bread Baking book next!
Oct 27, 2012 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
101 Classic Cookbooks
Talk about a walk down memory lane! This book, published by the Fales Library, New York University, and Rizzoli features 101 cookbooks that are presented as the top cookbooks of the 20th century, and 101 recipes of what are considered to be the top recipes from these cookbooks.
This is a book that demands to be read word by word from cover to cover. The photos, stories, and descriptions of the cookbook authors are fascinating and offer an unprecedented overview of the evolution of food in this country. Here are the authors, living and dead, who make up my world--ones I had hoped someday to meet, ones I had admired, and ones I had wanted to emulate.
I went to the book launch party this past Wednesday where seven appetizers from authors represented in the book were served. My favorite was James Beard's oyster stew from his American Cookery, 1972. It was the pure essence of oyster, simply containing butter, heavy cream, milk, oysters, their liquor, salt, pepper, and cayenne.
It wasn't until another of the authors asked me to sign the page where my book was pictured that I realized that my first book, The Cake Bible, had been chosen as one of the 101 books! I couldn't be more honored. Or so I thought until I turned the book over and found my name, listed in the "Among the Authors Featured," sandwiched between my old friend James Beard, and my much esteemed colleague Mark Bittman. (Ok it was alphabetical, but just the same, I was happy to be there.)
Oct 20, 2012 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
Anthony Bordain was the first chef tell-all (or should I say tell too much) as he took us behind the scenes in his outrageous book Kitchen Confidential.
Women chefs also have a strong voice and stories to tell. Gifted food journalist Charlotte Druckman is the first to have captured their essence in her new book appropriately named Skirt Steak Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen, Chronicle Books.
This is a subject particularly dear to my heart because my mother, over 75 years ago, was the only woman in the entire dental school. Her aunt before her was also a dentist, but when I wanted to study food in the '60s I had to go to university as women were not admitted to culinary schools such as the Culinary Institute of America.
Things have changed greatly (though not enough) in recent years both in and out of the kitchen. Charlotte Druckman takes us into the world of 70 of today's top women chefs, including Alice Waters, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Lydia Bastianich. Their stories, their experiences, and their points of view are eye-opening and informative. Skirt Steak is a must for any woman who hears the siren call of chefdom. It is also a fascinating read for anyone who has ever wondered what it's like behind the scenes of the neatly laid tables of what formerly was, and in many ways still is, very much a male chef's world.
Feb 11, 2012 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless, Delicious Recipes
The Lodge Company has been producing cast iron cookware since 1896 and is the only domestic manufacturer of the cast iron pan. Who better than Lodge to produce a comprehensive cookbook with over 200 recipes and photos plus detailed information on the care, maintenance, and even renewal of cast iron.
I have a huge collection of cast iron which I cherish so I joyfully contributed two of my favorite recipes baked in cast iron to this wonderful book: Corn Fingers baked in cast iron corn finger molds and No Knead Bread baked in a cast iron Dutch oven on a grill. I also shared the story of my personal connection to cast iron but I'll now admit to having left out an important part that I'm about to disclose for the first time:
My first cast iron frying pan was stolen! By me!!! Here's how it happened and trust me, it was totally unintentional, at least consciously. It was early into my freshman year at the University of Vermont. My boyfriend David Gibbs, (a Vermonter who became my first husband) introduced me to cast iron saying it was unequaled for frying bacon and many other purposes. I hefted the 11-inch pan and immediately experienced a "have to have" moment. I think it was about $7.00 which was more money than either of us could afford. We walked through the store, and reluctant to leave the pan behind I hadn't yet returned the heavy pan to the hook. We left the store without buying anything and walked into the parking lot when, to my astonishment, I discovered that the frying pan was still hanging from my right hand. I suppose I had gotten used to the weight and it had become a part of my arm. OMG I said. We'll have to return it. David, in shocked disbelief said something along the lines of: we'll be in more trouble if we try to bring it back--just keep it! I was horrified and delighted all at the same time. I still feel a little guilty. And I still have and treasure the pan.
Back to the book: you will love it! It was written and edited by Pam Hoenig, one of my favorite editors whom I worked with at William Morrow many years ago. The contributors include many of my dearest friends and colleagues in the profession. I'll list them in alphabetical order:
Nancy Baggett, Jessica Harris, Beth Henspberger, Martha Holmberg, Susan Purdy, Joanna Pruess, Elizabeth Karmel, Nancie Mcdermott, Michael Mclaughlin, Chris Schlesinger, James Villas, Nach Waxman, and Dede Wilson.
On a special note, the fabulously flavorful short rib barbecue sauce, containing molasses and bourbon, contributed by Joanna Pruess, was one I had been saving for several years after she first published it in the Gourmet Retailer. (Coincidentally, just a few weeks ago I finally had made it!) She also offers bigos, a pork and cabbage stew, my former long time Polish housekeeper made every Christmas, and always brought me a container. Now I have a recipe for it and know it's one I can count on being about as wonderful.
I also was delighted to discover that long-time friend Nach Waxman, of Kitchen Arts and Letters, a terrific cookbook store in New York City, in his recipe contribution adds his cooked al dente spaghetti to the reduced tomato sauce and fries it til some of it turns crispy-- which is just what I do! But I never knew it was ok to add something so acidic to a cast iron pan. Pam writes: "...if your cast iron pan is well seasoned, the iron is impervious to whatever you decide to put into the pan." I can't way to try it--I bet it will be crispier. This invaluable information is an example of what makes this book a "must have"!
Dec 10, 2011 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
The Pastry Chef's Apprentice: An Insider's Guide to Creating and Baking Sweet Confections and Pastries, Taught by the Masters
Because it is written by Mitch Stamm, one of my favorite instructors who teaches in the International Baking and Pastry Institute within the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University, an institution that educates and prepares students for careers as culinarians.
Because it is no compromise, for example, it calls for glucose, an ingredient not commonly found in the home baking kitchen, for the Engandine Nusstorte, which will prevent the filling from crystallizing.
Because if you like to bake by weights (as do I) you can ignore the volumes which are often incorrect (such as 170 grams listed for 3/4 cup sugar which should be 150 grams, and 114 grams for 1/2 cup of flour which should be more like half the amount). This will be corrected in the next printing.
Because the book consists of interviews and recipes from some of my favorite international pastry chefs , such as Thomas Haas, the renowned fourth generation German pastry chef who was pastry chef at Daniel in New York City before leaving for Vancouver, British Columbia to open his own chocolate and baking company. Also represented is Ewald Notter, whom I met in Switzerland where he had worked at Confisserie Sprüngli in Zürich before coming to head the pastry school for Albert Uster in Gaithersburg, Maryland. And there is the beautiful, lovely, and talented En-Ming Su who, among other achievements, was captain of the US team that won the gold medal at the esteemed Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie.
Reading the biographies and interviews will serve as an inspiration to any would be pastry chef or baker. And let me tell you something about Mitch Stamm that will give you an idea just why I and all his students so adore him. When interviewed and asked the following question:
If you had to characterize yourself as a type of bread, what
would you be?
His answer was: I would characterize myself as sticky bun: sweet, tender, and nutty. My colleagues would probably say that I am more like a naturally leavened bread: crusty, irregularly shaped, assertive, acetic, and quite sour. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Nov 26, 2011 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
If you are one of those people who is secretly thinking: "why spend money on a book about wine when I could spend it on a good bottle of it instead" you are not alone. In The Food Lover's Guide to Wine, Karen Paige and Andrew Dornenberg quote Paul Bertolli and Alice Waters of Chez Panisse as saying essentially the same thing: "It is not necessary to know about wine to appreciate it; what there is to know, beyond the glamour of vintage, producer, and varietal, is in the glass in front of your nose." Karen and Andrew write that they "agree wholeheartedly" but "...add a corollary: you can enhance your appreciation of a wine with more knowledge of it."
There are three new wine books that will add to this appreciation and knowledge immeasurably. If I had to distill each one into just one primary word it would be:
Reading between the Wines, Terry Theise: PASSION
Reading between the Wines: With a New Preface
Unquenchable, Natalie Maclean: BARGAINS
Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines
The Food Lover's Guide to Wine, Karen Paige and Andrew Dornenberg: FLAVOR
The Food Lover's Guide to Wine
But each book offers so much more. Herewith a brief description:
Terry Theise is the poet/philosopher of the wine world. He seduced me for eternity to Riesling (not that I needed any help) by describing one of the wines in his catalogue as "...tasting so ambrosial it was as though it were distilled through bees wings, and so honeyed you could hardly swirl it"! His passion goes far beyond the distilled grape, it also encompasses the people who grow it, and the significance it plays in our lives. Terry has an exceptional love of words and thoughts and employs both to offer a multi-faceted, articulate, and unique glimpse into the wine world.
Natalie Maclean I got to know Natalie through her blog www.nataliemaclean.com. In her newest book, she has taken on the challenge most dear to all our hearts: how to get the best wine at an affordable price. Her book offers up easily accessible hardcore information and education eloquently presented. Natalie generously brings us into her fun-filled world of great discoveries and fascinating travels, in fact, this book doubles as a beautifully written novel. On another note, if my favorite white wine be Terry's beloved Riesling, my favorite red is Natalie's beloved Pinot. I would love to sit down to a glass of it with her and I'm sure everyone who reads her book will share this sentiment!
My dear friends Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg live a charmed life. As husband and wife, and coauthors, they get to eat, drink, travel, and work together. In fact, I've never seen one without the other! I first met Andrew when he was a chef at East Coast Grill in Cambridge, MA. Karen is a brilliant researcher and writer. Their collaboration makes for an enviably unbeatable team, which has produced several award winning books. The Food Lover's Guide to Wine is the most recent of them! It's a beautifully organized four color production, detailed with useful information, and fascinating quotes from sommeliers offering their opinions from the classics to discussions of the major importers of different categories of wine. I love the chart on page 270 "Holy Grail Food and Wine Pairings," which should be laminated and hung in every kitchen. (On a personal note, I would add my favorite pairing--pesto and sauvignon blanc. Karen and Andrew do list asparagus and Sauvignon Blanc which is the same concept of grassiness enhancing grassiness for difficult to pair ingredients. They list two of my favorite producers: Cloudy Bay and St. Supéry.
I also once discovered the perfect harmony of lobster and Scheurebe which they recommend with shellfish and include two of my favorite producers--Alois Kracher (dessert Scheurebe) and Müller-Catoir.)
Each of these three books is available in hard cover and also in an e-book version. Terry Theise's book is now a year old and has just come out in paperback.
To my mind, all of these books are delightfully indispensible. I plan to read each one page by page but can't wait to share them with you right now! Never has wine education been so accessible and so enjoyable.
Nov 21, 2011 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
Last week I attended a very interesting seminar and press event presented by Valrhona chocolate to introduce a very impressive new book:
Cooking with Chocolate: Essential Recipes and Techniques (Book & DVD)
This beautifully produced book was originally published in French under the title: Encyclopedie du Chocolat and has just been published in English by the same publisher, Flammarion, with an accompanying DVD of techniques. It is a book written by professionals for both the professional and the home baker and cook. It includes both sweet and savory recipes and, dear to my heart, the ingredients are listed in grams, ounces, and volume. It is replete with enticing photographs, creative ideas and recipes, and precise techniques.
Pierre Hermé, in his foreword, writes: ...For many long years, pastry making was a demonstrative art with a decided tendency toward ornamentation...Today's pastry chefs focus on taste, flavors, textures, and temperatures.
Years ago, whenI asked my dear friend the esteemed chocolatier Jean Françoise Bonnet now of Tumbador Chocolate, what his favorite cookbook was he told me it was a book published in France by Frederic Bau.
Au Coeur des Saveurs (English/French Edition)
Frederic Bau, who is is the long time director of L'école du Grand Chocolat du Valrhona, also edited Cooking with Chocolate.
As part of the Valrhona chocolate tasting, food scientist Vanessa Lemoine of Valrhona instructed us as to taste chocolate to its best advantage. Most of us, being food professionals, already knew this but being reminded served to suggest to me that it would be a very valuable tool to share with all of you. The technique works not just with chocolate but with any food and wine as well with slight modification.
Start by smelling.
Then chew to release the flavor. (The intial flavor is floral)
Hit your tongue against your palate. (This releases mid range earthy flavors.)
Finally, with your mouth closed, breath out through your nose. (This releases a whole new range of spicy flavors. Here's the best reason yet to listen to what your mother often repeated about chewing with your mouth closed!)
You'll be astonished as to the variety, range of flavors, and enhanced pleasure you will experience by occasionally paying this close attention to what you eat, especially when it's chocolate.
Nov 19, 2011 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
I've long wished that I could speak German so that I could understand the poetry of Wagner's opera scores in the original language, but now I have a still better reason: My Swiss friend Peter Bührer has written the most stunningly beautiful and useful guide book of New York City that I have ever seen, and it's 85% in German.
On a recent visit to New York, Peter and I sat at Balthazar for two hours going through the huge book page by page. Finally I showed the waitperson how Balthazar was listed in the book to keep her from throwing us out! (It worked.)
If I had only one statement to make about this book it would be what I told Peter after turning to the final page: Every New Yorker should be born with this book. Actually, he said it first but it was just what I had been about to say. He said Every New Yorker should have this book. For this New Yorker, it was like a sentimental trip through all the special places of my life plus places I hadn't even known about that were practically right next door!
This book is more than just beautiful and informative, it's fun! The illustrations are all by the renowned artist James Rizzi and there are all sorts of extras affixed to the pages, in the form of post-its, post cards, DVDs, and even prepaid credit cards, for example, one that will give you free rides on the water taxi. In describing his chef d'oeuvre, Bührer says:
It is the first city guide ever, worldwide, which is completely illustrated by an artist, not just a graphic designer, a top pop art artist and native New Yorker. I tried to show the variety of New York in a very clear way and
want to inspire other people to keep their eyes open in that fantastic town.
Continue reading "An Eye-Popping New York City Guide Book by Peter Bührer" »
May 13, 2011 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
One of my favorite food editors, Joe Yonan of the Washington Post, has just published his long awaited cookbook on a subject that is dear to my heart. The subtitle, nightly adventures in cooking for one, tells you everything you need to know about what the book features!
Serve Yourself is a book that is tailor-made for people like me. When I was single, 35 years ago, I cooked for myself almost everything night, and with great pleasure. I regularly sat down to a delicious meal, often feeling like a queen. I had limited funds, I was working full time and going to school every night of the week but somehow I always found a way to eat well, and usually at home. This is because I cared passionately about food. And I still do! When my husband is out for the evening I cook for myself. Tonight, for example, I have one left-over soft shell crab from last night's restaurant dinner. I will boil some pasta, sauté some garlic in my best olive oil along with the drained pasta, cut the crab into pieces, and toss it in along with a small chiffonade of basil from my window sill, add a squeeze of lemon juice, reopen some carefully stored leftover sauvignon blanc, and be in heaven.
I've been following Joe Yonan's column Cooking for One, in the Washington Post, with great enjoyment so I'm delighted that it is now available as a book to benefit all those of you who don't get the Post.
Last week, I attended a terrific book party given by our mutual friend Suvir Saran at his NY restaurant Devi. It was a quintessential who's who of food professionals from the surrounding area. It was great catching up with friends while I relished delicious recipes prepared by chef Suran from the book: the flavorful Farro Salad with Chickpeas, Cherries & Pecans, and the perfectly prepared and mildly spicy Halibut with Red Peppery Chutney. There was scarcely room for desert but after a nibble of one of the Cardamom-Brown Sugar Snickerdoodles, I found it quite easy to finish the rest of it!
The book is filled with enticing recipes which I look forward to doubling and making for both of us as well as for my more rare solo dining experiences.
Dec 14, 2010 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
Great to know that college students are baking and from Rose's Heavenly Cakes no less! This bodes well for the next generation. Click here for details.
Dec 11, 2010 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
This extraordinary new cake book by Krystina Castella is a perfect gift for anyone who loves cake even if he or she doesn't plan ever to bake one. It is an in depth study of myriad cakes from all around the world. It is fascinating to see how each cake, beautifully photographed in color, reflects the history, ingredients, and technology of its culture. As a cake baker I love seeing the world through cake colored eyes.
Krystina Castella is a writer, profession designer, and professor of art at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Is it any wonder that her book would be of such unique presentation?!
My favorite design element, is the graphic representation of a particular cake family in the form of a family tree bearing leaves which present all the related members. An example is on page 193 which features the Cheesecake Family Tree. Here each leaf describes a different cheesecake style. The color of the leaf indicates from what part of the world the cake can be found. If the recipe is contained in the book the page number also appears on the leaf. Several other family trees, which brilliantly serve to present, at a glance, the relationship and evolution of the particular type of cake, range from the Sponge Cake Family to the Meringue Family.
The book is divided into 14 chapters, each representing a different part of the world from North America to Australia and New Zealand.
I haven't baked anything from this book but of course my first question to the author was regarding the flour, i.e. what type was used and how it was measured. The answer is unless cake flour was indicated, she used unbleached all-purpose flour and measured it by the dip and sweep method (dipping the cup into the flour bin and sweeping off the excess with a straight blade).
I feel somewhat remiss that my emphasis over the years has been focused mainly on flavor, texture, and personal history and less on the wider historical origins of my creations. This well-researched book will serve as a handy reference guide. It takes cakes to a whole new level of significance and presents them, both visually and historically within the context of their creation.
If you'd like a preview of the author presenting her cake concepts, click on this beautifully produced video and I'll need say no more.
Nov 17, 2010 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
At long last, Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery in Boston, Ma. has written her long awaited book Flour featuring recipes from her bakery and café.
I met Joanne many years ago when I was in Boston touring for one of my books. I fell in love with her bakery and was enchanted by her as well! In fact, on my next book tour, I chose Flour Bakery as the location in which to do a radio broadcast. The station had requested a bakery so that they could have bakery-like sounds in the background!
Joanne and I come from a suprisingly similar dessert background. She grew up in a traditional Chinese household and, as she writes: "rarely had the chance to indulge my sweet tooth." I grew up in a traditional Jewish household but with a nontraditional mother who had been the only woman in her entire dental school. I also rarely had the chance to indulge my sweet tooth. Joanne and I also share a passion, not just for baking, but also for analytical thinking and precision. (Unlike Joanne, however, I do not have the advantage of a degree in applied mathematics and it does not come naturally to me so I have to struggle and work hard to get all those numbers I include in my books to be accurate!)
I was struck immediately by the physcial appearance of the book. It is an upscale four color production, with stiched binding (so it will not come apart!) but instead of a paper dust jacket, it has a far more durable laminated hard cover, aka case, with beautiful colored photos printed directly on it. I suspect this will be the future of cookbook publishing as it will stand up better to frequent use, for which this book is surely destined.
Joanne's writing style is very appealing. It is both succinct, informative, and entertaining. She has her own confident voice which reflects her knowledge, expertise, and enjoyment of her baking profession.
And how has she dealt with the tricky volume/weight issue? As a professional baker there was no way she was going to eliminate weight, but when writing for the general public, not all of whom have as yet gotten on the much beloved by me scale bandwagon, she had to include volume. So volume comes first and in parenthesis comes the weight but only in grams. Now that scales so easily switch between ounces and grams there really is no need for both and we professional bakers all prefer grams. I'm really tempted to do the same in my next book except that when purchasing certain items such as butter, it's somehow easier to go by ounces and my readers have, by now, become accustomed to the charts that so readily accomodate all three systems.
The book has many enticing full page color photos such as the exquisite Black Sesame Lace Cookies which I know I will try in the near future.
Also dear to my heart are the well-thought out and beautifully organized sections on technique, equipment, ingredients, and tips.
Now on to the recipes! There are many I plan to try, including one acknowledged to be adapted from my Sourcream Coffee Cake (I'm dying to see how adding crème fraîche instead of sourcream enhances the cake) but the first one that called my name was the French Lemon Poppy Pound Cake.
The Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake in the Cake Bible was my signature cake so I was most curious to see what François Payard's take on it would be like. Joanne worked in his bakery and credits him with this recipe and all important technique but admits to having tweaked the ingredients. She generously has allowed me to print the recipe here:
French Lemon-Poppy Pound Cake
Makes one 9-inch loaf
Pound cakes are traditionally made with a pound of butter, a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, and a pound of eggs, hence the name. When properly made, the result is a dense, velvety cake with a tight crumb. But the key is knowing how to make it properly. I can't tell you the number of times I've attempted a classic pound cake recipe only to pull a tough, unimpressive loaf out of the oven. When I worked at Payard, I learned a new approach to making pound cakes that borrows a page from the genoise playbook. First, you whip eggs and sugar together until they are as light as a feather. Then, you gently fold in the flour and leavening agents. And finally, you whisk together melted butter and heavy cream and combine them, quickly and gently, with the batter. You end up with a cake with the warm, rich, buttery flavor and incredible texture you want. This is my favorite way to enjoy pound cake: laced with copious amounts of fresh lemon zest and nutty poppy seeds.
2 cups (240 grams) cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (1 3/8 sticks/156 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to slightly warm
1/4 cup (60 grams) heavy cream, at room temperature
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
3 tablespoons poppy seeds/28 grams
4 eggs/200 grams
11/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (70 grams) confectioners' sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1/2 to 1 lemon)
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, or line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, and poppy seeds. The mixture should have the consistency of a thick liquid. If the butter hardens into little lumps, heat the mixture gently until the butter melts again. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together the eggs and granulated sugar on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy and lemon colored. (If you use a handheld mixer, this same step will take 8 to 10 minutes.)
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the egg-sugar mixture just until combined. Fold about one-fourth of the egg-flour mixture into the butter-cream mixture to lighten it. Then fold in the remaining egg-flour mixture just until thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and springs back when you press it in the middle. (Note from Rose: In my oven I needed to tent it loosely with foil after the first 45 minutes of baking.) Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.
To make the lemon glaze: While the cake is cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and enough lemon juice to make an easily spreadable, smooth glaze.
When the cake has cooled for at least 30 minutes, pop it out of the pan and place it on the rack. Spread or spoon the glaze over the top of the still-warm cake, letting the glaze dribble down the sides.
The cake can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for to 3 days.
Same Recipe, Different Flavor
Vanilla Bean Pound Cake: To make a fragrant vanilla pound cake, omit the lemon zest and juice and poppy seeds from the cake batter and leave off the lemon glaze. Split 1/2 vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape the seeds from the pod into the butter-cream mixture. Whisk well to distribute the seeds evenly. Proceed as directed, then lightly dust the cake with confectioners' sugar just before serving.
Oct 27, 2010 | From the kitchen of Rose
in Book Review
Haven't we all heard, growing up, those reproachful words: "don't play with your food!"?
Some of us (I for example) 'took revenge' by becoming food stylists or cake decorators. Photographer Carl Warner chose instead to "invent the food landscape art form which transforms real food--vegetables, fruits, bread, fish, meat, cheese, and grain--into finely detailed vibrant three-dimensional scenes..."
The details and imagery of his work are awe inspiring. At first one has to look twice to see the food components in the scenery. But beyond the entertainment aspect, Warner's art reaches a deeper and ever more pleasing subconscious level. Consider how broccoli and parsley stalks do indeed ressemble trees, and the fringes of dill, fronds in the forest. Could it be that the Creator of all things used themes and patterns the way we mere mortals do?
Warner himself says that his images "let people look at the world in a different way, opening up their awareness of, and respect for, food...Once the audience makes the connection between the food as art and the food they eat, it starts a dialogue about how it is grown, where it comes from, and why nutrition and sustainability are essential to our well being."
Warner's work strikes a familiar chord, reminiscent of the movie Avatar, where on the planet of Pandora all things are spiritually connected. There is a mystical beauty, symmetry, and reassurance to this vision. It makes the mystery of life stil more mysterious and at the same time more approachable.
Carl Warner's Food Landscapes could well be the perfect gift for the art lover, the food lover, and children as well.
For a video of Carl Warner creating his masterpieces click here.
To purchase the book click on this link.