Category Archives: Cookbook Reviews

Books i’ve enjoyed and links to reviews i’ve published elsewhere.

Cooking Reviews from August 15, 2013

ice cream sandwichThis month’s  cooking reviews from Library Journal include ethnic cookbooks and cookbooks with TV tie-ins. While testing, I sandwiched the strawberry gelato from Franny’s: Simple Seasonal Italian between Lattemiele Cookies from Trader Joes (delicious!).

On a related note, i’ve enjoyed reading’s But Does It Work?  collection of cookbook tests, where Charlotte Druckman, unfortunately, had a less than ideal experience with Franny’s.

Cooking from: Kate Zuckerman’s The Sweet Life

Cinnamon Caramel Mousse

Zuckerman, Kate (text) & Tina Rupp (photogs.). The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle. Bulfinch. Oct. 2006. 224p. photogs. index. ISBN 0821257447. $35. [AMAZON]

I’ve heard that on average, people make only two recipes out of each cookbook they own. I can’t verify this statistic, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. In my own rapidly expanding collection, there are piles of cookbooks I’ve never cooked from. But for every few titles i’ve only read, there will be one whose frequent use is written upon its pages in spilled cake batter and chocolate fingerprints.

After I made this Cinnamon Caramel Mousse, I took a look through my old photographs and realized i’ve made at least twelve recipes out of The Sweet Life. It was a birthday gift from my mother, given to me a few months after its release. At the time, I didn’t have much pastry experience. I quickly grew to appreciate the book for its neat organization, sophisticated recipes, soundly explained techniques, gorgeous photographs*, and consistent results. (*Tina Rupp also photographed Poliafito & Lewis’s Baked and Baked Explorations. You can see some examples of her work on her portfolio, or this great post from DesignSponge.)

I have yet to make a recipe from it that I didn’t love, and if that’s not enough endorsement, my husband (who has next to no baking experience) managed to whip up the Chocolate Caramel Tart while I was away at a conference. Zuckerman’s emphasis on instruction is, in my opinion, one of this book’s greatest strengths.

For your enjoyment, here’s a slideshow of nearly everything i’ve made out of this book:


Get the flash player here:

Belinda Jeffery’s Apple Crostata

Apple Crostata

Apple Crostata
I have a soft spot for Australian cookbooks. It began when a magazine contribution by Donna Hay led me to an assortment of her cookbooks at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library, which in turn led me to a sizeable selection of British and Australian food magazines. Both the magazines and the blogosphere introduced me to two other notable Australian chefs: Bill Granger and Christine Manfield. These author’s titles had similarities: a unique photographic style, recipes with clean flavors, and convenient metric measurements.

I knew a little about these chef/authors when I started buying their books, but I knew nothing about Belinda Jeffery when I bought Mix & Bake (Penguin Global, 2008). Frankly, I pre-ordered it for the cover art. I was delighted to find it contained some great recipes that ranged from comforting to dramatic. Jeffery is an excellent writer with a lively, encouraging voice, and I find it disappointing that she is not better known stateside.

Her latest book, The Country Cookbook, arrived at my door on the heels of several urbanite-turned-farmer books (see reviews for Miller, Kimball, and Timmermeister: 1, 2, 3). Keeping with this theme of urban egress, The Country Cookbook chronicles a year following Jeffery’s move from Sydney to a country home in Mullumbimby, NSW. It is a diary with accompanying recipes and photographs, which can be read from start to finish, or browsed by season. While the diary format may be off-putting to some, I found it intimate and highly evocative. Jeffery clearly takes joy in her surroundings, which are sumptuously photographed by Rodney Weidland. (See a book preview and an interview with Jeffery on Penguin Australia’s site).

As I mentioned earlier, I love Australian cookbooks. I will warn you, however, that they can contain vocabulary which some Americans may find hard to interpret. Luckily, I’ve had few (if any) problems cooking from this book, as Jeffery’s instructions are clear and easy to follow. It contains a good balance of courses, suitable for many occasions. On another note, there are not one, but -two- ribbons in the book for marking your favorite recipes!

I will leave you with this recipe for a fabulous Apple & Cinnamon Crostata, which we enjoyed with homemade cinnamon ice cream. I baked it on a pizza stone, which made the crust well-browned and thoroughly crisped. If you want a perfectly round crostata, use a circular pan, or trace a 12-inch circle on parchment to assist you with rolling and shaping.
Continue reading Belinda Jeffery’s Apple Crostata