Monthly Archives: December 2010

Review: The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009

by Gourmet Magazine

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The whole premise of The Gourmet Cookie Book was to feature the best cookie recipe from each year of Gourmet Magazine’s existence (1941-2009). Released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ($18), it is a unique compilation of recipes that integrate historical data with culinary trends. I love the historical filter through which the book is written, one that uses cookies as a way of detailing American history while highlighting our evolving eating habits. It is a book that people will want to read from cover to cover.

The photography is stark and simple; an artistic approach that I think works well and compliments the overall historical tones of the book. Even the index itself was appealing and very user friendly, incorporating thumbnail photos of each cookie.

However despite the fact that I love the overall concept for this book and think that it is both interesting and informative, in terms of recipes tested I was disappointed. I don’t know if I just happened to pick flops, but you’d think that with only one cookie recipe included from each year that all of them would have to meet the criteria of being…well, edible. That being said, I haven’t given up completely on this book and would like to try a couple of other recipes before deciding whether or not to relinquish ownership of my copy. Perhaps because the recipes included were printed as they originally appeared in the magazine, I should give the editors more credit for authenticity and leeway for results that may not necessarily be compatible with today’s tastes.

As a loyal fan of Gourmet Magazine, I mourned alongside numerous other foodies once publication ceased. I had such high hopes for this book, but I think editors will have to rely entirely on brand recognition and subscriber nostalgia when it comes to sales.

Has anyone else tried this book? I would love to hear if others had similar (or differing) experiences to mine!

To read the results of my recipe tests for The Gourmet Cookie Book, please click HERE

Gift Ideas for Foodies

With less than ten shopping days left before Christmas, I’ve been receiving quite a few frantic emails from people looking for gift ideas for the foodie in their lives. Hence the existence of this blog post! I thought it would be fun to list my top five cookbooks reviewed this year, and group them with some fun products to compliment the theme of each book.

First I stopped at Well Seasoned in Langley; my favourite gourmet food store. Not only do they offer an incredible variety of food items, food related products and cooking classes that will have your inner gourmet doing summersaults, the staff are also fun and knowledgeable and always willing to lend a hand. (Thanks guys for letting me run rampant in the store gathering all sorts of items for my photo shoot!)

While I was in the store I had a chance to visit with owner Angie Quaale and talk about some of the most popular food items people are purchasing this year, which include tagines, meat thermometers, and nutmeg grinders (fresh is best baby!) But with a store full of amazing goodies it is the handmade marshmallows from Pink Spatula that has her most excited. They come in seven different flavours (I have a weakness for the holiday spice variety) and pair perfectly with a decadent sipping chocolate.

As for cookbooks? Angie’s two favourites for the year are Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood and For the Love of Salad. Great minds must think alike because both books made it onto my list as well! Speaking of my list…here it is folks. Enjoy! Oh and be sure to post a comment about the food related items on your list this year. I’d love to hear what you’re hoping to find under the tree.

(NOTE: cookbooks listed below are my favourites – in no particular order – that I have reviewed this year. They are not limited to 2010 releases).

Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan ($40)
Food Mill ($64.99)
Preserved Lemons ($9.99)
Fleur de Sel with herbs d’provence ($16.99)
Tart Pan ($12.29)
Madeleines Pan ($7.89)

Gale Gand’s Brunch!: 100 Fantastic Recipes for the Weekend’s Best Meal, by Gale Gand ($27.50)
Silicone Egg Poacher ($10.99)
Cocoa ($9.99)
49th Parallel Coffee ($15.99)
Holiday Spice Marshmallows ($5.99)
Vanilla Paste ($19.99)
Instant Espresso Coffee ($6.69)
English Muffin Rings ($4.99)

Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood, by Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming ($29.95)
Tagine ($119.99)
Quinoa Flour ($6.49)
Black Quinoa ($7.49)
Golden Quinoa ($6.89)

For the Love of Salad, by Jeanelle Mitchell ($19.95)
Garlic Press ($34.99)
Mandoline Slicer ($79.99)
Salad Spinner ($39.99)
Olive Oil ($18.69)
Champagne Vinegar ($13.99)
Red Wine Vinegar ($17.99)
Raspberry Vinegar ($9.99)

The Main: Recipes, by Anthony Sedlak ($29.95)
Cooking Class with Anthony Sedlak ($60)
(click here for a schedule of Anthony’s classes held at Well Seasoned in the new year)

Christmas Cookbook Giveaways!

In celebration of the holiday season, CookThatBook will be giving away a copy of Gourmet Magazine’s “The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009” and Alice Medrich’s “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies”. To enter for a chance to win, post a comment below telling me about your favourite treat to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Be sure to stipulate which of the cookie books you would prefer to receive. On December 14th I will draw two names randomly from the list of comments. A huge thank you to the folks over at Thomas Allen & Son, Ltd. for donating copies of the books for our giveaway!

In our house the month of December is all about cookies. With Christmas carols blasting and holiday decorations perfectly in place, I don my festive apron that almost borders on being tacky and head into the kitchen. Each year I am full of excitement at the possibility of discovering new recipes, but also indulging in traditional favourites that only make an appearance at this time of year.

Followers of this blog will already be aware of my obsession with baking. I love the structure and regimented exactness that is required (can anyone say anal Capricorn?!) which allows me to completely zone out and focus on just one task. But there’s something special about Christmas cookies in particular. They hold an extra dose of magic! Yes they’re fun to make and delicious to eat, but they are prepared with the sole purpose of being shared with family, friends…and of course the big man himself; Santa. In fact, the whole concept of leaving cookies for Santa is believed to have started around the time of the Great Depression. Parents were looking for a way to instil values of generosity and sharing, even during difficult times. Hard to deny that there’s something infinitely uplifting about being the recipient of a batch of freshly baked cookies. They have the power to warm your soul.

As a child I remember leaving out plates of cookies I had baked with my mother and being so excited on Christmas morning when all that was left were crumbs. (Whew – he liked them!) Now when I bake cookies with my own children I see that same excitement in their eyes; the sparkle of holiday magic.

Here are the showstopper cookies that will be featured in our house this holiday season. And yes I realize as he reads this list Mr. Spock is preparing his annual speech about how I always get carried away and make a ridiculous amount of cookies. Bah humbug sweetie! You try cutting down on this list:

Chocolate Mint Cookies
Whipped Shortbread
Butterscotch Cookies
Butter Tarts
Mincemeat Tarts
Gingerbread Cookies
Sugar Cookies

Review: Around My French Table

By Dorie Greenspan

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The latest culinary gem released by famed food writer and cookbook author extraordinaire Dorie Greenspan, is titled Around My French Table. It is the perfect name for this book, as every page is written and photographed in a manner that is inviting and homey. You actually feel as if you’re sitting around Dorie’s table.

Released in October 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ($40), this cookbook encompasses recipes and stories that denote the culture and lifestyle embraced by Dorie and the country that instantly captured her heart. There are helpful tips scattered throughout, along with serving and storing suggestions for each recipe. I love the personal stories and fun anecdotes included that make this a book you will want to read from cover to cover.

The recipes themselves make French food accessible to the average home cook, guiding you through each dish so well that you almost swear you can hear Dorie whispering instructions in your ear. Dishes that at first glance appear complicated turn out to be straightforward, and recipes range from classic French cuisine to more modern twists like Cheesy Crème Brulée.

Dorie Greenspan has become a culinary treasure adored worldwide by legions of devoted cooks who find inspiration and encouragement in her approach to food. She has written a total of ten cookbooks to date, five having won James Beard and IACP awards including Cookbook of the Year. Not bad for someone who burned down her parents’ kitchen when she was 13 and didn’t bake so much as a chocolate chip cookie until after she was married!

Around My French Table will have a special spot on my bookshelf; right next to my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

To read my recipe reviews for Around My French Table, please click HERE