My Favorite Fall Cookbooks, 2010
This has been a banner year for fall cookbooks. There are always some great new releases that I get particularly excited about, but this year’s different. I can hardly keep up and I wanted to share some of my new favorites with you. These are the ones that are bookmarked, riddled with post-it notes, and live on my bedstand–the ones I turn to for ideas on innovative ingredients, old-fashioned Southern recipes, and classic chocolate desserts. I’ve ogled them, baked from them, and recommended them to friends (not surprisingly, most of them are baking books). After chatting about these, I’d love to hear about any new (or classic) fall cookbooks you’ve been enjoying lately.
Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
As some of my local friends know, I have an odd crush on the guys from Baked Bakery–even odder considering they’re two gay guys from Brooklyn and I’ve never even been to the bakery. But the approach that Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito take with American baked goods is inspiring: they play with ingredients and techniques to make a classic dessert that you’re familiar with into something entirely new. Take the salt and pepper sandwich cookies, for instance. Or how about the Boston cream pie cake (brilliant)? I went to hear the duo speak recently at Omnivore Books and what they said about American baked goods hit home for me: there’s more to it than cupcakes, and with their Brooklyn bakery they wanted to show all of the possibilities with classic, simple, high-quality treats. If their lovely books are any testament to what’s being done behind the counter, this could be the highlight of my trip to New York next month.
Pick it up: Baked Explorations on Amazon.com
Flour by Joanne Chang
As most of you know, I went to graduate school in Boston and visited Flour Bakery many, many times. This is the kind of bakery I’d like to have: warm and homey with a big communal table, specials on the chalkboard, big mugs of strong coffee, and classic American desserts. So as you can imagine, I was thrilled to open up owner Joanne Chang’s cookbook and see many of my old favorite treats: the double chocolate cookie (you must try this), the unbelievably rich chocolate cupcakes, that creamy pumpkin pie, and the trustworthy banana bread. Joanne’s head notes reveal a little about each recipe and give a history of how they came to be at the bakery. And she has some charming tips she calls “Baker’s Bites” where she reveals tricks and shortcuts for some of the recipes. On a shelf glutted with baking books, this one is a keeper.
Pick it up: Flour on Amazon.com
Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson
Tartine Bakery is right in my backyard (sort of), and as I wrote recently for Bay Area Bites, it’s a place locals have a love/hate relationship with. Tartine is really an exquisite bakery. If you’ve never had their morning bun, lemon tart, or fudgey brownie, put it on your to-do list next time you’re in our neck of the woods. The hate part comes from the massive crowds at virtually all hours of the day. And that’s why their cookbooks are a welcome addition to the bookshelf: with a little flour and elbow grease, owners Chad Robertson and Elizabeth Prueitt walk you through how to recreate their beloved treats at home. This book is Chad’s baby–it’s a celebration of the country loaf that the bakery’s famous for. With the help of tactile and sensuous photos from the talented Eric Wolfinger, Chad walks you through exactly how to recreate the crusty masterpiece at home in your own kitchen. In addition to the bread recipe, Chad has some great ideas for what to do with day-old bread (savory bread pudding, meatball sandwiches, fresh fava panzanella). If you’re local, Chad’s speaking about his book at the fabulous Omnivore Books on Saturday, November 6th from 1-2 p.m.
Pick it up: Tartine Bread on Amazon.com
Southern Pies by Nancie McDermott
The title pretty much seals the deal for me. Southern recipes appeal to me in a strange way–I think I may have been born on the wrong coast. And pie? Duh. Lucky for me (and you), this book has a lot more going for it than just the title. North Carolina native, Nancie McDermott, has done an amazing job covering everything from the classic Southern recipe for chess and buttermilk pies to more familiar favorites like butterscotch pie and and double apple. I love Nancie’s chapter on pie crusts and technique: she lays out numerous options for crust and discusses blind-baking and how to choose which crust is appropriate for each pie. Examples include her classic butter pie crust, graham cracker crust, and the ever-likeable ‘You Can Do This’ lard pie crust. The book is organized by seasons and types of pie; I’ve got “Fall and Winter Pies” bookmarked and am tackling her version of apple this weekend!
Pick it up: Southern Pies on Amazon.com
The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook
Here we go with Southern recipes again. When I received this book in the mail, I was a bit giddy. I curled up on the couch and read a good chunk of it like it was a novel. The Southern Foodways Alliance is a group of folks from the University of Mississippi who study food cultures around the American South. And here they’ve produced a truly lovely community cookbook–the kind that’s becoming increasingly rare these days. It’s a sweet little spiral-bound book full of recipes from pimento cheese and butterbean gravy to cheese grits casserole and persimmon pudding. They’ve successfully created a real sense of place with this book: after reading it for a mere few minutes, you feel like you’ve been uplifted to Georgia or Tennessee or Louisiana. The caramel cupcakes I just made here on the blog originated from this book, and I can’t wait to try the “Fancy Pants” banana pudding, sweet tea lemon chess pie, and the Southern chicken and dumplings. The head notes of each recipe discuss where each originated: for the most part, they’re all from regular folks like you and I–classic family recipes that have been passed down for generations and have had a shining spot on picnic blankets and church lunch tables for years.
Pick it up: The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook on Amazon.com
O.k., your turn: what’s on your nightstand? What are you bookmarking these days?
Note: I did receive a few of these books directly from the publisher for review, and did not purchase them outright.
Healthy Comfort Food
Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
To Talk Porridge
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)
It's not new, but I am enjoying reading Real Food by Nina Planck right now.
I've also been trying out some of the recipes from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook lately, with extremely limited success :(
It's been a bad few months for cooking in my house! I'm hoping that will change soon. I, being from the south, am definitley putting that Southern Foodways cookbook on my christmas wish list, and hoping to check out the new Baked book too!
Thanks for this post! I looooove a good cookbook collection. The Tessa Kiros books are probably my favorites to pull off my shelf and flip through. I also recently was given the Momofuku cookbook, but I just do not even know what to do with that thing!
This is an excellent selection of inspiring cookbooks you've listed here. I'd like to check out "Baked Explorations," since I have not heard of Baked Bakery before and I am always interested in checking out a new bakery when I visit a city. Did you happen to visit HiRise bakery when you lived in Boston? It was brand new when I lived there over 11 years ago--and around the corner from my office, so I ate there nearly every day. So good (and assume it still is?).
I've been obsessing over recipes in a book I picked up a few weeks ago called "An Appetite for Puglia: The People, The Places, The Food," which is part of a series of cookbooks focusing on regional food and people. The pasta dishes are really appealing to me right now--and the photos make me want to book a flight to Italy asap.
Denise | Chez Danisse
That cover of Southern Pies is pretty fabulous. I should really eat some lunch.
I just took a look at Canal House Cooking Volume No. 5 and now know that I need to procure a copy for my nightstand.
Denise | Chez Danisse
Oh, and Shae's new eBook on handcrafted (& prize winning) jam looks pretty darn cool too.
oooooh two of these are on my wishlist!!! i think this post might have sent me over the edge. guess who is checking out at amazon now? xoxo
What an awesome roundup! I'll be scuttling over to Amazon to check these out. Three things on my radar: Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune fame is publishing a memoir soon, I'm eying a copy of Good Meat, by Deborah Krasner, at our local bookstore, and meanwhile trying to finish up an MLK Fisher collection.
I read this post with trepidation. In the last month, I have bought more cookbooks than I care to admit and was afraid you would coerce me into more. Fortunately I already have two (the second Baked is even better than the first, IMO) but I do think the Flour book is whispering my name... :)
What a great choice of cookbooks. I love the combination you chose. Off to the bookstore...
The Wild Table. Connie Green and Sarah Scott. The porcini butter alone is worth the whole book. Unbelievably delish!!!!!
Erin (Blue Egg Kitchen)
Ahhh, cookbooks. You're very right that there are so many great ones out there this fall. I'm particularly loving David Tanis' heart of the artichoke and Nigel Slater's Tender II. And I really want to get my hands on Cooking with Italian Grandmothers. Great idea for a post!
Erin (Blue Egg Kitchen)
By the way, the Flour cookbook looks so good, but I was disappointed to see that their French toast recipe isn't included. I've been dying to have that recipe ever since I left the East Coast in 2005.
A Canadian Foodie
Thank you for the reviews. I really appreciate it as I am a cookbook aholic, at times, and it truly is nice to know someone to ask or to talk to about specific books.
I'm a little late to the party but Pork & Sons has been heavily bookmarked recently. Since I'm house sitting, I'm off to make copies of the things I'm drooling over, but have yet to try.
Wow, this is one post that is *not* good for the wallet! ;) I've been waiting anxiously for Tartine Bread, and can't wait to check out Flour and the Southern Foodways Alliance as well.
On my end, I rediscovered Marcella Hazan's 'Essentials of Classic Italian cooking' and did the whole bookmarking and post-it thing all over again. I seriously suspect that I was an Italian in another life....
I'm a huge fan of Pioneer Woman and I LOVE her cookbook! Really interested in the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook. I need to take a gander at that!
jules blaine davis
i just bought the latest ross dobson cookbook - nourishing meals i think it's called.. so great. also - the homemade life, molly wizenbergs book.. love her stories and her recipes.. just to get reinspired.. with a great story... can't wait to get the new baked...
What about Harvest to Heat: Cooking with America's best chefs and farmers?
Love love love this post. Easy Christmas wishlist for the girl who has a gazillion cookbooks (and always wants more!)
One of my faves is Local Breads by Daniel Leader - if you love baking bread you must check it out. I've never made so much bread in my life as after getting that book!
we have such similar tastes! I've been loving Melissa Clark, Dorie, Nigella and Ina. Also, the new Canal House is gorgeous!
Great information. Everyone can use another cook book.
Great list, Megan! I'm a huge fan of the Canal House series, though lately I've been loving 'My Favorite Ingredients' - have made a number of great savory and sweet dishes from it.
Megan - noooooo. I can't read about any more books I want (like, ahem, all these!). I am loving Around my French Table right now as well as The Professional Chef. Kinda boring choice, I know but practical.
Great selection of cookbooks. I really love community cookbooks, usually nothing to fancy just really good cooking.
Just looking at the covers makes me want to buy all of these.
Nice selection of fall's bounty! I just wrote my own cookbook recap on my blog.
Damaris @Kitchen Corners
cookbooks are my favorite. Yesterday my husband was teasing me because I haven't picked up a fiction novel or a biography is a long time. However, you'll always see me reading a new cookbook. It never gets old. It just gets more delicious. The Flour one looks incredible, I'll have to check it out.
I'll be in SF this weekend for the Foodbuzz blogger festival and I'm planning on visiting Omnivore bookstore. I can't wait.
Oh I'm the same way, Damaris! I'm ashamed at my lack of "real" reading lately...you'll love Omnivore. It's a really sweet spot and Celia's selection is out of this world.
Thank you for the awesome recommendations! As a newbie baker and cook, my cookbook collection is not that huge and I'm just starting to get excited about print recipes!
the southern pies books looks fabulous. i loved Nancie McDermott's southern cakes, so i'll have to check out her batch of pies.