November 8, 2013

Inside the Jewish Bakery by Stanley Ginsberg

Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish BakingMy rating: 4 of 5 spoons

Bread is one of my biggest weaknesses. Other than a cheese shop, a bakery can draw me in quicker than anything. I love baking my own bread and filling the house with the wonderful smells and then sitting down to the amazing flavors. I expected this book to be right up my alley. Make no mistake; there are some great recipes in this book. I was very disappointed with the number of errors. I actually received the second edition, so I expected the errors to be fixed. There's only half a dozen or so on the errata page, but those were noted to be mistakes in the first edition so I was really surprised that ALL the mistakes weren't corrected for the second edition. I also had to laugh out loud at the recipe for Bakery Challah which calls for 7 1/2 egg yolks. Really?! I've never seen a recipe call for you to split an egg yolk before!

This book is filled with wonderful recipes that call you in and cry out to be made. I can imagine that this would be a jewel for someone who grew up in New York or somewhere with Jewish bakeries and now has moved away and can't get all the lovely baked goods they grew up with. I hear people talk about the different breads, rolls or pastries that were their favorites, and chances are they're in this book! I just have to caution you to print out the errata page for any corrections first.

I received a copy of this book from Camino Books for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Salt Block Cooking by Mark Bitterman

Salt Block Cooking: 70 Recipes for Grilling, Chilling, Searing, and Serving on Himalayan Salt BlocksMy rating: 5 of 5 spoons

I have a guilty pleasure: I love cooking shows! It was while watching one of my favorite ones that I first saw someone use a salt block to cook and I was immediately fascinated. I was very excited to get this book and check it out. I did NOT realize how expensive the salt blocks can be!  Definitely be ready to make an investment if you want a good salt block of a decent size.

The recipes in here range from super simple to slightly more complicated, but definitely intriguing. You have to try the "Salt Brick Grilled Chicken"!! There's a great section in the beginning filled with history, how to shop for a salt block, sizing guide, handling and more. This is definitely the quintessential book on salt block cooking, and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to foray into this area of cooking.

I received a copy of this book from Andrews McMeel Publishing through the Lisa Ekus Group for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Pretzel Making at Home by Andrea Slonecker

Pretzel Making at HomeMy rating: 4 of 5 spoons

I'm not a fan of the hard pretzels you buy in bags, but I love a good soft pretzel every now and then, so I was really interested in getting into this book and trying my hand at it.

The book itself is a nice layout. More photos would have been nice, but the photos they have used are great. There is lots of good information in the front of the book with history, whys and wherefores. I haven't really gotten to cook much out of this book, though. As a Christian and non-drinker, I will not buy beer--even to cook with and a good portion of the recipes call for beer. I also have a tiny kitchen and 4 little kids, so I don't really have a good set up to use the lye solution. However, there is some great information in this book, lovely dips/toppings and a few recipes I can cook now and with some more research maybe I can find a good substitute for the beer and cook some more of these recipes.

I did drop the rating to a four due to the beer and lye as not everyone can/will use these, but for someone with no problems with beer and a good setup to be able to use the lye, this is definitely the book to go for!

I received a copy of this book from Chronicle Books through the Lisa Ekus Group for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

November 7, 2013

Small, Sweet and Italian by Maria Bruscino Sanchez

Small, Sweet, and Italian: Tiny, Tasty Treats from Sweet Maria's BakeryMy rating: 3 of 5 spoons

"Small, Sweet and Italian-ish" might be a better title for this cookbook. A good portion of the recipes seem to be more derivative than actual Italian recipes, which made it somewhat of a disappointment to me. I can create Italian-ish recipes on my own. I was looking for authentic Italian desserts, and so this cookbook didn't quite cut it for me.

On the other hand, if you just want some delicious dessert recipes, or if you are a die-hard Sweet Maria's Bakery fan, this would definitely be a great cookbook for you! There are some amazing recipes in here (including some that are authentic Italian desserts) that would make a perfect finishing touch for any meal. Definitely try out the Godfather Cupcakes, Chocolate Cookie Cannoli with Whipped Cream and Pistachio Chocolate Cupcakes to name a few.

The only other issue with this cookbook is that the author assumes you have a stand mixer, so most if not all of the instructions are for a stand mixer. If you don't have one, you just have to figure out the best way to do it yourself.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin's Press for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

November 4, 2013

The Sardinian Cookbook by Viktorija Todorovska

The Sardinian Cookbook: The Cooking and Culture of a Mediterranean IslandMy rating: 4 of 5 spoons

Sardinia is the lesser known of Italy's two main islands. Sicily, the more well-known island, is very dear to my heart, and I think that made me even a little more excited to check out the similarities and differences between cooking and culture of the two islands.

This was such a great book, both to read and to cook out of! There is a lovely section on the island itself as well as bits and pieces scattered throughout the book. The recipes are a fascinating array. I have oven roasted potatoes for years, and almost didn't make the recipe for "Potatoes with Mediterranean Herbs" for that reason, but I would have really missed out! I've always roasted my potatoes from a raw state, and I wasn't sure about baking the potatoes for at least 45 minutes AFTER boiling them to a fork tender state. Wow! They were amazing!! Like silk or velvet on the inside with a luscious crust on the outside, they became an instant favorite in my house! I'll be honest; the "Endive with Extra Virgin Olive Oil" was a bust. Even my husband who loves all cooked greens couldn't eat them. The uber-simple "Chicken with Capers" more than made up for the endive. Such a few ingredients, and a simple preparation, but what a flavor!! We had company over and they raved over the chicken as well!

This is a great cookbook to dip into the waters of Sardinian cooking. I'm far from finished with this book as there is so many more recipes that make my mouth water just reading them! I did drop my rating to 4 stars due to the amount of hard-to-find ingredients. Items like myrtle (dried and/or crushed leaves and branches), bottarga, fregola and more may be available in some specialty stores, but most will probably have to order them off the internet.

I received a copy of this cookbook from Agate Publishing for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.