I had an excellent holiday season. As you can see, my friends and relatives have pretty much accepted that I’m obsessed with food/cooking (and Julia Child, but really, the two go hand in hand) and they have bestowed upon me a wealth of new cooking tomes (Tomes. That’s a cool word. How often do we really use it though? Like, never). Before you go getting all jealous that I have the best family ever (I do) that spoils me with excessive gifts on Christmas, I should go all full-disclosure on you and admit that I also had a birthday last week that accounts for some of my haul. And I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I got about receiving so many of these “defining” cookbooks, as it were.
That Cook’s Illustrated one, oh it is Awesome. With a capitol A. I have been reading it like a novel (yes, I am a nerd. Deal.) and I had to stop sticky-noting the things I wanted to cook because I was putting one on every page.
The Commonsense Kitchen, aside from the story behind it being one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard, has some of the best, and most simple, “home-style” recipes I’ve come across in a while. The Dutch Baby I’m sharing with you below comes from it, and it was so good that it was eaten before it’s photo shoot was complete.
And really what kitchen is complete without How to Cook Everything? I have a love-hate relationship with Mark Bittman since I’ve had some …weird (for lack of a better work)…luck with his recipes in the past, but he does know his stuff, and his kitchen tips are invaluable. And you really can’t beat it for a wide selection – there’s bound to be something in 2000 recipes that sounds good to you.
The others three in there are more specialized, and most importantly to me, are about my favorite kitchen pursuit. I love to bake, and I don’t discriminate. Cookies, cakes, pies, bread, you name it, I love it. So that Peter Reinhart book pretty much made my day. He is one of the ultimate authorities on bread-baking and an excellent teacher. Despite the fact that almost all the recipes in this book require a starter of some sort, he explains everything in such a way that it not only sounds like an easy, approachable project, but something you should go out and do Right Now. As someone who does not particularly care for the typical sandwich loaves sold so prevalently in our supermarkets, this book is invaluable to me since it will (hopefully!) be able to teach me to create bakery style breads at home.
Sky High is the book for you if you like to bake celebration cakes; i.e. towering, three story cakes with a variety of flavors, fillings, and frostings. Which I do. Actually, I made one from the book for my birthday, which I will share with you another day. The pictures are gorgeous, and makes me want to eat the book, but I guess I’ll just have to make them all instead, since I would miss it terribly if anything untoward were to happen to it.
Farmer’s Market Desserts is another book that is near and dear to my heart. You see, I hate cold weather. I enjoy fall and spring (I mean, it’s gorgeous outside, so I can’t really dislike it), but winter is just not for me. I hate snow with a passion, and cold, blustery days make me want to stay inside with a cup of coffee and
Big Bang Theory reruns anything but laundry a good book. Summer, however is my season. I love everything about it: the produce (oh, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, any-and-all berries, peaches, pears, how I love you!) the weather, the beach, the long days, all of it. So when I saw this book, I pretty much had to have it. I mean who doesn’t need to know like a thousand to new ways to use up all of that wonderful stuff that fills the farmer’s markets in the warmer months? The book also has chapters such as “Autumn Harvest” and “Winter Citrus” for those of you who like that sort of thing, but let’s be honest; I got it just for Aprium Almond Tart.
Lastly, As Always, Julia is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Julia Child. The book is a collection of the letters between Julia and her friend Avis DeVoto, who played a prominent part in getting The Book published. Most people have seen the movie, or read those other books, and so know something about how Mastering the Art of French Cooking came to be written, but this is really a whole ‘nother view of it. Avis was very involved in the editing of the book and finding someone to publish it after the original deal fell through and I really enjoyed seeing all of that behind-the-scenes type stuff. And all of the little things that two friends talk about (gossip, politics, popular culture, etc) was really very entertaining.
So, what I’m saying is “Go out and get these books immediately.” Or just stick around here and see what I make from them. Whatever.
Adapted from The Commonsense Kitchen
These are also known as German Pancakes, and are sort of a cross between a pancake and a crepe. The batter will be very thin but when removed from the oven will be puffy and golden. After cooling for a moment it will sort of settle down into a thin pancake (or a thick crepe) that is the perfect marriage of the two. You can serve it with fruit and powdered sugar, or syrup and butter, or really anything, just be prepared to take pictures for your blog immediately because if it’s anything like our house, it won’t sit around very long.
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 3/4 cup sifted flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 450°.
Beat the eggs, milk, flour and salt in a medium bowl until very smooth. I started out using a “spoonula” (one of those silicone spoon, spatula hybrids), because I wasn’t sure if I needed to be whisking a lot of air into the batter, but I couldn’t get it smooth at all, so I switched to just stirring with my whisk (not whipping) and that worked perfectly.
Melt the butter in a heavy 10 or 12 inch oven-safe skillet (I used a 10 inch cast iron). As soon as the butter is bubbling, pour in the batter and immediately put skillet into the oven. After 15 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350° and continue to bake for 7-9 minutes until the pancake is deep golden brown and edges are crispy looking. (If the center if is puffing up in really large bubbles in the first 10-15 minutes, you can pierce them with a fork, although I forgot, and I didn’t notice that it affected the taste. See above about not lasting long enough for decent photos.)
Cut the pancake into wedges and serve immediately with your topping of choice. I used powdered sugar and sliced strawberries, while Jacob chose maple syrup, though again, it’s your choice, and either way it’s delicious.