Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Reveiw of Sorts...

I've been meaning to post this for a long time: a listing of my favorite cook books.

It most certainly doesn't mean I've cooked everything in them; it's just that these are the cookbooks I read--and cook from--with pleasure. I'm sure I'll add to this list as I cook from books I have but haven't touched (Silver Spoon, anyone?), and others that I haven't bought yet (Laurel's Bread Book; Peter Rhinehart's Whole Grain Baking). It's a work-in-progress.

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
This is cookbook is by the man behind the hilarious NY Times food videos. While he doesn't cook everything exactly to my taste, I can usually get a good recipe out of this one. And, as the title says, it does seem to have a recipe for just about--everything. My sister, Sharon, who is part of a CSA, can usually go to her handy-dandy HTCE to find a recipe for anything strange that might arrive in her veggie package. And it usually tastes good, too.

The Best (so far):
(Soaked) Lighter, Sweeter Cornbread
Sand Cake (With orange glaze)
Basic Pot Roast
Bean Croquettes
Thai or Asian Recipes (I don't always cook these, but they help inspire other things)
Moros y Christianos (Black beans with Rice)
Coconut Macaroons
Pear (or Peach) Clafoutis

Joy of Cooking--1997 ed.
A lot of people--at least since the new edition--have disced this cookbook, claiming that it "doesn't hold up to the standards of the old 1975 edition", or something like that. Well, call me a food nerd, but I really like this edition. I'm guaranteed a great recipe from this cookbook, no matter what. It's got my favorite banana bread recipe, bar none. It's got a great meat section--even some game, which I don't even think Mark Bittman has. (Figures. He lives in a city.) The only thing I truly begrudge it for is that they left out the canning section that's in the 1975 ed. (I have that one, too... lol), and that they took out an awesome key lime pie recipe.

The Best (so far):
Banana Bread
Roast Chicken with vegetables
Bread Pudding
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Kale with Bacon
Carrot Cake
Buttermilk Layer Cake (A little crumbly, but would be awesome with a lemon glaze)
Lemon Curd
Sticky Buns
Buche de Noel
Chocolate Genoise
Buttercream Filling/Frosting

King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking
This is my latest acquisition, and it was worth every penny I paid for it. A lot of the recipes are not fully whole-grain, but I've forged ahead and made them with all freshly-ground flour. So far, I've not had one flop. Their cakes, so far, are superb. And their Honey-Whole Wheat biscuits are to die for. There's a lot more in here I've just not had time to try yet--Whole-Grain Puff Pastry to make croissants or dainishes with, crackers, and tons of pies and pastry. I'll eventually get around to it.

The Best (so far):
Honey-Whole Wheat biscuits
Chocolate Pound Cake
Lemon-Cornmeal Poundcake

The Cook's Bible by Christopher Kimball
While I don't always appreciate the dictatorial tone of this cook book, I had to include it for the sake of a lovely chocolate cake and some of the best cookie recipes ever. It was also my original inspiration behind brining poultry of any kind, and has a bread section that comprehensively explains the baking process.

The Best (so far):
Chocolate Cake
Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies
Molassas Spice Cookies
Sugar Cookies (with many variations)

Julia Child's The French Chef Cookbook
This is one of those cookbooks that I love to read. Julia has such a way with words and is pure-t hilarious, even in recipe writing. And even though her recipes always have enough butter in them to choke a cow, there are special occasions that merit it. I've not cooked a lot out of this one--it's based off the old TV series-- but what I've cooked has always turned out well.

The Best (so far):
Le Marquis au Chocolate (chocolate genoise with buttercream frosting and ganache)
Les Supremes (one of the best-tasting white-meat chicken recipes ever) with risotto
Brioche (I've not actually cooked this one, but Julia was the only one who could give me a decent description of incorporating butter into yeast dough.)

Cook Something by Mitchell Davis
This is the wild-card of the bunch. It's not necessarily a great cookbook, though it does have some good recipes. It's just that this one book seems to capture the gamut of feelings as far as cooking is concerned. The I-don't-wanna-cook to the I-must-cook-now-because-I-must---it's all here.

The Best (reads or recipes):
Just-Between-You-And-Me Mashed Potatoes
Adam's Big Pancake
Mister Bean
Rita's Dinner Special
Scary Prefab Surprise

Happy reading!


PJH said...

Marie, thanks so much for your kind comments about our book, King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. I'm proud we've made your list! As one of the book's authors, I can tell you we worked long and hard on the recipes, doing the balancing act between whole grains, good taste, and good texture. It was an enjoyable challenge! I learned a lot about barley flour, especially—it's great in cookies. Speaking of, try the double fudge brownies, probably my favorite recipe in the book. Thanks again for the mention- PJ Hamel,King Arthur Flour test baker

Marie said...


King Aurthur Whole Grain Baking truly is a great cookbook. Thank you for your recommendations; I'll have to try the browines, as well as the recipes with barley flour. I've not ventured there yet, but I will!