Recently in Book and Cookbook Reviews category

Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe

spooning toffee

In my high school locker room, when the jocks congregated after winning a big game, they’d all jump around, yelling the word, “Sah-weet! Sah-weet! adding a big, tight, thumbs-up for emphasis, while jumping all over each other celebrating their victory.

While not as exciting as a group of sweaty, nearly-naked high school athletes jumping all over each other, I don’t know about you, but what turns me on these days is Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Continue Reading Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe…

Favorite Cookbooks & Recipes of 2008

Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite cookbooks and recipes that I presented on the site in 2008. A few are books that I’ve been devouring, and others are those I’ve been bookmarking recipes in, to make on the site in the upcoming months. All in all, the best of the year…


When they start cloning humans, they’d better start with Flo Braker. One of my all-time favorite bakers, Flo wowed us with her previous books, including the all-encompassing The Simple Art of Perfect Baking. Her all-new book, Baking for All Occasions just arrived on my doorstep and I’ve been drooling over the recipes, like her Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake (wouldn’t that be nice to wake up to?) and Chocolate-Lovers Angel Food cake, which features the best of both worlds. I’ll be featuring a recipe or two on the site in the upcoming months. I can’t wait.


When I was making my colorful quince tarte Tatin and writing up the post about it, I remembered my handy copy of The Flavor Bible. Even though I know everything in the world (or at least I think I do…), I leafed through it, looking for what goes with quince. And lo and behold, there’s a whole world of flavors out there, outside of my head! This culinary heavyweight, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, takes every flavor imaginable and searches for each and every possible flavor pairing. It’s a terrific reference and I’m happy it’s on my shelf, within easy reach.

Continue Reading Favorite Cookbooks & Recipes of 2008…

Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe with Salted Peanut Caramel

peanut butter cookies

I promised a bunch of holiday-friendly recipes this month, and this one is a doozy! Peanut butter cookies, filled with salted peanut caramel—do those sound as good to you as they do to me?

The recipe is from The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet, who is one of America’s best bakers. Her name might not be on the edge of your tongue, but she’s been quietly rolling doughs, mixing up batters, and baking off custards in this book, which is an encyclopedic authority on baking that tips the scales in both the breadth of recipes, and the actual weight itself.

And I thought my soul was a bit weighty.

When I was asked a few months ago to write a quote for the book jacket, I rifled through the preview pages, bookmarking a slew of recipes I plan to make.

Continue Reading Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe with Salted Peanut Caramel…

Baked Brownie Recipe (with Altoids)

When I was in New York City in October I fell in love. Deeply and madly.

I’d swapped apartments with a friend and as I was leafing through her stack of new baking books, I became hopelessly smitten with one in particular: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.

Baked brownies

And even though both my suitcases were dangerously over-packed (although my new iMac was more than worth the five minutes I spent charming the United agent so he’d waive the overweight surcharges), and I already quite a few other cookbooks wedged in there, I reasoned there was always room for one more.

Continue Reading Baked Brownie Recipe (with Altoids)…

Chocolate-Dipped Florentine Recipe

chocolate-dipped florentines

Living in Paris, it isn’t always very interesting watching television, which I sometimes like to do during dinner. Sure there’s some great French channels, but I’m kinda lazy when I’m eating and prefer the English-language ones, which usually means CNN International. It’s not bad, but they often repeat the same story over and over and over again, tweaking it ever-so-slightly each time they report it.

(Although one story they haven’t reported on, oddly, is their reporter who got caught in Central Park with a knot—and more, in his knickers.)

So I often find myself flipping through cookbooks while I eat, glazing over the text and scanning the glossy photos. But when I came across this one, for Florentines, I stopped and bookmarked it right away.

I’m always attracted to anything nutty, crispy, salty, or caramelized, and this recipe had them all.

Continue Reading Chocolate-Dipped Florentine Recipe…

Favorite Baking Books

It’s that time of the year, folks, when everyone’s thoughts turn to baking. Coincidentally it’s when the new crop of baking books are released, just in time for the sweet surge. This has been a pretty interesting year for cookbooks as the trends seem to be returning to books geared towards home bakers and cooks. Thankfully in my opinion.

Although some of these books were written by pastry chefs, all are geared towards the home cook. I’ve been making notes in each of them which desserts I plan to try in the upcoming months and I hope to share them with you as well.

Demolition Desserts by Elizabeth Falkner

The long-awaited book from pastry chef Elizabeth Falkner, Demolition Desserts show how this very talented San Francisco baker breaks down classic desserts, and reconstructions them into whimsical, yet sophisticated presentations.

Although at first glance these look complicated, I envision many of these recipes being adaptable and great on their own. Tapioca with Concord Grapes is one winning combination I’m eyeing.

But there’s also simple Citizen Cake bakery classics: Chocolate Chip Cookies, Sticky Toffee Cupcakes, and puffy marshmallows which get dipped in a thin layer of dark chocolate at her bakery. If you’re not afraid to tackle some projects in the kitchen—and many recipes aren’t all that complicated—Elizabeth’s book is a wild, wacky ride through the world of modern baking.

Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

When Alice Medrich releases a new book, it’s always a special event. And I’ve never made a recipe of hers that didn’t go instantly into my ‘winner’ category.

Continue Reading Favorite Baking Books…

Chez Panisse Gingersnap Recipe


During my interview at Chez Panisse, as I sat across the table from Alice Waters in the main dining room at the restaurant, she asked me, “What do you eat at home?”

Since I’m not exactly convincing when lying, I told her.

“I eat popcorn, mostly.” And continued, “I’m a restaurant cook. I don’t have time to eat at home.”

(Although I did conveniently omit the fact that it was microwave popcorn…)

In spite of that, or because of my chutzpah, I got hired and worked at Chez Panisse for a long time. What nailed it for me and endeared me to Alice, years later, wasn’t her politics or her philosophy on cooking. It was when I told her, “I really like to drink coffee leftover from the morning, with milk in it, that’s been sitting on the counter all day.”

And she said, “Me too.”

Continue Reading Chez Panisse Gingersnap Recipe…

Socca, v1.0…v1.6…v1.9…


A reader recently inquired that her and her husband were planning to visit France and since he couldn’t tolerate any gluten, is there anything that I could recommend? She had attached a list of words in French for acceptable grains, like oatmeal and barley,

So I flipped through my French dictionary and looked under Special Dietary Needs, but there was a blank space. I didn’t know what to tell them. I was (almost) defeated. I finally recommended that they rent an apartment so they could do much of their own cooking and more importantly, they should frequent the same restaurants over and over so that staff got to know them.

Not many people, no matter where they’re from, are aware of which products have gluten. Even me.

Socca in Pan

For example, I didn’t know that most soy sauces had gluten, as well as many bottled salad dressings, malt vinegar, various mustards, processed meats, and even some toothpastes and lipstick. (I could certainly give up one, but not the other.) And apparently I’m not the only one unaware gluten-free lifestyles: Even my local health food store stocks their gluten-free bread, unwrapped, on the same shelves with the regular bread, crumbs mingling and all.

Continue Reading Socca, v1.0…v1.6…v1.9……