Sunday, May 3, 2009

Love of cookbooks

After Cadence was born I began checking out cookbooks from the library. I don't know why I haven't done this way earlier, since I'm not that big into reading much of anything aside from cookbooks or books on food. Don't get me wrong, I do really enjoy reading a good fiction book, but my personality is the type that gets WAY too involved with the characters, storyline and I become a bit out of whack until I finish. Just ask Ben.

I also read informational stuff, but I'm just not that fast of a reader (unlike Ben who can be reading three books at once and still finish before I read my one book that is 100 pages). Ben would describe me as a "graze reader." Hence, why I love cookbooks. They satisfy that graze instinct in me. Plus, when I'm looking at all these cookbooks that people recommend I can see if I really want to own it by checking it out first (no obligation to buy). With that said, I will be posting some of my finds and what I like or do not like about them. If I would recommend them. What I look for in a good cookbook and who is the intended audience for the cookbook.

To begin this journey

'The Cake Bible' by Rose Levy Beranbaum. This was one of my very first specialty cookbooks given to me for my 21st birthday from Ben. I feel like you either love it or hate it. The in-betweeners don't have that much to say, which adds to the persuasion of buying the book (just take a look at Amazon reviews here).

This is a very lengthy and at times exhausted textbook of sorts on cakes. If you're only mediocrely interested in cakes, don't buy it, because you will only get frustrated and annoyed. Also, if you don't really care about the "how's & why's" of good cake production, please skip over it and move on (stick with your Betty Crocker cookbook). Beranbaum did her master's thesis paper on the topic of "sifting flour," so this lady is quite the novice when it comes to flour, baking and the final production we call cake.

Since baking is a science, she treats it as such and doesn't skimp on the procedures to get to the very best possible end product. I find her 'Pastry Bible Cookbook' much more tedious than her 'Cake Bible' hands down. However, it's her tedious nature that leads to excellent results and the reader (interpreter of sorts) of the recipe is given very detailed instructions to get the same results Beranbaum wants for you.

Another thing I like is how she divides her recipes into the following:

1. Butter Cakes (she goes through chocolate butter cakes and then non-chocolate butter cakes)
2. Genoise Cakes (same with chocolate and non-chocolate)
3. All other types of cakes (banana, cheesecake, zucchini, etc)
4. Speciality Cakes (she uses the recipes from #1 & #2 for these)
5. Fillings, Frostings, Etc.
6. Tips on Decorating
7. Equipment
8. Making cake for a crowd (here she guides you in making wedding cakes or how to adjust a butter chocolate cake to serve 8 to serve 24).
9. Directory & Index

In most of her recipes she gives you a little story as to what inspired the cake or what makes it special. I tend to like this, because I find cooking and baking (and everything in life) to be centered around story. We tell a story in everything we do; whether or not, we are actually speaking. Just think, when you were a kid, did you eat something special at your grandma's house or maybe a local shop and that taste & smell has never left you? Then, as an adult you taste & smell it again. It invokes a memory, a story you get to remember and possibly tell. This is what cookbook authors do when they convey their recipes to you.

I also like how each of her cake recipes will tell you what frostings, fillings, or adornments work well with it (and it's typically more than one option). She also tells you how long it will last and if you can freeze it.

I have also been impressed with the results of her cakes in my own kitchen. Most of the time people dowse the cake with frosting and make the cake all about the frosting, when really the cake is the star. Her cakes are definitely the star and make one rethink the bake from a box concept.

She also gives you measurement in American Standard, Weight & Volume. Her ingredients list can be hard to manuever around at first and the formatting could use some sprucing up for sure. However, this book is more than 20 years old. The pictures are a bit dated as well when it comes to decorations, but I also appreciate that it's not all fondant covered wedding cakes, because it just doesn't taste as good as buttercream.

If you're into baking cakes or want to explore this arena a bit more, than check it out from your local library and let me know what you think.

1 comment:

Paige said...

Great review. I can't wait to check this one out at the library.

When I go to the library, the cookbook section is #2 (#1 is children's literature) and I always leave with a few to browse through when I get home.