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Cookbooks to satisfy variety of tastes on holiday shopping list

Wed., Dec. 4, 2013

Thinking about getting a cookbook for the foodie on your Christmas list?

Here’s a quick look at a handful of recently published cookbooks that might make good gifts – from specialty desserts and baking basics to cooking encyclopedias with some 1,500 recipes.

The Petit Four Cookbook by Brooks Coulson Nguyen (Ulysses Press, $19.95) – This little treat of a cookbook is shaped like the tiny French cakes it teaches you how to make: small and square. It includes a brief history as well as a list of useful equipment, prep and assembly tips, and recipes for cakes, syrups, fillings and decorations. There are luscious color photographs of all of the finished products, among the highlights: gingerbread marzipan for winter holidays, vanilla sponge cake with salted buttercream for Halloween to raspberry, lemon and carrot marzipan for Easter. The author, who was raised in Seattle, owns Dragonfly Cakes in Sausalito, Calif. The bakery ships. So, if you or your foodie friends want to eat petits fours but not make them, boxes of the little bites – including a Tiffany-box inspired square (it’s not in the book) – come with 16 to 64 pieces and cost $39 to $115. For more information, visit www.dragonflycakes.com.

Sweet Cravings by Kyra Bussanich (Ten Speed Press, $18.99) – This book is packed with 50 gluten-free recipes in seven chapters: muffins and scones; buckles, cobblers and crisps; quick breads and coffee cakes; cookies, brownies and bars; puddings, cakes and other pastries; award-winning cupcakes; and tarts, pies and puffs. There’s a section on substitutions, including flours, as well as tips from the author, owner of Kyra’s Bake Shop in Lake Oswego, Ore., and the first gluten-free winner of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” She tops each recipe with a vignette that sometimes includes a Pacific Northwest food memory or location, the inspiration behind the gluten-free version of the treat – orange-currant scones from Portland’s Heathman Hotel and cornbread with spicy honey butter from Lumberyard Grill in Cannon Beach, Ore., for example. Her bake shop ships, too. For more information, visit www.kyrasbakeshop.com.

Baking by Better Homes and Gardens (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29.99) – With 14 chapters, 350 recipes and more than 600 photos, this recipe collection touches on all kinds of baking – from traditional indulgences like Classic Pecan Pie and Classic Sugar Cookies to trendy treats like Salted Caramel Pots de Crème, Spiced Pumpkin Doughnuts and Whole Grain Caramelized Onion and Kale Bread. Quick breads and yeast and artisan breads both have their own chapters. There are also separate sections for cheesecakes, coffee shop treats, pies and tarts, cakes and cupcakes, decorated cakes, bars and brownies, holiday baking, everyday baking and morning favorites – as well as another chapter simply titled “desserts.” The book begins with the basics: essential ingredients, a troubleshooting guide and an easy-to-read substitutions chart. Photos illustrate bakeware, baking tools, frosting types, standard mixing methods, and other step-by-step procedures. There are also tips to “Make it Mine” or make it mini, which – if you’re planning to try out all of these recipes – might be a good idea.

Melt by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord (Little, Brown and Co., $30) – This hip cookbook explores the art and craft of making a classic American comfort food. But its modern recipes for gourmet macaroni and cheese are for grown-ups. They’re organized by style: “always refreshing” pasta salads like Humboldt Fog with Grilled Peaches and Orzo or Chocolate Pasta with Bucherondin, Hazelnuts and Cherries; “stovetop delights” like Squid Ink Pasta with Marinated Perlini Mozzarella or Point Reyes Blue with Pecans, Figs and Shell Pasta; and “hearty and satisfying” like Pumpkin Stuffed with Fontina, Italian Sausage and Macaroni or Penne with Garrotxa, Serrano Ham and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Five sweet recipes are included, too – Fromage Blanc, Chèvre, Peach and Ghost Pepper Cannelloni, for example. Alternative cheeses are provided for each of the almost 80 recipes. There’s a primer on the history and types of cheese and pasta at the front. In the back, there’s a cheese compendium, pasta guide and additional resources.

How to Feed a Family by Laura Keogh and Ceri March (Random House, $27.95) – “Feeding kids is all about marketing. It’s all in the sell,” write the Toronto-based, fashion-journalists-turned-food- bloggers who created this cookbook. It’s designed for making food for kids that both children and parents will enjoy. Recipes are billed as “fast and unfussy,” but they look fancy; this is upscale eating that has been tested by the authors’ toughest critics – their kids. More than 100 recipes are divided by meals – breakfast for weekdays, weekends and entertaining; lunch at home or out and about; snacks; dinner indoors and outdoors; and desserts. Creative ideas include Salad on a Stick (“everything is just cuter on a stick”) and Sandwich Sushi, mini, crust-less rolled sandwiches. Other recipes include Baked Spiced Apple and Sweet Potato Toaster Tarts; Strawberry, Ricotta and Mint Breakfast Quesadilla; Cornmeal Crusted Fish Sammie with Sriracha; Risotto, Spinach and Kale Cakes with Parmesan; and blog-favorite Mini Kale and Parmesan Quiche with Phyllo Pastry Crust. Symbols – broccoli, clock, calendar page – help home cooks know whether the dish is meatless, fast or appropriate for make-ahead meals, among other helpful designations. See other recipes from these foodie moms at www.sweetpotatochronicles.com.

Betty Crocker Cookbook by Betty Crocker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29.99) – The 11th version of the iconic cookbook first published in 1950 features 1,500 recipes and 1,100 new photos, plus a bonus section of family baking favorites. This Box Tops for Education special edition comes with a primer on the Box Tops program, recipes whose ingredients come with Box Tops, and 10 bonus Box Tops – which help raise money for schools. The “Getting Started” chapter goes over equipment, cooking terms, food safety and storage. The entertaining chapter features a table-setting how-to, sample menus and cheese guide. There are other specialized chapters, too – such as slow-cooker suppers, vegetarian dishes and 20-minute meals. Tabbed sections each feature their own index, designating recipes as lower calorie, lighter, make ahead and fast. Photos illustrate common mistakes as well as “perfect” examples. Heirloom recipes sit side by side with new twists on the traditional. Says Betty Crocker in the beginning of this colorful cookbook, “This is our best edition ever.”

The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001 -2014 by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $45) – Perfect for fans of the popular cooking show, this comprehensive hardcover collection includes more than 900 recipes and dozens of tips and how-tos from all 14 seasons. The 25 chapters – “Salad Days,” “The Flair of the French,” “We’ll Have the Steak,” “Soup’s On!”– cover classics like Fried Chicken, Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon and Maryland Crab Cakes – as well as more sophisticated dishes like Flambéed Pan-Roasted Lobster, Coq au Vin and Steak Diane. Each recipe succinctly explains why it works – and lists common problems of other versions. There’s an entire chapter dedicated to Asian-inspired entrées as well as a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The chicken chapter includes a recipe for Glazed Roast Chicken, cooked while perched atop a beer can. Color and black-and-white photos are sprinkled throughout the well-written, well-researched cookbook, which also includes a 48-page shopping guide for ingredients and equipment as well as episode directories for 2013 and 2014.

Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2014 by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $35) – This slimmer version from the popular cooking show includes select recipes for a “best of the best” book. Like the comprehensive collection (listed above), it contains both color as well as black-and-white photos (although there are fewer of them), explains why each recipe works, and provides a behind-the-scenes look at the program. But this volume encompasses only nine chapters, one of which is dedicated to resources. There’s pared-down ingredient and equipment guide as well as illustrated quick tips and techniques. The crème de la crème of 2014 includes Fennel Salad, Crunchy French Toast, Guinness Beef Stew, Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Scallops, Magic Chocolate Flan Cake and Chocolate Angel Pie.


 

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