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Entries in books (27)

Thursday
Apr072011

Sweet Love: A Crush on the Book FoodFest 365! by Yvan Lemoine

It's time to share with you my favorite food-book find in recent memory. It's a sweet (and savory) little morsel of a book entitled FoodFest 365!: The Officially Fun Food Holiday Cookbook by Yvan Lemoine.

This is a book which documents a national food holiday for each day of the year, and is punctuated with recipes and stories about each food.

After taking it out two times from the library, I decided that yes, I must own it. Because it's through this book that I learned several things, including:

-February 21 is National Sticky Bun Day

-April 7 is National Coffee Cake Day (may I suggest this?)

-April 16 is National Eggs Benedict Day (your choice if you want to make it Cadbury Creme Egg-style)

...of course, the fact that my birthday, August 26, is National Cherry Popsicle Day doesn't bother me too much (although cherry-topped cupcake day would probably be more appropriate).

It's a super-fun book; I highly suggest it, sweeties.

You can get a sneak peek on the book website hereBuy the book here.

Friday
Mar182011

Best Giveaway Ever: Win a Copy of Big Little Felt Universe AND a Handmade Felt Cake by Jeannette Lim

Dudes. Dudettes. You know that I don't like to speak in absolutes (yes I do) but...this is, without a doubt, the biggest, best, awesomest giveaway ever.

Here's the deal. Indie crafter/Etsy artist, Jeanette Lim has just come out with a new book entitled Big Little Felt Universe: Sew It, Stuff It, Squeeze It, Fun! --which I learned about thanks to my friends at Lark Crafts. BLFU features over 70 fun stitched-felt projects—including food items, desserts, and interactive play kits.

And you can win a copy--awesome, right? But wait, there's more: The author, Jeanette, handmade the cake shown at the top of this post for the book, and she donated it for this special giveaway on CakeSpy!!! As you can see, it’s a vanilla cake with eight different kinds of fruit topping, and it comes with candles that stand up via magnets, a serving plate, spatula, and a cake box with a ribbon (not shown) -- all made out of felt!

I know, I know: you want to win this. But how to enter?

It's easy. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what kind of cake you're going to have for your birthday this year. I can be a cake you're sure you'll have, or just the dream cake--fantasy allowed.

But--since I'm not above coercing you to like me, I'll enter you in the running TWICE if you "Like" me (CakeSpy) on Facebook. Yeah, you heard me. Do it. 

Giveaway will close on Tuesday, March 29 at noon PST!

 

Friday
Nov052010

A Sweet Peek at 1000 Ideas for Decorating Cupcakes, Cookies and Cakes by Quarry Press

So.

The recently released book, 1,000 Ideas for Decorating Cupcakes, Cookies & Cakes, delivers exactly what it promises: one thousand ideas for decorating cupcakes, cookies, and cakes.

But should you buy it?

I recently received it as a review sample from the friendly folks at Quarry Press, and I must say I was impressed. Usually I feel as if sweets-themed books fall into two camps: ones that I like for the pictures, and ones that I like for the recipes. But this one, as it turns out, was solely dedicated to the former--it is sort of like a confectionery "look book", comprised of inspiring photos of decorating ideas for baked goods.

I found it to be an inspiring resource to turn to when baking old recipes and looking for a new decorating spin--a fun book to flip through for ideas, and one that I'd suggest for other baker friends too.

So there you go: my two cents. A good gift idea for your baker friend, or baker self!

Buy it online here.

Monday
Aug092010

Reading Is Totally Sweet: Honey-Yogurt Panna Cotta with Berries Recipe from Author Jenny Nelson

Eating is awesome, but what to do during those in-between meal times when you're not hungry? Work up an appetite by reading food-themed literature, that's what. Or at least that's what I do (when I'm not painting anthropomorphic pastries, of course).

So I was delighted to receive a review copy of Georgia's Kitchen, a novel wherein the namesake character is a New York chef who goes to Italy to find herself, both in a culinary and existential sense. The book is full of sensual descriptions of delicious food (hooray!). While there isn't a heavy dessert presence, happily I was able to catch up with author Jenny Nelson, who was able to answer the question: what type of dessert keeps authors inspired? Here's what she had to say about one of her favorite recipes, for Honey-Yogurt Panna Cotta:

Panna cotta, a deceptively simple Italian dessert that means, literally, cooked cream, is one of my favorite desserts to make, serve and – most important – eat! I serve it all the time -- at dinner parties, holidays and even as a weekday treat for my kids. It’s elegant, delicious and so, so easy to prepare. While tasty panna cotta recipes abound, this is one of my all-time favorites. You can make it even richer using all cream, but I opt for a more healthful 1 cup half and half, 1 cup whole milk. Either way, it’s delicious.

Honey-Yogurt Panna Cotta with Berries

Serves 8

  • 2 cups heavy cream (or 1 cup half and half, 1 cup whole milk; or 2 cups whole milk)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 envelope (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup honey, plus more for serving
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are my favorites)

Procedure

  1. Place cream and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring cream to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cover pan, remove from heat, and set aside steep, at least 10 minutes.
  2. Place 1/2 cup cold water in a small bowl, and sprinkle gelatin over water; set aside to soften, at least 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk yogurt, honey, vanilla and salt until combined; set aside.
  4. Return cream to a boil. Remove from heat, and immediately stir in softened gelatin until dissolved.
  5. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into yogurt-honey mixture; mix until combined.
  6. Divide mixture among eight 4- to 6-ounce ramekins. Chill until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
  7. Wash berries and, if necessary, cut into bite-size pieces. Mix together and set aside 
Monday
Jul192010

Scrump and Save: Scrumpy Delight + Simply From Scratch by Alicia Bessette

Photos by Dave TavaniScrumpy Delight is, truly, a terrible name for a dessert. It sounds more like Swamp Thing's cute sidekick than a delicious pastry.

But in the novel Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette, which I recently had the opportunity to preview in review copy form (it comes out later on in the summer) it's the unexpectedly delicious dessert--made with an unlikely series of ingredients including pineapple, goat cheese, and chocolate, all baked in a pastry crust-- that represents sweet salvation for a character who is struggling with the tragic death of her husband.

Dave TavaniSo how is the book, anyway? I found it to be a thoroughly engaging novel. While the story can be slightly cliche at times, the main character's charm is undeniable, appealing even as she struggles with tragedy, and ultimately the sweet story did win me over.

Moreover, the book, like the below recipe, goes to show that sometimes, the strangest flavors can come together to create something magical--both in pastry, and in life.

Here's the recipe from the book:

Scrumpy Delight

As seen in Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette

- serves 2-4 -

Ingredients

  • 1 heaping cup well chopped pineapple, either grilled (ideally) or at least very well drained
  • 2 ounces spreadable goat cheese, softened slightly in microwave (cream cheese will also do)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • One pie crust (your favorite recipe, or a pre-made pie crust dough)
  • 1- 1 1/2 ounce dark or milk chocolate bar
  • 2 teaspoons cream or whole milk

For garnish:

  • brown sugar
  • chilled fresh raspberries or blueberries
  • pepper to taste

Procedure

 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. Combine pineapple, cheese, honey, lime juice, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Carefully lay pie crust flat on your baking sheet. Repair any tears in the dough with moistened fingertips.
  4. Place the chocolate bar in the center of the pie crust.
  5. Pour the pineapple mixture onto the chocolate bar. Using a spatula, spread the mixture out toward the edges of the dough, leaving about a 1-inch edge.
  6. Using fingertips, drag two opposite ends of pie crust to meet in the center, forming a rectangle. Brust the top of the crust with your milk or cream.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with brown sugar and pepper, if desired. Garnish with berries.
  9. Using a sharp knife, divide into segments. Serve warm.

 

Wednesday
Jun232010

America the Sweet: United Cakes of America, and Hartford Election Cupcakes

Let's talk for a minute about the new book United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State by Warren Brown, owner of the CakeLove empire in the DC area.

I love the idea of this book: a sweet show of patriotism, dedicated to celebrating the cakes unique to each region of the USA, including recipes and stories.

And for the most part, I love the result: it's beautifully designed, well written, and so far, the recipes are tasting most excellent. 

My only reservation about the book isn't so much a complaint about the content as a wish that even more had been done to delve into the history--including the hows and whys--of each region's cake. Several of the entries--Hartford Election Day Cake, Hummingbird Cake, and Red Velvet Cake, for instance--come with insightful histories and thoughts on why the cakes might have come into their own in a certain region, and I found these to be the most fascinating parts of the book. However, other entries are more loosely tied to a region, simply inspired by other flavors popular in the area rather than truly zeroing in on the region's cake specialty. For instance, the Washington entries are for Apple Cake and Coffee Buttercream, respectively. While both apples and coffee definitely have a strong presence in Washington, and I have no doubt that the recipes are delicious, I wouldn't consider these cakes that really represent the area.

But you know what? If the only reservation about this book is that I wanted more, that's really not such a bad thing. 

Here's one of my favorite entries so far, the Connecticut cake: an updated version of Hartford Election Day Cake, which was probably an American adaptation of English fruitcakes, which has since evolved into the below delicious spice cake. Spicy and flavorful, these cupcakes are quite light, but don't worry--a healthy dollop of the old-fashioned milk buttercream (which, by the way, smells and tastes so good that you might just want to lick the bowl) anchors them down quite deliciously. And it's a perfect recipe to dress up in red, white, and blue for the 4th of July!

Hartford Election Day Cupcakes

Makes about 11 cupcakes

Dry ingredients:

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) superfine granulated sugar
  • 5 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon  nutmeg, freshly grated
  • Pinch of allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon baking soda

 Wet ingredients:

  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter, melted
  • ¼ cup half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk

Procedure 

  1.  Preheat the oven to 325°F and place the rack in the middle position. Lightly coat a cupcake tray with nonstick oil-and-starch spray and line 10 of the cups with paper liners.
  2. Measure and combine all the dry ingredients in a deep bowl. Whisk lightly for about 15 seconds to blend.
  3. Combine all the wet ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid and shake well for 15 seconds.
  4. Lightly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. This should take about 15 seconds.
  5. Scoop or pour 2 ounces of batter into the paper-lined cups. (Using a food scooper or ladle works best.)
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops of the cupcakes are golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center of one comes out clean or with just a few crumbs.
  7. Cool the cupcakes for five minutes before removing them from the tray. When they are room temperature, frost or decorate them with Old-Fashioned Milk Buttercream (recipe below).

 Old-Fashioned Milk Buttercream

Yield: Enough for one 9-inch layer cake or 24 cupcakes (note: it is more than you'll need for the cupcakes, but it tastes good enough to eat by the spoonful)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 ounces (¼ cup) all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) superfine granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 Optional garnish: sprinkles, decorating gel, etc.

 Procedure

  1. Quickly whisk together 4 tablespoons of the milk with the flour. This slurry will be somewhat thick, so whisk thoroughly to make it smooth. Press out any lumps with a flexible spatula, if necessary.
  2. Whisk in the rest of the milk and transfer the mixture to a 2-quart heavy-bottom saucepan. Bring to a simmer for about 30 seconds over medium heat, whisking the whole time.
  3. Remove the pan from the stove and place plastic wrap directly against the milk’s surface. (This is the best method to prevent a skin from forming.) Cool to room temperature.
  4. Combine the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix at medium to high speed for 5 minutes.
  5. Pour the cooled milk-and-flour mixture into the bowl and beat for another 5 minutes, or longer, as needed to achieve a spreadable consistency.
Sunday
Mar142010

Tartelets of the Table: Chocolate Tartelet Recipe from Alabama Studio Style

When I received a sample copy of Alabama Studio Style: More Projects, Recipes, & Stories Celebrating Sustainable Fashion & Living in the mail, I was initially perplexed--although it is beautiful, it seemed like it was a book of sewing and home projects.

But then I found it: the recipes. Scattered throughout the creative sewing and home projects are several delicious recipes--most notably this one, for chocolate tartelets. Filled with creamy chocolate that falls somewhere between custard and ganache, these are an extremely delicious dessert, and they've definitely made me curious about some of the other recipes in the book, including coconut cupcakes. And there is a DIY project for homemade cake plates...

Chocolate Tartelets

Adapted from Alabama Studio Style by Natalie Chanin

You'll need: one pie crust, separated into 12 3-inch tartlet servings (use your favorite recipe for a 9-inch pie)

Note: a similar full size pie recipe is on the Alabama Studio Style site!

For the filling:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

For the meringue

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Filling procedure

In the top of a double boiler, combine 1 cup sugar and the flour. Add buttermilk and simmer over boiling water for about 15 minutes, until thick. Remove from heat. Beat the egg yolks, and then add them to the milk mixture. In a separate bowl, mix cocoa with enough boiling water to form a paste, and then whisk this paste into the double boiler mixture. Return to heat and simmer over boiling water until thick. Remove from heat, and add butter and vanilla. Cool, then transfer to prebaked pastry tartlet shells.

Meringue topping procedure

While filling is cooling, preheat oven to 325, and prepare meringue as follows: in a medium sized bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until mixture stands in a peak. Beat in 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Gently fold in 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Spread on top of prepared tartlets and bake until lightly browned, about 5-10 minutes.

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