Festive cookbooks to spread holiday cheer

  • Book Review
  • Sunday, 09 Dec 2018

Modern Baking

Get The Sunday Star paper on Dec 9 for your 30% discount coupon on these cookbooks. Look for it in Star2.

All About Cake

Author: Christina Tosi

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Price: RM159.90

I’ve watched enough episodes of MasterChef US to know that judge Christina Tosi is the go-to person for pastry in all its permutations. What I didn’t know – and found out in this cookbook – is that Tosi never liked cakes as a child (oh, the sacrilege)! In fact, she spent most of her career avoiding making cakes because she thought they were bland and more of a “frosting party”.

Cooking the Books offers seasonal recipes this DecemberThings changed when Tosi challenged herself to make interesting cakes. She hasn’t looked back since, and this cookbook is an ode to that, featuring all sorts of enlightening recipes like key lime pie cupcakes, cheat recipes like mint chocolate chip molten microwave mug cake, apple cider doughnut crock-pot pudding, and recipes that made her famous (and inspired international copycat editions) like strawberry-lemon layer cake and popcorn layer cake.

Although some recipes require a fair amount of specialist equipment and multiple steps, the good news is that there are also recipes that look fairly simple and unintimidating. My advice? Start with the least intimidating options and work your way towards Tosi-style triumph.

Cooking the Books offers seasonal recipes this DecemberA Common Table

Author: Cynthia Chen McTernan

Publisher: Rodale Books

Price: RM139.90

A Common Table is telling of how quickly social norms can evolve. Consider this: Until 1967, miscegenation (intermarriage between two people from different ethnic groups) was illegal in the United States. Fast forward to the 21st century and interracial marriages are incredibly common. And nowhere is this intermingling of cultures more evident than in the food scene.

In this cookbook, author Cynthia Chen McTernan, a Harvard Law trained lawyer and Saveur-award winning author of the Two Bowls blog fluidly melds her Chinese heritage with culinary influences from her Korean-Irish husband. While this might sound like too much packed into one book, the recipes are strangely appealing.

Everything from barter-worthy spam musubi, almost grandma Ha’s kimchi pancakes, bulgogi burgers and kimchi egg and cheese are nothing short of delightful, the sort of fare that though foreign is likely to get you to test it out at home.

Another factor working in the book’s favour is Chen’s sheer charm – her recipes are peppered with lovely, family-centric tales that draw you deeper into her fascinating culinary adventures. So hop onboard and enjoy the curious – but ultimately rewarding – twists and turns this cookbook serves up.

Cooking the Books offers seasonal recipes this DecemberCook Like A Pro

Author: Ina Garten

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Price: RM159.90

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Ina Garten’s popular Barefoot Contessa on Food Network, you’ll understand why she’s developed such a huge following. Garten is known for her gentrified manners and for making cooking seem incredibly easy, even for terrified neophytes.

In her latest cookbook, Garten once again comes to the rescue of home cooks, offering an arsenal of tried-and-tested tips, tricks and advice (how to tell if meat is cooked, how a cauliflower should be cut) designed to ease frayed nerves and make cooking completely stress-free.

Here, you’ll find an array of simple, flavour-packed recipes, from interesting-sounding creations like cauliflower toasts and lemon ricotta pancakes to lighter fare like tricolour salad with oranges. All the ingredients are accessible and readily available, which is in keeping with Garten’s worry-free approach.

If a cookbook that delivers results time and time again is what you’re after, Garten’s latest will not disappoint.

Cooking the Books offers seasonal recipes this DecemberLet’s Eat France!

Author: Francois-Regis Gaudry & Friends

Publisher: Artisan

Price: RM235

In his introduction, author Francois-Regis Gaudry describes just how heavy this book is (it weighs a whopping 3.1kg!) but sore arms are a small price to pay for this incredibly informative repository of everything there is to know about French cuisine.

The book is peppered with engrossing tidbits that make up the heart and soul of French food, from the history of hippophagy (the consumption of horse meat) to wild boar consumption, introductions to breads and cheese in France, profiles on food personalities like Julia Child and Alain Passard as well as recipes for various dishes like pot-au-feu, sausage rougail and French pear tart.

There’s literally nothing that has NOT been covered about French cuisine; the only real difficulty is in finding the time to devour every bit of information the book has to offer (no mean feat given that it is 430 pages and huge). But if you’re a Francophile or just someone who wants to sharpen your knowledge of French cuisine, this voluptuous tome will be just up your alley.

Cooking the Books offers seasonal recipes this DecemberModern Baking

Author: Donna Hay

Publisher: Fourth Estate

Price: RM159.90

Australian celebrity chef Donna Hay’s magical streak continues with her latest cookbook, Modern Baking, which is chock full of enchanting cakes, cookies, truffles, pies and other sweets designed to tempt and lure. And oh, how they will! Because trust me, you will be under Hay’s spell from the very first page, as you salivate over recipes like peach, honey and vanilla pie; tiramisu cheesecake; chocolate salted caramel cookies; and burnt butter and salted maple sticky buns.

Everything is beautifully photographed and so delectable to look at that you’ll find it near impossible to stop yourself from heading to the kitchen to see if you have all the ingredients to whip up a quick whisky-frosted brownie cake (how yummy does that sound?).

Hay’s recipes are written with her usual precision and simplicity – ingredients won’t boggle you and processes won’t overwhelm you with complexity. And whether you like your desserts full-bodied or light, there’s something in here you’re bound to want to whip up.

In the end, you’ll find yourself falling in love with nearly everything in this book because this one’s a keeper, folks!

Cooking the Books offers seasonal recipes this DecemberSet For The Holidays With Anna Olson

Author: Anna Olson

Publisher: Appetite by Random House

Price: RM150.50

I’ve met Anna Olson a number of times and she’s incredibly congenial and very, very nice. This friendly vibe translates to her cookbooks, including her latest one, a festive affair packed with recipes largely designed around Christmas.

While many of the savoury recipes sound appealing, like the vegetarian tourtiere, Michael’s super meatballs, and whole roasted turkey with caramelised onion and apple stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy – everything is also very decadent and heavy, so you might find yourself fruitlessly searching for lighter meals to cut through all that richness.

In many ways, the second part of the book, which is dedicated to sweet treats, outshines its savoury predecessor, gleaming with offerings like chocolate hazelnut caramel bars, carrot cake sandwich cookies, and blueberry white chocolate scones.

But ultimately, Olson’s no-holds barred, diet-ditching recipes call for total commitment to the festive season and all its attendant no-calorie-counting-allowed attitudes, so if you’re looking to go all out, this is the book for you.

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