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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK... one of the hottest trends in cookbooks.
Actually, they've been around for many years, but never in such
proliferation. They are automatic sellers, since the book can be
flogged at the restaurant or TV show and since the chef ends up being a
celebrity somewhere, doing guest cooking or catering or even turning up
on the Food Network. Most of these books will certainly appeal to fans
of the chef and/or the restaurant and/or the media personality. Many of
the recipes in these books actually come off the menus of the
restaurants involved. Occasionally, there will be, in these books,
special notes or preps, or recipes for items no longer on the menu.
Stories or anecdotes will be related to the history of a dish. But
because most of these books are American, they use only US volume
measurements for the ingredients; sometimes there is a table of metric
equivalents, but more often there is not. I'll try to point this out.
The usual shtick is "favourite recipes made easy for everyday cooks".
There is also PR copy on "demystifying ethnic ingredients". PR bumpf
also includes much use of the magic phrase "mouth-watering recipes" as
if that is what it takes to sell such a book. I keep hearing from
readers, users, and other food writers that some restaurant recipes
(not necessarily from these books) don't seem to work, but how could
that be? They all claim to be kitchen tested for the home, and many
books identify the food researcher by name. Most books are loaded with
tips, techniques, and advice, as well as gregarious stories about life
in the restaurant world. Photos abound, usually of the chef bounding
about. The celebrity books, with well-known chefs or entertainers, seem
to have too much self-involvement and ego. And, of course, there are a
lot of food shots, verging on gastroporn. The endorsements are from
other celebrities in a magnificent case of logrolling. If resources are
cited, they are usually American mail order firms, with websites. Some
companies, though, will ship around the world, so don't ignore them
altogether. Here's a rundown on the latest crop of such books –

17. CAKE COUTURE; modern sugar-craft for the stylish baker (Firefly,
2011, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-55407-949-0, $19.95 CAD paper covers) is by
Annie Dam, who owns and operates "Cake Couture" cake boutique in
Edmonton. It is also published by Quintet Publishing in the UK. She's
written about decorative techniques for publications, and has appeared
on Breakfast TV and other place. Here she has written a book about the
art of decorating, principally wedding cakes, celebrations and
cupcakes. It's Spanish- and French-influenced (Dam herself comes from
Vietnam). The basics are covered in a primer, with over 120 pages
devoted to decorating techniques (with photos). In addition, she also
covers transporting, displaying and storing. There's a thumbnail index
to such decorations as violet scrolls, cube, black and white ribbons,
ribbon roses, ruffled brooch, mardi gras and 14 more. Each recipe has a
similar layout. For example, to make a "lustrous peacock", she outlines
tools required (over 30), materials (16), and a timeline beginning one
week ahead. There are 17 photos showing techniques and assembling
requirements. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric
and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
BOOK (Workman Publishing, 2011, 418 pages, ISBN 978-0-7611-5407-5,
$15.95 US paper covers) is by Judy Rosenberg, owner of the Rosie's
Bakery chain in Boston. It was first announced under a different title,
with about 300 recipes. Here, that total has dropped to 250. She had
written two other baking books (one got an IACP Award) which together
sold over 310,000 copies – and this current book combines the "best" of
those two books and then adds 40 new ones to the package. The larger
arrangement is by category (cakes, cookies, bars, pies and fruit
desserts) with smaller groupings for such as layer cakes, bundts,
tubes, loaves, rolled cakes, cheesecakes, and cupcakes for the "cakes".
Try truffle soufflé, banana rum bread pudding, peaches and cream
custard, stovetop rice pudding, lemon cream cheese squares.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois volume (not
weight) measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents. You
may not need this book if you already have the other two. Quality/price
rating: 87.
19. BACK TO BAKING; 200 timeless recipes to bake, share, and enjoy
(Whitecap, 2011, 330 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050-063-1, $40 CAD hard
covers) is by Anna Olson, host of many food shows on Food Network
Canada. This is her seventh book with Whitecap, and they honoured her
by publishing it in hard covers! It's a basic book, of course, which
she says provides fundamental formulas and guidelines. There is also a
higher level of sophistication here for some more complicated preps. So
it is a book for both the novice and the adventuresome: muffins, coffee
cakes, sticky buns, pies, tarts, cookies, bars, custards, cakes.
There's a whole chapter on gluten-free desserts, with about three dozen
preps, plus other chapters on dairy-free desserts, egg-free desserts,
and low-fat and/or low-sugar desserts. Try the gluten-free honey almond
shortbread, or the pistachio snowball cookies, or the whole wheat
carrot sticky buns, or the complicated Hungarian dobos torte.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
And all the ingredients have volumes, and are not scaled. Quality/price
rating: 89.

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