‘Tis the season to… check out a new lineup of cookbooks from local authors? Here are some of our favorite recent releases, with holiday gifts and parties in mind.
The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook, by Tom Douglas and Shelley Lance ($35, William Morrow): Tom Douglas gives away all his company’s secrets here – the Triple Coconut Cream Pie, the Serious Biscuits, the doughnuts with cinnamon sugar and mascarpone – and does it beautifully. Working with Lance, his first pastry chef and the company’s current quality-control chef, the nicely produced hardcover is fun to read, carefully tested, and un-condescending, with clear directions and unusually good translations of big bakery recipes to a small home kitchen. Those who don’t know Douglas will still appreciate classic desserts with a modern twist, like molasses cookies with fresh ginger or blackberry crostatas with lemon thyme, while restaurant regulars will enjoy baking favorites like the Dahlia’s chocolate caramel pecan tart – or maybe just buy another restaurant batch with a new appreciation for the bakers’ efforts.
Dishing Up Washington, by Jess Thomson ($19.95, Storey): This was the book I planned to get my own mom for the holidays. It’s a culinary journey through some of Washington’s signature restaurants, providing 150+ accessible home recipes that give you a taste of our state’s best ingredients and personalities. Mom’s (and my) favorite contorni from Cafe Juanita is in the book, as well as the cacao nib cookies we once discovered on a trip to Bow’s Breadfarm, a spaghetti recipe using the guanciale we love to buy at Salumi, and the unbeatable kale salad we get from Picnic. Thomson is one of my favorite food writers as well as a top recipe developer – you can count on her recipes to work. In the end, though, I couldn’t get this for mom. She was visiting at Thanksgiving, came across it on a bookstore display, and bought it herself.
Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays, by Jeanne Sauvage ($24.95, Chronicle Books): The 60-recipe hardcover is a no-brainer boon for those who can’t eat gluten (or whose dinner guests have an issue with it.) The surprising thing about Sauvage is that her cookies and cakes and other treats (and I have reached for many a second helping at various Seattle events over the years) are reliably the best on the table even when they’re up against traditional gluten-full baked goods. She’s developed recipes here for traditional holiday desserts from a variety of cultures, from a buche de noel to panettone to krumkake to bunuelos to cannoli.
The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations, by Kim O’Donnel ($18.99, Da Capo): O’Donnel’s background – she’s a culinary school graduate and was a longtime food columnist for The Washington Post – informs her intelligent, flavor-focused approach to this year’s worth of “vegetarian feasts” matching seasons and holidays. Her desserts are particularly appealing, from cranberry-pistachio biscotti to cherry pie using “enlightened” pie dough. O’Donnel, founder of the Canning Across America movement, also includes a handful of jams.
Modernist Cuisine at Home, by Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet ($140, The Cooking Lab): If $600 seemed too steep for the landmark “Modernist Cuisine” published by this Bellevue-based lab last year, try this new volume. The price is still pricey compared to the average cookbook (though 25% off at the usual suspects), but it’s practically a basic cooking course on its own, packed with science-based revelations about how to make the best dishes possible in a basic home kitchen, from chicken wings and burgers to perfect hollandaise. You won’t need to buy a centrifuge or sous vide machine to take advantage of the modernist recipes (though the latter wouldn’t hurt), the authors show plenty of practical wonders requiring nothing more arcane than a microwave and a blender.
More from Macrina, by Leslie Mackie with Lisa Gordanier ($35, Sasquatch Books): More than a follow-up to the original Macrina cookbook, this inspiring hardcover features recipes for the artisan loaves, rich brioches, and enticing pastries that have been added to the bakery shelves in the years since the first cookbook was published, as well as profiles of the people, providers, and philosophies that make Macrina so beloved in Seattle. There are also savories like breakfast hash and BLTs.
Roots, by Diane Morgan ($40, Chronicle Books): We’re blurring the “local” boundaries a bit here, as Morgan is from Portland, but we’ll gladly claim her as our own “Northwest” author. (Move fast and you can get a ticket to her dinner at Trace at the W Hotel Wednesday night.) The book is as luxurious-looking a treatment of beets and burdock roots and Jerusalem artichokes as you’ll ever see, providing background information and creative recipes for all sorts of root vegetables. It’s got new ways to prepare standbys like potatoes and carrots (carrot-top pesto?! Who knew?) but is also a welcome introduction to lesser-knowns like cassava and parsley root.
Salty Snacks by Cynthia Nims ($16.99, Ten Speed Press): You could give this book for a holiday gift, but I think you’re better off picking it up early to get ideas for an impressive holiday party or December book club spread. Nims, author or co-author of 13 other cookbooks, offers straightforward home versions of foods we generally think have to be bought pre-packaged or at the deli. There are savory crackers and chips and crisps, gourmet snacks like crisped five-spice duck skin and fried avocado bites and salted popcorn “meringues”, dips and down-to-earth nibbles like her homemade take on Chex mix.
Any other favorites on your own list?