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Because of a craving for butterscotch two weeks ago, today I found myself hunting down discarded paper towel tubes (known in our household, and many others, as ” doot-doots,” for the sound they make when you use them as impromptu trumpets).  I was making butterscotch brown-sugar slice-and-bakes, out of my friend Nancy Baggett‘s Simply Sensational Cookies, which is itself a simply sensational book.  And suddenly I came across Nancy’s brilliant tip for keeping slice-and-bake cookies round: freeze them in old doot-doots (slit lengthwise up the side for ease of access).

paper towel tubesThe problem was that there weren’t any doot-doots, because cardboard and paper recycling is perhaps the one household chore at which I really excel.    I stood in the kitchen, scratching my head.  And then I remembered!  I had received two decorated doot-doots – a matching Mama-and-Papa pair, no less, from my 6-year-old on Mother’s Day.  They were part of a princely hoard of gifts – mostly hand-made by herself – and I had found myself unable to part with them on dump day.  (My attitude toward cardboard waste may be Stalinesque, but my attitude towards kids’ craft projects is sentimental bordering on insane.)

They were pressed into service without delay, and even now there they lie in the freezer, protecting my perfectly-round butterscotch cookie dough logs and cooling their cardboard heels for 45 minutes, just as Nancy says.   As for the 6-year-old, it’s her bedtime.  But I’ll be setting aside two cookies for her – at least – tomorrow.


I’ve concluded that baking books are just plain hard to write.  The measurements are finicky, your readers have different kinds of equipment and ovens running at different temperatures, and any number of small errors in the book production process can doom a recipe to failure.  I don’t review very many baking books – maybe 4 a year – and about half of them generally involve some sad little tale of testing gone awry.  Books like The Fearless Baker, Baked Elements, Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, and Joanne Chang’s Flour I prize all the more because they actually worked (at least in my kitchen).

This week’s contender was one of the ones that didn’t, unfortunately.

Click here to read today’s review of The Secret Lives of Baked Goods in the Boston Globe.  (Hit the paywall?  Use this PDF link.)

On  CookShelf, the cookbook-rating app this week, you’ll find more data points and analysis of The Secret Lives of Baked Goods, as well as new reviews of An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails, The French Market Cookbook, and Fifty Shades of Kale (!).  Treat yourself to a copy of the app for cookbook fanatics – it’s available for both  iPhone/iPad and Android devices and updated  every Wednesday .

Mostly, my work for NPR can be found in the mouthwatering weekly Kitchen Window series.  But yesterday, after collaborating with the terrific NPR books team, I released a story for another NPR series I love, ” Three Books”.  It’s not my first; I did one some years ago on “stone soup” books – books on cooking with bare-bones ingredients during lean times.

This one is kind of the opposite.  They’re “let them eat cake”  books that are so frivolous that I’ve always felt actually making something out of them is strictly optional – cakes like Colette Peters’ magnificent  trompe l’oeil stack of cushions, pictured at right.

It’s not that lean times have deserted us – far from it.  But even in lean times, you still have to feed your imagination, too, don’t you?

Click here to read Feast for the Eyes: 3 Cookbooks Just for Looking, from NPR’s 3 Books series.

The Yogurt Cookbook is one of those great-sounding ideas you can’t believe hasn’t been done before.  In fact, it has – this book is a re-issue (newly photographed and designed).  It’s a far-ranging book, trotting across Central Asia and Europe, and there are a lot of good ideas.  Is it a keeper?  Read on to find out.

Also, my 12-year-old son has a very in-character cameo appearance in this week’s story.  

Click here to read today’s review of The Yogurt Cookbook in the Boston Globe.  (Hit the paywall?  Use this PDF link.)

On  CookShelf, the cookbook-rating app this week, I’ve got a story on husband-and-wife cookbooks, as well as many more data points and analysis of The Yogurt Cookbook and all the latest cookbooks.  Treat yourself to a copy of the app that’s a zine for cookbook fanatics!  It’s available for both  iPhone/iPad and Android device and updated  every Wednesday .


rhubarb-cherry tartlets

Leftover rhubarb + leftover cherries + leftover tapioca + leftover pie dough + random idea + rainy day = exactly 4 rhubarb-cherry tartlets

To be baked off some time before dinner today, but shh – don’t tell the kids.  It’s a surprise.

FullOfFlavourCover USFull of Flavor brings up a classic cooking paradox:  Many of us like the idea of improvising more in the kitchen – of changing things up, swapping things out, being creative.  And Maria Elia wants to help, with a book that urges you to “Create…like a chef”! But there’s the rub.  If you really want to go all buckaroo in the kitchen, are you going to turn to a cookbook to tell you how?  If you really want your independence, are you going to ask someone to prescribe variations on a roast chicken for you?  Hmm. Conundrums aside, it’s a solid cookbook, and it does live up to its title.

Click here to read today’s review of Full of Flavor in the Boston Globe.  (Hit the paywall?  Use this PDF link.)

For many more data points and analysis and recipe links of Full of Flavor – and well over 200 other cookbooks – help yourself to a copy of  CookShelf, the cookbook-rating app.  It’s available for both  iPhone/iPad and Android device. And it’s updated just about every Wednesday with more news about the latest, greatest cookbooks –  essential reading for every cookbook lover.

Now cooking

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