Thanks to Ann’s “food and friendship” June Online Reading Challenge, I finally read Sourdough by Robin Sloan, and it surpassed all my expectations and MAY have been better than Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore…
We meet Lois as she moves to San Francisco, wooed by a tech company’s promises of a glamorous, meaningful, and lucrative career programming robots. And then we see her weighed down by a monotonous, workaholic life where the only food that doesn’t upset her stressed stomach is the company’s nutrition gel, Slurry. Until, that is, she discovers a family-owned business that will deliver soup (“double spicy”) and sourdough bread (homemade) at all hours – and she knows peace again. All too soon, the brothers have visa issues and have to leave. But they leave Lois their sourdough starter, and she’s forced to learn how to feed it and bake with it. Somehow this leads her down a path of smiling loaves, reading hipster baking books, building her own brick oven, auditioning for farmers’ markets, butting heads with food gurus, and teaching robotic arms to crack eggs. And maybe she’ll figure out the life she wants along the way.
This book was addictive to read, tugging gently on the heartstrings and written with dry, matter-of-fact humor. Lois’ journey is a heartwarming climb out of dystopia toward contentment and fulfillment by working with her hands. Surprisingly, it’s almost a retelling of Voltaire’s Candide, with a relative innocent swept into unexpected adventures, inadvertently examining the cost of ambition and what really makes a happy life.
If you need a tasty, hopeful read where light shenanigans ensue and many friends are made, you should read this book.
Genderqueer and genderfluid representation abound in this utopic LGBTQ read about the magical power of food to divide or unite people and communities, a book which doubles as a love letter to Austin’s LGBTQ scene.
In A.R. Capetta’s The Heartbreak Bakery, Syd (no pronouns, please, just Syd) is a baker finishing high school while working full time at The Proud Muffin, an invaluable community space/cafe. Syd also just got dumped, ending a relationship that had spanned both middle and high school. To cope, Syd does the only possible thing: baking. But when Syd’s Unexpected Brownies hit the cafe floor, something strange happens: every couple that has one breaks up. Messily and immediately. Including the owners of The Proud Muffin. Racked with guilt and fear of losing a great workplace and second home, Syd resolves to find the perfect recipe to fix each shattered relationship. And who better to help than Harley, friendly cafe delivery person – check the pronoun pin on Harley’s bag to find the day’s pronouns. As they chase down each customer and make magical bakes, Syd and Harley grow closer. But is new love and magical baking enough to save The Proud Muffin?
If you’ve seen my YouTube videos for the library, you know I am an unskilled but enthusiastic baker – so you won’t be surprised that I loved Syd’s detailed, helpful recipes that were included in the text. I also loved Syd’s determined, “I can fix this” attitude, and the descriptions of Syd’s “fashion recipes” as Syd tries to express a vague sense of gender through creative outfits. The book as a whole does a good job at showing the rich spectrum of gender and sexuality in a vibrant, hopeful queer community. There’s also some thoughtful examinations of how relationships grow, break and heal, and the bakes that accompany each feeling make the story a treat for all senses. Best of all, despite the serious topics it digs into, the tone of the book is gentle and kind, hopeful of the best outcomes for everyone.
If you like stories of new love, healing after heartbreak, learning lessons about growing up, and – most importantly – food, this is the book for you.
As the summer gets rolling, you may want to read something restful, sweet, and nice to look at. If so, you might want to check out Bloom, a graphic novel written by Kevin Panetta and illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau.
Bloom is the story of Ari, who’s been working in his family’s bakery in a small beach town since he was a kid. Now he’s graduated high school and is under pressure from his band to move to the city – and he’s desperate to go, if only to figure out who he is and what he really wants. Unfortunately, his family’s not on board, and shames him for his trying to leave when the bakery is struggling. At his wits’ end, he decides to hire a replacement, someone to do the work with his parents so he’ll be free to leave. Enter Hector, an easygoing guy in town for the summer to clean out his late grandmother’s house. He loves to bake as much as Ari wants to avoid it, and so Ari starts to train him in the rhythms of the bakery so he can take Ari’s place. But nothing’s as simple as it should be; things with the band are changing, putting his plans in jeopardy, and being with Hector is starting to remind Ari of the love that runs through his family’s business and joy that comes from baking. Before long it’s clear that his relationship with Hector could also bloom into love — if only Ari could get out of his own way.
The good things about this graphic novel are many. Readers are immersed in the act of baking and in Ari’s Greek heritage, with the addition of Hector’s heritage later in the story. The art style is simple but charming, with a simple color palette highlighting beautifully rendered scenery with floral accents. The portrayal of family love and friendship love is starkly realistic and truly heartwarming, with both Hector and Ari finding comfort among their loved ones along with discomfort.
For me, being a graphic novel affected character development and plot too much; a lot seemed to be implied through brief scenes and imagery that I would rather have had spelled out and explained. I’m also never totally hooked by angsty characters with unsupportive parents and/or toxic friends. But overall it’s a sweet story and a quick read, and all the baking imagery gives off some definite Great British Baking Show vibes for me; if this sounds like your kind of coming-of-age summer romance, give it a try!
Bloom is available in print and on Overdrive.
Are you ready to take your baking over the top? Here are sixty decadent and delightful ice creams and the sixty desserts that are their vehicles. A la Mode offers not just solid dessert recipes, from raspberry oat bars to bear claws, from chocolate pecan pie to a white chocolate pavlova, but also gives you the unforgettable pairings that make these desserts smash hits: apple cranberry pie with Camembert ice cream, chocolate sheet cake with salt caramel frozen custard, and espresso cream jelly roll with mascarpone ice cream.
Let’s face it: vanilla can sometimes be so… vanilla. A great a-la-mode pairing should be as decadent as finding the perfect wine to go with your cheese plate. With A la Mode , IACP winners and cookbook dynamos Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough show you how to create innovative delights such as creamy hazelnut gelato atop coffee-poached pears, or maple frozen custard with a mouthwatering cinnamon roll cake, alongside simpler classics like confetti ice cream with layered vanilla birthday cake. You haven’t lived until you’ve had peanut brittle pie with popcorn ice cream, a Cracker Jack fantasy!
Because what’s a warm pie without ice cream? With A la Mode , you’ll have an answer to that question! (description from publisher)
Raise your desserts to a whole new level of flavor with The New Sugar & Spice, a collection of more than eighty unique, unexpected, and uniformly delicious recipes for spice-centric sweets.
Veteran baker Samantha Seneviratne’s recipes will open your eyes to a world of baking possibilities: Her spicy, pepper-flecked Chile-Chocolate Truffles prove that heat and sweet really do go hand-in-hand, and a fresh batch of aromatic, cinnamon-laced Maple Sticky Buns will have the whole family racing into the kitchen. Discover new recipes from around the globe, such as Sri Lankan Love Cake or Swedish-inspired Saffron Currant Braid. Or, give your classic standbys a bold upgrade, such as making Raspberry Shortcakes with zingy Double Ginger Biscuits.
Filled with fascinating histories, origin stories, and innovative uses for the world’s most enticing spices–including vanilla, cinnamon, peppercorns, and cardamom — The New Sugar & Spice guarantees that dessert will be the most talked-about part of your meal. (description from publisher)
As a child, Adams and her family would routinely embark on the ten-hour journey from their home in Chicago to Winona, Mississippi. There, she would watch her grandmother, affectionately nicknamed Big Mama, bake and develop delicious, melt-in-your-mouth desserts. From blooming tree-picked fruit to farm-raised eggs and fresh-churned butter, Big Mama used what was readily available to invent completely original treats. Adams treasured the moments when her mother, aunt, and Big Mama would bring her into the kitchen to let her dabble in the process as a rite of passage. Big Mama’s recipes became the fabric of their family heritage. Grandbaby Cakes is Adams’s love note to her family, thanking those who came before and passing on this touching tradition with 50 brilliant cakes.
Grandbaby Cakes pairs charming stories of Big Mama’s kitchen with recipes ranging from classic standbys to exciting adventures—helpfully marked by degree of difficulty—that will inspire your own family for years to come. Adams creates sophisticated flavor combinations based on Big Mama’s gorgeous centerpiece cakes, giving each recipe something familiar mixed with something new. From pound cakes and layer cakes to sheet cakes and “baby” cakes (cupcakes and cakelettes), Grandbaby Cakes delivers fun, hip recipes perfect for any celebration.
Readers will love this cookbook for its eclectic and bold recipes steeped in equal parts warm Southern charm and fresh Midwestern flavors. Not only will home bakers be able to make staples like yellow cake and icebox cake exactly how their grandmothers did, but they’ll also be preparing impressive innovations, like the Pineapple Upside-Down Hummingbird Pound Cake and the Fig-Brown Sugar Cake. Grandbaby Cakes is a collection for both new-aged and traditional bakers, but mostly it’s for anyone who wants a fresh, modern take on classic recipes as well as cakes full of heart and soul. (description from publisher)
With her groundbreaking bestseller Around My French Table , Dorie Greenspan changed the way we view French food. Now, in Baking Chez Moi , she explores the fascinating world of French desserts, bringing together a charmingly uncomplicated mix of contemporary recipes, including original creations based on traditional and regional specialties, and drawing on seasonal ingredients, market visits, and her travels throughout the country. Like the surprisingly easy chocolate loaf cake speckled with cubes of dark chocolate that have been melted, salted, and frozen, which she adapted from a French chef’s recipe, or the boozy, slow-roasted pineapple, a five-ingredient cinch that she got from her hairdresser, these recipes show the French knack for elegant simplicity. In fact, many are so radically easy that they defy our preconceptions: crackle-topped cream puffs, which are all the rage in Paris; custardy apple squares from Normandy; and an unbaked confection of corn flakes, dried cherries, almonds, and coconut that nearly every French woman knows.
Whether it’s classic lemon-glazed madeleines, a silky caramel tart, or “Les Whoopie Pies,” Dorie puts her own creative spin on each dish, guiding us with the friendly, reassuring directions that have won her legions of ardent fans. (description from publisher)
Joy Wilson believes that everything is better with pie. And caramel. And definitely ice cream.
Her world is pretty sweet: she dabbles daily in butter and sugar as her blogging alter ego, Joy the Baker. Her new book, Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence, is packed with 125 of Joy’s favorite, supereasy, most over-the-top, totally delicious treats, such as Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, and Smoked Sea Salt Cookies; Butterscotch Cream Pie with Thyme-Marshmallow Meringue; Mint Chocolate Chip Cake; and Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream.
After all, every day is an opportunity for sweets. (description from publisher)
Since when did every cookie on the plate have to be just like the next? Or each layer of cake exactly the same height? Each piecrust an impeccable work of art and encircled by stunningly perfect pastry leaves? To the uninitiated, all that fastidious, spotless baking is intimidating, not to mention exhausting.
The Messy Baker celebrates baking as it happens in the real world – sweet, messy, fun, not always gorgeous, but a way to show love. Which doesn’t make it any less delicious; to the contrary, Charmian Christie’s flavor combinations rise far above the ordinary. Why have a raspberry galette when you can enjoy a raspberry-rhubarb galette with drippy, unctuous walnut frangipane? Or how about a Brie and walnut whiskey tart? It’s all yours without the rigid perfectionism or complicated instructions of other gourmet cookbooks. Christie’s warm, irreverent voice brings the fun back into baking at a time when home cooks – pulled from pillar to post by jobs and errands – need to have fun. The Messy Baker is a full-service book that not only guides the reader through simple, delicious recipes but is also there to help out when things go wrong.
For anyone who gave in frustration when that cake collapsed or the frosting smeared, Christie’s practical advice is here to rescue even the worst disaster and inspire the baker to try the next recipe. (description from publisher)
In the past twenty years, interest in wood-fired ovens has increased dramatically in the United States and abroad, but most books focus on how to bake bread or pizza in an oven. From the Wood-Fired Oven offers many more techniques for home and artisan bakers – from baking bread and making pizza to recipes on how to get as much use as possible out of a single oven firing, from the first live-fire roasting to drying wood for the next fire. From the Wood-Fired Oven offers a new take on traditional techniques for professional bakers, but is simple enough to inspire any nonprofessional baking enthusiast.
Leading baker and instructor Richard Miscovich wants people to use their ovens to fulfill the goal of maximum heat utilization. Readers will find methods and techniques for cooking and baking in a wood-fired oven in the order of the appropriate temperature window. What comes first–pizza, or pastry? Roasted vegetables or a braised pork loin? Clarified butter or beef jerky? In addition to an extensive section of delicious formulas for many types of bread, readers will find chapters on: Making pizza and other live-fire flatbreads; Roasting fish and meats; Grilling, steaming, braising, and frying; Baking pastry and other recipes beyond breads; Rendering animal fats and clarifying butter; Food dehydration and infusing oils; And myriad other ways to use the oven’s residual heat. Appendices include oven-design recommendations, a sample oven temperature log, Richard’s baker’s percentages, proper care of a sourdough starter, and more.
From the Wood Fired Oven is more than a cookbook; it reminds the reader of how a wood-fired oven (and fire, by extension) draws people together and bestows a sense of comfort and fellowship, very real human needs, especially in uncertain times. Indeed, cooking and baking from a wood-fired oven is a basic part of a resilient lifestyle, and a perfect example of valuable traditional skills being put to use in modern times. (description from publisher)