Archive for the ‘The Kitchen Reader’ Category

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The Kitchen Reader Cookie Exchange: Fudge

December 15, 2009

This month instead of reading a book, The Kitchen Reader group is doing a blog cookie exchange. I was all set to post some chocolate cookies and then Jennifer sent a reminder about the cookie exchange and also reminded us that we’re supposed to post a recipe that has special meaning to us. Crap. The chocolate cookies are really good but they have no meaning. So I looked through the file of recipes from my grandmas and decided to make fudge. While it’s not a cookie, it’s something that my Grandma Dorothy made every Christmas and it was always so delicious. Both of my grandmas made all kinds of treats at Christmas and I’m sorry that I was only interested in eating them and never thought to learn how to make them. I can pull a few things off by using the recipes, but I missed out on all the inside tips and some quality time with my grandmas. I’m not really that crazy about fudge, but being able to have my grandma’s fudge again would make me crazy about fudge.

How about some fudge under the tree this year?

I didn’t intend for this to turn into a science experimment, but as often happens with recipes from a long time ago, the fudge recipe doesn’t have much in the way of instructions.

Attempt #1: I followed the minimal instructions on my grandma’s recipe. The result was something like a chocolate caramel. Not bad at all – kind of a chewy, gooey chocolate candy. But it wasn’t fudge. And after a few hours, it wasn’t chewy and gooey anymore.

Attempt #2: I looked in the Joy of Cooking and was happy to find a recipe that was very similar to my grandma’s but had much more detailed instructions. I also realized that the one word in my grandma’s recipe that I couldn’t read must say “beat” and I didn’t do any beating in my first attempt. I made another batch of fudge using my grandma’s ingredients (plus a pinch of salt) and following the Joy of Cooking instructions. The result was kind of dry and crumbly. It tasted good and was kind of like a dry fudge. I was trying to make a moist, fudgy fudge.

Attempt #3: I decided to try one more time, modifying a few of the things I did in the previous attempt. In attempt #2, I put the saucepan of fudge in a pan of cool water to cool it down more quickly. The Joy of Cooking instructions said that it was OK to do this. But some of the fudge solidified on the bottom of the pan, so I decided not to do that again. I also decided to beat with a wooden spoon instead of an electric mixer. I’m sure that back in the day they used a spoon, plus I looked at a couple of recipes online and it sounded like beating by hand was the way to go. With those modifications, I followed the Joy of Cooking instructions again.

Was the third time the charm?

It wasn’t too shabby! The consistency is nice and soft and it’s sweet and chocolaty just like fudge should be. For what it’s worth, here’s an extreme close-up.

The fudge I remember was softer and moister than this, but it’s been many many years since I’ve had it. My fudge probably is a bit different, but my memories probably aren’t totally accurate either.

This is what I’d call an old-fashioned fudge recipe: no marshmallows or sweetened condensed milk, and you do need to pull out your candy thermometer. If you have a copy of The Joy of Cooking, take a look at the recipe for Fudge Cockaigne; it’s very similar to the recipe I made (My book says 41st printing, June 1986). I was going to post it here, but I think it still needs more work. I also noticed that I didn’t follow the Joy of Cooking instructions as closely as I thought I did…oops. I’m all fudged out right now, but I think attempt #4 isn’t too far away. Check out The Kitchen Reader blogroll to see what the others made for the cookie exchange!

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The Kitchen Reader: My Life in France by Julia Child

October 31, 2009

This month’s selection for The Kitchen Reader is My Life in France by Julia Child. Until I read Julie and Julia, I didn’t know much of anything about Julia Child. That book was a bit of an introduction, but I really got bitten by the Julia Child bug after seeing the movie Julie and Julia. The movie went into some detail about her life in Paris and how she got involved in writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I walked out of the movie wanting to know much more about all of it. My Life in France did not disappoint! I loved this book so much that I was sad when it ended.

The book is written by Julia Child with her great-nephew Alex Prud’homme. They cover a lot of ground in 333 pages! The book begins in 1948 when Julia and her husband Paul arrive in France and ends in the early 1970s when she is living in the US and filming her television show (plus there is a brief epilogue). I enjoyed all of the book, but I especially enjoyed reading about the process of writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The extent of the research she did alone was amazing (and she didn’t have the Internet!). And then there was the testing, the writing, the rewriting, and the sometimes tenuous relationship with the two French women she was collaborating with, not to mention the process of getting the book published.

We learn a lot about Julia’s personal life too, including her strained relationship with her father, who couldn’t accept her opinions about politics and the world. On the flip side, she had a wonderful relationship with Paul; the two not only loved each other, they genuinely liked, respected, and supported each other. There are stories about Julia’s time at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, Paul’s job (very interesting, and a mini history lesson to boot!), and of course life in France. I was delighted to learn that Julia was a cat lover and included some fun cat stories.

Sprinkled throughout the book are photos, many of which were taken by Paul. The photos add a great personal touch to the book; if you’re on the fence about reading the book, at least page through a copy and look at the photos. Maybe they’ll intrigue you enough to give this book a read!

Be sure to take a look at The Kitchen Reader blogroll to see what the others thought of My Life in France.

For a little more interesting reading about Julia Child, Dorie Greenspan wrote four Tales of Julia posts on her blog. They were fun to read and I wish she’d write more! Here are the links to her posts:

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The Kitchen Reader: Julie and Julia

September 30, 2009

September’s selection for The Kitchen Reader is Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell. I first learned about the book when I read this article in the New York Times. That was in 2006, and sometime after that I found the book at Half Price Books and picked it up. So it’s been a while since I read it, but I pulled it off the shelf to refresh my memory.

juliejulia

This is the pre-movie book cover
Image courtesy of Amazon.com

When the book starts out, Powell is “pushing 30,” and is working in a stressful job that she doesn’t enjoy. In the interest of doing something with her life, she decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. And, thanks to a suggestion from her husband, she starts a blog (this was in 2002 when not many people knew what a blog was). Oh, and she wasn’t much of a cook and had never eaten an egg on its own. Did she really know what she was getting into?

Some of the things that come to mind when I remember reading this book are:

  • Powell cooking a live lobster. Ick! That incident is also a memorable scene from the movie.
  • Aspic. I can’t remember how many aspic recipes are in the cookbook, but it sure seemed like a lot when she was making them.
  • I felt full just from reading about all the food. I was amazed that on the nights she didn’t cook, they would make burgers or order pizza. After all that heavy French food, that’s the last thing I think I’d be in the mood for.
  • Despite all the challenges (in the kitchen and in her personal life), she did it!

I can’t talk about the book without bringing up the movie. If you want a more authentic story about how her project started and a lot more details about how the project went, including her personal life at the time, you should read the book. The movie, with its limited time for details, can’t possibly cover everything that’s in the book. The movie does, however, provide many more details of Julia Child’s life than the book does. I enjoyed both the book and the movie and if you already saw the movie, you could still enjoy the book. They’re both good in their own right and there’s not really a “spoiler” to worry about.

Be sure to check out what the other members of The Kitchen Reader thought about the book.

Bon App├ętit!

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The Kitchen Reader: The Sweet Life by David Lebovitz

August 31, 2009

This month’s reading selection for The Kitchen Reader is The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz.

I didn’t know a whole lot about David Lebovitz before reading this book. I knew that he worked at Chez Panisse, that he now lives in Paris, and that he’s written several dessert cookbooks. After reading the book, I found out why he moved to Paris and I “got to know” him. And I’m glad I did, because he’s a very funny guy and he showed me a side of Paris that I haven’t seen, and probably never will. Yes, he pokes fun at the way of life in Paris, but not in a rude way. The book is a journey through his adjustment to living in Paris, it’s full of humor and, of course, recipes.

The book is set up with a chapter on a topic followed by some recipes that are loosely tied into that topic. I felt like he was giving us recipes that he really wanted to share; not trying to pick out recipes that would be a perfect fit for the chapter. He covers food-related topics, such as the kitchen in his apartment, grocery shopping in Paris, and drinking coffee in Paris (which includes a section on how to order coffee to get what you want: I’ve battled with this myself, so if I ever get back to Paris, I’ll bring his cheat sheet!). Living in Paris isn’t all about the food, so he discusses dressing like a Parisian, French healthcare, and lots of information on shopping, from how to stand in line (or how to not stand in line), his trials and tribulations at BHV, the main department store/hardware store, and how Parisian salespeople are different than American salespeople.

The book is sprinkled with his humorous battles with the French language and Lebovitz laughing at himself for the predicaments he’s gotten himself into. My favorite was when he was told to go into a changing room and take off everything but his underwear; however he thought he was told to take everything off including his underwear! Thankfully, that’s not a situation most of us would get into on a vacation in Paris.

It’s worth getting to know David Lebovitz a little better, and there are so many ways you can do it: read this book, look at his website, follow him on Facebook (he posts lots of interesting food-related links as well as some funny links and updates). In the book, he makes it clear that’s he’s not real keen on having friends of friends of friends show up in Paris and expect to be shown around. His solution for that? He leads culinary tours in France and Paris! Sounds cool, but if that’s not in the plans for you, he provides a long list of his favorite addresses in the back of the book: restaurants, chocolate shops, bakeries, baking supplies, and yes, even orthopedic hosiery (you have to read the book to understand that one)!

Recipes I’d like to try that may show up on this blog someday:

  • Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes
  • Salted Butter Caramel Sauce
  • Chicken Mole
  • Peanut Slaw
  • Caramelized Apple Tart (low-fat)

Note to Kitchen Readers: I’m offline right now, so it may be a while before I get to your blogs. I apologize for the delay, but I will visit you when I can!

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