WE'VE MOVED

Hello!

Thank you for the amazing 8 years here at A Baked Creation, we can't thank you enough for the memories! But we've decided to move over to a new site - Sincerely, Syl. Please join us there for future posts on all the things you loved here!

Sincerely,
Syl

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lemon Chewies with Honey

I am back with another cookie post! It is hard not to bake something when all the ingredients are here and the instructions are so simple. There are no reasons why I should not be eating these cookies, especially if they were recommended to me by my colleague, Monique.

I woke up this morning and flipped open The Cookiepedia (for your chance to win a copy, click here). I took the butter and egg out to reach room temperature as I had breakfast. And just so you know, you can make these and eat them before lunch time, they are that easy!
Finished eating breakfast? Preheat your oven to 175°C (350°F).
In your mixing bowl, add 1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter.

Then pour in 1/2 cup of sugar.

Cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest, mix until incorporated into the butter and sugar mixture.

In a measuring cup, pour in 1/3 cup of honey. Crack an egg and add it with the honey. Use a spoon to stir them together until they are combined. I've never mixed honey with egg before either, but don't worry, it works! Add this to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated.

Add 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to the mixture. Mix until the dough comes together, then add 1 more cup of all-purpose flour. Blend until the batter looks smooth.

You can either lightly grease a cookie sheet, use parchment paper, or a silicone mat. Scoop up the batter with your hands and gently roll them into little balls. Flatten them slightly and place them about 2 inches apart on your baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies are set and the bottoms are a golden brown.

While the cookies are cooling, make an easy glaze. Mix 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with 1/2 tablespoon of water. Mix until a glaze starts to form, if the mixture is not runny enough, add more water, a 1/2 teaspoon at a time. If your glaze is too runny, add more powdered sugar. You'll know when you have the right consistency for drizzling over the cookies.

Go on, this is the fun part. The icing doesn't have to look neat, just zig-zag over the lemon chewies.

That was fun wasn't it? Pop these pillowy cookies in your mouth, you can really taste a hint of lemon and honey flavours! I'd want to up the lemon flavours next time, maybe a squeeze of juice or more lemon zest. I'd also have to use regular honey, my wildflower honey may have overpowered it!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve or Merry Christmas depending where you are! To get into a little creative mood, I made green tea Christmas tree cookies for our families.

Green Tea Cookies
(Makes about 18 Christmas tree cookies)

3/4 cup of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of matcha powder
1/2 cup of unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
1 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
A pinch of salt
  1. Gently mix the powdered sugar and matcha powder together.
  2. Add in the butter and beat it all together until smooth. It'll look like spinach green icing!
  3. Add in the egg yolks and beat until incorporated, scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Pour in a third of the flour at a time. It will take a minute or so for the flour to absorb into the dough. Also add in the pinch of salt and mix. Make sure that there are no dry or crumbly sections in the dough.
  5. Flatten the dough into a disk and plastic wrap it. Seal it up and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  6. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).
  7. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out to about 1/2-inch thick. Cut out shapes with your preferred cookie cutter. Set them on a parchment sheet or silicone mat.
  8. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until you see the edges start to turn lightly golden. Cool before decorating.
You can eat the cookies as they are, but if you want to dress them up like sugar cookies, you'll need to make some royal icing.

Green Tea Royal Icing
(Makes enough to line and flood 18 Christmas tree cookies)

1 1/2 tablespoon of meringue powder
2 cups of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon of matcha powder
2 1/2 tablespoons of water
  1. Beat all the ingredients together until icing forms peaks. I would recommend using a clean and grease free stand mixer. You can add more green colour if you like, but I found the light green from the matcha powder to be sufficient.
  2. This is your stiff consistency, have your piping bag and tip ready, fill about a handful of royal icing into the bag.
  3. Pipe along the edges of your cookies, refill if necessary. Add any remaining icing back to the batch.
  4. To thin out the royal icing for flooding, keep adding 1 teaspoon of water until you reach the proper consistency.
  5. Using the same piping bag and tip, carefully fill it with the thinner icing and pipe them onto the cookie. By now, the edges should have hardened enough to stay as a border. Decorate as you see fit!
Use clean toothpicks for correcting, if you need to slightly shift a line or pop an air bubble. I clearly need to work on my cookie piping skills.

I really like the look of the simple hollies on the tree.

I have an extra copy of Stacy Adimando and Tara Striano's The Cookiepedia: Mixing, Baking, and Reinventing the Classics. Would you like to win it? Our Christmas gift to one lucky winner!

Giveaway Regulations and Conditions: 
  • The Cookiepedia Giveaway is open from Saturday, December 24, 2011 to Sunday, January 8, 2012. Entries submitted after 12 midnight EST on Sunday, January 8, 2012 will not be considered. 
  • There are three ways to enter, post in the comment section below or on A Baked Creation's facebook page: I could eat ______________ cookies all year long. (Fill in the blank with your favourite cookie.) 
  • To enter via twitter, tweet: @abakedcreation I could eat ______________ cookies all year long. (Fill in the blank with your favourite cookie.)
  • Please leave a way for us to contact you (via e-mail, twitter handle).
  • The winner will be randomly chosen and announced here on A Baked Creation on Monday, January 10, 2012. 
  • The winner will have 7 days to claim their prize. If we do not get a mailing address, the prize is forfeited.
  • This contest is available to residents of Canada and the U.S.A. only! However, if you have friends and family with a Canadian or American mailing address, feel free to enter. There will be four different winners, one for each book.
  • Disclaimer: My copy and the giveaway copy of The Cookiepedia was not sent to us by the publisher.
  • UPDATE: A winner has been chosen! Congratulations to SweetThingsTO who said, "I could eat chocolate peanut butter cookies all year long... or anything chocolate peanut butter actually..."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays

I adore the holiday season! I love seeing places decorated and decked out in lights. Even if we're not shopping, making a trip downtown is always a festive treat.

This year, Eaton Centre added these lovely reindeers. To me, they look like Harry Potter's Patronus charm. Think happy thoughts, the stronger they are, the stronger your Patronus will be!

Here's an up close shot of what the reindeer's are really made of.

Did I tell you how much I like polar bears?

The holiday display windows at the Hudson's Bay Company. Forget caroling, that little figurine has it right.

Yes, there are some annoyances with this time of the year. Mainly the crowds, line-ups, and traffic. You'll meet the odd grumps and Grinch's, but for the most part, everyone is pretty understanding and full of good cheer. Be fair, considerate, and nice.

At home, it means I get to decorate our windows with star lights. I love the warm glow it gives my workstation.

Don't forget the holiday parties! Whether it's the company ones or the ones with close friends and family.

I had a great time at the company parties this year. My company treated us to a great lunch (or should I say feast judging with all the leftovers?) at a cozy Italian restaurant. We started with an assortment of cold cuts and cheeses, paired with the bread basket - so tasty! Then, a simple salad with tomatoes and cheese tossed with balsamic vinaigrette. We shared various pasta dishes - tomato sauce, garlic, and basil; spicy sausage, smoked provolone, garlic, and tomato sauce; and zucchini, roasted cherry tomatoes, red onions, and bocconcini in a light tomato sauce. We still had an assortment of pizza to share. I loved how we passed each dish around the communal table. It really did feel like a family meal. And for dessert, Bacetti! Bacetti is a gelato bite covered by a thin coat of chocolate. Some of the gelato flavours we had were vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, lemon, and roasted nuts. A perfect bite to finish a meal.

Howard's company invited family, so I got to tag along and tour their new building. Howard's actually in the social committee at work (hehe) and helped planned the holiday party. When I arrived, he was still wrapping empty boxes to be used as decoration. I can see that his managers and colleagues are really great people to work with.

Then there are the parties where people let loose. Every year, our friends Kurt and Diana host a holiday party. It's a potluck, this year Howard made pad Thai and I brought peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes. We're putting their wedding cupcake stand to good use!

We also play a game called White Elephant. The theme this year was to bring a guilty pleasure from $5-$10, wrap it, and don't tell anyone what's inside. We draw numbers, I got number 1! We go around in the order we drew. The rules are simple. You can either choose a gift from the middle or steal one that someone has already picked (doesn't pay to go first). A gift can only be stolen twice. The person who gets their gift stolen can choose to pick again or steal someone else's. It's quite amusing to watch since we don't know what the gifts are yet. Until the last gift is picked, we open them. This year, there was a lot of alcohol and chocolate....

I was quite pleased with my box of Ferrero Rocher. I had given away a dessert cookbook and two romance novels. Howard got a Slap Chop because someone's guilty pleasure was watching food infomercials!

We hope you have a fun and memorable holiday!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Home Cooking

My hands smell like garlic.

My brother has been bugging me to cook dinner for the family while I'm on holiday. The reasoning is that I'm not a cook. If I'm home alone and it's meal time, I'd most likely grab some instant noodles and poach an egg in it. That's the extent of my cooking. So my brother insisted that I learn and what better way to learn than to actually make a meal for my family? They would be understanding if I screwed up! Ha, probably not. I would most likely be ridiculed.

So to avoid any kind of mistakes, I took out a cookbook that would work best for me and for the food my family usually eats. Normally, I would try one of the dessert recipes when reviewing a cookbook, but let's veer towards something new and different this time.

Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes 
By Jean-Georges Vongerichten, with Genevieve Ko
Photographs by John Kernick
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published by Clarkson Potter
ISBN 97803077179

Have you heard of Jean-Georges before? The famous chef responsible for  starred restaurants in the United States, the United Kingdom, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. To tell you the truth, I learned about Jean-Georges through Johnny Iuzzini, who is the Executive Pastry Chef for Jean-Georges' restaurant in New York City.

Not to worry though, the cookbook begins with Jean-Georges telling you about his past, his travels, and his training. Trained in French cooking, trips to Bangkok and Chinatown changed his life, he began adding Asian influences in his dishes. The summary initiates into an introduction as Jean-Georges explains the  idea for this book. It's not the fine dining recipes from his restaurants that you'll be getting, but the simple, unfussy, and comforting food you eat with family. This is why I picked up this cookbook to cook for my family.

There are ten main chapters in this cookbook: cocktails and appetizers, salads, lunch, fish and seafood, poultry, meat, side dishes, desserts, brunch, and basics. In the back, a pantry listing and an index. Some of the pages I have tagged include a Parmesan-Crusted Chicken, a few sides: Buttered Asparagus with Lemon and Parmesan, Fresh Corn Pudding Cake and Herbed New Baby Potatoes. For dessert, a Tarte Tatin and Chocolate Cake. For a weekend brunch, French Toast with Roasted Apples, Stone Fruit Bruschetta, and Buttermilk Pancakes.

There are full page, coloured photos that will having you thinking, I want to eat that. There wasn't a photo for the recipe I tried (how brave of me), but I could almost smell the flavours when reading the ingredients that I had to try it.

Bulgogi-Marinated Grilled Flank Steak
Adapted from Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes
(Serves 2-4)

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove
1 scallion, white and green parts
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of sriracha
1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 red chili
1 whole (1-pound) flank steak
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a bowl or shallow dish that is large enough to hold the steak, grate your lemon zest. Jean-Georges actually has orange zest written down, but I didn't have any.
  2. Peel your garlic and then mince it, add it to the bowl (I accidentally used more than 1 clove...).
  3. Mince the scallion and add it to the bowl.
  4. Add in the soy sauce, brown sugar, sriracha, and sesame oil.
  5. Carefully slice the red chili and add it to the bowl. You can add more than one if you want it spicier. Jean-George actually lists 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red chili flakes.
  6. Use a fork to poke holes all over the steak. Add the steak to the marinade and massage the marinade into the meat. Cover the dish and refrigerate for 12 hours. I didn't have 12 hours, so I cut the steak into small cubes and left it to marinade for 3 hours.
  7. Before cooking, let your steak stand in room temperature for 10 minute.
  8. Meanwhile, heat your grill (I used a pan) to high. Carefully grease the grill/pan with oil.
  9. Rub the steak in the marinade again and season with salt and pepper. Place it on the grill/pan.
  10. Cook until the bottom releases easily from the grill/pan, about 1-2 minutes. Then flip and cook. Flipping every 20 seconds to desired doneness. It was about 5 minutes for medium-rare for me. Transfer to plate and let it rest for 5 minutes. Serve!
So how was it? The meat was soft and tender. Jean-Georges's home interpretation of bulgogi is different from the Korean flavours, but it was still tasty. My Dad ate two as a test - so he claims - before dinner was served. There were no leftovers, and I mean no leftovers. When the beef was all gone, Howard scooped up all the sauce and mixed it into his rice.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Lindsey Reeder from Random House of Canada for sending us a review copy of Home Cooking with Jean-Georges. No incentives were used to produce a positive review of this book.

If you're wondering, I didn't only serve the steak for dinner. I even made a steamed fish! This is a Thai dish from Chef Andy Ricker, of Portland's award-winning Pok Pok.

Steamed Fish with Lime and Chile
Adapted from "Simply Thai" by Hugh Garvey. Bon Appetit, January 2012, page 99.
(Serves 2-4)

4 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro stems, plus cilantro leaves for garnish
1 red chili, chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce 
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 whole head-on green bass (1 1/2-2 lb.), cleaned, scored to the bone on both sides in 1" intervals
2 tablespoons of chicken broth
  1. Lightly crush garlic, cilantro stems, and chili until a coarse paste forms.
  2. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Mix with a spoon until combine. Set the sauce aside.
  3. Place the fish on a plate that will fit inside the steamer. Add water to the steamer, about 1" deep and bring to a boil.
  4. Transfer the fish plate to the steamer and pour the chicken broth over the fish. Cover and steam fish until for about 10-12 minutes. Pour the sauce over the fish, cover and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Using 2 large spatulas, transfer the fish to a serving platter. Spoon the juices on the plate in the steamer over the fish. Garnish with cilantro leaves.
By now, you can see why my hands smell like garlic today. I peeled, chopped, and minced a lot of garlic. The cilantro and lime aromas seem to have washed off, but they were pretty strong last night.

I'd say the dinner was a success! There were no leftover beef or fish. The sauces and flavours were well received. My dad praised the taste of the fish. My brother said the overall meal was good.

I felt a warm glow of satisfaction at the end of the meal. It felt really nice to have everyone appreciate the work I put into making these dishes. Of course, I still had help from my mother. I don't think I would have been able to pick the right piece of steak or fish from the grocery store. So really, thank you mom. We should do this again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Toasted Coconut Macaroons


Toasted Coconut Macaroons
(Makes 24)

3 egg whites
½ teaspoon of cream of tartar
1 tablespoon of sugar
14 ounces of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
20 ounces of sweetened shredded coconut
7 ounces of dark chocolate (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325ºF). 
  2. Beat the egg whites in an electric mixer on low. 
  3. Once the whites are broken up, add cream of tartar and sugar. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the whites are frothy. 
  4. Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest into the condensed milk, stir.
  5. Stop the electric mixer and fold in the condensed milk mixture. 
  6. Add coconut and mix well. The coconut should be evenly coated. 
  7. This part is important! Let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place twelve evenly spaced heaps (about one tablespoon) of the coconut batter on each tray. 
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, there should be some browning on the tops and edges of the macaroons. Let them cool before taking them off the parchment paper.
  10. If you're feeling decadent, melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat or in the microwave. Dip half of each macaroon into the chocolate. Place on a tray to allow chocolate to set. Serve when cooled.
These are so good! I never realized that I was a fan of coconut until I had these. I loved the crunchy top parts of the coconut macaroons. 

The lemon zest works very well with the coconut, keeping it from being too sweet. The crunchy tops were so delicious that we made a second batch right after, but in smaller heaps so that there would be more browning.

I hope you try them and dress them up with a little bit of chocolate drizzle!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Peppermint Bark

Oh it's so nice to have time off during the holidays! My friend Julia finished her exams and today, we spent the afternoon making edible treats for her to take home to her family. This was the first time that we've ever made bark, so we had our fingers crossed. And actually, the recipe we were following wasn't adequate for us, so we did our own alterations. I'm glad we did!

Peppermint Bark
(Makes about one tray, serves 6 or more)

16 ounces of semisweet chocolate
1 teaspoon of mint extract 
16 ounces of white chocolate
½ cup crushed candy canes
  1. In a double boiler or bowl set over boiling water, melt the semisweet chocolate. Stir it occasionally to prevent burning. Remove from the heat and add the mint extract.
  2. Line a small sheet pan with aluminum foil. Pour in the melted semisweet chocolate mixture and spread it evenly with an offset spatula. Refrigerate until firm, about 30-45 minutes.
  3. In a double boiler or bowl set over boiling water, melt the white chocolate. Meanwhile, crush the candy canes in a bag to keep it contained (use a mallet and place a cloth over the bag). 
  4. When the chocolate is smooth, spread it evenly over the semisweet chocolate layer. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top. 
  5. Refrigerate until firm. Break into pieces (or cut it with a knife - we used our hands, grrr!). Store in refrigerator. 
Above: Spread the white chocolate layer over the semisweet chocolate layer. The best part of the semisweet chocolate is that it doesn't have to be too neat because it'll be covered.

Above: Carefully use a small mallet to crush the candy canes. It's up to you how big or small you want the candy cane bits to look on top of the bark.

Above: Quickly sprinkle the candy cane over the white chocolate. You want to do this before it starts to set and solidify.

Above: Make sure you spread the chocolate layers as evenly as possible. The layers look great when broken into pieces.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Birdy Baby Shower

Here's something to tweet about, we made cupcakes for my colleague's baby shower this week! The tricky part was to not do anything that screamed baby shower. We were looking for something subtle, but pretty, and one of the shower organizers suggested making little birds.

Okay, let me run with that. I decided that flowers and leaves would accompany the little birds really well. A spring theme in the middle (or are we in the beginning) of winter. If you want to get all meaningful, spring is for new beginnings. I'd say having a baby qualifies!

I wish I had my camera at work, one of the publicity managers made a diaper cake! Not a cake that looked like a diaper - she tied up a bunch of diapers and made two tiers with them.

These leaf cupcakes were actually inspired by Sugar Baking. She has this great photos of leaf cupcakes for a wedding that I love. It's so simple and clean.

For mine, I didn't do a fondant covering over the cupcakes, but used a dollop of buttercream. These cupcakes were actually topped with lime buttercream for the don't-want-it-too-sweet crowd in my office. If you look closely, you can see some of the lime zest in the frosting.

All the cupcakes topped with a swirl were vanilla buttercream. One of my managers actually said to me that she had a hard time choosing a cupcake. Did she go for the lime cupcakes for a different flavour, or pick the vanilla to get a birdy?

She picked the lime cupcake in the end. ;)

Liz and Andrew, congratulations on your little bundle of joy!

By the way, Howard took all the post-production photos with our new camera this time. What do you think? Did he do a good job? ;)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Decorating Cupcakes for EverythingMom

This took some time, but I think it was all worth it in the end. Through twitter DM and e-mail troubles, Carrie Anne was finally able to get in touch with me. I'm glad she did, because she had a fun idea for me! Carrie Anne Badov is Partner and Editor-in-Chief at EverythingMom, I actually know her from work because she is an avid reader and helps promote books and literacy. Long story short, she wanted to know if I would be interested in doing a Christmas/Holiday cupcake article. I said yes!

I spent the weekend brainstorming some simple, but fun ideas for families to make. I even went out and bought some holiday sprinkles. Trees, stars, snowflakes, and candy canes - all in miniature sugar form - perfect!

I took out some colourful cupcake liners (thank you Mike and Megan) and baked some old-fashioned chocolate cupcakes. Then took out the piping bag, my piping tips, and some candies.

Click here to see the cupcake creations on EverythingMom.com!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Our Favourite Cookbooks of the Year

Since our previous compilation of books, I acquired a lot more in the past 12 months. Just so you can picture how much, the Ikea bookshelf I wished for last Christmas is now full!

Once again, I would like to share with you the favourites of the year. It will look like a large number of dessert books, but a few cookbooks have sneaked onto the list. Hopefully this post will help you with your gift-giving this holiday season!

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts
By David McMillan, Frédéric Morin, and Meredith Erickson
Foreword by David Chang
Photographs by Jennifer May
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published by Ten Speed Press
ISBN 9781607740148

Unique, funny, candid, and filled with amazing photographs. Nine chapters that range from building a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, to trains, to building your own smoker and garden. There's a real emphasis on the "cookbook of sorts," this isn't your typical recipe book. Read this from front to back.

Jacketed hardcover, a double gate fold for their smorgasbord, a ribbon bookmark, this just screams special gift. Watch this video for more information. I love when David explains the best seat in the house. You just want to be there - cozy, safe from the snow, and enjoying a great meal.

I might not be able to recreate most of these dishes, but I might be able to tackle some of the dessert recipes. There's a stunning looking Marjolaine cake, financiers, and éclairs.

Photographs by Con Poulos
Hardcover, 704 pages
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN 9780740793523

Who doesn't love large encyclopedia styled cookbooks? Plus, it's Bon Appétit, you know that the book will be filled with gorgeous photography and instructive illustrations. There's even a whisk rating - from one to four - that encompasses beginners to experts. Looking for something? Check the extensive index at the back.

Here's a promo video that takes you through each chapter's subject and some sample recipes. It'll give you a general idea, but I wish it told us how one undertakes such a large project! How long did it take to test all of these recipes?

I think it was only offered last year, but when I bought the book, it also came with a year's subscription of Bon Appétit. Now, I'm hooked!

Photographs by Keller + Keller
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published by Chronicle Books
ISBN 9780811869447

I don't know what it is, but I find this cookbook so charming. People say that baked goods bring out nostalgic memories and even though this book is beautifully designed and really is modern, I find it to reminiscent a time when simple treats are comforting and delicious. There are no elaborate decorations - the food presented here represent the ideal neighbourhood bakery and cafe.

Some of you may know, Joanne beat out Bobby Flay during the sticky bun throwdown! Look how gooey they are on the cover, top left!

Check out this video about how Joanne got her start in baking and cookbookery.

By Jean-Georges Vongerichten, with Genevieve Ko
Photographs by John Kernick
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published by Clarkson Potter
ISBN 9780307717955

You know the way to my heart if you decide to put brunch on the cover. It looks rustic, home-made, and absolutely delicious. What are they? Stone Fruit Bruschetta - a mixture of apricots, Italian plums, peaches, and nectarines on top of sourdough bread.

I love a good brunch section in any cookbook. This one also covers cocktails, appetizers, salads, lunch, fish and seafood, poultry, meat, side dishes, desserts, and basics. A hundred recipes and a hundred coloured photos - not all the photos are food, there are some family shots in here. Yet, everything looks intimate like he's sharing a family secret. The food is not overly plated and the recipes aren't too intimidating. Give this one a try!

By Caroline Bretherton
Photographs by Howard Shooter and Michael Hart
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published by Dorling Kindersley Publishing
ISBN 9780756686796

The table of contents is filled with photos of every recipe. This alone takes 15 pages of the book. But it becomes handy when you need to quickly browse and find what you want to make.

While the book boasts 1,500 photographs, not every recipe is illustrated. Some get fifteen or more step-by-step photos, while others show you the finished product. It's like flipping through a food blog. I would also love to read The Illustrated Step-By-Step Cook one day. Let me know if you have the companion book!

Miette: Recipes from San Francisco's Most Charming Pastry Shop
By Meg Ray, with Leslie Jonath
Photographs by Frankie Frankeny
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published by Chronicle Books
ISBN 9780811875042

Love! Sigh! Swoon! You can't possibly be anything else but happy when you look at this cover. Look how perfectly cute the Tomboy Cake is.

Then you open and browse through the book and you're just smitten with all the adorable pastries. Everything looks simple, but if you read Meg's notes and instructions, there's a lot of work and good advice behind the recipes. Make sure you follow them, the end result is quite worth it.

Check out the double chocolate cupcakes I made for National Chocolate Cupcake Day!

By Christina Tosi
Foreword by David Chang
Photographs by Gabriele Stabile
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published by Crown Publishing Group
ISBN 9780307720498

Do I even need to convince you that you're going to want the recipes for corn cookie, compost cookie, pretzel ice cream pie, chocolate chip layer cake, liquid cheesecake, red velvet ice cream, cinnamon bun pie, crack pie or cornflake-chocolate-chip-marshmallow cookies?

Enough said.

The Primrose Bakery Book
By Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas
Photographs by Yuki Sugiura
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published by Square Peg
ISBN 9780224086882

When I first saw this cover, I thought that the font was trying to be all punk with me. But it isn't, the bakery is actually very charming (I know, I've used this word a lot in this post) and homey.

Known for their cupcakes, they've already published a book on the subject (hmm must check that out too). There are cupcakes in this book too, but ones with different flavours, such as violet, lime meringue, lemon meringue, raspberry coconut, cranberry and orange, Christmas pudding, banoffee pie, green tea, maple and pecan, plum, and rhubarb to name a few.

If you or your friend like The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, this will be a great addition.

By Philippe Andrieu
Photography by Sophie Tramier
Translated by Kerrin Rousset
Hardcover, 392 pages
Published by Éditions Du Chêne
ISBN 9782812304439

This is the gift cookbook. Nested in delicate lilac tissue paper and Ladurée's trademark pastel green box, this was like unwrapping the jewelry I never got. Frankly, I would choose a beautiful cookbook over earrings any day.

These are the coveted recipes by pastry chef Philippe Andrieu that have been translated to English by Kerrin Rousset. The photos are dainty and capture the essence of Ladurée so well. Even the book's design is filled with ornate borders and images. Funnily enough, this is probably the only book on the list that doesn't fit the typical coffee table specs. Not to sound cheesy, but good things come in small packages....

Happy reading and cooking!
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