Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Shared Summer #2

Those out there who like to bake are frequently on the lookout for new sources for recipes and baking tips and hints. Let's face it--cookbooks are more often than not very expensive to purchase. Add in that, unless and until you've gone through the book page by page, recipe by recipe, you don't really know how much of a particular cookbook you will actually end up using. Spend $30-40 on a cookbook containing recipes for 50 different baked goods, and assume you will make all 50 recipes, and you are initially spending about 80 cents per baking recipe. But most people do NOT make every recipe in a cookbook; in fact, they make relatively few of the recipes. Let's say you only try 1-10 of those recipes. Now the price per recipe is way higher--anywhere from $4 to $40 per recipe.

So, what cookbooks that are out there, whether kosher or not, have you found particularly useful? Why? Is it the illustrations, is it well-written instructions, is it the general hints and tips that make it useful? Please post your choices in the comments.

Now to online sources for bakers. There are certainly many sources available online. One that I find particularly useful--and gorgeous to view--is baking911.com. There are hundreds of free pages to browse through. In addition, a premium membership to the site costs $19.95 per year and gives you access to thousands of recipes--fully illustrated--as well as individual help and baking forums. For instance, ever wonder just how much frosting you need in order to correctly and evenly frost various sizes and types of baked goods? The free pages have a chart that gives you the amounts for virtually any kind of baked goods you could consider frosting. And referencing that recipe to cookbook cost I gave above, $20 gets you 2000+ recipes. This is far more recipes for far less money than you will find with a conventional cookbook. It's a great site to browse through even if you're not considering joining it. Again, take a trip over to

Any other online sources you'd like to share with us? Again, please put those sources--and your reasons--into the comments section.

Bon appetit!


miriamp said...

I hardly ever use my non-kosher cookbooks - maybe 1-3 recipes from it, and I have to count main dishes to get up to 3 (ie not just baked goods). On the other hand, I use Spice and Spirit all the time. I use Kosher By Design a lot more than I thought I would when I first got it and paged through it (the zucchini bread is a must have recipe as is the way she does yerushalmi kugel - so easy!) I also get a lot of use out of Budget Cooking, Elegant Dining - The Kosher Experience (I think that's what it's called.) Those are my 3 go-to cookbooks that stay out and accessible in my kitchen.

Ruth said...

I like using the Best of the Pillsbury Bake-Off cookbooks. Very very little that needs to be adjusted for kosher cooking. I think I've tried every recipe in these books and a lot are still favorites for my family. My girls joke that there will be a fight over who gets these as their yerusha.

tesyaa said...

Spice and Spirit is very very good. The one I use most is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything - I have an older edition from about 10 years ago, and I just find it the most useful cookbook.

You know, most libraries have extensive selections of cookbooks, so trying a cookbook from a library is a great way to see if it is worth buying. I take out cookbooks all the time. If you like a particular recipe, I don't think there's any problem with copying it for home, non-commercial use.

ProfK_offspring said...

I'll tell the editors of How to Cook Everything that they have yet another fan tesyaa...they work just down the hall from me :-) And I agree that it's quite a good cookbook.

In general, I dislike most kosher cookbooks. I think many are overrated and a lot of the recipes seriously unhealthy (was appalled that the allegedly healthy cookbook in the Kosher by Design series didn't have nutritional info posted for the recipes). That said, I am unfortunately stuck with them because so many non-kosher ones are wastes of cash when it comes to the price-per-recipe ratio.

Miami Al said...

Williams Sonoma recipes are great. The Cooks Illustrated compilations that Whole Foods carries are phenomenal. Various niche ones are fun as well.

But for $30, if I get 5-6 recipes that I love, I'm thrilled. How many meals do I really need in my repertoire? I find Bargain ones, I got a 3-in-1 Asia cookbook, are generally terrible, and the Kosher ones are heart attack instruction manuals.

Cost per recipe, who cares? If it costs you $5/recipe, but you make it 3-5 times, it's adding $1-$2/meal, is that your break point?

Anonymous said...

Online places I have found to be great recipe (cooking and/or baking) sources:

chowhound.chow.com - On the bottom of the page, there is a linke to "Stories" and about once a week, they choose a theme (right now, it's "Desserts from the Freezer") and post anywhere from 10-50 recipes around that theme, plus other recipes that people post on the many, many boards. I also like to go to the "Kosher" board for information about different restaurants, new kosher products, etc.

www.browneyedbaker.com - this woman out of Pittsburgh has an awesome blog, primarily of desserts, but also of other recipes. She updates at least 6 days/week, with a weekly roundup either on Fridays or Saturdays that links to her other posts from the week plus various things she found on the web that she likes. Some of my family's new favorite cookies come from there. Definitely have to make adaptations - nearly all baked goods contain butter. I won't use margarine, so I often use either canola oil or a combination of canola oil and apple sauce. Yes, it changes the texture a bit, but the flavor is still really good. My father especially loves her "gingered carrot cake cookies" and my pregnant sister-in-law was really grateful when I made the "salted chocolate double peanut cookies." The snickerdoodle blondies are now a family favorite to have with coffee. I'm going to try out the Portabella Pesto Pizza during the nine days.

handletheheat.com - a lot of what is on here is NOT kosher, but there are definitely adaptable recipes. I recently made the "Dark and Soft Restaurant Rolls" to great satisfaction (substituting canola oil for the butter).

Every Monday (usually in the afternoon) on Yahoo! Shine's web site, there is a weekly dinner recipe. Many are not kosher, but many are adaptable. I haven't made a lot from here, but I always check it out and have bookmarked many to try out at another time.

kosherinthekitch.com - not updated so regularly (maybe once a month, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter), but when it is updated, there could be four or five recipes posted at one time.

Not all of these sites are so well-organized, but they all have search boxes so you can always try a search by a specific ingredient or a food type (e.g., burgers, cookies, etc.). I have found them to be relatively user-friendly and check most of them daily.

Anonymous said...

Oh, it's Anon 5:58pm again - what I liked about handletheheat.com is that the blog author does a "recipe rundown" for every one that she posts - pros, cons, ease, appearance, and the ever important, would I make it again.

Miami Al said...

I've had luck with some stuff from:

Eclectic Recipes

Cooks Illustrated

Cooks Country



Good luck!

G6 said...

I also like to use online resources, when possible.
Allrecipes.com is a secular site that is well organized, easily searchable and I have found their recipes to be consistently reliable.
I also enjoy the Jewish Food List Recipe Archive. Well organized and easily searchable as well.

the rabbi's wife said...

My favorite sites are
and SeriousEats.com

Joy of cooking is a very useful cookbook for me for baking, but for cooking, it is my Morroccan Jewish Cookbook. I've made probably half of the recipes in it, and most are well-loved by sephardim. Joy has great techniques. I've taught myself cakes, pie crust, jams, and canning from it. Pickles (non-cucumber type) are next on my list.

Anonymous said...

My annoyance with cookbooks that are “new age” (both kosher and non-kosher alike) are that they are more about presentation and colorful photos. I think a lot of the dishes in those types of books are just for presentation in a book layout, not for flavor and/or taste. I agree with Tesyaa, going to the library and taking out a slew of cookbooks is wonderful idea. If a particular book only has a few recipes that are appealing, and then keep some of those recipes in your repertoire, but if you find a book that really speaks to you, get it, or even the series!

I’m currently going through the Barefoot Contessa series. I find her methods are generally quick and the results very flavorful. I was surprised to find a lot of usable recipes from the series, although some of her books yield fewer results than others. If you want a more methodical and time-consuming cookbook check out "Ad-Hoc at Home" by Thomas Keller, I found it to be quite impressive and full of great tips. Additionally, his sense of flavor is very nuanced and meticulous.

For baking I would say you should take a look at "Baking" by James Peterson and the compilation "Baking Illustrated," both very comprehensive and impressive books. Additionally, you are forgetting to mention that some cookbooks, impart knowledge other than recipes, such as time saving techniques, better methodologies, or flavor enhancements that do not necessarily alter the recipe to cost ratio. Perhaps a different cost accounting metric is needed... ;-)