Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book Review -- Orangette's "A Homemade Life"

I'm an off-again on-again food blog follower, even the ones I really like.  For some months now I've been faithful to, the great blog produced by Amanda Hesser and Melissa Stubbs.  Maybe it's because they're both really bright and highly educated in food matters or because their blog is relatively new so they've been able to fix a lot of the issues that have arisen with earlier food blogs--whatever, their blog is first-rate and worth checking every day.

Other ones to follow, albeit less frequently, include smitten kitchen, orangette, blue-kitchen, oneforthetable, gastronomer's guide, chow...and so on.  Suggestions are always welcome.

Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks has parlayed her blog into several books.  And now Orangette (aka Molly Wizenberg) has published a book, "A Homemade Life," based on her blog.  I'm a sucker for books written by passionate food lovers about their food preferences and experiences, so it didn't take me long to order her book.  And to read it during last night's snow storm.

It's good, particularly if you like to bake cakes, cookies, and other desserts.  If you're more interested in vegetables, meat, chicken, and fish, well, not so much.  It's not that I don't love to read about good sweet stuff, but I've already got an enormous collection of sweet bread, cakes, and cookie recipes and don't really need any more.  Although I must report that I can't wait to bake her banana bread with chocolate chips and candied ginger. Or when the right season comes along, her blueberry-raspberry bread.

She's a good writer so it surprised me when I got fidgety after a few chapters.  As I pondered my reaction, I wondered if it was because she's quite young and I'm not.  I began to feel that she simply hasn't lived long enough to write a book about her life thus far.  Her family sounds interesting, and one certainly understands that her parents' love of cooking helped develop her own adult pursuits.  But too many of the reminiscences were simply too young to be of interest to an older person.  I'd be curious to know what younger readers think of the book.

Despite my disappointment with the book, I'll continue to click onto her blog regularly, particularly if I'm looking for new desserts.  One of the reasons I like her sweet recipes is that she is hard-nosed about ingredients--she simply doesn't allow low fat or nonfat yogurt or milk.  Brava!

When I started this blog, I was determined not to publish a recipe I hadn't made.  But I'd like to leave you with a good sense of Wizenberg's skill with sweet recipes--her Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger (pp 26-27):

6 T unsalted butter
2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 c sugar
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3/4 c semisweet chococolate chips
1/3 c finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1/1/2 c mashed banana (from about 3 large ripe bananas)
1/4 c well-stirred whole-milk plain yogurt (not lowfat or nonfat)
1 t vanilla extract

Set a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a standard-sized (9 x 5) loaf pan with cooking spray or butter.

In a small bowl, microwave butter until just melted.  Alternatively, put the butter in a heatproof bowl and melt in preheated oven.  Set aside to cool slightly.

In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Add choc chips and crystallized ginger and whisk well to combine.  Set aside.

In medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork.  Add mashed bananas, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla and stir to mix well.  Pour banana mixture into dry ingredients, and stir gently with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides as needed, until just combined.  Do not overmix.  Batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy, but there be no unincorporateded flour.  Scrape batter into prepared pan, and smooth the top.

Bake until the loaf is a deep shade of golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 minutes-1 our.  If the loaf seems to be browning too quickly, tent with foil.

Cool loaf in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes.  Then tip it out on rack, and let cool completely before slicing.

Freezes beautifully.

No comments:

Post a Comment