Green Market Baking Book Review, Recipe, and Giveaway

The Green Market Baking Book : 100 Delicious Recipes for Naturally Sweet & Savory Treats by Laura C. Martin is premised on the idea that baking with fresh, seasonal ingredients, and without refined sugar, is better for both our bodies and our planet. If you like that idea, you’ll like this book.

The majority of the recipes are treats of the sweet variety (cakes, pies, cookies, puddings, muffins, etc.). All are made with one or more “natural sweeteners” such as honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and barley malt syrup. The book includes a section on substituting these ingredients for refined sugar in your own recipes. Whether or not you believe (and I’m not sure I do) Martin’s assertion that these sweeteners are more healthful than sugar, you may still wish to “support the small producers of alternative sweeteners — the honeybee keepers, the maple syrup farmers, and so on.”

The recipes — some Martin’s own, but many contributed by bakers and chefs around the country — are grouped by season, and most, though not all, feature fresh produce. Some are designated as low-fat, gluten-free, or dairy-free, and many contain a good proportion of whole grain flours and/or heart-healthier fats such as olive oil.

For me, though, what any baking book that focuses primarily on desserts comes down to is not whether the recipes are healthful, because I’m not going to go looking to dessert to fill my nutritional dance card. What it comes down to is do the recipes work, and do they taste good? The answer here, as far as I can tell, is yes they do (mostly).

Continue reading for recipe and book giveaway…

Food for Thought

The piece of gorgeousness you see here is the cover of a brainy new cookbook — and I’m in it!

Thinkfood is a collaboration between Posit Science and 50 food bloggers, each of whom has contributed a recipe featuring an ingredient known to improve memory, concentration, mood, or other brain-powered functions. With foods like flax seed, almonds, tuna, spinach, cinnamon, and more — doing their brilliant thing in everything from snacks to side dishes to main courses to desserts — you can eat smarter to be smarter.

You’ll have to stay tuned to find out what recipes I and the other bloggers contributed, but I think you’ll agree that the list of blogs is pretty damn impressive, so you just know the recipes are going to be wonderful.

The hard-cover book will be available in July, but you can start cooking more cleverly right now by signing up for the Thinkfood Recipe of the Week. Beginning today, one recipe will be distributed by email every Wednesday for the next 50 weeks.  You’ll have free access to the printable version of the recipe, which includes more information about the brain-healthy ingredient.

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Fruit and Nut Bread, and Bread Matters Giveaway

fruit & nut bread

If you’re wondering why bread matters and what’s the matter with modern commercially-made bread, Andrew Whitley spells it out in Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own, and he doesn’t mince words. He spends the first 50 pages or so explaining why the commercial bread baking process (specifically in Britain, although I think it largely applies to most industrialized societies) is “a nutritional, culinary, social, and environmental mess.”

bread mattersBut maybe you knew that already, if you’re into baking your own bread. In that case, you might be drawn to this book’s unassumingly beautiful and wholesome breads, its chapter on gluten-free baking, or the recipe for kvas, a slightly alcoholic Russian drink made from rye bread, sourdough starter, and molasses.

Aside from looking like it would be just plain delicious (which it was), the recipe for Fruit and Nut Leaven Bread intrigued me because it includes the nuts (along with the dried fruit) in the soaker. This is unusual — most recipes call for nuts to be toasted or untreated — and Whitley promised the soaking would lend them “an almost buttery eating quality.” Also, the fruits and nuts constitute a wonderfully high proportion of the overall dough. I must say this was a really satisfying loaf to bake and to eat.

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My Textbook Winner

abap.jpgI knew I could count on you for a few laughs. Thanks to everyone who sent jokes and good wishes in hopes of winning Advanced Bread and Pastry. I wish I had 107 copies of the book to give away.

Congratulations to Adam Holte of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, winner of the random drawing. Adam, when the book reaches you, I’m afraid you’re going to have to buckle down to catch up on your reading. The assignment for the first two weeks of class is Chapters 1–5. Have fun!

Bread Science Giveaway

If your high school science classes were anything like mine, they were never like this.

The Krebs cycle, hydrogen bonds, osmosis, asexual reproduction. Does the mere mention of this stuff make you start to hyperventilate? Or fall on your knees and thank all that is good and powerful that you will never have to endure those fathomless lectures again?

If it does, then it’s a shame Emily Buehler wasn’t your teacher, and Bread Science your textbook.

Buehler, a PhD chemist who turned out to have a calling as a professional baker and baking teacher, gets down and dirty with the science of why bread works. What is fermentation, exactly, and why does it make bread taste good? How does the seeming magic of gluten development really occur? What makes those atoms want to nestle together in just the right way to produce a lofty loaf? Buehler tells and illustrates all, more clearly than any teacher or textbook I have ever had.

But even if you don’t think molecules and reactions are at all your thing and you just want to know how to bake better bread, read the book. You can defer Chapter 2, the hard-core science chapter, until you’re ready for it, and skip ahead to the chapters on the how-to of bread baking. No recipes here (well, maybe one or two), but tons of good information on the why and and the how of preferments, mixing, shaping, proofing, and baking.

Because she is generous in addition to being smart and talented, Emily Buehler has a signed copy of Bread Science to send to one of you seasoned or budding bread scientists. A comment about your best or worst science class memory gets you a chance to win. The deadline to enter the random drawing is 11:59 PM PDT on Saturday, May 16; international entries welcome!

Bread Baking: An Artisan’s Perspective Giveaway

What burning bread questions are on your mind ? How do you know how long a dough should ferment? What is the ideal baking temperature? What is an Auvergnat and how do you shape it? In his book Bread Baking: An Artisan’s Perspective, Daniel DiMuzio lets us in on all of it.

This is a textbook, aimed at baking students. It is not a cookbook, although there are a few formulas. But if you’re a bread geek like me (come on, you can admit it), you will find plenty here to interest and inform. It is technical stuff, presented very clearly so even those of us who are not pros can make sense of it.

Chapter by chapter, DiMuzio, a baker and baking instructor, takes us through each step of the bread baking process: ingredient selection, mixing, fermentation (what is that yeast really up to in there?), shaping, proofing, and baking. He explains not only what to do, but why to do it. There is also a chapter about rich and laminated doughs, and one on how to create your own dough formula.

Courtesy of Dan and of publisher Wiley, I have a copy of this great book to give away. All you have to do is leave a comment here by 11:59 PM PST on Monday, April 13 for a chance in the random drawing. International entries are welcome in this one. Remember, you cannot win if you do not play!