Of Cookbooks, Blog Posts, and E-books


When looking for a recipes these days, there are so many, many, many options. When I have a particular recipe/ingredient/meal I am looking for, I will often just turn to a good ol’ google search and see where the interwebs take me.  I will often land on someone’s blog, and this may be what brought you, dear reader, over to Endless Simmer in the first place.  Blogs can be good for browsing, too, but when I am really seeking inspiration from out of the blue, nothing beats an actual paper cookbook, preferably weighing a few pounds and liberally strewn with pictures.  On a side note, I have recently discovered the joy that is library cookbooks, but I’ll save my extended thoughts on those for another day.

Somewhere between these two media, the blog and the cookbook, lies a strange beast: the cooking e-book.  Like blogs, e-cookbooks can be produced by more or less any dude or dudette with a stove and a computer.  They can serve many purposes: some are just like traditional cookbooks; others are blog spinoffs.  The two categories of e-cookbooks that I have found most useful are mini recipe collections (think “30 savory pies”); and e-books that focus on just one recipe, but one that is longer and more complicated than can be contained in one blog post, like “authentic Pad Thai.”

I was recently sent a review copy of Kolaches – Amazing & Easy! which fits solidly into the second category of my kind of e-cookbooks. For the uninitiated, kolaches are a slightly sweet Czech pastry often filled with fruit or cheese.  This book contains a brief history of the pastry, followed by instructions on how to make the dough, make the fillings, and assemble the pastries.  Also included are many variations on the initial recipe and what to do with leftover dough.

But…these were a freakin’ lot of work.  Perhaps it’s just my baking ineptitude, but despite this book’s exclamatory title,  there was nothing easy about making kolaches.  And in the end, after all my (long) hard work, the end result tasted like biscuits with jelly.  Good biscuits with jelly, but I’m not sure they were worth all the extra effort.


If you are more bakingly inclined than I am (and you certainly are), you may want to check out this e-book on Amazon.   In addition to making kolaches, the book includes instructions for some great little rolls, or “little ducks” as the author calls them, that you can make with the leftover dough.  These were less work, and still super-delicious.

So what about you?  Do you prefer cookbooks, e-books, or blogs? Any little known favorites to share?

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Pretty as a Picture (At Long Last)


I consider myself to be an above average home cook.  I get lots of practice, what with putting dinner on the table seven nights a week and all (six if my husband gives in to my love of Pete’s Apizza.)  Desserts, though….not so much. I don’t even care for desserts most of the time.  I prefer a cold beer and a handful of sour cream and onion potato chips for a late-night snack. Still, it is nice to bring a show-stopping sweet to a potluck now and then.   Plus, I just know that one of these days, someone is going to rope me into a bake sale.  So, when the chance arose to review a copy of The Big Book of Desserts and Pastries by Claes Karlsson, I volunteered.

As expected, when the book arrived, it was filled with beautiful, full-color photos.  I skipped right past the candy section. As I said, when it comes to desserts, I know my limits.  If it involves a thermometer, I’m out. I settled on the honey pine nut cake. I had all of the ingredients on hand, the directions were simple, and the picture in the book was drool-worthy. But my DIY result was…disappointing. Sure, my little pine nut cupcakes tasted good, kind of like sugar cookies with pine nuts on top, but they did not look particularly beautiful.  Mission not accomplished.


Next, I went for the thin tuiles.  This go-around, I even bought heavy cream, something not normally on hand at our house.  I mixed, spoon, and baked as per the instructions. The resulting cookies were so fragile that the trip from the pan to the cooling rack was enough to shatter them. I blame the fact that the recipe calls for an oven heated to 390 degrees, and chances are that my very old, non-digital oven was off by more than a few notches.  Grr. The crumbled cookies did make an excellent topping for ice cream, so all was not lost, but I still had not achieved my goal of a photo-worthy dessert.

After failing twice, I was ready to move this book from the cookbook shelf to the coffee table.  Clearly, in my less than capable hands, it would be better for browsing. I was having tea with a friend the next day, however, so I decided to make one last attempt, with a recipe for coffee-flavored chocolate cake.  I didn’t have the correct pan shape, but I refused to let this stop me.  An hour or so later, I sighed with relief as I pulled out my camera.  The resulting cake cubes were not only delectably chocolatey with a hint of coffee-flavor,  they were gorgeous. Thank goodness.


Coffee-Flavored Chocolate Cake

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A Different Benedict


When I heard that Brooklyn’s legendary Junior’s restaurant was releasing new a cookbook, you know I was all up on this. I mean, this is the place that invented the “something different” sandwich: two giant potato latkes holding up a bevy of beef brisket.

That monstrosity/amazingness isn’t included in Junior’s Home Cooking, but they do have another spin for how to combine breakfast beef and carbs. The Junior’s “different benedict” offers up eggs and hollandaise over corned beef hash. Yes.

A Different Benedict

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How Much Peanut Butter is TOO Much Peanut Butter?

When we heard there was a new book about all about peanut butter, we got so excited that two of our bloggers had to test it out. Here’s Emily and snebbu’s dueling thoughts on Peanut Butter Comfort.

Emily: I’ll openly admit it: I’m a peanut butter lover. And I mean loooooooverrrr. Love it in savory recipes, love it in sweet recipes. Spicy Thai-style peanut sauce? Yep, love. I’ll happily take a peanut butter dessert over a chocolate dessert any day. So when does it cross the line? How much is too much?

Peanut Butter Comfort

Averie Sunshine’s new cookbook, Peanut Butter Comfort, helped me dive into this question. Or, to give you the full title, Peanut Butter Comfort: Recipes for Breakfasts, Brownies, Cakes, Cookies, Candies, and Frozen Treats Featuring America’s Favorite Spread. Whew—I’d say that covers a lot of ground. Pretty much anything you could put peanut butter in, Sunshine found a way to do it.

The good stuff: This book is very cute and definitely well-made. Novice cooks will appreciate the accessible and carefully explained recipes and background info. Plus there are plenty of appealing photos! The maybe-good, maybe-not-so-good stuff: all the recipes are pretty simple. Once again, fairly inexperienced people will like this, but I could have used some recipes that were a bit more complex in their flavor profiles or techniques. There is something to be said for familiar, back-to-basics comfort recipes, though.

Snebbu: I wouldn’t go so far as calling it “cute,” but it is very well organized. It is easy to navigate and is categorized in a meaningful way. For instance, you can create your own peanut butters, bake desserts, or even cook savory meals—all categorized in that way. I do agree with Emily in regards to the simplicity of the recipes. BUT, that’s not always a bad thing. I’ve found other cook books to cumbersome, lengthy, and expensive. These are recipes that won’t break the bank either.

Emily: So, the first recipe I made was the Marshmallow Butterscotch Fluffernutter Bars. I love all of those things (just look at all my Peeps posts, anything marshmallow is a-ok in my book) but I have to say this recipe fell a little short of my expectations. I don’t really see how I could have messed up the instructions, so I don’t think it was user error, but I wish the bars had come out a little drier and more balanced. They basically just tasted like tons of melted peanut butter and butterscotch chips that had been re-solidified. So maybe this recipe is truly… too much peanut butter. (Gasp!)

Snebbu: Damnit! I was going to try these out at a company party next week. They look so good. I may have to try these out anyway—I’ll let you know if I get the same results. I really can’t fathom such a thing as too much peanut butter, but the word “re-solidified” does not sound tasty.

Emily: Luckily, the second recipe I tested turned out to be much more exciting: Coconut Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Cookies. Oh man. Talk about more things I love: carrot cake, coconut, cream cheese?! I knew I had to make these, stat. I prefer moist, chunky cookies with a lot of stuff in them, and these did not disappoint. The finished product came out super tasty, but honestly I would rather just eat this dough by the spoonful. (And there’s not even any raw eggs in it, for those of you who actually worry about that. I’ve been eating raw eggs in cookie dough for 20something years now, and I’m still alive!)

Coconut Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Cookies

Coconut Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Cookies

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Bakeless Sweets

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It is officially summer time. Although most of us have been suffering from the humid heat for weeks now. That means it is the time of year we try to use the oven as little as possible. What else does summer call for? Parties and sweet desserts. Lucky for me (and the rest of you), I crossed paths with Faith Durand when compiling our graham cracker recipe list. Not only does Faith have some awesome graham cracker icebox recipes (including a s”mores icebox cake), but an entire book full of Bakeless Sweets ranging from puddings and panna cottas to fluff and icebox cakes. Hence the name of her book: Bakeless Sweets.

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7 Cookbooks to Look Forward to: March 2013


Deborah Madison: Vegetable Literacy (3/16/2013)

Vegetarians, vegetable lovers, and anyone with a stomach: rejoice. Deborah Madison is back with a gorgeous ode to the vegetable. #1 on my must-buy cookbook list.


Pike Place Fish Guys: Pike Place Fish Guys (3/7/2013)

If these guys cook half as well as they throw shit around without dropping it, I’m in! Seriously, those fish are the size of toddlers.


Todd Gray & Ellen Kassoff Gray: The New Jewish Table (3/5/2013)

The Grays take on the awesome task of transforming traditional Jewish dishes into modern recipes utilizing fresh and seasonal food.

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Baking for Friends: Linzer Heart Cookies


With the Beyonce Bowl come and gone, it must be about time to start focusing on the next food-obsessive holiday on the calendar.

Yes, Valentine’s Day can be dumb, but it also can be an excuse to bake up some over-the-top deliciousness, right? One of our favorite New York-based bakeries, Tate’s Bake Shop, is here to share this recipe for Linzer heart cookies from their cookbook, Baking for Friends.

Anyone who has picked up Tate’s crazy-crispy chocolate chips at a store around NYC understands that these folks know how to do cookies right. And, if you’re in need of a V-day gift, hop over to Tate’s website and get 20 percent off any cookie-centric just for being an ES-er. Use the code BLOG213 at checkout.

Tate’s Bake Shop Linzer Heart Cookies

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