Some Cookbooks are NOT so Yummy

I have not blogged for a very long time.  This entry is about good and bad in the culinary world.  A lot of it also runs in accord with money spent.

I recently read a blog entry about cookbooks.  Are some of them bad?  Do some of the recipes actually turn out poorly, even though the book is published by a well known author.  The answer to this is a resounding YES.  There are some bad cookbooks out there.  Like I used to tell my students when I taught history, just because you read something does not make it true.  Just because someone found a publisher and is getting paid, does not make everything that come out of their mouth sacred.  Unless you are talking about moi, of course.

I bought a very large pastry cookbook by the well known author, Dorrie Greenspan.  David Lebowitz loves her, so I thought I would too.  She has a large following and a great blog.  So I thought, "I will also love her."  I plunked down $45.00 or so for this massive tome and proceeded to bake a lemon tart.  it was not good.  I thought it was my fault.  After all, she is famous.  But I was worried when I saw how very, very thin she is.  A pastry chef is never very, very thin. The phrase "never trust a skinny chef" rang true.  At least for that particular book of Ms. Greenspan's.  So I made it again at another time.  No good.  One more try and now I know it is not a good recipe.  It is not lemony enough.  I made her brioche.  It was excellent.  (It is an American version of Brioche, a time consuming and fairly complicated recipe, made a little easier.)  Then I made her chocolate souffle and had the same problem as the lemon tart.  So for me, 2 out of 3 bad recipes  means I do not want to waste any more time or money time on her recipes.  Any of them. You know how long it takes to make a wonderful dessert, including the clean up.  If it turns out to be a disaster, that was time I could have spent catching on up the Real Housewives or something equally important.  Some authors who publish such massive works of "original " recipes are not originating all of them by themselves.  How could they?  It took Julia Child and her two friends years (6?) to write Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Ina Garten puts out a new cookbook now and then, but they are small.  I think she really does write all of her recipes herself.  (You know she tests them on all her happy Hampton friends.)  Her last cookbook, which I did not like, takes some of the old favorites of her past books and simplifies them more.  It was called, How Easy is That?  because that is her catchy little phrase she says in her show.  But too easy sometimes means not too good to me.  In fact, I don't really like David Lebowitz's cookbooks.  I know he is very famous and I read his blog.  I watch his little videos on his website.  I know he was a pastry chef at Chez Panisse for years.  But I do not think he is a good inventor of recipes.  He may be an excellent baker, but as for assembling ingredients that I want to go together, he is not for me.  I would like to be his friend, though! 

On the other hand, I have never had a Junior League cookbook that I did not love.  Those recipes are tested again and again. I also love all my Cooks Illustrated cookbooks, done by America's test kitchen.  These recipes are tested many ways, old and new, to get the perfect amount of ingredients and more importantly, to get the methodology down pat.  I like almost all of Martha Stewart's cookbooks, although she does not write all of her own recipes.  She has plenty of qualified cooks to do this and I think they really test everything well in Marthaland.  EXCEPT her crumb topping.  It is horrible.  Don't make it.   Believe it or not, those little cookbooks you get with your newly purchased kitchen gadget are really good!  So are all the Better Homes and Gardens., and some of the little ones you can pick up right at the check out in the grocery.  I have some very favorite cookbooks, that are as beautiful to look at as the food is delicious to serve and eat.  I will list them for you on my next blog, because some of them are in the shop and some are in my kitchen.  Let me round them all up so I may give you the exact names and I will let you know.  Please tell me your favorites at the end of this entry!

I do love my Le Cordon Bleu cookbook, which is written in English but measured in the metric system and weighed.  That is the most accurate way to bake.  Very precise and as I have said before, baking is all chemistry.  You remember me saying this, don't you?