Everyday Dorie – “My Newest Gougères”

Emmental, Mustard, & Walnut Gougères

I first made gougères in October of 2010. I’d just started a blog and was looking for some structure to keep me posting, learning, and connecting. I noticed that a cooking group called French Fridays with Dorie was just about to start cooking through a book called Around My French Table. I bought the book and signed up. I liked the idea of cooking my way through an accessible French cookbook, making some old favourites while being challenged by recipes that I’d been afraid to attempt. I wasn’t sure what to expect from an online community of bloggers, but I was intrigued to find out.

Over the years that we cooked through the book together, and beyond, I’ve been grateful that I decided to cook along. It turns out that I found a group of truly lovely people from around North America and all over the world. I’ve met a few in person and kept up with others online and I’m so pleased that many of us are gathering again to cook through Everyday Dorie together.

Everyday Dorie

It’s not a surprise that the glue that has held us together has been Dorie Greenspan’s cookbooks. She is a lovely person, a great teacher, and an inspiring community-builder – it’s only natural that a terrific community of cooks would spring up around her work, starting with Laurie Woodward and the Tuesdays with Dorie crew.

Gougères ready for the freezer

These gougères are not just a call back to our very first recipe for French Fridays with Dorie, they’re also a perfect celebration treat, elegant, delicious, and simple. Those first gougères showcased the beautiful cheese that they were made with (Gruyère, if I recall correctly), but these new ones complicate things a bit with mustard and walnut playing against Emmental. We’ve all become a little more complex as cooks over the last eight years, too.

If you’re new to the group and to gougères, they’re still a perfect introduction to the path we’re taking, and I bet you’re just as pleased as I was to discover how easy and infinitely variable choux pastry can be. Try it for yourself – we’ve been given permission to share the recipe with you. Tonight, I’ll be toasting to cooking friends old and new, remembered and present with a glass of wine and plate of gougères.

Excerpted from Everyday Dorie © 2018 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2018
by Ellen Silverman. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton
Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

MY NEWEST GOUGÈRES

Makes about 60 gougères

Gougères are French cheese puffs based on a classic dough called pâte à choux (the dough used for cream puffs), and it’s a testament to their goodness that I’m still crazy about them after all these years and after all the thousands that I’ve made. Twenty or so years ago, when my husband and I moved to Paris, I decided that gougères would be the nibble I’d have ready for guests when they visited. Regulars chez moi have come to expect them. Over the years, I’ve made minor adjustments the recipe’s ingredients, flirting with different cheeses, different kinds of pepper and different spices. The recipe is welcoming.

This current favorite has a structural tweak: Instead of the usual five eggs in the dough, I use four, plus a white—it makes the puff just a tad sturdier. In addition, I’ve downsized the puffs, shaping them with a small cookie scoop. And I’ve added Dijon mustard to the mix for zip and a surprise—walnuts.

  • 1⁄2 cup (120 grams) whole milk
  • 1⁄2 cup (120 grams) water
  • 1 stick (4 ounces; 113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1-1⁄4 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (136 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (preferably French)
  • 2 cups (170 grams) coarsely grated cheese, such as Comté, Gruyère and/or sharp cheddar
  • 2⁄3 cup (80 grams) walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
W O R K I N G A H E A D

My secret to being able to serve guests gougères on short notice is to keep them in the freezer, ready to bake. Scoop the puffs, freeze them on a parchment- lined baking sheet or cutting board and then pack them airtight. You can bake them straight from the oven; just give them a couple more minutes of heat.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Bring the milk, water, butter and salt to a boil over high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat and immediately start stirring energetically with a heavy spoon or whisk. The dough will form a ball and there’ll be a light film on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring for another 2 minutes or so to dry the dough. Dry dough will make puffy puffs.

Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or work by hand with a wooden spoon and elbow grease). Let the dough sit for a minute, then add the eggs one by one, followed by the white, beating until each egg is incorporated before adding the next. The dough may look as though it’s separating or falling apart but just keep working; by the time the white goes in, the dough will be beautiful. Beat in the mustard, followed by the cheese and the walnuts. Give the dough a last mix-through by hand.

Scoop or spoon out the dough, using a small cookie scoop (1-1⁄2 teaspoons). If you’d like larger puffs, shape them with a tablespoon or medium-size cookie scoop. Drop the dough onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each mound. (The dough can be scooped and frozen on baking sheets at this point.)

Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F.

Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the gougères are puffed, golden and firm enough to pick up, another 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately—these are best directly from the oven.

S T O R I N G

The puffs are best soon after they come out of the oven and nice (if flatter) at room temperature that same day. If you want to keep baked puffs, freeze them and then reheat them in a 350-degree-F oven for a few minutes.

These gougères disappeared quickly!

You can read through everyone’s posts here. You can join in on the singular pleasure of cooking, writing, and eating your way through Dorie Greenspan‘s Everyday Dorie with a group of French Fridays veterans, Doristas, and lovely people at Cook the Book Fridays.

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Baking with Julia – The Big Finish

Baking with Julia

All the way back in 2012, Tuesdays with Dorie started working their way through Baking with Julia. They’d recently finished baking through Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking, From My Home to Yours and wanted to continue with another of her books. Meanwhile, I’d been participating in French Fridays with Dorie, which was tackling Dorie’s terrific Around My French Table.

Thinking this would be a great project to do with my teenaged nieces, I jumped on board. I created a collaborative blog, The Family That Bakes Together…, and we were off to the races. Or the kitchen, really.

We didn’t last through the project. As my nieces became adults, it became too difficult to co-ordinate baking dates. But, I’ll always cherish the experiences we had in our Baking with Julia adventures and I’d like to think they will, too. I’ve followed along since, reading some of the posts of those who continued with the project, and I love finding occasions to bake from the book on my own.

Since the logistics of getting together to bake the group’s final recipe would have proved impossible, I’ve decided to share some of my favourite posts from our year-and-a-bit on the project. Though honestly, I read through all the posts with relish, enjoying the memories they evoked. If you have the opportunity to bake or cook (or do anything you love to do, really) with two or more generations, do it – it’s a wonderful experience.

Kat’s meditation on sisters and chocolate.

How my French-Canadian mother made Irish Soda Bread her signature bread.

Jessica’s debut post: Hungarian Shortbread.

How making biscotti revealed Kat’s power-hungry ambitions.

Jessica waxes poetic about pie and cake.

The most fun I’ve had writing a post, on this blog or my own: Bagel Throwdown.

Kat evokes Proust and Jessica makes madeleines.

The real stars of the show are the stalwarts that baked their way through the whole book. I can hardly wait to read their posts, detailing their experience with the project’s crowning glory – Martha Stewart’s Glorious Wedding Cake.

After you head over and congratulate them, you might want to consider joining in on the other project the group is working on – working through Dorie’s Baking Chez Moi. I join in when I can and everything I’ve made has been fantastic. Or, you can jump on board Dorie’s latest initiative, Cookies & Kindness, and help spread some joy.

How to Cook a Book

Cookbooks I love

If you’re like me, you have shelves full of cookbooks, many of which look as pristine as the day you bought them. Even those of us who love to cook get distracted by busy lives and rely on the same handful of recipes, when we’re not getting take out. We all have dog-eared, bedraggled cookbooks that are full of stains, notes, and barely attached pages. We’ve learned the rhythms of the author’s techniques, stocked our pantry with the book’s basics, and have grown confident enough to improvise or adapt when needed.

It can be hard for new books to compete. Though they may be full of bookmarks from the first read through, they’re often neglected after the first one or two recipes, probably because there’s another new cookbook to peruse on the night stand. Cookbook clubs, online or off, offer a way to ensure you’re making the most of a cookbook while helping create a community of like-minded cooks.

I’ve been blogging through cookbooks since 2010 and it’s built community for me along with kitchen chops. If you’re considering joining a cook-along group, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Be True to Yourself

There’s no right way to write a cook-along post. Some people chart their experience with each recipe step-by-step. Others connect their assignments to stories and memories. You might be interested in writing about the roots of ingredients, recipes, or cuisines. Another blogger might weave these meals into an ongoing record of their lives. It’s not just structure that makes a blogging group work, it’s creativity.

Pros: Finding your voice is an enormous part of what makes blogging worthwhile.

Cons: If you’re struggling to find an angle, you won’t connect with your project or your readers.

Be Consistent

Make a commitment, whether that’s to cook every single recipe in the book or to participate every second month. Whether your goal is to make better use of your cookbooks, get into the kitchen more often, or begin a writing practice, you’ve got to have some structure. Your schedule doesn’t need to be precisely the same as your cook-along group’s schedule, you just have to find what works for you and stick to it.

Pros: Finding a schedule that works for you takes things from whim to project.

Cons: When things get tough, the tough get writer’s block.

Be Flexible

Illness, vacation, or work crunches can cause your cook-along to take a back seat. Don’t worry – that’s what ‘catch up’ lists are for. Your family’s health restrictions or food preferences might not fit with every recipe. Adapt the recipe, make one or some of the components, or skip it altogether. There’s no such thing as a cookbook that’s tailored to your needs and tastes precisely, unless it’s your own. If you can’t make a project work with your life, it’s not going to work at all.

Pros: If you’re too rule-oriented, you might not enjoy yourself.

Cons: If you’re too flexible, you just might find you’ve stopped.

Be Accessible

It can be frustrating to read through a post and find out that the only way to comment is to sign up for a third party commenting system – consider relaxing your restrictions a little and rely on spam filters or moderation a bit more. If it’s too hard to comment, your fellow cooks may give up trying. In a similar vein, when you’re posting your link for an assigned recipe, make sure it’s a link to the post itself, not your blog. If you’re not getting comments, it could be that folks got frustrated trying to find the right blog entry.

Pros: Being part of the conversation is what makes cook-along groups tick.

Cons: Managing spam can be time-consuming.

Be Generous

Comment on everyone’s blog, whether their following is large or small, even if you think you’d never cross paths in your offline lives. When done well, every exchange is a gift, allowing participants to learn from each other, have fun, and even form real-life friendships. Don’t be the person who doesn’t reciprocate – in the end, you’ll be the one who won’t want to stick around.

Pros: This is how you build online community.

Cons: If you’re part of a big cook-along, you’re going to have to schedule time for commenting, as well as cooking, photography, and writing.

Be Open

What started as a cook-along project for you might morph into developing your own recipes, writing reviews of cookbooks or restaurants, or spur your creative urges in another direction entirely. There’s value in participating in one of these groups from beginning to end, but there’s also much to be gained from joining mid-stream, or letting go of the group when your interests change.

Pros: Following the direction of your creative energies will keep your output fresh.

Cons: When you’re ready to move on, you’ll have to work harder to maintain the community you’ve created.

After all of that, you might be wondering, where do I sign up? There are a wealth of cook-along groups out there. Search by cookbook, cuisine, or meal and you’ll be sure to find some. To get you started, here are links to the groups I’m currently participating in:

And if the idea of joining an online cook-along just doesn’t appeal to you, don’t despair. That’s not the only way to cook a book.

Want to go your own way?

Chart your own course through your cookbook shelves, like Ei, of the Cookbook Immersion Project. Make your blog into a record of your hits and misses, what you’ve learned, and what you’ve yet to master. With no deadlines or requirements, you can visit and re-visit the books on your shelves as you see fit.

Pros: Explore your cookbook library at your own pace, according to your own tastes.

Cons: If you’re not a self-starter, you might be back at square one.

Not online? No problem!

Cookbook clubs are the new potlucks, according to a wave of recent media trend watching. Recruit a cadre of home cooks and plan regular dinners, with each participant bringing a dish from a cookbook you’ve chosen. Unlike other book clubs, the meat of the discussion is right on the table.

Pros: A delicious, multi-course meal, made by many hands. Conversation, conviviality, and analysis. No pressure to document each dish photographically or otherwise.

Cons: People are coming over! If a meal isn’t documented on the internet, did it really happen?

Once you’ve found your way, you’ll be a more skilled, more creative, more adventurous cook. Just don’t neglect those old favourites completely. Never repeating a recipe can be as much of a fault as making the same ones over and over.

Cook the Book Fridays – Winter Salad

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It’s been a while now, since French Fridays with Dorie wrapped up. I’ve missed our weekly check ins, but have found myself woefully inept at keeping up with everyone’s blog posts. Some of our group joined the Cottage Cooking Club and others are working through Baking Chez Moi with Tuesdays with Dorie, both of which have provided some prompts to check in.

But, the Cottage Cooking Club meets only once a month and I don’t keep up with Tuesdays with Dorie as often as I’d like, since so many of my family and friends are avoiding sweets. So, I’m happy to say that there is a new way for us all to keep in touch.

Katie, from the Prof Who Cooks, backed up by our fabulous French Fridays admins, Betsy and Mary, has set up a website called Cook the Book Fridays, so that our group of cooking friends can work our way through David LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen together – and who knows, after that? The project is similar to the one that brought us together in the first place, cooking through a Paris-inspired cookbook, full of recipes for every course.

I’m happy that there will be another excuse to visit, virtually, and I’m hoping that these adventures will be shared by cooking friends old and new.

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Today marks the beginning of the project and we’ve started with a seasonal dish that’s simple to assemble, but full of Parisian panache. This Winter Salad, with its matchsticks of Belgian endive and roquefort and Greek yogurt dressing, is delicious. It’s also a perfect example of how salads can be much more interesting when they’re viewed through the lens of seasonal eating. There’s nothing worse than a salad of limp, out-of-season greens. But, when you realize a salad can be made from whatever looks freshest and interesting at the greenmarket, things start to look up.

My take on this included gorgonzola and red pear, as I didn’t make it to the cheese store in time for roquefort. I ran over to an Italian deli instead, and picked up a mild Canadian gorgonzola. I measured the ingredients in tablespoons, instead of cups, as I was the only one eating this salad tonight. I still ended up with enough dressing to make it again tomorrow. I have a spear of endive and half a pear waiting in the refrigerator. I’m looking forward to a repeat of this dish for lunch.

I think we’ve started off on a promising note. I’ve had the book since it came out, but haven’t cooked out of it nearly as much as I’d have liked. Now, I’ll be working through the whole thing with some of my favourite bloggers.

Join us?

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz’ My Paris Kitchen.

Savoury Avocado Cream Bites – An Avo Showdown Recipe

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One of the nicest parts of blogging for me is when the two lenses of my blog, food and community, converge. It’s not a rare occurrence, either – food and community go hand-in-hand.

There are a lot of organizations that connect food bloggers these days – Food Bloggers of Canada, food blogger savvy marketing companies, Meetups, and more. It means I’ve had the opportunity to meet other local bloggers and it’s often in the context of a fun event.

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This summer, I got to do just that, courtesy of Town Hall Brands and Avocados from Mexico.

They organized an Avo Showdown and local bloggers brought their best original avocado recipes to the competition.

I spent some time recipe-testing, consulting my copy of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible for avocado-friendly pairings, and came up with an avocado and coconut cream spread, paired with jalapeño jam and a cucumber and fennel salad. I presented it on Vancouver-favourite, Raincoast Crisps, for two reasons: they’re delicious and I thought they’d hold up well to the very long wait between assembly and presentation to the judges.

  

Savoury Avocado Cream Bites

Serves a crowd

Fennel Crunch:
  • 5 grams red onions, finely diced and soaked in ice water for 10 minutes
  • 50 grams fennel ( ½ small bulb), excluding fronds, finely diced
  • 50 grams cucumber, peeled, quartered & cored, finely diced
Lime Vinaigrette:
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Avocado Cream:
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • a generous pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
To Finish:
  • jalapeño jam, store-bought or homemade (I use Camilla Wynne’s recipe)
  • crackers, crostini or rice crackers
  • cilantro (optional)

Prepare the Fennel Crunch and Lime Vinaigrette. Toss the Fennel Crunch in 2 -3 tbsp of the vinaigrette, check for seasoning, and refrigerate.

Halve the avocados, remove the seed, and scoop the meat into the jar of a blender or the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until the mixture is smooth, thick, and free of lumps. Check for seasoning, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To assemble, scoop a small quantity of the dressed Fennel Crunch onto the crackers or crostini. Spoon or pipe ½ – 1 tsp. of the Avocado Cream on top. Add a small quantity of jalapeño jam to either side of the Avocado Cream. Garnish with another small sprinkle of Fennel Crunch or a shower of chopped cilantro.

Serve immediately.

Tips: For a gluten-free version, use rice crackers, gluten-free crostini, or even slices of cucumber. This recipe is suitable for vegan or vegetarian eaters.

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My dish was a hit with my family and with a few of the judges, so I’m happy. (Of course the happiest bunch of all were the night’s winners, as you can see in the photo above.)

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The evening was the best reward, anyway. We were treated to mountains of delicious appetizers prepared by the students at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, along with a demonstration of an avocado-shrimp spring roll by PICA’s Executive Culinary Chef Instructor, Darren Clay. (It was fun working in a commercial kitchen alongside fellow bloggers.)

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This was followed up by a demonstration of an Alligator Fizz by Justin Darnes, of Drinks Undressed and prestigious bars around the world and here in Vancouver.

By the time we got to taste each other’s dishes (nineteen in all), we were already a little full. But, they were all so delicious, we managed. And on our way out the door, we got a bag of avocado goodies to take home.

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A wonderful evening all around.

I was given an invitation to the Avo Showdown by Town Hall Brands, along with a small gift bag, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.

Half Your Plate

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It might seem as though I’ve got a shortcut when it comes to healthy eating – living with a vegan should make that simple, right? Well, there’s a growing selection of vegan (and gluten-free!) processed, snack, and prepared foods, folks. Just because a meal is meatless doesn’t make it balanced and omnivores like me have to think about more than eating fewer animal products.

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Now, we do try to keep balance in mind across our meals, but it can take a little planning and some inspiration. Initiatives like Half Your Plate can help in both departments. Their site has guidelines, advice, and recipes to motivate you to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

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I became aware of their campaign when they partnered with Food Bloggers of Canada for a blogger contest on Instagram, inspiring me to share some of my less-than-perfectly-lit meals. (Sorry, Instagram.)

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For me, it served as a reminder that a wide range of meals qualify as Half Your Plate meals, which makes healthy eating feel a lot more attainable. It’s variety and moderation that count – a kale-stuffed ricotta tart tonight; a vegan Ribollita last week; an almost entirely locally-sourced chicken dinner the week before. Fill in the gaps with salads, smoothies, and roasted veg from whatever is at its peak at the fresh markets – maybe you don’t have to worry about that frozen vegan (and gluten-free!) pizza you had for movie night on the weekend.

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I’d like to hear how you fill half your plate: Do you steam big bunches of spinach and throw them in a stirfry? Are green smoothies your thing? Do you, like me, secretly feel that jam-filled sandwich cookies should count?

A Lot of Catching Up to Do

Dahlia

I’ve got a fistful of draft posts awaiting completion, but instead, I’ve been making Periscope videos and commenting on other people’s blogs.

Since French Fridays with Dorie wrapped up, I haven’t been keeping up with my favourite bloggers as well as I’d like. So, I’m going to spend time giving them some comment love this weekend. Would you like to join me?

You can find most of them in this list: French Fridays Folks & Cottage Cooks

If I’m missing someone, let me know in the comments.

I’m going to leave it at that tonight. It’s a long weekend, after all. Have a great Labo(u)r Day!

FFWD – Celebration Week #4: Grand Finale

Now that our group has, collectively, cooked through the whole of Around My French Table, we’ve moved on to four weeks of celebratory posts, reflecting on our more than four-and-a-half years of cooking together.

Our assignment this week:

For the improvisers among us, share an original recipe that was inspired by an AMFT recipe or do a recipe that you would like to Make-Up or just make again. We also suggest that you say whatever you wish to say in this Post. We intend to have boxes of tissues on hand when we read everyone’s posts.. Do your best with this one.

Salted Butter Break Ups

Cooking together. It’s one of the simplest expressions of caring that I know. Cooking for friends and family is nurturing, but cooking with someone develops camaraderie and involves more than a little synergy. It’s easy to see this at work as you move through a kitchen, working with a person or a group.

It’s not something I knew was possible to create by cooking through a book with a group of bloggers scattered across the world.

Each week, as the French Fridays crew worked on another selection from Around My French Table, we began by sharing our questions and concerns with one another, then ended by reading about each other’s experiences with the dish. That alone created solidarity, as we identified with difficulties, helped each other problem-solve, and congratulated each other on successes.

However, it’s what we wrote alongside the practical details that really created our community. We shared stories, in the same way that cooks in a kitchen together might. We learned about the markets and culinary specialties of the places each of us live, while we shared the challenges we faced in finding ingredients across hemispheres, regions, and seasons. We cheered each other on in trying flavours, foods, and techniques we might have been too intimidated to try on our own. As we got to know one another, the quirks of our palates (and those of our loved ones) became fodder for discussion. And as we moved through the recipes, we shared our selves.

So, yes – camaraderie, synergy, and friendship built along the pathways of the Internet. Offline, a number of us have met in person. And even though this part of the journey has ended, we’ll keep following each other’s adventures online, while taking the opportunity to meet up in real time whenever it arises.

None of this would have been possible without Laurie Woodward, who first created Tuesdays with Dorie, then launched French Fridays with Dorie. Mary Hirsch and Betsy Pollack became the administrators of the group a little later on and their warm, encouraging presence made the group feel like a circle of friends. And Dorie Greenspan herself has been the warmest and most welcoming one of all – her encouragement to us along the way has helped us to become better cooks and bakers. More importantly, her generosity of spirit has been the model for how we’ve approached our connections with one another.

  

Now, I encourage you to go back and discover this wonderful cadre of bloggers for yourself – not only the fabulous stalwarts who’ve made it to the end, but also those who cooked alongside us at various points along the way. And do think about joining Tuesdays with Dorie – many of us are over there, too. Then check back with French Fridays in the fall. Laurie and Trevor Kensey (who coined the term Dorista) have something in the works. Until then, I’ll lift a salted butter break-up in salute to every one of the wonderful Doristas.

As you can see, I’m determined that this is not adieu, but à bientôt.

Grab your tissues and read through the Doristas’ wrap up posts, here: Celebration Week #4: Grand Finale

FFWD – Chicken in a Pot: The Garlic and Lemon Version

Chicken in a pot

It never occurred to me in October of 2010 what joining a weekly online cooking group would come to mean to me. I thought that I was setting up a routine to help keep me writing regularly on my new blog, but it’s been so much more.

Along the way, bloggers have come and gone, but there have been connections – no, friendships – built that have persisted through the whole of our journey through this book.

Our community has shared our cooking experiences, but we’ve also come to share our lives, at least a little, with each other. Many of us have met in person. I’ve been lucky enough to meet Cher and Mardi. And I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet Dorie when she visited Vancouver on her Baking Chez Moi book tour. But even for those far away, our weekly posts have felt like visits more often than stories.

And now, as Trevor pointed out, four years, seven months, and twenty-one days after we began, the group has reached the final recipe. It’s fitting that we saved the cover recipe for last, as we’ve all looked at that image so many times over these years. It seems like a celebration in itself to finally make the dish.

  
It’s a whole chicken braised with garlic, lemon, white wine, herbs, and vegetables. The pot is sealed with a simple bread dough that’s broken dramatically when the chicken is ready to serve. It felt a little like popping a champagne cork on New Year’s Eve – the end of the better part of five years spent cooking together.

My chicken needed a bit more than the hour that was specified in the recipe, but when it was finally done, it was perfect. And there was enough wine left over to toast the group before we settled down to eat. I purposely waited until now to try this dish, but I won’t wait that long again – it made a wonderful meal.

We’re not quite done, yet. There will be a month of celebratory posts as the group wraps up, so I’m (trying) to save my tears.

And here is the link to the very last round up of posts for a French Fridays recipe: Chicken in a Pot: The Garlic and Lemon Version.

Spring Book Reviews – Building Community One Dish at a Time

Cookbooks

I received copies of The Sweetapolita Bakebook and Seven Spoons, courtesy of Appetite by Random House Canada, at book launch celebrations with a group of local bloggers and was under no obligation to review them. All opinions are my own.

It’s easy to think of successful food bloggers as surrounded by the communities they’ve built around their blogs, but it can be a lonely pursuit. That’s why the lovely people at Appetite by Random House Canada have been working with the equally lovely folks at Food Bloggers of Canada to hold book launch celebrations with local bloggers when food bloggers turned cookbook authors visit Vancouver on their book tours.

I was lucky enough to attend two of these gatherings this spring – one with Rosie Alyea of Sweetapolita and another with Tara O’Brady of Seven Spoons.

For those of us that were able to attend the events, it was a chance to meet successful bloggers and cookbook authors we admired, but it was also a chance to connect with local bloggers that we may only have met online. What I hadn’t realized was that the authors themselves were as happy to meet us as we were to meet them.

Authors

Rosie Alyea told us that the ten bloggers in that room were the greater part of all the bloggers she’d ever met and that it was a pleasure to meet people who were as excited as she was about baking and writing about it.

Tara O’Brady has been food blogging almost as long as it’s been possible to do so and has set the standard for the quality of writing in the genre. Even so, she was happy to connect with others who are building community and exploring their own foodways online.

The events were an opportunity to share food from the books, conversation, and a little bubbly together. The publishers, authors, and bloggers alike are passionate about food and cooking, so there was a lot to talk about.

As much as online community-building creates enriching and vibrant engagement, meeting in person feels like a solidification of those connections. Thanks again to the folks at Appetite for providing us with that opportunity.

And now that I’ve had some time to explore each of these cookbooks, I can share my thoughts about them with you:

The Sweetapolita Bakebook

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I’ve been baking since my age was in single digits, but the things I made (at least until I joined French Fridays with Dorie) were homey and old fashioned. I loved going through vintage cookbooks and making cookies, squares, and cakes for my friends and family, but I didn’t think I was capable of bakery-style confections.

I’m still not there, but if any cookbook can help me with that, it’s this one. Rosie Alyea’s recipes are foolproof and her instructions are detailed and precise. They are also fanciful, as it says on the cover. From chalkboard cookies to perfectly charming chocolate robots filled with Pop Rocks to an elegantly tiered cake decorated with a watercolour finish, the book is filled with desserts you’d never imagine you could make at home.

I started small, pairing Rosie’s Simple & Splendid Chocolate Cake with her Glossy Fudge Frosting and filling it with salted caramel ganache. As you can see, I didn’t do it justice. I was a little short on icing sugar. But, I’m going to be baking from this book for years to come – birthdays, anniversaries, or just about any excuse for a party that I can find. I think my decorating will improve over time.

What doesn’t need improvement is the flavour and texture of the cake and the richness of the frosting. The same could be said of the Rainbows & Sprinkles Cake Rosie served at the book launch celebration I attended. The cake uses her Super White Cake recipe and is iced with Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but transforms both with vibrant gel paste food colouring.

It’s a feat she performs over and over again in the book, taking her basic cake recipes and coming up with beautiful variations using the fillings, frostings, and techniques she includes in the book, along with an array of sprinkles, edible papers, and garnishes that she makes herself or sources at baking supply stores. Once you’ve worked your way through all the recipes in the book, you’ll be confident enough to bring your own flights of fancy to life.

Seven Spoons

Blueberry Cake

Everyday cooking sounds a little uninspiring and it certainly can be, if it’s left up to an unadventurous or inexperienced cook. But in the hands of Tara O’Brady, it’s a sumptuous exploration of everything the markets have to offer.

Tara’s blog began not long after taking charge of her own kitchen and trying to incorporate the foodways of her family with that of her partner (now husband), Sean. Hers included the south and north Indian foods her parents grew up with, along with dishes from many other cuisines that her food-loving family explored. His were dishes with Irish and English roots, the kind that filled mid-Century community cookbooks, like the butter tarts that inspired the Walnut Cherry Oat Butter Tart Pie Tara served at her book launch celebration.

Seven Spoons represents their own foodway, the one that they’ll pass on to their children. It includes dishes from each of their heritages, along with ones adapted from the flavours that excite cooks today.

There are dishes for every meal and a selection of staples to spur your own creativity in the kitchen. The flavours come from Indian and British Isles classics, but also from the Middle East, Continental Europe, Latin America, and Asia. The ingredients will take you out of the standard supermarket and to the farmers’ market and international grocery stores, reflecting the cosmopolitan food scene today and its emphasis on eating widely and in season.

For new cooks, it’s a good place to start the explorations that will lead to the creation of their own foodways, while experienced cooks will appreciate the depth of flavour and variety of the recipes.

In my own family, my gluten free and vegan partner quickly marked off several recipes, including the Trail Mix Snack Bars and the Green Beans with Mustard Seeds. I was intrigued by the Rhubarb Rose Gin Gimlet and Halloumi in Chermoula. My mother commented that it’s almost the right time to try the Pickled Strawberry Preserves, then opened the book up to the recipe for Blueberry Poppy Seed Snacking Cake and asked if I’d make it for them to take on the trip they’d planned for the weekend.

I was happy to oblige, though I had to omit the poppy seeds (I put in a bit of ginger, instead). It turned out beautifully and the quarter of a cake I kept for myself disappeared quickly – I just couldn’t keep myself from snacking on it. The rest was eaten just as quickly, by all reports.

I’m glad the binding on this book is sturdily stitched, as it’s going to undergo a lot of wear and tear, stains and creases. I’ll be working my way through its recipes over and over again.

Come back next Thursday for a book that combines the homespun goodness of preserves with the pizazz of the cocktail hour.