Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A few holiday gift ideas

I've been working on a lot of gift lists to suit various themes, but I still feel like I haven't hit upon some of the best gifts that are out there. So, I've decided to make up a little list for fans of bakingsheet that has some of the best gifts that I can think of. These are all things that I have, have used, want or otherwise recommend and are pretty much guaranteed to please anyone who is a fan of this blog. Now, you might not want to get them for yourself (buying presents for yourself right before major holidays is a major no-no), but you can forward this post to friends and loved ones to nudge them in the right direction:

The Good Home Cookbook - I was one of the recipe testers for this brilliant collection. My name is even listed in the back of the book - true, it's with all the other testers, but it was exciting for me to see regardless. The recipes are easy, work well and it covers just about everything the home chef might possibly want to make. The pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, cheese bread and black walnut cake are all great.

I think that Beth Hensperger is a brilliant baker and The Bread Bible is one of my favorites, although all her books are excellent. The range of breads, from Dutch Crunch Bread and Orange Cinnamon Swirl Bread to whole grain breads, tortillas, scones, quick breads and even bread-machine breads, you can find everything in here. Other bread books I highly recommend are Paul Hollywood's 100 Great Breads and Baking with Julia for breads and other things.

For non-breads, I really enjoyed Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook Baking: From My Home to Yours, which has tons of great recipes, great photos and great ideas. Just about every recipe in the book sounded appealing. I already made Chewy, Chunky Blondies and Cinnamon Chocolate Squares and am planning on trying the Cranberry Lime Galette and Apple Cheddar Scones in the not-too-distant future. I also, as always, highly recommend anything by Maida Heatter. Other top authors in my book are Donna Hay, Bill Granger (yes, I know he's not primarily a baker) and David Lebovitz, to name but a few.

Vegetarians, vegans or anyone interested in diversifying their cooking/baking should definitely try Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (just tried a couple of recipes from this book and will report back in upcoming posts, but for now I'll just say they turned out great!), Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home and Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites, both of which are not recent, but still worth having.

Books on my wishlist include Perfect Light Desserts, King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking and The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes .

Vegetarian Times and Eating Well are my two favorite food magazines this year. Cooking Light is getting a little bit... heavy for my tastes and if I want a full-fat recipe I'll turn to one of my many, many cookbooks. Both VT and EW have innovative ideas and the recipes almost always turn out wonderfully.

I trust that you can all find your own spatulas, spoons and measuring instruments, but OXO's Good Grips 2-Cup Angled Measuring Cup is a lifesaver for working with liquid ingredients and the Baker's Secret Basics Non-Stick 12-Cup Muffin Tin is pretty much the best that I've ever used. Nothing sticks to it, so cleanup is dead easy, and it cools down completely within minutes after taking it out of the oven! I also really liked the Baker's Edge Pan, partially because I usally like the "edges" on baked goods and partially because I hate ending up with undercooked cakes, etc. There are a lot of recipes that can be used with the pan. My favorites are (obviously), the two I made: Rocky Road Brownies and Cheesecake Bars

As far as larger/more expensive kitchen equipment goes, I adore my Shun Classic 6-1/2-Inch Santoku Knife, which seems like it could cut through just about anything, and my Cuisinart 1-1/2-Quart Automatic Ice Cream Makeer gets a lot of use during the warm summer months and puts out an excellent product.

Ignore the odd reviews of the FrancisFrancis! X3 Espresso Machine (check this one instead). The machine works beautifully and turns out espressos and cappuccinos that will rival, if not surpass, your local coffee house. The only drawback is that it works best if you only want to make a couple of drinks. The heating unit gets noisy if you attempt to use it for serving a crowd. If espresso isn't for you, I can definitely recommend the Capresso MT-500 coffeemaker with thermal carafe, which has never let me down. And, to go with a regular coffee machine, an Aerolatte Frother can whip up some foam in seconds (and is superb for mixing up hot chocolate).

By the way, you can find the recipe for the cookies pictured above here.