I buy a bunch of new cookbooks and cooking magazines. I read them, cook from them and let you know if they are worth your purchase or not. Read on for my review of one of my latest purchases, the Joy the Baker Cookbook.
I knew that I was going to love this cookbook from the minute that I pre-ordered it on Amazon. If you haven’t read Joy’s blog, you really should. She is funny, sweet and frequently incredibly smart. She is a self-taught baker (no pastry school, but she did spend a while working in bakeries). I got to meet her back in March and had her sign my copy of the book, and she was just as lovely and hilarious in real life. (If you work in an office where you are allowed to listen to things on headphones and your coworkers won’t mind if you bust out into random fits of laughter, you should check out her podcast that is about being a real-life lady who is almost 30). There is also a video of her tour of the French Laundry and her baking with Lena (who developed Cup4Cup for Thomas Keller).
Enough about Joy the Baker, let’s get to what we came here for, the cookbook review. Be warned, on the cover, this is called a celebration of butter & sugar. The book is pure fun from the recipes to the head notes and photos. If you learn nothing else from this cookbook, it should be ideas for how to improve your own baking. Why not try adding bacon? Or coffee? Or browned butter? The recipes that are not gluten free can give you ideas for how to add flavor to your home baking.
I know you are going to ask me why on earth I am reviewing a gluten-y cookbook and giving it a good review. Inside the book there are 29 recipes that are gluten free naturally (5 are frostings & sauces, but those are important things to know how to make too! Homemade frosting on cake mix cake (the horror!) takes it to a whole new level). There are 7 recipes that are gluten-free as long as you use a gluten-free alternative (such as gluten-free vanilla wafers for a crust or gluten-free oats in a flour less bacon cookie) and then most of the rest of the recipes can be made if you do a little math to get ingredient weights and use a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend.
There is an obligatory kitchen basics section that begins the book solid info with tips such as how to make buttermilk or brown sugar equivalents if you are out. The approach is friendly and conversational which makes for a good read. Because you know, cookbooks are more fun to read than novels. She even has a secret trick to get butter soft if you find yourself in a predicament like I frequently do – in need of cookies and in need of them fast.
Now, the recipes. I only tested recipes that didn’t need substitutions or math (because it would be highly unfair to the book if a cake didn’t turn out and I was using ingredients other than what was called for). You can thank me later, but I would buy this book just for the idea that the mint chocolate chip marshmallows gave me. They were like eating mint chip ice cream, that wasn’t hard like space ice-cream (her inspiration) or tummy-ache inducing or brain-freeze causing real ice cream. I brought them to my coworkers, and I couldn’t believe the reactions – I didn’t know anyone else loved mint chocolate chip as much as I do. I now have requests for cherry marshmallows (I am going to dip them in chocolate) and neopolitan marshmallows for layers of flavors.
I also made the baked chili cheese fries (the recipe for these are also on her blog), and I was in junk food heaven. They remind me of the loaded cheese fries that I ordered at Denny’s way back in college before I knew I had to cut out the gluten. Because they are baked, they are quite a bit healthier, although I still felt obligated to dip them in Ranch. If Blondie ever breaks my heart, I will be eating these for a month straight.
But this isn’t a complete love fest – Joy bakes by volume (how American gluten-y baker of her!) and I have almost forgotten how to! If you are really want to be certain your gluten-free version of her cake is going to work, you need to do the math and convert everything to weight then measure (The good folks at King Arthur Flour have a handy weight chart you can use). But the extra steps are worth it in the end.
Author: Joy Wilson
Format: Full color cookbook with matte finish
Stars: 4/5 (only because for some of you, having to convert the gluten-y recipes will be a challenge the first few times you do it)
Buy it or Forget it: Buy it if for nothing else than the head notes are great stories.
Must try recipes: Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies & Mint Chocolate Chip Marshmallows
And now you want better than space-man portable mint chip ice cream, so dear readers, cook away!
- 1 cup(ish) (about 225 grams) powdered sugar
- 1 cup cold water, divided
- 3 (1/4 ounce) packets of unflavored gelatin
- A small amount of green food coloring (optional)
- 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
- ⅔ (315 grams) cup light corn syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon mint extract (I used “mint flavoring” that was oil based and it worked fine)
- 2 cups (1 – 12 ounce bag or 340 grams) semi sweet chocolate chips (I used a 10 ounce bag of Enjoy Life Mini Chips)
- Grease an 8×8″ (I used a 7×11″) cake pan and shake the powdered sugar inside so that you have a light coating of powdered sugar. (Like you are greasing and flouring a cake pan) and set aside. Put the extra powdered sugar in a bowl, you will need it again.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment, place the gelatin and half the water into the bowl and add a small amount of food coloring if you would like (I like my mint chip items green).
- In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and the remaining half cup of water. Stir gently until the sugar is dissolved, and then with the help of a candy thermometer, boil the sugar mixture until it is 240 degrees. You know you are getting close when it starts to foam up and then settles back down. Do not over cook the sugar or you will have caramel.
- BE CAREFUL! You are going to be handling hot sugar.
- You are going to pour this into the gelatin mixture in about 4 small additions, whisking the previous amount in completely and then stopping the mixer and adding a little more. You could stream it in down the side, but it wont hurt anything to stop and start, and you will end up with less sugar on the sides of the bowl.
- Once all of the hot sugar has been added, you are going to slowly increase the speed on your mixer to high and then let her rip for about 12 minutes. The marshmallow will start to be thick and glossy.
- Add the mint extract and beat on high for about 3 more minutes.
- If your mixer has a glass bowl, adding the mini chips now will make them melt. You want the mixture to be only slightly warmer than your hands before you add in the chips.
- Spread the mixture into the pan, and smooth with an offset spatula. If it is sticking too much, wet the spatula.
- Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar and let sit for at least 4 hours.
- Cut into 16 pieces if you are using the 8×8 or 24 pieces if you are using the 7×11.
- You can toss them in a little more powdered sugar to keep them from sticking together, but you will want to make sure that any excess is tapped off. You only want enough to make them not sticky. You can skip this part if you plan on dipping them in chocolate.
- They will keep, tightly sealed at room temperature for…well they were all consumed within 48 hours