Cookbook Corner – Harvard Common Press

Today is a day unlike any other for my blog. Why? Because it is “Cookbook Corner” – and today I have SIX NEW cookbooks to talk about and I am so excited to share them with you! Let this start the excitement leading up to my big celebration and GIVEAWAY this coming Saturday for my ONE YEAR ANNIVESARY of this blog! 

(Stay tuned for more on that later…)

All of these are delicious reads and amazing books! Let us get started…

Blaise the Baker Six Cookbook Corner Reviews

“Flavored Butters” By: Lucy Vaserfirer

I absolutely loved this book and can not believe there are so many different combinations you can have for flavored butters! Who would have thought?! It is no secret that I LOVE butter – and FALVORED butter!? Yes, please! This book is beautifully put together and includes delicious recipes and great photographs.

Page 7 starts with “Butter Basics” which lets the reader know of all the different types of butter available and how they are different. For example, do you know the difference between salted butter, European-style butter and goat’s milk butter? How soft is too soft for “softened butter” – and what is “compound butter”? This chapter is filled with fun and fascinating things about (one of my favorite subjects) – butter.

I also learned in this chapter for difference between brown butter and clarified butter. I have been telling people for years that brown butter was clarified – and visa versa. Now I know – and will remember which is which. (How embarrassing is that!?)

The book then splits into two parts – savory butters and sweet butters.

Savory butters include some of my favorites – “Essential Garlic Butter” (page 24), “Rosemary-Roasted Garlic Butter” (page 29), “Mint Butter” (page 30 – and super delicious on green sweet peas), “Caramelized Onion Butter” (page 33 – and genius to add to freshly grilled hamburgers), “Smoked Butter” (page 38), “Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Butter” (page 50), “Chipotle Butter” (page 57 – for those who like heat) and even “Garlic Drawn Butter” (page 69 – and perfect for crab leg dipping).

Some of the sweet butters include “Bed and Breakfast Butter” (page 76 – I use black raspberry in mine and so delicious), “Maple-Cinnamon Butter with Brandied Raisins (page 83), “Whipped Vanilla Bean Butter” (page 85 – and amazing on croissants) and, my personal favorite, “Salted Caramel Butter” (page 88).

I highly recommend this book for those who love butter (like me) and would love to extend the flavors of their butters – and therefore their cooking – by making these simple and delicious (and very flavorful) flavored butters. A genius concept, made simple.

“Desserts in Jars” By: Shaina Olmanson

Who would have thought about desserts in jars?! What a cute and FUN way to make, bake and gift delicious desserts! This book contains 50 sweet treats “that share” (according to the cover) and it really does! Also, what’s great about desserts in jars is the portion control (which I admit not knowing much about – I have made no secret that greed is one thing I think about when thinking about recipes – especially desserts). Each individual “jar” is perfect for giving – or indulging. Some of my favorites include…

“Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes” (page 14), ‘Neapolitan Cakes” (page 23), “Caramel Crème Cheesecakes” (page 25 – and yes – cheesecakes!), “Flourless Chocolate Cakes” (page 35 – and so delicious! Like mini gooey brownie in a jar), “Classic Apple Pies” (page 45 – and such a fun and cute idea), “Fresh Strawberry Pies” (page 56 – which are going to be perfect come the summer to take to BBQs and picnics!), “Macarons in a Jar” (page 63), “Lemon-Blueberry Bread Puddings” (page 83), “Apple Pancake Puffs” (page 93), “Banana Buttermilk Trifles” (page 107), “Ice Cream Cakes in a Jar” (page 116), “Fried Ice Cream” (page 118 – and so so good!), and “Frozen Banana Splits” (page 122).

Towards the end of the book, in the chapter “Mixes for Giving” it gives seven excellent recipes for “mixes in jars”. You supply the jar, and dry ingredients, and the person you give it to, supplies the liquid ingredients and bowl and spoon to stir them up. I have LOVED gifts like this ever since I was a little boy making them with my Grandma Barbra. Some of the mixes include “Cinnamon Coffee Cake Mix” (page 133), “Espresso Brownies Mix” (page 134) and “Monster Cookies Mix” (page 137). After each recipe it also includes what you need to write on the attached card for that person to add – such as butter, milk, peanut butter, vanilla extract, etc.

I recommend this book to people who love to give “food gifts” and for people who love baking – with a twist. Desserts in jars is a fabulous “feel good” book that will have you baking (and giving) desserts in jars in no time.

“Cake Balls” By: Dede Wilson

I LOVE cake balls (and actually have developed my own recipe for “brownie balls” – search my blog) and this book is filled with delicious recipes!

Most recipes for “cake balls” that I have seen are from the cake mix and canned frosting creations – but not these. These have a homemade flavor that you just can not beat…

The beginning of the book “Baking and Creating Fabulous Cake Balls” (page 12) is essential reading to those who want to know more about how to make foolproof cake balls. Tips and tricks included are ingredients, equipment, techniques and other “lessons” that are a must read. I found it very interesting.

The book continues “The Basic Recipes” which includes just that – the basic recipes for the cakes and frostings that are used in the recipes that follow. “Yellow Buttermilk Cake” (page 29), “Red Velvet Cake” (page 33), “Banana Cake” (page 36), “Milk Chocolate Brownies” (page 38), “Cream Cheese Frosting” (page 40), “White Chocolate Ganache” (page 43) and “Pastry Cream” (page 46) are just some examples.

The “cake balls” start on page 48 and are filled with fun and flavor. “After-Dinner Chocolate-Mint Cake Balls” (page 49) are a delicious and fun twist on the after dinner mint that is served at the end of dinner parties.

“Apple Pie Cake Balls” (page 50) are a fabulous twist on apple pie! Who would have thought about an apple pie – cake ball!? Genius.

Also included are recipes for “Blackout Cake Balls” (page 57), “Chocolate-Cherry Cake Balls” (page 64), “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake Balls” (page 69), “Coffee Cake Balls” (page 73), “Confetti Cake Balls” (page 79), “Gingerbread Cake Balls” (page 88), “Fudgy Brownie Nut Cake Balls” (page 96), “Jam-Filled Cake Balls” (page 97), “Key Lime Cake Balls” (page 103), “Mudslide Cake Balls” (page 107), “Oreo Cake Balls” (page 115 and so delicious with the new red velvet Oreos out on the market), “Pumpkin Spice Cake Balls” (page 124), “Toffee – Brown Butter – Pecan Cake Balls” (page 132) and “Vanilla Bean Cake Balls” (page 136).

I have so many marked to try – and most of them are really simple and made with ingredients the average baker would already have on hand.

The book ends with a chapter on “Cake Ball Creations” (page 140), which takes the cake balls, and turns them into characters or images like teddy bears or dolls. I do not think I have the skill (or patience) to attempt anything like that – but fun to look at and read about anyways. I enjoyed them…

All in all, I would recommend this book to people who loved to bake, and for people who love to think outside the box. Cake balls are a delightful dessert that are easy to make, packed with flavor and something that when served, will be all the talk. A very charming book with delicious recipes and great photos!

“The Flying Brownie” By: Shirley Fan

This may very well become one of my favorite books in my collection! Shirley has put together a book about food that travels well! I mean – really – how genius is that!? I have always wondered what made a food good “travel wise” and what did not. Some things I know – like delicate cookies, etc. would be a bad idea to ship – but to create a book that centers on perfect delicious foods that travel well!? Like I said – genius!

On page 13, starts the chapter “Care Packages 101” and is a MUST read! Shirley talks about how to carefully (and properly) pack up packages to send, what materials to use, what techniques are the best, how to properly wrap up baked goods, what ideas could be put to use for cards included in the box, and even different tips and tricks on shipping my land, air and sea! I was really impressed with this section of the book. Everything was laid out perfectly and no question went unanswered.

The book is divided into the following categories – (I will highlight which recipes I have marked to try…and there are several!)

High-Flying Brownies and Bars – “Pecan Sandy Bars” (page 31), “Chocolate-Cherry Brownies” (page 35), “Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies” (page 37), “Chewy Gooey Blondies” (page 41), “Box Office Brownies” (page 47) and “Banana-Cranberry Oat Bars” (page 51).

Cookies for the Road – “Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies” (page 55), “Crunchy PB & J Cookies” (page 58 – and so so good!), “Kitchen Sink Cookies” (page 64), “Chocolate-Peanut Butter Chip Cookies” (page 68), “Raspberry-Lemon Linzer Cookies” (page 72), “Chinese Almond Cookies” (page 77 – and a favorite of mine from childhood!), “Dirty Snowballs” (page 80) and “Cornmeal-Blueberry Biscotti” (page 83).

Confections that go the Extra Mile – “Chewy Mocha Caramels” (page 86), “Peppermint Fantasy Fudge” (page 88), “Honey Granola Bars” (page 91), “Brown Sugar Crisps” (page 93), “Salted Nut Brittle” (page 95), “Cinnamon-Spice Popcorn” (page 100) and “Cinnamon Marshmallows” (page 102).

Packable Loaves and Breads – “Carrot-Zucchini Muffins” (page 106), “Almond-Pear Bread” (page 109), “Coffee and Spice Doughnut Loaf” (page 110), “Apple, Molasses, and Ginger Bread” (page 117), “Red Velvet Whoopie Pies” (page 120) and “Triple Chocolate Cake Pops” (page 123).

Shippable Savories – “Whole-Grain Pita Chips” (page 126), “Golden Cheddar Coins” (page 130), “Chicago-Style Nuts and Crackers” (page 133), “Oven-Baked Potato Crisps” (page 134), “Ridiculously Easy Bagel Chips” (page 138) and “Old Bay Nut Mix” (page 139).

Light as Air – “Sesame-Kale Chips” (page 143), “Cherry-Vanilla Granola” (page 147), “Baked Banana Chips” (page 151), “Everything Crackers” (page 153), “GORP” (page 157 and “Tropical Fruit Medley” (page 158).

Assemble Upon Arrival – “Classic Hot Chocolate in a Jar” (page 162), “Frosted Chocolate-Cinnamon Cupcakes” (page 164), “You Finish It! Brownies” (page 165) and “Nutmeg Butter Cookies with Caramel Spread” (page 166). This chapter includes “half done” desserts that you ship, and upon arrival, the recipient “finishes” the recipe by providing a certain number and amount of ingredients.

“Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook” By: Deborah Harroun

Let me start by saying OMG! I LOVED this cookbook! It simply blew me away. First – you have to LOVE red velvet to love this cookbook (obviously) and second – you need to NOT be worried about red food coloring! Ha! 

This book blew me away with the fabulous recipes, photographs and red velvet transformations! Every single recipe is red velvet “enhanced” and let me say – done beautifully!

The book is divided into eight categories – The Basics, Quick Breads and Breakfast Treats, Cakes and Cupcakes, Cookies, Brownies and Bars, Breads, Ice Cream and Frozen Dessert and Other Indulgences. I have several favorites from each section. I actually think there are only four or five recipes that I do not have marked… and those will probably sound good tomorrow! 

“The Ultimate Red Velvet Cake” (page 11 – and believe me – it is THE ultimate!), “Boiled Frosting” (page 16 – which reminds me of an old recipe my Grandma Barbra used to make), “White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting” (page 17 – and my FAVORITE!), “Glazed Fried Donuts” (page 22), “Red Velvet Waffles” (page 28), “Breakfast Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy” (page 36), “Red Velvet Cheesecake” (page 42), “Icebox Cake” (page 50), “Molten Lava Cakes” (page 53), “Red Velvet Snowballs” (page 58), “Gooey Butter Cookies” (page 62), “Cream Cheese Thumbprints” (page 71), “Seven-Layer Bars” (page 82), “Red Velvet Bread” (page 87 – YES! Bread!), “Frozen Cheesecake Pie” (page 100), “Red Velvet Truffles” (page 106), “Red Velvet Éclairs” (page 110) and “Red Velvet ‘Twinkies’” (page 120 – which would be incredible deep fried and drizzled in white chocolate…)

All in all – this cookbook will be having a permanent place in my stack of “favorite cookbooks”! I can not express how much I love this cookbook – and yes – I am obsessed with anything red velvet. I am not really sure where the love came from – perhaps from (much like the author of this cookbook) from the movie “Steel Magnolia’s” which I seen when I was younger – huge Dolly Parton fan!

I highly recommend this cookbook to all of my fellow RED VELVET LOVERS!

“A Baker’s Field Guide to Doughnuts” By: Dede Wilson

I LOVE doughnuts – and I LOVE this book! I becoming a huge fan of Dede Wilson – I really think the woman is a genius!

My love for doughnuts can be traced back to when I was growing up and my Grandma Barbra and I would visit Jack’s Donuts in New Castle, Indiana at least once a week on our way to get groceries. I remember (even then) I would order four or five donuts and my Grandma would say “WHO is going to eat all of those?!” I remember saying “I AM!” Ha! Some things never change…

(Do you spell it “doughnuts” OR “donuts”!? Shot me an email and let me know – SURVEY TIME –

This cookbook has every possible doughnut recipe you can imagine! From the original doughnuts, to the potato doughnut, all types of glazes, frying and baking methods, frostings and techniques. I am just in love with this book.

I could go on and on and tell you about the recipes in this book (apple fritters, blackout chocolate doughnuts, buttercream filled doughnuts, caramel-bourbon-pecan doughnuts, chocolate-salted caramel doughnuts, gingerbread, grape, lemon meringue, marshmallow fluff and peanut butter filled, old-fashioned lard-fried, pineapple filled, spiced chocolate, toffee crunch chocolate ganache, white chocolate truffle…) but just trust me when I say you NEED this book! If you love doughnuts – and you have always wanted a book filled with good recipes – this is it! This is the only doughnut cookbook you will need!

To find out more information about ANY of these books – or to BUY any of them – please click here…

The personal views and reviews of this blog are mine and mine alone. Any opinion or thought expressed are strictly my own. More information can be found by emailing me your questions. Shout out and special thanks to Harvard Common Press for the incredible opportunity to review these delicious books.



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