Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Life-Altering Super Creamy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

I recently made a life-altering discovery: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. Jeni Britton, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, has developed a recipe for ice cream that is creamier and more scoopable than I've ever made before! Her technique is different from previous recipes I've tried. Her secret? A cornstarch-and-whole-milk slurry that gets added into the cream base, and cream cheese that gets whisked in at the end! have now made this peanut butter chocolate chunk ice cream recipe twice, and both times the ice cream was inexplicably, undeniably, bafflingly creamy. My husband says this is the ice cream of his dreams! (It doesn't hurt that it's peanut butter and chocolate either!) And I've made several other recipes by Jeni that use the cornstarch and cream cheese elements and they came out equally creamy. I'm convinced, from testing and retesting, and receiving consistent results of creaminess each time, that this method is a true winner!

I also love Jeni's ice bath technique, which is a game changer for me! Instead of putting the ice cream base into the fridge for at least 8 hours before churning like I've always been taught to do (ugh!), I can simply chill the base in an ice bath as soon as I've made it and then churn right away! I can have ice cream the same day I make the base! Instant gratification for impatient sweet tooths!

Make this ice cream and let me know what you think! May your peanut butter and chocolate dreams be fulfilled as sufficiently as my husband's!

Creamy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream
Adapted from a recipe by Jeni Britton Bauer in Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Makes about 1 quart

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted natural peanut butter (Skippy or Jif will do if you can't find natural)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (add less salt if using salted peanut butter)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons honey
4 ounces dark chocolate of your preference, chopped

In a small bowl or ramekin, stir together 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch to make a smooth slurry. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, peanut butter, and salt until smooth. Make sure that medium bowl will ultimately be able to hold all of the ingredients. Set aside. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Set aside.

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and honey, and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat; boil for 4 minutes, watching to make sure the bubbles don't go over the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and stir with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula until slightly thickened and lightly coats the spoon or spatula, about 1 minute. Immediately, but pouring slowly, add this hot milk mixture into the medium bowl that has the cream cheese, peanut butter, and salt and whisk constantly until smooth.

Add ice cubes or lunch box ice packs (I find ice packs work really well and I always have them ready even if I am out of ice!) into the large bowl of cold water to create an ice bath. Pour the ice cream mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag that is partially submerged in the ice bath and seal the bag. Then fully submerge the bag in the ice bath, using ice packs on top of the bag to weigh it down. Let stand, adding more ice or ice packs, until chilled, about 30 minutes.

To churn the ice cream, cut off a small corner of the plastic bag and pour the ice cream base out into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Churn that delicious liquid!

While the ice cream is churning, melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave (but watch the microwave closely to make sure you don't burn the chocolate). Allow the chocolate to cool down to tepid but make sure it is still fluid enough that you can pour it. When the ice cream looks thick and creamy and only has a few more minutes of churning left, slowly pour the melted chocolate down the ice cream machine's opening at the top and you'll witness magic! The chocolate will solidify as it hits the cold ice cream, and be forced to break up into tiny pieces as the ice cream machine continues pushing the ice cream around inside. Turn off the machine after about 2 minutes of breaking up chocolate bits.

Transfer the ice cream to an airtight storage container and freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until it has firmed up enough to serve. This usually takes about 4 hours. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Copenhagen Pastry: The Place for Authentic Danish Pastries and One of the Overall Best Bakeries in Los Angeles!

Copenhagen Pastry, located in Culver City on Washington Blvd., just a block east of the 405, is a truly authentic Danish bakery. Everything from the kringles to the people serving you are the real deal. I went to their grand opening awhile back and have been a huge fan ever since. The selection is not enormous, but all the right things are on their simple menu and the prices are very reasonable at just $1.85 per pastry. Lots of almond paste, cinnamon, butter, sugar, and flaky, flaky dough. Yum!

Well, today I learned there's a 6 minute 40 second mini-documentary of the bakery interviewing Karen Hansen, who I see every time I go, and Henrik Gram, the master baker, who I will now have to introduce myself to next time I'm there! In the film, they take you behind the scenes into the kitchen so you can watch how they make their authentic danishes! I love this video. I love Copenhagen Pastry. Go right away! Tell them Happy Go Marni sent you!

The Details
Copenhagen Pastry
11113 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hanukkah is Happier with Sufganiyot from Bibi's Bakery & Cafe!

It wouldn't be Hanukkah without jelly donuts, known also by their Hebrew name Sufganiyot. And I couldn't be more thrilled to find out that one of my favorite spots in LA is serving them up all Hanukkah-long.

Bibi's Bakery & Cafe in the kosher Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles is a GREAT place for a tuna melt, a Greek salad, a pita toastee, shakshukah, babka, challah, and now sufganiyot! When Bibi's switched ownership and Dan Messinger became the new captain of the ship, everything improved, from the menu, to the signage, ambiance, customer service, and even the marketing...they're now on Facebook offering up plenty of food porn pics and social media discounts! Basically, Dan is really Dan the Man.

While I already consider myself a regular customer there, I hope that soon enough I can get around to ordering a bunch of the aforementioned savory items all at once, take some pics, and share all that with you on this blog (especially because Bibi's tuna melt is in my top 3 favorite tuna melts of all time), but for now, go get yourself some sufganiyot! In addition to the traditional jelly-filled donuts, Bibi's is offering custard-filled and chocolate-filled! Price is $1.50 per donut, and they are a hefty, honkin' good size.

Happy Hanukkah!

Bibi's Bakery & Cafe
8928 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 246-1788
Strictly kosher dairy/pareve
Official Website:
Facebook Page:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Ultra Fun Voice-Activated Popinator: Shooting Popcorn Right Into Your Mouth One Kernel at a Time

If ever there was a time to use the made up word "funnest," it's in reference to this Popinator contraption from Popcorn Indiana. They have invented, hands down, the funnest way to eat popcorn. Sit or stand up to 15 feet away from the Popinator machine and say the word "POP" and it will launch a kernel of popcorn into your mouth. It uses some sort of audio science to identify where you're located based on hearing you say "POP."

Sure, no two popcorn kernels are exactly the same size, weight, shape, etc... and so when the machine spits one out, you may have to angle your body or dip, duck, or jump slightly to catch the unique piece flying through the air, but from what I can tell in the video, it does an amazing job of getting pretty darn close to your mouth.

I suppose there's a slight risk of it being a choking hazard if you care about safety and such. :)

But I want one! Watch the video and you'll want one, too!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Meeting Alice Medrich, the First Lady of Chocolate

Several weeks ago I flew up to San Francisco to hear a talk at Omnivore Books in Noe Valley with my mom. Omnivore Books is a charming cookbook shop with little square footage and yet a surprisingly, deceptively huge cookbook collection. The shop owners regularly invite cookbook authors to host talks in their shop, allowing these authors an opportunity to introduce the crowd to their most recently published cookbook.

This is not the first time I've booked a flight from LA for the sole purpose of hearing a cookbook author speak. It's such a fun afternoon in the City, and a great excuse to visit my parents and see family and friends in the Bay Area. I can't do it all the time, but I must say, this particular weekend was a no-brainer. Alice Medrich, the First Lady of Chocolate, was scheduled to speak about her latest book Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts. I own most of Medrich's cookbooks. So adding her latest to my collection was something I was very interested in doing. And in the process, I got to meet her, chat with her, have her sign my book, and take this photo! Note the garb. My mom and I dressed in our most baking-obsessed clothing for the afternoon. We are baking dorks to the max!

Friday, March 23, 2012

My New Favorite Trader Joe's Item: Reduced Guilt Spinach & Kale Greek Yogurt Dip

I am in love with this new dip. I bought it on a whim a few days ago, because for the past few months of Trader Joe's visits, I've been eying their traditional spinach dip, even picking it up to admire it, but then always placing it back on the shelf. It's not exactly healthfood (though the green vegetable in it sure makes it deceiving!).

So on my most recent visit to Trader Joe's, I was beside myself and jumping out of my skin when I saw a new product right next to the spinach dip. It even looked like spinach dip. Heck, it is a dip and it does have spinach in it. It's Reduced Guilt Spinach & Kale Greek Yogurt Dip! And right on the front of the package label, it says it's 50% of the fat of regular spinach dip. SOLD! 16 ounces of deliciousness for $3.99. My middle-of-the-night need-a-snack prayers have been answered.

After multiple instances of eating this dip, I must say, it tastes so much like the spinach dip we're all used to - the one you often see in sourdough bread bowls at parties - that I may never need to go back to the original.

I just thought you all should know.

Oh, and I've been crazy busy lately, but I'll go back to blogging baked goods soon. I have a lot to share with you.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I Want a Wonder Woman KitchenAid Stand Mixer and I'm Ready to Fly to Brazil to Get It

Looks like KitchenAid's Brazilian division is offering a Wonder Woman edition of the KitchenAid stand mixer. And a peace and flower edition! And a bugs edition! And a skull and cross bones edition! Gahhhhh! View the Brazil KitchenAid stand mixer Facebook photo album here. Maybe they'll add more designs soon!

This news came to me while I was staring depressingly at my plain white uber-boring white mixer. I've already vented on this blog in the past about my white mixer, wishing I had a fun color like turquoise or hot pink. Now that I see these special edition patterned ones, forget the solid bright colors! (Though honestly, anything is more fun than white!)

Do I have to fly to Brazil to get one or do they ship internationally? I'm ready to book my flight.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Award for Coolest Eating Utensils Goes to...Bitten Silverware

A guy named Mark Reigelman, an artist, created this genius silverware. I'm not sure what it would feel like to hold these in your hands while eating - perhaps a bit (pun intended) sharp or uncomfortable? But worth it, right? Way to go, Mark. I am awarding you with the Happy Go Marni Award for Coolest Eating Utensils.

And now it's time to meet the man. This is Mark(s) Reigelman. In the Info section of his site, he dedicates a page to his Team. When you get there, this is what you see. A bunch of Marks. Ha!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Have a Half Birthday Cake

Today is my half birthday. The 6 month mark. That is worth celebrating, right? I was thinking of baking myself a half birthday cake. But what exactly does that look like? Does it mean I bake a whole cake and toss out half or give away half? Or do I only bake half the recipe? But in a round cake pan so it looks like a whole cake? Or do I bake a cake in a cake pan that looks like half a round cake? DING DING DING!

My friend Jan sent me a link to this half-round cake pan. It's perfect for celebrating half birthdays! Let me know if you have a different interpretation of how to bake a half birthday cake. I'm very interested. Particularly because I love finding excuses to bake. Not that I need excuses...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mastering Wilton Cake Decorating by Practicing on My Sister's Birthday Cake

The cake I made for my sister's birthday,
using skills I just learned in the Wilton workshop!

A few weeks ago I was invited to a Wilton cake decorating workshop. Wilton is the brand of cake decorating supplies and resources I grew up with. Every birthday cake of my childhood (and that of my sister and brother) was a cake my mom made, guided by the Wilton yearbook of decorating ideas. I used to watch my mom stay up really late the night before my birthday party, creating amazing, beautiful, glorious, creative cakes. It's one of my happiest memories.

Practicing my piping skills in the workshop

So getting the invite to this Wilton workshop was pretty thrilling. Of course I said yes. And I spent 6 hours learning from the absolute masters of the art. Sandy Folsom is the Director of The Wilton School and watching her pipe buttercream out of a pastry bag onto a practice board to demonstrate proper technique, upside down no less (!!!), was one of the most amazing things to witness. She made piping look effortless.

Director of the Wilton School Sandy Folsom
demonstrating piping skills upside down!

Let me tell you right now, it is not effortless! It's a lot of work, a steady hand, knowing which angle to hold the bag relative to the cake surface, how much pressure to squeeze around the pastry bag, consistency, and the list goes on. There are so many instructions. In piping a rosette, you start at the 9 o'clock mark and squeeze clock-wise until the 6 o'clock mark, then gradually release so it fades to nothing by the time you return to 9 o'clock. Whew! So much to think about!

I even learned how to make fondant flowers

Six hours is hardly enough time to master a skill. But getting an overview of the basic skills required to decorate a cake was a blast, and extremely helpful. Nancy Siler, the VP of Consumer Affairs, was there to introduce us to all the new Wilton products and work the room, helping attendees with proper hand position and technique.

I met really interesting people in the workshop, mostly food stylists, a few bloggers, and even journalists. Shout-out to Hilary of Nosh With Me, a blog I've been following for years. How thrilling to meet the person behind the blog you read. Bloggers have offline lives, too, ya know! Hong of Ravenous Couple sat in front of me and I was constantly impressed with his handiwork. Food stylist Alice Hart sat behind me and kept tweezers/pincers in her pocket, because as a food stylist, you never know when you're going to need to adjust something without using your fingers. Right? So fascinating! Chef Jamie Gwen, who hosts a radio show on KFWB News Talk 980, was also in the class, and I worked with her (and Alice Hart) on a group decorating project.

Some of the group cake decorating projects during the workshop
(my team was the yellow cake in the center)

One of the neatest effects I learned at this workshop was the basketweave, a technique that makes your cake look like a basket. It's very impressive-looking, but the way you create it is not all that difficult, just tedious. I was very excited to try this at home, and with my sister's birthday coming up just days later, I decided to go for it!

I made my grandmother's chocolate birthday cake and frosted it with homemade buttercream. I then covered the entire perimeter with my first ever on-my-own, no-hand-holding-from-master-Wilton-cake-decorators basketweave! I piped roses and other flowers on the top and hanging off the edge onto the basket, and wrote a birthday message to my sister in the center.

The cake took two days. I baked the layers on a Monday, froze them so they'd be easier to frost, and then spent all of that Wednesday evening making buttercream frosting from scratch and decorating the cake. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I'm proud of my first effort doing basketweave. And most rewarding of all, my sister loved it.

Presenting the cake to my sister (who's 5 months pregnant!)

Thanks to Wilton for giving me happy memories as a kid and still today. The workshop was incredible. I think I'd make a great postergirl for Wilton. Heck, between my mom and me, we own so many Wilton products we could open up a shop! As for my skills, I have a lot of practice to do before I reach mastery level. Maybe this will be the Year of the Cake. More roses, rosettes, and basketweaves until I drop! I'll name my autobiography From Basketweave to Basketcase. Ha! Could be a bestseller.

More Photos of the Birthday Cake I Made For My Sister

Friday, February 4, 2011

What Happens When a YouTube Celebrity Taste Tests My Baked Goods

Ok, maybe I'm using celebrity a bit loosely. But she's on her way.

So, a couple of days ago, I posted a recipe for Maple Walnut Brownies with Maple Glaze. But what I didn't mention was that I fed them to a YouTube personality for my first ever official on-camera taste test review!

Well, to be more clear, Alison Janes, a prolific YouTuber with a very big sweet tooth and platinum blonde locks (and overall high cuteness factor), asked me if I'd bake her a dessert. And I did! These maple brownies. And spoiler alert...she really liked them! Music to my ears!

You can follow Alison's entire YouTubing adventure at her channel:

But right now, let's go straight to the super important stuff: her review of the maple brownies. The review begins at 1:44 in the video.

Think Oprah should be next on my list of video taste test reviews? Reach for the stars, they say!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

File This Under Neato: King Arthur Flour Has a Baking Hotline

King Arthur Flour, one of my favorite stores and catalogs on Earth and a dream for pretty much any baker, has a Baking Hotline! What! No way. Yes way!

Can't figure out why your bread isn't rising? Wondering why the edges of your brownies get crisp while the middle is still raw? Not sure of a substitute for whole wheat pastry flour? Is your buttercream lumpy? Unable to keep your homemade caramel from burning? Bundt cake stuck in the pan? I can think of a million baking questions that either I've asked at some point, or someone has asked me. No question is dumb. There was a first time for every piece of knowledge I now have about baking. I've read a lot of books, talked to my mom, watched cooking shows on TV, and still, I have more and more questions that come up as I try new things or experience little "emergencies" in the kitchen.

So how cool is it that King Arthur Flour has a Baking Hotline! There are two ways to reach a King Arthur Flour baking expert:

CALL (802) 649-3717

Their website says they will respond to you within 24 hours and often sooner. Amazing! I am so excited by this I am beside myself. I feel like I just pulled the sword from the stone. OK, sorry, had to go there. I love you, King Arthur Flour!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My 2010 End-of-Year Cookbook Picks!

I get very excited by new cookbooks. I've added several to my collection over the past year and I have a list of others I still want. Friends and family are going to give me a hard time for having such a list since I already own more cookbooks than most and I am out of space. They tell me to cut back, to resist, to use self-restraint, will power. Fight the urge! Just say no! But hey, a girl can dream, right?

Here are a few I have my eye on...

Weeknight Desserts: Quick & Easy Sweet Treats by Beatrice Ojakangas
I love Beatrice Ojakangas and I have several of her cookbooks. Most recently I discovered her challah recipe and I can't stop making it!! This Weeknight Desserts book gets me very excited. We'll see if I last the next few weeks without getting it.

The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009
I've flipped through this book at Barnes and Noble. It looks good. Really good. Some of the best cookies are old classics. Sometimes old cookies are reinvented in newer cookbooks, but a lot of great cookies were great back in the '40s and don't need to change! This book covers decades of delicious cookies and leaves well enough alone!

The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book: The Essential Recipe Collection for Today's Home Baker
I love Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. You know, if you flip open the cover, they often name the specific recipe authors and they're the cooks and bakers I already love and follow. People like Lou Pappas and Elinor Klivans. Their names aren't on the cover, so a lot of people don't pay attention to who wrote the recipes. But that's a really important piece of information when deciding to buy a book or not! I've basically reached the point where I trust any Williams-Sonoma cookbook because time and again I am impressed with who they asked to write the recipes. So I'm going to admit to you now that I don't even know who wrote the recipes in this Baking Book. They've earned my trust. And I want the book!

Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson
I own Tartine, the first cookbook. And it won my heart after I made the brownie recipe in it and then subsequently called it The Best Brownie on Earth on my blog. Now Tartine Bread has been published and I can't imagine life without it. I want to make every single one of those delicious crusty breads!

Skinny Dips by Diane Morgan
My mom introduced me to this cookbook. We try to make healthy foods. At least, healthy savory foods. When it comes to dessert, we don't skimp. But the idea of healthy dips is just plain appealing. Great to snack on, great for when guests are over, easy to make.

Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours by Sarabeth Levine
Earlier this month, I had an amazing Hanukkah dinner of latkes, homemade latke condiments, root vegetables, and salmon at a family friend's. Then for dessert, the hostess brought out individual glass dishes of chocolate pudding. She introduced it as a Sarabeth pudding. I had never heard of Sarabeth before that moment. But the pudding was so good, so chocolaty, that I went home that night and looked up Sarabeth. Low and behold, this new cookbook by Sarabeth was getting rave reviews all over the place. Now it's on my list of Must Haves.

Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum is a true master baker. She's a scientist. Maybe not in the official definition of scientist. But she is very exact in her explanations and recipes. She has you weigh your ingredients with a scale, and she wants you to chill the butter, or reach a certain temperature, toss flour in the freezer before using, and other specific instructions you don't often see in recipes. I made her apple pie a few months ago, and I followed her instructions to a tee. Well, it was one of the most fantastic desserts I've ever made in my life. The flakiest crust and perfectly sweet but not too sweet apple filling. I was very proud of that pie and my guests were so impressed. Earlier this year my mom and I got to hear Rose Levy Beranbaum speak at Omnivore Books in San Francisco. She was there to introduce her latest cookbook, this Rose's Heavenly Cakes. The gorgeous photos and recipes had my mouth watering. I'm excited to get this book. And I recommend you get it, too. But only get it if you intend to follow her instructions exactly. Otherwise, the great lengths she goes to to have you create the perfect dessert are wasted. And that would be a tragedy!

Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz
By now you might have noticed I love David Lebovitz. I refer to him regularly on this blog. I own his books, I bake from them, I recommend him to others. When this cookbook came out, I wasn't just all talk, saying "OMG, I have to have it! I'm going to get this book!" Instead, I bought it. Immediately. And it was one of the best decisions of my cookbook-buying life!

Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous by Joan Nathan
I usually think of Joan Nathan as the Queen of Jewish Cooking. My mom and I heard her speak about some of her travel experiences and childhood when she guest lectured at a nearby synagogue in Saratoga, California, many years ago. I make her challah and several Passover dishes from her Jewish holiday books. What caught my attention about this latest cookbook was "Kugels" in the title. There are so few cookbooks that focus on kugels, and I love kugel so much! I don't have this book yet, but it's on my Must Have List and hopefully I'll take care of that void soon.

The Perfect Finish by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark
I flipped through this book at a store and the pictures were good enough to eat! They are the kinds of desserts I'm always in the mood to make. I want it! I want it!

Martha Stewart's Cupcakes and Martha Stewart's Cookies
Actually, the cupcake cookbook came out in 2009 and the cookie one in 2008, but I don't own either one and somehow I'm reminded of this constantly and need to rectify the situation. I'm a Martha fan. I all but owned the apron that said "Free Martha" back in the day. Each of these books includes really big photos of the dessert you're about to make, and the layout for each recipe is very readable, which I don't take for granted. How many cookbooks have you seen that use frilly script fonts and the ingredient lists are not next to the directions and they're just a big mess! Martha Stewart got it right with these books.

Luscious Coconut Desserts by Lori Longbotham
Lori Longbotham is one of only a few cookbook authors I swear by. I would recommend anything out of her cookbooks without exception. Several of her recipes are in my regular repertoire. I just made her Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Cake for the fourth time! I even wrote a poem about her here. Her Ganache-Filled Brown Sugar Bars are fantastic. Her Dark Chocolate Tart is great, too. Do you like chocolate pudding? Hers makes my dad drool. She has a series of books with similar titles that all say: Luscious _____ Desserts (and you fill in with Chocolate, Lemon, Creamy, Berry, Coconut...). This coconut one is not yet in my collection, which is a shocker! But not to worry, I will remedy this pronto.

Flour by Joanne Chang
Now here's a book I wouldn't have known the first thing about, except that it's impossible to miss all the positive reviews it's getting by food critics and newspaper columns everywhere! The recipes have a very homemade, home baker feel to them, rather than stuffy, overly fancy desserts. They are approachable, and that's exactly the kind of cookbook that appeals to me. I want this. And it's only a matter of time before I bite the bullet and get it!

The Craft of Baking by Karen Demasco
I admit I've had my eye on this one for a long time. Every time I visit a Williams-Sonoma store, it's on the shelf, staring at me in the face. Karen Demasco is a James Beard Award winner, and is known for the many years she served as Tom Colicchio's pastry chef. She's kind of a big deal. I want the Almond Pound Cake with Apricot Compote. And everything else in the book, too.

Chocolate Cakes by Elinor Klivans
Read the title. Need I say more? No. But I will. Just a few words. Elinor Klivans is a great baker and is often involved with Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. That might be where I first learned about her. What I love about this cookbook concept is that it's dedicated to one thing only: chocolate cakes. So if I am in the mood to make a chocolate cake, or need to for a birthday, I can turn to this book and have a bunch of options to spice up an otherwise conventional, regular cake. And I know it will be delicious. Because it's Elinor Klivan's recipe. I don't like to gamble. :)

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich
Ok, I caved. I bought this book and then told my dad to buy it for my mom. And then she and I spent exactly one night reading through our respective copies, cover to cover, then called each other up, and were quoting lines out of it without looking at it! We had done our homework!!! I've already made a few recipes out of this book. They are all stellar. Go buy it! Alice Medrich is the First Lady of Chocolate, the inventor of the chocolate truffle, founder of the legendary Cocolat shop, and all around chocolate Know-it-All. Trust anything she says. Never doubt her. Kiss her feet.

Bon Appetit Desserts by Barbara Fairchild
Bon Appetit Magazine has long been my favorite food magazine. I love the RSVP section where readers can write in asking for recipes from a restaurant. And there are always stories with delicious sounding recipes and fun product reviews. Bakers I respect, such as Dorie Greenspan and Lori Longbotham, are featured writers. So naturally when my favorite food magazine publishes a cookbook on sweets, I want it. I am so utterly predictable.

Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Strangely enough, I don't have their first book, but I bought this one! I will eventually buy their first one. It just so happened I was in Williams-Sonoma looking at the cookbook section and this was in it and I flipped through the recipes, my stomach started to grumble, and I bought it. Actually, my first experience tasting their goods was when I made their Spicy Brownies, which were published on Oprah's website. After rave reviews from my guests and my tummy, these guys had a special place in my heart.

Bake! by Nick Malgieri
Nick Malgieri isn't just a good baker, he's a good teacher. His book will teach you how to become a better baker. So buy this book not just for the recipes, but for the investment. Hone your skills! Um, and enjoy the recipes. They are very much the kinds of baked goods you'd make with your grandma.

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
One of my favorite things to make is bread. But bread takes a lot of time. Even if there are two rising times so you're not actually working on the bread the whole time, you have to be home that whole time. Ok, I take that back. You can take the bread with you. My mom has been known to bring her bowl of rising dough with her to the grocery store so she could punch it down if necessary. It's a pretty strange sight. But these are the things we do for the things we love! :) Anyways, the concept of being able to make yeast bread quickly seems impossible and contrary to science, but this book will show you how. And that gets me very, very excited.

Well, I think I've given you a lot of food for thought. Hopefully you now have a better idea of how to spend your Christmas bonus or the Amazon gift card you got from your aunt. I may have missed a book or two in here that I'd really love or you'd really love, but the list wasn't meant to be exhaustive. That is not humanly possible. I don't know about you, but there will always be more cookbooks I want. It's in my blood.

Happy New Year!
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