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The Perfect Pie: Your Ultimate Guide to Classic and Modern Pies, Tarts, Galettes, and More

Editors of America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen, $35 (376p) ISBN 978-1-945256-91-2

The editors of America’s Test Kitchen turn their eye to sweet pies and tarts in this satisfying outing. Recipes range from tried-and-true deep-dish apple pie to a fanciful crème brûlée option whose filling is infused with lavender and torched for crackle. The book opens with a rundown of eight basic pie types—tarts are “an elegant subcategory”; chiffon pie has “old-fashioned charm”—and a chapter titled “Pies Big and Small” includes charming “pie pops” and a sheet-pan galette. Sidebars cover such aspects as crimping or braiding a decorative edge, and firm guidance makes it all seem doable, even a stunning herringbone lattice. However, some photos don’t quite match instructions: an intriguing butternut squash and sage pie is depicted with leaf cutouts on top, though readers are directed to make a double-crust dough, not the single-crust dough in the instructions. Clever ideas abound, from decorative shards of sesame brittle on a chocolate-tahini tart to a Hawaiian dessert made with haupia, a coconut pudding so thick it can be sliced. A chapter on crusts meets every possible need with vegan and gluten-free options. Fear of pastry is real for many home cooks, and this book is poised to help readers vanquish it. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

Annie Gray. Weldon Owen, $35 (256p) ISBN 978-1-68188-369-4

Food historian Gray (Queen Victoria: The Greedy Queen, Eating with Victoria) does more than simply collect recipes popular from 1912 to 1926 in this fun and astute tie-in to Downton Abbey. In a cogent introduction, she describes the technological advances of the era, such as the electric toaster and the move to a more “pared-down” cuisine, albeit one still lavish and complex to modern eyes: “sauces took only a few hours, rather than a few days, to prepare.” Reflecting the class divisions depicted on the show, the selections are divided into “upstairs” and “downstairs” dishes, i.e., fare fit for aristocrats (truffled eggs; filet mignon) and a shorter selection of simpler options for the servants (Toad-in-the-Hole; steak and kidney pudding). Helpful lists of common ingredients and those that are less so (such as suet and mushroom ketchup, which can be purchased online) and sure-footed instructions ensure that the recipes are usable. There are methods for the lobster “cutlets” (croquettes with lobster legs inserted as bone stand-ins) from jilted Edith’s wedding breakfast, as well as the deviled sheep’s kidneys served to Cora’s American mother (played by Shirley MacLaine) in season three. The volume is amply illustrated with stills from the TV production as well as snippets of dialogue, but Gray’s thoughtful and informed prose elevates it from mere tie-in to a truly useful work of culinary history. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Silence Is a Scary Sound: And Other Stories on Living Through the Terrible Twos and Threes

Clint Edwards. Page Street, $16.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-62414-853-8

Edwards (I’m Sorry... Love, Your Husband), creator of the parenting blog No Idea What I’m Doing, reports from the front lines of parenthood in this engaging and often hilarious collection of essays. Parents of children of all ages will appreciate (or shudder at) Edwards’s tales of the years when a baby becomes mobile and life as one knew it implodes. Preschoolers, he informs the childless, can summon bedlam in ways no adult can imagine: creating a ketchupy homemade slip-and-slide on the kitchen floor, dancing in the soda spray from a shaken can, or puking into a parent’s mouth. Intertwined with the comical tales of toddler-induced chaos are moments of fear and helplessness, like the time two-year-old Norah locked herself in her bedroom. As the hours passed and the tears increased, and with the locksmith a no-show, Edwards’s resolve hardened: embarrassment be damned, he and his wife had better call 911. As Edwards found through his blog, many dads had comparably mortifying story to share. Edwards’s observations—both tender musings on his struggles to be a good father, and dyspeptic grousing on lousy Father’s Day gifts—will find fans in anyone who has ever tangled with a poopy diaper and lost. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Kids Are in Bed: Finding Time for Yourself in the Chaos of Parenting

Rachel Bertsche. . Plume, $16 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4401-4

Bertsche (MWF Seeking BFF), a journalist and mother of two, encourages fellow parents to find, or create, free time for themselves between childcare obligations, in a less than revelatory, but nonetheless helpful, self-care primer. Mixing personal recollections, common sense talk, and pointers from happiness research, she describes using “pockets of indulgence” to maintain a sense of oneself as a “whole person,” not just a parent. Bertsche’s basic message is to let go of the “multitasking myth,” which results in guilt-ridden “contaminated time,” when one attempts leisure and obligatory tasks simultaneously—in her case, folding laundry and watching Law and Order: SVU—to the detriment of both. Instead, she recommends finding—most likely short, but intensely focused—periods of single-minded attention to a rewarding activity. Bertsche also urges couples to find time together when they don’t talk about their kids, and not to downplay nonfamily connections. In her case, she glowingly describes enjoying a recent hours-long phone call with an old friend. Though unlikely to come as a surprise to anyone, the suggestions in her book are laudably specific, and heeding them might very well improve one’s own parental “happiness gap.” Agent: Kari Stuart, ICM. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Weekend Quilter: 25+ Fabulous Quilts to Make in a Weekend

Edited by Rosemary Wilkinson. Landauer, $19.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-947163-29-4

Wilkinson appeals to the creative quiltworker who wants to complete a project in a couple days, rather than weeks, with this invigorating collection. In an especially helpful introductory section, quilter Anne Walker introduces “quick quilt techniques” for making quilts of any size, and lists equipment that aid speed: rotary cutting and machine piecing are supported by, for example, rectangle rulers and squares (bias and set) plus a handheld hoop. She also contributes designs to the book, as do four other accomplished artisans. Walker presents “pioneer blankets,” among which “Stars and Stripes” is the most striking. Jenni Dobson works off Japanese designs, including Sashiko patterns, while Pauline Adams decorates her quilts with stripes inspired by classic motifs from various periods and cultures, such as the “Greek Key” of the classical world and “Rail Fence,” a slice of Americana. Carol Dowsett designs around natural motifs—stars, leaves, and water—and, to similar effect, Gill Turley uses string piecing to create seasonal designs from shirt fabrics. Throughout, readers will encounter instructions for dyeing, estimates of hours involved, patterns, and handy tips (“A sharpened sliver of dried soap is good for marking cutting lines”). Any quilter who does not want another unfinished project lying around will applaud these lickety-split endeavors. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Huck Lace Weaving Patterns with Color and Weave Effects: 576 Drafts and Samples Plus 5 Practice Projects

Tom Kinsley. Stackpole, $39.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8117-3725-8

Kinsley’s encyclopedia of huck lace patterns should be a must-have for loom weavers who want to explore this particular method. In addition to hundreds of patterns, Kinsley provides a few basic tips for getting started, and a small array of projects. Huck lace, he explains, is a weaving style that requires a certain number of picks and ends per inch to create a soft lace fabric. Kinsley breaks up the patterns into four main categories: Dark/Light, Monochromatic, Complementary Colors, and Triadic Colors. They’re followed by projects: scarfs, towels, rugs, and blankets. Before tackling any of the patterns, Kinsley advises weavers to consult the key he provides for reading the weaving drafts (pattern guides). Newbies should be warned that the text is written for experienced weavers, and, without a glossary or any photographs of looms or the weaving process itself, those new to the craft will find themselves a bit at sea. For veteran weavers, however, this well-appointed resource will amply fulfill the goal Kinsley states in his introduction—to talk to readers “as old friends sitting down with a cup of tea and catching up on the latest weaving projects.” (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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DIY Autoflowering Cannabis: An Easy Way to Grow Your Own

Jeff Lowenfels. New Society, $24.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-86571-916-3

In this informative, low-budget guide, organic gardening writer Lowenfels (Teaming with Fungi) champions reasons and methods for growing the autoflowering variety of cannabis sativa, a strain adapted to survive harsher northern climates. After pointing to the recent “sea change in attitudes” that has made it “now legal to grow Cannabis in Canada and in many of the United States,” Lowenfels dives into the nitty-gritty of plant fertilization science; lists of supplies needed and pointers on gardening best practices (including information on seeds and seedbanks, soil, lights, watering, feeding, and pests); and methods for harvesting, drying, curing, and storing. Lowenfels also suggests ways to “enjoy your harvest”—such as by, of course, smoking it—and includes recipes for edibles, such as “canna butter chocolate mug cake.” The accompanying charts and drawings substantiate his claims about autoflowering cannabis’s versatility, but the color photographs look amateurish. Moreover, while Lowenfels asserts that “if you can grow tomatoes, you can quickly learn to grow Autoflowering Cannabis,” the specialized knowledge he imparts doesn’t support that claim. For those already determined to grow cannabis, this book will be a boon, but it’s just as likely to overwhelm gardeners simply curious about the buzz. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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When Pies Fly: Handmade Pastries from Strudels to Stromboli, Empanadas to Knishes

Cathy Barrow. Grand Central, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5387-3190-1

Barrow (Pie Squared) encourages readers to be fearless and creative in their pie-making endeavors in this accessible and fun baking guide. A primer on equipment called “Check Your Equipment” and nine steps to “Earn Your Pie Wings” (which explains, anong other things, how to avoid soggy pie bottoms and the uses of egg wash) set up home bakers for recipes categorized in chapters including “Galettes,” “Empanadas,” and “Knishes.” The book opens with a savory and brunch-worthy “Quiche Lorraine Galette,” which uses a pound of ripe tomatoes and some country ham; the “Sunday’s Lox and Schmear Tart” also makes for an ideal mid-morning weekend gathering. A hearty and unexpected Philly cheesesteak galette and “Cheeseburger Hand Pies” are sure to please big appetites; meanwhile the “Pie Poppers” chapter features tempting bite-sized snacks and appetizers such as the “Thanksgiving-in-a-Bite Pie Poppers” (complete with turkey and cranberry sauce) and “Korean Bo Ssam and Kimchi Pie Poppers,” served with a scallion sauce. Dessert standouts include brandied peach pie poppers, served with ice cream, as well as empanaditas made with chai-spiced plum and walnuts. Home cooks will delight in this entertaining baking guide. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Simple, Elegant Pasta Dinners: 75 Dishes with Inspired Sauces

Nikki Marie. Page Street, $21.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-62414-865-1

In this debut cookbook, Chasing the Seasons blogger Marie writes, “I wanted to create a cookbook to elevate how we think about and cook with pasta,” and she succeeds handily. “If you consider pasta in its most pure state, it is quite plain (in a good way),” Marie writes. “It is precisely this blandness that makes pasta the perfect base for a wide range of unexpectedly delightful flavor combinations.” Marie integrates fresh produce into many of her recipes, dividing them seasonally based on the peak availability of each crop, such as ravioli with port wine and mushroom sauce for autumn, toasted spaghetti aglio e olio for winter, tortellini salad with roasted asparagus pesto for spring, and pasta with caramelized squash and zucchini blossoms for summer. Readers may be pleasantly surprised with some of the dishes that include sweet ingredients, most notably pasta with sausage and roasted red grapes, ravioli with caramelized blood oranges and escarole, pasta with arugula and strawberries, and rigatoni with rosemary-roasted eggplant and blackened cherries. There is also a recipe for basic pasta dough and a handful of fresh pasta dough recipes, such as gnocchi with creamy pumpkin sauce, spaghetti with crisp salami and burrata, and spinach fettucine carbonara. This excellent collection will inspire readers to create memorable, inventive pasta dishes. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Jerusalem Food: Bold Flavors from the Middle East and Beyond

Nidal Kersh. Sterling, $27.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-45493-292-5

Originally published in Sweden as Shakshuka, this uneven collection is not especially Jerusalem-centric. Instead, it offers a handy roundup of quintessential Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes with a few eccentricities thrown in. Kersh, who introduced falafel to Stockholm with his restaurant Falafelbaren, was raised in Sweden and his paternal grandparents were Palestinian. He provides insight into the politics of food, including the Israeli-Palestinian debate over the origins of hummus, and shares recipes for classic hummus, as well as for a chunkier version called msbaha. A chapter entitled “Meat and Fish” contains mainly chicken entrees and only two fish options, but there is a comforting lamb shawarma, as well as pan-fried lamb kebabs. As an alternative to a traditional falafel, Kersh serves up a Swedish version with yellow peas replacing chickpeas and wild garlic in lieu of coriander. The port city of Akko, Israel, where Kersh spent time in his youth, is the source of his Turkish salad, salata turki, as well as sayadieh—seabass and rice with a pinch of saffron. While some sections may leave home cooks wanting more dishes, the recipes themselves are certainly enticing. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/13/2019 | Details & Permalink

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