January 21, 2010

Favorite Cookbooks for 2010 & Pain D’Epice {Webisode #9}

My Day So Far: Morning at the Children’s Museum, mailed baby gifts to friends in DC for their new baby boy (congrats Kristina and Noah!)

Naptime Goals: Catch up emails, blog posts and write business plan for 2010!

Tonight’s Meal: Rigatoni tossed with homemade ragu thawed from the freezer. I am baking Pain D’Epice after bedtime!

Parenting Lesson of the Day: Kids must be taught social graces, sometimes under extreme duress.

I draw my cooking inspiration from any number of sources. Sometimes ideas come from fresh farmer’s market produce or glorious food photography in magazines, and other times from the cookbooks in my kitchen. As you can see from this video, my cookbook collection is bordering on out of control, but I still buy them anyway. I find that a well written, visually appealing cookbook is invaluable. It can be a source of confidence to take risks in the kitchen, a catalog of great recipes and can serve as a reference guide for years to come.

Despite the chaos you see on my shelves, all the cookbooks are there for a reason. Each one contains a combination of recipes, tips and photography that create a unique vibe I find useful and inspiring. Lately there has been a particular group of cookbooks that I’ve been referring to an awful lot and I want to share them with you today. These are my current tried-and-true’s, the ones I thumb through so often I can almost recite their entire table of contents.

In the spirit of celebrating one of my newest favorite cookbook series, Canal House Cooking (click link to get your own subscription), this week I baked a Pain D’Epice, or French Spice Bread. As the author of this recipe, Melissa Hamilton, noted, the spices were lost in translation when she received the recipe from her mother, but no matter since it is plenty tasty. I love this bread, it’s natural sweetness come from honey and marmalade, and the brown sugar gives it a gorgeous burnished deep brown hue. We like to eat it toasted for breakfast, but I’ve also caught myself slicing bits off for tea and dessert. A lot of times I do my baking after my daughter goes to bed and here you will see me doing just that (including an unfortunate shot of me in my pj’s the following morning). The bread bakes for just about an hour and then I am able to let it cool overnight so it is ready the next day.

Naptime Chef’s Favorite Cookbook for 2010:

1) Canal House Cooking, Vol. 1 and 2, by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer: The first two installments in a cookbook subscription series, these books are inviting and inspiring. Written for the home cook, their recipes range from classic main courses to trendy cocktails, all written with a calm simplicity that proves inspired gourmet cuisine can indeed be accomplished by home cooks everywhere.

2) In Season: Cooking with Fruits and Vegetables by Sarah Raven: A visual masterpiece, this British export is my newest favorite source for seasonal cooking with fruits and vegetables. Organized by season, each section showcases colorful photographs and accessible recipes that will inspire everyone to rethink their everyday vegetable and fruit menus.

3) Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan: Equal parts reference guide and recipe source, this book will be on my shelf forever. With decadent sweets that span the gamut from breakfast buns to decadent layer cakes, the information covered here includes everything from ingredient ideas to freezing tips.

4) Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros: When it comes to fitting great food into family life, Tessa is in-the-know. A mother of two, accomplished chef and resident of Tuscany, Tessa utilizes all of the sources to inspire her recipes. Scattered throughout are memories of her children, doodles and photographs showcasing a happy family enjoying extraordinary food.

5) A16: Food + Wine: by Nate Appleman with Kate Leahy: Not often can you make restaurant quality food at home, but with this cookbook you can. I had the pleasure of eating at A16 last September in San Francisco and I still remember almost every bite. Thank goodness for this book, even if you’ve never been to the restaurant, now you can enjoy their food in the comfort of your own kitchen.

6) Unforgettable Desserts by Dede Wilson: Beware, this book will make you drool. I figured out, the hard way, not to look through this book when you are trying to cut back on sweets. Dede’s inviting recipes, luscious photography and simple flavors will make you drop everything and run for your spatula. Well-balanced and easy to understand, these recipes could be served anywhere from family occasions to chic black tie dinners.

7) Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations by MSKCC and Florence Fabricant: Menus and tips on how to entertain like a hostess with the mostess, this book is your go-to guide. Photographs provide inspiration for table settings, while menus by occasion will fit almost every entertaining need.

8) How to Eat by Nigella Lawson: A classic on my bookshelf, Nigella is the embodiment of the busy mum enjoying her time in the kitchen. I re-read the introduction to this book at least once a month, and always enjoy any of the classic recipes she writes.


Pain D’Epice or French Spice Bread

adapted from Canal Housing Cooking Vol. 2 by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer


3 c. flour
2/3 c. dark brown sugar, pushed through a sieve to get out the lumps
½ t. baking powder
½ c. orange marmalade
1/3 c. honey
2 t. baking soda
1 c. whole milk


1. Preheat oven to 325. Butter a 10×5 loaf pan and dust it with flour. Set aside.

2. In large bowl put the flour, brown sugar and baking powder. Whisk it together so that it is completely incorporated.

3. In a separate bowl, measure in the marmalade and honey. Dissolve the baking soda in milk and stir it into the marmalade and honey mixture.

4. Working slowly, stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until batter is well mixed.

5. Pour batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

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