When I was thinking over which book I should write on first, I asked myself “What book do I come back to again and again, and has been a favorite of my collection for years?”
The one I kept coming back to is a cookbook.
When I graduated from college, I was given a gift card to Borders (RIP) and decided that since now that I was “officially” an adult with a degree and my first full-time job that I finally needed to learn how to cook. I had had the good fortune of living with a roommate who was a wonderful cook and had been Chef of the Month in his local paper when he was in 6th or 7th grade. He was the type of person who could look in the pantry, and then whip something up with no recipe needed based on what we had on hand. So no need for me to cook anything more complicated than mac and cheese when I had my own personal chef living down the hall!
After he moved out of state after graduation, I was left to fend for myself eating mostly dull chicken breasts and canned vegetables. Not very exciting, So when I was looking through that Borders’ cookbook section, I didn’t quite know what I was looking for or doing. And though I didn’t end up with the most obvious choice, I ended up with a book that I still use regularly and has survived a few cookbook purges through the years (sorry, Racheal Ray).
Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking has been a staple of my kitchen since 2002. It has the best pizza dough recipe I’ve come across and keep coming back to after trying others, constantly receiving compliments and requests for the recipe from a number of friends. My husband swears the Buttermilk Birthday Cake recipe is one of the best he’s had and there’s a whole chapter devoted to Chocolate, our favorites being the Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake and Molten Chocolate Babycakes. If you’re gluten free, don’t even look in this book’s general direction since it’s essentially the antithesis of that lifestyle.
Being a cooking novice, I appreciated the friendly warmth of Nigella’s writing which is a surprising difference from many cookbooks I have in my collection. You feel as if a friend is sharing her cooking tips with you and also reassuring you that it’s not impossible for you to think you can recreate her delicious recipes. If you’ve had a chance to see any of her shows, her welcoming personality shines through in this book.
That approach to her writing made me feel that baking was not an impossible thing for me to accomplish. And it was also ideal in that in order for the chemistry of baking to be successful, there’s little room for improvising. Stick to the directions and you’ll succeed. I’ve since been able to build off the confidence this book gave me to continue cooking and now consider myself a pretty decent home cook. But if you’re looking for a baking-focused cookbook with a wide range of recipes including everything from sweet and savory recipes, ideas for holiday menus and everyday pancakes, this book is a must for your collection.
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