Breakfast with Beatrice, a cookbook review

I have delusions of grandeur when it comes to breakfast.

I want ricotta on challah toast (or fresh fig jam and mascarpone, if I’m at Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge).  I want eggs with pepperjack cheese and avocado slices. Oooh, or something I’ve been meaning to do – seared scallops with bacon, fried egg, and grilled tomatoes.  (Yes, I am influenced by Sorted Food youtube videos.)

In a similar vain, I have ambitious plans of questionable achievement when it comes to cooking/baking Nordic foods.  Either I’m subconsciously addicted to Ikea (which probably would be true if I lived closer to one) or I’ve watched too many videos featuring Magnus Nilsson and Rene Redzepi (this is definitely true).

The reality is that I meal prep my breakfasts most of the time, and I want something quick to put together.  Lately, I’ve been making the same baked oatmeal recipe for a few months now.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m not on the lookout for new ideas.  Let’s be honest – it’s only a matter of time before I hit baked oatmeal fatigue.

When I saw the cover of “Breakfast with Beatrice” by Beatrice Ojakangas, I was intrigued.  The cover has minimalist but colorful Scandinavian inspired kitchen illustrations.  The tag line under the title says “250 recipes from sweet cream waffles to Swedish farmer’s omelets.”   It sounded like it had variety.  It had the word Swedish in it.  It was 250 recipes.  What’s not to like?

First impressions?  This cookbook is old school.  There are literally no photos.  It’s a straightforward recipe book.  Some recipes have a short introduction, but many don’t have any commentary.  (For the record, some of my favorite cookbooks are ones without any photos… Kathy Farrell-Kingsley’s “The Big Book of Vegetarian” comes to mind.  Substance is more important than appearance.)  

Before this book, I hadn’t heard of the author before.**  While her culinary heritage is Scandinavian, Beatrice Ojakangas is from Minnesota where she still lives.  There are many recipes that aren’t Nordic. In addition to recipes like hätäleipä, and cream cheese and salmon smørrebrød, be prepared to find recipes like Tex-Mex strata, beignets, colonial brown bread muffins, and old Virginia cheddar biscuits.  According to the book’s introduction, she “selected many of [her] favorite breakfasts for Breakfast with Beatrice.” 

(** Hilariously, I should have been familiar with the author’s name.  I own one of her other books, “The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever.”)

The book is broken down into these sections:

  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Savory breakfast and casserole dishes (smørrebrød and porridge recipes are filed here)
  • Pastries and coffee cakes
  • Breakfast breads (has both yeasted breads and quick breads)
  • Muffins, biscuits, and scones
  • Smoothies, jams, and preserves (FYI, there is just one smoothie recipe)

 

Normally, this is the part of the post where I like to list the recipes that I’m particularly interested in making.  However, I’m not going to, because I’m not sure that there’s a recipe in the book that I don’t want to make.  In general, these recipes aren’t trendy. They aren’t ingredient crazy or meant for a large weekend project.  Instead, they sound like the kind of recipes you inherit from a beloved family member or recipes you have fond memories of. 

I had trouble picking out a recipe test out… too many sounded delicious. I originally thought about making the wild rice and blueberry muffin recipe, but I didn’t have any wild rice in my pantry and was unwilling to buy some.  (Note to self, clean out your pantry so that you can do things like buy wild rice without feeling bad about it.)  I eventually settled on the yogurt nut brown bread recipe, which only has 8 ingredients: rye flour, whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, plain yogurt, light molasses, and chopped nuts.  I don’t keep whole wheat flour in my kitchen because I’m convinced that most commercially available whole wheat flour doesn’t taste very good, so I subbed with spelt flour. I also didn’t have light molasses but that was easy to substitute with a blend of regular molasses and maple syrup. Other than that, it was very easy to put together.  I didn’t need to break out a mixer for this. Using a whisk and a spatula was good enough.

In the author’s own words, this bread is “compact, dark, grainy, and rich-tasting.”  It is definitely dense and dark, but I wouldn’t say it’s grainy even though I know that it’s made with whole grain flours.  I thought it was a bit chewy (in a good way) and moist. The molasses flavor hit my tongue first, but quickly gave way to an earthy flavor.  The more bites I took, the less I noticed the molasses. I ate half a slice with some almond butter, and enjoyed that too. I think this recipe makes for a great everyday quick bread, perfect for those times I want bread but am too impatient to work with yeast.  

Later this week, I think I’ll see how it pairs with other foods like eggs, ham, or cheese.

Overall, I’m quite delighted by my initial results.  I look forward to working more from this book.  If you’re someone who loves cooking/baking, and doesn’t need to be bedazzled by fancy pictures, I wholeheartedly recommend “Breakfast with Beatrice.”  

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from University of Minnesota Press for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Reference Links:

http://beatrice-ojakangas.com/

https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/breakfast-with-beatrice

Because I wasn’t making it up, Sorted Food’s Full English Breakfast video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1DTeah8YAs

 

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Cardamom and loaf pans, a Kitchen Conclusion

Another Kitchen Conclusion post to start off 2018!  This time, I’m highlighting two recipes from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Magazine.  Both just happen to involve ground cardamom and loaf pans.

Not a resolution per se, but I want to be better about cooking and baking from my plethora of cookbooks and magazines in general.  And let’s not forget all the cookbooks that I take out of my local library.  I also like to cook with people, and for people.  It makes for a better incentive than just cooking for little ol’ me.

When my sister proposed that we bake the Milk Street Magazine’s pistachio cardamom cake on New Year’s Eve, I easily agreed.  She had most of the ingredients while I had the flour.  It went faster with two people.  I handled the grinding of the pistachios and the other dry ingredients.  She prepped the wet ingredients.  We skipped the glaze because (1) we weren’t presenting this cake to anyone, and (2) neither of us needed the extra sugar.

The only criticism I have is the bake time printed.  It said 325ºF for 50-55 minutes.  As we were sliding the loaf pan into the oven, I had huge doubts about the bake time.  It’s hard for me to say how long it took in total since I had to keep adding time, but it was probably about 70 minutes in my oven.  No, my oven doesn’t run under-temperature.  If anything, it’s usually running a few degrees higher than the displayed temperature.

Overall impression of the cake itself?  Maybe we didn’t toast the pistachios long enough.  The dominant flavors seemed to be orange and cardamom.  I think I even tasted the tang of the Greek yogurt more than any pistachio flavor.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The cake was still very tasty.  But for my sister who is a big fan of pistachio, it was a slight let down.

And then last week, while I was enjoying a day off from work, I decided to try the Milk Street Magazine recipe for brown butter cardamom banana bread.  I’m generally not a huge fan of standard banana bread.  I have a version with chocolate chips and cinnamon that I like, but that’s probably because the chocolate and the cinnamon tend to distract from the banana flavor.  (Oddly enough, I love fresh bananas on their own.)

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Brown the butter!

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mixing the wet ingredients

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I did like the cardamom and banana combination.  Ok, not more than chocolate and cinnamon, but I’m definitely willing to bake this one again.  I also gave a few slices to a friend.  Their reaction came back as favorable.

Having said that, I couldn’t taste the brown butter.  Maybe I didn’t brown it enough?  I mean better to under brown than to burn something, but maybe this is a theme in my kitchen.  I don’t know.  I guess I’ll just have to try again sometime.

In general, I find the Milk Street Kitchen recipes to be unintimidating and delicious.  I like their use of bolder flavors.  I have also made their savory sweet potato gratin with happy results, lest you think I only make desserts.

I definitely recommend giving them a try if you haven’t already.

Reference Links:  Warning, depending on when you are reading this post, you may hit a paywall.  If you want to see the recipes in full, I believe that they are both in the book Milk Street: The New Home Cooking.  Chances are that your local library carries a copy! 

https://www.177milkstreet.com/recipes/pistachio-cardamom-cake

https://www.177milkstreet.com/recipes/banana-bread

Cherry Bombe, The Cookbook, a cookbook review

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When I first saw the cover for Cherry Bombe, The Cookbook, my first thought was “is this just a collection of cherry recipes?”  A quick look proved me very, very wrong.

From its website:

Cherry Bombe celebrates women and food through our biannual magazine, the weekly Radio Cherry Bombe podcast, and our Jubilee conference. What rocks our world? Sharing the stories of everyone from industry icons to notable newcomers, encouraging creativity in the kitchen, and bringing the Bombesquad together whenever possible. Our first cookbook, featuring 100+ recipes from 100+ of the most inspiring women around, will be out this October from Clarkson Potter.

Oh.

And per the book’s index, there only appears to be six recipes with cherries in them.  (Just in case you were dying to know.)

So then… what is in this book?  That’s the real question, isn’t it?  I’m happy to report that I literally got the last review copy available from Blogging for Books to satisfy my curiosity and yours.

The thing about this book:  It’s pretty diverse in terms of recipe selection and sophistication.  It makes me really look forward to cooking from this book.  (No recipe testing yet at this time.  My attention is still held by Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker book.)

The chapters are standard: Mains, Soups and Salads, Sides, Apps/Snacks/Sips, Cookies/Cakes/Pies, and Sweet Treats.

Here’s a sampling of what I’m looking forward to and why:

  • Pink Spaghetti with Beet and Ricotta Sauce – I like beets but rarely cook them.  Plus, this recipes has only 10 ingredients, two of which are salt and boiling water.  It seems very approachable.
  • Filipino Vinegar Chicken – What Filipino food I have, has always been pretty delicious.  I would love to become more familiar with it.
  • Shroomy Cheeseburgers with Maple Thyme Caramelized Onions – Just the title alone sounds amazing.  While more complicated than the burgers I normally make, nothing immediately looks scary or impossible.
  • Chicken Meatballs in Roasted Lemon Broth – The broth is nothing that readily makes sense to me.  Broth ingredients are lemons, olive oil, shallot, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, chicken broth, dried mint, potatoes, cipollini onions, and spinach.  I can’t imagine how this tastes, so I feel the need to make it.
  • Roasted Asparagus and Scallions with Burrata – I recently had dinner at The Amsterdam in Rhinebeck, NY.  My plate was fish with grilled bok choy, grilled scallions, and green goddess dressing.  I was surprised at how mild the grilled scallions were.  I imagine that roasted scallions will the same, and I bet it’s delicious with asparagus and burrata.
  • Best Friend Cheesecake – Overall, it’s a straightforward and basic cheesecake recipe.  That’s not a bad thing.
  • Dad’s Perfect Sweet Potato Pie – Submitted by Joy Wilson, aka Joy the Baker.  Also, sweet potato pie will always be my favorite pie ever.
  • Irish Soda Bread – Interestingly, this falls into the Sweet Treats chapter.  I think it appeals to me just because this recipe is baked in a 9×5 pan.  I like baking in my loaf pan.  I bake a lot of recipes in it that were meant to be muffins and such.

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#cherrybombe #cookbook

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Other comments about the physical book, and not the content:  I suspect that the cover will be prone to wear and tear.  I haven’t even owned this book for 24 hours yet, but the corners of the front look like they’ve seen better days.

Every recipe has an accompanying photo.  The general style of the photography reminds me of current day Bon Appetite – a bit more HDR looking, a bit too brightly lit.  It’s not my favorite style, but I know it appeals to others.

As I ponder which cookbooks to cull from my collection, I feel confident that Cherry Bombe will stay in it.  There’s just too many recipes I legitimately want to try.

Related Links:

https://cherrybombe.com/

https://cherrybombe.com/cherry-bombe-the-cookbook/

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.