Cooking The Books
Looking to the Past, Differently
If you’re old enough to remember the 80’s, you will remember how low fat eating was thought to be healthy. Throw away the wheat germ and pass the white sugar and white flour please. While we have moved past that unfortunate trend, we continue to look to the past for ingredients, just in different ways. How many times have you heard about “ancient grains” lately?
Baking is fun and I love to experiment with different ingredients, including fruits, herbs and a variety of grains and fats. I am never willing to sacrifice taste and when done properly, the results have great flavour and texture. And that’s where food writers like Genevieve Ko come in. Ko has collaborated on a number of cookbooks and she knows what she’s doing when it comes to creating recipes.
In Better Baking, Ko has updated old classics and created new ones. Many recipes are gluten, egg and/or dairy-free and she uses natural sweeteners, whole grains, nuts and seeds throughout. The recipes are generally simple and quick to make. Interesting examples include Pear-Pecan Buckwheat Tea Cakes, Butter Pecan Sticky Buns, Pine Nut-Olive Oil Crackers and Cocoa Almond-Date Chews. I will make the Almond Sponge Cake with Olive Oil Lemon Curd at my next holiday meal, where I need a gluten-free and dairy-free dessert. The Blackberry Buttermilk Pie with Whole Wheat Cornmeal Crust caught my eye as a tangy and lighter version of the southern classic.
I did try a number of recipes and thumbs up to all of them. The popular favourites were Rye Black Forest Scones and Cinnamon-Toast Graham Crackers. The scones were deeply, darkly chocolate (helped by my addition of cocoa nibs and bittersweet chocolate chunks) and the crackers were a much more delicious and healthier version of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. The crackers did not turn out as pretty as the picture (understatement) but tasted great. Melting Walnut Snowballs (with rye and whole wheat flour as well as olive oil) were as rich as promised. I was wondering if the Applesauce Granola with Walnuts, Sesame and Flax would be crunchy – it was and it was excellent granola. I suggest doubling the amount of salt in these as with most recipes, it really amps up the flavour. Also, know that the grains can be finicky, and trust your instincts. I found that I had to adjust the cooking times.
Even if you aren’t interested in playing with your food the way I am, you likely have to accommodate someone with an allergy or food restriction. I certainly do, and these recipes will be helpful. I’m not giving away my butter, sugar and flour just yet, but this was an interesting and well-thought out book.