Some people take these ever-shortening days as their cue to haul their snowboard out of storage. Cooks, on the other hand, dig out their cast-iron Dutch oven and wash up their dusty baking tins. In winter, there’s no better place to be than in the warmth of the kitchen, and these three cookbooks place you squarely in front of a hot oven.
Rosie Daykin’s new cookbook Butter Baked Goods (Appetite by Random House) is simply a pleasure to read. Flipping through it virtually guarantees you’ll develop a craving for something that’s not just sweet but oh-so-pretty. Daykin, who opened Butter bakery in Dunbar in 2007 and Butter Baked Goods Cafe last year in the same neighbourhood, believes in the power of simple home baking. “My recipes were not created to impress people—they were created to spoil them, to celebrate them, and to comfort them when needed,” she writes. “Don’t worry about protecting this book,” she adds, “the spills and notations that I hope one day mark its pages will tell a story.”
Indeed, these recipes are destined to become go-to family favourites. There’s nothing fancy about sugar cookies, peanut butter and jelly cupcakes, or butter tarts, but that’s the whole point. The book also includes Daykin’s recipe for homemade graham crackers and Oreos, as well as her beautiful pastel marshmallows, which are now sold in stores North America–wide.
The book features the same pink-and-pistachio colours as her shops, and a silky signature ribbon to mark your place. The sensuousness helps to convey the pleasure of home baking and makes you want to whip up something cheery to offset the dreary weather.
If chocolate is your sweet of choice, proceed directly to The Complete Chocolate Book by the Canadian Living Test Kitchen (Transcontinental Books). The hundred-plus recipes in this book cover all the bases, from homey (oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and banana chocolate chunk bread pudding) to elegant and sophisticated (chocolate chestnut mousse, white chocolate pomegranate trifle).
Clearly written by a bunch of true chocoholics, the recipes are organized into chapters by craving: gooey, creamy, crunchy, chewy, melty, crumbly, chilly, and cakey. Some of these sweets would make good projects for holiday gift-giving, such as the chocolate caramel pecan clusters and the two-tone peppermint bark.
Desserts don’t feature prominently in Modern Native Feasts (Arsenal Pulp Press), but a handful are included, such as bannock bread pudding with crème anglaise and caramel sauce. Subtitled Healthy, Innovative, Sustainable Cuisine, the book concentrates on the savoury, specifically dishes with healthy ingredients and those sourced by hunting or fishing.
This is chef Andrew George Jr.’s second cookbook, the long-awaited follow-up to his Feast! Canadian Native Cuisine for All Seasons, published back in 1997. George is a member of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and a prominent figure in the aboriginal culinary community. He was the head chef at the Four Host First Nations pavilion at the 2010 Winter Olympics and these days keeps busy teaching cooking to Native students as part of the SuperChefs program, with a focus on meals that put a modern, healthy spin on traditional fare.
Part of his “modern” take is incorporating the multicultural culinary influences that surround us daily. At first glance, many of George’s recipes don’t look very aboriginal: take basil pesto, for example, and balsamic vinaigrette. But on closer inspection, these are building blocks that fuse with traditional aboriginal dishes. For example, George serves dill pesto with grilled Pacific salmon on baked bannock. There’s a recipe for Tuscan white bean soup and another for venison bean soup. Handmade pasta forms the basis of both butternut squash and pear ravioli and moose cannelloni.
Many of the recipes feature game meats and seafood, as George grew up hunting and fishing. These recipes also acknowledge our international tastes. For example, there are braised buffalo ribs with red pepper pesto, spicy elk wraps, and venison tourtière. He puts a First Nations spin on oysters Rockefeller by substituting stinging nettle, dandelion greens, or sorrel for spinach. And George’s seaweed-brined gravlax recipe gives a nod to both the European way of curing salmon and the First Nations method of preserving fish with dried seaweed.
And then of course, there’s bannock. George’s bread pudding is “inspired by a comfort-food recipe that Grandma used to make”.
Regardless of what cultural influences you grew up with, many people would agree: when it comes to dessert, nothing beats those tried-and-true family favourites.