Thursday, September 15, 2011

Baking from a foreign cookbook

During the summer, Melissa wrote about cookbooks she likes called Ladies, A Plate.  The title refers to the tactful code at the bottom of a community event notice in New Zealand for attending ladies to bring along some baked goods to share. 

We know where this is going, right?  I had to have these books.  Or at least one of them.  For a start pretty much everything Melissa does or gets interested in is awesome, and also, the custom of catering en masse is traditional to the neighbourhood where I grew up, too.  Bonus: did you click on the Melissa link and look at the covers?  Please. 

Right away when my copy of the original book arrived I spotted the cuteness of the recipe titles - 'bumble bees', 'butterfly cakes', 'coffee cloud cake' - and in particular the presence of 'Nainoma Bars'.  This recipe is immediately recognizable as what is known in my circle as 'Nanaimo Bars', after a town in British Columbia, but also 'You Name It Brownies,' and even 'Johnny No-Name Bars' because they are known under so many different titles.  (graham/coconut/butter/cocoa crust, vanilla pudding-enriched icing for filling, melted chocolate poured over top.)

I love this book and have been making recipes from it, none of them yet keepers but all - and collectively too - fascinating.  Like, who knew you could have so many ginger-based recipes in one book and have them all be different?

And another cool thing: dissolving the baking powder in milk or water so it's part of the liquids added to the dry ingredients.  Where I live, the baking powder gets sifted in with the dry stuff.

Those are 'Friendly Road' buns, named after the depression-era radio show where the recipe was first shared.  By my local standards, they are not a bun but rather a tall satisfying cookie, sweetened noticeably with a little addition of Golden Syrup (sweeter than pure corn syrup and generally one of the most delicious things imaginable: try it on pancakes.)

These are Ginger Kiss halves, served without being sandwiched over icing because who has time? They poured out onto the cookie sheet like cake batter, but puffed up prettily into a soft but firmer-than-cake morsel.  I balked at the amount of ginger the recipe called for and halved it, but of course it came out very delicately-flavoured so another time I would make it as directed.

There are recipes in the book I would never bake, but which serve to point out how incredibly dedicated those New Zealand moms were about treating their families with special tarts and mini eclairs and elaborate cakes.  Actually I could never make any other recipes in the book and it would still have been worth buying it - the pictures are soooooo wonderful! and the introductions to where the recipe came from or how it was adapted by dozens of different bakes!  it's everything I like about social history. 

Try a copy yourself and see what I mean - and if you make something I haven't but should, let me know.

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