25 May 2014

book musings: Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

I don't remember how I ran across Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. All I know is that the hold list for it at the library was extravagantly long, a waiting list that reminded me of the wait for Downton Abbey, Series One. I got it just after E. was born and spent some of those early days with a newborn reading the book while I nursed her. Those days are very blurred now (thank God), but I did remember the book.

While we were down in Portland for the Christmas holidays, I picked it up during one of our trips to Powell's, since I'd enjoyed it enough to purchase it (current rule for incoming books: re-readability). The conversational style of writing is not for everyone, I realize, but it's one that I rather enjoy. The series of recipes interspersed with Jennifer Reese's adventures into how to save money versus how not to save money on cooking makes for an entertaining read. I don't agree with her assessment on everything, of course, but that's to be expected (Mexican food--if you want decent Mexican food around here, you're usually better off making it, like we do. She lives in California, so it's to be expected that better and cheaper Mexican food can be found there. I'm still working on figuring out corn tortillas--they are deceptively difficult for me while macarons are pretty easy).

The first recipe I attempted was her cured salmon. I'm a convert. We love fish, especially salmon, and we especially love it raw, either sashimi-style, smoked, or cured. The first batch I made was gone in a day and a half. I haven't really tried it since, as good quality salmon is spendy, but we know it's good and easy. My next attempt at it will use a different spice blend, since the coriander mix in the recipe is nice, but I think the coriander is a bit overwhelming.

I've tinkered with a few other things from the book so far. The pancake recipe was a little thinner than we needed it to be, though it was delicious. I plan to try her yogurt recipe. We went through a homemade yogurt phase several years ago when we were making a yogurt-based bread all the time, but I'd never strained out the whey to get thicker yogurt. We always ended up with yogurt the consistency of milk--good for baking, not for plain eating.

And I love the book for the reading and the inspiration. Reese's forays into owning chickens and goats are amusing, and her beekeeper saga is interesting, though ultimately unsuccessful. There are a few recipes in there that I probably won't try (homemade deep-fried potato chips) and a few that I will (cream cheese, once I track down the needed culture), and some that I may or may not give a go. I've tried making my own vanilla extract, to great success (though now I need a few more vanilla beans and another bottle of bourbon to top it off--we're starting to run low), and I've made my own butter just to see what it was like. The spirit of the book is not entirely about frugality--sometimes the homemade is more expensive, but so much better that it doesn't matter. The extra effort is often worth it. Make the Bread, Buy the Butter makes me want to actually get around to making that bread, which I've been doing more and more often, with greater success.

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