I have two new books from Sur la Table to tell you about today. Both were just released in late September, and I received review copies. Simple Comforts, is a cute, little book about seven inches square. It's full of classic dishes that everyone craves, but the recipes have been updated for a more contemporary feel through the addition of fresh herbs and oils and vinegars that have become easy to find these days. Favorite comfort foods like cinnamon rolls, old-fashioned dinner rolls, chicken noodle soup, chicken pot pie, classic extra-cheesy macaroni and cheese, and strawberry shortcakes are all here. But, you'll also find banana chocolate chip bread with chocolate icing, pizza margherita, kabocha squash soup with toasted cumin and chiles, chard mushroom and swiss cheese frittata, and an ice cream sundae with roasted strawberries with a brown sugar-balsamic drizzle. It's a great go-to reference for meals that are sure to please and would be a perfect book for a beginner cook.
The second book, Gifts Cooks Love, offers just what the title suggests. It presents homemade goodies that make great gifts and ideas for packaging them as well. There are preserved gifts like aleppo pepper-peach chutney, apricot-bourbon mustard, and cotes du rhone-rhubarb compote. The smoked and cured options include homemade bacon, salmon gravlax, and a smoky ketchup. Of course there are baked goods like double fudge brownie pops, panforte, and a very cool-looking biscotti Christmas tree. For the tree, the biscotti are cut to different lengths and then stacked bottom to top, from large to small, to form a three-dimensional tree shape. It looks so great in the photo in the book, I have to try it. You'll also find confections, homemade liqueurs, spice blends, and gift kit ideas. I jumped in and tested the homemade rosemary-parmesan crackers, and these are mentioned in one of the kit suggestions that would also include green tomato chutney, aleppo pepper-peach chutney, panforte, and chipotle chile candied pecans.
The crackers were made in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, and flour, chopped fresh rosemary, salt, and sugar were combined. Water was poured over that mixture, and it was kneaded with the mixer. The dough was set aside, wrapped in plastic, to allow the gluten to relax. Then, working with half the dough at a time, it was rolled out and cut into long, thin crackers. They were placed on olive oil-coated baking sheets, the tops were brushed with more olive oil, and they were sprinkled with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano. They came out of the oven golden and puffed in spots. They bake pretty quickly, in just about ten minutes, but you do need to watch them and remove the crackers on the ends of the baking sheet that brown before the ones in the center. These were crunchy, addictive snacks, and they'd make a gift I'd be happy to give and even happier to receive.