Sunday, January 03, 2010

On the Nightstand

Christmas was very, very good to me in terms of books; I find myself with a tantalizing new pile of them to peruse these cold, wintry days.

The Kids, bless their hearts, hearing that I had never read any of the Harry Potter books (yes, it's started out that, during the height of Harry-mania, I could never get my hands on one of the books at our local library, and then I just got busy and never followed up) me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I got started during our stay in Brooklyn, and read more on the plane on the way home. It's great fun; and there's a Dickensian quality to the matter-of-fact way in which J.K. Rowling portrays Harry's ghastly pre-Hogwarts life that I think may resonate with many young readers, along with that note of hope -- that the despised "other," the one who doesn't fit in, the sufferer, can be a hero for others and the hero of his or her own life story. That's pretty cool.

A wonderful surprise was Julia Child's classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which Fellow Traveler told me she ordered shortly after we went to see the film Julie/Julia. My foodie heart went pitter-patter as I tore open the wrapping paper. While I have no aspirations to replicate Julie Powell's blogged journey throughout the entirety of the cookbook, we did talk about maybe doing a "Julia" meal once a week.

Two books, also cookbooks, were explicitly on my wish list: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, both by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, a pastry chef and scientist/amateur bread baker who have come up with methods for creating no-knead yeasted bread doughs that can be kept in the refrigerator and broken off as needed for fresh, artisan-quality loaves. While I love the ease of a bread machine, it has its limits; so I'm really interested in trying out some of these recipes, even though it means a willing suspension of my disbelief in most things "new and improved."

Finally, a book I gave myself for Christmas/my birthday: Gertrud Mueller Nelson's To Dance With God, a book about sanctifying home life through ritual; something I want to do more of in our own household and a concept I'd like to share in our own faith community and beyond.

My only regret in all of this: I can't find my booklight, which I think I am going to need as I work my way through all these wonderful books!


Auntie Knickers said...

I've read all the HP, and own Julia and To Dance with God (can't say I've read all of Julia though)-- I know I've made at least 3 recipes from JC, boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin, and cheese souffle. We used her The Way to Cook for Sisterfilms' buche de noel birthday cake. I've read about these bread things. Since I have a mixer with a dough hook I think I need to try just ordinary bread baking first, though. But the idea of rising in the refrigerator calms my fear that my kitchen is too chilly for yeast.

LutheranChik said...

We don't have an ideal place to raise dough either, so I too am looking forward to experimenting with the refrigerator risings. As far as the Julia book, I think one of my big interests is the sauce chapter, because -- well, because I'm not good at them; and a well-made sauce can gussy up a very plainly cooked dish.

Julia Day may well morph into Cookbook Day in general because we have so many of them; and I'm feeling an urge to make some retro comfort food from my mama's old cookbooks. As far as that goes, I may even revisit Mrs. Beeton's venerable tome for a Victorian main dish or two.

zorra said...

I'll be interested in your take on the Francois/Hertzberg methods. I tried making and using refrigerator dough for the first time at Thanksgiving, and those rolls were so successful I did it again for Christmas. I think if you punch it down every day it should keep for a week or so.

altar ego said...

Ooh, I've got GMN's To Dance with God and love it. It is a wonderful book for smaller parishes, as well as families. In fact, it inspired a break from traditional pancakes on Shrove Tuesday to a fun and festive "Taco Tuesday" event that kids, especially, enjoy.

I hope the bread cooks are a triumph. Keep us posted!

LutherPunk said...

We started baking bread using the Francois Hertzberg technique, and now use the recipes all the time. Our bread machine sits gathering dust. What we have found to be most central is having a good baking stone and a decent pizza peel. Also, with the sourdough, the longer you leave he dough in the fridge, the more complex and wonderful the flavors.

Enjoy! We have!

LutheranChik said...