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Delicious cakes without an oven

Jessie and JeanJessie Sheehan abandoned a much-hated and short-lived legal career to work as an assistant pastry chef at Baked NYC in Red Hook/Brooklyn. In addition to making all the delicious treats served at Baked, Jessie also did in-house recipe testing for all three Baked cookbooks. Jean Sagendorph is an ice box cake expert. She can make a cake with one arm tied behind her back and has mastered the use of the fork as both a vertical and horizontal tool. When not being silly, or wielding her mixer, Jean is a literary agent and author. Jessie and Jean came together to create the recently-released Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town. (You can enter our contest for a chance to win a copy of the book.) Find out more about the book, and these cool cakes, in our author Q&A:

Can you explain to non-US members what an icebox cake is and what is the history of this dessert?

An icebox cake is a dessert that never sees the inside of an oven. Instead, cookies (or ladyfingers or graham crackers) are layered with whipped cream (or pudding) and placed in the refrigerator where the cakey ingredient absorbs the moist ingredient creating a final dish that is cake-like.

Icebox cakes can be traced back to the early 1800s in France. Marie-Antoine Careme's charlotte is well-documented in his cookbook, The Royal Parisian Pastry Cook and Confectioner. The icebox cake that we more commonly know really took off in 1920s America with the advent of National Biscuit Company's (now known as Nabisco) Famous Chocolate Wafers.

Icebox cakes would seem to be a great do-ahead dessert for parties and entertaining. How long do icebox cakes last once assembled?

Icebox cakes are a fantastic do-ahead dessert for many reasons. First, an icebox cake made with homemade ingredients (like the ones in our book) actually needs 24 hours to set up in the refrigerator once it is assembled, allowing you to make your cake a day (or even two) before you want to serve it to guests. Second, icebox cakes freeze beautifully, offering those plan-ahead types the opportunity to make a dessert three weeks before the guests arrive. To freeze an icebox cake, after allowing it to set up in the fridge for 24 hours, carefully wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze for up to three weeks. Allow the cake to defrost in the fridge for at least 8 hours before serving.

How labor-intensive are the recipes and can store-bought ingredients be substituted, e.g. for the cookie layers?

Making icebox cakes with homemade ingredients does take longer than making them with store-bought ingredients, but only a bit longer than it takes to make cookies from scratch (the homemade pudding and whipped creams come together in a jif). And here's the thing, desserts always taste better when assembled with homemade ingredients.

Although the recipes may look long, they are super simple and easy to follow. All that said, substituting is totally fine, and we even make suggestions in the book for various brands of store-bought cookies, graham crackers and ladyfingers that will make an excellent icebox cake.

What is your favorite recipe in the book?

Jessie's favorite recipe in the book is a tie between the Marshmallow Peanut Butter (which tastes like the most amazing fluffer-nutter sandwich you've ever had) and the Black and White Malted (think of a malted vanilla milkshake with chocolate syrup in cake-form). Jean favors the Old School (it appeals to her love of Oreos) and the Raspberry Ganache because raspberries and chocolate work together like Fred and Ginger.

strawberry lemon icebox cakeWere there any experiments that you tried that didn't work as icebox cakes?

Jean remembered having a spectacular dessert in California with mascarpone and figs, and so Jessie tried desperately to develop an icebox cake with a mascarpone whipped cream and a fig compote of sorts, but to no avail - and off-season it was insanely expensive to produce. Jessie also tried to launch a pear icebox cake, but once layered in the cake, the pears never softened enough (not a big surprise) in the fridge - even when poached prior to cake assembly.

With July 4th approaching, which of your recipes are best suited to a red white and blue theme?

The Red Velvet cake is a perfect red and white cake that you could easily decorate with blueberries to create a fun red, white, and blue cake. The Lavender-Blueberry and the Raspberry Ganache aren't exactly red, but they are very colorful. The Strawberry Lemon (pictured right) is also a perfect early-summer dessert, with strawberries still around in many farmers' markets, and you could top the cake with some blueberries for the full Americana experience. The S'mores cake is not red, white, and blue per se, but what summer BBQ is complete without a s'more?

Icebox cakes would seem to be summer desserts but are there any recipes that are suited to other holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Absolutely, given the spices, the Chai Ginger is the perfect dessert for Thanksgiving and the Peppermint Chocolate makes for a spectacular Christmas dessert.

I see from your bios that Jessie is a baker and Jean is a literary agent. How did you divide the book writing duties between you?

Jessie is a recipe developer and blogger who has worked with the guys from Baked for many years and Jean is a literary and licensing agent who worked with Food Network for more than a decade , as well as being free labor in the various bars and eateries that her family owned. Jessie primarily worked on the recipe development (especially when the pistachio paste threatened to make Jean go nuts, pun intended) and Jean focused on the writing, but each had a hand in the whole process, they probably should have given Dropbox a shout-out in the book.

Cookbook giveaway - Icebox Cakes

Icebox CakesMaking a cake involves lots of mixing and a hot oven, right? Not according to Jean Sagendorph and Jessie Sheehan. In their new cookbook Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town, they prove that the refrigerator can be a great tool for creating delicious cakes for any occasion. You can learn more about the cookbook in our author Q&A with Jessie and Jean.

We're delighted to offer 4 copies of Icebox Cakesto EYB Members in the US & Canada. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post:

What's your favorite icebox cake flavor?

Please note that you must be signed into the Rafflecopter contest before posting the comment or your entry won't be counted. The contest ends July 30, 2015.

Give peas a chance?

Smashed pea guacamole

It's always amazing how fewer than 140 characters can stir up a giant controversy. That's what happened today when The New York Times tweeted a link to a guacamole recipe with this caption "Add green peas to your guacamole. Trust us." Reactions from chefs and others were swift and passionate

People across the globe chimed in, with some telling the newspaper to "delete your account", and others chastizing the newspaper publication for giving "possibly the worst food advice ever". Bad puns like "Guaca-NO-le" quickly followed. The controversy even got politicians from opposite sides of the spectrum to agree: US presidential candidate Jeb Bush and President Barack Obama both voiced their opposition to adding peas to guacamole. 

The NYT's recipe itself is not new; it originated at ABC Cocina from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten a couple of years ago. Says the NYT's Melissa Clark: "Adding fresh English peas to what is an otherwise fairly traditional guacamole is one of those radical moves that is also completely obvious after you taste it."

A quick search of the EYB Library found 6 guacamole recipes that include peas, including the highly rated Smashed pea guacamole with cilantro, ginger and lime from Food52 (pictured above). Where do you stand on peas in guacamole - it is a stroke of culinary genius or is it heresy?

"Project Smoke" aims to elevate your barbecue


Are you just getting into barbecue or do you consider yourself a seasoned pitmaster? Either way, grilling guru Steven Raichlen's new PBS series called "Project Smoke," which debuted last weekend, aims to boost your barbecue IQ. Thirteen 30-minute episodes feature "recipes, ingredients, tools, tricks and techniques that aim to lead the audience on a smoke-filled journey to new flavors."

"I call smoke the umami of BBQ," Raichlen told Yahoo! Food. "It enhances the intrinsic flavor of beef, pork, fish and vegetables the way umami does. Smoke has the ability to give food such a depth of flavor without denaturizing the original product." The show is aimed at both novices and experts. "If you're a beginner, you'll learn how to smoke on every smoker and how to use every ingredient. If you're more advanced, you'll learn some tricks and dishes that aren't part of your repertoire," he said.

In addition to behind-the-scenes footage of how food programs are put together, Raichlen will emphasize ethical eating by encouraging cooks to use grass-fed beef, heritage pork, organic poultry, and wild seafood, as well as locally sourced produce. The show will cover many different techniques, such as cold smoking (salmon), smoke roasting, rotisserie smoking,  and hay smoking. He'll also offer advice on the best smokers to buy - and for the dedicated, instructions on how to build your own.

Photo of Coffee-rubbed Texas-style brisket  from  Cooking Light Magazine by Steven Raichlen


Power couples

Grilled asparagus salad with fried egg 

Some food combinations just seem to go together: peanut butter and jelly, tomato soup and grilled cheese, milk and cookies. Sometimes food combinations do more than just taste good together; they can also promote nutrition, reports NPR's The Salt.

The NPR team took a look at a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which "concludes that adding eggs to salads makes it easier to absorb the carotenoids in the raw vegetables." Carotenoids are the yellow and red pigments that supply color to fruits and vegetable ; the most famous are beta carotene (think carrots) and lycopene (found in tomatoes). These phytonutrients play important roles in our health.

What researchers found was that adding eggs to salads increased the absorption of carotenoids 3.8 times when compared to salads with no eggs. It's the fat in the eggs that does it, and you can achieve similar results by using an oil-based salad dressing. (The research was conducted by Purdue University at the behest of the American Egg Board, which is why eggs were the focus of this study.)

Other food "power couples" also help boost nutrition. Eating foods "high in vitamin C, like a red pepper, helps convert the nonheme iron in plant foods and iron-fortified foods into a chemical form that promotes absorption." So Tex-Mex dishes that feature beans and peppers are winning combinations.

One intriguing beneficial food pairing is that of turmeric and black pepper. According to Drew Ramsey, a Columbia University psychiatrist-turned- kale evangelist, "this combination makes curcumin, the pigment in turmeric that has anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties, easier for the body to access. One study showed that the alkaloid in the pepper boosted the availability of curcumin in turmeric by 2,000 percent." So throw plenty of black pepper in your next curry.

There's always a down side to these arrangements, however. Sometimes power couples fight with each other. One kind of acid - phytates - found in things like coffee may decrease the absorption of iron and zinc. Pairing bacon with your morning coffee may be habit, but it's not the most nutritious path to breakfast.

Photo of Grilled asparagus salad with fried eggs  from indexed blog What's Gaby Cooking



What does the world's oldest person eat?

birthday cake slice

Last week the world got a new oldest person when the previous record holder, Jeralean Talley, passed away at the age of 116. Susannah Mushatt Jones, age 113, then became the world's oldest living person. You might think that to reach these advanced ages the women ate a spartan, ultra-healthy diet, but you would be wrong.

Talley lived to 116 on a diet of  "potato salad, honey buns, McDonald's chicken nuggets, and Wendy's chili. She would also eat lots of fish, vegetables, and fruit (blueberries, cantaloupe, and strawberries, to name a few)." Jones, when she learned that she was now the world's oldest living person, had just eaten a meal of steamed chicken, baked potato, collard greens, and raspberry Jell-O. Her breakfast most mornings consists of four strips of bacon with eggs and grits.

The diet of the current oldest person is often parsed by those seeking clues to longevity. Previous holders of the title attributed living to a ripe old age by cooking most of their meals from scratch or by eating only foods they truly enjoyed. Sounds like good advice to follow, even if you don't make it to age 116.

Photo of Ultimate birthday cake from 'Baked Occasions' (Bake the Book) from Serious Eats by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

The "someday" list

ricotta stuffed zucchini blossoms

People who love to cook are always on the hunt for new recipes. We pore through cookbooks, read dozens of websites, follow chefs on Twitter, and make bookmarks everywhere for dishes that we'd like to try. Some of us keep these lists online, in notebooks, or in a folder filled with pages torn from various magazines. (Of course we index all of them here on EYB.)

But not all of these wonderful inspirations end up on our plates. Maybe it's a missing ingredient that we never remember to buy, the fact that we can't find the time for a multi-step recipe, we aren't sure our family will like it, we're hesitant to stray from a tried-and-true recipe, or perhaps something more tempting comes along. Yet we don't get rid of those inspirational recipes (at least I don't) - they linger in our folders or lists,

I have several of these "I'm going to make that someday" recipes: a fried ricotta-filled zucchini blossom recipe bookmarked online (and pictured at top), a Jacques Pépin raspberry and kirsch jelly roll recipe torn from a magazine and beginning to turn yellow around the edges, a cornstarch ice cream recipe that all of my friends rave about, and an Argentine empanada recipe given to me by a friend. All of them ended up on the list for a reason, and I still aspire to make each and every one. Maybe I'll try that ice cream recipe tomorrow...but I wouldn't bet on it.

Which recipes linger in your "someday" list?

Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

At Eat Your Books we want to bring you the best recipes - our dedicated team searches out and finds online recipes excerpted from newly indexed cookbooks and magazines. New recipes from the best blogs are indexed daily and members index their favorite online recipes using the Bookmarklet all the time.

Below you'll find this week's recommendations from the EYB team.

Remember you can add any of these online recipes to your EYB Bookshelf - it's a great way to expand your personal recipe collection.

Happy cooking and baking everyone!

From magazines:

Salted Chocolate and Caramel Brownie Tart by Alice Arndell from
the July/August issue of indexed Cuisine Magazine

From AUS/NZ books:

2 recipes from A La Grecque: Our Greek Table by Pam Talimanidis

From Canadian books:

6 recipes from Buffalo Girl Cooks Bison by Jennifer Bain

From US books:

Making the most of your marinade

buttermilk ranch marinade

Marinades promise many things: added moisture, tenderness, and deep flavors to foods like chicken, pork, and even tofu. Sometimes, however, they fail to deliver. Indexed magazine Bon Appétit offers several tips on how to avoid making marinade mistakes.

The first piece of advice is to resist the temptation add everything but the kitchen sink to your marinade. "A proper marinade should have focus and clean flavor-this is not the time to combine Sriracha, mustard, soy sauce, hot sauce, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, onion jam, and whatever other random jars are lurking in the shelf of your fridge. Choose a simple theme or defining ingredient, and don't stray too far from the course." After all, you want to be able to taste the underlying food.

Another tip is to add some fat to the marinade. Carla Lalli Music, BA's food director, notes that "Fat carries flavor and will help distribute all the ingredients in the marinade into all the nooks and crannies of your steak, etc." Don't waste a high-quality delicate oil on this task - its flavor won't be strong enough to be noticed. Opt for a cheaper, neutral oil instead.

The article advises you to go big or go home on flavors like garlic and onion, since it takes a lot to penetrate into your meat. Also, the best way "to build flavor in your marinade is to kick start the aromatics. That means bruising herbs, toasting spices, smashing garlic cloves, and chopping alliums." 

Read more tips at Bon Appétit, and browse the EYB Library to find the perfect marinade.

Photo of Buttermilk ranch marinade from Marinades: The Quick-Fix Way to Turn Everyday Food into Exceptional Fare, with 400 Recipes by Lucy Vaserfirer (photo credit: Mims Copeland/The Oregonian)

Rash of restaurant rants

Restaurant review

When it rains, it pours, and when The Washington Post rants about restaurants, it creates a flood. Yesterday's online edition of the newspaper's food section contained six separate rants about restaurants. Most of the complaints revolved around service- or ambience-related issues; only one was about food.

First up is Roberto A. Ferdman's complaint about what he calls "the most annoying restaurant trend today" - waiters who take your plates before you are finished eating. He notes that going against decades of tradition where plates remain until everyone at the table is finished eating, servers now "hover over diners, fingers twitching, until the very instant someone puts down a fork. Like vultures, they then promptly snatch up the silverware -- along with everything else in front of the customer. If you're lucky, they might ask permission before stealing your plate."

Next, Bonnie Berwick takes on a smaller annoyance: napkins that don't work. Berwick laments that restaurants are dishing spun polyester napkins for those made from less expensive filament polyester. The difference, she explains, is that filament polyester doesn't properly absorb liquids, leading to napkins that in a recent dining experience "slid to the floor and transported salsa drips to my clothes, remaining stain-free vehicles themselves."

Another rant takes on restaurant websites. Becky Krystal complains that in an effort to be on the cutting edge of design, many restaurant websites neglect to include basic information like location, hours, a phone number, or even a menu. Other complaints noted on the site include lighting levels so low you can't read the menu, shrinking restaurant tabletop sizes, and a lack of adventurous dining in a popular DC neighborhood. 

Many people likely agree with some (or maybe all) of these rants, but beware: The Washington Post has a limit on the number of free articles per month, so if you want to read all of the rants you might run into the paywall, possibly creating a rant of your own.

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!