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Why you should try rye

The Scofflaw cocktail

Until recently, rye whiskey was thought of as an old-fashioned spirit imbibed by the likes of a gumshoe detective in a paperback mystery. That is changing, however, due to a US-led rye whiskey revival. According to The Telegraph, a "resurgence in artisanal distilling and aging in America has led to a rye renaissance. Old brands have been revived, new brands born, and the most grown-up of American whiskies is back." And it's better than ever, which means it's time to try a rye-based cocktail.

Arguably the most famous rye cocktail is the Manhattan. The story of its invention is (like many cocktails) in dispute. The Manhattan traces back to "a banquet either in honour of Winston Churchill's mother or losing presidential candidate Samuel J Tilden in the late 19th Century." The drink comes dry, perfect or sweet, depending on which type of vermouth and the amount you like to use.

There are newer cocktails that celebrate the spirit, like the Red Hook, which dates back to the 1980s and NYC bartender Enzo Enrico, or the even more recent Conference cocktail from the team behind Death & Co.: Modern Classic Cocktails. Whether you want to revisit a classic or find something new, the EYB Library features over 200 drinks highlighting rye whiskey, like these popular libations:

The slope (Time for a Drink) from Serious Eats
Artillery punch from The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan
Hibiscus Sazerac from Food Network Magazine by Masaharu Morimoto
The scofflaw cocktail from The Kitchn (pictured above)
Rye and maple fizz from Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine
Caraway rye cocktail from Food & Wine Magazine by Richard Blais

Scientists think they've discovered a sixth taste

bacon fatFor centuries, people described food in terms of four basic tastes: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. More recently a Japanese chemist discovered a fifth taste, umami, which is triggered by glutamates. Now scientists say they have found a sixth basic taste, and they believe it could profoundly change the way we eat.

This new basic taste doesn't get a fancy new name because it is already familiar to everyone - it's fat. Scientists have long known that receptors in our mouths recognize fat, which led them to speculate that it could change the way we perceive food in the same way that other basic tastes do. Now scientists have discovered the evidence to back up their theory.

Richard Mattes, a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University, is the lead author of the study. He explained the results to The Washington Post: "We already knew that people have a taste receptor for fatty acids; now we know that it's a distinguishable taste - that it doesn't have overlap. The combination of those two things is what's important," he said.

When you eat, fat isn't perceived by itself, just like you don't immediately perceive that the color green is a combination of blue and yellow. In the same manner, "when you eat a food that contains fat, you don't immediately perceive the taste produced by the fatty acid. But it's there, and it's distinct." 

You may be surprised to learn that fat, when isolated from other flavors, doesn't taste good. "It's very harsh," said Mattes. But other basic tastes operate in the same manner. The bitter taste and MSG also aren't appealing outside of the food products in which they are found, but they contribute significantly to foods we love like chocolate and beer. "Many things that are unpleasant in isolation in fact contribute greatly to the appeal of foods," Mattes reminds us. "Fat is a perfect example."

This finding will change the way food companies approach flavor. Until now, they've mostly focused on the "mouthfeel" of fat rather than the flavor. Mattes thinks that if these companies learn to manipulate the taste of fat correctly, they can make many foods taste better by finding better substitutes or using fat molecules as a flavor enhancer. 

Photo of Rendering bacon fat from Cooking Light Magazine

The Great British Bake Off returns

Great British Bakeoff

It might be hard to believe, but the Great British Bake Off returns on 1 August for another season. The show has spawned several new stars and at least 20 cookbooks, some by contestants and some from hosts Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. The Guardian caught up with the show's presenters, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, to discuss the show as it approaches the premiere of its sixth season.

When asked how they retain their "famous normalness" when working on the biggest show on TV, Sue replies "We're the same people we were when we met as teenagers. We've had lots of ups and downs, so we don't link our career success to our personal happiness. You learn how to do that when you lose everything and become very badly unemployed, as we did." Mel chimes in, saying "It helps having extremely grounded families."

The pair discuss what they think the future holds and reply in their trademark off-the-cuff manner. They get a bit more serious when discussing the contestants, however. Says Sue ""A lot of people, women particularly, have come to this programme to find out who they are. They've spent a life doing things for other people, they're mothers, daughters, and now it's time for them. To see that spark of independence and self-worth is really something. I don't want to be too meta about it, because it is just a show about cakes, but..." and this is where Mel chimes in, "...it means a lot to people."

When talking with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, the focus of the conversation changes a bit. They discuss their relationship, which is described as "most similar to that of a stubborn son and his long suffering mother." Mainly, though, they talk about the contestants. When asked why he thinks they want to be on the show, Paul states "It's about the challenge. To push themselves. Where's your benchmark? You want to be the best. It takes a certain type of person. A strong person. Confident. You have to be a pretty good baker as well." Mary notes that over the seasons, "the bakers have really changed. Now they're savvy, and they know what's expected of them. The standard has gone up. Paul and I are trying to get it back to basics."

Are you planning to watch the sixth season of the show? Which of the show's many cookbooks is your favourite?

Noma popup slated for Australia

Noma cookbooks

The chef of the number one restaurant in the world is taking his show on the road once again again. René Redzepi is packing up everything, include his entire 60-person staff, and will open a popup version of Noma in Sydney for 10 weeks beginning in January. Redzepi notes that the weather was at least one factor in choosing the location for the popup, as he was partly motivated by the thought of his three children learning to surf. "There is a unique shoreline culture in Australia and you definitely feel that as visiting northern Europeans," he said.

The avant garde chef will continue his signature style of finding creative ways to use native foods. He's already spent time foraging in the Northern Flinders Ranges in South Australia to get ideas for the menu. "I have always been attracted to the incredible diversity you find in Australia's landscapes and ingredients, because they are like no other place I've seen before," said Redzepi.

There is no word yet on how much lunch or dinner at Noma Australia will cost. Expressions of interest in attending the restaurant will be taken at www.noma.dk/australia, and plans are for the spot to be open for lunch and dinner five days a week over the 10-week period. It's not yet clear whether the restaurant will follow the lead of Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck Australia, which utilised a ballot to allocate the limited number of tables. That restaurant attracted 90,000 people for the available 14,000 seats.

Weights and measures

strawberries on scale

More and more home bakers are using scales to improve their baking. Precision is important to achieving consistent results, but it can be a pain to convert volume measures into ounces or grams. A few conversion charts are tucked away on manufacturer or baking websites, but the folks at King Arthur Flour have an extraordinarily comprehensive list on their website.

This list includes both ounces and grams, which is sure to please those outside the US (and bakers like me who prefer to use the metric system). Also included are weights for many types of specialty flours, including those made from ancient grains like teff and quinoa, that seem to be springing up everywhere. In addition to nearly every type of flour imaginable, the chart has entries for many dairy products, including several cheeses; fruits both fresh and dried; baking ingredients like leaveners, nuts, and chocolates; fats and oils; and even a few herbs and vegetables.

The beginning of the list skews heavily to products made by King Arthur flour and there is a caveat: it appears the measurements are those for "spoon and sweep" recipes, not "dip and sweep" ones. (The latter is where you dip your measuring cup directly into the flour then level off the top.) Make sure to read the foreward in your cookbook to see how the author instructs you to measure flour.

Dip and sweep is usually 4.75 to 5 ounces per cup (Cook's Illustrated uses the latter measurement). While this chart says that 1 cup of unbleached, all purpose flour is 4.25 ounces, many other charts go up to 4.5 ounces per cup. In most recipes this won't be a crucial difference, but if you don't have success with the lesser amount, try again with the larger one - and be sure to note it in your cookbook for future reference.

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 AUS/NZ books:

Beesting Cake recipe from A Year's Worth: Recipes from the Dunsandel Store
by Sam Mannering & Annabel Graham, indexed by an EYB member

From Canadian books:

5 recipes from Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own: Bob Flowerdew's Guide to Making the Most of Your Garden Produce, indexed by an EYB member

From US books:

Publisher Penguin pulls the plug on its Australian cookbook imprint

Lantern cookbooksPenguin Random House's Lantern imprint has published top selling cookbooks from a veritable Who's Who of Australian food writers and chefs from David Thompson to Kylie Kwong. Despite the success of books like Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion, Penguin announced that it is shutting down the Lantern cookbook division in 2016.

Lantern was created by Julie Gibbs, its publishing director, just over ten years ago. Gibbs will depart at the end of this year. The imprint was known for its opulent design that won many international awards. CEO Gabrielle Coyne said the changing retail environment is to blame for Lantern's demise. "The prevailing market conditions mean there is no longer the retail footprint there once was to support the number of illustrated books in our future 2016 and 2017 programme," she said.

The publisher was also embroiled in controversy over author Belle Gibson's cookbook, The Whole Pantry. Earlier this year, details about Gibson falsifying her illness emerged, causing the publisher to pull the book. Lantern's demise signals the "end of the golden era" for cookbook publishers. 

Attention budding cookbook authors

kitchen tools

If you are a cookbook lover, chances are you have considered writing your own cookbook. Maybe your friends suggested it or you came up with an idea for a spectacular layout while struggling to cook from a poorly designed book. But even though many of us have likely toyed with the idea, we have shrugged it off because it requires resources beyond our reach.

That's where Page Street Publishing comes in. The company has joined forces with cookbook author Kimberly Yorio to create a contest in which the grand prize is a contract to write a cookbook for Page Street. The campaign is the brainchild of Page Street's publisher and editor-in-chief Will Kiester. "I am an optimist," said Kiester. "I believe that hidden in great kitchens across the nation are people whose cooking is so good that it should be collected, curated and presented."

If you think you've got what it takes, there is a long list of requirements: You must put together a proposal that includes: a description of the cookbook, an explanation of how the book will distinguish itself from others, your biography, a table of contents, a list of 15 different recipes, and details about the marketing power you'll bring via social media and other platforms. The deadline to enter is August 1, so there's no time to waste if you are interested in entering. 

Deliciously easy homemade Chinese food

pork belly

Sisters Amy and Julie Zhang have been entertaining and educating their thousands of followers on YouTube with their recipes for deliciously easy homemade Chinese food. Calling themselves The Dumpling Sisters, the duo are engaging and charismatic cooks who have also referred to themselves as the 'young, Asian, and (much) less hairy Hairy Bikers'. Following up on their online success, the sisters have published a cookbook, The Dumpling Sisters Cookbook: Over 100 Favourite Recipes from a Chinese Family Kitchen, in which the recipes are interspersed with the insider tips and tricks that the girls' YouTube fans adore. (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the cookbook.) Amy and Julie took time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions about their new book:

You have an interesting culinary heritage - where were you brought up and where do you live now?

We've been really lucky to be exposed to a bunch of different cultures, which has in turn boosted our love and appreciation of different cuisines. We grew up in New Zealand, so while we had sandwiches and crisps in our packed lunches, we always ate Chinese food at for dinner. Now we both live in London, which is a total melting pot of cultures and cuisines. It's amazing - you can have Korean one night and Ethiopian the next, all down the same street!

At what age did you start cooking? Do you remember the first thing you made?

We started pretty young, as we worked alongside our parents in the family food cart. For nearly 25 years our parents have been setting up shop at a big market in Christchurch, and they're still going today! One of the first things we were responsible for was making wontons. Dad's recipe for the filling was really simple to make, and our little fingers were good at peeling apart the sheets of wonton pastry.

Are you both engaged full time in your culinary careers or do you have other jobs?

At the moment we're both working on other things alongside The Dumpling Sisters. Amy works in healthcare advertising, and Julie's currently a policy intern at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

What prompted you to start your YouTube channel?

When we first started this project, we had aspirations to open a cool Chinese eatery in London. But we also knew that we needed investment to do this, as starting a food business is hugely expensive! We thought that being on YouTube would be a good way to raise our profile and to show potential investors what we could do. What we've found is that YouTube has connected us with loads more people that we could have imagined - not necessarily investors, but fellow food lovers and keen home cooks. YouTube is great, because it empowers ordinary people like us to tap into audiences that would otherwise be out of reach. It has been a terrific platform for us to share something we feel so passionately about, in such a lighthearted way.

How did you get involved with 'Jamie Oliver's Search for a Food Tube Star' and how did you do?

We saw the competition advertised on YouTube, and knew immediately that we wanted to give it a go. Because the competition was sponsored by Uncle Ben's, the only brief was that the video recipe entry should contain rice in some form. Being Chinese and serious rice lovers, we had loads of ideas before settling on a version of fried rice lettuce parcels that mum used to make for us when we were growing up. We ended up coming second in the competition from a pool of over 250 entries worldwide, which we were really pleased about!

How do you split your roles when developing recipes and filming your videos?

We don't really have set roles - we both do everything! So we develop half of the recipes each, and take it in turns to edit our videos. When it comes to filming the videos, one of us will start with slicing and marinating the meat, then in the next shot the other person will be prepping the veg. It's just straightforward alternating so that people don't get tired of seeing one person's mug!

Do you each have a favorite recipe from the book?

Julie loves anything porky, so Crispy Five Spiced Pork Belly and Lacquered Honey Hoisin Pork Spare Ribs are high on her list. Amy, on the other hand, is a chicken fan, so her favourites include a silky Fragrant Steamed Chicken and a Potato and Chicken Curry.

What Chinese ingredients do you recommend for a more authentic taste for Chinese dishes? And where do you buy your ingredients?

We have a nifty little feature in our book called 'Add an Exotic'. We selected ten ingredients that people may not be very familiar with, but that we think can really elevate certain dishes because they add a new flavor or texture. This includes things like salted fish, fermented tofu (way better than it sounds!) and wood ear mushrooms. For most of our recipes, you can get everything you need at an ordinary supermarket. But for exotics and great deals on things like rice and fresh veg, we hit up our favourite Chinese supermarkets and street markets, such as the one in Brixton.

Photo of Mum's cracking five-spiced roast pork belly from The Dumpling Sisters Cookbook: Over 100 Favourite Recipes from a Chinese Family Kitchen

Cookbook giveaway - The Dumpling Sisters Cookbook

Dumpling Sisters CookbookLondon-based sisters Amy and Julie Zhang are YouTube stars, high-achieving young women (Amy has a PhD in science and Julie has a masters in psychology and criminology), and share a passion for cooking. This energy shines through in the recently released The Dumpling Sisters Cookbook: Over 100 Favourite Recipes from a Chinese Family Kitchen. Read our interview with Amy and Julie to learn more about the book.

We're delighted to offer 3 copies of The Dumpling Sisters Cookbook to Members in the UK only. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post:

What Chinese dish would you most like to try at home?

Please note that you must be signed into the Rafflecopter contest before posting the comment or your entry won't be counted. Entries from non-Members will be discarded. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends August 20, 2015.

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