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A beef between countries

Roast beef

An outspoken French butcher is making waves in his home country by suggesting that English beef is superior to French beef. In a new documentary, Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec, a well-known French butcher, insists that grass-fed British beef is the best in the world. "We have lost the notion in France of what a good steak is. In fact, we simply don't know what it is any more," he declares. "The best rearers in the world are the British."

Le Bourdonnec is no stranger to controversy. He is notorious for turning down famouse chefs who want to buy his meat, instead selling choice cuts "artistically hung as if they were Yves Saint Laurent garments" at his shops in France. He posits that the breeds of cattle developed in France (Blondes d'Aquitaine, Limousins and Charolaises) are tough, "athletic" animals, bred not for eating but rather for milking or pulling plows.  On the other hand, he says, British breeds like Aberdeen Angus, Galloway, Hereford and Longhorn, when properly fed, have better marbling and therefore superior texture and flavour.

Needless to say, this proclamation has not been well received in France. The French butchers' federation went so far as to expel him from the organization, calling le Bourdonnec a shill for the British beef industry. The union also questions the motives behind the documentary itself.

I've never eaten either French or British beef, but since I spent a good part of my childhood on our family cattle farm, I hold a strong opinion about what constitutes quality beef. I am inclined to agree with le Bourdonnec's assessment of the breeding stock--our family preferred the taste of Hereford/Angus cross-bred cattle. What do you think of the claims?

Photo of Salt and pepper crusted rib roast from Gourmet Magazine

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Straight outta Brooklyn...

A while back I noticed a new adjective creeping into my cookbook reviews.  "The latest Brooklyn bakery book".  "Yet another Brooklyn bistro book". "Another hip Brooklyn-based title from [X] Press."  So - just for fun - I thought I'd map out just a few of the little retail establishments from this tiny, influential corner of the world that are gracing the cookbook world with their contributions.

It's not news that Brooklyn is the displaced epicenter of New York's creative types - the artists, cooks, and would-be agrarians of the millenial generation.  40 or 50 years ago you might have found them in the lofts of SoHo, and before that in the West Village.  But today's bohemians are a little different - they're entrepreneurs, as adept at selling their art as making it.

And what talent lies in Brooklyn!  A typical "Brooklyn book" is a bit below-average size, but it's got great photographs and smashing design. It may not have more than 75 recipes, but there's bound to be smart, witty text - sidebars, headnotes, tips and quotations - on nearly every page.  Who says that bachelors' degree in humanities is going to waste!?

The baking books deserve a special mention, because so many of the recipes can be reproduced at home.  In general baking books are a good bet when it comes to reproducibility (except for maybe the fancy cake-decorating books), since few bakers just toss out their measuring spoons and scales and wing it.  From 2008's The Sweet Melissa Baking Book to this year's Ovenly, I've found the Brooklyn baking books to be charmers and, in some cases, keepers.

The brewery books don't quite make up their own genre,at least not yet.  But there is a title that offers a tribute to some of the creative mixology. going down in the borough.  Brooklyn Spirits offers portraits of distillers, vintners, brewers, and bartenders, and just reading it is enough to leave you a little buzzed, either from the alcohol or the irony (try a "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" or - for real - "Another Pretentious Brooklyn Cocktail.")

Just for yucks, here's the short list I compiled of cookbooks hailing from Brooklyn eateries all within the same couple square miles. Please feel free to add more, as I'm sure I've missed tons.

You'll go nuts for this tip

Spiced mixed nuts

This is the time of year where many of us are deep into our holiday meal planning. The most organized cooks are making lists and setting schedules. Over at indexed blog Serious Eats, J. Kenji López-Alt has discovered a way to shave a chunk of time off our packed to-do lists. He's mastered a quick and easy method for toasting nuts.

Toasting nuts really brings out their flavor, but doing it in the oven takes a fair amount of time, even if you use a toaster oven. Using a skillet takes less time but also increases the chances of burning or uneven toasting. Kenji solves both problems by using a microwave to shorten the amount of time to as little as three minutes, without the need for constant stirring or shaking.

He started with the technique mentioned in Harold McGee's classic On Food and Cooking, but found that just putting raw nuts into the microwave didn't quite stack up to the conventional methods. However, by adding a small amount of oil to the nuts, he was able to achieve toasty perfection in a much shorter amount of time. Check out the Serious Eats article for particulars.

Photo of Spiced mixed nuts from Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Worrying news for chocolate lovers

Salted choclate caramel tarts

Chocolate lovers, brace yourselves. The world's chocolate supply can't keep up with demand, according to several chocolate producers including Mars, Inc. and Barry Callebaut. This "chocolate deficit" - in which consumers eat more chocolate than is produced in a year - is growing and shows no sign of abating.

The reasons for the deficit are two-fold. First, bad weather and a fungal disease are affecting chocolate crops, especially in West Africa, which produces more than 70 percent of the world's cocoa. The International Cocoa Organization estimates the fungal disease has caused the loss of 30 to 40 percent of global coca production. 

The second reason is that we just love chocolate too much. There is an almost insatiable demand for chocolate products, especially dark chocolate, which uses much more cocoa (the average chocolate bar contains about 10 percent cocoa, while dark chocolate bars can reach 70 percent cocoa by volume). Demand outstripped supply by 70,000 metric tons in the last year, and shows no signs of slowing down.

So what's being done to alleviate this crisis? One avnue is increased innovation in cocoa production. One research group in Central Africa "is developing trees that can produce up to seven times the amount of beans traditional cocoa trees can." Whether this trade-off in production quantity will affect the quality and flavor of the product is unknown, but judging by other crops like supermarket tomatoes, the prognosis is not great.

Unless a solution is found to dramatically (and quickly) increase cocoa production, consumers should be prepared to continue to pay more. Chocolate prices have been climbing steadily since 2012 and nothing suggests a departure from this trend.

Photo of Salted chocolate & caramel tarts from Delicious Magazine (Aus)

Get out your bundt pans

bundt cake

Today is National Bundt Day in the United States. Although cakes baked in ring shapes have been around for centuries, Bundt cakes got a boost after Minnesota-based cookware manufacturer Nordic Ware trademarked the name "Bundt" and began producing the pans from cast aluminum. The pan was nearly a flop until 1966, when the "Tunnel of Fudge" cake, baked in a Bundt pan, won the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

The Bundt cake can trace its origins in part from rich European cakes called Gugelhupf (or Gugelhopf), which were popular among Jewish communities in north central Europe.  In the northern part of Germany, Gugelhupf is called Bundkuchen, a name formed by joining the words Kuchen (cake) and Bund. There is some dispute on the significance of the word bund. It translates variously as band, bundle, or bond (as in alliance). 

Some scholars think the term refers to the way the dough is bundled around the tubed center of the pan, while others feel it describes the banded appearance given to the cake by the fluted sides of the pan, similar to a bundle of wheat. A third opinion is "that Bund instead refers to a group of people, and that Bundkuchen is so called because of its suitability for parties and gatherings." NordicWare added the "t" to Bund to get a trademark, and to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the pan in 2006, the company designated November 15 as National Bundt Day.

You can find several books featuring bundt cakes and bundt cake recipes galore in the EYB Library. Here are some of the most popular:

Lemon-buttermilk bundt cake from Bon Appétit Magazine (photo above)
Triple berry summer buttermilk bundt
from indexed blog Smitten Kitchen
All-in-one holiday bundt cake from Baking: From My Home to Yours

Chocolate bundt cake
from indexed blog 101 Cookbooks
Pumpkin spice bundt cake with buttermilk icing from Gourmet Magazine

What's your favorite bundt?

Tips to spotting bad recipes


Finding recipes online is easy, but ensuring that they are great isn't always as simple. Of course the EYB Library is full of well-tested recipes from trusted sources, but occasionally you may stumble across a recipe whose provenance isn't well known. For these recipes, Epicurious (through Yahoo! Food) has provided a list of five signs that indicate a recipe won't work.

Most of the signs are signs of omission: leaving out ingredients, mismatches between the ingredient list and the directions, or omitting special equipment needed to make the dish. Other signs require more interpretation. For instance, one sign is the inclusion of rambling or confusing paragraphs, noting that "if the recipe you're looking at doesn't make sense on the first (or even the second) read, it's a good sign that it's probably missing other essential information for success." However, one person's rambling may be another person's charming prose.

In other posts we've discussed the optimistic times posted with some recipe instructions (for example caramelizing onions), and this too is a sign that the recipe may be headed for disaster. If the recipe has time estimates but no instructions about what to look for at the end of the time period (e.g. color, aroma, viscosity, or sounds), you might want to look for a different recipe.

What signs tip you off that a recipe isn't going to work?

Peek inside Prune

Gabrielle Hamilton's new cookbook stands apart, as we've previously discussed. We're excited to announce that we've scored an excerpt from Prune to share with EYB Members, plus you can enter our contest for your chance to win a copy! And don't forget to check Hamilton's tour dates for the book in our events calendar.

The excerpt below (click on the photo to view the entire excerpt) is for Grilled hamburger with Cheddar cheese on toasted English muffin with parsley shallot butter (photo credit: Eric Wolfinger). Although the recipe is simple and straightforward, Hamilton's directions are detailed and evocative: "Season each burger all over--top, bottom, and the circumference--with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Hold your hands high and "rain" the salt and pepper."

We hope you enjoy the glimpse into this unique cookbook.

Prune cookbook

Cookbook giveaway - Prune

PruneGabrielle Hamilton's new cookbook, Prune, is generating plenty of buzz for its deviation from the chef cookbook archetype. A few days ago we reported on the unique style of the cookbook, and we just received a sneak peek inside the cover.

We're delighted to offer one copy of Prune to EYB Members. Click on the contest below to view all entry options. One of the options is to answer the following question in the comments below:

What aspect of this cookbook interests you the most--the recipes, the unique style, the insight into the back of the house, or something else?

Please note that you must enter the comment after signing into Rafflecopter or your entry won't be counted. The contest ends December 11, 2014.


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 blogs & magazines:

Pumpkin Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies from indexed blog Joy the Baker

Coffee Mascarpone Cheesecake by Ruby Tandoh from indexed The Guardian Cook supplement

From UK books:

8 recipes from D.O.M: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients by Alex Atala

From AUS/NZ books:

15 recipes from Bread by Dean Brettschneider

From US books:
Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!