Want to avoid advertising?

Join as Premium member »

Uh oh, it's magic

 magic recipes

Scrolling through my Twitter feed today, I came across several recipes with the word 'magic' in the title. A Magic lemon poppy seed cake from The Telegraph promised three types of cake from one batter. Food Network offered a Magic lemon meringue pie, although it was unclear to me what was magical about it. There are many variations of the 'magic' theme, and you can find almost 150 online recipes featuring the words 'magic' or 'magical' in the EYB Library.

Most of the magic cakes involve a single batter that settles into distinct layers, ranging from dense and creamy to light and airy. Christelle Huet-Gomez, author of Magic Cakes: Three Cakes in One!, explains the concept: "The liquid batter divides into three layers: a dense, moist base; a delicate creamy middle and the top layer of light sponge. The yolks, beaten with sugar, butter, flour and milk, form the base and cream. The beaten egg whites form the Genoise sponge layer. Slow cooking at 150°C cooks the bottom like a cake without cooking the upper part," she says. 

There are other types of 'magic' recipes. Perhaps the most famous is the chocolate 'magic shell' ice cream topping which starts out as a liquid until it's poured on ice cream and instantly hardens. Another variation is a 'magic' (aka 'impossible') pie, where the batter forms its own crust.

It's easy to see how these recipes received their names, but some 'magic' recipe titles are more puzzling than magical. For example, take the "Magic bean" chocolate cake.  The recipe doesn't explains what is magical about kidney beans. Maybe it's magical that you can make a cake with beans in it and get someone to eat it? Sames goes for Magic black hot sauce from The Barbecue Lover's Big Book of BBQ Sauces. There is no explanation for any magical properties the sauce might possess.

Of course we know that none of these recipes is really magical. But even when we know the science behind the recipe, it still seems like a bit of magic when the cakes and pies turn out with their distinct layers, or when the chocolate sauce immediately hardens on the ice cream sundae. What is your favorite 'magic' recipe?

Photos clockwise from top left: Magic vanilla cake from Magic Cakes by Christelle Huet-Gomez; The best homemade chocolate dip (AKA Magic shell) from Serious Eats; Magic bars from Baking Bites by Nicole Weston

New responsive site design

 New design

When you logged into EYB today, you probably noticed that the site looks a bit different. This is doubly so if you were using your mobile phone or tablet to access the site. At long last, our responsive design is up and running, with benefits for all users, but especially those using EYB on mobile platforms.

The biggest change to the site is that all the features are available on all devices. This includes shopping lists, favorites, bookmarks, and filters. In addition to this obvious benefit, there are a few other new features for all users:

  • There are now tutorials you can follow along with by clicking the green "Need Help?" button at bottom right (not on phones yet). Even long-time members may find it useful - they may discover features they haven't been aware of. There is also a tutorial on the new release features which is worth checking out..
  • You can now view all Notes and Reviews, not just the latest ones on the Home page. You access them from the Library drop-down menu. The most recent Notes and Reviews will be higlighted on the Home page, where you'll also find a link to the full list.
  • You can now see recipe images (where available) on the standard view of the Library and My Bookshelf. And the filters are now easier to use.

We have added a Forum topic for users to provide for feedback on the new site. Please let us know how the site is working for you.

The sandwich cake phenomenon

Sandwich cake

If you are planning a lunch or going to a picnic and have run out of ideas for what to make, you might want to consider making a sandwich cake. These playful mashups of layer cakes and tea sandwiches are getting a lot of buzz, likely due to their Instagram-worthy good looks. Country Living magazine provides a good introduction to the world of sandwich cakes.

Based on the Swedish Smörgåstårta, the savory cakes are only limited by your imagination. Layers of bread, meats, savory mousses, vegetables, and cheeses offer endless possibilities. Many of the recipes are "frosted" with cream cheese and feature elaborate garnishes, mostly made from vegetables although you might find a few other variants like smoked salmon roses. 

The EYB Library contains several recipes to give you a flavor of what can be done with a sandwich cake. Here are a few to get you started:

Swedish sandwich cake from Great British Chefs - Blog Recipes by Karen Burns-Booth (pictured top)
Avocado & bacon club sandwich cake from The Kitchn
Sandwich layer cake (Smörgåstårta) from Saveur.com
Smorgåstårta/sandwich cake from Ms. Marmite Lover by Kerstin Rodgers
Smörgåstårta from Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebookby Rachel Khoo



Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

Finding the best recipes amongst the millions online is not easy - but you don't have to! The team here at Eat Your Books, searches for excerpts from indexed books and magazines and every week we bring you our latest finds. Every day recipes are added from the best blogs and websites.

As a member, you can also add your own favorite online recipes  using the Bookmarklet. With EYB, you can have a searchable index of all your recipes in one place!

Happy cooking and baking everyone!


From blogs & websites:

500+ online recipes for Passover in the EYB Library

How to Make Buttery, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Scones from indexed blog  The Kitchn


From AUS/NZ books:

4 recipes from David Herbert's Best Home Cooking: 200 of the Most Popular Recipes from David's Weekend Australian Column

From UK books:

6 recipes from Melt: Ice Cream Sensations to Make at Home from Ginger's Comfort Emporium by Claire Kelsey, indexed by an EYB member

11 recipes from  Rachel Khoo's Sweet and Savoury Pâtés: Easy Brunch and Snack Ideas for Perfect Homemade Tartines


From US books:

8 recipes from Zen and Tonic: Savory and Fresh Cocktails for the Enlightened Drinker by Jules Aron 
Enter our giveaway (US/Canada only -- Ends May 10th)

8 recipes from  The Wurst of Lucky Peach: A Treasury of Encased Meat by Chris Ying & the Editors of Lucky Peach
See our Calendar for Upcoming Events

13 recipes from  Grilled Cheese Kitchen: Bread + Cheese + Everything in Between by Heidi Gibson & Nate Pollak

4 recipes from  Mon Cher Éclair: and Other Beautiful Pastries, including Cream Puffs, Profiteroles, and Gougeres by Charity Ferreira

Chef pokes fun at restaurant buzzwords


Buzzwords and phrases appear on restaurant menus and seem to spread faster than you can say farm-to-table. Chef Frank Bonanno poked a little fun at hipster-inspired marketing slogans and certain restaurant trends when he announced his latest Denver restaurant venture. In a Portlandia-like spoof, he rambled on with overwrought descriptions and even invented a word. Here's a short excerpt repeated by Eater:

I'm relying on the skills of a fromagier - a title my team and I conceived, who is currently living in a tunnel beneath the Sixteenth Street Mall, acclimating her cheeses to the unique molds of the Colorado subterranean environment. She's sourcing the milk from a small herd of cattle I imported from Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, currently living in my back yard on a diet of plum tree remnants and snow dusted dandelions.

Other chuckle-worthy gems from the announcement include " Even the escargot will be raised on sorrel mold alone," and "Instead of subway tile, I've sourced genuine subway manhole covers to line the kitchen from floor to ceiling."  In a footnote to the announcement, Bonanno comes clean and gives the true aims of his new bistro, noting that he plans to "serve the tastiest food I can cook, with the finest people I can hire."

Food meets art in unique London restaurant

Celeriac and Lancashire cheese pithivier

A restaurant inspired by old-time soda fountain drugstores is not, in and of itself, a novel concept. But when the restaurant is a collaboration between controversial artist Damien Hirst and celebrated chef Mark Hix, it gets interesting.

The eatery, called Pharmacy 2 (alternately Pharmacy²), opened this February in Vauxhall, South London, inside the Newport Street Gallery. Designed solely by Hirst, "the restaurant aims to support the artist's vision of an inclusive space where anyone can enjoy art and also enjoy a meal."

Throughout the space, you'll find Hirst's interpretations of pharmacology: packaged medications resting on shelves to large pill sculptures co-exist with images of medical supplies sealed within a transparent bar, and you'll also see etched glass depictions of magnified DNA strands.

This isn't Hirst's first foray into the world of food. He collaborated with chef Marco Pierre White in 1996 and on another restaurant named Pharmacy in 1998. While Pharmacy 2 is more obviously a restaurant than its predecessor, it is still "cloaked in multiple layers of implication."

The food isn't as sterile as the installation, although it contains colorful punches reminiscent of some of the art. The menu, which changes regularly, features fresh and seasonal ingredients in classic British and European dishes. Chef Mark Hix is known for his interpretation of British gastronomy and planned all of Pharmacy 2's menus. "Damien and I have been friends for many years, sharing a love of food and art," Hix has said about the collaboration.

Photo of Celeriac and Lancashire cheese pithivier from Mark Hix on Baking: Savoury & Sweet Recipes

Meet saba, balsamic's gentle cousin

 Duck breast with grapes and saba

Remember when balsamic reductions were all the rage? Now there's a new trend featuring an ingredient that is a close relative of balsamic vinegar. Food Republic reports on the growing popularity of saba, a cooked grape juice product.

Saba is made from wine grapes, and is part of the balsamic vinegar making process. It was traditionally made as a sweetener when the grape harvest was particularly bountiful. The resulting grape syrup is fermented to produce balsamic, which is then aged from 12 to 100 years. Due to the long aging process, balsamic is quite expensive whereas saba is more reasonably priced. 

Although it often known as "poor man's balsamic," some chefs, like Soho House Chicago sous chef Gerad Gobel, argue that saba can be just as complex and interesting as the aged product. Gobel has experimented with making his own saba from Cabernet grapes he procured from Sonoma Valley, California. "It's surprisingly easy to make if you have access to the right materials," he says.

Saba is at home in both sweet and savory dishes. On the sweet side, chef Dustin Karagheusian adds it to a semifreddo made with Nutella, hazelnuts, olive oil and sea salt. "It has the potential to be a chef's favorite garnish because it's on the sweeter side, but it does have that mild bitterness," he says. Savory uses include chef Walter Pisano's antipasti of Brussels sprouts, saba and caramelized figs. Pisano notes that a little saba goes a long way, and suggests getting an eyedropper to apply it. "All you need is a few drops," he says.

Photo of Duck breast with saba and grapes from Fine Cooking Magazine by Jeanne Kelley

New Tabasco museum opens in Lousiana

Tabasco chicken burgers

With the proliferation of hot pepper sauces that crowd supermarket shelves, it's easy to forget that once upon a time there was only one hot sauce in the US: Tabasco. The vinegar-based pepper sauce was introduced in the 1860s by prosperous Louisiana banker and avid gardener Edmund McIlhenny. In February, Tabasco unveiled a brand new museum, visitor center, and restaurant on Avery Island, home of Tabasco since its inception.

Avery Island used to be off limits to outsiders, but now hot sauce fans can take a factory tour, where they can observe a sauce-making process that has changed little since McIlhenny invented his concoction over 100 years ago. The center also offers visitors the chance to see McIlhenny family artifacts and videos. Angie Schaubert, senior manager of brand sales at McIlhenny Company, said the goals of the museum were "to show visitors and Tabasco fans how McIlhenny Company and its surrounding region in Southern Louisiana are intertwined, how Tabasco Sauce has impacted the culinary culture throughout history, and give visitors an up-close look into the production process from seed to bottle in celebration of nearly 150 years on Avery Island." 

The restaurant, named 1868 after the founding year of the company, offers many dishes that, unsurprisingly, contain Tabasco.  The menu includes authentic regional Louisiana favorites like crawfish etouffee, red beans and rice, crawfish corn maque choux, and boudin, plus highlights how people can use Tabasco in their everyday cooking. You can also draw inspiration from the EYB Library, which features over 1,200 recipes using Tabasco.

Photo of Tabasco chicken burgers from indexed blog What's Gaby Cooking

Can we all sit down to dinner together?

Anna ThomasAnna Thomas wrote her first cookbook, The Vegetarian Epicure, while she was a film student at UCLA, and followed it a few years later with The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two. When she is not cooking, she writes screenplays and produces films. Her screen credits include My Family, Mi Familia and El Norte, both of which were nominated for an Academy Award. She lives in Los Angeles and Ojai, California. Anna has just released another cookbook, Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore, which explores the difficulties you can encounter when preparing a sit-down dinner for people with different dietary concerns. (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book, and visit the World Calendar of Cookbook Events for details on Anna's book tour.) We asked Anna to elaborate on the premise behind her new cookbook:

Years ago, I became an upstart in the food scene by writing The Vegetarian Epicure while I was still a film student at UCLA.  Since then I've cooked a lot, entertained often, and written several more books.  (Good grief - now I'm the O.G.)  And yes, I believe that what I put on the table is important.  But there is one thing more important: 

Who is at the table?

Gathering my friends around the table has always been one of the joys of my life -- but I don't invite people over because they eat the same way I do, and I'm willing to bet you don't either.  We invite folks because we love them, or want to know them better, or they tell the best jokes!  Or maybe simply because we're related.  

So, can we all sit down and have dinner together?

The way we eat has been changing, and I've heard the laments from people who are afraid to entertain because this one will only eat that, and the other one won't eat this…   We need to find a way with food, I thought, that allows us to relax and be flexible.  To just have a good time. 

But here's the thing -- our traditional food culture has a default setting:  meat in the middle, grains and vegetables on the side.  Those familiar meals could be adapted, of course, but we'd immediately be taking something away, substituting -compromising. Of course, we could prepare two separate meals, but what a hassle!  And let's face it, then there would be an A meal and a B meal, and who wants to be eating the B meal? 

We're doing this backwards, I thought.  Why not start with the food everyone eats?

Everyone eats the watermelon at the picnic.  It's not the vegan watermelon, it's just the watermelon.  Everyone eats the minestrone, the salad, the focaccia.  Everyone eats my roasted potato wedges withmojo verde. And they line up for the guacamole and fresh salsa I serve with tequila cocktails.

It seemed so simple.  Start with the foods everyone eats, create a dish or a meal that works, then add and elaborate.  Expand the meal with cheese, fish, or meat… make it flexible.  Make one meal, but one that can be enjoyed in variations.  It became my holy grail:  to design meals at which we could sit down together, toast each other, and eat happily in my peaceable kingdom.  From that came my new book, Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore.

I made a savory chile verde with fat white beans, and added chicken to half of it.  I made Lebanese-style stuffed peppers filled with aromatic rice and lentils, but added spiced lamb to half the stuffing.  I made meals built around hearty pilafs of farro and black rice, surrounded by roasted vegetables - and slices of pork for the omnivores. My easy fish soup became a dinner party favorite.  It begins as a robust vegetable soup and the fish and shellfish are added at the last minute, so it can easily be served in two versions.

One spring weekend, after my weekly visit to the Ojai farmers' market, I made a lemon-perfumed risotto with sautéed fresh fava beans.  I offered large shavings of Parmigiano, and passed a platter of sautéed shrimp for those who wanted it.  With a salad of the first tender lettuces, and a bowl of strawberries for dessert, it was a perfect springtime meal.  Is it a dinner party?  Start with Carrot Top Pesto, served with roasted young carrots, crostini, and tangy goat cheese.  For dessert, make a compote of strawberries and tangerines in agave nectar.

And invite everyone you like, call them to the table without fear.  

We long for that social table, it is a place of sharing, of stories and jokes, old friendships and new ones, a place where we can become our best selves.  Let's not give it up just because we don't all eat the same way!

Cookbook giveaway - Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore

Vegan Vegetarian OmnivorePlanning a dinner party - or even a family meal - can become quite complicated when your guests and relative have different dietary requirements. Screenwriter, producer, and cookbook author Anna Thomas offers solutions for reuniting our divided tables in her latest cookbook, Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore. "My idea is simple," says Anna. "Start with the food everyone eats, design a meal or a dish around that, then expand and elaborate with just the right amounts of the right cheeses, meats, or fish for your omnivores. Everyone feels welcome, and we eat the same meal - but in variations." You can learn more about the Anna's inspirations for the cookbook in our author interview, and view the World Calendar of Cookbook Events for book tour details.

We're delighted to offer three copies of Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore to EYB Members in the US only. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post:

What is your solution to the dilemma of feeding people with various dietary concerns?

Please note that you must be signed into the Rafflecopter contest before posting the comment or your entry won't be counted. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends May 16, 2016.


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