The Legend of the Book of Yum

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When I went away to university it was the first time I had been away from home. I wasn’t sure what to expect: would I love the freedom? Would I totally freak out? Either way I knew that I was going to be really homesick.

My solution was The Book of Yum and it started out as kind of a joke between my university friends and I.

In anticipation of missing my mom’s cooking, I painstakingly wrote out some of our family’s favorite recipes in a small black binder, organized using homemade construction paper dividers. Also included were some helpful cooking hints for myself on how to make the basics; for example, tips on making rice nice and fluffy, and how to make your basic white sauce. I was reluctant to call it a recipe binder because it felt more like a compendium of my mother’s advice, and a piece of my family’s culinary history. So I called it “The Book of Yum”, made some dorky labels for it and took it to college with me.

Anyone who has had roommates knows that it’s hard to keep a secret from them, so it didn’t take long before people started to take note of the little binder I was always toting into the kitchen with me. Maybe it was the colorful labels, or the fact that no one I knew had completed a similar project.

Mostly I think The Book of Yum caught people’s attention because I was one of the few people in my group of friends that could actually cook. And bake.

This was the start of a whole new college culinary adventure. While a lot of kids were out partying you could often find me at home with my roommates attempting to develop a garnish for fish, bake a pie from scratch, or experiment with a foreign food. (Ok, maybe I found some time for partying too.)

In some ways, it was my college years that fostered my love of cooking and food. I tried every kind of food, in every kind of restaurant in town and I always had a hungry mouth nearby willing to try whatever it was I was making that day. It was a time of firsts: my first pastry dough, my first experiment with phyllo, and my first roast.

It was also during these years that I discovered how cooking for others felt like a gift more to myself than a gift for them. Nothing gave me more pleasure than watching my friends enjoy something I had created and nothing made me appreciate food more than the act of making it myself.

More than anything, though, The Book of Yum was a way for me to honor my family; both my love for them and the traditions that we build and maintain.

I still have it too, even though it’s expanded to accommodate my expanded culinary horizons. Even though that little black binder has transformed, it still opens a floodgate of sense memories as soon as I lift the cover. No matter how successful I end up being in my writing career, I’ll still consider one of my favorite books that I’ve written.

You may not know it, but you’ve read part of The Book of Yum too! If you were looking at it now, you’d recognize these Chocolate Brownies, these Butterscotch Brownies, these Banana Muffins, these Chocolate Banana Cookies, these Sugar Cookies, these Maple Syrup Muffins, this Apple Pie and this Zucchini Bread. I hope you enjoyed them as much as my family and friends have!

KBwB-BFlower-50I’d love to hear about your own recipe collection. Which childhood recipes do you still include in your repertoire? Email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or comment below. I’d love to try one out!

I try out a new recipe every two weeks or so and blog about the results, so if you need even more baking inspiration, you can find the complete list in alphabetical order here.

 

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Your Burning Baking Questions for B

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If you’re new to this blog, welcome! I love meeting new people who love baking as much as I do.

If you’ve been following for awhile, you’ll know that in addition to having a giant sweet-tooth, part of my passion for baking lies comes from how I cope with stress. But I get a lot of questions about my favorite recipes, methods and my baking experiences both online and in person, so I thought I’d attempt to answer a few more of them here. Maybe we can even get to know each other a little better!

What was the first thing you ever made? Some of my earliest memories are of helping my mother in the kitchen but the first thing I ever baked all by myself were these chocolate brownies.

Are there any recipes you know off by heart? Yeah, that one! And the one for peanut butter cookies because it’s so freaking easy.

What’s the easiest thing you’ve made? I’d say pretty much all of the stuff I’ve featured on the blog is pretty easy (otherwise I wouldn’t blog about it!) but these peanut butter cookies, this peach cobbler, these minty Nanaimo bars, these butterscotch treats, and these S’mores Squares were among the easiest. Oh! And applesauce, although I don’t think that really counts as “baking”.

What’s the most difficult thing you’ve made? Making your own pastry dough like I describe here is pretty labor-intensive. If you’ve never baked anything before, it’s probably not the best recipe to start with but mostly I think it’s just all of the steps that make it intimidating.

Where do you get your inspiration from? I read lots of cookbooks (found here and here), but I also used to collect magazine clippings like crazy. That was kind of getting out of hand so I’ve relegated a lot of my collection onto Pinterest and into my recipe book. I also read a ton of amazing baking blogs run by talented bloggers, all of whom are way better bakers than I am.

Do you only bake for your blog? Yes and no. Mostly I bake for myself, family, friends or co-workers (especially if there’s a special occasion). I enjoy trying new recipes all the time but since I started featuring more of my baking on the blog I’ve made a more concerted effort to vary the kinds of things I make, and the flavors I use. So yes, sometimes I find a new recipe to try out for the blog specifically, but I’m constantly returning to my favorites in between.

Have you ever considered making baked goods on commission? Are you going to open a bakery? I don’t have my food handler’s certificate, or any formal culinary training so probably not. I kind of like the idea of feeding a bunch of people and getting paid for it, though, so I wouldn’t rule it out.

Do you cook as often as you bake? Not as much, although I do like cooking a lot. I don’t often like eating big meals so I’m more of a grazer throughout the day- fresh fruits and veggies, and yogurt. Oh man, yogurt. I usually save my more substantial recipes for other people. Maybe I’ll share one or two on the blog in the future!

What’s the one thing you haven’t baked? I have yet to successfully make meringue, and as of yet I’ve never attempted a soufflé. (It kind of scares me.) I’ve also never made a cheesecake- no particular reason, I just haven’t done it yet!

What is your all-time favorite dessert? There haven’t been many baked goods that I’ve met and haven’t liked, but there’s nothing like a dense, moist carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed getting the chance to know me a little bit more- now I want to know a little bit more about you! What’s your favorite dessert? What’s the one recipe you’ve always been too intimidated to bake? Leave your answers below, and make sure to link to your favorite recipes on your blog! When it comes to baking, the more the merrier.

Baking with B: Classic Chocolate Fudge

Everyone should know how to make chocolate fudge, everyone, because it’s one of those recipes that seems way harder than it actually seems. All of your friends will be impressed by your super-awesome candy-making skills and you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you made a sweet treat in less time then it will take you to burn off the calories from one piece.

Classic Chocolate Fudge (makes 64 squares)

500 g. (about 3 ½ c.) best quality dark, milk or white chocolate, coarsely chopped

300 mL can sweetened condensed milk

Line the bottom and sides of a 8×8-inch pan with 2 overlapping pieces of plastic wrap, letting wrap half over sides of pan. Combine chocolate and milk a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on medium setting halfway through until chocolate is almost melted, 3-4 minutes. Remove and stir until evenly mixed and smooth. Scrape mixture into prepared pan and press down, smoothing top. Fold overhanging ends of plastic wrap over fudge to completely cover. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Fudge keeps well, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

Happy baking!

B

KBwB-BFlower-50Baking with B appears every other Monday on the Keeping Busy with B Blog. Find out why I like baking so much here. For more of my baking, click here. And for even more recipe inspiration, check out my Pinterest full of food eye candy that will have you licking your computer. Promise.