“Jerusalem” and “John Whaite Bakes at Home” – Our Verdict

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry. This was one of those months for “Cookbook a Month.”

When we were choosing the books for May, I lobbied hard for “Jerusalem” as we’ve had a lot of great meals out of that cookbook. Given their past experience with the author they lovingly call “Faffolenghi”, Anna and Kirstin naturally were quite reluctant to take him on again. I tried my best to convince them that the moniker didn’t apply to this cookbook, as I found for the most part the recipes to be pretty manageable, but I don’t think I succeeded, unfortunately. In the past, I’ve been known to call him “Otto-Impossible”, but I didn’t say that once in the past month.

My family loved the food from “Jerusalem” this month. I’ve had the cookbook for more than a year now, so they were all very happy to learn that we were returning to tried-and-true recipes that they already liked. We tried some new things, too. In fact, I cooked from this book so much that I didn’t even post everything I made, which is always a sign to the three of us that it’s an excellent book.

I can understand why Anna and Kirstin call him “Faffolenghi”, because sometimes the time and effort for a typical Ottolenghi recipe can be daunting. But this book succeeds in a way that his earlier ones did not. Aside from some less-known spices like sumac and za’tar, the ingredient list was always manageable. I never found myself having to go to a far-flung supermarket to find something. Some recipes took more time than I would have liked, particularly with all the chopping, but I’m learning to do more in the food processor when I can get away with it, which probably will help.

Not only is “Jerusalem” going to the bookshelf, it’s going to the high-rotation bookshelf, where it’s already sat for the last year. I think this is a real winner.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the other book we did this month, “John Whaite Bakes at Home.” We tend to do an extra baking book in May because there are several family birthdays in the month. We approached “John Whaite Bakes at Home” full of optimism. He’s a “Great British Bake Off” winner and seems a lovely guy. The three of us all like to bake (with varying degrees of enthusiasm), so we thought this would be a good book. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite pan out that way.

In the end, I only made two things from the book, while Kirstin and Anna weren’t able to do any. For me, the problem was that the majority of the recipes either required too much time or just didn’t sound appealing. I laughed like a drain when I saw his recipe for mini-Gingerbread Houses to make in December. Who has time in December to do that? It’s very ambitious, to be sure, but there’s no way I’d have enough time in this lifetime to ever make mini-gingerbread houses. But high credit to anyone who can.

However, the “Cookie Dough Brownies” I made were an unqualified success. The boys loved them so much that I’ve already made them again. It was a very clever idea and fairly easy to do. We’ve already polished off the second tray of these brownies and they’ve asked when they can expect to see them again. I would call that a win.

“Jerusalem” 
Overall Grade (A- F): A+ While the recipes in this book do require some time and effort, they are absolutely worth it.
Best recipes: Hard to pick just one, but two that we particularly loved were the fish cakes, the butternut squash, the falafel and the hummus.
Grade for Photography (A-F): A.
Any disasters? None.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation?High-rotation bookshelf.

“John Whaite Bakes at Home” 
Overall Grade (A- F): D. The very low grade reflects the fact that I wasn’t particularly inspired much, and in fact, only managed two for the whole month.
Best recipes: Cookie Dough Brownies
Grade for Photography (A-F): C. Fine, I guess.
Any disasters? No disasters as I wasn’t inspired enough to make much from this cookbook.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? After I copy the brownie recipe, it’s off to the charity shop.

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“Jerusalem” and “John Whaite Bakes at Home” – Our Verdict

“Cookie Dough Brownies” from “John Whaite Bakes at Home”

CBAMBrownies I made these Cookie Dough Brownies for the first May Bank Holiday Weekend, when we went away with our good friends and their sons. The weekend featured all the best things in life: Laughs, Games, Long Cycle Rides, Beautiful Vistas and Good Food. These brownies definitely contributed to the last thing on that list.

If you’ve ever devoured an entire container of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream, this is the recipe for you. Just so you can judge whether or not I like that flavour of Ben & Jerry’s, I give you this factlet: during my pregnancies, I would often buy pints of said ice cream and then hide them in the back of the freezer so I wouldn’t have to share them with anyone. Good times. (I would NEVER get away with the same tricks now because my family has become wise to my ways. Bummer.)

But I digress. To make these brownies, you first make the chocolate chip cookie dough and then freeze it into small balls. Once they’re frozen, you evenly distribute into the brownie pan and then pour the brownie mix around and over them. Once baked, it looks like a regular tray of brownies, but it’s anything but. The brownies are like that flavour of ice cream in that if you get lucky, you discover a lump of chocolate chip cookie dough when you bite into the delicious brownie. It’s like a Treasure Hunt in your mouth and it totally works.

These brownies proved to be so popular during our weekend that when there was only one slice remaining, it became the Grand Prize of our last epic battle of “Monopoly Deal.” The winner was very happy.

Would I make these again? Absolutely. In fact, the boys asked me to make them again after eating only one bite. I would call that a success.

If you’d like to make these yourself, thus ensuring that you become the most popular member of your household for as long as the brownies last, Google Books has uploaded “John Whaite Bakes at Home.” Click through this paragraph to find the recipe.

 

“Cookie Dough Brownies” from “John Whaite Bakes at Home”

“Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes” from “John Whaite Bakes at Home”

CBAMPBJCupcakes

Maureen: I was excited to make these for you. As an American, I always felt it was my patriotic duty to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for you. Now we have peanut butter and jelly cucpakes! What do you think?

Andrew (14): They’re…. [pause to select adjective] interesting.

Maureen: Good interesting or bad interesting?

Andrew: I’m not sure.

Maureen: I’m surprised you’d say that, since you’re a PB&J veteran and you love them.

Nicholas (10): I think there’s too much peanut butter.

Andrew: I agree. I was trying to nail down what it was that I wasn’t sure about, and that’s it.

Nicholas: There’s too much peanut butter in it, and not enough jelly. They’d be really good if you made the balance equal.

Maureen: Or, alternatively, make the cupcake chocolate rather than peanut butter flavoured, and then put a little chocolate in the middle of the icing, just like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Andrew: If you balanced out the peanut butter and jelly, they would be good.

Maureen: How many stars would you give it?

Andrew: 3 stars.

Nicholas: 2.99999 recurring. You can put a line over the last nine, and then people would know it’s recurring.

Maureen: I don’t have that symbol on my keyboard, but thanks for the tip.

The recipe for this can be found by clicking through this sentence, but be sure to replace the Stork called for in the recipe with butter. Everything is better with butter.

“Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes” from “John Whaite Bakes at Home”