Friday, August 15, 2014

Rapture, Ecstasy, and Bliss from Your Kitchen

"How to Be a Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson


The difference between cooking and baking is that the latter is a science. I've even heard it called chemistry for the kitchen. In truth, that's a good analogy because baking a cake or cookies isn't something you can just do without some kind of formula. This is why if you like to bake, having cake cookbooks on your shelves is practically essential. The one cook who makes even the simplest dessert seem like gourmet ecstasy is Nigella Lawson.

This is why I bought her book "How to be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking," it is a delightful book! First of all, it is esthetically attractive without being overly professional. A quick glance will find the pictures to be, well, to use a worn cliché, good enough to eat! However, the photographs of the items included look as if a home-cook baked them. Even the cupcake on the cover has a flaw.

What this means to the average reader is although the visuals looks delicious you won't feel you're attempting something overly daunting. This is because Lawson believes that cooking shouldn't be fussy, difficult or just for professionals. Lawson and her books are therefore popular because they tap into your ineptitude; you realize that you can produce a cake for which your friends and family will be willing to break their diets.

Thankfully, Nigella doesn't dumb-down her recopies, nor will more experienced bakers feel patronized. This is probably the best quality of this book. Both the recipe introductions as well as the recipes themselves are friendly and ultimately welcoming. If you've ever seen her on TV shows, you'll probably be able to hear her excitement-filled velvety breathy voice and childlike pleasure as you read. She also explains why particular recipes were included, or how she overcame a tricky step. Moreover, she seems to have many suggestions for substitutions and variations. Mind you, she doesn't like to encourage skimping, particularly on quality ingredients, so if you want to use margarine instead of butter, you won't find that suggested here.

There are those who have criticized this book for her imprecision in her recipes. In her defense, Lawson knows that no two kitchens are the same, just as no two people are the same. If she makes a pastry in a warm kitchen and its cold in yours when you attempt the same recipe, the conditions will affect how the ingredients react. For just this reason, she explains how to adjust quantities to compensate for anomalies. She also understands that peoples' tastes are as varied as their personalities. I appreciated seeing that she says "you can add more sugar if you like it sweeter" in more than one place. Because baking is an art based on strict formulas, she will let you know if larger or smaller amounts of anything will affect the finished product. For me, this is invaluable, since I often use cookbooks more for inspiration than for specific recipes - and Nigella has enriched my baking ideas by leaps and bounds.

Overall, this book is a general pleasure. It looks wonderful, the prose and introductions are both informative and warmly conversational and the recipes are very successful as is, or as a basis for your own variations and original creations. From cover to cover you'll feel that this cookbook is one that gives you a warm feeling inside, and in some instances, actually makes you feel sexy and attractive (unless you get fat eating too much of these creations). The only other thing I can think of to say about Domestic Goddess is that you might like this one so much that you don't want to have it in your kitchen. My solution to that is to put it out on your coffee table - right next to a fresh batch of scones! A full five stars and highly recommended!




"How to be a Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson is available from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris and Better World Books or from an IndieBound store near you. This is a revised version of a review I wrote for Dooyoo under the username TheChocolateLady, which also appeared on {the now defunct} Yahoo! Voices.

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