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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Edible Word: Confections of a Closet Master Baker

I'm thrilled to once again be able to participate in another round of The Edible Word - the foodie book club created by Cath at A Blithe Palate and Steph at Dispensing Happiness, co-hosted by the folks at Cook the Books this time around. Watch their blogs for what I'm sure will be one heck of a roundup on September 7th.

This time we are reviewing Gesine Bullock-Prado's Memoir, Confections of a Closet Master Baker, about, as she puts it, "One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker."

Let's just get a couple of quick things out of the way here and say that yes, Gesine's older sister is Sandra Bullock - thus Gesine's time spent in Hollywood. Does Gesine talk about her sister in the book? Well, of course. They are sisters. Is it a book about Hollywood and glamour, etc.? Nope. Thankfully not.

What you do get from the book is that Sandy and Gesine are wonderful to each other and have a loving family and know how to take care of that as adults. I just wanted to get that out of the way, because I'm sure there will be a portion of the people that buy or read this book hoping it is one of those Hollywood insider gossip things - it isn't. Again, thankfully! It is a beautifully written, absolutely entertaining, well told story though - and as far as I'm concerned that is just what it should be.

More importantly, what is this book? In my opinion (and I just finished reading it) I thought it is a collection of humor, memories, tears, and inspiration all written in Gesine's wonderful and hilarious voice. She is honest, at times brutally so, but never in a mean spirit. In fact, in just the most "this is the way it is, so deal with it" kind of way that is wonderfully refreshing. She takes the reader with her on her journey from Hollywood to small town Vermont and all the sweet memories inbetween.

I'd also like to mention, that while I was looking up a little info, I found out that Gesine has a blog which I will now be an avid reader of. You can get a great feel through her blog for what the book is like, as well as more of her wonderful recipes! You should definitely check out her blog because she has a link to where you can win a copy of the book too!

You already know how perfectly lousy and miserable I've been feeling and how I haven't even been able to get very inspired for the past few weeks to get up from the couch with my hyperemisis to get around to posting more than a few words here or there. While that has all been going on, I've also been enjoying reading this book and being both humbled, inspired and reminded why it is I love to be in the kitchen - even if I can't get in there very much these days. Some days are better than others, when the meds are doing their job and life is bearable at least. That is, sadly, a bit of a double edged sword in itself. One med makes me less sick, but gives me headaches, which then cause me to feel sick. Can't win them all I guess. And, hey, only 6 months to go. If it means I get to deliver full term this time, then I'll gladly stay sick as long as it takes!

My point is that it was really nice to have such an interesting, fun and inspiring book to keep me company and lift my spirits. For that, to Gesine, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart!

If there was only one thing I could take away from this book (and there was much more than that) it would be the absolute love Gesine has for her family. While the book is about Gesine's journey finding her way to her true passion in life, I have to say that, whether it is because I'm pregnant and sentimental, or because it is just what touched me the most, I really felt that the book was a wonderful tribute to her amazing Mother and how baking created rich heirloom memories that she was able to apply in all aspects of her adult life. Frankly, that is exactly what I am trying to create with my boys here. I want them to enjoy the good things in life and remember that homemade treats come from the heart.

There are two other really wonderful things about this book that I want to point out. First, the beginning of each chapter includes a beautifully drawn illustration created by Gesine's husband, Raymond. Second, each chapter ends with an original recipe from Gesine, complete with humorous and touching descriptions and memories. While my first inclination is always "oh, I wish there were photos of the recipes" I would actually take that back in this case. I'm glad there aren't. I'm glad that I get to use her descriptions (which are incredible) and my imagination (which is adequate, I hope!). I'm glad that the book doesn't use any photographs and just has Ray's brilliant illustrations.

For The Edible Word, we get to choose either a recipe from the book, or a recipe inspired by the book. I had a really tough time deciding what to make, but I knew I wanted to make something from the book. My choice of making the carrot cake may come as a surprise to those of you that know me well. Especially in the face of options like the chocolate laden Starry Starry Night cookies or a Devil's Cream Pie which used my favorite all-time cookie crust with the Oreo.

Here's the thing though, since I'm pregnant and will be quite probably eating whatever I make, mostly all by myself, I felt like the Carrot Cake would be the best justification to eat a lot of that I could come up with, because, hey, there are carrots - right? While the full recipe makes a large 8-inch cake, I only had enough carrots on hand to make a half batch. I decided to make them into individual large cupcakes so that I could stash the cake and frosting seperately and frost them as desired over the next few days when I need a snack. See, I'm thinking ahead here! The cupcakes smelled divine while they were baking too (and pretty much nothing smells good to me right now!). They have cratered a bit on me in the middle, but that should in no way reflect upon the recipe in the book, so much as in my absolute inability to stop myself from overfilling a cupcake liner.

The cake is simple in its ingredients, which is just the way I like my carrot cake (not all gunked up with tons of add-ins) and topped which a smooth, creamy and tangy cream cheese frosting. Just perfect, as promised in the book - which is where you can find the recipe! We loved this cake, and in fact, I'm fairly certain I'll be making it for Cole's 2nd birthday next month as he really loved it and was snarffing it down as fast as he could - which is a rare thing with him.

For the Carrot Cake and other recipes, you should really get your copy of Confections of a Closet Master Baker when it comes out on September 8th. You won't regret it and I promise, you will really enjoy reading the book as well as trying the recipes. I could actually, just keep going on, and on and on and on about how much I really, truly, sincerely enjoyed this book - but at this point, I think you probably get the idea.


Aussiemuminthekitchen said...

YUMMO! That looks heavenly. Hope you are well.

Sending you hugs and well wishes!

Snooky doodle said...

I m eager to read this book. It's my type of book. That carrot cake looks so moist and yummy :)

This is my new blog with recipes

Barbara Bakes said...

It looks like a great carrot cake - moist and delicious! How did you like the new doctor?

Peabody said...

Wow, you really went into the book on here. Now I feel bad that I just highlighted one part.

Pamela said...

Oh, Holly! Hyperemesis?? I'm so sorry to hear that you are suffering like that. It's easy for me to say, but hang in there and take care of you and that little one. And thanks for the book recommendation. I will definitely check it out.

Arlene Delloro said...

Looks like a delicious carrot cake. Hope you're soon feeling better.

Gourmified said...

Great book suggestion! I'm always looking for a good read, and to have recipes included with it..the better! Hope all goes well with this pregnancy! Wishing you the best of luck!

LaDue & Crew said...

This sounds like an amazing book- a must have. I will be praying for you to feel better soon!

Anonymous said...

Your carrot cake looks awesome. Sounds like a great cookbook.

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