The Oct. 14 issue of Anabaptist World included several mini reviews of recent books. Some of them are cookbooks.
Stephanie Wise’s food blog, Girl Versus Dough, gets hundreds of thousands of visits every month. She helps new and not-so-new bakers find relaxation and joy in the kitchen with Comfort Baking: Feel-Good Food to Savor and Share, (Herald), her first book. Growing in complexity in each chapter, recipes progress to showpieces like braided raspberry and cream cheese bread, balancing approachability with detailed instructions. Fully illustrated, the mostly sweet but a little bit savory cookbook includes individualized suggestions for storage and freezing for each entry. It’s a how-to guide for setting yourself up to flex your humility in the church fellowship hall. Wise’s tips should find favor with many Anabaptists: Rather than bake something to give away in a disposable container, she recommends purchasing bakeware at thrift stores for roughly the same price, reducing waste and using materials for which recipes are specifically engineered. There is joy to be found in chewy white chocolate macadamia nut oatmeal cookies. — Tim Huber
Hope Helmuth, a home cook and blogger from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, provides what many cooks, especially millennial ones, have long yearned for in a cookbook: simple recipes that call for recognizable ingredients one might actually have on hand. Helmuth’s family recipes show how to take pantry staples and turn them into the kind comfort food (Creamy Macaroni and Cheese, presented in a cast-iron skillet, for example) one might expect to find at Grandma’s Sunday dinner. Hope’s Table: Everyday Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen (Herald) is organized around recipes for the usual cookbook categories — breakfast, breads, soups, salads, side dishes, beef, pork, chicken, seafood, sweets, canning and miscellany. Bonus references are Helmuth’s Tips for a Tidy Refrigerator and general Kitchen Tips and Measurements. What elevates the book is the way its minimalist, Instagram-worthy aesthetic seamlessly celebrates the simplicity of the food while offering intimate glimpses of Helmuth’s life. Her writing takes a nostalgic tone that’s personal without falling into folksy or voyeuristic Mennonite embellishments. Hope’s Table truly feels like a friendly invitation to a family dinner that would leave even the pickiest of eaters with a full belly and a clean plate. — Marathana Prothro