“The dishes we cook and eat in our own homes, in the company of family and friends, have a unique power to soothe, satisfy and nurture, to spark good conversation and to conjure and create memories.”
- Chuck Williams, founder of Williams-Sonoma
Although thousands of new cookbooks arrive on the market every year, not many cover as wide a range of ingredients and cooking techniques as tomes like the Joy of Cooking and Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Now there’s a new kid on the block. For half a century, Williams-Sonoma has inspired home cooks with the very best cooking equipment and a great line of equally stunning cookbooks; the new Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home, edited by Chuck Williams, founder of Williams-Sonoma and Christine Kidd, food editor of Bon Appétit magazine for 20 years, is as thorough a reference as any I’ve seen.
Read on to see a great bagel recipe, and find out how you can win your very own copy of Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home.
A compilation of 1000 recipes interspersed with how-to guides, cooking charts, helpful descriptors and tips that cover everything from making puff pastry from scratch to what’s so great about canola oil, it’s almost a coffee table book in size. With 640 pages bound in a hard cover, it’s a serious kitchen reference book that covers it all and will last a lifetime. It’s cleanly laid out and easy to navigate – the pages aren’t cluttered despite the plethora of information. Each of the twenty-three chapters (!!) opens with the basics – covering all you need to know about the subject at hand. There’s a huge range in each recipe section, covering classics and introducing more unique ethnic dishes in an accessible way. For those just starting out or seeking a good, solid kitchen reference, this is all you need.
There’s a great recipe for bagels (page 417) – something I make myself regularly with the kids, who like to make theirs letters or snakes or other wonky shapes. I often add grated cheddar instead of poppy or sesame seeds.
Chewy on the outside and soft on the inside, the distinctive texture of authentic bagels comes from the two step process of boiling, then baking them. From Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home, by Chuck Williams & Kristine Kidd
1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp.) quick-rise yeast
2 1/2-3 cups unbleached bread flour
1 cup milk, heated to lukewarm (about 110°F)
1/4 cup corn oil (I used canola)
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, separated
1 Tbsp. sugar
poppy seeds, sesame seeds or coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast and 1/2 cup of the flour. Stir in the lukewarm milk and let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, beat in the oil, salt, egg yolk and sugar. Gradually beat in the remaining flour until you have a stiff but workable dough.
Knead by hand or in the stand mixer, adding flour as necessary – knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, or by the dough hook in the stand mixer on low speed until it’s no longer sticky and pulls from the sides of the bowl – 6-7 minutes. Form the dough into a compact ball and place in a clean, oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover with oiled plastic wrap (I used a tea towel) and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
On a lightly floured work surface, press the dough flat and using your palms, roll into a log about 8 inches long; cut into 16 equal pieces. Cover with a clean tea towel to prevent drying. One at a time, form each piece into a ball, then flatten into a disk 2 1/2″ in diameter. Leave them on the counter, covered with a tea towel, and let rise until doubled, about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F, oil a rimmed baking sheet and bring a large (3 qt) pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and slip 3 bagels at a time into the simmering water. Poach, turning once, for 3 minutes on each side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the baking sheet, reforming the holes if necessary.
Lightly beat the egg white and brush it over the bagels; sprinkle with seeds (or cheese!). Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 16 bagels.
Here’s a bit of a book report – a run-down on what you’ll find in the rest of the book:
The first chapter covers kitchen basics – a toolbox that begins with outfitting your kitchen and moves through pantry storage, knife techniques, basic cooking techniques (think sauteing, roasting, frying, braising), flavouring techniques and wine basics, then basic formulas for homemade stocks, bouillions and preserves. The second is all about breakfast and brunch – everything from egg cooking techniques to compound butters and Swiss Muesli. The third covers appetizers and first courses, beginning with an appetizer glossary that defines antipasti, canapes, cruites, tapas and charcuterie, then offering make-ahead and freezing tips and party menu and theme ideas alongside a myriad of recipes.
Next – salad. The usual suspects plus plenty of new ideas, a greens glossary and vinaigrette tutorial. Soups and stews offers recipes and techniques as well as formulas for fresh dumplings and advice about using canned beans vs. dried. Pasta and noodles offers a chart of pasta types and sauce pairing suggestions as well as recipes for fresh pasta and gnocchi and Asian noodle dishes such as Pad Thai.
An unexpected chapter in the middle – sandwiches and pizzas – delves into each element of the classic sandwich – bread, condiments, fillings and garnishes – and offers a ton of pizza combinations for use with a basic dough recipe. Fish, shellfish and meat are informative for new cooks as well as those in the know – illustrations clarify cuts of meat and charts outline their cooking times, and the recipes cover every possible cut of meat and cooking technique.
The rice, grains and beans chapter includes a grain glossary and cooking chart; ditto dried beans (legumes) with soaking instructions followed by recipes. The vegetables chapter has a shopping and cooking guide as well as directions to prepare and store them. Salsas, sauces and condiments reads like a stint in cooking school, with sauce basics and essential techniques followed by basic white sauce, pasta sauces, gravies, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise and even more unusual basics like Vietnamese nuoc cham.
The chapter on yeast breads has a formula for sourdough starter along with a basic guide to flours and yeasts and a breakdown of bread making techniques; ditto quick breads and muffins. Dessert basics will help with your pastry-making skills and get into classic puff pastry and pastry cream, if you’re into that sort of thing, and walk you through various frostings and glazes and even sugared flowers. Cookies, brownies and bars covers drop cookies, cutouts, refrigerator cookies, brownies and bar cookies and biscotti, with shaping ideas and decorating tips.
The cakes and cheesecakes chapter walks you through every aspect of cake baking and decorating, even addressing high-altitude baking issues. Pies and tarts range from simple to extravagant; the fruit desserts chapter is a catch-all, covering everything from fig types to hulling strawberries, with recipes for compotes, crumbles, cobblers and crisps. Candies and confections provides an education on chocolate (types and techniques) caramels, pralines, fudge and even sugarplums. Puddings, mousses and custards has more information than you might think – not only on stove-top puddings but on steamed puddings, bread puddings and custards such as creme brulee. Frozen desserts ends the book with ice creams, sorbets, gelato and granita.
Phew. As I said – Williams Sonoma Cooking at Home covers it all – in classic Williams-Sonoma style.
To enter for your chance to WIN a copy of the Williams-Sonoma cookbook, go to our Facebook page and tell us: What’s your favorite holiday food? Contest ends at 12AM Sunday, November 7th. Good luck!
Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home $34.95 US, $41.95 CAN