Growing up in Massachusetts with a mother forced to flee war in both Gaza and Lebanon, Reem Assil not only wears her fierce Palestinian and Syrian pride on her sleeve, but profoundly infuses it into her cooking and baking.
That’s why her new cookbook “Arabiyya” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, is not merely a collection of more than 100 recipes that dive deeply into her Arab roots, but a testament to her hard-won battle to bring them to the forefront in all that she does.
The book’s title means “Arab woman.” And Assil exemplifies that inherent strength, never afraid to champion her Arab community at-large, starting in college, when she idealistically thought she could solve the issue of peace in the Middle East. When she realized that futility, she dropped out of school, and headed west to the Bay Area, were she became enthralled with its diversity and social consciousness.
It was here that she got the notion to start her own bakery, having grown up breaking bread at the table communally as the ultimate way to bring people together.
The ones who sometimes neglect to add that vanilla extract to a batch of cookies, the ones who somehow didn’t grease a pan before adding the batter, or have hurriedly mixed in an ingredient at the very last second when it should have been stirred in at the start.
Yes, folks maybe like you and surely like me, as I’ve been guilty at least once of all of those things.
Ever forgotten to preheat the oven before sticking a cake in to bake?
No fretting about that with this recipe. That’s because “Cold-Oven Pound Cake” indeed gets slid into the oven before it is turned on. And boy, does this technique lead to one sensational cake.
She is the self-proclaimed “queen of easy-peasy baking.”
And Brooklyn-based recipe developer Jessie Sheehan’s latest cookbook certainly adds another jewel to that crown.
“Snackable Bakes” (Countryman Press), of which I received a review copy, is the type of cookbook that makes baking a treat on a whim not only doable but deliciously satisfying.
The book includes 100 no-nonsense recipes that are simple to follow, require limited equipment, and easy to put together. There’s no stressing over baking “Strawberry Sheet Cake,” “Luscious Lemon Possets,” “S’more Icebox Cake” or “Espresso Ganache Swirl No-Churn Ice Cream.”
I tried my hand at “Strawberry-n-Cream Bar Cookies,” a blondie-like bar cookie that’s flavored with freeze-dried strawberries and white chocolate chips.
Just for fun, I also added some dried rose petals to the dough because strawberries and rose go together nearly as well as peanut butter and chocolate, with the rose accentuating the lovely floral quality of ripe berries.
Like bread popped up from the toaster, all crisp and golden, then immediately slathered with sweet butter and jam.
That’s exactly what these cookies taste like.
Since toast with jam is my go-to breakfast most mornings anyway, I just had to try these fun cookies called “Jam-on-Toast Thumbprints.” They are ingeniously rolled in panko before being filled with sticky marmalade.
If you don’t know married couple, Taylor and Arguin, they are a true dynamic duo who are both scientists and bakers. Taylor is an epidemiologist specializing in Alzheimer’s and aging, while Arguin is the retired head of the CDC’s domestic malaria unit. These over-achievers also have won hundreds of amateur baking contests.
Yes, the rest of us can now officially feel like total sloths.