Rules of Cookbook Purchasing

I love a good cookbook. Actually that’s a lie, I love almost any cookbook, good or bad. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I have the foresight to realise if I bought every cookbook I wanted, there would be no room left for my kitchen appliances or gadgets, and probably no room for my family either. I need them – they’re my taste-testers.
I spend a few mornings a week at my local library, and each time I usually come home with a handful of cookbooks amongst the Murakami and Postman Pat DVD’s. These borrowed cookbooks, along with those I find on my friend’s shelves, go under review against my Rules of Cookbook Purchasing. If they pass, they hit my wishlist until I can’t stand it any more and hit ‘buy now’ on the online cart.
Whilst I’d love to support my local bookstores, the reality in Australia is that books (especially very pretty hardcovers!) are quite expensive. I can usually find them online somewhere (thanks for your help booko) for around half the price of retail stores, including postage.

So my Rules of Cookbook Purchasing are:
1. Must have a good range of recipes, including meat-free.
2. Must look good – I’m a visual person!
3. Must be at least 10% of the recipes I would definitely make. Since I never count how many recipes the book includes, I averaged it out to be 10, but highly variable. Sometimes this number is 6. Or 4 if it’s a really pretty book…
Pretty strict rules huh?
If the book doesn’t make the cut, I’ll copy a few recipes before returning it to the library, or just accidentally forget to return it to my mum.
Whatever is at the top of my wishlist gets subtly name-dropped a dozen times around birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day and whatever other occasion I can milk. 
I love getting cookbooks as gifts from overseas guests or as mementos from family who’ve travelled abroad – I haven’t cooked anything from Modern German Cooking or Scottish Teatime Recipes yet, but I shall one day!

Looks like my wishlist is steadily increasing!


In the beginning…

…there were patty cakes.

When I was a child my mum, nan, grandma and everyone else I knew who baked made patty cakes – they were just little vanilla cakes baked in white patty cases, with a simple runny icing and some 100’s & 1000’s on top. If mum was feeling adventurous we got pink icing or maybe chocolate icing with desiccated coconut on top. 

So what happened to the patty cake?
I can’t say I’m particularly organised yet as I haven’t even googled it yet, but my theory is it became Americanised with lots of other simple Aussie foods. Not necessarily a bad thing, just different.

In my mind, Becoming Americanised is synonymous with being bigger & better, and certainly the CUPCAKE is bigger (and probably better. Okay. It’s better.) than the humble patty cake.
CUPCAKES are not only lovely little cakes in a myriad of flavours and pretty ‘frostings’, they are also a multi-million dollar industry. Probably. Haven’t done my research on that either.

There are now cupcake stands and cupcake carriers (guilty to owning several of both), and my nan would be horrified to learn a packet of polka-dot cupcake wrappers might cost around the same as Sunday’s Roast Leg of Lamb.

All this whinging aside (get used to it, there’s lots more where that came from), I’m a big fan of the cupcake, and usually find myself making a few different batches a week to feed my hungry horde.

My most recent cupcake cookbook purchase (my fourth cupcake cookbook actually) is Vegan Cupcakes take over the world, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero.
I jumped on The Book Depository and ordered it immediately after returning a tatty copy to my library, following the Rules of Cookbook Purchasing (more on that later), as I was literally frothing at the mouth reading it.

I’m not a Vegan (I am a vegetarian but that’s entirely irrelevant here), but I’d seen great reviews on this book and in print everything looked delectable….BUT…

I live in Australia.
Contrary to popular belief, Skippy the Kangaroo doesn’t hop down my main street. I’m in a decent sized metropolitan centre and have access to quite a lot of large supermarkets and a few decent health-food and speciality food stores. However, the frosting recipes really had me stumped. Frosting to me is what happens in Winter to the car windscreens of those poor unfortunate souls who live in Canberra.

Most Australians make ‘icing’ for cakes using icing sugar or icing mixture (very common) and either butter or marg (maybe milk too, that’s getting kinda fancy though). Contemporary Aussie cookbookrepeneurs like Donna Hay still call it icing, but ‘frosting’ is widely known to those who bake.
So how do I make that lovely frosting without non-hydrogenated shortening? Ain’t none of that down under folks! I solved my own dilemma by substituting butter, but that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Most of my cookbook collection were written by US or UK authors, and my poor hubby is sick of me screaming from the kitchen mid-recipe “honey, google me a substitute for graham crackers, STAT”. So even though there are a gazillion cookbook-review blogs floating around the web these days, I’m adding another one – with a distinctly Australian flavour.