It’s been a year since I last wrote a cookbook review on my blog. Which seems crazy to me, because I’m pretty sure that I just wrote about Fresh from the Farm the other day. I guess time does fly when you’re having fun. Or something like that.
I meant to have this review done ages ago…back in January, in fact. But then I decided to change the look of my blog, which turned out to be a bigger project than I had anticipated. Not that I’m complaining – I’m pretty happy with how my blog looks now. I hope you like the new look too!
So, what do I have to say about Toronto Cooks? Well, first of all, I had forgotten just how exhausting it can be to review a cookbook. You can’t just browse through the pages and pass judgement based on the photos and words. Actually, a lot of people do this, but it doesn’t make for a particularly useful review, does it?
I try to make at least two recipes from the book, so I can get an idea of how easy the recipes are to follow. It also helps me assess the quality of the book as a whole.
What is Toronto Cooks about?
This cookbook is a collection of 100 signature recipes from Toronto’s best restaurants. That’s the official description – not my own. That’s not to say that the restaurants featured in the book aren’t good, but there are some excellent restaurants that are missing from this compilation.
Trying Out the Recipes
The first recipe that I tested was the Perfect Buns from Richmond Station. This recipe was an exercise in frustration.
The recipe says that the dough will “seem a little wet” once it comes together. This was not the case for me. After adding the carefully measured ingredients to my KitchenAid mixer, exactly as the recipe instructed, my dough refused to come together. It’s suppose to form a ball that you can then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead. My dough was far too dry to be able to form a dough at all.
At first I thought that the issue was the yeast that I was using. It was still within the expiry date, but only just. So, I tried making the buns again another day. Actually, my mom tried making them. She makes bread all of the time, and I figured if she couldn’t get the recipe to work then it had nothing to do with my lack of skills. Sure enough, she ran into the same issue of the dough being too dry.
After consulting with a friend of mine who is a professional recipe developer, we concluded that the measurements in the recipe were a bit off. The recipe calls for 4 1/4 cups of flour, but only 1 cup + 5 tsp of milk. That’s a lot of flour! We added an extra 1/4 cup of milk to the recipe, and the dough finally came together properly.
In case you’re wondering why I shot my photos like this, it’s because I thought it would be fun to replicated the images from the book. I thought it would make it easy to see how my version turned out compared to what was photographed for the book. I’m not sure that this format worked so great though…
The next recipe that I made was the Garlic Shrimp from Tabülè.
Before I say anything about this dish, I’d like you to take note of how red the sauce in the book is. Pretty red, right? Would you believe that the recipe calls for only 1/2 tsp of tomato paste? It does, and there is no way that you can get that much colour when you add 2 cups of water to 1/2 tsp of tomato paste.
Colour-issues aside, I also had issues with the cooking time.
I won’t give you the full recipe here, but basically you sauté the shrimp for 1 minute per side, before adding flour and cooking for 10 seconds. Then you add the tomato paste and water, and cook for 2-3 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce. Maybe my issues stem from the fact that I’m not using a gas stove, but it’s pretty hard to reduce that much liquid in 3 minutes, even on extremely high heat. I had to pull the shrimp out and boil down the sauce for about 8 minutes before it finally reduced. And sadly, the resulting dish was bland. It did look pretty though.
The last dish that I tried out was the Citrus Salad from Porzia. This was easily my favourite dish out of the three. It also didn’t involve any cooking whatsoever, so that might have had something to do with it. It’s hard to screw up a salad!
I will say that this salad was kind of pricy to make though. The recipe calls for 2 navel oranges, 2 blood oranges, 4 clementines, 1 lemon, 2 ruby grapefruits and 1/2 a pomegranate. That’s 12 pieces of fruit (since you can’t buy half a pomegranate), and that’s doesn’t include the other ingredients in the dish.
I went to two big-box grocery stores and one vegetable market, and still couldn’t find all of the ingredients that I needed. I substituted plain green olives for the baresane and cerignola olives. I also substituted No7 hot sauce for the bomba calabrese because I couldn’t find that Italian chili condiment. Oh, and I omitted the parsley because I just don’t enjoy eating parsley in salads (sacrilege, I know!).
Despite my substitutions, the salad turned out absolutely amazing! The flavours were bright and fresh, and I think I might start soaking all of my olives in hot sauce from now on. It’s a beautiful dish, and it does make several servings, so this would be great for a dinner party.
What’s My Opinion of the Cookbook?
Considering that I didn’t have a great experience with the first two recipes, I can say that right now this isn’t my favourite book. However, there are still several recipes that I’m excited to try , and I have high hopes for all of them. These recipes include:
- Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Shanks with Couscous and Toasted Pine Nuts (Coquine Restaurant)
- Gnudi with Mushrooms and Fresh Peas (The Drake Hotel)
- Chocolate Pecan Buttercream Cake (Dufflet)
- Tuna Ceviche (El Catrin)
- Lobster Rolls (E11even)
- Ezra’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (Ezra’s Pound)
- Crab Fritters (Glory Hole Doughnuts)
- Crack Pie® (Momofuku Milk Bar)
One feature of the book that I really like is the write-up on each chef and restaurant. They are just a few paragraphs each, but they are really fun to read. The photos of the chefs are also really well done.
Who Should Buy the Toronto Cooks Cookbook:
- Anyone who wants the opportunity to recreate dishes from popular restaurants
- Subscribers of Bon Appetit magazine – these recipes will be right up your alley
- People who are adventurous in the kitchen
Who Should Not Buy the Toronto Cooks Cookbook:
- Anyhow who dislike having to shop around to find special ingredients
- Students, or others, who have a limited food budget
So, what do you think? Is this cookbook for you?
If it is, you’ll want to enter to win a copy for yourself!
Win a Copy of Toronto Cooks!
DEADLINE: This giveaway closes on April 17, 2015
PRIZE: 1 reader will win a single copy of the Toronto Cooks cookbook.
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This is not a sponsored post.
This cookbook was sent to me to review.