Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sweetness and Light

Read Charlotte Canelli's column in the February 13, 2014 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Volunteers from Norwood (and some surrounding towns) donate thousands of hours each year working in the Morrill Memorial Library.  From those who pick up canvas bags of books to deliver to the those who can’t physically make it into our building, to those who tutor students from countries all over the world, our volunteers are a wonderful bunch of people.  We have volunteers in every department of the library who contribute an hour or two or more of their time each and every week giving generously to the Norwood community.

Trustees and Friends of the Library are also library volunteers.  They may meet only once per month for a few hours, but they are frequently on-call by email and phone, lending advice, making policy decisions, and thinking about the library on a daily basis.

 We cherish our volunteers and couldn’t manage without them, to be honest.

That’s why on or near Valentine’s Day each year, we invite them to take a few minutes or an hour of their day to come to the library for home-baked sweet and savory treats and visit with us long enough to hear how appreciated they are.

February 14, 2014 is our third annual Volunteer Appreciation Tea from 10 until 2 in the library’s Simoni Room. The room will be decked out in hearts and flowers and an array of over a dozen loaded plates with offerings direct from the kitchens and ovens of library staff. 

These treats can be sweet or savory – the only rule is that they must be baked from a recipe in a book available in the Minuteman Library network. 

This year some of the bakers have decided to make more savory treats – those that don’t have as much sugar or other naughty things for our waistlines or health.  “Savory Baking: Warm and Inspiring Recipes for Crisp, Crumbly, Flaky Pastries” (2009) by Mary Cech is filled with just those kind of things.  Recipes range from these:   Peppered Pear and  Goat Cheese Scones, Pumpkin-Hazelnut Spice Loaf and Sweet Potato, Golden Raisin, and Cranberry Strudel.

Other cookbooks with more sensible ingredients were published recently.  One is “Whole Grain Vegan Baking: More Than 100 Tasty Recipes for Plant-Based Treats Made Even Healthier – From Wholesome Cookies and Cupcakes to Breads, Biscuits, and More” (2013) by Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes.  The title is certainly a mouthful and the baked treats must be, as well. There are no white flours or refined sugars in this book, and the authors include tons of recipes made with natural grains and sweeteners like barley and honey.

Dunja Gulin has written “The Vegan Baker: More Than 50 Delicious Recipes for Vegan-Friendly Cakes, Cookies, Bars and other Baked Treats” (2013).  Her book proves that you can cut out butter, milk and eggs and bake a delicious dessert.

Another book is “Skinny Bitch Bakery” (2013), a sassy title authored by Kim Barnouin. She, too, has written a book for vegan diets and understands that sometimes a recipe with exact ingredients is what is required for baking. When desserts can be good for you, as well as taste good, the alternative diets aren’t as restrictive. 

Kyra Bussanich’s cookbook, “Sweet Cravings: 50 Seductive Desserts for a Gluten-Free Lifestyle” (2013) answers the prayers of those who crave sweets but aren’t allowed any gluten in their diets.  Who would have thought that muffins, scones, cupcakes and pies could be baked and enjoyed by everyone – including those with dietary restrictions?

Likewise is Debbie Adler’s “Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Allergy-Free & Vegan Recipes from the Famous Los Angeles Bakery" (2013).  If you follow a vegan or diabetic diet, or you have a low tolerance to certain foods that wreak havoc on food allergies or celiac disease, there are dozens of recipes for you.  They range from Salted Caramel Apple Muffins to Gourmet Dark Chocolate Mesquite Brownies.

If it’s calories you are avoiding, “Hungry Girl 200 under 200 Just Desserts: 200 Recipes Under 200 Calories” (2013) is a new book by Hungry Girl Lisa Lillian. The entire recipe book (Strawberry Snowball Cupcakes and Freezy Cookies and Cream Whoopie Pies) includes desserts that fit into the low-calorie category.

There are still cookbooks for those of you with a sweet tooth that can indulge in the traditional desserts.  Kari Cornell has just published “Sweet Cookies and Bars” (2014) with plenty of delectable photographs.  “Bake It Like You Mean It” (2013) by Gesine Bullock-Prado and “Bake It, Don’t Fake It: A Pastry Chef Shares Her Secrets for Impressive (and Easy) From-Scratch Desserts” (2013) by Heather Bertinetti include loads of recipes that rely on traditional quality ingredients like sugars and butters.  Both Bullock-Prado’s and Bertinetti’s desserts rely on the from-scratch recipe tradition with some complicated steps and a taboo on using any from-the-box mixes.  And for the chocoholics, “Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate” (2013) by Alice Medrich even has a cover that looks suspiciously like a Hershey chocolate bar. 

I can’t promise any desserts at our Volunteer Tea on February 14th will made from all of these cookbooks I’ve listed above, but I can assure you that they will be sweet or savory, warm or cold, but most definitely delicious.  Hundreds of new cookbooks, baking books among them, are published every year. One of the best ways to get to decide if a cookbook belongs in your collection is to check it out the local library’s collection.