When Cath of A Blithe Palate emailed me and asked if I thought some of our Cook the Books members might be interested in taking part in the "Edible Word" event she and Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness were hosting and then generously offered to set aside some books for us, I was excited. Like many food bloggers, anytime I can combine my passion for cooking and eating with my love of reading works for me and reading a book and then cooking something from it or inspired by it is always fun. The book for the event is the masterfully titled foodie memoir, "Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker" by Gesine Bullock-Prado. If part of that last name sounds familiar, it is because Gesine, (pronounced Geh-see-neh--and BTW, Lord help you if you mispronounce it!), is the sister of actress Sandra Bullock. Gesine had a very successful career heading up her sister's movie production company but was miserable with the Hollywood rat race, finding her attention going to baking; taking pleasure in creating elaborate lists of ingredients and making indulgent pastries and baked goods for her family and friends. Bailing on the Hollywood scene, Bullock-Prado and her husband escape to Vermont where she opens a successful bakery and settles into small town life.
The book is an easy read and blends tales of her sugar obsessed childhood with an inside look at Hollywood and the movie business, descriptions of daily life as a baker in quirky Vermont, and fond memories of her Mother and her "Omi" or Grandmother who both inspired her passion for baking. The book is both funny and at times very poignant, as her mother passed away from cancer several years ago. The book also contains recipes at the end of each chapter for some of the wonderful pastries and desserts that Bullock-Prado creates as well as her tips and thoughts about them. Even not being someone who considers themselves a baker or bakes very often, the recipes and descriptions gave me the urge to bake. (Although definitely not to own or run a bakery EVER--that is way too much work and too many early mornings for me!). I also found inspiration from the fact that Gesine made the choice to stop doing something that didn't make her happy and "followed her bliss", finding something she could be passionate about. In the process myself of taking a year or so away from my career to figure out my next steps and what will make me happy, I can totally relate to that. I enjoyed this book and was sorry to have it end.
When choosing a recipe to make, I immediately went to the one for "Apfelkuchen", (German for Apple Cake). I love any dessert with apples in it and it seemed relatively simple to make, plus I loved the fact that her grandmother made it for her. In fact Gesine says her Omi made it in under an hour one time and so quickly and impatiently that she folded a fly into the cake batter. (I decided to make mine without that extra ingredient).
Basically, sliced apples sauteed in some butter and calvados, (apple brandy), are placed on top of a buttery batter, baked and then glazed. The recipe was easy enough although it seemed to call for many more apples than I needed to cover the cake.
I liked how the Apfelkuchen, even with the glaze, was not too sweet or too heavy and it was perfect with a cup of green tea flavored with apple and pomegranate. I thought I may have over-baked it just a tad, but the cake was tender and moist. I baked the cake in time to indulge in my tea and cake break at 3:00 PM, as Gesine says is the custom in Germany. (A custom I fully support adopting!) I would make this recipe again.
Cath will be hosting the round-up of this fun event on her blog A Blithe Palate on September 7th so stop by and see what others thought of the book and what recipes they were inspired to try. If you want to see more about the book and the author, Gesine has her own fun to read blog, here.
If you love reading foodie books and cooking dishes inspired by them, check out Cook the Books, our bi-monthly virtual book club, here. FYI--we are about to start our next book, Peter Mayle's "French Lessons" so come journey to France with us!