When I was growing up, my friends' moms didn't have a whole lot of cookbooks - not like today. There were a few standards. You could pretty much bet that if there was a cookbook, it would be one of the big three - The Joy of Cooking, the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, or the Betty Crocker Cookbook.
Some of the more adventurous moms might have another book or two. Maybe Italian cooking. Or later, microwave cooking. But moms who wanted - or needed - a basic cookbook turned to one of the big three.
The latest version of the Betty Crocker Cookbook fills the same niche as its predecessors. It's got recipes for everything you need, from biscuits to breakfasts and pastas to poultry. Need to know how long to cook a pork chop or a roast - it's all there. Need to know how to make pancake batter - you've got it.
|This one is from the '70s.|
Sure, some canned and bottle products are mentioned - I ran across one recipe that used Italian dressing - but it also referenced a recipe in the book for making your own.
And when canned stock is mentioned, there are references to the home made version as well. I like that. Not everyone is going to want to make stock, so it's great to see that the cookbook offers options.
This is a good book for beginners, with photos of vegetables and cuts of meat to help new cooks understand what they're dealing with. And there are troubleshooting photos. What does softened butter look like? If your cookies are too flat or too hard, what did you do wrong?
There's a 20-minute-or-less section, and one for slow-cooking. There's also a section about grilling and smoking and another for sauces. It's got the basics, but it's also pretty comprehensive, with tips on shopping at the farmer's market or how to use your kitchen equipment properly. And a lot of recipes. And a lot of photos to go with them. And its in a ring binder, which makes it a little more kitchen friendly.
Recipes aren't as complicated as you might find in books related entirely to one topic, but this book isn't dumbed down, either. You want to make profiteroles or pickles, there are recipes. And for some recipes, there are variations. And instructions on how to modify recipes to suit your needs. That's really useful for timid cooks who don't know what substitutions will work and which will result in disaster.
Yep, it's the modern version of what we all grew up with. But with more ethnic food, better photos, and recipes geared towards what we can find in today's supermarkets. Because I'm pretty sure that my mom never saw an ancho pepper at the grocery store.
Back then, the complicated produce question was whether the round green thing was cabbage or iceberg lettuce. Now, there's a lot more to know - and to buy.
Even with the huge number of cookbooks I have (don't ask - you don't want to know) there are plenty of times I need a basic cookbook for simple tasks.
I don't always remember the formula for waffle batter and I always need to look up how long to cook a roast. I mean, it's easy enough to tell when it's done by using a thermometer. The question is what time I should put it in the oven so it's done for dinner.
That's why books like this are handy to have. Sort of like an old friend in the kitchen who's comfortable with kitchen basics. But, you know, with cooler clothes and better hair than before.
Nice to see you again, Betty. Pull up some shelf space and settle in.
Of course, I couldn't put this book aside until I made a recipe. Since the book is such a classic, I decided to make something classic. Like this:
Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Extra granulated sugar, as needed
Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, be the sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter, butter and egg with an electric mixer at medium speed until well blended.
Stir in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Shape the dough into 1 1/4 inch balls (I used a scoop. So much easier.)
Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet (I lined mine with parchment) leaving about 3 inches between them to leave room for them to spread.
With a fork dipped in sugar, flatten the balls, making a criss-cross pattern on top.
Bake 9-10 minutes at 350 degrees - or until light brown. Cool 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then move to a rack to cook completely.
Disclosure: the publisher sent me this book to review.