Almost every day of the week, Austinite Anna Ginsberg bakes something — a cookie, a bar, a cake, muffins — for her blog, Cookie Madness (cookiemadness.net), which she started writing back in 2005, the year before she won the Pillsbury Bake-off.
It makes sense, then, that for her first book, "The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life" (Andrews McMeel, $24.99), Ginsberg came up with a cookie recipe for every day of the year. Buckeyes on the anniversary of Ohio’s statehood (March 1), green egg cookies on Dr. Seuss’s birthday (March 2), carrot and oat cookies on Eat Your Vegetables Day (June 17), English flapjacks for the date the first Winnie-the-Pooh book was published (Oct. 14).
Though she was baking from morning to night while writing the recipes for the book, she spent almost as much time researching the various dates, holidays, birthdays and anniversaries the sweet treats commemorate.
"Every type of cookie I can think of is in the book," Ginsberg says, noting that one of the best things about writing such a comprehensive book is that now she finally has almost all of her personal favorites in one place.
Casual bakers might not appreciate the nuances between the five chocolate chip cookies that appear in the book, but the baking fanatics who follow Cookie Madness certainly will. "Every cookie recipe is different," she says. Just a hint of extra baking powder or vanilla can change not just the flavor, but texture and consistency.
Ginsberg doesn’t consider herself a particularly scientific baker, but a desire to bake a better cookie has forced her to learn more about the chemical reaction happening in her very own mixing bowl.
In addition to the recipes and the entertaining blurbs about why she picked each treat for each day, Ginsberg wrote introductory chapters that answer questions about baking (nonstick foil versus parchment, to sift or not to sift) that you might not have learned from whoever taught you how to make chocolate chip cookies when you were a kid.
And throughout the whole process, she kept up her almost daily blogging. "I was already in the kitchen," she says. "What’s another cookie?"
Learn Vietnamese cooking from Slanted Door chef
San Francisco chef Charles Phan opened his acclaimed Vietnamese restaurant, The Slanted Door, in 1995, but he didn’t come out with his first cookbook until this year. With "Vietnamese Home Cooking" (Ten Speed Press, $35), Phan deconstructs many of the basic techniques and ingredients that he and his staff use at the restaurant for home cooks who’d like to try their hand at Vietnamese staples, including dumplings, stews, rolls, noodles and braised, stir-fried and grilled meats, such as this pork chop flavored with a lemongrass marinade.
Burnet farmer expands tamale-making business
After making tamales for years for friends and family, farmer-writer Margaret Christine Perkins, who writes the blog Notes From Maggie’s Farm (frommaggiesfarm.blogspot.com) about her farm near Burnet, has expanded her holiday production with the help of a commercial kitchen. Through Friday, you can order red chile pork, green chile chicken, smoked brisket or black bean tamales ($10 per dozen pre-paid or $12 per dozen upon delivery) for delivery on Dec. 21 or pick-up on Dec. 22. Sauces — poblano cilantro cream or chile con carne — cost $6 per pint. To order, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sitcom star hosts caviar classes, sells to local restaurants
Actor, comedian and Lakeway resident Bill Kirchenbauer is on a mission to educate people that caviar in Texas isn’t just that black-eyed pea salad that you eat on New Year’s Day. "Little by little, I’ve made inroads," he says. "But it can be a hard sell." Kirchenbauer, who appeared in sitcoms including "Growing Pains," "Mork and Mindy" and "Night Court," fell in love with the infamously expensive cured fish eggs during his travels around the world and started Lone Star Caviar (lonestarcaviar.com) when he moved to Central Texas. He now teaches caviar classes and sells the product to restaurants, including Hudson’s on the Bend and Lenoir in Austin, (and even to a few celebrities) around the country. For the classes, he charges about $250 per person, depending on the variety and quantity of caviar the customers would like to try. He also offers "caviar in a box," a variety pack that includes accoutrements. "Even if you try some in a restaurant, most people don’t get to taste four or five different kinds of caviar," he says. "I want to give people an idea of what’s out there." To inquire about the classes or place an order for your holiday party, you can contact Kirchenbauer 636-8265.
P. Terry’s donates to Season for Caring
On Saturday, all six P. Terry’s Burger Stand locations will be donating all of their profits to Season for Caring, the Austin American-Statesman’s annual charity campaign. This is the fourth year P. Terry’s has given this gift. The first three years raised more than $40,000.
Season for Caring highlights the needs of 12 featured families and helps hundreds of others through local nonprofit agencies. To find out more about it, go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring or look for daily stories in the Metro section through Jan. 1.
Here are the hours each P. Terry’s location is open Saturday: 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. 404 S. Lamar Blvd. and 204 W. Ben White Blvd.; 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. 3303 N. Lamar Blvd.; 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. 4228 W. William Cannon Drive and 701 S. Capital of Texas Highway; and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 3311 RM 620 S. in Lakeway. www.pterrys.com