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In the early 1990s, I started collecting a series of cookbooks published by Knopf called Knopf Cooks American. As far as I can tell Knopf produced about a dozen books in the series. I own about half of them, including the four shown here, which I've used quite a bit over the years.
Each book in the series focuses on a different topic or different region of the country. Of the titles I chose to spotlight, Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie (by Bill Neal) focuses on Southern baking, Florida Cookbook (by Jeanne Voltz and Caroline Stuart) is pretty self-explanatory, Blue Corn and Chocolate (by Elizabeth Rozin) is all about food native to the New World, and Dungeness Crabs and Blackberry Cobblers (by Jane Hibler) highlights foods from the Pacific Northwest.
The books are beautifully designed to reflect the region or topic covered in the text. You'll find maps, photographs, sidebars, drawings, and stories to give the recipes context. These are cookbooks that are as much fun to read as they are cook from and are so well researched that they include a bibliography for further exploration.
The recipes themselves range from the basic to classics to modern fusion. They are well organized and have clear directions. Throughout, the recipes are accompanied by drawings, sidebars, and tips. I have used a number of recipes from these books over the years, and all the dishes have been successful.
Other books in the series cover preserving, Jewish cooking, Asian cooking, meats, beer, Brooklyn, Italian, West Coast, Midwest, and more. Titles in the Knopf Cooks American series are not all that easy to find these days, but they do show up at flea markets, library sales, and used-book stores. I highly recommend them all.
Here's an easy recipe for some of our favorite cookies. It comes from the Dungeness Crabs book. Enjoy!
Fort Vancouver Ginger Biscuits
Makes 2 dozen
- 3 cups unbleached flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 24 tablespoons butter, softened (1½ cups)
- 1½ cups sugar
- ½ molasses
Blend the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and ginger together and set aside. In a large bowl mix the butter, sugar, and molasses together and stir in the dry ingredients.
Roll out on a lightly floured board to ½ inch thick. Cut with a 2-inch cookie cutter and place ½ inch apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for 6–8 minutes. Do not overbake.