05 March 2011

Weekend Cooking: Review: Knopf Cooks American

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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
Preheat the oven to 375F and lightly grease a cookie sheet.

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.


caite 3/5/11, 6:52 AM  

They sounds lovely to just sit down and read, as you said.
The cookies sounds delightful too. Wish I Had one with my tea right now.

Rikki 3/5/11, 7:21 AM  

They sounds like an awesome collection of cookbooks to own. I love it when cook books have illustrations, background info and just more than just the plain recipes.

Carol @ There's Always Thyme to Cook 3/5/11, 8:55 AM  

They look like really lovely cookbooks, nice series! I would love one of those biscuits with my coffee right now, they sound so good.

Sheila (Bookjourney) 3/5/11, 9:01 AM  

Hmmm... the biscuits sound good and I have molasses from a recipe I pulled off this post weeks ago and have been wondering now what to do with the molasses. :)

Ann@Apples and Twinkies 3/5/11, 9:13 AM  

Great looking biscuits. I really enjoy cookbooks. These all sound wonderful.

bermudaonion 3/5/11, 9:58 AM  

I love the idea of regional cookbooks like that all in a series. The titles of those you highlighted are terrific too.

TheBookGirl 3/5/11, 10:07 AM  

I didn't know about this series of cookbooks, but they sound lovely. I will keep an eye out for them in our used bookshop.

Esme 3/5/11, 10:21 AM  

I am going to have to check out these books if I can find them. They sound quite fun.

Lynne Perednia 3/5/11, 10:23 AM  

What a sweet-looking collection. And ginger biscuits! Oh my stars and bars! I can imagine tasting one right now. Thanks!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 3/5/11, 10:37 AM  

Yum, I love ginger -- these sound fantastic!

How have you resisted searching out the other 6 books in the series?! A scavenger hunt of bookish fun.

Margot 3/5/11, 10:39 AM  

These books are an excellent idea and I'll bet they make for great reading. The covers are so attractive too. Now I need to try the cookies.

Darlene 3/5/11, 11:55 AM  

These cookbooks sound wonderful and the covers are terrific. I'm definitely going to check them out!

Nan 3/5/11, 12:00 PM  

I've never heard of these books, but what an excellent idea. With those great covers, and a revived interest in regional cooking, I would hope the whole series might be reissued.

Willa 3/5/11, 12:26 PM  

American cooking - I need to try that!

Heather 3/5/11, 1:26 PM  

These sound like they could double as coffee table books. Thanks for sharing them.

Joy Weese Moll 3/5/11, 7:08 PM  

These sound like fun. I love the covers!

Martha@Hey, I want to read that 3/5/11, 9:17 PM  

I love the idea of regional cook books. And the covers are all lovely. What a great collection.

Peaceful Reader 3/6/11, 1:29 AM  

I shared a biscuit recipe also. I adore ginger so will have to give these a try.

Michelle 3/6/11, 9:30 AM  

Sign me up for some of that southern baking!! Egads, it's rich and heavy but sounds tremendously good.

Julie 3/6/11, 9:46 AM  

Thanks for hosting this!! These ginger biscuits look delicious.

tanabata 3/6/11, 11:20 AM  

Those cookbooks sound great, as do the ginger biscuits. Mmmm...

Alex 3/6/11, 11:22 AM  

I was afraid I would miss Weekend Cooking this weekend. Those Ginger Biscuits made my mouth water and they are a definite must make this week.
Your cookbook selections always sound so wonderful.

Rebecca Rasmussen 3/6/11, 12:20 PM  

As usual honey, I want to eat those biscuits and get those cookbooks! Yummy ginger! XOX

Les 3/6/11, 1:23 PM  

I have the Dungesness Crabs & Blackberry Cobblers cookbook! My cover isn't quite the same as the one you've pictured, though, as it was republished by Westwinds Press. Don't you love all the anecdotal (sp?) information in the sidebars? I'll have to try these cookies. Especially since Hibler says they're so tender they'll melt in your mouth. Yum!

Kim 3/6/11, 1:44 PM  

Those biscuits look divine and those cookbooks look like fun little gems to own. I didn't get time to do a weekend cooking post, but I did spotlight a new oatmeal bar I am going to try, in my Sunday Salon post.
Have a great week--

Chinoiseries 3/6/11, 3:15 PM  

What a wonderful series! I wonder why it's not been reprinted?

nat @book, line, and sinker 3/6/11, 7:24 PM  

Whew! I made it in under the wire! This Pavlova was so easy and DELISH! Enjoy the link. :)

Zibilee 3/6/11, 8:41 PM  

These books sound totally amazing, and like something that I'd really like to get a look at. I like the fact that they are all part of the same series, but are all so different from each other.

Robin M 3/6/11, 11:35 PM  

The Ginger Biscuits sound awesome. Will have to try those.

Suzy 3/7/11, 2:48 AM  

What a neat little series of books. I don't think I've ever seen them. I love history though and regional cooking so I know I would love reading through these. This is my first time participating in your event. Looks like fun. I always like to devote part of my weekend to cooking.

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