Review: Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade FoodsMake the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch — Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods by Jennifer Reese

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jennifer Reese lost her job and began experimenting in the kitchen to see what was better when made at home and whether it was worth the time and labor involved to do so. The result is this cookbook which I like very much.

Reese’s calm common-sense comes shining through in the introductions to each recipe. Her sensibilities are very much like mine and, just in case they aren’t, she clearly describes her likes and dislikes about each project. Thus I know that I probably don’t want to make my own cream cheese (at least from her recipe) because I don’t want something noticeably tangier (or as her family says “sour”) than Philly Cream Cheese. Would I mind my homemade peanut butter being “nubbier” than commercial brands if the peanut flavor sings forth? Maybe not.

Each recipe is prefaced by three bullet points:

  • Should you make it or buy it?
  • How much hassle is it?
  • What’s the cost compared to store-bought?

Then, no matter her own conclusion, the recipe follows so that you may proceed with your own experimentation if you choose.

Reese doesn’t base her conclusions solely on the answers to those three questions. For example, homemade Danish are an unbelievable hassle and cost compared to store bought but the results are so superior that everyone should make them once to see if they find the result worth the trouble.

Part of the attraction for me is that sometimes Reese blithely accepts that store-bought brings the results she wants. I suppose it helps my acceptance of her judgments that I too have continually tried homemade hamburger bun recipes only to find the results far stiffer and denser than I desired (and I have tried over a dozen recipes).

I also approve of someone who finds, after a year’s experimentation, that keeping chickens for the eggs is insanely expensive, but keeps the chickens anyway. After a year, she and her family have been transformed into chicken fanciers so it is worth the trouble. Such is a side effect of experimentation, as most people know who have tried it … sometimes the experiment changes you beyond the measurable results in ways you can’t foresee.

Reese’s charm and sensibility shine through to the point where I see that many reviewers love the book for the way she tells personal experiences, despite never making a single recipe. Obviously I concur since I  have just reviewed the book after reading only a third of it. I may come back and revise this as I get further along, but for now, this is a solidly entertaining read with a lot of useful information.

About Julie Davis

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