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Disclaimer: Cream Puff will not be held responsible for the dramatic reduction in bookshelf space due to the purchasing of any cookbooks as a result of posts on this blog between December 1, 2009 and December 12, 2009, inclusive.

I happen to believe that cookbooks make the very best Christmas gifts.

Well, okay, maybe diamonds make the best Christmas gifts but right after diamonds it’s cookbooks.

Ummm … hold on … okay Mauviel copper pots are really cool so let’s say Diamonds are number 1, Mauviel copper pots are number 2 and then cookbooks.

Except I guess Gien dinnerware is really nice … oh … nevermind!

Let’s just stick with the cookbooks, shall we?

I find that at this time of year, a lot of bloggers have “year-end” lists as in “my top five posts of the year” or “the best five dishes I made this year”. I always love reading people’s top cookbook lists for the year since I am a cookbook freak. Certifiable freak.

I did a list last year but I left so many cookbooks off my list and had such a hard time choosing that I really felt I needed to do something more this year.

So for the first twelve days of December I’m going to give you a cookbook a day. Now to be clear, while some of these cookbooks are newly published, some aren’t. In fact some of them are older cookbooks but the point is that I discovered them in 2009 and I really feel it would be awesome for you if you found them in your Christmas stocking this year.

So let’s get started, shall we?

On Day 1, I give you Two Dishes: Mother and Daughter – Two Cooks,Two Lifestyles, Two Takes by Linda Haynes and Devin Connell.

I’m the lucky owner of two previous cookbooks by Linda Haynes: The ACE Bakery Cookbook and More from ACE Bakery, both of which I love.

For those of you that are unfamiliar, Linda Haynes is the founder of ACE Bakery, probably the most famous bread bakery in Toronto. I’ve said this to many people on many occasions but ACE Bakery consistently has some of the best artisanal bread in the city. Lucky for me, the ACE headquarters are just around the corner from my family’s business so we’re pretty much in there all the time!

Linda contacted me awhile ago and asked if I’d like a copy of her new book and of course I said yes. The first thing I noticed when I got the book is that it was signed by Linda and Devin so that immediately got things off to a great start. Much like the bakery itself, Linda’s books are very open and very welcoming and the well wishes were a nice touch to get me started!

The idea behind this book is that Linda and her daughter Devin each present dishes based on a particular theme. The difference is that they each present their own take on the theme. What results is an always delicious juxtaposition of recipes. Clearly both good cooks, mother and daughter carry on a “recipe conversation” throughout the cookbook that really clicks. Several times, as I read through the book, I found myself thinking, “What kind of recipe would my mom come up with in this situation?”

It’s a completely accessible book that’s beautifully photographed (a bonus in my books is that many of the pictures are taken in and around Toronto and as a native Torontonian, it was nice to see many of the places that I shop at featured in the book).

Ultimately, though, a cookbook always comes down to the recipes and these ones are very enticing and very good. On the savoury side, there’s a nice mix of dairy, vegetables, fish and seafood and meat. On the dessert side, well, there’s lots of dessert and that’s a good thing that requires no other explanation.

I also really loved the way many of the recipes borrow from a variety of ethnic cuisines including Asian and Italian. The recipes strike a nice balance between being healthful and being indulgent.

It’s hard to put my finger on it, but it’s just one of those books that says “pick me up, invite your friends over and cook from me”. It also says, “pick me up and put me in someone’s Christmas stocking!!!”

If I’d had the time I would have happily tried about half the recipes but I managed to try two in time for this post.

The first was the incredible and life-changing (for me) Multigrain Bread on page 30. I adore ACE’s multigrain bread and buy it all the time. While I enjoy baking bread at home on occasion, I have had no luck with grain breads. I don’t know what my problem is. If the idea of integers didn’t send me into a cold sweat I’d express my rate of success with a negative number. That’s how bad it is.

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When I first saw the recipe I flipped by it many times. But then I kept flipping back. Finally I was like, “no guts, no glory”, and I headed out to the nearest natural foods store to stock up on my supply of bulgur, rye flakes and untoasted buckwheat groats (a lot easier to find than one would think!). I made my starter and the following morning I was eating the most incredible grain bread. It will never be ACE’s grain bread but for homemade, it was really good. So I’d like to thank Linda and Devin for giving me that early Christmas gift.

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The second recipe I tried was one of Devin’s: Baked Lemony Feta Cheese with Thyme, Rosemary and Black Pepper on page 51. I thought I had thyme in the refrigerator but as it turns out I didn’t. Surprisingly, we still have oregano fluorishing in our herb garden so I substituted some of that instead.

About three seconds after I had my first taste I pretty much decided that this is the appetizer of the year for me. It will be front and centre on Christmas Day when we serve nibbles before the big family meal. Delicious! Delicous! Delicous!

Just like the book.

A big thank you to Linda and Devin for thinking of me but more importantly, thank you for such a lovely book!

Ciao!