By Deborah Pankey
I don't need the calendar to tell me baking season has arrived; the stack of cookbooks piling higher on my desk has done that for me.
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Seems that if a new cookbook isn't touting soups or slow cooking (I'll save those for another week) it's tempting me with cookies, cakes and other sweet treats.
Here's a taste of some of the new titles:
Cookies for Kids' Cancer Best Bake Sale Cookbook by Gretchen Holt-Witt: If you're looking to change-up your contribution to the annual school bake sale or community cookie swap, pick up this book. Among the well-tested versions of Pecan Sandies and Espresso Brownies you'll find recipes for Toasted Coconut Shortbread, Double-Chocolate Biscotti with Almonds and Parmesan Scones. Book sales benefit Cookies for Kids' Cancer, a group that donates bake sale proceeds to support research for pediatric cancer. (Wiley, $19.95).
The Cookiepedia by Stacy Adimando: Everyday with Rachael Ray's deputy lifestyles editor put together this totally fun, user-friendly collection of classic cookies. Recipe categories include buttery, chocolaty, fancy, fruity, spicy and nutty and seedy. Paging through the book reveals tempting recipes for Mint Thins and Lemony Chewies alongside advice for decorating with flair and suggested variations. (Quirk, $18.95)
The Cookie Jar Cookbook: Edited by Good Housekeeping Food Editor Susan Westmoreland, this book provides 65 recipes for every cookie occasion. Think Thumbprint Jamies for after-school snacking, Cherry and Ginger Biscotti for Tuesday morning kaffeeklatsch and Wheat-Free Almond Butter Cookies for a tailgate party. The intro includes an ingredient primer (demystifying bittersweet and semisweet chocolate) and each chapter (broken down by cookie styles) contains helpful hints for success. (Hearst Books, $12.95)
Rising to the occasion: Deerfields Bakery invites customers to celebrate its 125th birthday with a party from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Buffalo Grove store.
The celebration includes refreshments, music, signature sweets and a dessert presentation. Adding to the excitement of the day, nationally acclaimed pastry chef and former Deerfields Bakery executive chef Gale Gand will be on hand to greet customers and sign copies of her cookbooks.
To further commemorate this milestone, Deerfields Bakery has created Share a Slice, a way for customers to share their most cherished stories involving Deerfields Bakery with a story, photo or drawing. These memories will be posted in-store for other customers to view, or guests can upload their stories onto Deerfields' Facebook page. Postings can also be emailed to email@example.com. Prizes for the top three stories will be announced at the 125th Birthday Bash.
The Buffalo Grove store is at 201 N. Buffalo Grove Road. (847) 520-0068.
Feeling chipper: You know those fancy-flavored potato chips you see in the store for $4 and $5 a bag? Well you can make them at home -- in your microwave -- for a fraction of the cost with The Pampered Chef Chip Maker.
Believe me, I was skeptical, too, when these 11-inch silicone plates ($26.50 for a set of two) arrived in the mail for me to test. But seriously, it works. The holes and scalloped base allow for air flow while turning thin slices of potatoes and sweet potatoes into light crispy chips.
I tested the chip maker using Yukon Gold potatoes and sweet potatoes and learned that thin slices are key. The wafer-thin slices I made using my hand-held mandoline turned into the best chips; using a sharp knife just didn't cut it, pardon the pun.
I sprinkled the Yukon Golds with sea salt and the sweet potatoes with a cinnamon sugar mix (you can customize with your favorite herb blends) and my family gobbled them up as quickly as I could make them. The Pampered Chef says the Chip Maker also works to make apple crisps and tortilla chips but I've yet to try those.
My issue with the Chip Maker is that it makes so few at a time because you can't crowd the sheets or the air doesn't flow properly. I made four batches (two stackable sheets of chips each time) and barely got enough for a side dish with dinner. If you wanted these for a party, you'd be standing at the microwave for quite a long time.
Brewing up a good time: The outdoor water parks and some of the famous attractions have closed for the season, but the Wisconsin Dells remains a hop'ening place.
Dells on Tap features more than two dozen of the state's top craft brewers who will be pouring their seasonal beers and perennial favorites. It's a chance to sample beers (many available only north of the border), chat with the brewmasters, grab some pub grub, listen to music and enjoy the brilliant autumnal colors.
The brewfest runs noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, in downtown Wisconsin Dells. Tickets cost $30 through Oct. 14 ($35 on site) and can be ordered at wisdells.com or from the Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau, (800) 223-3557.
Adjacent to the spirited celebration you'll find the more family-friendly Autumn Harvest Fest where you can shop the arts and crafts marketplace, decorate pumpkins with the little ones, grab a brat or hamburger, go for a hayride and create a scarecrow.
The harvest fest runs 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16. Download the Autumn Harvest Fest brochure that contains a list of discounts offered by hotels, attractions, shops and restaurants at wisdells.com.
• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend on Facebook at facebook.com/debpankeydailyherald or follow her on Twitter @PankeysPlate.