With the holidays coming up, these cookbooks from Berkshire authors will be fun to get and to give.

Hot sauces have been Jennifer Trainer Thompson's passion since she graduated from college.

"Hot Sauce! Techniques For Making Signature Hot Sauces" (Storey Publishing, North Adams; paperback, $14.95) is her fourth book on the topic. She wrote and published her first, "Hot Licks," 18 years ago. It and two slim handbooks on commercial sauces are all out of print now.

Thompson, who lives in Williamstown, discovered hot sauce when she crewed on and helped deliver sailboats to the Virgin Islands for a brief period after college.

Jennifer Trainer-Thompson
Jennifer Trainer-Thompson

"What led me down the hot sauce path was the limited space on the galley," she said. She calls hot sauce "an all-round condiment and substitute for a shelf of spices. "

For her research, she traveled around the Caribbean, Louisiana, New Mexico and Spain, tasting local hot sauces in all those places.

"Hot Sauce!" is not a rehash of "Hot Licks." While she includes popular sauces, drinks and food recipes from "Hot Licks" in her new book, she has altered the earlier recipes and written new commentaries for each.

She gives readers recipes for 32 sauces with suggestions for how to use them. She lists the qualities of 30 chilies, describes other hot sauce ingredients and has chapters on drinks and foods that benefit from the addition of hot sauce.


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She also talks about ways to get into the hot sauce business, which Thompson has done with three sauces of her own.

Gina Hyams' "Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, Kansas City, Mo. $14.99) is her second book/kit this year. She brought out "Chili Cook-Off in a Box" in October.

In this new book, she describes how to put a cookie contest together including baking and packing tips and suggestions from 13 Christmas contest winners, who each share baking tips and winning recipes.

Some are traditional cookies, like Jessie Oleson's wreath-shaped, orange zest-scented Berlinerkranser butter cookies from Norway or Alejandra Ramos' Puerto Rican almond shortbread polorones.

Others are personal, like Andrea King Collier's over-the-top chocolate ginger snappers.

Some are different from anyone else's cookies, like Lorena Novak Bull's vegan orange ginger cookies.

Some are easy to make like Dede Wilson's nutmeg logs frosted with rum buttercream.

And most will use up your butter calorie allotment for at least a week.

Hyams will be hosting a Christmas cookie contest at the Berkshire Museum's Festival of Trees during family day this Saturday beginning at 2:30 p.m.

See berkshiremuseum.org for details or contact Craig Langlois at clanglois@berkshiremuseum.org or call (413) 443.7171 ext. 13.

 

In, 2009, when the Dancing Vegan takeout restaurant occupied the Onota Street location in Pittsfield of what is now Lucia's Latin Kitchen, Yukiko Sato was the main cooking and baking force.

In the last few years, she has done vegan and macrobiotic cooking at the Kushi Institute in Becket and EnlightenNext in Lenox; catered, cooked and delivered complete meals by special order; and cooked privately. She also began her Berkshire Vegan blog in which she shares many of her recipes.

Now, she has just self-published "The Peaceful Dessert Book: Sugar-Free Vegan Delights" ($20).

The table of contents serves as an unalphabetized index of what is in the book.

She begins with a chapter covering the ingredients she uses, some of which may be unfamiliar to the general reader. She has a chapter on tools and equipment and one on how to use the book.

The rest, and largest part, of this slim, 80-page book are recipe chapters. The first covers cakes, starting with tips on making vegan ones. The chapter about pies and tarts includes her basic pie crust, some lemon bars and caramel-apple strudel rolled in phyllo dough. The one on mousses, parfaits and kantens (gelatins made from sea vegetable) has a number of fruit desserts.

There is a chapter on crunchy things, including cookies, gluten-free granola, crisp brown rice treats and candied pecans. There is one on frostings, creams and sauces; and one on decorating/presentation.

The mouth-watering photos she takes for her blog and her Facebook page are typical of those that fill her book.

I have not cooked or baked anything from Sato's "Peaceful Dessert Book" but, because the recipes are not the desserts most people eat and know, I feel it is necessary to let readers know her sweets are tender where they should be, crunchy when crunch is called for and buttery even without butter.

Sesame oil, brown rice syrup and sesame seeds called for in recipes are sold at natural food stories and some supermarkets.

The "Peaceful Dessert Book" is available at Berkshire Organics in Pittsfield, Crystal Essence in Great Barrington, the Kushi Store in Becket, Red Lion Inn gift shop in Stockbridge, and through Sato's website http://peacefulkitchenpress.blogspot.com.

A selection of recipes from these three books ...

In Gina Hyams' "Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box," Amy Bass writes that her Grandmother called these forgotten cookies because you preheat the oven, make up the batter, form the cookies, put the trays in the oven, turn off the heat and go to bed.

"Come morning, they will be there, wildly shaped, lightly toasted, chewy-centered, gooey chip wonders." And they're naturally gluten-free.

AMY BASS' GRANDMOTHER'S FORGOTTEN CHOCOLATE CHIP MERINGUES

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Butter to grease sheets

Preheat oven to 375-degrees.

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until peaks are stiff and glossy. Slowly beat in sugar. Stop beaters. Fold in chocolate chips.

Butter 2 cookie sheets. By generous rounded teaspoons, drop batter onto sheets.

Place sheets in oven. Turn off heat. Leave until next morning. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

The following recipe is from Jennifer Trainer Thompson's "Hot Sauce! Techniques For Making Signature Hot Sauces"

JENNIFER TRAINER THOMPSON'S CARIBBEAN HOT SAUCE

  • 5 Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, preferably red, orange or yellow
  • 1 ripe papaya or mango
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground cumin
  • Pinch ground coriander

Remove stem, ribs and seeds from chiles. Peel, seed and chop papaya and mango. Peel and chop onion, garlic and ginger.

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Puree until just smooth. Do not aerate.

Pour into non-reactive saucepan -- stainless steel, glass or enamel. Do not cover. Bring to boil. Lower heat. Simmer 10 minutes. Let cool.

Pour into bottles. Sauce will keep 6 weeks refrigerated. Makes about 2 cups.

Yukiko Sato, author of "The Peaceful Dessert Book: Sugar-Free Vegan De lights," recommends these thin, crisp cookies on their own or to garnish other desserts.

BERKSHIRE VEGAN YUKIKO SATO'S SESAME LACE COOKIES

  • 1/3 cup virgin sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place sesame oil, brown rice syrup and pinch of salt in a small pan. On a medium high heat, stir and heat the mixture until bubbles start to form. Reduce heat to low. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes more. Pour into bowl big enough to hold all ingredients.

Add remaining ingredients. Mix with rubber spatula.

On prepared baking sheets, place 1/2 teaspoon batter for each cookie. Allow 1-inch space between cookies. The batter spreads considerably when baked -- these are lace cookies.

Bake for 8 minutes. Rotate pans. Bake 2 minutes more. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.