Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cookbook Review: Knickerbocker Glory

In addition to my love of cooking, I'm a trained facilitator – all the way back to the days of Total Quality Management.  I’m always interested in learning something new and increasing efficiency, so I jumped at the chance when The Culinary Exchange asked me to review Matthew Robinson’s book, Knickerbocker Glory.  I was really intrigued about how he would combine innovation and cooking.

The back of the book reads, “Life is filled with WOW moments:  those moments when we see something new that really impresses us and gets our attention.”  I was hooked right there.  Those of you who know me know that this pretty much sums up my outlook on life.  John recently told me that I always act as if something wonderful is about to happen!  (I can think of no greater compliment!)  So, you know I was interested in Matthew’s take on life in and out of the kitchen.

Peach Melba Knickerbocker

In the introduction, He says, and I agree, ”There are two different types of people in this world: those who love to find recipes and then follow the directions just as the recipe prescribes and those who are in the kitchen trying to develop their own style of cooking through the inspiration of a recipe.”  With the exception of most baking recipes, John and I definitely fall into the latter category.  Many of our weeknight meals start with a quick forage through the refrigerator and pantry to see what we have that goes well together, then the creativity begins.  Of course, we don’t blog everything we make, but we do critique everything we make asking each other what really worked well and what we would change the next time – that goes for all our prescribed recipes like French Fridays with Dorie, too.

Peach Compote with Amaretto

So, Matthew starts with a basic recipe for the original Knickerbocker dessert which I can best describe as “Trifle meets Ice Cream Sundae.”  It’s really a delightful concept but we recommend skipping dinner, before you attempt to eat one!  He offers many recipes but encourages you to be creative, mixing and matching any of the components you like.  Like many talents, it’s best to master the basics before trying to mix things up.  If you’re more of the by-the-book type, Matthew explains the creative process and how to engage it very well.  Needless to say, John and I don’t need any encouragement to experiment in the kitchen! 

Fresh Whipped Cream
So, we flipped through the pages and created our own riff on the “Nutty Peach.”  We followed Matthew’s recipe for the Almond-Scented Yellow Cake and Peach Compote – both of which were so easy to make & delicious.  I can see using this simple cake in all manner of ways – and the Peach Compote would be lovely atop pancakes, or waffles.  Then we started creating our own Peach Melba Knickerbocker.  In large goblets, we layered:  crumbled cake; Peach Compote; toasted, sliced almonds, Hagen Dazs White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Ice Cream; Frans Pure Raspberry Sauce; repeated all layers, then topped with whipped cream and more toasted almonds.  This combination created a wonderful dessert that we thoroughly enjoyed!

Layers and layers of flavor!
A major oversight by the author of this book is that he relies upon drawings rather than photographs of his creations.  It takes only a minute on Pinterest to see how our appetites are stimulated visually.  With so many wonderful food photographers available, I can't understand this obvious oversight.  My recommendation is that if you are a by-the-book chef, this book contains some great combinations of flavors and textures, and encourages you to create some beautiful desserts.  However, if you are a creative chef, all you really have to do to experience Knickerbocker Glory is to Google images then use your imagination to layer flavors into a unique dessert.  All in all, an interesting book but not a must-have for your collection.

Happy New Year!

Starfish at Sycamore Cove Beach, near Malibu, on New Year's Day 2014


  1. This sounds like an interesting one. I think I fall somewhere in between though - my mother's rule (which I use, too) is to try a recipe as written the first time, so that you know where you're starting and make changes after that. You and John, though, are creative cooks par excellence.

  2. More and more, I am finding that a cookbook really has to WOW me with its recipes, narrative and photos... at least for me to buy it. It is great to read about this book, and I know quite a few people who would benefit from it. Thanks, Susan!

  3. TQM, Lean, 6-sigma are all words that strike fear in my heart :-)

    Sounds like a very interesting book. Well, I think we all know what side of the camp I fall on...


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