There is a happy union of photographs, recipes, and stories that make for a pleasing cookbook. Hannah Queen’s charming Honey & Jam: Seasonal Baking from My Kitchen in the Mountains (Stewart, Tabori & Chang 2015) hits all three with equal measure. She is both recipe writer and photographer. From the cover, with a photograph of a rustic apple cake being frosted on a pedestal (that’s Brown Butter Apple Stack Cake on p. 151), to the first few inside photos of ripe strawberries scattered on a wood table, an apron full of fruit, and the mist rising on purple mountains, you know exactly what’s inside. Homey recipes made from local ingredients at the peak of ripeness and flavor.
Cooking and baking align you to the rhythm of the seasons, and I wanted to organize this book to reflect the natural progression of how I bake through the year. (p. 12)
So, with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background, and the flavors of the seasons in the foreground, get ready to cook.
Since it’s summer, and you are likely to find good berries in the market, start with an interesting Blackberry-Thyme Cake (p. 95) that includes savory ingredients like goat cheese in the frosting. Sweeter? Blackberry, Plum & Hazelnut Coffee Cake (p. 96) with the fruit sandwiched between a buttery cake and buttery topping. If the blackberries are finished where you are, no worries. Try the Lavender-Blueberry Cupcakes (p. 104) that play on lavender, purple and blue hues. Too hot for the oven? Then, Blueberry-Corn Skillet Cake (p. 108) topped with blueberry compote would be perfect – morning or evening! At the end of the summer, try Green Tomato Cornmeal Cake (p. 119) or Zucchini Chocolate Cake (p. 133). “Despite all the sugar and the decadent ganache, the veggies in this cake make it seems a bit virtuous.” Plus they use up the extra large zucchini that you discover have grown overnight.
If you can’t fit in a vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains this summer, at least try the recipes in Honey & Jam that make the most of the bounty of this beautiful part of America. Hannah’s recipes combine savory and sweet ingredients when they are at their peak of flavor.