Everyone is consumed with Julia these days. So, with the release of Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, has instantly risen to the top of the best seller lists. While Julie Powell, the blogger turned author of the book that sparked the phenomenon, certainly has her haters, Julia Child is a cultural and culinary legend who is universally and adamantly adored.
Baking with Julia rocked my world for about 6 months last year. It is a collection of hard-core, intricate baking recipes which were featured on Julia's PBS series. This book is meant for the ambitious and adventurous baker. That, plus a dash of crazy, describes me perfectly. I devoured this book. Brioche, puff pastry, meringue, macaroons. With Julia's techniques as my ally, I was fearless. I remember an unfortunate incident involving a particularly unruly batch of focaccia dough, a Kitchenaid mixer dancing off the counter top, and a MMA-style, tackle/slide/pin maneuver - necessary to subdue the machine and prevent it from walking out the kitchen door to terrorize the neighbors. Even through this, I remained undeterred.
French Strawberry Cake, a beautiful, elegant (AKA french) interpretation of the traditional strawberry shortcake, is the perfect summer recipe. Layers of genoise, macerated strawberries and swirls of cream. Simple ingredients, classic techniques, absolutely Julia.
I made this recipe last summer before I became vegan. It was light, delicious and lovely. Sadly, Baking with Julia hasn't been in heavy rotation on the cookbook circuit at my house these days. The ubiquitous butter, cream, and eggs do not find their way into my refrigerator anymore. But I still take this book out and admire the photos and the artistry. More appreciative of Julia's recipes, less obsessed with mastering them.
For the record, I thought the book, Julie and Julia, was mediocre on a good day. But the movie was rather adorable. Although it did have its overly sappy, sweet bits. I suppose we can attribute that to the writer/director, Nora-Sleepless in Seattle-Ephron. I know we can absolutely attribute the movie's awesomeness to Meryl Streep who is as legendary a figure in her field as Julia Child was in hers. And my dad, bizarrely, had this to say on the subject: any movie with Stanley Tucci in it has got to be good. It's true. With the obvious exception of Space Chimps dad.