A cookbook tradition
Junior Leagues lean on the publications for raising funds
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TOO OFTEN when buying a benefit cookbook, you pay your money and you take your chances.
The recipes are likely to be a hodgepodge of whatever the sponsoring group could collect from members, friends and families. Worst-case scenario: Instructions are spotty, ingredient lists incomplete, recipes the same as in the last cookbook you bought to support a good cause.
"Aloha Days Hula Nights" sells for $32 at Bestsellers, Native Books, Executive Chef, Borders Ward Centre, Bookends in Kailua and Bishop Museum.
Or order online at www.juniorleagueofhonolulu.org. Through the end of the year, books may be ordered for $26 by calling 946-6466.
IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
The first: The Junior League of Minneapolis originated the cookbook concept, raising more than $3,000 with a handwritten book released in 1943.
Longest-lived: "Charleston Receipts," from South Carolina, is the oldest league cookbook still in print. Published in 1950, it has undergone more than 30 printings.
Top money-maker: "River Road Recipes" has sold more than 1.7 million copies for the Baton Rouge, La., Junior League since 1959. It is in its 70th printing.
To order: More than 200 regional Junior League cookbooks, as well as three national compilations, are available through online at ajli.org.
Source: The Association of Junior Leagues International
Best-case scenario: The cookbook was assembled by volunteers on a mission.
For example, the women of the Junior League of Honolulu, whose "Aloha Days Hula Nights" has just hit bookstores.
Their aim was not just to raise cash or even to put together an exceptionally pretty cookbook (which it is, by the way -- a slick, professional effort, filled with the kind of lush photographs found in books by restaurant chefs).
They wanted a unique and useful collection of recipes that demonstrate Hawaii's diversity -- recipes that made sense.
"The recipes are tested in regular kitchens, by people who go to regular grocery stores and have different levels of cooking expertise," cookbook editor Tracy Jones said.
That meant testing, in triplicate. Each one of the 375 recipes in the "Aloha Days" was tested three times -- 1,125 individual kitchen adventures.
And that's not even counting the recipes that didn't make the cut. "Some recipes -- you wonder why somebody bothered to submit them," Jones said.
The 150 active Junior League members were required to attend at least one testing session; in the second year, they were required to do two. Each session was led by a member of the cookbook committee and covered a number of potential recipes.
The project spanned three years, from drafting a business plan to collecting recipes, testing and production.
The process began the way it does for many benefit cookbooks: collecting contributions from members. But rather than just print everything submitted, the committee weeded out duplicates and recipes that were too common, then went in search of recipes that would make the collection more complete.
"Three recipes were submitted for chocolate-chocolate chip cookies," Jones said. "So we spent a lot of time deciding which one we liked, and then we decided we didn't really need a chocolate-chocolate chip cookie." Instead, the cookbook offers a Pistachio White Chocolate Chunk Cookie.
"Aloha Days" is the third Junior League cookbook. "A Taste of Aloha" and "Another Taste of Aloha" came out in 1983 and 1994, and have sold 224,000 copies combined over the years, yielding a net profit of $691,000.
Cookbooks are a proud Junior League traditional on a national scale. More than 200 are in print, supporting the charitable causes of this volunteer women's organization.
In fact, collecting these cookbooks is a hobby in itself. Carole Berg, co-editor with Jones, has a stack of them, each a reflection of a regional cooking heritage.
The cookbook scene has grown far more competitive in the 12 years since the league's last book. When planning began, Berg said, "We pulled 50 island cookbooks that would be our competition and we knew that going in."
Surveying the three Honolulu Junior League efforts shows a growing sophistication. Where in the '90s Jones produced most of the cookbook on her home computer, the latest was professionally designed.
Even the new name -- "Aloha Days Hula Nights" -- reflects a contemporary direction. The book was designed around a day's worth of eating, from breakfast foods, through midday and afternoon meals, dinner and "Nightfall" -- desserts.
Berg said the market will bear a lot of cookbooks, as they can be enjoyed on many levels. Besides the practical aspects, they can be read for their stories, given as gifts, or simply collected.
"Cookbooks in general are something people keep buying."
BERG AND JONES assembled this collection of recipes from the new cookbook as suggestions for holiday gifts from the kitchen.
Green Tea Bread with Candied Ginger
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup loose green tea leaves, finely ground
1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup mild olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Position rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and line with parchment or waxed paper.
Sift together flour, ginger, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Stir in green tea, candied ginger and lemon zest. Set aside.
Break eggs into large bowl. Beat 2 minutes, until light and frothy. Add sugar in 3 stages, beating 30 seconds between each addition.
Combine oil, lemon juice and vanilla in measuring cup. Drizzle into egg mixture while beating. Stir in dry ingredients all at once, mixing just until blended. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
Bake 50 to 55 minutes, until a knife inserted in center of loaf comes out clean. Cool at least 30 minutes on rack. Remove from pan and cool completely. Store wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per slice (based on 20 slices): 180 calories, 9 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 11 g sugar, 3 g protein.
Orange Cranberry Scones
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly flour baking sheet.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in sugar and orange zest; add butter. Using a pastry blender or fork, work in butter until mixture resembles coarse sand. Stir in cranberries. Make a well in center.
In small bowl, beat together egg, cream and vanilla. Pour into well in flour. Stir just until dough begins to combine. Do not overmix.
Form dough into a ball and place on lightly floured surface. Knead 6 to 8 times. Pat down to 1-inch thickness. Cut out 12 rounds, 2- to 2-1/2 inches each, or 6 3-inch rounds if using for sandwiches. Press scraps together and continue to cut out rounds until dough is used up. Place on baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until scones have risen, are golden and bottoms are slightly browned. Cool slightly on wire rack. Serve warm.
Note: Dough may be wrapped in plastic and chilled overnight, for a flakier scone. Baking may take an extra minute or two.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per scone: 320 calories, 19 g total fat, 12 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 33 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 4 g protein.
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar, divided
5 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
In large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water with a few tablespoons of sugar and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
With wooden spoon, stir in remaining sugar and 3 eggs, blending well. Add 4-1/2 cups flour, salt and butter, stirring until mixture forms sticky dough.
Knead by hand or electric standing mixer about 8 minutes, adding very little flour, until smooth and elastic. Dough should stay soft. It will become less sticky with kneading. Form into ball. Place in lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with clean, damp cloth and let rise in warm, draft-free place until double in bulk, about 2 hours.
Oil baking sheet or line with parchment.
Punch down dough. Scrape onto floured work surface. Divide in half. Cut each half in 3 equal pieces. Gently roll each piece by starting in center and working outward to form a 12-inch rope. Line up 3 pieces vertically. Starting at the top, braid ropes. Pinch ends together and tuck under. Repeat to make second loaf.
Place loaves on baking sheet; cover with dry cloth. Let rise in warm place until double in size and spongy , about 1 hour.
Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Beat remaining egg and brush over top of loaves. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until nicely browned and loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom. Cool on wire rack. Makes 2 loaves.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per slice (based on 20 slices per loaf): 100 calories, 3 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 15 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 2 g protein.
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