Humphry Slocombe Cookbook Review: Find Out Why It Rocks, But Isn't Beginner Friendly

September 20, 2012 1:46 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Secret Breakfast
If you're visiting San Francisco, you aren't really experiencing the best of what it has to offer if you don't stop by Humphry Slocombe, an experimental ice cream parlor that's become something of an international legend and has very graciously published their cookbook to clue the home cook in on all their secrets. (Photo: MissionLocal)

If you're visiting San Francisco, you aren't really experiencing the best of what it has to offer if you don't stop by Humphry Slocombe, an experimental ice cream parlor that's become something of an international legend and has very graciously published their cookbook to clue the home cook in on all their secrets.

It's gotten so important that Ferrian Adria is taking credit for it by calling it his child. Oh, Ferrian.

And fortunately for you (and Ferrian's test kitchen), Humphry Slocombe's recipes are rendered beautifully, if somewhat incompletely, and the cookbook does feel like a complete catalogue of what makes Humphry Slocombe so special, but that specialness also leads it to shoot itself in the foot.

Follow Us

Make no mistake: this is a beautiful cookbook, and one that's absolutely worth owning. It trusts the home cook to have instincts and skills, and that can be intimidating to the person cooking the book for the first time. For instance, in their Candy Cap ice cream recipe (a must read, even moreso than the Secret Breakfast that put their shop on the map), they trust the home cook to stop cooking the mushrooms "when [ze] feels like they're in a good place."

That's not a direction that any cook wants to hear, especially when the task at hand is replication of a restaurant staple, and especially when the people who are writing the book have cooking these shrooms down to a science. If I were a beginner who didn't know a mushroom for a bathroom, I'd skip the recipe entirely, rather than tackling it head-on and producing an amazing cup of cold stuff.

If what we were concerned with as home cooks was just tasting as we go, we'd render these recipes from our memory of their taste. But since the goal is replication, or a first-time experience for people who have never been to the parlor, advice like this seems wrong-headed, even as it serves to indicate the free-wheeling San Francisco Mission District spirit.

We're glad that we're getting this quibble out of the way now, because these notes aren't the bigger picture of the book. In fact, it's even commendable that they trust people cooking at home to have instincts-- considering that the alternative is so much more annoying.

Bigger picture, this cookbook is utterly fantastic. A mother custard recipe serves as the backbone to just about every ice cream recipe in the book, and though they frown on anyone using a thermometer to test the temperature of the custard, we really do think that's the best way to do it.

Buy this book for the Secret Breakfast recipe, an ice cream flavored with corn flakes and bourbon that probably has Christina Tosi stomping her feet in anger. Check out their Candy Cap recipe if you need proof of their genius, and their Strawberry Olive recipe for a reminder that even if you think a custard is beyond your keen, there's still stuff you can do.

But if you're faint of heart, you should maybe choose some other book. The writers are perhaps a little too flippant about tossing off words like "fag," as if those words didn't have a real baggage that has nothing to do with the sucess story behind one of the most renowned ice cream shops ever. Their language gets racy, the images they include gets saucy, but they're unapologetic about it.

Rendering their neighborhood may be the best way to welcome you into their world, but it'll probably stop some readers dead in their tracks. Keep reading, you sensitive souls: the recipes are worth it.

And here's a protip: taste the salt for yourself. Most recipes call for two teaspoons, and that may not be to your liking. Start with one teaspoon, then work your way up.



© 2012 Food & Recipe All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

More News

Most Popular

< >

INSIDE Food & Recipe