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Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods Hardcover – October 18, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"I'm always interested in what Jennifer says about food, and about how to retain the pleasure of eating it in an increasingly confusing world. Plus, she's convinced me to try making my own Camembert. Jennifer's is a journey I'm thrilled to embark upon."
-- Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia

“I knew this important, original, and necessary book would be informative—and it is, very. What I didn't expect: pure entertainment in an original, fresh voice that will make readers feel they have a smart new best friend. I lapped this up in one sitting, learned a bunch, laughed out loud - and am about to try several of the recipes. You nailed it, Jennifer Reese!”
-- Mollie Katzen, author of Moosewood Cookbook

"I loved this book. In her inspiring and hilarious voice, Reese reminds me why I actually
should take the time to make from scratch things that I buy and giving me a pass on those
things that I really don't want to make myself anyway. I laughed out loud." – Carla Hall, Top Chef All Star, Co-host on The Chew, and founder, Alchemy by Carla Hall

“In a time when the pressure’s on to be green, organic and homemade, food fans and cooks will appreciate a book that encourages balance: Make your own hummus, yogurt and dill pickles, but buy sashimi, baguettes and corn dogs.” (USA TODAY)

“A great read for cooks afflicted by curiosity about the do-it-yourself movement in food. Ms. Reese goes beyond jam and chutney into pasta, pastrami and graham crackers. Even her failed experiments, like homemade hot dogs, are entertaining.” –New York Times

"From hot dog buns to Pop-Tarts, she reveals whether it's better to buy it or make it, accounting for the cost, hassle and rate of success. Happily, she dispenses this practical know-how with a crackling sense of humor, making this book a fun read. The scope and utility of this book make it worthy of space in your collection, especially this time of year when you're looking for fast and interesting gifts to make in the kitchen. Plus Reese's honesty is refreshing and inspiring; she goes from a hilarious review of the 1970s Earth-mother bible "Laurel's Kitchen" to making a modern-day case for baking." (The Oregonian)

"Now that Michael Pollan has made us all aspire to be politically correct foodies, a certain angst has cast its shadow over the average American home. One of the big issues is, should I make my own food and thus assure myself that it contains only the healthiest and freshest of ingredients, or is it more practical to just buy it somewhere. Reese tackles this question for a number of common foods and she writes in a witty, conversational style that wins you over right from the start." (Sacramento Bee)

"Here is a book that is going to take a treasured place in my kitchen bookrack. Part memoir, part Consumer-Reports-style testing, this book is chock-full of recipes and good advice in the kitchen. There are a few things Jennifer Reese does in this book that make it particularly indispensable: before each recipe, she tells her story of why she wanted to tackle it. Her recipes are easy-to-follow, and often include diagrams and pictures to get through the more difficult parts. I would highly recommend this book if you are thinking about embarking on the adventure that is backyard chicken raising. Here, Reese offers a humane and very funny look at what that project brought to her family. I would recommend this book if you, like me, spend a lot of time thinking about what goes into your body and wondering where did so many of these so-called "conveniences" come from, and are they really worth it? I've suspected making my own bread is the way to go for a long time, but in this book, Jennifer Reese cements it for me. Her recipes are tried-and-true, her reasoning makes sense to me, and her personality makes it believable. Buy this book, give it to a friend, make these recipes and watch your world get a little better." (The Tattered Cover)

“Her experiences led her to create a great blog, Tipsy Baker, and this awesome book. She’s very sarcastic, which makes me happy. Jennifer tells it like it is, from a simple bread recipe to raising chickens, and breaks everything down by price, reward, and hassle factor." (

About the Author

Jennifer Reese has been a professional journalist all of her adult life, working mostly for national magazines, and has been an avid, adventurous home cook for even longer, which she blogs about at the Tipsy Baker ( as well as for online publications like Slate. Reese also teaches cooking classes in Marin County, California, where she lives with her family.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; 1st Printing edition (October 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451605870
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451605877
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (240 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #210,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

136 of 139 people found the following review helpful By Brittany Rose VINE VOICE on October 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
It's really tempting to think of Jennifer Reese's 'Make the Bread, Buy the Butter' as a cookbook - but quite honestly, it's so much more than that. And if you consume it like you would a cookbook (piecemeal) than you'll be seriously missing out. The book came out of Reese being laid off from her job during the economic crisis a few years ago. Confronted with financial woes and general frustration towards corporate America, she decided to start experimenting with homemade foods. Eventually (or perhaps immediately, as a means to a financial end) she compiled these experiences and successful recipes into a book.

There are roughly a dozen sections in the book that cover everything from raising livestock (chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, and bees have all been denizens of Reese's backyard at one point) to the experience of whipping up simple dishes (croutons) and complex creations (danishes). Almost every recipe - or lack thereof, since some of her experiments were failures - is accompanied with an anecdote. And that's what truly sets this book apart. I genuinely recommend you read it from cover to cover first, with the understanding that you will want to jump up and make a million of the dishes along the way, because that way you not only get some entertainment value and storytelling (her family is well characterized), you also get a good gauge as to what type of person Reese is, and how manageable her recipes and foodie adventures would be if you tried adapting them for your own lifestyle.

The bonus benefit of this book - or perhaps simply the core benefit - is the way it skewers the industrial food system. Every recipe is prefaced by three bullet points: should you make it or buy it? how much hassle is it? what's the cost compared to store-bought?
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73 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Auntie Claus on December 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So I ordered the book back on October 21st and am devouring it. It's one of those truly good books that makes me feel like I just got off the phone with a close friend -and does actually make me "laugh out loud". It's joined the ranks of a small number of books good enough to make me buy multiple copies to give to friends, family, and total strangers (I've bought 3 copies of this book in the last month). Just what I needed after the let-down that was Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes. Even better than The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week), though I loved that book, too.

The book is strongest when it compares a finished product from the store (a loaf of bread) to what she can make at home using store bought staples (flour, salt, yeast). Since store-bought cream is more expensive than store-bought butter, she concludes it is not cost-effective to make your own butter. This in turn works best with products that were once homemade (hummus, peanut butter, bacon) and less well with items that are an industrial invention (poptarts).

The book does not work as solidly outside of this format, such as when she discusses gardening, bees, chickens, and goats. These chapters are entertaining, but not as well constructed from a cost-benefit-analysis point of view:

The fruit and vegetable sections are shockingly short (vegetables is 6 pages; fruit is 7 pages, 2 of which are for making lard).
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By starrc on March 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed reading the book and will probably use it as reference for whether something is worth making from scratch. However, I will be looking elsewhere for the recipes because not one of hers has been good, let alone outstanding. I also want more nutrition than most of her recipes offer.

I'd recommend checking the book out from your local library, making a list of things you want to make and then searching elsewhere for recipes. Internet makes that easy!
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Mae on October 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Full disclosure: I have not yet read the entire book. I have, however, read enough to know that it is as enjoyable as the author's blog, which I have been reading for over a year. (In my experience, a good blog is no guarantee of a good book, but in this case I find the writing style transfers perfectly.)

As Jennifer Reese might say on her blog (which is ostensibly dedicated to trying multiple recipes from successive cookbooks to decide whether or not each is a shelf essential, but often digresses (enjoyably) to pop culture, travel, family, etc.), her recipe for Everyday Bread is worth the price of the book. I've been making similar variations on Moro bread ever since I read about it on her blog, and pretty much everyone who tastes the results asks for the recipe. I love that she has written an actual cookbook, because while I've loved everything I've tried based on her blog recommendations, it's been costing me a lot of money: if she tells me a book is a shelf essential, the thought of my cookbook shelves without it nags at me until I break down and order it.

True to its title, the book isn't about new ideas and exotic recipes (though Reese is an adventurous enough cook and eater that the selection isn't boring either), but about great versions of more-or-less familiar foods. I'm excited to try Apricot-Ginger Bread, Almond Butter, Lemon Yogurt, Clotted Cream, and Canadian Bacon, among others. Not that it should really matter to the reader of reviews which recipes interest me, but when I'm reading reviews, I always like to have an idea of what kind of recipes the book contains and the general tastes of the reviewer, so I'm assuming others may like it too.

My one disappointment is how cheap the book feels.
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