The underpinning of fruity olive oil plus corn meal, buttermilk, and whole eggs fashions a luscious cake.
Cake, you say?
Yes, and I say this resoundingly (exclamation point).
A lightly sweetened wedge of the cake pairs off superbly with all kinds of summer berries or slices of mixed stone fruit, especially peaches (in cooler weather, poached pears), in a composed compote. The absence of a flavoring agent (overt or in the muted background) lets the slightly gritty wedges form a blank canvas for soaking up spoonfuls of the accompaniment. Or have a slice just by itself, with good coffee.
Thinking out-of-the-bread-box (so to speak) is a fine way to plan out a casual dessert.
Do you delight in The Crunch? What about The Crispy? Or The Oaty?
Right now, baking-wise, I’m a very oaty, nutty, seedy, and crunchy person. And, as usual, itching for coconut. So, the decision was made to join it all in caramelly clusters, with one self-imposed critical requirement–that the treat be batter-free, just a happy conspiracy of ingredients stuck together in a vanilla-seasoned mixture.
Inspired by trail mix, the clusters have been on my planning board for longer than a year. Over the last several months, I’ve made many, many types. As I chased my idea of a wonderfully crispy confection housing all kinds of things, a potpourri of results ensued–messy, crumbly lumps; too-sweet or too-bland nuggets; overly sticky clumps; impossible-to-bake-evenly mixtures (don’t ask). Finally, on the edge of the proverbial baking cliff, a midnight kitchen romp rewarded me with a recipe I’ll be making in many more years to come: a beautifully and deeply golden block of stuck-together components, ready to break up into small and rugged pieces. For my winter birthday (not too long ago), this crunch ruled (among other goodies).
sweet and savory baking notes
delicious bites of baking information
Apr 5 -
Mar 10 -
Cleverly, in Eggs on Top: Recipes Elevated by an Egg, Andrea Slonecker provides the reader/cook with a batch of recipes for including the protein-packed egg in all kinds of preparations. Whether starring on their own (scrambled, fried, poached), slid on top of grains or noodles, or incorporated within soups and stews, the ever-humble and always-available egg stars in every meal of the day. Slonecker offers recipes that are seamlessly accessible–the “Eggs Baked on Crisped Bread and Kale Salad” (page 73) was delicious served as a light supper and the “Steak and Eggs Salad” (page 146, and following page), a little more complex, is a terrific play on the steak-and-eggs theme. With Eggs on Top, you’ll also learn the basics of egg cuisine from an author that respects this staple item.
Mar 9 -
Embrace the sheet pan. Surely you have one (or two). In a professional kitchen, my stack of pans that measure 13 by 18, with 1-inch raised, rolled sides and made of medium-weight aluminum, are referred to as “half sheet.” This familiar piece of equipment takes center stage in the recently-released Sheet Pan Suppers: 120 Recipes for Simple, Surprising, Hands-off Meals Straight from the Oven by Molly Gilbert. The book promises versatile, impressively simple, one-pan dinners (plus some sides and a few sweets) assembled on said pan and slipped into the oven–mostly made with an ingredient list free of the pre-prepared variety (though a few shelf-ready items, such as a tube of polenta or jar of marinara sauce, appear here and there). While some may eye-roll at the concept which seems obvious or basic, Sheet Pan Suppers serves as a terrific reminder–an incentive, really–to cook fresh on a regular basis rather than rely on carry-out meals. Gilbert’s “Classic Roast Chicken with Mustardy Potatoes” and “Pork Tenderloin with Squash, Apples & Onion” prove the point of the book deliciously. For dessert, “Salted Rosemary Toffee Crunch” is a fun nibble. If the return to homemade dinner is on your Fresh-Start-of-2015 agenda, Sheet Pan Suppers is an approachable guide to it. So set the table and dig in.
i have a baking question
ask Lisa a baking-related question
The appetizer bread in Baking Style is delicious. If I want to customize it with other items, rather than salami (or pepperoni), what ingredients would you suggest? Even though you say that the bread should be served on baking day, it was also wonderful the next day.
This savory bread (page 440, and following page) from Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes is casual and so good with a glass of wine, or a leafy, herb-flecked salad. The salami (or pepperoni), Provolone, and Pecorino Romano may be replaced by other items, though it is preferable to either use cheese plus a charcuterie ingredient or cheese alone (one or a mix of two or three varieties). Either smoked ham or smoked turkey–cut into cubes–would be a good substitute for the salami; minced fresh herbs can be worked into the dough with the cheese; or diced onions pan-fried until golden in a little olive oil would make a tasty addition. And don’t forget to use the oil and cheese finish–it’s lovely.
What was the most difficult recipe to develop in Baking Style?
Every single recipe In Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes has a story attached, oftentimes relating to its development. Over the years, a handful of recipes challenged me and presented sticky problems to be worked through for creating a baked good that sang with flavor and charmed with texture. A yeast dough became “over-anxious” and burst through its wrappings; a drop cookie dough puddled–mercilessly–on the baking pan; a tray of scones rose beautifully then flattened mysteriously. Such is the life of a baker. The recipe that tormented me until I got it right was almond macaroons in an embrace of flavor and texture (page 254): My goal was to arrive at moist, flavorful, and plump cookies–it took some some to achieve all three charateristics in one dough.
read about noteworthy cookbooks
Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2015), $17.99
The Swedish tradition of fika, described as the cultural custom of taking a break in the a.m. or p.m. to enjoy coffee and a sweet (or, occasionally savory) accompaniment singly or with friends, is a tradition worth embracing. This is not an on-the-run, grab-and-go event, but one which encompasses more than a few minutes to savor the present. I believe this to be an essential element of life, especially now, in this uncertain world.
In Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, authors Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall reveal the way to relax and enjoy–by learning about the history and recipes that support the occasion of sharing food and drink. What a delight it is to be reminded of this simple pleasure and, most of all, learn that one of the cornerstones of the experience evolves from a goody you bake yourself (very wise).
In five charming chapters (“a history of Swedish coffee,” “modern-day fika,” “the outdoor season,” “celebrating more than the everyday,” and “bread, sandwiches, and fika as a snack”) Fika points the way and, in short order, will have you assembling ingredients and setting out the china coffee cups. Of particular interest is the recipe for semlor, the luscious Swedish cream buns–cardamon-scented and almondy, and sure to set the mood to celebrate the spirit of the day.
The Wine Lover’s Dessert Cookbook: Recipes and Pairings for the Perfect Glass of Wine, by Mary Cech and Jennie Schacht (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2005), $24.95
The flavors and ingredients of baked goods are explored and paired with dessert wines in this modern cookbook, as recipes include explanatory matches with dessert wines (noted within the all-important “making the match” section). For example, a lovely recipe for Cocoa Walnut Biscotti yields a fine batch of dipping cookies, ready to be mated with, say, an orange muscat, ruby port, or cream sherry. Who would argue with having cookies and a matching wine on the end table after dinner?
In all, the confections and their corresponding pours in The Wine Lover’s Dessert Cookbook provide interesting reading, in addition to nibbling-and-sipping (and all of you bakers out there will learn how to take the dessert course to the next and most elegant level). Specifically, the splendid sections on caramel, honey, and spice; dried fruits; nuts; and cream draw me in most of all for their luscious, thoughtful pairings.