To engineer a breakfast cake is, well, something of a challenge. Not a horrible or punishing one, mind you, but demanding enough and requiring the following: to be mindful of the type and amount of sugar, the seasoning agents, and the technique involved–all wrapped around the reason for serving cake in the a.m. (Like I actually need a reason.)
This morning ginger cake, made from a favorite (read: simple) way to put together a batter (the beloved whisk-and-stir), beams the aroma of spice and molasses as it cools in the baking pan. Buttermilk and oil keep it moist, and diced uncrystallized candied ginger adds chewy sparks of flavor.
The cake has been assigned a permanent rotation place in my log of baking-to-have-on-hand-for-coffee. That’s how good it is.
Occasionally, I’m in the mood for something bready, a little sweet, and I want it now. So, it’s one of those sluggish, rainy, lets-go-to-a-movie days–but leaving the cozy kitchen is, ultimately, not part of the plan. Who wants to leave, when I’m itching to get my hands into dough?
Here’s the outcome–a scone-like dough, formed into a plump oval, sprinkled with sugar, and baked. To keep it interesting, a mixture of moist (dried) currants tossed with coarsely grated orange rind was added to brighten and accent it all, creating a deluxe treat to have for breakfast or with a cup of tea later on.
Even if you’re a Project Baker (and in love with recipes that take two or three days to complete), this goody is made to enjoy quickly and simply. Bake on. And bac-on.
sweet and savory baking notes
delicious bites of baking information
May 23 -
ChocolateChocolate Tracker: My Coca-Cola Cake (page 285, and following page) with its Coca-Cola Frosting (page 286) is a well-baked treat from my sweet ChocolateChocolate. The cake is exceptionally moist, bakes up easily, and feeds a sweet-loving crowd.
May 22 -
Baking by Flavor Tracker: Still the all-time, must-bake recipe from Baking by Flavor, my Kitchen Sink Buttercrunch Bars, leads the pack for chewy, caramelly, buttercrunch candy-smacked bar cookies. Oh my. The praise continues (for such an easy recipe, I admit).
May 21 -
ChocolateChocolate Tracker: A best-baked favorite from ChocolateChocolate continues to be the Chocolate Chip Crumb Buns (page 213, and following pages). A chocolate chip yeast dough is spiraled around a chocolate chip cream filling and, once cut into individual buns and panned, generously topped topped with chocolate chip streusel, and baked.
i have a baking question
ask Lisa a baking-related question
Many readers have asked about the design details for Baking Style. This query was presented to my publisher (Natalie Chapman) and editor (Pamela Chirls) for commenting on the particulars. Please welcome both experts.
From Natalie Chapman: “Baking Style is a voluptuous book. The design is elegant, distinctive, stylish, and very pink. Curlicued rules and candy-stripes on the edges of text pages accentuate the allure of the recipes and photographs while complementing the cleanness of the design. The splendid full-page photographs show Lisa’s cookies, cakes, breads, muffins, and other baked creations aglow against a variety of pink and patterned backgrounds, and the endpapers dazzle the reader with eighty thumbnail-sized photographs of baking-related equipment and ingredients. The abundance of the interior is perfectly contained within a cover that’s at once understated and sensual. Unjacketed, printed on linen-textured material, the cover makes use of the same cursive but clean lines in the interior and adds some shimmer with silver metallic ink. The background color is, of course, a deep, almost shocking, pink. The overall effect is at once substantial and intimate, as only a printed book can be.” From Pam Chirls: “From pink to purple, a rich range of textures and tones became the showcase for Lisa Yockelson’s collection of cakes, cookies, and breads in Baking Style. Along with 80 four-color photographs of ingredients and equipment from Lisa’s pantry and cupboards printed on the book’s endpapers, the cover was designed to make a quiet statement of elegance, borrowing the fuchsia color, the graphic pattern, and the strong typography from the interior. The title is part of a creative seal, promising a personal baking journey for the reader.”
You baked all the recipes for photography in Baking Style and, as such, can you tell us what was the hardest recipe to style?
Though the process of styling baked goods for photography began to flourish in earnest for me with Baking by Flavor, and continued on with ChocolateChocolate, and Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes, I’ve always enjoyed creating recipes that look as good as they taste. It’s not easy! For Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes, the challenge was twofold–to bake the recipes in the order that they appeared in each chapter to facilitate the coordination of background materials and to capture their inherent lusciousness in a very primal way. The recipe that posed a real challenge for me to bake for capturing in an image was my brown sugar toffee cake. Cake, in general, seems to create visual problems and this simple but wildly delicious Bundt cake looks so basic–and I was not willing to prepare a more complicated version just to suit its appearance. A few days before the art session that included this sweet, I came up with the idea to present the cake with every other slice pulled out and, in the end, its look is one of my favorite baking images in the book and turned out to be a very simple solution to the presentation.
read about noteworthy cookbooks
Bakers looking for A Project should look no further than Pretzel Making at Home by Andrea Stonecker, for a good pretzel is a treat, and a homemade pretzel a rare treat. Making a batch is an exercise in patience and, ultimately, refining your culinary experience over a pot housing a simmering (alkaline) solution. That is, once you’ve put together a yeast dough and moved anyone in the vicinity of the kitchen out of the way, in order to manage the twisting, dipping, and baking–quietly and without intrusion.
Book in hand, I mentally signed up for The Experience. In the end, and hours later, I arrived at a small batch of Traditional Soft Pretzels (page 26, and following pages), having digested, several times over, the section titled “Pretzel Basics” (page 12, and following pages). The author takes you through the process which is actually a lot of fun–once a certain rhythm is developed. While I may not yet swing a rope of dough into a twist like the pros do (one early–and enthusiastic–attempt actually turned it into a hair band of sorts, and another dropped it directly into the–ahem!–scoop neck of my shirt), the dough lengths were easy to reshape once rested. (Baking note: Pin back your hair and button that shirt right up to the neck.) After dipping, topping, then baking the pretzels, The Experience ended–deliciously.
In Pretzel Making at Home, Stonecker moves the baker in all of us into the territory of Hard Pretzels, and further to integrating your precious stash into the likes of bread pudding. If I ever have three soft pretzels left, I’ll make the pudding, but odds are they’re just too good to steep in custard (even if a beloved item in my kitchen).
Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera, by Delores Custer (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010), $75.00
Delores Custer, a food stylist, built a career on fine-tuning the look of food for television and publication, culminating in an instructional volume titled Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera.
In our visual culture, the audience for Food Styling is not only for professionals whose job it is to cook, bake, or otherwise fashion food-based items to be photographed. Any individual who needs to capture a pleasing food-related image should consider using this book as a reference for composing camera-ready food.
Taking a trip through the contents of Food Styling reveals the author’s range, with chapters devoted to all of the preliminaries (“The Medium is Everything,” and “Prepping the Assignment”), then moves on to cover aspects from advance preparation and working with a photographer to assembling the equipment necessary to actualize the job. All of this is a prelude to the meatiest section of the volume titled “Working with the Food: Overcoming Challenges”: This is a comprehensive view of styling in a range of categories, including food for breakfast, sandwiches, dairy products, main course proteins, sauces, and garnishes. The concluding chapters in this section concern “baked goods” and they are valuable reading for visitors of baking style diary.
In the baked goods sections (“Cakes: the pleasures and pitfalls,” Cookies: aiming for consistencies,” and “Chocolate: the problem child for the food stylist” among them), you will learn viable solutions for preparing beautiful bar cookies; creating just the right look for drop cookies; baking and presenting a flawless pie; ways to bake, assemble, and stage layer cakes; and how to form the best-looking dollop of whipped cream. One of the most intriguing sections is the information regarding the baking, styling, and presentation of chocolate chip cookies (page 266, and following pages). On those pages, we learn how certain ingredients, baking techniques, and background materials contribute to a different end result.
Food Styling is a resource book that is destined to become the industry standard of its genre.