diary

Jul 14 2014

crunch, crunch, crunch

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. On February 27th, crunch rules. Politely, of course. (Or, maybe, not quite politely because it’s my day–live with it, people.)

recipe from the baking kitchen oat clusters
Jun 15 2014

when blueberries meet corn meal

Corn meal plus blueberries equals summertime baking.

It had to come to this, stirring blueberries into a corn meal-enriched quick bread batter–the two ingredients that frequently win over in my mixing bowl. When a corn muffin is not enough and a square of blueberry cake is, somehow, too dessert-y, then you need this recipe. Once baked and sliced, I think you’ll agree: Here’s a spunky bread, gritty enough to please, with berries locked into the “crumb.” It’s a whisk-and-stir batter, easily and nimbly handmade. Need I say any more?

recipe from the baking kitchen favorite blueberry cornbread

sweet and savory baking notes

delicious bites of baking information

Jul 25 -

Some of my favorite things begin with…roasted cacao nibs. I add them to trail mix for a mellow chocolate crunch, use them to scatter over iced sweet yeast rolls, and flick them over granola.

Jul 24 -

My mega-fudgy deep-dish brownies make good use of chocolate. To say the least.

Jul 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 crowd.

i have a baking question

ask Lisa a baking-related question

Q:

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.

A:

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.

Q:

Can you recommend dessert recipes from your baking books for bringing to potluck dinners? Also, what is the best way to transport them?

A:

Bake-ahead sheet or one-layer cakes and fairly sturdy bar cookies are ideal for preparing in advance and transporting to an event. Bar cookies can be cut into squares or rectangles, and gently layered between sheets of waxed paper or cooking parchment paper within sturdy containers. Sweets baked in rectangular, square, or round pans (each single, not multiple-layer) are easy travellers, whether frosted or not–leave the dessert in the pan, cover, and place the baking pan in a larger pan for safe delivery.

From Baking by Flavor, the following items are ideal for contributing to a potluck dinner: Kitchen Sink Buttercrunch Bars (page 209), Caramel, Nougat, and Walnut Candy Bar Cake (page 235, and following page), Sour Cream Fudge Cake (page 260, and following pages), Simply Intense Chocolate Brownies (page 280, and following page), or Cream Cheese-Swirled Brownies (page 492, and following page). From ChocolateChocolate: Bittersweet Chocolate Brownies (page 76), Supremely Fudgy Brownies (page 81), White Chocolate Chip and Chunk Blondies (page 145), Layered Toffee Bars (page 176), or Buttery and Soft Chocolate Cake for a Crowd (page 403, and following page). From Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes, A Noble Marzipan Cake (page 41, and following page), A Gentle Banana Cake (page 118), Date Bars, Big and Crazy Chewy (page 163), Confection Brownies (page 178),  Moist and Chewy Fruit Slice (page 322, and following page), Blondie Cake (page 409), or A Decadent Streusel Coffee Cake (page 467).

about the author

Lisa Yockelson is a baking journalist and three-time award-winning author of Baking by Flavor, ChocolateChocolate, and Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes. Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes received the 2012 IACP cookbook award for the best baking book in New York City on April 2, 2012.


book report

read about noteworthy cookbooks

Eat Pretty: Nutrition for Beauty, Inside and Out, by Jolene Hart, CHC, AADP (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2014), $16.95

In the personal lifestyle arena of material (the plethora of books, magazine articles, newspaper columns, and such) that works inwardly to arrive at outward manifestations of goodness, Eat Pretty: Nutrition for Beauty, Inside and Out is a gentle, thoughtful, and inspirational (without the lecture!) guide for ladies to retrieve their collective “glow.”
I’m in.
Eat Pretty, in three major sections and 208 tidy pages, sets out a big grocery cart of ingredients (and some recipes) that, while outfitting your refrigerator and pantry, might help to “…spark a major change in the way you look and feel.” In Part 2, “Four Seasons to Eat Pretty,” Hart reveals the (edible) elements to turn to for becoming a “beautiful eater.” Even if you pick and choose among the food suggestions, you will have successfully rethought adding (or subtracting) certain components from your meal plan. According to the author, coconut oil is a “metabolism booster,” popcorn an “antioxidant-rich snack,” arugula “a spicy sexy green,” and cherries an “inflammation defender.” In Part 3, “Beauty Beyond Your Plate,” the author explores proper digestion, the dynamics of stress, “food combining,” balance, and exercise. A list of “intentions” for each of the four seasons assists with a bits of advice which help to set goals.
The overall tone of this book is at once caring and instructional and, like all guidebooks, should be used according to one’s own well-being needs (personal health concerns should be addressed by a medical professional). A kind of beauty nutrition advice, not a dictum for a strict overall per se, is the feeling you’ll get from this volume.
Bottom line: Prepare to dine well and thrive.

Sweet Maria’s Italian Cookie Tray, by Maria Bruscino Sanchez (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1997), $13.95

Oftentimes, a cookie-baking collection becomes a historical bookmark on a certain trend–hopefully, in a positive way. Moving well beyond the beloved brownie and chocolate chip cookie, cooks love to explore the sweet interpretations of various cultures.

Biscotti notwithstanding, bakers in this country are fond of embracing cookies of all forms and flavors. I am so one of them. The tradition of creating a cookie tray, a layered edifice of multiple varieties, continued to be a tradition for Ms. Sanchez and she has devoted a slim–but festive–volume to offering recipes for constructing one. She even describes the concept of “traying” a mound of cookies–what fun! But back to the kitchen, where you can take the author’s lead and bake all kinds of cookies to architecturally assemble on that big doily-lined platter or plate you’ll need to have on hand: molded, drop, rolled and filled–all of these are enthusiastically offered in Sweet Maria’s Italian Cookie Tray.

Multi-layered cookies (and yes, there is an art to composing and positioning them–hint: shape, structure, and color all go into the building equation) look so appealing and, perhaps best of all, become their own edible art form.