In my cookie-baking pantheon, the distinguished chocolate chip rules supreme. Nearly any twist or turn of the recipe intrigues me–chewy, crispy, thick, thin, jumbo, regulation-size, or petite. Petite? Did I say petite? Teensy two-bite cookies may suffice for some, I guess.
Here’s the latest, a dreamy cookie with a caramelly profile, one that’s loaded with chips and a full three teaspoons of vanilla extract. The texture? Chewy, with crispy edges. The cookies are just a little thick. Using cool eggs and cool butter creates a firm dough that scoops into high mounds. On baking, the hillocks of dough slump (perfectly!) and collapse into shapely cookies with wonderfully crinkled edges: I love The Slump.
I think of these brown sugar chippers as Saturday Afternoon Cookies because baking them on a weekend afternoon has long been a household tradition–a custom worth passing along.
The underpinning of good, 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 stone fruit, especially peaches (in wintertime, baby poached pears would be ideal), 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.
Thinking out-of-the-bread-box (so to speak) is a fine way to plan out a casual dessert.
sweet and savory baking notes
delicious bites of baking information
Nov 23 -
My recipe for Triple-Vanilla Crumb Cake appeared in the Boston GLOBE Food section. It’s just lovely, and is a delight to have on hand for serving at brunch to weekend guests. The recipe can be accessed here. Happy baking!
Nov 22 -
baking style diary reflects on favorite cookies: Developed for Food & Wine magazine, my recipe for Large and Luscious Two-Chip Oatmeal Cookies is a cookie jar gem.
Nov 21 -
Indulgent: Salt-Dusted Lavender-Lemon Cookies, Dried Fruit and Nut “Truffles,” and Peanut-Sesame Brittle. And of certain importance, recipes for these sweets (and more) are free of wheat by virtue of their inherent goodness and technical accuracy. Absent is the need to larder-store any sort of gluten-free baking mix (thankfully). This is the core concept of Flourless: Recipes for Naturally Gluten-Free Desserts by Nicole Spiridakis–that the essence of a good dessert rests at the intersection of taste and technique. The cookbook is divided into tidy sections by type–“Cakes and Cupcakes,” “Cookies and Other Treats,” and “Puddings, Tarts, and Other Delights”–and highlights direct and well-conceived recipes pleasing to both avocational cooks and industry professionals. As well, as a reference tool on navigating the wheat-free spectrum, Flourless excels, reminding us that many ingredients basic to a working kitchen are already a part of this specialty area of baking and, thus, suprisingly accessible.
i have a baking question
ask Lisa a baking-related question
From your books, can you offer a list of recipes for two autumn baking ingredients–apples and pumpkin?
Both the windfall of cooking apples and spice-friendly pumpkin does indeed create luscious baked goods. Generally, you can look forward to moist treats, full of flavor (some subtle, others a bit bolder) and, occasionally, pleasantly spiced.
From Baking by Flavor: Caramel Upside-Down Apple Tart (page 233, and following pages), Spiced Apple Waffles (page 473), Pumpkin-Almond Keeping Cake (page 112, and following page), Pumpkin Ginger Cake (page 378, and following page), Gingery Pumpkin Muffins with Ginger-Sugar Sprinkle (page 398, and following page). From ChocolateChocolate: Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Applesauce Scones (page 257). From Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes: Apple Cake, Maple Butter Glaze (page 55, and following page), Pumpkin Cake, with Chips (page 360), Gingered Pumpkin Squares for the Breadbasket (page 462).
What’s your favorite recipe in the Butter chapter of Baking by Flavor?
At this moment, my go-to recipe in the Butter chapter of Baking by Flavor is the Butter Shortbread (page 200, and following page). The recipe appeals for its simplicity and direct flavor of butter; for the baking pan, I love to use a fluted 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removeable bottom, as in it the baked shortbread looks pretty and appealing. The scalloped edges bring a certain festive quality to the cookie wedges. This particular butter shortbread dough is made out of all-purpose flour, rice flour, a touch of baking powder, salt, softened unsalted butter, superfine sugar, and vanilla extract. When the baked shortbread is pulled from the oven and cooled for 10 minutes, I dust the top with granulated sugar for a lightly sweetened, softly glimmery finish. Good shortbread, I believe, is all about the ratio of dry ingredients to butter, with enough sugar to tenderize it all, and how thoughtfully the dough is put together.
read about noteworthy cookbooks
The Baking Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), $40.00
Nine recipes into the first recipe chapter of The Baking Bible, “Cakes” (and specifically “Butter and Oil Cakes”), Rose Levy Beranbaum offers the Pink Pearl Lady Cake, a perfectly restrained but beautifully executed confection that celebrates our longtime professional friendship. The cake is a sweet collusion of butter cake composed with strawberry mousseline (filling and undercoat) and wrapped in white chocolate fondant. We are baking pals–just like the cake, two fancifully-layered, multi-textural personalities–and have been for years, so now you know what might seem like an inherent bias as I describe Ms. Beranbaum’s new baking book.
It is not, however, a bias built on the classic notion of favoritism, but more of a bent on sharing a similar mind-set for the love of baking and offering recipes in our own detailed way. I admired Ms. Beranbaum’s work long before I was allowed the opportunity to publish books on the subject, for her intense focus and mastery of baking chemistry dazzled me. The Cake Bible gave a sense of credibility to baking and likely paved the way for authors to flourish in the field. The Baking Bible does no less, and much more.
In 560 hefty but velvety pages, Ms. Beranbaum teaches and entices in a friendly and, occasionally, studious way. You’d be wise to read (and perhaps commit to memory) “Rose’s Golden Rules” before measuring ingredients and preheating the oven so you know what is expected. This is a woman who advises on how to break and separate an egg (in some detail) and use a stand mixer or a handheld mixer to its best advantage. In case you’ve missed something along the way, “Highlights for Success” pop up in many recipes to explain the hows-and-whys of a particular ingredient or method. Deep within the instructions of each recipe is a baking lesson–even in the simplest one: In “My Chocolate Chip Cookies,” the butter is clarified and browned and the resulting dough is chilled; you’ll learn about the process to making a chewy-crisp cookie and reason for a particular technique along the way. (Result? This is a knock-out recipe.)
The chapters in The Baking Bible are set out in familiar categories (“Cakes,” “Pies, Tarts, and Other Pastries,” “Cookies and Candy,” and “Breads and Yeast Pastries”) but the recipes are not typically commonplace. Rather, the formulas are thoughtfully composed versions hand-picked from the author’s range and expertise. And it’s a wide, precise swing into her baking world.
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.”
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.