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).
If the mixing bowl is my playground, then flours and flavorings are my toys.
Over the years, A few years ago, I had a load of fun working some interesting flours and meals into a griddled batter for the FOOD section of the Washington Post (waffle-lovers, this one’s for you), and well before then began to substitute one or another flour–such as amaranth, kamut, buckwheat, spelt–for a given amount of all-purpose flour into well-loved batters and doughs. A very buttery, soft shortbread dough, developed, tweaked, and obsessed over for more than a decade (and possibly longer), turned into prime territory for incorporating another sort of flour. In the end, the dough was responsive to so many types that I’ve practically overwhelmed my baking file with a range of new recipes.
The rose shortbread that you have here, quietly enhanced with kamut flour, is a long-standing favorite of my working foray into creating specialty shortbread. Some time ago, I was the lucky recipient of a bottle of rose extract gel, brought to me from France by tea educator, Laurie Bell. I added the gel to the dough and the flavor gently blossomed,Another batch was highlighted with rose flower essence, and this is a fine substitute for the gel flavoring.
Shortbread is a passion of mine. Cookie confidential: The recipe passes along all the details for a perfect batch from me to you.
sweet and savory baking notes
delicious bites of baking information
Feb 7 -
Lovely, lovely lemon cake. Here’s a delight of a recipe, one which I developed for the food pages of the Boston GLOBE. The cake is moist and fine-grained, with a divine citrus flavor. You can access the recipe here.
Jan 9 -
Cinnamon toast. I love it more than ever. Simple, aromatic, crunchy, and buttery–all wrapped up in one crispy package.
Jan 6 -
A purchase that enhances my collection of cast iron for cooking and baking is–adorably!–a 6 1/2-inch Lodge cast iron skillet. In it, I’ve already baked a tender corn meal-based quick bread. So, so good.
i have a baking question
ask Lisa a baking-related question
I have made your “forever brownies” many times from Baking Style. If I wanted to make this recipe as a “party cake” how could this be done?
The recipe for forever brownies (page 37) in my new book, Baking Style, Art, Craft, Recipes, is not only one of my favorite recipes, it’s a recipe that seems to have captivated both avocational and professional bakers alike. The brownie batter can be customized to include a generous stir-in of chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans), flaked coconut, chunks of candy, semisweet chocolate chips, bittersweet chocolate chips, or white chocolate chips. My sense is what you mean by “fancy up” the recipe is to offer the confection in an alternate shape other than a bar cookie. To do this, film a 9 to 10-inch round layer cake pan (2 inces deep) with nonstick oil spray, then spoon and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. (Any other single-layer ovenproof cake pan can be used, but be sure to choose one without too much detail otherwise the cake will be challenging to unmold.) Smooth over the top with a narrow offset metal spatula or flexible palette knife. Bake the sweet for 30 to 33 minutes, or until just set, and cool according to the procedure described in the body of the recipe. For serving, cut the dessert into pretty pie-shaped wedges. Serve quite plain, with a tumble of fresh raspberries, vanilla ice cream, or softly whipped cream.
Can you recommend dessert recipes from your baking books for bringing to holiday potluck dinners? Also, what is the best way to transport them?
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).
read about noteworthy cookbooks
So you think you know how to make a first-rate grilled cheese sandwich? Do you thoughtfully combine three types of cheese? Choose bread that heightens the cheese? Select the correct weight of pan? Are you, overall, cheese-savvy? For all of that, and more, Cowgirl Creamery Cooks by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith should rest on your cookbook shelf, if only for the full menu of recipes, then to be educated in the art and science of cheese.
Cowgirl Creamery, in the business of producing artisanal cheeses, turns their collective spirit into a stunning volume of recipes: For the record, Cowgirl Creamery Cooks will have you sighing over and bookmarking the “Simple, Classic Grilled Cheese” (made of Fromage Blanc, Cheddar, and Monterey Jack), Mary Loh’s Cheese Wafers (buttery, flavorful), and “Rustic Cheese and Onion Galettes, Two Ways” (pastry cloaked in an oniony tangle of grated cheese)–as well as upping your selection of cheese at home.
The personal history of how Cowgirl Creamery came to be, discovered in “Go West, Young Cowgirls,” will, at the very least, offer insight into the depth, cooking style, and determination of the individuals. The reader/cook will be fully brought into the picture, from the relationship with the dairy farmers and “milk animals” along with a fascinating understanding about seasonal dairy flavors impacting the resulting cheeses.
At first, you might not get drawn into the story of the synergy of cheesemakers and dairy farmers, because, well, the recipes are so resplendent. Then, having devoured “Cantina Salami Sandwich with Sautéed Greens and Aged Gouda,” surely there will be time to dip into such educating text (equally rich, but in information) as “Understanding Butterfat on Labels.”
Very Merry Cookie Party: How to Plan and Host a Christmas Cookie Exchange, by Barbara Grunes and Virginia Van Vynckt (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2010), $19.95
The two words, “Christmas” and “cookies,” inextricably and so sweetly linked together in the month of December, mean that both occasional and I-bake-all-the-time bakers think about stockpiling the butter, flour, eggs, and assorted embellishments. Collect the cookie tins and baking sheets, rally one or many pairs of hands, let the sugar sprinkle, and turn the cookie-a-thon into a party with the help of Very Merry Cookie Party: How to Plan and Host a Christmas Cookie Exchange.
Embedded in Very Merry Cookie Party you’ll find chapters that cover “Planning and Hosting a Cookie Exchange,” “Cookies to Build a Party Around,” and “Cookies by Technique.” The ways and means of designing a collaborative cookie-sharing party involve learning and setting up your own template for organizing the event, including deciding on the type and number of cookies each participant will provide, the sharing of recipes, packaging for the cookies and, perhaps, a cookie theme. The material then offers recipes inviting all to participate in the act of making Xmas M & M’s Cookies (page 43), Old Salem Molasses Ginger Cookies (page 52), Fudgy Brownie Bites (page 71), and Sugar Pretzels (page 95). Beneath each head note, a recipe contains a “Cookie Exchange Tip“–a dollop of information offering a serving suggestion, watchpoint for success, or tidbit of decorating advice.
While your own favorite recipe–heirloom or brand-new-to-you–is the one you’re most likely to share, many ideas are available for discovery in Very Merry Cookie Party, providing the launching off point for a favorite holiday tradition.