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 29 -
Brown sugar-Sweet Potato Cake is the latest recipe in my baking column for the Washington Post FOOD section called, appropriately enough, Treats. The batter bakes into a luxuriously moist cake, rich in spices and other good pantry ingredients (like molasses). The everywhere-ingredient, pumpkin, is replaced with unseasoned sweet potato puree. You can access the recipe here.
Nov 28 -
Down the buttery path of memory lane is an armload of cookie cookbooks from years past worth pulling off the shelf, and they are: Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich, Rose’s Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum, Simply Sensational Cookies by Nancy Baggett, Milk & Cookies: 89 Heirloom Recipes from New York’s Milk & Cookies Bakery by Tina Casaceli, Cookies at Home with The Culinary Institute of America by Todd Knaster, One Sweet Cookie: Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes by Tracey Zabar, Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets by Carole Walter, Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri, and Maida Heatter’s Brand-New Book of Great Cookies by Maida Heatter. Likely (and hopefully) visitors of baking style diary have one or more of the volumes, earmarked with a favorite recipe.
Nov 28 -
In Nick Malgieri’s Pastry: Foolproof Recipes for the Home Cook, Malgieri places dough at the forefront, revealing his technically accurate ways for mixing, rolling, shaping, and baking pastry. The how-to book explores, with all the fine-tuned points for success included, a range of doughs (tart, pie, strudel, brioche, and croissant, among others) along with the sweet and savory recipes which put them to good use. While all the recipes tempt, the author’s European-styled sweets seem to shine the brightest: The Swiss Brioche Cream Cake is an exceptional arrangement of press-in-the-pan brioche dough topped with a whisked mixture of cream, egg yolks, and sugar–simple and sublime. Project-focused bakers will want to explore and master the Viennese Danish Dough and, when prepared, twist it into the Danish Dough Coffeecake. And once you think of Nick Malgieri’s Pastry as an approachable baking-class-in-print, your cooling racks will be burdened (in the best way possible) with Italian Kale Pie, Viennese Walnut Cinnamon Crescents, Argentine Chicken Empanadas…and more to be sure.
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
Flavor Flours: A New Way to Bake with Teff, Buckwheat, Sorghum, Other Whole & Ancient Grains, Nuts & Non-Wheat Flours, by Alice Medrich with Maya Klein (New York: Artisan, 2014), $35.00
The calming, subtle-but-persuasive, and thoughtful of guidance of Alice Medrich suffuses the recipes she develops and, by extension, the follow-through contents of the baking cookbooks which embrace them.
Those who admire the creative approach that Medrich has brought to using basic baking ingredients (chocolate, especially, as the main element in previous books) will appreciate her fresh and personally comprehensive exploration of non-wheat flours in Flavor Flours: A New Way to Bake with Teff, Buckwheat, Sorghum, Other Whole & Ancient Grains, Nuts & Non-Wheat Flours. The book houses many recipes arranged by the primary component: rice flour; oat flour; corn flour and cornmeal; buckwheat flour; chestnut flour; teff flour; sorghum flour; and, lastly, nut and coconut flours. Chocolate sablés, for example, eschew cake or all-purpose flour in favor of a combination of teff and white rice flour, in addition to cocoa powder, butter, sugar, and a small amount of leavening; the presence of cream cheese, while something of a surprise in this shortbread-styled dough, purposely keeps the dough manageable while also acting as an enriching, tenderizing agent. In the recipe for oat sablés, cream cheese is repeated, but a mix of oat and white rice flour dominates, producing a slice-and-bake sweet that could possibly rival the traditional sablé made with wheat flour; simple to put together, nicely balanced flavor, lovely to eat, these cookies. Other recipes taunt you with their traditional names, only to surprise later on with unusually delightful results (I’m thinking specifically of the “New Classic Blondies,” “Chocolate Chip Cookies,” and “Chocolate Layer Cake”).
Reaching out to the new/old world of highly nuanced flours requires significant adaptation and a revised mental adjustment to taste and texture. No matter, Medrich and Klein have figured out what has surely puzzled loads of bakers aiming to reconfigure a formula to a finish of overall goodness while developing it as gluten-free: that is, recipes can derive their excellence from the properties of the flours, not by “…treating them as wheat flour substitutes” and demonstrate it all beautifully within the pages of Flavor Flours.
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.