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.
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).
sweet and savory baking notes
delicious bites of baking information
Dec 4 -
Baking by Flavor Tracker: A Ginger Baking Marathon awaits all spicy holiday bakers in Baking by Flavor. Favorite recipes include Chocolate-Ginger Soufflé Cake (page 380, and following page), Sour Cream Ginger Keeping Cake (page 386, and following page), and Ginger Molasses Sweet Potato Pie (page 396). Lovely for cold weather baking.
Dec 3 -
Freshly-baked! My recipe for (delectable) pistachio butter cookies was published in the food section of the Boston GLOBE. A plate of cookies are an ideal accompaniment to coffee, tea, poached fruit, berries, or ice cream. You can find the recipe here. Enjoy.
Dec 2 -
Baking Style Tracker: Top cookie jar favorites from Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes include lady bountiful cookies, edge-of-darkness bars, confection brownies, irene’s slice-and-bake sugar cookies (my late mother’s recipe), and wild ones.
i have a baking question
ask Lisa a baking-related question
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).
My tradition every holiday season (and at any other time of the year) is to make a food gift. It also makes a great hostess gift. I love your muesli and have made it many times. Can you explain how to make this in quantity–can I double the recipe?
One of my preferred holiday food gifts is a crunchy mixture that includes rolled oats and various other flaky things and seeds, and muesli, my favorite way is at the top of the list. The basic recipes yields six cups. It contains rolled oats, rolled spelt flakes, rolled wheat flakes, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and sunflower seeds. A honey and oil mixture gets poured over the collection of goodies, and it all gets spooned onto and scattered over a prepared baking pan. At some point during the process, wide-flake coconut is incorporated and tossed about, then the whole concoction is baked until everything is golden. Cooled and crumbled, the muesli is light but sturdy. The core recipe can be doubled successfully, keeping the following suggestions in mind: use 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey, 1/2 cup plain vegetable oil, and 4 teaspoons vanilla extract; divide the mixture between 2 large rimmed sheet pans (each pan measuring 13 by 18 inches), each lined with a sheet of ovenproof kitchen parchment paper and filmed with nonstick oil spray; bake the sheet pans of muesli on the upper and lower third level oven racks, exchanging the pans from top to bottom and bottom to top halfway through baking; and store the mixture in 1-quart jars with tight-fitting lids.
read about noteworthy cookbooks
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.
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.