It’s official. I’m in a Binge-Baking-Butter-Cakes mood. And it show no sign of relenting.
I have a crush on butter cakes, especially those of the vanilla variety. To date, over a dozen have been pulled from my oven, one silky-battered, aromatic, fine-grained, tender specimen at a time. Eggs, unsalted butter, cream cheese, cake flour, all-purpose flour, heavy cream, buttermilk, sour cream, whole milk, and sugar–in one form or another–have been sifted, whisked, or otherwise beaten together so frequently that the aroma of cake has now–nearly–permeated the walls, and likely my skin as well. At the market check-out line (yes, I’m the one with all the baking supplies looking particularly sugar-dazed), the woman behind me quietly mentioned to her daughter “…I smell vanilla extract.” I think she meant me.
I’ve been stockpiling new recipes, one by one, for several years now–developed in my mind at midnight to appear in mixing bowls the next day. It’s a complex dance of ideas and how-to’s only to culminate as my next “work” (as they say in publishing) at some given point in the future. Prior to assembling that “work,” the real labor is done in splendid isolation–just me, the equipment, and the ingredients–as each recipe is made one at a time. At this moment, I’m cake-obsessed, which is lucky for you, my longtime baking friends, and offer a cozy, plain old-fashioned autumn coffee cake. Consider it the prelude to a big, friendly volume of goodies which will best reveal a bright, new focus. Do stay in touch for more.
What a charmer this bread is–threaded with pumpkin seeds (and sunflower seeds), a batter lush with pumpkin and spices and baked to a sweetly scented conclusion is made to order for serving at breakfast, brunch, or with afternoon coffee (as well, not to be overlooked as a pick-up snack–enjoy plain or slather slices with jam). The batter for the whisked-and-stirred mixture is smoothed into a plain round pan and pulled from the oven about 40 minutes later, all tender and slightly puffed. A lacy web of seeds forms a random pattern in each slice. Moist, dried currants or dried cranberries (1/2 cup of either) may replace the seeds, if you like.
This everyday kind of bread, tenderly dense and flavorful, is likely to have a permanent place in your seasonal baking file.
sweet and savory baking notes
delicious bites of baking information
Oct 22 -
In a food-chatting mood? Come on over to FREE RANGE ON FOOD today at 12:00 noon EST, to ask questions of The Washington Post food gang or virtually drool over my new recipe for chocolate chip cookies. We’ll all be there!
Oct 21 -
Join me and the gang over at The Washington Post FOOD section at FREE RANGE ON FOOD tomorrow (12:00 noon EST), to ask questions or virtually drool over my new recipe for chocolate chip cookies. It’s a real-time chance to get answers to cooking conundrums. We’ll all be there!
Oct 20 -
Ready, set, bake cookies. In particular, bake these chocolate chip cookies, beaming with bittersweet chocolate chunks. It’s my newest contribution to TREATS, that fun-to-bake column of mine in the FOOD pages of The Washington Post. Read about how I came up with this formula, and if you have a baking question (or two or three), be sure to chat with me and the WaPo FOOD gang right here on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 12:00 noon EST (or post your query early)!
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
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.
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.