If the mixing bowl is my playground, then flours and flavorings are my toys.
Several 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
Mar 20 -
baking style diary asked Alice Medrich, author of the award-winning Flavor Flours, the following question: If you had to choose two non-wheat flours for those new to gluten-free baking to explore, what would they be? As well, tantalize us with a few baked ideas that would incorporate them. Ms. Medrich answers: “It’s very hard to pick only two! I have to choose white rice flour first because it’s the most versatile. It can solo in a fragrant light chiffon cake, genoise, or plain buttery tart crust. White rice flour is also a good supporting partner for other more flavorful and assertive flours; it becomes a neutral backdrop and may also lighten the texture of the other flours. Oat flour is my next choice. It has a wonderful caramel/toffee flavor and lovely soft texture. Used on its own, it makes a fantastic plain (or fancy) sponge cake; paired with a small amount of white rice flour, it produces fantastic shortbread cookies or sables. A little oat flour adds a subtle complexity to an American-style chocolate cake (Maya’s Chocolate Fudge Cake) or plain vanilla butter cake (The Ultimate Butter Cake). Bakers enthusiatic about their craft (and I am so one of them) never stop thinking or suggesting, and so Ms. Medrich, a kindred baking soul, adds the following: “If I were allowed to sneak in a third and fourth flour, I’d choose corn flour and buckwheat flour.”
Mar 19 -
Embrace the sheet pan. Surely you have one (or two). In a professional kitchen, my stack of pans that measure 13 by 18, with 1-inch raised, rolled sides and made of medium-weight aluminum, are referred to as “half sheet.” This familiar piece of equipment takes center stage in the recently-released Sheet Pan Suppers: 120 Recipes for Simple, Surprising, Hands-off Meals Straight from the Oven by Molly Gilbert. The book promises versatile, impressively simple, one-pan dinners (plus some sides and a few sweets) assembled on said pan and slipped into the oven–mostly made with an ingredient list free of the pre-prepared variety (though a few shelf-ready items, such as a tube of polenta or jar of marinara sauce, appear here and there). While some may eye-roll at the concept which seems obvious or basic, Sheet Pan Suppers serves as a terrific reminder–an incentive, really–to cook fresh on a regular basis rather than rely on carry-out meals. Gilbert’s “Classic Roast Chicken with Mustardy Potatoes” and “Pork Tenderloin with Squash, Apples & Onion” prove the point of the book deliciously. For dessert, “Salted Rosemary Toffee Crunch” is a fun nibble. If the return to homemade dinner is on your Fresh-Start-of-2015 agenda, Sheet Pan Suppers is an approachable guide to it. So set the table and dig in.
Mar 18 -
Baking by Flavor Tracker: The well-loved and repeatedly-baked kitchen sink buttercrunch bars (page 209) from Baking by Flavor have filled cookie tins far and wide–year in, year out. Easy. Rich and chewy. A raging favorite.
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 a few recipes to bake from Baking Style to serve at a bridal shower? The only ingredients to be avoided (accounting for personal taste) are peanut butter and ginger. It would be preferable to be able to make the sweets in advance. Thank you!
There are many recipes in Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes that take well to serving in small portions. A rich bar cookie is ideal for serving at a bridal shower as a pickup-style dessert, or cake, plated in slices for offering with a dollop of mousse or scoop of ice cream. In particular, the following can be made in advance and remain fresh when assembled within frilly paper cups (if you like) on doily-lined trays: Little Almond Cakes (page 42, and following page), a gentle blueberry buckle (page 45), brown sugar-coconut cookies (page 97), banana tea loaf (page 119), exquisite cake (page 140), edge-o-darkness bars (page 176), confection brownies (page 178), chocolate chip sablés (page 249, and following page), lemon melties (page 265), and wildly lush hint-of-salt lavender shortbread, the unrestrained version (page 303, and following page).
read about noteworthy cookbooks
Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, by Rose Levy Beranbaum (Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), $39.95
The quote on the book’s back cover, taken from my Foreword contributed to Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, remarks that this book is not simply a successor to The Cake Bible, it is “a bright new guide to the glories of cake baking.” Occasional bakers as well as those who prepare cakes for retail sale will treasure the range in this book.
In Ms. Beranbaum’s hands, the art of cake baking is a meticulous, thorough-going process. The formulas expressed in her latest volume are every bit as detailed as those in The Cake Bible, a cookbook that marked a turning point for communicating, through the written word, this intricate and established culinary art to an audience of both professional and recreational bakers. The details, however, are a bit different–and equally as important to the work.
While both books are creative dissertations on cake, the last one, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, is more visually expressed–an important addition that gives readers at all levels of experience a way to understand a recipe before the ingredients are measured and the oven is preheated. by viewing the well-articulated images, you can compare and contrast your baking to the expert’s, and learn many tricks along the way. Baking images are not only inspirational, they are informative.
The information provided in the beautifully designed pages and tables (charts) may give the appearance that some recipes are difficult but this is not so, for the detailed particulars represent important guidelines for accomplishing certain techniques. Rose Levy Beranbaum, in addition to other authors such as Flo Braker (author of The Simple Art of Perfect Baking and Sweet Miniatures), Alice Medrich (author of, among many, Bittersweet and Flavor Flours), and Nick Malgieri (author of, among many, the seminal How to Bake) certainly paved the way for my contributions to the literature of baking, enlarging the sweet impact in the world of cooking along the way.
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.”