Author Archives: lisa

The appetizer bread in Baking Style is delicious. If I want to customize it with other items, rather than salami (or pepperoni), what ingredients would you suggest? Even though you say that the bread should be served on baking day, it was also wonderful the next day.

This savory bread (page 440, and following page) from Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes is casual and so good with a glass of wine, or a leafy, herb-flecked salad. The salami (or pepperoni), Provolone, and Pecorino Romano may be replaced by other items, though it is preferable to either use cheese plus a charcuterie ingredient or cheese alone (one or a mix of two or three varieties). Either smoked ham or smoked turkey–cut into cubes–would be a good substitute for the salami; minced fresh herbs can be worked into the dough with the cheese; or diced onions pan-fried until golden in a little olive oil would make a tasty addition. And don’t forget to use the oil and cheese finish–it’s lovely.

continue reading

Posted in baking questions and answers | Comments Off

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 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 stir-in of chopped nuts, flaked coconut, chunks of candy, or semisweet/bittersweet chocolate chips. If what you mean by “fancy up” the recipe is to offer the confection in an alternate shape other than a bar cookie, 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.) Bake the sweet for 30 to 33 minutes, or until just set, and cool according to the procedure described in the recipe. For serving, cut the dessert into pretty pie-shaped wedges.

continue reading

Posted in baking questions and answers | Comments Off

dark, intense, and dreamy

Fudgy brownies do not skimp on the butter or chocolate.

A cocoa-intense batter, bolstered by a set of dry ingredients, drenched in butter and two intensities of melted chocolate (plus a basketful of whole eggs), develop the dreamiest batch of bar cookies ever. Or at least to date.

This is a seriously deep-dish, pure chocolate adventure. Though the flavor of chocolate dominates through-and-through, the taste is multi-dimensional and the texture is uninterrupted by nuts or chips.

Dive in.

continue reading

Posted in diary entries | Comments Off

Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2015), $17.99

The Swedish tradition of fika, described as the cultural custom of taking a break in the a.m. or p.m. to enjoy coffee and a sweet (or, occasionally savory) accompaniment singly or with friends, is a tradition worth embracing. This is not an on-the-run, grab-and-go event, but one which encompasses more than a few minutes to savor the present. I believe this to be an essential element of life, especially now, in this uncertain world.
In Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, authors Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall  reveal the way to relax and enjoy–by learning about the history and recipes that support the occasion of sharing food and drink. What a delight it is to be reminded of this simple pleasure and, most of all, learn that one of the cornerstones of the experience evolves from a goody you bake yourself (very wise).
In five charming chapters (“a history of Swedish coffee,” “modern-day fika,” “the outdoor season,” “celebrating more than the everyday,” and “bread, sandwiches, and fika as a snack”) Fika points the way and, in short order, will have you assembling ingredients and setting out the china coffee cups. Of particular interest is the recipe for semlor, the luscious Swedish cream buns–cardamon-scented and almondy, and sure to set the mood to celebrate the spirit of the day.

continue reading

Posted in book reports | Comments Off

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.

continue reading

Posted in book reports | Comments Off

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.”
I’m in.
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.

continue reading

Posted in book reports | Comments Off

What was the most difficult recipe to develop in Baking Style?

Every single recipe In Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes has a story attached, oftentimes relating to its development. Over the years, a handful of recipes challenged me and presented sticky problems to be worked through for creating a baked good that sang with flavor and charmed with texture. A yeast dough became “over-anxious” and burst through its wrappings; a drop cookie dough puddled–mercilessly–on the baking pan; a tray of scones rose beautifully then flattened mysteriously. Such is the life of a baker. The recipe that tormented me until I got it right was almond macaroons in an embrace of flavor and texture (page 254): My goal was to arrive at moist, flavorful, and plump cookies–it took some some to achieve all three charateristics in one dough.

continue reading

Posted in baking questions and answers | Comments Off

My tradition every holiday season (and at any other time of the year) is to make a food 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?

A well-loved food gift of mine 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 on a 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.

continue reading

Posted in baking questions and answers | Comments Off

Professional bread baker and owner of The Mill (San Francisco, CA), Josey Baker (yes, that is his last name), has created an ideal book for those aspiring to pull an excellent Cinnamon Raisin loaf (page 48, and following page) from the oven, learning the basic art along the way. In Josey Baker Bread: Get Baking, Make Great Bread, Be Happy!, the author sort of chats you through it all (example: once you’ve prepared a sourdough starter, the headnote begins with “Okay, now we’re ready to party.”), installing sentences likely to remove the anxiety factor associated with bread-baking. But fear not. Beneath the I’m-Here -with-You-in-the Kitchen vibe, is a solid, inspirational work. Really. The Adventure Bread (page 134, and following page), absolutely loaded with oats, seeds, and nuts, is a recipe you’re likely to covet and, in the words of Baker “…stands on its own–it is gluten-free and proud of it.” Indeed.

continue reading

Posted in baking notes | Comments Off

cornered (sweetly)

 

Lately I’ve had to contend with (sweetly) the collective begging of bakers–for a cookie recipe, it seems. Not like there aren’t enough recipes in my new book, Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes, to satisfy Every Single Human Being Who Bakes for a while.So I’ve been cornered.

Here is a recipe you need, my joy of toffee cookies. The dough is made from classic baking staples–flour, baking soda, butter, brown sugar, an egg, vanilla extract and, for this baker, chopped milk chocolate-covered toffee candy. The last ingredient is, of course, considered basic material in my kitchen. The surprise component is 3 tablespoons of flaked coconut reduced to flecks in a food processor.

Follow the method by chilling the mixture for a little while, use a scoop to portion out the dough, bake the globs on sheets of non-stick aluminum foil, and the return will be a blissful yield. Now proceed into Cookie Baking Land.

continue reading

Posted in diary entries | Comments Off