Author Archives: lisa

The Wine Lover’s Dessert Cookbook: Recipes and Pairings for the Perfect Glass of Wine, by Mary Cech and Jennie Schacht (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2005), $24.95

The flavors and ingredients of baked goods are explored and paired with dessert wines in this modern cookbook, as recipes include explanatory matches with dessert wines (noted within the all-important “making the match” section). For example, a lovely recipe for Cocoa Walnut Biscotti yields a fine batch of dipping cookies, ready to be mated with, say, an orange muscat, ruby port, or cream sherry. Who would argue with having cookies and a matching wine on the end table after dinner?
In all, the confections and their corresponding pours in The Wine Lover’s Dessert Cookbook provide interesting reading, in addition to nibbling-and-sipping (and all of you bakers out there will learn how to take the dessert course to the next and most elegant level). Specifically, the splendid sections on caramel, honey, and spice; dried fruits; nuts; and cream draw me in most of all for their luscious, thoughtful pairings.

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Can you recommend recipes from your books to being to a pot luck dinner, family get-together, or neighboorhood party?

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).

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Cinnamon toast. I love it more than ever. Simple, aromatic, crunchy, and buttery–all wrapped up in one crispy package.

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My recipe for almond-butter cake appeared in the food pages of the Boston GLOBE, and it is a delight. You can access the recipe here. Do serve it with sliced stone fruit or a compote of fresh berries, or simply plain with icy tumblers of tea or coffee.

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Some of my favorite things begin with…roasted cacao nibs. I add them to trail mix for a mellow chocolate crunch, use them to scatter over iced sweet yeast rolls, and flick them over granola.

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It’s valuable to go back into the literature of baking and take a look at titles which have survived the test of time. Baking authors such as Nick Malgieri, Alice Medrich, Rose Levy Beranbaum, Maida Heatter, and the late Flo Braker and Carol Field (sadly) built their careers structured on authenticity and long-term research. Collectively, they bring depth to their works.

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