Author Archives: lisa

Cowgirl Creamery Cooks by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013), $35.00

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.”

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crunch, crunch, crunch

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).

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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.

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My recipe for Cinnamon-Swirl Sour-Cream Coffee Cake, a baking delight if there every was one, was published in the FOOD pages of the Boston GLOBE. You can view the recipe here. What a splendid cake to have on hand to serve to a crowd at brunch. Enjoy!

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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.

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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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buttery and gently floral

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.

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mixed up (in a good way)

 

Who put the brownies in the blondies? Confession: I did. Sneaky, right?

A buttery and chewy blondie batter/dough, laden with brownie chunks, turns out the best bar cookie ever. Of course, you’ll need to have a few bars of my brilliantly-chocolate brownies or your house-favorite equivalent lounging in the freezer to begin this confection journey. The mixture is handmade–in a bowl, with a spoon or spatula.

Travel with me into The Land of the Mixed Up Blondie. You’ll be steered in the right–sweet and luscious, that is–direction.

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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 occupy Every Single Human Being Who Bakes for a while or at least a few weeks. So I’ve been cornered.

Here is the recipe you want, 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.

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Loaded. You wouldn’t know it by a fast look at the contents page of Dorie’s Cookies (though you might by its heft) with its recipe chapters numbering at a tidy six, but this baking book is just chock-full–of baked goodies of varied textures, types, and flavors. Dorie Greenspan has compiled a mix of personal, memory-dated favorites and new inventions, and for intense, perfection-oriented people with a stockpile of butter, sugar, and flour at hand (count me in this group!)–precise and beautiful recipes from the Beurre & Sel cookie boutique, a shop she ran (and since closed) with her son, Joshua. For seasoned bakers, the chapter titled “the beurre and sel collection” is more than a sweet looking-glass peek into for-the-love-of-cookies-turned-commerce, it is its own how-to primer for achieving a blend of baking craft and art. Along with carefully constructed recipes, the reader-baker is treated to cookie images–so big and bold that any one of them could be imagined–still warm–in your hand.

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