Author Archives: lisa

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.

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Tartine Book No. 3: Modern, Ancient, Classic, Whole, by Chad Robertson (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013), $40.00

In Tartine Book Nº3: Modern, Ancient, Classic, Whole, Chad Robertson dives deep into baking with whole grains (including ancient grains), turning the tables on classic pastries (take a good, tasty look at his Chamomile-Kamut Shortbread on page 251 and Buckwheat-Hazelnut Sables on page 261) and reinvigorating traditional breads with blended grains (a spectacular example of this is the author’s recipe for Spelt & Toasted Corn-Flour Baguettes on page 59, and following pages, and a veritable textbook on how to achieve the best “crumb” and flavor in a creation based on a multi-layered process and likely appealing to only the most passionate–and possibly advanced–of bakers). Even if you only put together Robertson’s 50/50 Sablé Cookies (page 258, and following page) and read through this work at leisure, you would come away deeply admiring the scope of the topic and love of the art Roberston conveys.
This is an exciting book. It may shake up some time-honored formulas and techniques–but only if you are not wedded to exploration.
The dynamic quality of Tartine Book Nº3 is evident throughout many distinctive chapters, like “Hearth Loaves with Sprouted Grains” or “Pastry.” Expect to add to your baking education–and the pantry–significantly by creating perfect crispbreads, scones, or tarts. And prepare to take your notion of the peanut butter cookie and have it turned completely upside-down (hint: Robertson’s take is made with oat flour and the cookies make one huge jump into confection immortality).
My suggestion: With a copy of Tartine Book Nº3 in hand, travel into this author’s mixing bowl to learn his philosophy and methods. It may take several reads to absorb the material. Even if bread is not your thing, perhaps he can lure you with Salted-Chocolate Rye Cookies (page 248, and following page). Unlike his Golden Brioche (which uses four different flours and a poolish, in addition to kefir butter), the cookie-making is a way-briefer, easier event, makes you rethink rye flour entirely, and produces swoon-worthy results.
All bakers beware. This book enchants.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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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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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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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