Author Archives: lisa
1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole grain kamut flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
1/2 pound plus 2 tablespoons (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons rose extract gel (or substitute 8 drops rose flower essence)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, for dusting over the surface of the just-baked block of shortbread
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Film the inside of a 7 by 7 by 2-inch baking pan with nonstick oil spray. Lengthwise and widthwise, line inside of the pan with sheets of overnproof parchment paper, leaving about 3/4-inch of paper to extend on all four sides. Film the inside of the pan with nonstick oil spray. Set aside.
For the dough, sift the all-purpose flour, kamut flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.
Place the butter in a medium-size mixing bowl. Using a hand-held electric mixer, cream the butter on high speed until very smooth and lightened, about 4 minutes. It is important to have the butter very soft and creamy at this point in order to create a tender baked cookie. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar in 3 additions, beating for 45 seconds after each addition. Blend in the vanilla extract and rose flower gel or rose flower essence. On low speed, blend in the sifted mixture in 2 additions, mixing quickly but thoroughly after each portion is added. The resulting dough will be soft. Overworking the dough at this point would create a heavy cookie.
Scrape the dough into the prepared baking pan, pressing it in an even layer with your fingertips and smoothing it into the corners, using a narrow offset palette knife. Avoid compressing the dough.
Bake the sweet in the preheated oven for 50 minutes, or until set and evenly light golden on top. Avoid unbaking the shortbread.
Cool the sweet in the pan on a cooling rack for 3 minutes.
For the finish, after the 3-minute cooling, sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over the top of the block of shortbread. Cool for 5 minutes. Using a small, sharp knife, cut the block of shortbread into quarters, then cut each quarter into 3 long bars/logs or 4 squares. Cool completely at room temperature (do not refrigerate), then gently recut the squares and remove them to an airtight cookie tin, using an offset metal spatula.
one dozen logs or 16 squares
on baking day, or up to one week in advance, stored in an airtight container
◊ the butter should be very soft (but not oily) to create the flakiest batch of cookies
◊ the butter must be well-creamed until smooth and pearly
◊ a small amount of baking powder improves the texture of the finished shortbread
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.
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.
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.”
A purchase that enhances my collection of cast iron for cooking and baking is–adorably!–a 6 1/2-inch Lodge cast iron skillet. In it, I’ve already baked a tender corn meal-based quick bread. So, so good.
baking style diary updates on Twitter by following the buttery, vanilla-scented, thickly frosted escapades of Lisa Yockelson @sweetpinkbaker! Follow along about my Adventures in Baking Land, and see what’s on the cooling rack.
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).
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.
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.