baking notes

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: The well-loved and repeatedly-baked kitchen sink buttercrunch bars (page 209) from Baking by Flavor have filled cookie tins far and wide–year in, year out. Easy. Rich and chewy. A raging favorite.

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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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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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