Baking and Chocolate

bigfatcookies.jpgIt was my friends birthday last Wednesday and I had every intention of making her a cake, yet the day got away from me. I wanted to make something she could share with her employees, but also wanted there to be enough for her take some home.

This recipe is from Elinor Klivan’s book, Big Fat Cookies. I love most of the cookies from this book and what I love most about this particular recipe is that it can whipped up in minutes. It doesn’t require your Kitchen Aid Mixer; just a bowl and a wooden spoon. I love this cookie and so does everyone else I have ever made this for.

It is not a drop and bake recipe, which is a true time saver. You make the batter, spread it on a silpat pad on your baking sheet and bake. Once it is cool enough, you break similar to a candy bark. I have made this dough and have used all kinds of tasty additions. Be creative and enjoy this batter with your favorite candy, dried fruit, nut, etc!

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greenmarketLaura C. Martin wants you to have your cake and eat it, too. That is, only if it's baked with all-natural, preferably locally sourced ingredients. Think it can't be done? Martin proves it can in her new book, Green Market Baking Book: 100 Delicious Recipes for Naturally Sweet & Savory Treats

The recipes, some created by Martin and others by influential chefs and food writers including Alice Waters and Dan Barber, are made with all-natural, organic, sustainable ingredients. Refined sugar is out. Brown rice syrup, agave nectar, and barley malt syrup are in. White flour is used, but many recipes suggest substituting at least part of the flour with whole-grain alternatives such as rye or spelt.

This is the type of the cookbook that you really must peruse first before delving right into a recipe. Otherwise, you'll likely find that you don't have many of the listed ingredients in your pantry. Here's where Martin helps: In the book's opening, she explains unfamiliar ingredients, suggests sugar substitutions, provides guidelines for using oils and dairy in baked goods and even tells you how to stock your pantry.

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puredessert.jpg I've said it before, but I'm in awe of Alice Medrich. She was an early chocolate evangelist in the Bay Area, who brought us luscious desserts and truffles, inspired by what she had tasted and learned in France. Over the past few years she has written several terrific and award-winning books on chocolate including Bittersweet, Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts, and Chocolate Holidays.

Her latest book is a bit of a departure, it's not just about chocolate, but an exploration into the world of high quality ingredients. The chapters in Pure Dessert are focused on the flavors of Milk, Grain, Nuts and Seeds, Fruit, Chocolate, Honey and Sugar, Herbs and Spices, Flowers and Herbs, and Wine, Beer and Spirits. Intriguing, don't you think?

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a year of pies frontcoverWhen I received a review copy of A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies by Ashley English, my first thought was: Did they send it to the wrong person?

You see, the only pie I truly enjoy making is a spinach pie — no deciding between shortening or butter, no fluting of the edges, no waiting until it’s no longer jiggly in the center.

Traditional pies, in contrast, are high maintenance. I can make pie (under duress or after my husband guilts me into making one), but I don’t enjoy it. With her new cookbook, English may just convert me into someone who likes to bake pies.

English offers 60 seasonal, home-crafted recipes for all types of pie: sweet, savory, double-crust, single-crust, hand-held, galettes, tarts, and more. Winter pies include festive Minty Chocolate Cream Pie and soul-warming Spiced Meat Pie. Spring ushers in fresh Strawberry Crumble Pie with Lemon Verbena Whipped Cream and elegant Asparagus and Dill Quiche. Summer samples include Classic Blueberry Pie along with newcomer, Nectarine and Lavender Crostata. Autumn (my personal favorite) has heart-warming Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pumpkin Seeds, hearty Roasted Butternut Squash, Cheddar, and Sage Galette, and a positively charming Figgy Pudding Pie.

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bonappetitdesserts-872x1024.jpgI like books a lot. All types of books. I really, really like reference books. The comfort of all those facts, and answers so close at hand. But I love, love, love cookbooks. I’m a cookbook collector. I have so many that my other half thinks I have a problem and need to enter a 12-step program. Single topic cookbooks are at the top of the list for me. (I just bought ‘Salted’ by Mark Bitterman, 312 pages on nothing but salt!) I like having cookbooks on my bookshelves that I can refer to, that I can pull from a shelf when I’m looking for information or a recipe. When I received Bon Appetit Desserts for review it made sense. A whole book, a huge book actually (680 pages), devoted solely to desserts. Every dessert you’ve ever heard of, every dessert you could ever want or need to make. All in one book. My kind of book.

The book was edited by recently resigned Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief, Barbara Fairchild. In her introduction she writes about how while growing up her family had dessert after every dinner, something sweet was included in her lunch, and how her mother always served a sweet of some kind whenever company dropped by. I like that. To me it reveals the sentiment behind this book.

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