Baking and Chocolate

scandinavian-classic-baking-bookcover.jpgGrowing up with an Italian grandmother, desserts usually meant full-bodied, booze-spiked, often savory treats including tiramisu, Italian pizzelle cookies, pignoli cookies, and pepper biscuits. The only thing I knew about Scandinavian desserts was, well, nothing. Thumbprint cookies didn't count since I thought Mrs. Claus invented them.

Not anymore. Thanks to Pat Sinclair's lovely new cookbook Scandinavian Classic Baking, I now know how to make Swedish Pepparkakor (spicy gingerbread cookies), Sandbakkels (miniature butter cookies shaped into a cup and filled with jam or cream), and Spritz (classic Swedish butter cookies made with a cookie press).

Sinclair organizes her 42 recipes into five chapters: Coffee Breads, Cakes, Cookies, Tarts, Fruit Desserts & Pastries, and Traditional Favorites. Recipes are highly detailed, so even a novice baker can feel confident attempting a new recipe. You'll find sublimely simple recipes such as orange bundt cake next to more sophisticated ones such as Scandinavian apricot almond bars.

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easy-artisan-bacon-cheese-bread-This. Bread......Wow.

This bread dough recipe is inspired from the amazing book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I have been baking their regular bread recipe for what seems like forever. If you've tried it, you know it's about the easiest, no fail recipe out there.

Their bread formula has been a life-changer for me. It allows me to bake bread several times a week that tastes delicious and looks like I've spent hours in the kitchen. No kneading or punching down is necessary. And the taste and texture are spot on.

I can highly recommend their books, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. These are some of the best recipes for those of you who are a little intimidated about making bread. You will be surprised how easy it is to achieve some gorgeous loaves.

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ImageWhat would the holiday season be without desserts? And booze? Fortunately, the sassy ladies behind the spirited cookbook Booze Cakes have got ya covered. Authors Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone have created the ultimate fun baking book with over 100 bodacious, boozy confections.

The book is divided into four sections:
1. Classic Booze Cakes such as English Trifle and Tipsy Tiramisu.
2. Cocktail Cakes such as Pumpkin Martini Cakes and Tequila Sunrise Cake.
3. Cake Shots including Rum & Coke and Screwdriver Shots.
4. Cakes with a Twist such as Black Jack Praline Cake and Rosemary Limoncello Cake.

Castella and Stone are girls who want to have fun, and they want you to have fun too. That's why they include helpful icons for special occasion cakes and a cheeky "Booze Meter" that rates cakes as "Lightweight," "Feeling It," or "Totally Tipsy." (In case you're wondering, I picked a "Totally Tipsy" cake.)

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bakingbasicscover.jpgAre you pie-challenged? Does your meringue collapse after you whip it? Do you even attempt meringue? Have you ever made brownies from a box mix and claimed them as your own? If you’ve answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, know three things: 1) You are not alone. 2) You are still a good person. 3) There is hope.

Pat Sinclair’s Baking Basics and Beyond, 2nd edition, is here to help you. With over 25 years of experience as a cooking teacher and cookbook author, Sinclair knows what she’s talking about. In her easy-going, uncomplicated manner, she leads beginning bakers through step-by-step instructions for everything from scones, biscuits, and cookies to pies, custards, and cheesecakes.

Each of the 100+ recipes is written in clear, succinct prose, that’s easy to follow and many are accompanied by lovely color photographs. Don’t know what a “jelly roll pan” is or what is means “to cream” something. Not to worry. Sinclair explains. Indeed, she tells the novice baker everything they need to know from how to measure liquid and dry ingredients to how to dissolve yeast. Sinclair takes both the guess-work and the anxiety out of baking.

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