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.

Read more ...

ImageBiscotti comes from the Latin word biscoctus meaning ‘twice cooked, or baked.’ Baking them twice makes them dry, so they’re easy to store for long periods of time. This was highly advantageous at one point in time. Twice-baked breads were useful during long journeys and wars, and were a staple food of the Roman legion. Now, it’s simply a lovely left-over result of the original recipe that we’re still enjoying today. From the kitchens of the American Academy in Rome, ‘Biscotti’ is a very special cookbook, a small love letter to one of Italy’s most famous sweets.

The book is the first in a series of small hardcover cookbooks on single subjects to be published by the American Academy in Rome in conjunction with the Rome Sustainable Food Project, a program devoted to providing organic, local and sustainable meals for the community of artists who work and study at the AAR. Author, Mona Talbott is the American born, Chez Panisse-trained Executive Chef who oversees the kitchens of the Academy. Alice Waters is also part of the collaborative dining program advising on menus, and food choices. The program was first implemented in 2007 when the Academy remodeled and revamped the AAR kitchens. The Rome Sustainable Food Project facilitates the AAR’s move towards sustainable, and local cooking and eating.

Read more ...

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!

Read more ...

sweetcover1There are a lot of elements to writing a cookbook. There are the obvious ones, like creating over 200 recipes, getting beautiful photos of your food and writing the text. There are the really hard ones, like finding a first-class publisher to actually publish and market your book. There are the ones that you might not have known about, like finding a friend to test all of your recipes in a home kitchen as required by your first-class publisher. And finally there are the ones that are completely unnecessary, like being married to the home tester, and thereby getting to sample all of the goods. That's where I come in.

Valerie Gordon, a dear family friend, has written a cookbook, entitled Sweet, which will be in book stores in early October and available on the Valerie Confections' website. Valerie is the co-owner of Valerie Confections, one of the top artisanal candy makers in the country and she has been expanding into baked goods, teas and jams. Since 2004, when she first opened Valerie Confections, Valerie's toffees and candies consistently have won wide critical acclaim. More recently her baked goods, in particular, her petit fours, have been featured by major food media, including the Food Networks' Best Thing I Ever Ate.

(My high personal journalistic ethics do not allow me to actually review the cookbook or even let you know that it is a truly gorgeous book filled with amazing sweets; nor will they let me tell you that the book is a must have for anyone who has ever wanted to learn baking or jam making or candy making or ice cream and sorbet making or anything at all about the wonderful world of sugar. I cannot and will not shamelessly plug THIS MUST BUY COOKBOOK.)

When Valerie first told us about her cookbook, she explained that she needed a home cook to test her recipes as her publisher, Artisan, would not publish until she confirmed that everything had been reproduced successfully in a home kitchen. My wife, Peggy, mostly because she really had no idea what she was getting into, agreed to take the job – though her payment, and by extension mine, came in the form of calories.

Read more ...

littlecakesbook.jpg What is life without a little bit of the whimsical? The magical? The fanciful?

I think that is perhaps what I love most about the idea of decorating a wee cupcake: it’s an opportunity to let your creative heart out.

Call me silly, but I just can’t help but feel a bit of whimsy these days. Life is crazy as ever and the world is as strange as ever but some things never change.

I can smell spring in the air.

The other day I saw a few brave daffodils insistently pushing their way through the soil. Today I saw the most perfect pair of summer sandals.

Ah, whimsy! But whimsy also comes in other forms, namely a cookbook by the name of Little Cakes from the Whimsical Bakehouse: Cupcakes, Small Cakes, Muffins, and Other Mini Treats by Kaye and Liv Hansen.

Read more ...
Page 4 of 5