Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Baked: New Frontiers in Baking - Book review

This is gonna be my first cookbook review. With all those beautiful cookbooks being published in recent years, sometimes it's hard to decide which ones to get. Like many of you I often cannot hold myself back and probably have way too many cookbooks on my shelf. That's at least what other people are thinking. Since we have a really great library in Vancouver, I try to borrow new cookbooks first before I purchase them, so I can try out a recipe or two. I have to admit, pictures are one of my top priorities for cookbooks. I like to photograph food myself and I also like to look at beautiful food pictures. I am also interested in new twists on classical recipes. Who really needs the same old recipes again and again?

This brings me to today's cookbook: "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking" by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Matt and Renato opened their Bakeshop in Brooklyn, NY five years ago and it was an instant success. The book was published in 2008 and quickly made it to TV appearances and the top of the bestselling lists. The book has a stylish modern look and some nice illustrations. The photographs are beautiful with a simple food styling and nice colors.

Baked features classic American recipes often with some newly inspired ingredients or techniques. There are about 70 recipes, half of them are accompanied with pictures. The first chapter gives an explanation of the  techniques and ingredients. The recipes are presented in seven different categories, which are breakfast, cakes & cupcakes, pies & tarts, brownies & bars, cookies, chocolates & candies & confections, and drinks. Each recipe has a little introduction. The directions are easy to follow and often have some extra tips for serving or variation.

I chose to make three different recipes which didn't have a picture, so you can see them here. My favorite among them were the Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks. I am usually not a fan of peanut butter, but these cookies were amazing. They were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  The addition of the milk chocolate was especially great. I used chunky peanut butter instead of creamy, and I think it was nice to have some nuts in there. They also show you how you can prepare the dough in a log, and make a little present out of it.

From the cupcake recipes, I found the Banana Cupcakes with Vanilla Pastry Cream and the Almond Green Tea Cupcakes which are decorated with fortune cookies most interesting. I made the Banana Cupcakes, which were really moist and had a good banana taste. I used all butter instead of part butter and part shortening. The pastry cream fit very well and was especially delicious when served cold on the room temperature cupcakes. I have tried several pastry cream recipes before and must say that although this one was good, it wouldn't be my first choice as far as pastry cream goes.

From the breakfast section I made the Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl. Instead of breakfast we usually eat those kinds of cake in the afternoon though. The cake was pretty tall and had a nice layer of crunchy pecan nuts crumble. I probably should have used a slightly bigger form, since it needed a little longer to bake through, which made the bottom a little to dark. I really liked the pecan nuts in the crumble which I chopped finely instead of putting them in the food processor. Unfortunately the cake was a little dry the next day, even I had kept him under a cake dome. I froze one part of the cake, which worked pretty well.

Other recipes I would like to try:

Lemon-Almond Meringue Tarts: The beautiful tarts from the cover picture are not your usual lemon tart. They have an almond tart shell flavored with amaretto. The meringue, which also includes amaretto is dropped with an ice-cream scoop on the tarts.

Lemon Drop Cake: Named after one of my favorite Martinis this cake is filled with lemon curd and has a lemon-vanilla butter-cream frosting.

Butterscotch Pudding Tarts: These beautiful tarts have a crust containing rolled oats, and are filled with a homemade butterscotch pudding. Their topping is a chopped butterfinger bar.

The Baked Brownie: This is the recipe of the famous brownie seen on Martha Stewart and Oprah. A must try!

Adult hot chocolate: Made from a mix of dark and milk chocolate with amaretto and maple syrup plus whipped cream on top. Sounds like heaven.

Baked is not only pretty to look at it also has a wide selection of old time favorites newly interpreted, with easy to follow directions and good tips & tricks.

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