Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

I know there have been tons and tons of other blogs out there who have already posted about this book, but please give me 3 minutes of your time so I can gush too.

The Sweet Melissa Baking Book is written by Melissa Murphy, the owner of Sweet Melissa Patisserie in New York. Her bakery has been called "one of the best pastry shops in all of New York" by Food & Wine (according to the back of the book). So you know that this book is going to have some tasty treats in those pages.

There's a huge variety of recipes, from simple everyday snacks and desserts, to elaborate, dazzling cakes. I devoured this book like a novel, reading each recipe in all 6 chapters, marking pages of recipes I couldn't wait to try. My only criticism of this book - pictures, or lack thereof. I love pictures in all cookbooks, but especially in baking books. It always makes me feel better to be able to see the end result of what I'm trying to make. Other than that, this is a fantastic book that I'd recommend to anyone who loves baking or eating.

Although my list of recipes was loooooong, I tried 4 recipes for this review:

Fresh Strawberry Sauce
I found some nice berries in the store the day after I read this recipe. Strawberries are whizzed with sugar, lemon juice, and water to make a bright and fresh tasting sauce. I loved it, and used some for pancakes,
some on muffins (instead of butter), and even on fruit salad. So good.

We made up another batch of Strawberry Sauce for a jug full of Strawberry Lemonade.
I can't think of anything else to say but WOW. This was so great, I had no idea lemonade could be so good. I see my future this involves me sitting on the deck with a large glass of this.

Even better than the Strawberry Lemonade were the Savory Muffins. The book gives you a base recipe that lets you choose which kinds of cheese and veggies you'll use. You also get 4 variations. We chose the Caramelized Onion, Sage and Cheddar Muffins.
I love savory over sweet, and a muffin with onions and cheese? That's for me! Easy recipe to follow, and once you've caramelized your onions, quick to make. We had these for all meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner. Always good.

Guys, I've saved the best for last. These beauties you see are Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes. And holy cow, are they amazing.
Cream cheese icing is sandwiched between tender little pumpkin cookies and it's the most incredible cookie I've ever eaten. I had 5 testers for these and all of them raved about them. One tester, in fact, ate more than his share and got himself in a boatload of trouble with everyone else! This recipe alone is worth buying this book. Believe me.


OK, not everything we make at Sweet Melissa's is sweet. We also have a lovely savory menu with homemade soups, sandwiches, quiches, and frittatas. I want to share this recipe for savory muffins with you because they are just so popular every morning at the shop. Like the Sweet Muffins, this Savory Muffins recipe is the base for a wealth of yummy creations. Check out some of my favorites, which follow. Once you get to know this recipe, feel free to make up your own! We use sautéed spinach, roasted cauliflower and zucchini, different cheeses—you get the idea. These muffins are delicious all by themselves or served alongside soups and salads. Makes 12 muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup crumbled or shredded cheese
1 cup chopped cooked vegetables (1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces) (or fruit, vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, see variations that follow)

Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with muffin papers (or butter and flour the cups or spray them with nonstick vegetable cooking spray).

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and sugar.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter and eggs. Whisk in the heavy cream and milk until combined.

3. Add the cheese and chopped vegetables to the flour mixture and gently toss with your fingers to coat. Make a well in the center. Pour the butter mixture into the center of the well and, using a rubber spatula, gently pull the flour mixture into the center of the well until just combined.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup until full. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until lightly golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature. The muffins are best eaten the day they are made, but they can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and kept for 2 days at room temperature.
For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Defrost still wrapped at room temperature.

Goat Cheese, Olive, and Thyme Muffins
Combine 1 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese, 3/4 cup pitted coarsely chopped Kalamata olives, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme over the combined flour mixture and toss gently. Proceed as directed.

Caramelized Onion, Sage, and Cheddar Muffins
Sprinkle 1 cup chopped caramelized onions, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, and 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese over the combined flour mixture and toss gently. Proceed as directed.

Bosc Pear, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Muffins
Sprinkle 1 cup peeled, cored, and chopped Bosc pears (instead of the vegetables); 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese and 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, lightly toasted walnuts over the combined flour mixture and toss gently. Proceed as directed.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Feta, and Oregano Muffins
Sprinkle 1 cup drained chopped sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil); 1 cup crumbled feta cheese; and 1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh oregano over the combined flour mixture and toss gently. Proceed as directed.

The foregoing is excerpted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy. All rights reserved. Copyright © Melissa Murphy, 2008.


Mags said...

Those pumpkin cookies I guess I will be visiting the mall this weekend to find this book.

Deborah said...

I'm so embarrassed to say that I've had this book for a few weeks now and haven't made anything out of it yet! That will change this weekend, though!

Sara said...

Mags - there are no words for how yummy those pumpkin cookies are. Hope you find the book!

Deborah - you'll love it!

Lisa said...

I'm a big fan of savory muffins. So many excellent ideas here. Thanks for this Sara!

Ruth Daniels said...

I love the book too! And savory muffins are some of my faves.

Sara said...

Lisa and Ruth - the savory muffins are so great! We'll be making them lots.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Seems to me the savory muffins and the varieties are worth the book alone!
Now for the lemonade this summer!! Gorn will be so happy to mow the yard!

Brilynn said...

I keep seeing wonderful reviews of this book and it all looks great!