Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Spotlight On - Baking: From My Home To Yours

There are some people in this world who would laugh themselves into a coma if they knew that I was hosting a spotlight to review a cookbook on baking. I am intimidated by baking; it is not known to be one of my strong points. I've got about 3 desserts that I can make no problem. If I'm asked to bring a baked item to a lunch or dinner, you can bet it will be one of those 3. Ditto if someone is having a birthday or any sort of celebration. Fortunately all three desserts are really good, but I think my friends, family and co-workers are probably getting tired of them. Well, the times are a changin'. For the better!

When I got my copy of the ginormous Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan from the wonderful people at Houghton Mifflin Company, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. There's no way I'll be able to make any of this! was the first thought in my head.

I am glad to say I proved myself wrong.

I have fallen head over heels for this book and I am feeling much more confident about baking than I ever have before. I think this is a book that anyone with any level of cooking experience from novice to expert would enjoy. There are recipes in here for everyone, from simple to more difficult and dramatic.
The book is divided into 6 sections: Breakfast Sweets, Cookies, Cakes, Pies and Tarts, Spoon Desserts and Base Recipes. All of the 200 plus recipes have both serving and storing tips, all very helpful. Many of the recipes have "Playing Around" tips too, to vary the recipe. Instead of making the delicious looking Cranberry Upside-Downer Cake, you could change it to a Summery Peach Upside-Downer with just a few tips from Dorie.

All the recipes are informative and thorough. As a fairly novice baker I appreciated the tips that are sprinkled in the recipes, letting you know if a dough will be thick or thin, if a cookie dough will or will not spread while baking, or why a mixture may look curdled during the preparation. Very helpful information for all bakers.

There are some truly gorgeous pictures in this book, but be warned; not all recipes have a picture to accompany it. In most cases I don't think this is a problem (although I did run into trouble on my last recipe).

Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins.
These are probably the best corn muffins I've ever had. As spicy as you want to make them, a bit sweet and lots of corn, cilantro and peppers.
Coco-Nana Bread
Was the biggest hit at my office. A lovely color with lots of chocolate throughout, nice and moist. Make sure you are a banana fan; these were a little too heavy on the banana for me, even with all the chocolate.
Brownie Buttons.
Scott chose this one, I am not a real brownie person. These could convert me though. I loved the orange zest and the white chocolate on top. The recipe was simple and took no time to get together.
My hands down favorite was the Fresh Mango Bread. I love mangos but have never had them in any sort of baked good before. This was GOOD. The mango flavor was subtle but there and the ginger and lime added a nice kick. I didn't want to share this one with my testers, but they pried it out of my hands anyway.

Buttery Jam Cookies (made with Lingonberry Jam).
This was the most disappointing to me, not because of the taste - they were very good - because of what they looked like. As I pulled the first sheet of cookies out of the over I couldn't help wondering if I had done something wrong. Were they supposed to look like little pale lumps? This was the only time I wished I had a picture to look at. I'm sure Dories' Buttery Jam Cookies don't look like this!

With absolutely no hesitation I can say that I recommend this book to anyone who likes to bake or who wants to start. Dorie has written and co-written 9 books with the likes of Julia Child, Daniel Boulud and Pierre Herme. How can you go wrong?

Fresh Mango Bread
From Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan

3 large eggs
3/4 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups diced mango (from 1 large peeled and pitted mango)
3/4 cup moist, plump golden raisins
grated zest of 1/2 lime

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350'. Butter an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other.
Whisk the eggs and oil together.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Rub the brown sugar between your palms into the bowl, breaking up any lumps, then stir it in. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, switch to s sturdy rubber spatula or wooden spoon and mix until blended. The batter will be very thick (really more like a dough than a batter) and not easily mixed, but persevere, it will soon come together. Stir in the mango, raisins and zest. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake the bread for 1 1/2 hours, or until it is golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. (If the bread looks as if it's getting too brown as it bakes, cover it loosely with a foil tent.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes before running a knife around the sides of the pan and unmolding. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.


Claire said...

Where did everyone get this book? There are so many posts about it! I want one as I LOVE to bake! :-)

Bethiclaus said...

Those corn muffins? YUM. I must buy and bake now, I suppose. It's really going to cramp my style as a "eat out" kind of girl, but everything just looks so good.

breadchick said...

Sara, I'm making the corn muffins tonight to go with our chili that is simmering in the slow cooker as I type. MBH was wondering why I bought a cilantro plant at the grocery last night. I didn't tell him because sometimes what he doesn't know IS in the baked goods won't kill him... Can't wait to see the round-up and what everyone else baked!

Brilynn said...

The brownie buttons are adorable, the mango bread is something i have to try, (I love mangoes), this book is something I have to buy.

Sara said...

Clair - it was a mass review. Check back on the weekend or maybe early next week for the whole round-up!

Bethiclaus - Oh I hope you do try something. It's all so good.

Mary - you'll love them! they came in a close second behind the mango bread.

Brilynn - Glad you like it, try the mango bread first.

peabody said...

Go you baking fool you!!!!
Butter cookies are really pale and super delicate but oooohhhh so tasty.
I almost made the corn muffins but am saving them for the more chill of winter with some hearty soup. Can't wait to see the round up.

Tanna said...

Most books I'll pick maybe two or three things I really may try but this one has post-it-notes sprouting all over.
Yes, I have to try the corn muffins you've done there but first I've got to have the Corniest Corn Muffins. They on the page before!

Emmy said...

The corn and pepper muffins look great. I definitely want to try making them. Thanks for the heads up about the heavy banana flavor in the Coco-Nana bread. I'm not a huge banana fan.

The brownie buttons look so perfect! I'm glad the Mango Bread turned out so well. It looks fabulous. Definitely another recipe I'm going to veganize and try.

I really like the cookbook. My mom is crazy for the Dimply Plum Cake. She wants me to make that for her birthday next week. Not sure how I'm going to fit candles on it but I'll try LOL

Sara said...

Peabody - thanks, I'm glad that it wasn't me!

Tanna - I love corn muffins! Thanks, I'll give them a try.

Emmy - It's all good. You should for sure try the Mango bread. I'm so glad you are enjoying the book!