I love the character a small amount of lusty, robust, black walnuts gives to these cupcakes. Black walnuts grow in the eastern United States and as far west as the eastern sections of Texas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. The nuts have a very tough shell…
with Greg Patent, Award Winning Cookbook Author
Have you ever been confused by the term double boiler? Or its French equivalent, Bain-marie? According to cited references in Wikipedia, Bains-marie were originally used in alchemy as a way to heat substances slowly and gently. The name derives from medieval Latin balneum Mariae, literally…
Génoise is the last of the foam cakes. It is also a very versatile cake that may be used to make petits fours and jelly rolls. It differs from all the other foam cakes–angel food, sponge, chiffon–in that it is made with whole eggs. Warmed eggs are beaten with sugar and vanilla until they triple in volume, become thick and creamy, and are filled with tiny air bubbles, the only source of leavening. I like to use a mixture of unbleached all purpose flour and bleached cake flour because I think it gives the cake a fine, sturdy crumb.Génoise tends to be dry, and when baked as a thick layer, it is split and brushed with generous amounts of a flavored sugar syrup before filling and frosting.
Abby Dodge is one of the best bakers in the world. I got to know her by baking my way through her dessert stories in Fine Cooking magazine, where she began as a recipe tester eighteen years ago. Abby has a flair for combining flavors and textures in unexpected but delicious ways and her recipes are foolproof.
In her new and delightful cookbook, Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets: 100 Delicious Desserts to Pick Up and Eat, published last year by The Taunton Press, Abby has come up with inventive takes on all sorts of cookies, macarons, pastries, mini cakes and pies, frozen treats, and even candies.
I’ve had a long and happy ride with Baking in America, my cookbook that tells the story of our country’s love affair with baking through 200 years of history since the American Revolution. Published in the fall of 2002, Baking in America went on to win the James Beard Award for Best Baking Book in 2003 along with the International World Gourmand Cookbook Award.
I am very proud of this book. In the four years it took to write I traveled all over the country to peruse original editions of historical cookbooks, leafed through pamphlets of ephemera featuring recipes and cookware of American manufacturers, and interacted with dedicated research librarians who fell in love with my project as much as I did.
The idea for Baking in America came to me while I paged my way through Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book looking for an inspiration, something to bake, but I didn’t know what. I’d owned this book since 1950, the year my family and I immigrated to San Francisco from Shanghai, China. I had read it from cover to cover several times, and I always found something new.
As I read it again, I was struck by how American the recipes were, which led me to ask: Where did these recipes come from? And that led to all sorts of questions about America’s past and how people baked, and what were the butter, sugar, and eggs like, and how did women manage to control oven temperatures, etc.
To get answers to my questions I needed to go to libraries to read old cookbooks, newspapers, and magazines. In my research I found all sorts of recipes that I wanted to bake that had been left languishing in cookbooks from another century. Why was that, I wondered. Why were Boston Cream Cakes, Lafayette Gingerbread, Indian Pound Cake, Yeasted Corn Bread, Devil’s food Cake made with a chocolate custard base from 1910 no longer being baked? So I decided to begin my journey by baking them myself with the full realization that the ingredients I was using—flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs—were quite different from the ones used by the bakers of a bygone era.
The recipes I read inspired me to create recipes of my own, and so my book is a celebration of America’s past as well as its present. You’ll find over 200 recipes in Baking in America including savory and sweet yeast breads, quick breads, pound cakes, loaf cakes and sheet cakes, cupcakes and cream puffs, sponge cakes, angel food cakes, and chiffon cakes, Génoise cakes, cheesecakes and tortes, cookies, fruit desserts, and pies and tarts.
The staggering range of what American bakers were able to produce in their home kitchens is awesome. Just think of the challenges presented by a wood-burning stone oven! Nevertheless, the hallmarks of the American home baker of the past and present are the same. They strive for simplicity, straightforwardness, and experimentation.
I recently received sad news. Baking in America has gone out of print, no longer available in stores. It’s the end of an era for me, but fortunately, I managed to get my hands on some remaining copies. So as a favor to my fans, I’m making band-new autographed copies available until March 15, 2013, for just $25 each, including media mail postage, for delivery within the USA only. And, if you’d like, I’m happy to personally inscribe the books as well. To order, just click on the gold “Buy Now” button in the far right column. And thank you all very much.
Sponge cakes are named for their springy texture and airiness. They may be baked in tube pans, loaf pans, sheet pans, layer cake pans, muffin cups and just about any pan you can think of. You can flavor the cakes just about any way you like—they take to all sorts of fillings and frostings. And whipped cream—flavored with vanilla, coffee, chocolate, liqueur—is always a welcome companion.Because we’ll be in the world of foam cakes in the next couple of blog posts, and the techniques to make these cakes are essentially the same, I’ll provide links so that you can review what to do and how to do it at your leisure.
Chiffon cakes, the third member of the foam cake family, are like sponge cakes with the addition of a secret ingredient. They came on the national scene in 1947. Before then, twenty years earlier, Harry Baker earned a reputation for his special cake among Hollywood luminaries. Mr. Baker, an insurance salesman by trade and a cooking hobbyist, would not divulge his recipe. Until, that is, he sold it for an undisclosed sum of money to General Mills. The following year, 1948, “Chiffon cakes became a national obsession” according to Jean Anderson (The American Century Cookbook, 1997). I have a little booklet from 1948, Betty Crocker Chiffon Cake Recipes and Secrets, containing many recipes and variations, icings, and serving suggestions. The booklet’s cover proclaims, “Never before such cakes as these. . . an amazing new cake family!”
What to do on a post-Thanksgiving Sunday morning? Why, make chocolate cake doughnuts, of course. My two granddaughters offered to help, and we all had a jolly good time. Oops! That’s my British schooling showing. The photo above shows the results of our happy efforts. I posted a story on chocolate doughnuts a while back, so just click here and you’ll get the recipe and see step-by-step pictures of the whole process. I want to emphasize that the dough is quite wet. That is as it should be. I think it’s best to mix it the night before so that it firms up and becomes quite easy to handle. Resist any temptation to add more flour to the dough or the doughnuts will cook up dry. How do I know? I’ve done it! It’s fine to flour your work surface and the cutters you use as necessary to prevent sticking. Do have fun!