Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Baking: From my home to Yours", by Dorie Greenspan

When Sara, author of one of my favorite blogs, "I like to cook" and co-founder of the famous "Weekend Cookbook Challenge" asked me to participate in a spotlight of Dorie Greenspan's latest book, "Baking: From my kitchen to Yours", I snapped up the opportunity. The author, Dorie Greenspan has published many cookbooks, and is most famous for her cookbook "Baking with Julia." Her recipes have also been featured in magazines, including "Bon Appetit" and "Saveur". Her knowledge of french cuisine and experience as a home-cook come together in this easy-to-use album of great baking.

With 300 recipes covering everything from yeast-breads to quick cakes, brownies to cookies and beyond, this cookbook will earn a permanent place on your kitchen counter. The easy-to-understand directions and full-color pictures guide even novice bakers gently through the steps. Dorie's voice comes through loud and clear in her directions and tips for a perfect product. There are recipes for any occassion, from an afternoon snack to the perfect dinner-party dessert.

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from BAKING: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin Company, November 2006.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 ouncs bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or 2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchmentor silicone mats.
Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well-blended. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. On low speed, or by hand with a ruber spatula, mix in the chocolate and nuts. (The dough can be covered andd refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen. If you'd like, rounded tablespoonfuls of dough, ready for baking. Freeze the mounds on a lined baking sheet, then bag them when they're solid. There's no need to defrost the ough before baking-just add another minute or two to the baking time.)

Spoon the dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls.

Bake the cookies- one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet at the midway point- for 10-12 minutes, or until they are brown at the edges and golden in the center; they may still be a little soft in the middle, and that's just fine. Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully, using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remainder of the dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

These cookies were truly fantastic. Either warm straight from the cooling rack, or the next day, they are chewy and crisp at the same time, and loaded with lots of chocolate. I thought there might be too much salt, but it was the perfect amount. I highly reccomend this recipe and I'm sure to bake these cookies again and again.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Adapted from BAKING: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin Company, November 2006.

For the muffins:
2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

For the Icing
1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-sized muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrence of lemon is strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or a bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter until well-blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with a whisk or rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being through, a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the poopy seeds. Divide the batter evenly amoung the muffin cups.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a think knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for five minutes before carfeully removing each muffin from it's mold. Cool the muffins completely on a rack before icing them.

To Make the Icing:
Put the confectioner's sugar in a small bowl and add about 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls of lemon juice. Stir with a spoon to moisten the sugar, then add enough additional lemon juice, a dribble at a time, to get an icing that is thin enough to drizle from the tip of a spoon. You can then drizzle lines of icing over the tops of the muffins or coat the tops entirely, to better get an extra zap of lemon.

These muffins are quite tasty, with a hint of lemon. I especially like that the recipe was very quick to put together, requiring no mixers at all. If I made it again, I would probably add more lemon, for my taste.

If you would like to purchase your very own copy or "Baking: From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan, click this link to amazon.com, or visit your local bookstore.