Dorie’s Cookies – Pfefferneusse

I can’t seem to stop baking lately, with cookbook reviews, craft fairs, cookie swaps, and family get-togethers whisking me through November at a faster pace than I care for. The compensation is that the holidays are just around the corner and all that baking will go to good use. 

Well, except that some of it was donated and almost all the rest was shared and shared again, until I realized that I’d only managed to stash away some biscotti in the freezer. Everything else was gone.

Which sounds like a sad story, but honestly, I’m happy to have a reason to bake more. It’s my favourite way to gear up for the holidays.

These Pfefferneusse (or pepper nuts) were a great way to start. They’re full of spices and pecans, Christmas staples, and they can be dipped in chocoate or dusted with icing sugar, making them pretty and even tastier.

I’ll be sharing these Christmas week, so I left all but a few plain and popped them into the freezer.

However, I’m considering making another batch, so I can share them a little sooner. They’re this month’s Cookies and Kindness selection. Dorie has shared the recipe and you can make some to make someone’s day.

This week’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here, along with posts about the other Tuesdays with Dorie selected recipe for December, Christmas Spice Cookies.

Holiday Cookbook Reviews – Better Baking

Buckwheat-Cocoa Banana Bread Bars

I received a review copy of Better Baking from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

I’ve often thought that most people approach healthy baking the wrong way ’round. We’re encouraged to focus on superfoods and buzzy ingredients, replacing what we know isn’t so good for us with something that may not live up to the original’s standards. So, as much as I enjoy the flavours of coconut and date, together or separately, lately it’s felt like the same dessert is packaged in different shapes and asked to stand in for Nanaimo bars, truffles, chocolate cake, or almost any other treat you can think of.

For Genevieve Ko, on the other hand, flavour comes first. In fact, this book has its genesis in an effort to substitute for ingredients she’d run out of, rather than ones she was trying to avoid. Ko realized that she could improve on traditional recipes using more interesting (and healthier) ingredients and satisfy eaters’ cravings for treats and nutrition all at once. Her experiments have produced a book that’s full of recipes that cut back on refined ingredients without sacrificing flavour or texture. And with the range of ingredients she’s included in these recipes, there’s no danger of falling into the trap of producing the same flavours over and over again.

Olive Oil-Brown Sugar Pumpkin Bundt Cake

In some of the recipes, the effects can be subtle. Her Olive Oil-Brown Sugar Pumpkin Bundt Cake doesn’t declare itself as a healthier version of a traditional autumn cake. Ko substitutes some of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour, while replacing some of the fat and sugar with applesauce. The result is an incredibly moist cake with a delicate crumb, benefitting from the nuttiness of whole wheat without any of its heaviness. I used homemade pumpkin purée and applesauce, which made me feel extra-virtuous, but store-bought would have worked, too.

The ingredients for this cake were all pantry staples, or ones easily obtained at the grocery store. That’s true for many of the recipes in Better Baking, but Ko also makes use of ingredients that may be unfamiliar to some bakers, or at least underused. Spelt and rice flours, chia seeds and millet, matcha tea and mochi flour – and dates and coconut, too – these are only a few of the ingredients that you might be adding to your pantry after reading through this cookbook.

A good place to start would be to add some buckwheat to your pantry. It’s something that many of us associate only with pancakes, but Ko makes the most of it, putting it through its paces in both flour and groat form in granolas, quick breads, and cakes. Her Buckwheat-Cocoa Banana Bread Bars, which you can see at the top of this post, are also gluten-free.

Like her approach to making baked goods healthier, Ko presents recipes that are gluten-free, vegan, or free of various allergens in a straightforward way. Each of her recipes notes if it’s suitable for any of these diets near the top of the page and she includes a secondary index for special diets, for quick reference. None of these recipes come across as trying to compensate for the ingredients they lack. They’re collected here because they’re terrific in themselves. They also happen to be suitable for a particular diet.

These buckwheat bars were the first recipe I made when I received the book. I kept a few for myself, but packed the rest up and sent them home with my mother. She brought them to her women’s league meeting the next day and all the ladies were clamouring for the recipe. One woman was particularly pleased. She must follow a gluten-free diet and rarely gets to sample any of the treats that are brought to their meetings.

I found the combination of buckwheat and banana to be an irresistible pairing, so it’s probably good I sent most of the batch away. Gluten-free quick breads are also more forgiving than ones made from traditional flour, as it’s overworking the gluten that can make them tough. This is a great back pocket recipe for whenever there are very ripe bananas on hand.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

The last recipe I made for this review had an ingredient that can sometimes be overused as a substitute in vegan baking. Chia seeds are often used as an egg substitute or as a pudding. Sometimes this works beautifully and sometimes it can result in desserts that evoke a 1970s health food store.

In Better Baking, chia seeds are used as a crunchy element in biscotti, almost popping with flavour with each bite. I made the Cranberry Pistachio version of the biscotti and I’ve been giving permission to share the recipe with you. These cookies have some whole wheat flour, which enhances the flavour and makes them less brittle than most biscotti. Apple and orange juice help to sweeten the cookies and add even more dimension to their flavour. I’ll be making these again for Christmas and if anyone hesitates over going back for seconds, I’ll make sure to point out all their healthful elements.

Cranberry Chia Biscotti

Chia seeds have a pippy little crunch that is perfect for biscotti. Together with the whole wheat flour, the seeds give this shortbread-like dough more body, with a full flavor and hearty texture. For the holidays, I bake the pistachio variation that follows to get a pretty burst of green with the red berries.

Makes about 4 dozen
No nuts

  • 1/4 cup (55g) unsweetened pomegranate or apple juice
  • 1 cup (160 g) dried cranberries
  • 1 cup (142 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 3/4 cup (113 g) whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (104 g) sugar
  • 1 small orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature, beaten
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Pour the juice over the cranberries in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between intervals, until the juice is absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes. Cool completely.
  3. Whisk both flours, the chia seeds, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Put the sugar in a large bowl and zest the orange into it. Squeeze 1/4 cup juice from the orange and reserve.
  4. Add the vanilla to sugar and beat on low speed with a electric mixer until the sugar is evenly moistened. Add the butter and, gradually raising the speed to medium-high, beat until pale and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Turn the speed to medium, add the egg, and beat until well combined. Scrape the bowl. Turn the speed to low and gradually add half the flour mixture, beating until all traces of flour have disappeared. Add the orange juice and beat until incorporated, then add the remaining flour and the cranberries and beat just until no dry bits remain and the dough forms large clumps. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Dampen your hands, divide the dough in half, and form into two 12-by-1-by-1-inch logs, spacing them 5 inches apart.
  5. Bake until the logs are golden brown and firm, about 35 minutes. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 350°F.
  6. Slide a still-warm log off the parchment onto a large cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut it into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange 1/4 inch apart on an unlined half sheet pan, cut sides up. Bake until toasted and light golden brown, 11 to 13 minutes. Cool completely on the pan on a wire rack.
  7. Meanwhile, cut the second log into slices. Remove the parchment from the sheet pan and arrange the sliced biscotti on it. Bake after the first pan comes out.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Add 1 cup (128 g) shelled roasted unsalted pistachios to the batter along with the cranberries.

Make ahead
The biscotti will keep at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Better Baking takes its user from breakfast through dessert, with a few surprises along the way. There are a handful of savoury recipes and some stovetop puddings that I’m very happy Ko included. There are solidly American desserts, while others are European-inspired or Asian-influenced. Even her simplest recipes are elegant, but there are also stunning showpieces like her Green Tea Leaves.

There are many things I appreciate about this cookbook and the healthfulness of the recipes isn’t even at the top of my list. Ko’s recipes don’t feel like a repetition of ones I’ve already got in my collection. They feel like fresh takes on even the most traditional recipes, like her Flourless Blueberry Muffins. I’m looking forward to trying her recipes that explore underused ingredients or take well-known ones in different directions. I love the tips that she shares for each category of baked goods and her guides to ingredients and substitutions. She incorporates accommodating special diets seamlessly, reflecting the way people today negotiate each other’s dietary needs. Most of all, I love how well the recipes I’ve tried so far work and how delicious they’ve been.

Better Baking by Genevieve Ko

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of Dorie’s Cookies to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 22nd: Win a copy of Better Baking*

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the modern baker, the discerning dessert-maker, the sensible snacker, and the pantry explorer.

Come back next week for a review of a book that is full of inventive flavour mash ups.

*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 8 X 54 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Lemon Madeleines and Delicious Reads

Lemon Madeleines from Baking Chez Moi

Baking Chez Moi – Lemon Madeleines, a TwD Rewind

I’ve made madeleines before, though you might not know it. I’ve managed to resist buying a madeleine pan, using mini-muffin pans or a vintage tea cake pan that belonged to my grandmother, instead. But yesterday, I got one as a present and I’m very pleased. As much as I talk about avoiding single-purpose cookware, a madeleine pan has always been on my wish list.

And so, I decided to bake the lemon madeleines from Baking Chez Moi for today’s Tuesdays with Dorie Rewind post. They originally popped up in the rotation in March of last year and they were a great choice for christening my new baking pan.

These are lovely, light cakes with a subtle lemon flavour. I chose not to glaze them, but I can imagine they would be even prettier, with an extra lemony-ness that would make these perfect for afternoon tea.

Lemon Madeleines

I would have been pleased with slightly more pronounced bumps, which means I’ll just have to keep using my madeleine pan regularly, until I perfect my technique.

Holiday Cookbook Reviews

I might have to put the madeleine project on hold for a few more weeks, as I’m right in the middle of this year’s holiday cookbook review series, which I’ve been doing since 2013. It’s one of the highlights of my blogging year. This year’s crop of books has been a lot of fun to work through. I thought I’d list all my posts in this year’s series here, updating as they’re published. (Canadians can enter to win each of the books posted until December 22nd, so check the posts for the links.)

Scratch by Maria Rodale

How to Bake Everything by Mark Bittman

Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan

Better Baking by Genevieve Ko

Holiday Cookbook Reviews – Dorie’s Cookies

Chocolate Wafers with Almond-Cardamom Meringue

I received a review copy of Dorie’s Cookies from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

If you were lucky, when you were young there was a parent or family member, a caregiver or teacher, who instilled in you a love of tasting and experimenting in the kitchen. If you were especially lucky, you had people in your life that didn’t just like to cook, but baked, too. The measuring and stirring done by young hands can become a rhythm in later life, a refuge in hard times and an expression of joy in good ones.

This sort of passing on of knowledge fell out of fashion for a generation or two in large swaths of North America, so you might find you’re one of the many who must teach themselves the skills they need in the kitchen, or at least find some good teachers.

The good news is that you’re not alone. Dorie Greenspan taught herself to bake when she was a young woman and she found many good teachers along the way. I suspect that’s why she’s become such a good teacher herself. When you read the instructions in her recipes, it’s as though she’s standing beside you, pointing out the change in the feel of a dough that indicates it’s ready, or showing you a trick to help you make the perfect roll of cookie dough. This steadiness in her instructions makes it possible to accomplish complicated feats in the kitchen, but it also helps to make staple recipes part of the rhythm of your own kitchen style.

I was first introduced to Dorie’s cookbooks when I joined French Fridays with Dorie, which cooked and baked through her book, Around My French Table. I can make staples like her tart dough without reference to a recipe, and I apply many of her techniques to the recipes I encounter elsewhere. Just today I was making citrus scones and, unbidden by the recipe, took the time to rub the orange zest into the sugar before proceeding. I’ve done so since Dorie introduced me to the trick – it helps to distribute citrus oil evenly and deliciously through the baked good. Even though I was lucky enough to have fantastic bakers and cooks who guided me in my childhood, I’ve been very glad to find a talented teacher like Dorie through her books. My cooking and baking are all the better and more pleasurable for it.

None of this might seem relevant to cookies, which are often seen as the simplest of baked goods. But, simple recipes benefit from good technique and helpful tricks, while more complicated cookies like macarons need a sure guide to keep the novice from disaster.

And her instructions might not be the first thing on your mind when you page through Dorie’s Cookies. There are more than 160 recipes in the book – many more if you include the variations. There are cookie jar cookies and holiday tray cookies, high tea cookies and savoury cocktail cookies, bake sale snack bars and indulgent squares. Some of her recipes are the very best version she’s found of a classic, others are beautifully realized experiments in flavour or form. There are classically American cookies and unabashedly French ones, just as you’d expect from a baker who splits her time between the two countries, but other recipes reflect the global flavours that run through the contemporary cultures of both places.

Her cookie recipes are complemented by the recipes in her “go-alongs and basics” chapter. Along with fillings, toppings, and accompaniments, this chapter includes the two recipes that I think I’ll be baking from memory before long – Dorie’s Do-Almost-Anything Vanilla and Chocolate cookie doughs. Each of the doughs has four associated recipes in the book, but Dorie encourages bakers to take them in any direction they’d like. One baker I’ve seen on Instagram has even combined them for a lovely two-toned effect, using cookie cutter cut outs.

You can see my first try with her chocolate version at the top of this post. I made a half-batch of the recipe and topped the rounds with the almond meringue from her Chocolate-Cranberry and Almond Cookies. I was out of cranberries, so I added a little cardamom to the meringue. The dough is easy to work with and bakes into a perfect wafer.

Chocolate Crème Sandwiches

Almost as perfect a wafer as the one I baked for her Chocolate Crème Sandwiches, now dubbed the “Dorieo” on social media. I like them better than the commercial cookie and this dough is another that is easy to put together and work with. I made a slightly more adult version of the filling, using Irish Cream in place of the vanilla and do not regret it at all.

Swedish Visiting Cake Bars

Nor do I regret revisiting Dorie’s almond meringue topping when I made her Swedish Visiting Cake Bars. This meringue is usually seen on fruit tarts, but I love the way Dorie has adapted it to cookies. The chewy almond cake base is thin, to maximize the cake-meringue ratio. The contrast in texture and the double-almond flavour made this a hit. They didn’t last long.

The book is full of clever flavour mash ups like this one or the Honey-Blue Cheese Madeleines in the savoury “cocktail cookies” chapter. There are also techniques that you’ll be surprised you lived without. My favourite in this book is her substitution of muffin tins for baking rings. Many of the cookies from Dorie’s famed beurre & sel cookie collection can be baked using this method. It gives the cookies a very slightly slanted edge (at least in my muffin tins), a surprisingly sophisticated finish from such a humble kitchen tool.

Double-Ginger Molasses Cookies

It worked beautifully for me when I made Dorie’s Double-Ginger Molasses Cookies. They looked like tiny, perfect bakery bites. This dough doesn’t even have to be rolled out. It’s formed into balls, as a typical ginger snap would be, rolled in sugar, then pressed into muffin cups with the bottom of a glass. It’s an extra step that doesn’t take much time, but creates a lovely effect.

I’ve received permission to share this recipe with you, so you can try this technique for yourself. You’ll be rewarded with a cookie that is much richer than a ginger snap. The addition of crystallized ginger, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and instant espresso intensify its spiciness, without creating competing flavours. They’ll be showing up again in my home before the holiday season is through.

Double-Ginger Molasses Cookies

Double-Ginger Molasses Cookies
Image courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
I have my friend Christine Beck, who is, like me, a Paris part-timer, to thank for this recipe. The cookies belong to the chewy-molasses-cookie family, but they have so much flavor and so many surprises that they transcend the familiar. For starters, there’s both crystallized ginger and powdered ginger, lots of chopped dark chocolate and an optional bit of instant espresso too, which I tacked onto the recipe because I’m an incorrigible tinkerer. I also tinkered with the way these are baked. Classic molasses cookies are scooped, molded into balls, rolled in sugar and then pressed with a fork before baking, and you can make these cookies that way. Or you can do what I do: Mold them in muffin tins, which turn out more uniformly shaped cookies that teeter on the brink of becoming gingerbread cakes.

A word on crystallized ginger: Crystallized, or candied, ginger is sliced fresh ginger that is cooked in syrup, dredged in sugar and dried. You can usually find it in the supermarket alongside other dried fruits or in the spice section. If the ginger isn’t moist and pliable, steam it before using: Put it in a strainer over a saucepan of simmering water, cover and let warm and soften for about 5 minutes; pat dry, chop and use. If you can’t find crystallized ginger, you can omit it or mix 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger with 2 teaspoons sugar and let stand for about 10 minutes, until the ginger is syrupy.

Makes about 36 cookies

  • 2¼ cups (306 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons instant espresso, to taste (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces; 170 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
  • 1⁄3 cup (67 grams) sugar
  • 1⁄3 cup (67 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (120 ml) unsulfured molasses
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1⁄3 cup (55 grams) chopped crystallized ginger or 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger mixed with 2 teaspoons sugar (see headnote)
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped chip-size
  • Sugar, for rolling

Whisk the flour, cocoa, espresso (if using), spices, baking soda and salt together. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium-low speed for about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed, until fully blended. Add the yolk and beat for 1 minute, then add the molasses and vanilla, beating until smooth. Turn off the mixer, add the dry ingredients all at once and pulse the mixer until the risk of flying flour passes. Working on low speed, mix the dough until the flour is almost but not completely incorporated. Add the crystallized ginger (or the sugared fresh ginger) and chocolate and mix until the dry ingredients disappear into the dough and the ginger and chocolate are evenly distributed. If you’ve got bits of dry ingredients on the bottom of the bowl, mix them in with a flexible spatula.

Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Getting ready to bake: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray regular muffin tins or, if making free-form cookies, line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Have a medium cookie scoop at hand. Alternatively, you can use a rounded tablespoonful of dough for each cookie. If you’re using tins, find a jar or glass that fits into them and can be used to flatten the dough; cover the bottom in plastic wrap. Spoon some sugar into a wide shallow bowl.

For each cookie, mold a scoop or spoonful of dough into a ball between your palms, then turn it in the sugar to coat and put in a muffin cup or on a baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each ball of dough. If using tins, use the jar or glass to flatten each ball until it almost reaches the sides of the cup. If it’s free- form, press to flatten to about 1⁄2 inch thick.

Bake the cookies for about 13 minutes, rotating the tins or sheets top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. The cookies should be lightly set around the edges and softer in the center. Transfer the tins or sheets to racks and let the cookies rest for 15 minutes before unmolding them and/or placing them on racks to cool completely.

If you’re baking in batches, make certain to start with cool tins or baking sheets.

Playing Around Ginger-Chocolate Ganache: To make a ganache that you can use to finish the cookies, bring 2⁄3 cup heavy cream and four 1⁄4-inch-thick slices of fresh ginger to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow the cream to infuse for 20 minutes. Return the cream to the boil, then remove the ginger and pour half of the cream over 6 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate. Wait for 30 seconds, stir gently and then stir in the remainder of the cream. Dip the top or one side of each cookie in the chocolate and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill for 20 minutes to set the chocolate. Bring the cookies to room temperature before serving.

Storing You can refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days. You can also scoop out the dough, shape into balls and freeze the balls on baking sheets; when they’re firm, pack them airtight and keep frozen for up to 2 months. Remove the dough from the freezer and let the balls sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, then roll in sugar and bake. The baked cookies can be kept in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 4 days. They’ll get a little drier and a little less chewy, but that will make them even better for dunking.

The Dorie Greenspan cookbooks on my shelf are all a little worse for wear. It’s a badge of honour on my cookbook shelf. This one will be battered and stained before long, too. There are recipes for any occasion or mood and the technical advice in the “techniques” chapter and throughout the book is invaluable (and not just for cookie-baking). And there’s one more thing that I haven’t mentioned. Dorie is a wonderful writer, with a warm and engaging voice. I spent my first few days with this book simply reading her stories in the headnotes to the recipes. I’m looking forward to working through this book.

When you pick up your copy, I encourage you to bake along with Dorie’s Cookies & Kindness campaign and if you’re really keen, to join the bakers working through the entire book over at Tuesdays with Dorie

Dorie's Cookies by Dorie Greenspan

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of Dorie’s Cookies to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 22nd: Win a copy of Dorie’s Cookies*

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the cookie monster, the small bite seeker, the flavour adventurer, and the gracious gifter.

Come back next week for a review of a book that is as virtuous as it is indulgent.

*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 26 X 15 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

And don’t forget to enter to win copies of the other books in this year’s holiday review series. You can enter to win two so far: Scratch by Maria Rodale and How to Bake Everything by Mark Bittman. All of this year’s Holiday Cookbook Review giveaways will be open until December 22nd.

Cook the Book Fridays – Chocolate Dulce de Leche Tart

By the time I got around to photographing this tart, it no longer looked beautiful, but it still tasted fantastic. Also, I should have made my own dulce de leche because the one I bought was a little too saucy and ran a bit. But the crust was cookie-like and cocoa-rich and the chocolate custard was smooth, dense and delicious. 

A short post this week, because I’m helping out with the annual craft fair my Mom and her friends organize. 

I’m looking forward to seeing some beautiful renditions of this dessert in everyone else’s posts later this weekend.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

Holiday Cookbook Reviews – How to Bake Everything

Chipotle Pumpkin Pie with Caramel Sauce

I received a review copy of How to Bake Everything from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

Like the other books in Mark Bittman’s ‘Everything’ series, the title isn’t so much literal as it is functional. There are more than 2,000 recipes, if you count the variations, but it’s not the number of recipes that makes this book so useful. It’s that the book provides a broad overview of the variety of sweet and savoury baked goods while concisely guiding you through the steps of making its recipes.

This isn’t a book for the coffee table cookbook reader – the illustrations in this book are there for reference, not for recreation. This book’s pleasures are in the absorption of its recipes and techniques and in the possibilities it opens up for your own kitchen experiments.

The categories run from breakfast to sauces, just as you’d expect, with a detour into frozen desserts, puddings, and candies, because they accompany baked sweets so well or make a lovely finish for some of the savoury baked meals Bittman includes.

Blue cornmeal bread

His savoury chapters were, unexpectedly, my favourite when I first skimmed through the book. I expected to spend most of my time in the cookies and squares sections of the book, in preparation for holiday sweets season. Instead, I kept finding savoury recipes that complemented meals I was making, or used up leftover ingredients I had languishing in the refrigerator.

I started with a blue corn version of his Southern Corn Bread, seasoned with rosemary and paprika. I was out of yellow cornmeal, but I didn’t have any qualms about the substitution. Bittman encourages experimentation throughout the book. He hopes that at least some of the recipes will become so ingrained that you can make them from memory, freeing you to adapt them in whatever way you’d like. The variations that he provides for his recipes are delicious in their own right, but they also act as permission to follow your own inclinations. His base recipes are solid enough to withstand most of what your pantry or imagination can throw at them.

So when I was craving a biscuit-topped turkey pot pie, I turned to his buttermilk biscuit recipe, used the proportions for drop biscuits, replaced the buttermilk with yogurt, and added freshly dried sage and a few grindings of black pepper to the mix. There were some disputes over ownership of the leftovers.

Turkey pot pie with a sage and black pepper buttermilk biscuit lid

Bittman’s pumpkin pie recipe is typical for the book. The base recipe is delicious and perfectly proportioned. He then goes on to provide nine variations, referencing half a dozen more recipes. You could spend a decade’s worth of holidays exploring his variations as written or use any of the recipes or components as jumping off points for your own creations.

I couldn’t resist making the caramel drizzled chipotle version in its graham cracker crust and I’m considering bringing the gingersnap and meringue version to Christmas dinner. The component references had me paging through the book, leaving tape flags as I went. I’m going to have to start having regular dinner parties if I’m going to work my way through all the desserts I marked.

I’ve been given permission to share this recipe and its variations with you. (You’ll have to buy the book if you want the recipes for the components.) I’m curious to know which variation caught your attention first and if any of them have sparked an idea for a creation of your own.

Caramel drizzled pumpkin pie


Text excerpted from HOW TO BAKE EVERYTHING, © 2016 by Mark Bittman. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

MAKES: One 9-inch pie, enough for about 8 servings
TIME: About 1 hour

A foolproof fall favorite, equally good with squash purée and best served with a dollop of Whipped Cream spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, or ginger.

  • 1 recipe Cookie Crumb Crust (page 263) made with gingersnaps or graham crackers
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups canned pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup half-and-half, cream, or milk
  1. Bake the crumb crust as described in the recipe. Start the filling while the crust is in the oven. When the crust is done, turn the oven up to 375°F and cool the crust slightly on a rack.
  2. Use an electric mixer or a whisk to beat the eggs with the sugar, then add the spices and salt. Mix in the pumpkin purée and then the half-and-half.
  3. Put the pie plate with the crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust all the way to the top (you might have some left over). Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the mixture is firm along the edges but still a bit wobbly at the center. Cool on a rack until it no longer jiggles, then slice into wedges and serve, or refrigerate for a day or 2.

PUMPKIN PIE WITH CRUMBLE TOPPING Bake the pie with no topping for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, top with Crumb Topping (page 265), and finish baking.

SWEET POTATO PIE A hint of orange takes this pie to new heights: Substitute puréed cooked sweet potato for the pumpkin and add 2 teaspoons grated orange zest.

PUMPKIN-TOFU PIE Use ½ recipe Vegan Piecrust (page 261) for an all-vegan dessert: Substitute 1 pound silken or other soft tofu for the eggs and half-and-half. Drain the tofu, purée it with the other ingredients, then pour into the crust and proceed with the recipe.

CANDIED GINGER PUMPKIN PIE Add a hint of sweet spice: Sprinkle ⅓ cup chopped candied ginger over the filling before baking.

PUMPKIN PRALINE PIE A pumpkin-pecan pie crowd pleaser: While the pie bakes, combine ¾ cup chopped pecans, ¼ cup packed brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Sprinkle over the baked pie and return to the oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until the topping is toasted and fragrant.

CHILE PUMPKIN PIE WITH CARAMEL SAUCE The subtle heat of chipotle powder gives this pie a mysterious heat. (And who doesn’t love Caramel Sauce?) Add ½ teaspoon chipotle powder with the other spices. Make a batch of Caramel Sauce (page 581) and drizzle it over the pie slices to serve.

MARBLE PUMPKIN-CHOCOLATE PIE A beautiful way to incorporate chocolate into pumpkin pie: Melt 4 ounces dark chocolate and let cool. Reserve 1 cup of the pumpkin filling and stir the chocolate into it. Pour the plain pumpkin filling into the crust (about three-quarters full) and dollop it with the chocolate filling. Using a knife or a toothpick, swirl the chocolate in large figure-eight motions. Do not overswirl or the effect will be lost. Bake as directed.

MARBLE PUMPKIN–CREAM CHEESE PIE A refreshing dose of tartness cuts through the warm spices: Make a batch of Cream Cheese Filling from the Chocolate–Cream Cheese Swirl Cake variation (page 202). Pour the pumpkin filling into the crust (about three quarters full), then swirl the cream cheese filling into the pumpkin as instructed in the Marble Pumpkin-Chocolate Pie above.

PUMPKIN MERINGUE PIE WITH GINGERSNAP CRUST A meringue topping makes this exotic: Use a Cookie Crumb Crust made with gingersnaps. Bake the pie as directed, then let cool completely (you can speed this part up in the fridge). Make meringue as described on page 279 and pile it over the top of the pie, making sure to spread it all the way to the edges of the crust. Set the pie plate on a cookie sheet and bake at 425°F for 6 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

How to Bake Everything

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of How to Bake Everything to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 22nd: Win a copy of How to Bake Everything*

As much as this book shines in its recipes and their variations, I’m just as excited about the range of reference materials included in How to Bake Everything. The basics section and chapter introductions are thorough and there are useful additional indexes across categories like vegan, gluten-free, favourite flavours, and showstopper recipes. But what’s especially welcome are the wealth of charts and infographics included in the book. From a traditional chart like his flavour combination guide to the stylish flow chart that helps you choose exactly what kind of cookie you’re in the mood to bake, these resources create paths through what could be an overwhelming volume of recipes.

Ultimately, this book could act as an apprenticeship for a beginning home baker, while providing refreshers and skills-building for experienced ones. It’s a fairly thorough survey of what’s thought of as traditional American baking that also manages to provide a range of recipes from around the world. The book is full of simple, homey recipes that deliver the techniques and confidence needed to accomplish the more complicated ones.

Many of the cookbooks on my shelves are exercises in experiencing the author’s cooking style. When I reach for any of Bittman’s ‘Everything’ books, I’m looking for references, guides, and inspirations for my own home cooking. I’ve happily added How to Bake Everything to that shelf.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the deep diver, the reference reader, the kitchen experimenter, and the everyday cook.

Come back next week for a review of a book that will make you the toast of your holiday cookie swap.

*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 8 X 22 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

And don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Scratch by Maria Rodale – all of this year’s Holiday Cookbook Review giveaways will be open until December 22nd.

Holiday Cookbook Reviews – Scratch


I received a review copy of Scratch from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

My introduction to the Rodale family came through the stack of Organic Gardening magazines beside my Dad’s favourite chair. What I learned from them has guided the way I eat and shop, and the choices I make in my backyard gardening experiments.

So, I was curious to see what Rodale Inc. CEO Maria Rodale‘s approach to food would be in her new cookbook, Scratch.

I was happy to discover that Rodale’s food philosophy is much like my own, emphasizing a variety of fresh, seasonal foods in preparations that are weeknight easy and full of flavour. On the weekends, I may take the time to learn new techniques, prepare an elaborate meal, or take on a multi-day baking project, but for the rest of the week I want food that is as simple to prepare as it is tempting to eat. What I don’t want are “15 minute meals” that rely on processed food or skimp on taste.

It’s that middle ground that Maria Rodale is passionate about sharing. Her cookbook is like a peek into her kitchen’s handwritten recipe books and card files. These are the recipes that her kids ask for, or have developed themselves. They’re recipes collected from extended family, memorable restaurant meals, travel, and house guests. They’re the recipes that add up to an everyday life that’s full of meals made from scratch.


She’s pared down her recipes to the essentials, both in ingredient and technique, to make them accessible to new cooks and attractive to busy ones. From the sampling I’ve done so far, this method hasn’t sacrificed flavour or healthy ingredients. Her homemade cracker recipe is a perfect example of this – finding only complicated, time-consuming recipes online, she developed her own version that captured the taste and crunch she wanted, simply and quickly. It’s a basic recipe that’s good just as it is, or can be used as a canvas for any flavour you crave. I took one of Rodale’s variation suggestions and sprinkled za’atar on mine. They’ll be great in soup, but I’m also enjoying snacking on them right out of the tin I’ve stored them in.

Her food is rooted in her Midwestern upbringing, but it’s also firmly planted in the 21st Century. There are classic American recipes like glazed ham or chicken noodle soup, alongside recipes that make use of today’s global palette of ingredients, like Vietnamese rice paper rolls or quinoa kale, and sunflower seed salad. The salad was the first recipe I tried when the book arrived and it’s perfect for lunchboxes or a buffet side dish.


It’s also one of the recipes in the book that accommodates gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian eaters, in a book that doesn’t exclusively cater to either. That’s another aspect of this cookbook that reflects the way I cook – I’m a gluten-loving omnivore, but many of the people in my life eat differently than I do and I’ve grown accustomed to cooking for a variety of food needs. Scratch is full of recipes that easily accommodate these diets, without resort to specialty ingredients or complicated substitutions.

Another recipe that is naturally vegan and gluten-free is Rodale’s Tomato, Chickpea, and Rice Soup, which the publishers have been kind enough to allow me to share with you.


My yoga teacher, Holly, taught me how to make this soup, and it’s delicious. She based it on a Marcella Hazan recipe she found online, but of course we modified and simplified it a bit. We made it on a cold winter’s day, and it was the most heartwarming, soul-satisfying soup you can imagine. Don’t worry about the amount of oil, it gives the soup a lovely richness. Feel free to add more stock if you prefer a thinner soup.

Serves 4 to 6

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 can (14 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
  • Leaves from a few sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock, store-bought or homemade (page 111)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • Grated Romano cheese, for serving
  1. In a soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the whole cloves of garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until golden.
  2. Carefully add the tomatoes and lightly mash them with a potato masher to break them down a little. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Add the rosemary and chickpeas, increase the heat to medium, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the stock, the pepper flakes (if using), and salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Ladle two-thirds of the soup, including the garlic, into a blender and process until smooth.*
  5. Return the puree to the pan with the remaining 3 cups stock and bring to a boil. Add the rice, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Divide among bowls and pass grated Romano at the table.
    * This step is totally optional, but results in a lovely thick, smooth soup.

There aren’t very many ingredients in this soup, but it’s full of flavour. Simmering the tomatoes in garlic-infused olive oil brings back a bit of summer to them and partially pureeing the soup makes it as silky as though it were made with cream. I garnished mine with garlicky breadcrumbs, as I had them on hand, but it would have been just as delicious without any garnish at all. That said, it would be fantastic with the grated Romano called for in the recipe, too.

This recipe is easy enough for a beginner, but appealing to experienced cooks – so many of us would reach for short grain rice when making soup, but Arborio rice makes it so much richer and more filling. There are other recipes that are geared toward novices, like Rodale’s simple grilled cheese, but I keep dipping into this book for gems like her celery with brown butter and toasted almonds. It helped me to happily eat down my overabundance of celery this fall.

Scratch is the perfect cookbook to give to a young adult striking out on their own or even a teenager who wants to learn their way around the kitchen. But it’s also a lifesaver for busy working adults who are disenchanted with recipes that promise speed, while sacrificing quality and flavour. And for those of us who want to eat healthy whole foods, but are uninterested in the latest food fads and unafraid of a little bit of everything in moderation, this book is on point.

Rodale’s go to cookbook was the Joy of Cooking and she’s produced a contemporary book in the same spirit – one that can guide you from novice to experienced home cook, while remaining a resource for years to come.

Scratch by Maria Rodale

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of Scratch to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 22nd: Win a copy of Scratch*

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the weeknight chef, the family feeder, the kitchen novice, and the organic eater.

Come back next week for a review of a book that will turn you into a confident crafter of all things baked.

*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 15 X 12 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Cook the Book Fridays – Scalloped Potatoes with Blue Cheese and Roasted Garlic

Scalloped potatoes with blue cheese and roasted garlic

This week’s recipe is a rich version of an old fashioned comfort food dish. It’s something that I didn’t often have growing up, because it’s the one potato dish my father has always hated. It’s on of my mother’s favourites, though, so she’d make it sometimes when he was away hunting or fishing. Blue cheese is another of her favourites, so I think I’ll have to make for her the next time my Dad travels. She’ll be doubly pleased.

I’ve only made scalloped potatoes a handful of times myself, because I associate them with the kind of feast you’d have at a dinner party or for a holiday. On those occasions, I usually cook to accommodate the variety of special diets that people in my circles require.

But, since it was on the roster, I scaled the recipe down by two-thirds and made an indulgent meal for myself. I served it with salad, as David suggests, and I’m glad I made it the star on the plate. I’m even happier that there are leftovers for tomorrow.

I loved the flavour of the Roquefort I used, but I can’t help wondering what it would be like with other cheeses, too. So many of them would play well with the garlic-infused cream that makes up the sauce.

A visit to Faubourg Vancouver

And as some of you know, Katie of Prof Who Cooks was in town yesterday, for a whirlwind trip to celebrate a friend’s birthday. She was able to fit in a visit to Faubourg with me in the afternoon and it was such a pleasure to chat with her and get to know her a little more. She’s just as lovely in person as she is on her blog.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

Dorie’s Cookies – Chocolate Crème Sandwiches

Chocolate Crème Sandwiches

It feels right that new Dorie Greenspan cook-alongs start in the fall. Obviously, it’s tied to the fall book release season, but it also coincides with the waning of summer and the year’s retreat. What better way to combat the cold and darkness than to dig into a cookbook full of rich, comforting food with a steady and nurturing guide?

Even better, these cook-along provide a host of virtual companions to combat the nesting urge that settles on so many of us in the winter months. And since the subject of Dorie’s latest book is cookies, the quintessential sharing food, your in person social life won’t wane, either.

For my first foray into this new book, I made Chocolate Crème Sandwiches, one of the two November picks from this cookbook for Tuesdays with Dorie. They’re a homemade version of Oreos, but I like them a whole lot more. Especially since I made a grown up version – instead of vanilla, I flavoured the filling with Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Dorie mentions in the headnote that this dough is easy to work with and it’s truly a dream. I only baked a few cookies tonight, cutting the rest out and freezing them. Now, I’ve got a bag full of them, ready to bake when needed. The filling lasts for a few days, so fresh-baked cookies will be on the menu for the rest of the week.

As much as I’d like to keep them all to myself – the salt to sweet ratio is just perfect, as is the chocolately crunch – I’ll be sharing these, in the spirit of Dorie’s new project, Cookies & Kindness. She’s sharing recipes from the book monthly and encouraging others to bake and spread a little kindness wherever they may. I think that’s a lovely practice and I hope it encourages me to bake more often, so I can spread some kindness to my family, friends, and neighbours.


If you want to get on the bandwagon, and you live in Canada, you’ll be eligible to win yourself a copy, courtesy of Raincoast Books, when I post my full review of Dorie’s Cookies as part of my annual holiday cookbook review. It all starts on November 10th and I’ve got a great line up again this year.

This week’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here, along with posts about the other Tuesdays with Dorie selected recipe for November, Peanut Butter Change-Ups.

Baking Chez Moi – Custardy Apple Squares

Custardy Apple Squares

I always gravitated to the humanities in school – literature and writing, history and philosophy – these subjects, along with the more concrete elements of the sciences, grabbed my attention and often felt almost effortless. Math, however, was not my natural element and I remained convinced that I had no talent for it.

But, I’m kinder to myself than I once was and realize now that I had been delving into math from a very young age. I just expressed it in the form of cookies and cakes. It may not be higher math, but baking is certainly one of the more satisfying – and even elegant – ways to experience math.

So, even though I can only experience the majesty of black holes and fractals through popular science writing, I am able to witness the wonder of a few simple ingredients coming together in precise proportion to create something magically more than the sum of its parts.

Dorie’s apple squares are a lovely example of this kind of culinary marvel. A little flour, milk, butter, sugar, and eggs transform into something that isn’t quite cake and isn’t quite custard. In different proportions, the same ingredients can produce everything from a rich bread to a sturdy sponge cake.

This recipe is quite similar to one of my favourite apple desserts, Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake, but with its own unique texture and snackable square shape. I differentiated it further from its rum-rich cousin by taking Dorie’s suggestion of using a tiny drop of almond extract in the batter, which somehow manages to enrich the apple flavour even more.

Nicola apples

I used some gorgeous Nicola apples that I found at my local food co-op today, but these would be great with any baking apples (or pears, another one of Dorie’s variation suggestions).

These won’t last long, but the good news is that they’re quick to prepare, even with the 40-minute bake factored in. Delicious dessert that requires a minimum of effort and uses pantry staples. That might be the baker’s golden ratio.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here or here, along with posts about this month’s other selected recipe, Pear Tart with Crunchy Almond Topping.