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

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!

You can find links to the rest of my Holiday Cookbook Review Series giveaways here. They’re all open until December 22nd.

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23 thoughts on “Holiday Cookbook Reviews – How to Bake Everything

  1. Hi Teresa, happy to hear your insights on the book. I thumbed through it at Barnes and Noble a few weeks back and was impressed and decided to put it on my Christmas list, seeing your success, I believe it makes a good pick. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I find the entire aspect of baking really intimidating but Bittman is one of my favourites. I have both how to cook everything and how to cook everything vegetarian.

  3. I would be in an argument about those drop biscuits too! OMG they look so delicious on top of that turkey pot pie! I really like that you broke down how this cookbook is divided up as frozen desserts is not something I would think about being included in a baking book – he really does cover everything.

  4. I really have to check this book out! Love that it provides guidance on a strong base recipe and encourages variations. Right up my alley!

  5. So I have one thing I really want to try, and it’s a two-parter. I really want to try my hand at macarons – and then I really want to try a vegan/aquafaba based version. I have a good friend (who is far more talented at baking than I am) and she’s done the aquafaba version and raved about them. It’s just too cool not to want to try!

  6. I just borrowed this from the library ! Can’t wait to read it ! I love books that teach you the basics and the techniques, and let us develop our own creations ! I yet to try making my own croissants. Thanks for sharing !

  7. I really want to learn how to bake pastry. I usually buy frozen shells from the store and make the fillings from scratch but I’d love to finally be able to confidently make my own.

  8. I’ve been really wanting to make macarons because they’re so expensive to buy -and 1 never fills you up right?!- but I heard they’re very easy to screw up and require lots of effort.

  9. I’ve been really wanting to bake croissants, but never have. Not so much from intimidation, but because I don’t really eat croissants……ever. They do look fun to make, so I’ll have to embrace the flaky goodness and go for it.

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