The Fearless Baker by Erin McDowell is Born!

ERIN.jpegThis is a big year for major baking books. I remember exactly 29 years ago it was the same when The Cake Bible was published and the category itself got huge attention. Erin is going to benefit from being in the company of so many distinguished authors both old and new and they will be proud to have her as a member of the baking cookbook community of sister (and brother) bakers. Not only is Erin a gifted baker, she is also a professional food stylist and so, of course, the photos in this book are drop dead gorgeous. Erin was the food stylist for my upcoming book. Here's my favorite photo of the two of us taken during the photoshoot this past April: 1.jpg I couldn't be more proud to be the writer of the foreword to Erin's first book. And here it is so you don't even have to wait until the book arrives to read it: Foreword to The Fearless Baker When I learned that Erin McDowell was writing her first baking book, my immediate response was Yes! quickly followed by Of course! I had met Erin when she was involved in the baking and styling of the photographs for my book The Baking Bible. We spent two intense weeks in a rented studio in upstate New York, baking, styling, discussing, and getting to know each other. Not only did Erin make delicious, nourishing lunches for the entire team every day, her sunny disposition helped set the tone. I taught her how to make a special border on a tart, and she demonstrated how to make the most luscious, voluptuous ganache and buttercream swirls on cakes. Reading through this book, I am struck by how eager Erin is to explore new ideas and inspirations and how open she is to learning. One of the secrets to being a great baker is to have love in one's heart and love for the profession. And one of the secrets to being a great baking author is having a true desire to share. Erin is gifted with both. Her written instructions are a model of clarity and a perfect reflection of her delightful and joyful spirit. And her writing style is so friendly, fun, and unpretentious that it makes baking more approachable than ever. I didn't have to test recipes from this book in order to sing Erin's praises, because having seen her in action, and having tasted the results, was proof enough of her expertise. I tested four of the recipes just because they were so alluring I couldn't resist. The rhubarb cheesecake, which imaginatively replaces lemon juice with rhubarb puree, is topped with stunning ribbons of rhubarb. It's exceptionally delicious, and it leaves a surprisingly bright, fresh finish in the mouth despite the richness of the cream cheese. Chocolate puff pastry is something I'd never actually made before, but when I saw the photo for this book, I couldn't resist the challenge. Yes, it is "hard," as Erin realistically indicates at the top of the recipe, but it is an empowering experience, and success is guaranteed if one follows her excellent instructions. And her technique for making puff pastry results in the best palmiers I've ever made--or eaten. Erin writes, " is book is intended to educate you on the whys and hows of baking in an approachable way. If you understand those basics, you can become fearless--and potentially tweak your own recipes to suit your whims, the way I do." I relate to this goal 100 percent. In fact, this is shades of the young me, at the start of my own cookbook-writing odyssey. It is inspiring to see the fine and exciting work of this prize representative of the new generation of bakers. I am honored that she claims to have used my books as a launching pad to her baking education. And I am certain that Erin Jeanne McDowell will continue to march to the beat of her own drummer and rise to ever greater heights of discovery and baking excellence. The Fearless Baker: Simple Secrets for Baking Like a Pro

The Artful Baker

front.jpgThe Artful Baker: Extraordinary Desserts From an Obsessive Home Baker I'm delighted to introduce you to someone you will be so happy to know--my new kindred spirit: Cenk Sonmezsoy, (pronounced Jenk) from Turkey. You may be familiar with his blog Café Fernando, and that is how I first met him. What captured my attention several years ago, in one of those rare "why didn't I think of it" moments, was when I noticed a posting about how to line a round pan with a flat sheet of parchment. He simply crumpled the parchment and, of course, it readily conformed to the shape of the pan--brilliant--a man with imagination in his fingertips. cenksonmezsoy.jpg Proof to me of our being on the same page: from the head note of Cenk's Double Chocolate Bundt Cake: "It's just my nature to continually retest until I've explored every nook and cranny, which sometimes results in my preferring a new version. I have yet to decide whether this compulsion is a blessing or curse, but knowing that I have done everything I can to perfect a recipe is the only way I find comfort and peace." I could have written this exactly the same way. In addition to being a skillfull technician of his trade, Cenk is an artist of exquisite taste, and an excellent and informative writer. His instructions are precise and complete. His book, appropriately titled The Artful Baker, is coffee table worthy, but you will want to bring it into the kitchen, cover the pages with a protective plastic sheet, and bake the hell out of it. I've already made two recipes: the Sour Cherry & Almond Upside-Down Cake, because he said it's his favorite in the book, and the Tahini & Leblebi Swirl Brownies made with roasted chickpea flour and tahini, because the flavor combination so intrigued me, not to mention the stunning photo. We had many thought provoking email exchanges discussing, among other things, the comparative sourness of Turkish sour cherries to the American variety. I suspected that the American variety is more sour so I added extra sugar. The remaining cherry glaze was fantastic when drizzled onto vanilla ice cream. The almond cake is a high achievement in perfection of texture--surprising for a layer cake so low in wheat flour. The sour cherry topping for this upside down cake led to the following discussion about sweetness levels, and my impression that Turkish desserts can be cloyingly sweet. Cenk wrote: I also think that Turkish desserts are overly sweet and definitely share your sweetness sensibility. I'm always conscious about the amount of sugar I use in recipes, not from a caloric standpoint, but to achieve a balanced taste and optimal texture. That said, there are Turkish desserts (including some from the baklava family) that aren't overly sweet. c03_078.jpg Another example of Cenk's writing style and generosity of spirit: Have you tried brownies made with sarı leblebi (double-roasted hulled chickpeas) flour before? Sarı leblebi is a beloved Turkish snack, available at every kuruyemişçi (specialty shop selling dried nuts, seeds, and fruits), sometimes roasted right by the entrance to entice customers with its toasty smell. Roasting the chickpeas twice, chars them in spots, giving them an intensely toasty flavor. Sarı leblebi is available on line but you can substitute roasted chickpea flour (also called roasted gram flour or besan), found in Indian or Burmese food shops. Alternatively, you can roast regular chickpea flour in a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat until it is lightly browned and smells nutty. c02_070.jpg And Cenk sent me a bag of both the sari leblebi and the chickpea flour through Amazon. The resulting brownies: chewy, fudgy, slightly cakey as well, with a dusky earthy quality underlying their chocolaty flavor. The first day they were a bit fragile, but after resting overnight, the texture became much firmer and fudgier, and the flavors were enhanced. Cenk is one of the most original authors whose work I have ever encountered. Even the way he places raspberries on a tart is unique I've never before seen them arranged open ends up and I love the effect. c04_105.jpg So it is all the more to his credit that to my delighted surprise I found myself listed in the acknowledgement page of his book as one of his "baking heroines." I love that Cenk shares so much in this book of his personal background, his thinking, his creative process. I have never met Cenk in person but I feel that through his work, I have a strong sense of who he is, and I am about to find out at his book party in NYC at ICE! He is on book tour this month of October around the US, and his schedule of events and appearances will be listed here on his blog. If youi're lucky, he may be coming to your city. Even if you never plan to bake a thing in your life, you will love having this book because it will give you a glimpse into a very special baker and his baking paradise.

How Sweet it Is

FullSizeRender.jpgSWEET.jpg Sweet: Desserts from London's Ottolenghi Yes, these are both the same book, but the first photo is the UK edition and it's the one that Yotam Ottolenghi sent me with the loveliest inscription from both him and co-author Helen Goh. As a huge Ottolenghi fan (I sent both my brother and his wife, and my cousin Joan to his restaurant when they were visiting London--wishing it could have been me) it means so very much to me to be credited in this gorgeous book for my contribution on page 181, which is an adaptation of my "Perfect Pound Cake." Their version has both cardamom and coffee, and I'm really looking forward to trying it because cardamom is my favorite spice and coffee my favorite beverage! I'm also delighted to see that the "Lemon Poppyseed Cake" is the one Helen would take to a desert island, because that happens to be my signature cake as well. And I'm dying to try the "Take-home Chocolate Cake," on page 152, because the descriptor "the world's best chocolate cake" always calls to me. Having cooked from Yotam's savory books, it is really exciting to be in possession of his first book devoted to sweets--after all, he started off as a pastry chef! I hope some day to meet him and Helen in person and in the meantime, I cherish their book.

Orange Appeal

Orange_Appeal.jpgOrange Appeal: Savory and Sweet When I was growing up, my grandmother, who lived with us, squeezed me fresh orange juice every morning for breakfast. Nowadays, when I go to a restaurant for lunch, and don't want to fall asleep for the rest of the afternoon, I decline a glass of wine in favor of freshly squeezed orange juice if they have it. My husband tells me that the moment an orange is squeezed the vitamin C flies right out. I drink it quickly because it is so delicious. I don't really care if it's healthful or not! To me, the flavor of orange is an irresistibly satisfying balance of sweetness and zinginess. I have used it in just about every one of my own books. ("Orange Glow Chiffon" and "Love of Three Oranges" springs to mind, not to mention "Orange Buttercream.") So you can imagine how excited I was to meet Jamie Schler this past April, at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Kentucky, and to learn that she was about to publish her first book Orange Appeal. If that isn't a sexy title I don't know what is! Jamie grew up in Florida, where, when it came to oranges, she had a lot more than a glass of orange juice every morning. She now lives in one of my favorite places in the world--Chinon, France, where she and her husband own Hôtel Diderot. Diderot.jpg When Orange Appeal arrived, it was a hard choice which two recipes to make as soon as possible so that I could share my thoughts about the book with you. Since I'm virtually surrounded by sweets every day, my first choice was a savory dish: "Orange-Braised Belgian Endives with Caramelized Onions and Bacon." She writes: Searing gently caramelizes the endives, braising in orange juice tames the bitter bite leaving just a hint of piquancy that marries well with the sweetness of the orange and the smoky, salty finishing touch of the caramelized onion and the lardons or bacon. And it was so fabulous I wanted to lick the plate (I used my finger to be polite since I wasn't alone). I will be making this dish again and again and again. Endives.jpg I happen to adore financiers--the little two-bite egg white, almond flour, and butter cakes that are tender and flavorful so how could I resist one made with orange zest and orange flower water, and yes--they were divine. FullSizeRender.jpg Jamie and her wonderful new book have become cherished friends and I look forward to the day when I can visit her in her paradise in Chinon. Meantime, there are lots more recipes to try. Mussels, orange juice, and fennel next in the hopper! You can also visit her on her website. JamieSchler.jpg

The Art of Flavor--Happy Pub Date!

ArtOfFlavorCover.jpgThe Art of Flavor: Practices and Principles for Creating Delicious Food I have lived my entire life, for as long as I can remember, following my nose and devoted to flavor. Aroma and flavor are everything to me. So I can't help feeling that this treasure of a book, by my friends renowned chef Daniel Patterson and perfumer extraordinaire Mandy Aftel, was written with me in mind (and all of you who are reading this). Some of the best and most inspiring meals I've ever had were at Daniel's former restaurant Coi, in San Francisco, and in his home. Such is my esteem for Daniel, that years ago I flew to the west coast to make his wedding cake and it became the most beautiful photo in my book Rose's Heavenly Cakes. I refer to it casting cake on the water. I met Mandy at Daniel's wedding and have been following her magical work ever since. She even created a special perfume for me based on my favorite aromas. And I dubbed her a woman of uncommon scents. Their new book, The Art of Flavor, is beautifully written in one voice as a result of the perfectly harmonious blending of the two authors' highly tuned sensibilities. I am reading my way through the entire book as one would a novel, and learning so much. It's hard not to fill this posting with quotes from the book, because this book speaks for itself, so I will choose just a few of my top favorites: from Flavor Facets: ...The flavor of a given ingredient is determined not by one or a few dominant molecules but by an entire constellation of what might be hundreds of molecules, some of them present only as traces. Becoming alert to the unique possibilities of a given ingredient means becoming aware of its nuances as much as its overall character. We call these nuances facets. Mandy thinks of them as little wings attached to the ingredients. I also love The Four Rules of Flavor, each of which precedes recipes that exemplify it: An ingredient doesn't start to become a dish until it's combined with other ingredients. But how do we choose them?

1. Similar ingredients need a contrasting flavor.
2. Contrasting ingredients need a unifying flavor.
3. Heavy flavors need a lifting note.
4. Light flavors need to be grounded.

Along with the poetic and defining descriptions of ingredients is invaluable information on what they contribute to a dish. Here is an example from the headnote of what is so far my favorite recipe cooked from the book: Duck Breasts with Endive, Honey, Cinnamon, and Basil: Duck breast is a slightly gamey, extremely flavorful, and versatile ingredient that has more in common with red meat than with chicken and most other poultry, and requires stronger accompaniments....glazed with a mixture of honey, vinegar, cinnamon, salt, and black pepper....The honey rounds out the vinegar, making it less aggressive, and the vinegar takes away some of the sweetness of the honey, leaving the floral, aromatic notes on the top. Endive lends a welcome bitter note. Yes! I will now always make duck breast with this glaze! And another winner: Orecchiette with Stewed Broccoli, Olive Oil, and Parmesan: ....chopping the broccoli into small pieces and stewing them slowly and completely bring out their sweetness. The broccoli melts into the sauce and creates a lock with the lemon and olive oil to make a merged, delicious whole....Thin slices of raw, crunchy broccoli stem add a welcome contrasting freshness and texture. They did indeed! The Art of Flavor is a treasure. It is so much more than just another recipe book--not only is it filled with enticing recipes, it is an ode to the understanding of flavor and will empower you to cook with a new freedom, confidence, and enjoyment.

My Passion is Ice Cream

Hello.jpgI love ice cream (don't we all?). But I also love making it to my own taste and texture. As many of you know, I am working on an ice cream book which is about two years from publication. In the process of researching ideas I have just discovered a recently published book that has really impressed me. Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream, is written by Dana Cree, a pastry chef at Publican in Chicago. Pastry-Chef-Dana-Cree2-413x620.jpg Dana gracefully rides the cusp of hardcore scientist and fun filled best friend. And dear to my precision loving heart each ingredient is listed with its percentage of the entire base and under it is first the weight in grams and then the volume. How could I not feel right at home with this book! Dana has addressed the great nemesis of homemade ice cream: iciness. Each recipe offers a choice of 4 different "texture agents" from commercial to cornstarch. They are numbered at the bottom of the page and the number and technique corresponds to where it appears in the recipe. This is design brilliance at its best and reflects the approach of a brilliant and original author. In the front section of the book, Dana explains why the volume often does not correlate with the gram weight by saying: they are not direct conversions of each other; it didn't make sense to end up with wonky things like "1 cup minus a tablespoon plus a quarter teaspoon. I balanced each recipe within its own discipline....If you want the nuanced textures as I designed them, use a scale and measure your ingredients in grams. Otherwise stick with cups and spoons, which are a little more approximate. The ice cream will be no less delicious, just a touch less perfectly textured. In a phone conversation, Dana told me that all the recipes were tested both by weight and by volume. The first recipe I have tried from the book is the banana ice cream. The technique of infusing the very ripe (read blackened) banana in the dairy mixture intrigued me. On my first try, the flavor was blissfully pure banana but the texture was icy--my fault--I thought I could get away without a texturing agent. Dana recommended the cornstarch slurry "texture agent" to bind up some of the water, advising that if that didn't work fully to my satisfaction, I should simmer the dairy mixture for 2 to 5 minutes before adding the cornstarch slurry (to evaporate the water that turns to ice crystals). Since I only had one more black banana at the ready I did both, which produced a beautifully thickened base and sure enough--dense and creamy with not a trace of iciness. (My middle name is concentrating juices so why didn't I think of that?!) BananaIceCream.jpg I thought I knew all about ice cream, having included many recipes in several of my books. In recent years I've added the technique of using glucose syrup for smoother texture, as does Dana. But reading this book is an exciting new frontier to explore and I'm so glad I was introduced to it before finishing my own book on the subject. I also am pleased to know of a colleague who is so delightfully talented, devoted to the success of the home baker as well as the professional, and feel like I've found a new and treasured kindred spirit and friend. Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream: The Art and Science of the Scoop

The Most Transformative & Delicious Way to Cook Brussel Sprouts


I first met Dana Jacobi many years ago when she and her mother came to my former cooking school to study baking. It was enjoyable having such sweet and attentive students. I didn't realize at the time that Dana was a fellow food professional. Since that time, I have followed with great interest Dana's evolving career as a cookbook writer of 14, now 15 books. I knew that this newest book, The Power Greens Cookbook, would be very special for two reasons:

  • Dana is an exceptionally creative and excellent writer
  • The photographs are by my wonderful friend and photographer of two of my books: Ben Fink

So it was no surprise that her method for cooking brussels sprouts is a game changer and it is the method I will use from here on. It is quite amazing how the taste and texture of brussels sprouts is affected by the cooking method. While this is true for all food, it is dramatically so with this vegetable. I've always cut off the base and made a little X to ensure that the steam would penetrate to the center to provide even cooking. I would stick a cake tester into them to determine when they were tender. And they were never quite the same texture throughout.

Dana's method is the soul of simplicity, and yields the most evenly cooked and more purely flavorful results. And no need to test for doneness--they steam to perfection in just 6 minutes. All you need to do is cut off the base and cut each in half. Then set them in a steaming basket with boiling water beneath. Lovely with a little butter, Dana's sauce of olive oil, parsley, garlic, shallots, and capers makes a fantastic dressing. The brussels sprouts are great served hot or room temperature. This book will not be retired to decorate my library--it will have a permanent place in my savory kitchen. There are 139 other recipes still to enjoy. The Power Greens Cookbook: 140 Delicious Superfood Recipes

The Free Range Cook

I first met Annabel Langbein when we were attending the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Provence where we were nominated for our cookbooks. When she invited me to visit her home in south New Zealand, I was determined to plan a trip, and Elliott and I had the good fortune to do so just a few years later. I have visited many countries, but I found New Zealand to be the most beautiful of all with the most amazing vistas (Lord of the Rings was filmed there.) Coincident to the name of Annabel's new book (her 22nd!) what stands out most in my memory were the muffins we enjoyed for breakfast. The color was so bright and sunny I asked Annabel if she added saffron. But no! It turns out the eggs were from her free range chickens. She explained that the yolks were so bright orange other visitors objected thinking there was something amiss. The Free Range Cook Simple Pleasures is a companion book to Annabel's tv show of the same name. Some of the recipes have QR codes which when scanned with a smart phone will take the reader to a video of Annabel making the recipe. (You can also access the videos at The recipes in this book, from around the world, make me want to leap in and start cooking. I love Annabel's innovative ideas and combinations of flavor. Her lemon and candied ginger ice cream is a truly inspired flavor combination and best of all, it has a beautifully billowy and creamy texture without the need for an ice cream machine. Next up will be the Crispy Topped Cauliflower Cheese which is cooked in a cheddar cheese mustard sauce and topped with a Provençal crust of breadcrumbs, herbs and anchovies. I'm also eager to try her Ultimate Chocolate Brownie. She writes that her secret ingredient is dates and I can already imagine the deliciously chewy texture they will impart. Annabel bakes and cooks by measure rather than by weight but she offers a conversion chart, on page 313, where she lists all-purpose flour as 150 grams per cup measured by "scooping" which we in the US call the dip and sweep method. I was especially delighted when I received the book, as the stunning photos brought me back to the incredible beauty of New Zealand. Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook

A Book Called Flavorful: Pub Date Today!


And what better title could there be for a cookbook! As co-editor of Dessert Professional Magazine, and author of four other baking books, Tish Boyle is an experienced pastry chef and writer of baking instructions so I knew I was in for a treat. As Tish and I share the same editor (and publisher) and are long-time friends and respected colleagues, I was immediately eager to try out a recipe. I love that Tish lists weights in addition to volume and the way the book is organized by yes---flavors. And as caramel is my personal favorite flavor it was the Chocolate-Caramel-Almond Tart with Fleur de Sel that called out to me. Described in the head note as "This seductive tart has a deep, butter caramel almond filling topped off with a thin ganache glaze and a sprinkling of crunchy fleur de sel," it certainly seduced me! As a baker and author myself, it is a challenge to make recipes from another baking author. We each have different approaches so it is difficult to set aside one's own techniques in deference to another's. But the rewards can be learning new ideas and saluting a colleague's expertise as was the case here. If it is true that "the devil is in the details," then we pastry people sure are devilish. We choose different details to highlight, for example, when making the syrup for the caramel, Tish suggests washing down any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan with a wet brush. This is good advice because these crystals can cause the entire syrup to crystallize rather than melt into a smooth caramel. My approach has been to stir the sugar and water carefully to ensure that no crystals land on sides of the pan. But rethinking this, I now realized that not everyone is going to be as careful so I'm going to add this to my own upcoming book. One detail that I like to add to my tart recipes is to set the tart pan on a baking sheet, because it is all too easy to inadvertently separate the sides of the tart pan from the bottom when moving it. Also, there is always a little butter that leaks out the bottom.

I was intrigued by Tish's pie crust. It is different from any pie crust I've ever made or seen. While my first choice of flour for a flaky crust is pastry flour, Tish calls for unbleached all-purpose flour. If I used this in my crust recipe it would be tough as cardboard but knowing Tish I knew this would not be the case and sure enough, the added 3 tablespoons of sugar was enough to make it perfectly tender and flavorful indeed! On analysis, it is a cross between a flaky pie crust and a cookie pie crust (pâte sucrée)--less flaky than a flaky crust and welcomingly less sweet than a cookie crust. It is even tender enough when eaten cold from the refrigerator (which is how I like to eat this tart as the caramel becomes slightly chewy.)

It is easy to make and rolls and transfers beautifully to the tart pan. The caramel filling glides into the baked crust and the ganache topping floats over the chilled filling. If you work quickly, you can tilt the pan from side to side so that there is no need to spread the ganache with a spatula, keeping it mirror smooth. The tiny touch of fleur de sel is just the right amount to serve as an accent to the caramel. This is a beautifully conceived and complex recipe made simple and utterly delicious. I'm confident that further exploration will unveil many other treasures in this exciting new book. The recipe is at the bottom of this posting! Flavorful: 150 Irresistible Desserts in All-Time Favorite Flavors


Chocolate-Caramel-Almond Tart with Fleur de Sel

This seductive tart has a deep, buttery caramel almond filling topped off with a thin ganache glaze and a sprinkling of crunchy fleur de sel. I developed a similar recipe a few years ago; here I've adapted it slightly so that the caramel is slightly firmer and doesn't ooze out of the tart onto your plate (although that is really not such a bad thing).

The crust is ultra-simple, and comes together in the food processor in minutes. The dough for the crust can be made up to three days ahead and stored, well wrapped, in the refrigerator.

Makes one 9-inch tart
serving 8


1-1/2 cups (199 g/7 oz) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (37 g/1.32 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1.6 g/0.06 oz) salt 9 tablespoons (127 g/4.5 oz) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch dice and         frozen for 15 minutes
3 tablespoons (44 g/1.6 oz) ice-cold water

Caramel Almond Layer
3/4 cup (100 g/3.5 oz) blanched slivered almonds
1 cup (200 g/7 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (59 g/2 oz) water
2 tablespoons (41 g/1.4 oz) light corn syrup
6 tablespoons (87 g/3 oz) heavy cream
4 tablespoons (56 g/2 oz) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon (1.67 g/0.06 oz) salt
1 teaspoon (4 g/0.14 oz) vanilla extract

Chocolate Truffle Layer
2 ounces (57 g) bittersweet chocolate (60% to 65%), chopped
1/3 cup (77 g/2.7 oz) heavy cream
1 tablespoon (14 g/0.5 oz) unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1/2 teaspoon (2 g/0.07 oz) vanilla extract
Pinch of fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt, for sprinkling

Make the crust
1. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter pieces and toss to coat with flour. Blend the butter and flour with about five 1-second pulses, or until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal with some butter pieces the size of peas. Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture and process continuously until the dough begins to clump together. Do not overprocess; the dough should not form a ball.

2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape it into a thick 4-inch-wide disc. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 30 minutes.

3. Place the unwrapped dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough into an 11-inch circle, lifting and rotating the dough often while dusting the work surface and dough lightly with flour as necessary. Roll the dough up on the rolling pin and unroll it over a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Gently press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Roll the pin over the top of the pan to trim off the excess dough. Lightly prick the bottom of the dough with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals. Refrigerate the dough in the pan for 20 minutes to firm up the dough. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F.

4. Right before baking, line the dough with parchment paper or aluminum foil and cover with pie weights or dried beans. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully lift the paper or foil (along with the weights) out of the tart pan and bake the crust for 8 to 12 minutes longer, until golden brown. Leave the oven on. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Keep the oven on to toast the almonds. Make the caramel layer

5. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet in the oven for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden. Let the nuts cool.

6. Fill a cup with water and place a pastry brush in it (this will be used for washing down the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization). In a clean, heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan with the pastry brush to wash away any sugar crystals, until the mixture starts to color around the edges. Gently swirl the pan to ensure that the sugar caramelizes evenly and continue to cook until the caramel turns a medium-dark amber color. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the cream (the mixture will bubble up furiously). Once the bubbling has subsided, add the butter and stir until completely melted. Whisk in the salt, vanilla, and toasted almonds and stir until the nuts are completely coated. Pour the hot caramel mixture into the cooled tart shell, using a spoon to make sure that the nuts are evenly distributed. Let the caramel cool for 30 minutes, then refrigerate until the caramel is chilled, about 1 hour.

Make the chocolate truffle layer

7. Place the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted. Add the butter and stir until melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the warm mixture over the caramel and smooth it into an even layer. Sprinkle the fleur de sel lightly over the chocolate. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until the chocolate is set. Serve the tart at room temperature or slightly chilled. Store, uncovered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Erica Jong's "Fear of Dying"

FEAR.jpgFear of Dying: A Novel There are many kinds of writers: Writers of fiction, the memoir, science, technology, recipes. There are also some writers who merge two or more of the categories. I am a recipe writer merging science, technology, and the memoir. But I am relatively safe from criticism because I make sure that my recipes work and that my scientific theories are substantiated. I've been lucky so far to have avoided most negative criticism but that which has been leveled my way still hurts. This makes me aware that there is no writer more vulnerable than the writer of a memoir or even one who rides the cusp of fact and fiction because her or his essence becomes available to the often non-gentle judgmental world at large. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said: "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." If you are what you eat, then a writer is what she or he writes. I once heard the following quote, comparing the biography to the autobiography: If you want to know about the person, read the biography. If you want to know the person, read the autobiography. Although I know for a fact that Erica Jong's newest book Fear of Dying is part fiction, I was deeply moved by how she not only faces her fear, but is fearless in her willingness to open her heart and soul to her readers. Erica and I were both students at the same time in the High School of Music and Art in New York City, but we never met as we were not in the same year. Yet from the moment I read her first book Fear of Flying, I felt such an inexplicably strong connection that I wrote an inscription to her in my first book The Cake Bible "If I had a sister I wish it could have been you." Fear of Flying was published in 1973. It was 1988 when The Cake Bible was published, and also the year that my mother and I independently discovered Fear of Flying. My mother swam every week at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan and one day she told me with great excitement that she had met a fellow swimmer who happened to be Molly Jong's nanny. And that was how I was able to send my book to Erica. It was almost 30 years later that, through a recommendation from a dear friend, I chose a lawyer to negotiate another book contract who happened to be Erica's husband Ken Burrows. And that is how I received an advance copy of Fear of Dying. I read the book at every opportunity in under a week. I didn't want it ever to end. It is a book of warmth and compassion, humor and poetry, eroticism and longing, and is the embodiment of two of my favorite qualities: curiosity and joie de vivre. It will reach deeply into the heart of those who have experienced great loss and will serve as a reminder, for those who inevitably will, to embrace the present. My favorite passage in the book, page 182: "When you feel fear, you have to lullaby it to sleep." This book is, above all, a celebration of life. Until now, I missed knowing about the second book in the Jong 'Fear' Trilogy: Fear of 50. But it's not too late to address it backwards--I just ordered it.

It's All Science

20131024-potato-gratin-hasselback-thanksgiving- - 23.jpgJ. Kenji López-Alt, managing culinary director of the widely successful blog Serious Eats, has just published the cookbook of cookbooks. With its enormous scope (938 pages) and innovative techniques based on massive years of testing and scientific evidence, and excellent step-by-step photos taken by himself, he has opened my eyes to new and better ways of cooking without the need of high tech specialty equipment. This is an extraordinary and invaluable cookbook. The first recipe I made was the Hasselback potatoes pictured above. It is now my top favorite potato dish. I first discovered Kenji on the internet when I was questioning the use of baking soda to make chicken wings more crispy. My husband found that the baking soda gave it a metallic taste and so did Kenji who recommended baking powder. Yes! I hungered to know more and then discovered that Kenji was about to publish an entire book of information along this line. Be still my heart--I realized I had discovered a true kindred spirit. For those who are put to sleep by scientific explanations, you can ignore the clear and exquisitely detailed explanations and go right to the terrific life-changing recipes. But my bet is that curiosity will get the better of you and you'll want to know the reasoning behind why for example steaming and shocking with cold water makes hard cooked eggs easy to peel, or how it's possible, with the use of hot water, a beer cooler, and an accurate thermometer, to make tough cuts of meat meltingly tender and tender cuts still more flavorful and luscious, or why using part processed cheese in baked macaroni makes the creamiest pasta cloaking sauce. For those who think that science is a dry and somewhat grim subject, you will stand corrected as you enjoy the cleverness, humor, and passion with which Kenji writes, not to mention his delight in discoveries that make the most of every ingredient's potential. When I was growing up, my mother's most severe condemnation of certain people was that they "just don't care." Kenji is one who cares, and he shares--not just his excellent recipes but so much of the fascinating underpinnings of his thought processes. Not only does he possess the brilliance of invention, he also has the rare talent of fine-tuned communication. You will "get it" and without having to read a single sentence more than once. I trusted Kenji from the outset because of what he wrote about science in the introduction, which demonstrates his humility, devotion to integrity, and approach of the true scientist: The first rule of science is that while we can always get closer to the truth, there is never a final answer. There are new discoveries made and experiments performed every day that can turn conventional wisdom on its head. If five years from now somebody hasn't discovered that at least one fact in this book is glaringly wrong, it means that people aren't thinking critically enough. He goes on to write what I consider to be the most appealing, poetic, and clear explanation of "science." Science is not an end in and of itself, but a path. It's a method to help you discover the underlying order of the world around you and to use those discoveries to help you predict how things will behave in the future. The scientific method is based on making observations, keeping track of those observations, coming up with hypotheses to explain those observations, and then performing tests designed to disprove those hypotheses. If, despite your hardest, most sincere efforts, you can't manage to disprove the hypotheses, then you can say with a pretty good deal of certainty that your hypotheses are true. This perfectly defines my approach to my work and way of life. A light bulb went off in my head when reading this. I remembered the fateful day 50 years ago when I passed the open door to the food lab at University of Vermont to see a student taking the temperature of a sugar syrup with a long glass laboratory thermometer. I didn't understand at the time why this image so grabbed me but now I think it must have been my inborn appreciation for quantification and exactitude that ultimately led me on the long and joyful path to where I am now. Not that I agree with everything I have read so far (and I am reading this book from cover to cover). But Kenji invites us to challenge his theories and I'm sure Kenji will delight in reading this: Theoretically it's true that baking soda will cause pancakes to brown more and that it reacts with buttermilk to neutralize the acidity, but I discovered in my own experimentation that buttermilk does not need to be neutralized with baking soda and it actually offers a more interesting flavor with the use of baking powder. Also the pancakes brown beautifully if cooked on high heat. I look forward to the day when I can meet Kenji in person and bless him for his masterful contribution to our profession and to people's every day enjoyment of food. Food Lab.jpg The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science Note: For those of who are as taken with Kenji's techniques which use a beer cooler for sous vide cooking, like me you will want to spring for his alternative and more controlled recommendation of a water circulator/heater--the Anova. When I first discovered sous vide cooking several years ago, the devices were more appropriate for restaurant use but they have now become much more affordable.I've just gotten mine and will be posting the results of my using it in the near future. Anova Culinary Precision Cooker (Black)

My Paris Kitchen

My-Paris-Kitchen-hi-res.jpgDavid Lebovitz is alive and well and living in Paris. In fact, he is living my dream. This is not to say that I wish my life had turned out differently, but once upon a time I was planning a move to Paris. When I discovered that the only job I could get without a green card would be as a typist at UNESCO I used all the money I was saving to go to India for a month, and on my return I started putting down some deep career roots in America where I was born and grew up. I first met David many years ago when he was working in the pastry department at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, when he offered to drive me back to San Francisco after lunch at the restaurant. The next time I ran into him was in Bordeaux at Vin Expo when I was invited to a wine event given by the California wine growers. He was walking down the steps of the chateau as I was looking up admiring the building. I don't think at the time he spoke a word of French. Things have certainly changed. Reading David Lebovitz's books about his life in Paris is a totally vicarious experience. His powers of observation are so acute and his writing so fluent, clever, amusing, honest, and delightfully personal, I would be content with just that. But the recipes--oh the recipes--are exactly to my taste. The first recipe that seduced me to the stove was the poulet a la moutarde (mustard chicken). I was thrilled to discover that it was the deep mustardy sauce of my fantasy that will now be part of my savory favorites. Next I tried the green beans with escargot butter. Leave it to David to realize that escargot butter was not just fabulous for snails. Rarely have I met such a kindred spirit in the food world. Next, I can't wait to try the Panisse Puffs, which look very much like my favorite popovers but contain chickpea as well as wheat flour. Hats off to a darling man who could make the daring leap, fully immerse himself in a different language and culture, and then bring it home for the rest of us to enjoy. My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories

The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets Book Launch

OCSScover.jpgThe Oxford University Press has published several encyclopedic style books on food and beverages. Their latest book, edited by award winning author and editor in chief Darra Goldstein, is The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. This stunning, beautifully organized book takes you in alphabetical order from a la mode to zuppa inglese, 800 pages later. An extensive appendix and index are included as well. Oxford's apt description of the book is: Most comprehensive reference work on the idea of the sweet ever published, with entries on all aspects of sweetness, including chemical, technical, social, cultural, and linguistic. IMG_1145(1).jpeg Woody and I attended the Sugar and Sweets book launch at Jacques Torre's Chocolate location in lower Manhattan. I was proud to have contributed to the sections on two of my favorite subjects: sugar and pastry tools. It was great finally to meet editor Maxwell Sinsheimer in person and to congratulate my much esteemed colleague Dara Goldstein. The book's pub date was May 1st and has already been well received by the press. As well as being available in hardcover, it is also available on Kindle. The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Genius Recipes

Genius.jpgFood52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook I love this book! I knew I would love this book. When author Kristen Miglore asked me for a recipe contribution for her weekly "Genius Recipes" posting on Food52, I gave her my "Fresh Blueberry Pie" now also appearing on page 205 of this book, along with the advice that she write a book featuring all of these recipes. And at last, here it is! What a genius concept. Kristen features recipes of renowned food professionals that are not only delicious but also employ one or more brilliantly effective techniques. And she highlights them in a separate section on the recipe page titled "Genius Tip." This is an excellent teaching tool. I have already made several of the recipes that appeared on line in Food52 or in other places such as Marion Cunningham's amazingly ethereal, crisp, and flavorful "Raised Waffles" that she gave me permission to put in the Cake Bible 27 years ago. And now, looking through the gorgeous photos in Genius Recipes, I want to try just about everything. Kristen Miglore is a first rate researcher, writer, and food stylist. Her descriptions, recipe details and explanations of what makes the recipes special are a joy to read. I encourage you to get this book and rush right over to page 102 for Michael Ruhlman's "Rosemary-Brined Buttermilk Fried Chicken." Not only is it the best fried chicken I've ever tasted or made, it is the only one that doesn't spatter grease all over the kitchen floor.

A Treasure of a Cookbook--Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell

twelverecipes .jpgWinner of the International Association of Culinary Professionals Best General Cookbook! I am often asked about current food trends. My personal perception is that over the past few decades cooking has become increasingly complex, often sacrificing quality to "originality," and moving further and further away from the simple goodness I had so appreciated at the start of my love affair with food. I've begun to realize that I have enough recipes to last a lifetime, but what I value most are tips and techniques to improve them. When I read about the book Twelve Recipes, it rang a bell of familiarity and pleasure. Beautifully illustrated with photos and drawings, this book, by a former artist who has been a chef for two decades at the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkley, California, was inspired by his oldest son's move to college and his desire to be able to cook well for himself in the spirit to which he was accustomed. It is not surprising, therefore, that Chef Peternell's directions are clear and direct and his voice friendly, caring, honest, and down-to-earth helpful. Many years ago, at a lecture by Jacques Pepin at the French Culinary Institute, where he is one of the deans, I was stunned to hear him describe his philosophy on cooking in a way that exactly reflected my own. He said: "Get the best ingredients and try not to screw them up!" Cal, however, goes one step further: "It is an enduring truth that the best-tasting ingredients will yield the best-tasting dishes, but I believe as strongly that if you are missing things, or what you have is not the best, you should cook anyway. The ways in which various parts add up to the sum of a wonderful meal are many. The quality of the ingredients and the way they are prepared are important, sure, but so are the personalities of the group of eaters . . . their moods . . . the room . . . the occasion. The right equation will make the table a success even if the salad wilts, the meat is overcooked, or the cake falls." Cal admits that there are many more than twelve recipes in the book, including variations, but that if one were to cook one from each chapter, this would constitute a good basic repertoire. This special book is also filled with sunny humor and delightful anecdotes. I have not read my way through every page yet, but I fully intend to do so. Here is an example of just why I love this book so much: On ingredients: "Dried herbs are like dead flowers: if you can't bring them fresh, probably better to not bring them at all. Most dried herbs--parsley, basil, tarragon, and cilantro--are truly atrocious and can be ruinous, while others--thyme, rosemary, and sage--are grudgingly acceptable in certain applications. Dried oregano and bay leaves are the only ones that are really okay." Music to my ears! Twelve Recipes

Alice Medrich Has Teff Luck!

Alice_Medrich.jpgI have been an admirer of Alice Medrich's baking since I first visited her jewel of a shop Cocolat in Berkeley many years ago. I adored the beautiful elegance and deliciousness of her creations and applauded that, to my taste, they had the perfect level of sweetness. When we were speakers at the JCC in San Francisco, on book tour, I was impressed by her description of the motivation behind writing her most recent book Flavor Flours. IMG_8195.jpg Rather than focusing on the trendy theme of gluten intolerance, Alice went beyond it to take up the challenge of utilizing other flours to make the most of the unique flavor and texture they have to offer. We tend to think of flour as wheat in origin but actually myriad substances such as nuts rice, corn, and even seeds are considered flour when ground to flour consistency. Flour refers more particle size than to origin of ingredient. As soon as we returned from book tour, I lost no time in trying out one of the recipes whose description intrigued me the most: the Bittersweet Teff Brownies. Alice's headnote reads: "These moist and deeply chocolate brownies have a light, rather elegant melt-in-your-mouth texture. Teff flour has a nuance of cocoa flavor to start with, so it is a natural choice for brownies." And they were just as promised! The day they were baked they were quite fragile but on the second day they held together beautifully. Image 5.jpg IMG_8058.jpg Alice advices that the brownies can be refrigerated for up to three days but, as we were away for a week on continued tour event, we discovered that they were still fabulously moist and having found some ganache stored in the fridge, along with some caramel sauce made many months ago that still had not crystallized, they made an absolutely terrific dessert! TeffBrownie.jpg

Hector's Pumpkin Chiffon Bundt Cheesecake


For the holidays, Hector is offering this special new "Take" on my cake. He says that it's like eating pumpkin chiffon pie. My cheesecake ebook has recipes for 3 types of cheesecakes, techniques I learned from Rose! These are: sour cream batters, heavy cream batters, and no-bake batters. I like to use a bundt pan for the no-bake cheesecakes. Un mold it like a jello mold, after dipping the pan in hot water for 2 minutes. The cake serving plate should be chilled in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, so the melting cheesecake runs off "just enough" and sets into irresistible lickable drips. The recipe is on my ebook. Basically is part pumpkin or other flavor custard cream, part cream cheese, part cream, and part italian meringue. If you don't have my ebook, you can use the instructions on RHC's no-bake cheesecake.

The crust for no-bake cheesecakes on a bundt pan is pressed on top of the batter, which when inverted becomes the bottom crust. For my pumpkin take, instead of a cookie crumb crust, I used whole pecans... perfect occasion to use lots of pecans prior all get exported to China! PUMPKIN CUSTARD canned pure pumpkin: 240 g (about 1 cup) sugar: 25 g (about 2 tablespoons) gelatin: 10 g (about 1 tablespoon) ground ginger: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon: 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg: 1/2 teaspoon salt: 1/2 teaspoon Stir together all the ingredients. Rest, covered, until the gelatin is hydrated, about 10 minutes. On medium heat, stirring continuously, cook until it starts to darken and thicken, about 10 minutes. Puree with a food processor or immersion blender, until very smooth. Keep lukewarm, covered.

ITALIAN MERINGUE egg whites: 90 g (about 3) cream of tartar: 3/8 teaspoon sugar: 175 g (about 14 tablespoons) water: 45 g (about 3 tablespoons)

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE BATTER cream cheese: 450 g (about 1 lb) heavy cream: 465 g (about 2 cups