Every once in a while a cookbook comes along that is so visually appealing I can't help but swoon. Miette, by pastry chef Meg Ray, is just such a book. The die-cut pages, engaging food styling, and sumptuous photographs by Frankie Frankeny all capture the personality of San Francisco's most charming pastry shop. Seriously, it couldn't get any cuter. And then there are the 100 recipes and variations.
Good taste abounds at Miette. Both the flavor kind and the kind that deals with style. They specialize in the delicious stuff dreams are made of; and the manner in which they display their goods is equally dreamy. Voluptuous without being vulgar; feminine without being girly.
Layer cakes baked in 6-inch pans may seem best suited to a child's tea party, but Miette favorites like the legendary Tomboy Cake (featured on the cover), the beribboned Princess Cake, and the sweet-tart Lemon Debutante Cake pack enough punch to rival any super-sized dessert.
Nor should you be deceived by the generic-sounding recipe names. Little gems like English Toffee, Caramel Corn, and Miette Marshmallows have unique twists in ingredients or technique that rank them head-and-shoulders above their common namesakes.
Likewise, Miette's Brownies are baked individually—in deference to lovers of crispy edges. Bite-size Chocolate Chip Cookies buck the current ginormous trend, with a pleasantly crumbly texture from ground oats and walnuts. Do Gingerbread Cupcakes sound ho-hum? Miette's were named one of America's Top 10 Sweets by Alton Brown.
There is a small chapter on "Afternoon Cakes," so named because back in the day—before Miette had a retail space with refrigeration—these durable delights could survive a long day at the Berkeley Farmers' Market without a hitch. More sophisticated recipes like Parisian Macarons, freezer-friendly Crème Fraîche Scones, and tiny fruit tarts show off Ray's European know-how.
As a cookbook author I know it is nearly impossible to get a book into print without an error or two. No matter how diligent the proofreading process, there are so many people involved in production that a trace of failure is virtually inevitable. Unfortunately this book ended up with more than a couple of mistakes; though many of them are probably inconsequential to most home cooks. Others? Not so much.
If you don't want to wait until the next printing, you can easily download a comprehensive list of corrections from the publisher.
Recipe from Miette by Meg Ray (Chronicle Books, 2011)If ever you are in Paris, you must make a pilgrimage to the Pierre Hermé boutique on rue Bonaparte. I made such a pilgrimage during a trip to Paris the first year I was in business, joining the queue that wraps around the block. I couldn't help myself and as I inched into the store, and filled my bag with one of everything off the shelf including a canister of his chocolate sablés, the inspiration for this cookie. The Miette version replicates the same experience of biting into a crisp lattice supporting bits of pure, soft chocolate. Like our chocolate cake, this recipe calls for both cocoa and chocolate. When you bring these two ingredients together, you get a resounding chocolate taste, much more complex than if you were to use just one or the other. Use a high-quality chocolate and feel free to venture into something more bittersweet. The sprinkling of sugar on top can carry the intensity of a dark chocolate.
Makes thirty-six 1-inch square cookies
- 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (1 ounce) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup (4 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus more for sprinkling
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 ounces 70 percent cacao chocolate, grated
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda into a bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla until lightened, about 4 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and grated chocolate and mix just to combine.
If the dough is soft, wrap it tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (The dough will keep, wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer). Otherwise, roll out the dough about 1/2 inch thick on a lightly floured work surface into a 6-by-7-inch rectangle. Using a ruler, square the edges as much as possible. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1-by-1-inch squares. Place them about 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sugar.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies until they are firm, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Store in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks.
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.