|If Dorie Greenspan hasn't already won your heart with her other cookbooks, such as "Baking with Julia", then no doubt "Baking: From My Home to Yours" will. Winner of the 2007 James Beard Book Award for Baking and Dessert, "Baking" is a treasure chest of wonderful recipes, amazing pictures and interesting stories. Each recipe is expertly presented with helpful tips and tricks from Dorie's years of experience. Better yet many of the recipes offer ways to easily modify them with simple changes giving even more recipes to indulge in. "Baking" spans the breadth of topics with Dorie including chapters on breakfast sweets, cookies, cakes, pies, baking basics and even what she terms "spoon deserts" - that is puddings and ice cream
Photography by Alan Richardson
One example from "Baking" is today's recipe "Snickery Squares". As Dorie says "All the pieces are simple and each is tasty on its own, but put them together, and you get something much better than the individual components". How true - and not only for the "Snickery Squares" but also for the cookbook itself. Individually the recipes are wonderful but combine them with her wonderful writing style, the amazing photography and a helpful baking glossary at the end of the book and the result is amazing.
From: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin. 2006
I like to think of these as classy Snickers, a made-at-home, slimmer, sleeker version of the beloved candy bar. The squares are composed of a buttery shortbread base, a layer of smooth caramel dulce de leche mixed with crunchy candied salted peanuts (like the ones you get in Cracker Jacks) and a top coat of dark chocolate sprinkled with crushed candied peanuts. All the pieces are simple and each is tasty on its own, but put them together, and you get something much better than the individual components
For the Crust
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
- 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
For the topping
- 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- ½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
For the filling
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 ½ cups salted peanuts
- about 1 ½ cups store-bought dulce de leche
Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.
To make the crust: Toss the flour, sugar, confectioners' sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds - stop before the dough comes together in a ball.
Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.
To make the filling: Have a parchment - or, better yet, a silicone mat-lined baking sheet at the ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon (you'll be cooking sugar that will climb to over 300 degrees F, so you'll want to keep as far away from it as possible) and a medium (about 2-quart) heavy-bottomed sauce pan.
Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color. (If sugar splatters onto the sides of the saucepan, wash down the splatters with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.) Toss in the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring, to coat the peanuts with the sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white - keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet, using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature.
When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in biggish pieces for the filling, and finely chop the other half for the topping.
Spread the dulce de leche over the shortbread base and sprinkle over the whole candied nuts or the big pieces.
To make the topping: Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water or in a microwave oven, using a low power setting. Remove the chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter, stirring until it is fully blended into the chocolate.
Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with a long metal icing spatula, then sprinkle over the finely chopped candied peanuts. Slide the pan into the refrigerator to set the topping, about 20 minutes; if you'd like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting.
Cut into 16 bars, each roughly 2 ½ inches on a side.
About Baking: From My Home to Yours
Dorie Greenspan has written recipes for the most eminent chefs in the world: Pierre Hermé, Daniel Boulud, and arguably the greatest of them all, Julia Child, who once told Dorie, "You write recipes just the way I do". In Baking: From My Home to Yours, her masterwork, Dorie applies the lessons from three decades of experience to her first and real love: home baking. The 300 recipes will seduce a new generation of bakers, whether their favorite kitchen tools are a bowl and a whisk or a stand mixer and a baker's torch. Even the most homey of the recipes are very special. Dorie's favorite raisin swirl bread. Big spicy muffins from her stint as a baker in a famous New York City restaurant. French chocolate brownies (a Parisian pastry chef begged for the recipe). A dramatic black and white cake for a "wow" occasion. Pierre Hermé's extraordinary lemon tart. The generous helpings of background information, abundant stories, and hundreds of professional hints set Baking apart as a one-of-a-kind cookbook. And as if all of this weren't more than enough, Dorie has appended a fascinating minibook, A Dessertmaker's Glossary, with more than 100 entries, from why using one's fingers is often best, to how to buy the finest butter, to how the bundt pan got its name.
Get Baking: From My Home to Yours at:
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.