|I crave baking - that's right baking, not baked goods, but the actual act of baking. I find it therapeutic (oh, I like the baked goods too!).
Photo by Tina Rupp (c)
I also particularly enjoy baking new goodies and generally don't repeat the same recipe unless it's to serve for a good friend or special occasion.
Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito fulfills my baking craving while offering wonderful new baking challenges with reinventions of American baking classics.
As with the first Baked cookbook (see review, see sample recipes), Lewis and Poliafito show their majesty in creating recipes for delicious baked goods that I not only crave to bake but are just as good to eat as well.
Starting with breakfast and working thru pies, cookies, cakes and pastry, Baked Explorations shares tempting recipes that they've found in their explorations of American bakeries. Of course, Lewis and Poliafito put their own unique twist on each of these classics, creating items such as Monkey Bubble Bread, Whiskey Pear Tart (recipe below), Chocolate Ginger Molasses cookies (your friends will crave these), Malted Milk Sandwich cookies, Joe Froggers (aka Ginger Rum Molassess cookies - recipe below) and two wonderful variations of Mud Pie.
You don't have to crave baking to enjoy Baked Explorations, but if you do, I'm pretty darn sure you'll find enough recipes in Baked Explorations to fulfill your cravings for quite a while - I know I'll be going back again and again to bake tasty treats for my friends and family.
Joe froggers (Ginger Rum Molasses Cookies)
From Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010)
yield: 36 to 48 cookies, depending on size of the cutter
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
- ¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups molasses
- 3 tablespoons dark rum
- Coarse sugar for decorating
The original Joe Frogger uses vegetable shortening exclusively. I adapted the recipe to include some butter, but it would be a mistake to take out the shortening entirely. An all-butter cookie, while tasty, will spread more and won't retain the same bite over time. In other words, an all-butter cookie would not be a Joe Frogger, and that would be a shame. If you prefer a chewy cookie, bake for 8 minutes; if you like a crispier cookie, err on the 12-minute side.
Whisk the flour, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda together. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together until there are no visible lumps. Add both sugars and beat just until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl, add the molasses, and beat until the mixture is uniform in color.
Prepare 1/3 cup very hot water. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the hot water, in three parts, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, add the rum, and mix for 15 seconds. Cover the bowl and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour. Roll the dough into a 1/4-inch thick round. Cut out the cookies with a 2- to 3-inch round cookie cutter, and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle a tiny bit of sanding sugar onto each cookie.
Bake the cookies for 8 to 12 minutes, until they are set. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Whiskey Pear Tart
From Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010) yield: one 14-by-4-inch rectangular tart or one 11-inch round tart
For the pears and poaching liquid
For the basic sweet tart dough
- 1 (15-ounce) can pear halves in heavy syrup, about 6 halves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons whiskey
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the almond cream filling
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 large egg, beaten
For the pear glaze
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cool but not cold
- 4 1/2 ounces almond paste
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon whiskey
- Reserved syrup and reserved "poaching" liquid from pears
- 1 teaspoon whiskey
- 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
Baked Note At first, I was hesitant to use canned fruit for this tart, but if you find the right brand (with all natural ingredients), you will get a consistent and wonderful tart every time. If you happen to come across excellent fresh pears at a farmers' market, poach away, using the traditional method on the opposite page. This is a two day project so make sure you read through all the steps before getting started.
make the pears and poaching liquid
Strain the pears and reserve the heavy syrup (for the glaze) in a small, covered bowl or cup in the refrigerator.
In a medium, nonreactive bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, whiskey, sugar, and vanilla. Toss the pears with the liquid, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
make the sweet tart dough
Put the sugar, flour, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse until sandy (about 6 to 10 quick pulses). Add the egg and pulse just until the dough begins to form a mass. Form the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly in plastic, and refrigerate it overnight (or for at least 1 hour).
bake the crust
Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick into either a rectangle about 15 inches long or into a round about 12 inches in diameter. (Note: The dough will be sticky. Make sure to turn it with a bench knife or offset spatula as needed and keep the working surface floured. Some people find it easier to roll dough between two layers of plastic wrap. This can ease transfer and be a bit less messy.)
Ever so gently, guide the dough into the tart pan, without pulling it, and lightly press it into place. Roll the rolling pin over the pan to trim off excess dough. Place the tart pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Line the tart shell with aluminum foil and fill it three-quarters full with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and bake for another 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack to cool. Leave the oven on.
make the almond cream filling
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and almond paste on medium speed until the mixture is light, fluffy, and smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the filling and turn the mixer to low. Drizzle in the whiskey and beat until it is combined. Spread the almond cream filling evenly over the cooled tart shell.
Drain the pear halves, reserving the soaking liquid, and arrange them decoratively on top of the almond cream. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the almond cream puffs up and sets and the crust turns golden brown. Let the tart cool on a wire rack while you make the glaze.
make the pear glaze
Place the syrup and soaking liquid in a medium pan over medium heat and gently boil until the liquid is reduced to about 3/4 cup. Remove it from the heat and whisk quickly and continuously for 1 minute to speed cooling. Add the whiskey and cornstarch and whisk to combine. Set the pan over medium-high heat, bring the glaze to a boil, and cook it for 1 minute. Use a pastry brush to apply the glaze gently to the tart.
Remove the tart from the pan and serve it as soon as possible. The tart will keep at room temperature, covered, for up to 3 days, but the crust will turn slightly soggy after the first day.
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.
How to poach your own pears:
Suffice it to say, there are many, many ways to poach your own pears. You can use a variety of liquids (water, wine, half water/half wine, diluted fruit juice), and you can tweak the liquid according to your mood (add spices, other fruits, vanilla, and sugars). It is a recipe with endless possibilities, and I suggest you modify the below ingredients at will. This quick poaching method is only a roadmap, so feel free to throw your personality in the poaching pot:
4 firm and ripe pears
1 cup sugar
1 bottle of cheap and cheerful sweet dry wine
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Peel the pears, core them, and cut them in half. Set aside.
In a large saucepan set over low heat, stir together the sugar and the wine until dissolved.
Stir in the orange zest and juice, increase the heat to medium, and wait for the liquid to simmer.
Once the liquid reaches a low boil, add the pears and simmer for 15-30 minutes. During the poaching process it is important to make sure the liquid covers the pears the entire time.
The pears are done when a sharp knife inserted into the bulbous end of the pear slides in and out easily. Check your pears every few minutes after the 15-minute mark, as cooking time is determined by the size and ripeness of your pears.
Remove the pears and let cool if you are using in a recipe, or serve warm with any accompaniment (ice cream, whipped cream, etc.). The poaching liquid can be reused. Store the poaching liquid in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.