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Dorie Greenspan's new book - Baking: From My Home to Yours - review

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I intended to wait to file a complete report, but after trying only 2 recipes, I am absolutely delighted with this book.
Content:
I've been baking for a million years, but I think a neophyte would have very little trouble following the instructions.
None of the recipes appear to be duds - all are appealing.
The author has come up with a few nice tricks, notably in the shortbread recipes which instruct you to put the dough in a gallon-size freezer bag before rolling and chilling. It seems obvious but is not something I would have come up with on my own.
Ingredients used:
The author has a marked fondness for peanuts, which I have not used very much in baking (with the exception of Maida Heatter's peanut thins and regular pb cookies), but intend to try.
Cinnamon appears in many recipes as well (not one of my favorites).
Layout:
Beautiful book, nicely organized by types of baked goods (morning items, cookies plain and fancy, cakes ditto, etc).
Photography is gorgeous.
Two minor quibbbles:
The book is a bit too heavy to be read comfortably in bed...
The binding doesn't allow the book to lie completely flat on the counter if using one of the recipes in the front or back of it.
Recipes tried:
World Peace cookies - Pierre Herme recipe also in her Paris Sweets book, excellent slice and bake cookie
Bittersweet Brownies - the best brownie recipe I have ever made, bar none (including Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownies, the previous winner and champeen...).
Paraphrase:
2 sticks butter + 9 oz. bittersweet chocolate
melt together over low heat
add 1 1/2 c. sugar
stir in 4 eggs one by one
add 2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 cup all-purpose flour
stir just until blended
bake at 325 in greased 13x9" pan 20-22 minutes ONLY
I brought these to work today and they disappeared in a flash - "let me try one...oh my God...another..."
In sum:
Can't wait to try more recipes. I've had the MS Baking Handbook for months, and while I enjoyed reading it, I have not made a single recipe from it yet.

Obviously: If you bake, you owe it to yourself to own this book.

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  1. Thanks so much for your detailed review of this book; haven't heard about it before this. Thanks also for paraphrasing the brownie recipe. I was going to ask for it if you hadn't provided it. Do you think it would suffer if I halved the recipe? I'm thinking it should be ok...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Carb Lover

      What about adding nuts? I am not interested in a brownie unless it has nuts. I know there's a big two-sided camp of nuts and no nuts folks.

    2. Thanks so much for your detailed review, and for the recipe. I was actually planning on baking brownies today, using my default and much loved Ghiradelli recipe (on the back of the sweetened ground chocolate container). However, upon reading your post I thought I'd give your recipe a try, since I am always trying to see if I can top the Ghiradelli recipe, and since it seemed worth a shot given that I had all of the ingredients on hand.

      I followed your instructions to a T (I bake frequently so felt pretty confident that I'd have no problems with the recipe given how straightforward it was). However, when I rotated the pan in the oven after 10 minutes of cooking I noticed that a caramelized crust of sorts was forming on top of the brownies. When I took them out of the oven after 20 minutes it appeared that this caramelized crust was pretty noticeable, and that the rest of the layers of brownie were pretty under-cooked. I do definitely prefer under to over-cooked, though, so I was okay with this.

      I tried a piece of brownie when it was semi-cool, and thought it was good but not great, but attributed this to the fact that brownies are one of the few things that need to cool fully in order to develop their flavor. Anyway, once the brownies were cool I attempted to cut them, and noticed how incredibly greasy they seemed. Not only were they difficult to cut given the fact that they seemed virtually raw inside (<---though it should be noted that, flavor-wise, this wasn't a negative thing), once I did get them out of the pan in a semi-mangled form they were practically dripping with grease.

      Did you find this to be the case with your batch? Did I simply make some sort of glaring error that I am not realizing? Was 2 sticks (1 cup) of butter the correct measurement? The only difference between the recipe you posted above and what I created was that I added approximately 1/2 a cup of milk chocolate chips, and the remaining 3 ounces of bittersweet chips that I had left over from the 12 ounce bag I started with, to the batter. I always add chocolate chips to my brownies and have never found that they affect the texture.

      I've got to be honest, not only were these brownies nowhere near as good as others I've made, they were greasy enough to make me consider simply throwing them out because their texture was rather unappetizing. Again, I totally appreciate your posting--I'm in no way trying to criticize the recipe but instead am trying to determine if I did something wrong, or if someone else had the same experience with either this recipe or a recipe using a similar technique. Since I always make brownies using cocoa powder as opposed to melted chocolate, I don't know if perhaps using that technique produces a brownie such as the one I made.

      Thank you in advance.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Laura D.

        I haven't made this but just looking at the recipe of OP and yours, 1/2 cup of chocolate chips plus 3 oz of bittersweet does not equal to the 9 oz called for in her book. The total of the chips might be 6-7 oz. Also substituting milk chocolate for bittersweet chocolate will have some effect on the brownies. Milk chocolate might have only 40% cocoa butter the rest sugar and milk solid, etc. And chocolate chips do behave differently than baking chocolate even though you haven't experienced it in your brownies.

        1. re: PBSF

          Sorry...I should re-state that. I used the 9 ounces of chocolate that the recipe called for (in the form of melted bittersweet chocolate chips), and then I added-in in whole chip form the remaining 3 ounces from that package, as well as approximately 1/2 cup (volume-wise) of milk chocolate chips. Neither the extra 3 ounces of bittersweet nor the extra 1/2 cup of milk chocolate chips melted, meaning they shouldn't have thrown off the ratio of chocolate to other ingredients, nor should they have contributed any cocoa butter, sugar, etc--the only thing they could have really contributed was additional "bulk" to the batter. But, if anything the batter was too thin, so I don't think this occured.

          Sorry, I understand how my original post might not have made that clear. Thanks!

      2. I baked the chocolate chip cookies yesterday and followed the very clear instructions to a T. They are about the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had and may become the new standard in my household.

        1. Thanks for your review. Based on that, I have reserved at my public library. (I also reserved the 8th edition of The Professional Chef, the CIA's newly published treatise!)

          1. In reply to Laura D:
            My batch was moist but certainly not greasy, I will recheck the recipe - I used Trader Joe's 72% cocoa solids chocolate, that may have had something to do with it since chocolate chips are considerably lower in cocoa? Also, perhaps your oven temp was off a bit?

            2 Replies
            1. re: buttertart

              My chips (I believe I used the ghiradelli bittersweet, 60% cocoa solids) were definitely a lot lower in cocoa than yours, so it is definitely possible that something went wrong here. However, I thought that, chemically speaking, you could interchange bittersweet/semisweet, without affecting anything but the taste of the final result...I thought it was only when you started interchanging milk chips with semisweet/bittersweet that you could run into problems given the additional cocoa butter component found in milk chocolate. However, I might be way off on this.

              Regardless, I should definitely say that I refrigerated the brownies and this has made a tremendous difference. They no longer seem greasy, and are simply a bit easier to eat than they were before since they are no longer falling apart upon pick-up. While I'm not sure that I'd make this recipe again given that I still have had better results with the ghiradelli recipe, I'm not feeling like I did the other day regarding the results.

              Thanks again for posting--I'm going to look for Greenspan's book at the library/bookstore, so I can see what else she has to offer.

              1. re: Laura D.

                Hi again, I felt badly to hear of your experience, and checked the recipe again to make sure all amounts and ingredients were correct as paraphrased. They were. I think it must be the chocolate chips that make the difference - if you do try the recipe again I recommend a higher cocoa solids bittersweet chocolate.
                Here is my other favorite recipe in case of interest:
                Supernatural Brownies
                Adapted from Chocolate by Nick Malgieri (excellent cookbook)

                For 13x9 in pan – buttered and floured, or lined with foil and buttered and floured, or just sprayed with PAM, regular or the new one with flour in it – I like this new Pam stuff, it’s good for Bundt pans too.

                2 sticks unsalted butter*
                8 oz semisweet chocolate**, in small pieces
                Melt butter in 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat.
                - Take off heat and add chocolate, stir until melted.

                1 cup dark brown sugar
                1 cup white sugar
                - Stir into butter/chocolate mixture.

                2 tsp vanilla
                - Stir into above mixture. Can add 1⁄4 tsp almond extract if desired, or 1 tsp instant coffee

                4 eggs
                - Add 1 by 1 to above, stir well.

                1 cup all-purpose flour
                1⁄2 tsp baking powder
                1 tsp salt
                - Stir into batter.

                1 c chopped pecans***
                - Stir into batter.

                Bake at 350 deg F for 25-35 min., until dry on top and just barely firm to touch (recipe says to bake for 45 min., if you like a firmer brownie try it). It smells done when it is.

                NOW THE IMPORTANT ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY PART – BE STRONG!!!:

                Cool completely on rack.
                When cool, cover with foil or plastic and LEAVE UNTIL NEXT DAY. Seriously.
                If you don’t do this they will just be ordinary brownies, ok but not great (trust me, I’ve tried it).

                Cut ONLY after resting period.

                Notes:

                * Or salted butter, but then don’t add salt later. Or do, I like salt in baked goods myself. (Mother always said no sweet with without salt.)
                ** Best you can find – Trader Joe’s, Lindt, Tobler, etc - Don’t use Baker’s or Nestle.
                *** Or any other nuts you like, or white or dark chocolate chips, or whatever your little heart desires.

                I have had great success over several years with this recipe.

                And do check out the book, there are many more interesting recipes (made the mocha walnut bundt cake, another keeper) - it's definitely worth a look, for the recipes and for the author's pleasantly breezy (but meticulous) style.

            2. I came across this thread Googling for Greenspan recipes and moments later found an English language blog from Germany that claims to reprint the brownie recipe as written. Can't wait to try it.

              http://whatsforlunchhoney.blogspot.co...

              1 Reply
              1. re: JoanN

                Here's another brownie recipe along with some others (direct Libary of Congress quote from the book)

                http://www.loc.gov/catdir/enhancement...

              2. Thanks for this report. I've been reading it in bed for the past week, and love it. Yes, it is heavy, but whenever I decide to do a recipe, I'll xerox a copy of it and tape that to the bottom of a kitchen cabinet (at eye level). It's an old food stylist trick that frees up counter space and saves your books from being splattered.

                1. Buttertart...
                  Thanks for your review and recipe!
                  I wonder if you could do me a favor...I'd like to attempt the Cranberry Upside Downer for T'giving...the person in the German blog said the recipe says "cranberry jelly"....is there such a thing as cranberry jelly, or does Dorie use Jellied Cranberry from a can???
                  Thanks....

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: ChowFun_derek

                    Hi, I'll check the book tonight and let you know tomorrow.
                    Cheers!

                    1. re: ChowFun_derek

                      ChowFun_Derek,
                      Checked, the recipe calls for 1/3 cup RED CURRANT jelly to glaze the finished cake - very odd that a German website would mention cranberry jelly when red currant is commonly used in German baking.

                      Looking forward to hearing about the finished product.

                      1. re: buttertart

                        Thanks sooo much for taking the time to do this...yes... red current jelly it is!!

                        1. re: ChowFun_derek

                          So you are coming to our house for Thanksgiving, aren't you? And bringing your Upside Downer? If you have other plans, please drop one off on your way. Thanks ever so much! ;+)

                    2. A friend of mine gave me this book today, so I made 3 recipes from it. The corn muffins are wonderful. Very tender, nice crumb. Better warm than cold. The pumpkin thanksgiving bundt cake is pretty darned good too. It's got pumpkin, cranberries, apple, nuts and assorted warm spices. I added about 3 oz of semi sweet chocolate. Loved the cake, once again, very tender crumb. Very nice balanced flavor profile, assertive from the spices, but no one flavor overwhelms the others. I've got the salt and pepper cocoa cookies chilling in the fridge to be baked off tomorrow.

                      All in all, the recipes are very straightforward, easy to follow and so far, 2 out of the 3 recipes that are acutally complete are terrific.

                      I've looked through the entire book and I haven't found one recipe yet that I don't want to make! I am really looking forward to baking my way through this book.