*April 2010 COTM, Bittman: Breads, Desserts, Beverages
April's Cookbook of the Month is How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman.
Please use this thread for reports on the following chapters:
Pies, Tarts, and Pastries
Cookies, Brownies, and Cakes
The Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.
Corn Bread 2008 Edition, pg. 831
Making good corn bread is something that I've never been very successful at and so I usually just opt for the Jiffy Mix. But I'm occassionally game to try, and so I did. And I would have to say that Bittman's recipe really only took two minutes more than opening that little box.
I did neglect the butter heating in the cast iron skillet a bit too long, and so it was "browned" but I used it anyway. And what's up with those dimples? I don't know but it was the most "successfull" corn bread I have ever made....
I've made this cornbread twice. The first time, I found it overly dense, but figured I'd give it another go. Second time, same thing. The flavor is good, but the texture was not.
I've also just made the Whole Wheat Muffins recipe which was, i'll admit, in the NYT a few weeks ago and not from the book. Those are OK, but they come out a little dry and yet still a bit chewy, not sure how that works but it does, except that they're really only good right out of the oven. Baby liked them though, so that's worth a lot!
I have been making Banana Bread (Cake) from The Rose Bakery cookbook for a couple of years now, so I decided to give Bittman's Banana Bread (p. 246 orig. ed.) a go.
I really liked this. The texture was moist and dense, but not in a bad way. He adds a 1/2 cup of coconut to the mixture and I was skeptical about that since I usually don't really like coconut. The recipe is quite easy and the result was great. The coconut, while not really "present" in taste, gave the bread something extra which I liked. He says to use walnuts or pecans and I used pecans because I can get pecan pieces in bulk at my market.
Bittman includes 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour in with the white flour. I didn't really notice it, but it gives one the option of feeling that it's more healthy. Snirk, snirk. Yeah! That's right! The whole wheat flour offsets the butter and sugar!
My husband usually takes most of what I bake to work with him the next day. This is so I can get my fill of baking but we don't eat too much of it ourselves. He said it disappeared faster than most of my offerings and that's saying something! I will be alternating between these two recipes in future.
I haven't participated in COTM before but after the recent discussion about its future, I thought I should chime in when I can!
I made Cream Cheese Brownies (1998 edition, p. 719). Bittman describes them as "the densest, most luxurious brownies" he knows. I thought they were good but not as superb as I was hoping. However, I think I overcooked them by a few minutes. They weren't dry but I think they would have had a better texture if slightly under done. I baked them for just over 25 minutes. I also thought the brownie part could have been more 'chocolately' but it may have been they kind of chocolate I used (Baker's semi-sweet squares were all I had on hand). However, they were still pretty tasty and my sister-in-law thought they were amazing so I'd definitely make them again with an adjustment to the baking time.
I tried his muffin recipe, making sweet and rich muffins and adding some fruit though I don't remember what. It's funny that he called them sweet and rich, since they were very healthy tasting at first. I guess I'm used to very rich muffins. But it was a good base recipe, once I adjusted to it not being as rich as my favorite pumpkin muffins.
We also tried his cobbler recipe, making it with blackberries instead of blueberries. It was insanely sweet for my taste, though it satisfied my friends. I doubled the topping and there still wasn't enough. It was also a different kind of topping than I'm used to, with the eggs in it making it less like biscuits and more like a cookie.
Caramels, recipe is in both editions, in the Desserts chapters.
I've made these caramels (which he describes as "creamy and dreamy"), several times - both the plain and chocolate variations (I do use the butter with the chocolate). Not several times this month, mind you, several times, period. They're quite easy, provided you have a candy thermometer. I'm guessing some people might object to the fact that the sugar is not caramelized separately before the other ingredients are added, but I like the flavor just fine, and I've seen similar if slightly fussier recipes from authors like Alice Medrich. I do line the pan with foil and oil it for easier unmolding, and an oiled knife is helpful for cutting.
These are great for holiday gifts. I'd say they keep for a week, after which they'll be edible, but the texture is compromised.