When Sara emailed asking if I'd like to take part in the next Cookbook Spotlight, it was a very easy decision to make. This time the book in question is Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.
I must admit that I've not heard of her before so it was interesting to get a book free of any preconceived notions.
The book is a weighty tome - coming in at 528 pages and just under 5 lbs/2.2 kg. Visually, there are lots of full page photos - featuring most of the recipes. The book is divided into approachable categories such as breakfast treats, pies & tarts and spoon desserts. Bits and pieces of information can be found scattered across the recipes, be it of technical nature or variations on the recipes.
At first glance it's quite an enticing book but digging a little deeper I found it limited in appeal due to the use of american-centric ingredients and methods of measurement. Certain recipes couldn't be attempted as here in Australia those ingredients can't be found.
Writing recipes using only sticks of butter ignores all the other countries that don't sell their butter this way. For the brioche recipe I found the use of "sachet of yeast" without at least giving a teaspoon/tablespoon alternative most unhelpful. I know in the Australian market there are at least two sizes of sachets on offer - which one do I choose? I did find it surprising that no mention of using fresh yeast was made.
Most surprising of all, in a book about baking, was to find that weight equivalents were not given. It's always stressed when baking how important it is to correctly measure the ingredients and the most accurate way to measure is by weight. By only offering cups it ignores the fact that countries do measure their cup sizes differently.
Onto the recipes...
The first choice was driven by produce - in particular one of my favourite fruits that is just coming into season, cherries and an old favourite, rhubarb.
With produce this good I opted to make the Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler. The recipe is pretty simple, the base is made from a mix of pitted cherries and diced rhubarb that is given a bit of zing with the addition of ground ginger. The topping, are dough balls, once again given a ginger hit and some structure with a mix of plain and wholemeal flours.
Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler
1 pound/450 grams cherries, pitted & halved
12 ounces/340 grams rhubarb, trimmed, peeled & cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup/65 grams caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour/cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¾ cup/90 grams all-purpose/plain flour
¾ cup/100 grams wholemeal flour
3 tablespoons/42 grams (packed) brown sugar (3 tablespoons = 2¼ Australian tablespoons)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
3 ounces/85 grams butter, cut into 18 pieces
½ cup milk
Make the filling:
In a small bowl stir together the sugar, cornflour and ginger until well mixed.
Place the cherries and rhubarb into a large bowl, sprinkle over with the mixed dry ingredients and stir well. While making the topping, stir from time to time.
Make the topping:
Put the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and ginger into a food processor. Pulse to blend. Sprinkle the butter pieces over the top, then continue to pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Drizzle in the milk and continue to pulse until it forms moist clumps.
Turn out onto a very lightly floured board.
Cut into 20 pieces and shape each into a ball.
Assemble the dish:
Place the fruit and any juices that have been released into the baking dish. Spread it out evenly. Top with the prepared dough balls.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the topping is golden and fruit bubbling.
Cool the cobbler for at least 20 minutes.
It looks nice but looks are deceiving.
Unfortunately the rhubarb just didn't cook evenly - those in the syrup at the bottom of the dish had softened but those above the liquid level were still hard.
This result was something that did concern me from the start. Having cooked many rhubarb crumbles, it's always necessary to cook the rhubarb/sugar down slightly - it gets the rhubarb softening and also gives the syrup a bit of a head start.
I also found that the syrup was lacking in body, instead of being the promised bubbling thick syrup it was thin and had not reached temperatures high enough to cause the sugar to reduce and thicken.
I did enjoy the topping and if I was to repeat this dish I would be cooking the rhubarb first.
For the second recipe I decided on a variation of the Brown Sugar Bundt Cake - in this case making use of local hazelnuts.
Brown Sugar-Nut Bundt Cake
2 cups/280 grams all-purpose/plain flour
¾ cup/100 grams hazelnut meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
8 ounces/225 grams softened butter, cut into cubes
2 cups/380 grams packed brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 cup/115 grams chopped toasted hazelnuts
Carefully butter and flour a bundt tin.
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
In a bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir though the hazelnut meal until well combined. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sugar & butter. Beat until light and fluffy - stop occasionally to scrap down the sides of the bowl to ensure an even mix.
Add the eggs, one at a time, ensuring each egg is absorbed before adding the next.
Beat in the vanilla extract.
At low speed add a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half the milk (then add another third of dry, the rest of the milk, finishing with the final amount of dry ingredients). Mix only until just incorporated.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, sprinkle over the nuts and stir through using a spatula.
Scoop the mixture into the bundt pan - smoothing the top with the spatula.
Bake for 60-65 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Let the cake sit 10 minutes before un-moulding onto a rack.
Cool to room temperature then dust with icing sugar.
A much better result.
I did find that after 15 minutes the top had browned considerably so I covered the top in foil and lowered the temperature. With so much brown sugar it does react very quickly to the heat.
The cake itself was quite soft and fairly evenly spread with hazelnut pieces - the crust was deliciously crunchy.
If you're a fan of Dorie Greenspan then it won't disappoint.
For me, it's probably a book I wouldn't have purchased as I found it's approach a little too American in it's use of ingredients and measurements.
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