Frosted CakeI have always loved light and fluffy layer cakes. And this is an especially light and fluffy one. And it’s made in an unusual way: Frosting first, then cake batter. Back in 1951, the Grand Prize Winner at the 3rd Pillsbury Bake-off® did exactly that. The mint-flavored creation, called Starlight Double-Delight Cake, became a sensation. I’ve fiddled with the recipe many times over the years because the cake was far too sweet for me: 6 cups (1 1/2 pounds) of confectioners’ sugar and only 4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate! What to do? […Read More]

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Crispies Stack 2Old family recipes can turn up in entirely unexpected places. A week or so ago, when my wife, Dorothy, and I were visiting her niece, Robin, in southern California, Robin pulled out a box of recipes written out on 3 x 5 cards to show us. And guess what. The box contained a collection of Dorothy’s mother’s recipes! Robin inherited the collection from her mother, Dorothy’s late sister, Barbara. Small world, as they say.

Dorothy recognized many of the recipes her mother had made for the family, but there was one, cut out from a magazine and pasted on a card, that was new to her: Chocolate Crispies. […Read More]

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BakinginAmericaHallelujah! “Baking In America” has a new life as a Kindle book. I am thrilled to see it in its new form with all the photos by Anna Williams placed with the appropriate recipes and a new author photo by Kelly Gorham. That’s me stretching strudel dough.

making streudelIn “Baking in America,” I tell the story of America’s history through baking. And what a rollicking history it is! If you can imagine baking in a brick oven by heating it up with firewood, waiting a couple of  hours until it got hot enough to bake bread, sweeping out the coals and ashes before putting in your bread pans, you have an idea of what baking was like in eighteenth century colonial America. Baking in a brick oven had a definite protocol: Bread first, because it required the most heat, followed by pies, cakes, and then cookies, as the temperature of the oven decreased over time. No, you couldn’t adjust the thermostat because there wasn’t one. […Read More]

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Baked Taralli and KahkMy Jewish Iraqi Granny made crunchy bread-stick-like treats shaped into rings that I devoured every day when I came home from school in Shanghai. The Arabic word for these crunchy munchies is kahk. The dough may be plain or flavored with different seeds such as fennel, caraway, or black caraway (nigella). Granny always sprinkled the tops of her rings (also called savory bracelets) with sesame seeds.

When I was in Italy a few months ago, a guest journalist of the Italian Trade Commission attending a food expo that was part of the Mostra Internazionale dell’Artigianto in Florence, I ate a few taralli and thought they tasted a lot like Granny’s kahk. But the they were more oval in shape and their ends ovelapped and didn’t join to form a ring. Were the two related, I wondered? […Read More]

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DuncanKateRobinDuncan McDermott Graham (Kate’s son), Kate McDermott, and Robin Jacobs, the three musketeers of The Art of the Pie workshop.

It’s rare that I get to take classes from a professional baker because I’m the one who usually gives the classes. All that changed recently when my wife, Dorothy, and I, were invited to attend a baking weekend called Upper Crust at Paws Up, a world-class resort just an hour away from our home in Montana. Full disclosure: My wife and I were comped for this extraordinary weekend.

Two gifted teachers, Kate McDermott, who is renowned for her gorgeous pies, and Mindy Segal, a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef from Chicago, conducted hands-on workshops.

I attended Kate’s workshop first, where we each made our very own apple pies, including a terrific butter and lard pastry. […Read More]

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Italian Prune PlumsWell, it’s been quite a while since I made my last post, and for that I apologize. But last week I was thrilled to find Italian prunes at our farmers’ market, and I thought I’d repost my recipe for baking them in a galette. I’d always called these succulent fall fruits Italian Prune Plums. But I now have learned, thanks to my friend, John Keegan, that I have been wrong. Here’s what he wrote when I made my original post on October 14, 2013. […Read More]

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