How to Bake by Nick Malgieri, PDF, EPUB, 0486829189

  • Print Length: 480 Pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication Date: October 17, 2018
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486829189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486829180
  • File Format: EPUB

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How to Bake

Nick Malgieri

Illustrated by Laura Hartman Maestro

 

One of America’s preeminent bakers and baking teachers reveals the secrets behind creating professional-quality confections. Nick Malgieri shares scores of mouthwatering recipes for plain and fancy cakes; breads, biscuits, muffins, and scones; sweet and savory pies and tarts; brownies, macaroons, rugelach, and all types of cookies.

In addition to his clear, detailed instructions, Malgieri offers helpful tips for variations on classic recipes as well as suggestions for everything from making a pastry bag to mastering cake finishing and pie crusts. Presented in order from the easiest to more challenging, these recipes from the collection of a great pastry chef will add a whole new level of sophistication to your baking repertoire.

 

 

How to Bake

Nick Malgieri

 

 

DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC.

Mineola, New York

 

 

In Memory of Peter Kump

 

 

Copyright

Copyright © 1995, 2018 by Nick Malgieri

All rights reserved.

Illustrations by Laura Hartman Maestro

 

Bibliographical Note

This Dover edition, first published in 2018, is an unabridged republication of the work originally published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York, in 1995. The author has made revisions for the Dover edition.

 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Malgieri, Nick, author.

Title: How to bake / Nick Malgieri.

Description: Mineola, New York : Dover Publications, Inc., 2018. | “This Dover edition, first published in 2018, is an unabridged republication of the work originally published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York, in 1995. The author has made revisions for this Dover edition.”

Identifiers: LCCN 2018017876| ISBN 9780486829180 | ISBN 0486829189

Subjects: LCSH: Baking.

Classification: LCC TX765 .M33 2018 | DDC 641.81/5—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018017876

 

Manufactured in the United States by LSC Communications

82918901 2018

www.doverpublications.com

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

For the Dover edition, many thanks to Natalie Danford for working on the revisions with me and to my new agent, Susie Cohen. Publisher Jennifer Feldman, editor Terri Ann Geus, and the editorial, design, and production staffs at Dover Publications have all been a pleasure to work with.

From the 1995 edition: A book this size necessarily has many hands that contribute work in many different ways and I hope to thank them all. First of all, Susan Friedland, my editor, was there every step of the way, advising and prodding, and was involved with every phase of producing this book. Also special thanks are due to my agent, Phyllis Wender, who is always there when I need her. Nancy Nicholas provided her unerring editorial insight and unfailing sense of humor in the work she did on the manuscript.

Many friends and colleagues shared favorite recipes, and they are: Marian Burros, Julia Child, Kyra Effren, Christopher Gargone, Daphne Giles, Lynne Giles, Prudence Hilburn, Yocheved Hirsch, Ann Nurse, Sandy Leonard, Peggy Pinckley, Sheri Portwood, Hermann Reiner, Betty Shaw, Jeff Steingarten, Bonnie Stern, and Michelle Tampakis.

Recipe testing took place over several years of developing recipes, and the following people helped: Anna Barros, Jolene Handy, Carole Harlam, Hilary Fishman Huaman, Helene Kurland, Michelle Tampakis, and Christina Wright.

My late friend Richard Sax was always there to answer a question or make a suggestion about a fine point in a recipe.

And finally, thanks to all the readers who offered comments and questions about the recipes here.

 

 

Contents

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

INTRODUCTION

1. QUICK BREADS, SCONES & MUFFINS

2. BREADS & ROLLS

3. SAVORY PASTRIES

4. PIES

5. TARTS

6. COOKIES & SMALL PASTRIES

7. CAKES

8. PUFF PASTRY & CREAM PUFF PASTRY

9. SWEET YEAST-RISEN BREADS & PASTRIES

SOURCES OF SUPPLY

METRIC EQUIVALENTS

BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX

 

 

Introduction

 

The first edition of this book appeared in 1995, when I had been teaching for more than fifteen years. I started my career as a baker and pastry chef in 1973, and I trained largely in Switzerland, France, and Monaco, as well as being heavily influenced by the Italian baking that I had learned at home. As a result, I mostly used classic European techniques and recipes. Writing How to Bake would change me forever as a baker.

Of course, life is a series of changes and not only people, but products and equipment continue to evolve. One positive change in the world of baking has been the accessibility I can now offer via the Internet. Feel free to contact me with questions or comments at my website, www.nickmalgieri.com.

How to Bake was planned from the start to be a “big book”—indeed, my original working title was “How to Bake Everything,” though that was scotched by my editor. Names aside, writing How to Bake led me to explore and master areas of baking with which I had previously had only a passing acquaintance. Experiments, successes, and failures with quick breads, baking powder biscuits, scones, muffins, yeast- and sourdough-risen breads, and a whole host of pies and tarts—both sweet and savory—cake layers, frostings, “plain” cakes, and yeast-risen pastries all emerged from my tiny apartment kitchen. As I look back, I’m amazed at the sheer quantity of recipes that were developed, repeatedly tested and tasted, and carefully written in the space of a couple of years.

The strict rules and techniques that had been so deeply ingrained in me served as a foundation for further learning as I expanded my repertoire exponentially. When it came to certain types of home-baked specialties—not the kinds of desserts I had crafted in a professional pastry kitchen—I was “learning on the job.” That made me especially sensitive to the need for specific instructions. As a result, How to Bake is not just a compendium of recipes for delicious things to eat, but also a handbook of the ideal processes for baking just about anything. Most people who buy a baking book wind up using a couple of recipes that they love over and over. I urge you to use How to Bake as a general guide for any baking you do—whether you are following a recipe in these pages or using my work to provide a “second opinion” for a recipe from another source that you wish to try.

Baking—like my other favorite pursuits, cooking and gardening—requires patience and attention to detail. Measuring accurately is important, especially when strong ingredients such as leaveners and spices are concerned. But too often students and readers tell me they are put off by the oft-repeated dictum that “baking is a science.” Rest assured that a bit more or less flour or sugar in a recipe will not spell ruin. Above all, baking should be a pleasure—as much in the baking as in the serving and eating.

My late friend Peter Fresulone, who was one of my partners in the Total Heaven Baking Company in the early 1980s, always said, “Bake something, you’ll feel better.” And I think his advice is especially good today. Baking is to enjoy—that’s what it’s all about.

 

 

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

Every recipe that follows is complete in itself. When a recipe refers to another one as part of the preparation, it only does so once. For example: A recipe for a pie or tart will refer to a dough recipe at the beginning of the chapter, so you’ll need to prepare the dough as a separate recipe, and then shape, fill, bake, and serve it according to the instructions in the particular recipe. No recipe has more than one cross-reference, which avoids the annoyance of flipping back and forth for several different preparations.

The chapters are arranged in order of ease of preparation. Therefore, the easiest recipes are in the earlier chapters, with more elaborate ones later on. The techniques and processes in the recipes build on each other so that you can master simple ones that require few steps before others that require slightly more effort.

ABOUT THE RECIPES

Each recipe contains the following information:

The title of each recipe describes the flavor, origin, or an attribution to a person whose recipe is adapted here. The headnote continues with information about an unusual ingredient or a story associated with finding or developing the recipe.

The recipe’s yield follows under the headnote so that you can see at a glance how much the recipe makes—how many separate pieces (rolls, cookies, tartlets), or how large a single unit (loaf, pie, tart, cake) the recipe will make. Sometimes the yield may vary due to the size of the pieces divided from the dough or batter.

The ingredient list contains all the information about what and how much of it to use in the recipe.

The size and shape of the baking pan (or pans) follows the ingredient list; when there is a specific way that the pan needs to be prepared it is described right after the pan size.

Instructions follow the list, and when a recipe proceeds from start to baking in a short time, the first instruction in the recipe is to preheat the oven and set the oven rack at the right level for baking. The oven will be heating during the 15 or 20 minutes it takes to prepare the pan, assemble the ingredients, and mix the dough or batter. In recipes that have multiple steps and take longer, I suggest preheating the oven at the point when the different elements of the recipe (dough, filling, topping, for a pie) are assembled. For a yeast-risen item, I suggest preheating the oven after the loaf or pastry is put aside for its final rising. Because it is impossible to predict just how long a particular dough will take to rise until it is ready to bake, it is also impossible to state the exact time to begin preheating the oven. I usually suggest this “when the loaf is almost completely risen.”

Aside from the recipe’s instructions for mixing and baking, some recipes contain illustrations that help to describe the processes for shaping or forming when words are not enough.

Baking times are given usually to within a 10-minute span. Characteristics of the fully baked item are described; never depend solely on timing to determing doneness.

When appropriate, serving suggestions are at the end of the recipe. Suggested accompaniments to some recipes also appear under “Serving.”

Storage instructions indicate how to keep an item until it is served and what to do with it afterward. Instructions for refrigerator and freezer storage are also detailed here.

Any extra suggestions for handling the processes in the recipe are described after the recipe. Hints that apply more generally (breads, cakes, cookies) are grouped at the beginning of the appropriate chapter.

Ways to change the recipe by substituting other ingredients are suggested at the end of the recipe. If the substituted quantity is the same, it is not repeated: substitute brown sugar for the sugar, for example.

MEASURING

Ingredients, especially dry ingredients, need to be measured. Though I have given weights for some dry ingredients, so you can measure them by weight rather than volume, metric equivalents for ingredients are listed on pages 436–437.

I use different OXO measuring cups for dry and liquid measure. This should not be construed as brand endorsement, though I recommend you stick with a major brand rather than opting for a generic one. Such national brands are calibrated to strict standards of accuracy—cheap generic measuring cups may not be.

Spoon the dry ingredient into a dry measure cup and level it off with the straight edge of a metal spatula. Do not stir or sift dry ingredients before measuring unless a recipe specifically states to do so.

To measure spoonfuls of dry ingredients, use the required size spoon and scoop it to overflowing with the ingredient, then level it with the edge of a spatula or knife as for cup, above. For small fractions of spoons (⅛ teaspoon,  teaspoon), fill the next larger size spoon and scrape out the appropriate amount with the point of a table knife or the corner of a rubber spatula.

The one dry ingredient measured differently is brown sugar: press and pack it into the cup to avoid air spaces in the sugar, then level it off with a metal spatula.

Recipes that call for nuts always specify a quantity of whole nuts (for almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, or pistachios) or nut pieces (for walnuts or pecans). When nuts are to be ground, the volume specified is for the whole nuts or nut pieces, not for a ground amount.

For liquids, place a glass or plastic measuring cup on a level surface, pour in the liquid, then bend to check that the surface of the liquid against the side of the cup or looking into the cup from the top is exactly at the line on the side of the cup indicating the amount to be measured. One word of warning: even the best measuring cups tend to be most accurate when you measure amounts that are close to their capacity. Measure quantities of less than one cup only in a 1-cup measure. If you have a 4-cup measure, by all means measure 2½ cups in it—but do not attempt to use it to measure ½ cup.

Measure spoonfuls of liquid over an empty bowl in case the liquid spills. Never measure directly over the mixing bowl for the same reason.

ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS

Though this is by no means a complete list of the ingredients called for in this book, it is a list of essentials to keep on hand; with them you can prepare most of the recipes without an emergency trip to the store.

FLOURS AND STARCHES

I keep several types of flour on hand at all times: unbleached bread or unbleached all-purpose flour for breads; and unbleached all-purpose flour whenever all-purpose flour is called for; cake flour for most cakes and some recipes that combine different flours. I use self-rising cake flour or self-rising all-purpose flour occasionally for baking powder biscuits. Keep flours stored at a cool room temperature in tightly sealed canisters, tins, or plastic containers. To substitute unbleached all-purpose flour for cake flour, remove 2 tablespoons of the flour and thoroughly mix in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in their place.

An excellent source of organic flour is as close as your nearest health food store. Often such stores carry national brands, but local brands are always preferred.

It is best to buy specialty and whole-grain flours from a health food store that has a brisk turnover of freshly milled flours. Whole-grain flours are best stored in the freezer. If you use a great deal of a particular type, it can be stored at room temperature without risk of becoming rancid.

Cornmeal, whether yellow or white, should be stone-ground and whole meal. Store it in the freezer as you would whole-grain flours.

Cornstarch, sometimes used in combination with flour for a cake batter, should be stored at room temperature in a tightly sealed container.

SUGARS AND SWEETENERS

I use plain granulated sugar in all recipes calling for white sugar. Though other bakers like to use superfine sugar because it dissolves easily, I prefer the slight coarseness of granulated sugar, especially for those batters where butter and sugar are aerated together. Coarser sugar helps the butter to absorb air more efficiently. In preparing meringues, coarser sugar remains in suspension better and does not dissolve on contact with the egg white, which would render the meringue liquid.

Store sugar in a tightly sealed container to keep out humidity, which will cause it to cake.

Confectioners’ sugar, very finely ground granulated sugar, is often used as a decoration on cakes and pastries or as an ingredient in a frosting. Once a box has been opened, empty the sugar into a tin or canister to prevent it from caking.

Brown sugar is light or dark, depending on the amount of molasses added to the white sugar to flavor and color it. I always specify light or dark, although one may be substituted for the other without disastrous results. I like granulated light brown sugar because it’s easier to measure since it does not have to be packed into the cups. Store moist brown sugar airtight so it doesn’t dry and cake; store opened packages, tightly resealed, in the refrigerator. If brown sugar does become dry and hard, sprinkle it with a few drops of water, wrap it in aluminum foil, and heat it in the oven for 5 minutes to soften. Cool before using.

Coarse-granulated turbinado sugar is now widely available. Unlike national brands of brown sugar that are really white sugar with molasses added, it is only partially refined and imparts a caramelized and very light molasses flavor when used.

Light and dark corn syrup contribute flavor and sweetness to recipes as well as a smooth texture.

Unsulfured molasses has a mild, delicate flavor that I prefer, so I use it in all recipes that call for molasses.

Honey comes in many different depths of color and flavor. I like to buy organic honey at a farmers’ market, but when that isn’t possible, I buy a dark rather than a light-colored honey for its fuller flavor.

Both organic barley malt syrup in the formula for starting a new sourdough, and organic maple syrup used for its flavor are available in health food stores.

DAIRY PRODUCTS AND OTHER FATS

In all the recipes that call for butter I mean unsalted butter. If the recipe calls for cold butter, leave it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. If the recipe calls for soft butter, unwrap it while it is cold and place it in the mixing bowl you’ll use for the recipe so the soft butter doesn’t stick to the wrapper. (If it does, scrape the wrapper with the side of a rubber spatula.) Then leave the butter at room temperature until it has a soft, flexible consistency.

In all recipes that call for milk I mean whole milk. Buttermilk, always low-fat, may be 1% or 2% fat—I use them interchangeably. Cream is always heavy whipping cream—I don’t differentiate between pasteurized and ultrapasteurized cream. Sour cream is full-fat sour cream, never a sour cream substitute. Low-fat and fat-free yogurt are each indicated when used in various recipes. They are not, however, used interchangeably.

Cream cheese is plain cream cheese, though you may also use the variety without gums if you wish. Do not use the whipped kind.

Cottage cheese is regular-curd cottage cheese, not small-curd.

Ricotta is whole-milk ricotta, though part-skim milk ricotta may be substituted without adjusting other ingredients. Do not substitute fat-free ricotta.

Freshly made mozzarella from an Italian store is wonderful to use, but today there are any number of brands of imported and domestic mozzarella that approximate the texture of freshly made mozzarella and are not the industrially made rubbery kind that is sold in large cubes or shredded.

Parmesan cheese is Parmigiano-Reggiano, imported from Italy. Purchase Parmesan in a wedge and grate it as needed—it will remain fresher and more flavorful.

Pecorino Romano is another Italian grating cheese called for in several recipes. The brand most widely available in the United States is Locatelli. It is not difficult to find, but if you can’t, Parmesan cheese may always be substituted.

Caciocavallo is a Sicilian cheese. Pecorino Romano may be substituted.

Mascarpone, an Italian cream cheese, is extremely rich and quite expensive. Several domestic brands are lower in price than the imported original and are just as good.

I always use extra-sharp New York or Vermont cheddar.

All recipes use large eggs: 24 ounces a dozen. Remember that within the dozen there might be slight variations and that individual eggs may differ slightly from each other in size. When an exact amount of egg (or white or yolk) is crucial to a recipe, the amount is given in terms of volume, as in “1 cup whole eggs (about 5 large eggs)” or “⅔ cup egg whites (about 5 large egg whites).”

Several recipes call for olive, walnut, or hazelnut oil. As olive oil is used for cooking as well as baking, I keep mine at room temperature in a sealed bottle. You may use pure or extra-virgin olive oil as you wish. Nut oils should be stored in the refrigerator and tasted before using as they easily become rancid.

LEAVENERS

I use fine granulated active dry yeast or instant yeast for all recipes that call for yeast. I add each kind to warm liquid in all the recipes that call for yeast, rather than adding instant yeast directly to the flour. Other names for instant yeast are bread machine, fast-acting, quick-rise, and rapid-rise yeast. If you wish to substitute compressed (fresh) yeast, see the conversion table on page 39. The quantities of dry yeast are expressed in teaspoons and tablespoons as a convenience for those who buy yeast in bulk, and the number, or fraction, of envelopes is also stated.

All baking powder is the double-acting variety. Baking soda is plain bicarbonate of soda.

COCOA AND CHOCOLATE

I always use unsweetened alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa powder that’s processed with an alkali to make it less bitter and darker in color.

When using unsweetened chocolate the supermarket variety is fine. However, for semisweet or bittersweet chocolate it’s better to use a premium chocolate; there are now many American, Belgian, French, and Swiss brands available. See page 435 for some brands available online. A premium chocolate always states its cocoa solid content on the package. Percentages in the fifties to low sixties are semisweet, while mid sixties to mid seventies are bittersweet. Good quality milk chocolate usually hovers around the mid thirties in cocoa solid content.

NUTS AND NUT PRODUCTS

Purchase nuts at a busy store that sells them in bulk. They are more likely to be fresh and reasonably priced. If you can, taste nuts before purchasing them. Nuts stored at room temperature will oxidize and become rancid after several months, just from contact between the abundant oil in the nuts and the air. But they won’t look any different. Always store nuts airtight and in the freezer—refrigeration may cause mold.

Almonds called for may be whole kernels with the skin on (natural, unblanched) or without skin (blanched). To remove the skin yourself, place almonds in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and drain immediately. Place hot almonds on a towel, fold the towel over to cover the almonds, and rub to loosen the skins. Go over the almonds one by one to separate the kernels from the skins.

A recipe may require slivered almonds (cut into matchsticks) or sliced (cut into thin, flat flakes). Sliced almonds may be natural (unblanched) or blanched—which I prefer. Both sliced and slivered almonds are available in the supermarket.

Almond paste is a mixture of approximately equal amounts of blanched almonds and sugar crushed together to make a firm paste. The canned domestic type, sometimes available in supermarkets, tastes and performs much better than the imported variety, which is a cylinder wrapped in cellophane. This type is often dry, whereas canned almond paste remains soft and malleable. See page 435 for ordering information for excellent almond paste.

Hazelnuts may be bought blanched or unblanched. To blanch hazelnuts, place them in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, until the skins crack and begin to loosen. Rub the hazelnuts in a towel to loosen the skins, then one by one separate the hazelnuts from the skins.

Macadamia nuts, native to Hawaii, are extremely high in fat and as expensive as they are delicious. They add a sweet crunch to cookies and occasionally to cakes. If you can only find the salted variety, rinse them well, place in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan, and bake at 325 degrees for up to 5 minutes to dry. Don’t allow them to color.

Pecans are available as halves, pieces, or a mixture of the two. This distinctively American form of the hickory nut has recently been widely cultivated in Australia.

Pignoli, or pine nuts, are sometimes used to finish macaroons, or as an enrichment to a filling.

If possible, purchase pistachios in a Middle Eastern store. Pistachios from Afghanistan and Turkey have much more flavor and color than the California variety. Blanch pistachios as you would almonds. If the only pistachios you can find are salted, treat them as salted macadamias, above.

Walnuts are available in the same forms as pecans.

DRIED AND CANDIED FRUIT

When possible, I buy organic raisins, though they are not always easy to find. Dark raisins, golden raisins, and currants may be plumped by placing them in a pan, covering them with cold water, and bringing them to a boil. Drain and cool before using. If you would like to have rum-soaked raisins or currants on hand, pack the plumped fruit tightly into a container, then add enough dark rum to cover. The flavor will permeate the fruit without overpowering it or giving it a strong alcohol flavor because the fruit has already absorbed moisture from plumping and will only absorb a little rum.

Dates, figs, prunes, and apricots may be treated the same way as raisins, though I usually wait until I’m preparing a particular recipe to plump them. Always check that pitted dates and other fruit really are—mechanical pitters often miss one or two in every package. If you are using dried figs, always remove the stem, which becomes hard and sharp when it is dried.

TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT

The following is a list of the most important equipment used in this book’s recipes. Though quality bakeware and hand tools may be expensive, remember that they are a lifetime investment and will not need to be replaced.

MEASURING TOOLS

See Measuring above. Make sure to have several sets of both liquid- and dry-measure cups and measuring spoons to save time and effort when you do a lot of baking at once.

When it comes to weighing, always choose a digital scale. They are inexpensive and as an added bonus they allow you to toggle from metric to pounds and ounces very easily.

ELECTRIC MIXER

I use a KitchenAid stand mixer for many recipes. My mixer comes with a paddle attachment for general mixing, a wire whisk for aerating (whipping cream or egg whites), and a dough hook to use on heavy doughs, such as bread doughs. When mixing cookie doughs or cake batters, a flex edge beater is a good substitute for the paddle because it scrapes the side of the bowl when mixing, eliminating the need to stop and scrape with a rubber spatula.

Hand mixers and lightweight table model mixers that have rotary blades do a good job of mixing batters and whipping cream and egg whites. They get stuck on thicker mixtures and should never be used on bread doughs or other heavy mixtures.

Some hand mixers can manage heavier doughs—it is best to check the instruction booklet accompanying the mixer to be sure of this before purchasing.

FOOD PROCESSOR

I consider this an essential piece of equipment. Aside from puréeing, grinding, grating, and chopping, a food processor can perform almost all the functions of a heavy-duty mixer. I love to use a mini food processor for grinding a small amount of nuts in cases when a large food processor would be too cumbersome. Some immersion blenders include a vessel that attaches to the handle and can be used to grind small amounts of nuts and other items. An immersion blender is also very useful for puréeing fairly liquid mixtures.

NUT GRINDER

A rotary nut grinder produces a fine nut meal without unnecessarily extracting oil from the nuts as a high-speed propeller blade, such as the one in a food processor, would do. These are available in both handheld and suction-based countertop versions.

KNIVES

A stainless-steel bread (serrated edge) knife, a chef’s or chopping knife, and a stainless-steel paring knife are essential.

SPATULAS

Silicone: I now use heatproof silicone spatulas for everything rather than the plastic or rubber ones. Six- and nine-inch spatulas will accomplish most mixing and folding purposes. I prefer the traditional flat ones to concave, spoonlike ones.

Metal: Small (4-inch blade) and medium (7-inch blade) offset metal icing spatulas are easily available and are useful for a variety of purposes, including scraping the food processor bowl, icing cakes and pastries, and lifting cookies from baking pans. See the illustration of the offset spatula here.

 

 

An offset metal icing spatula is useful for scraping the food processor bowl, icing cakes and pastries, and lifting cookies from baking pans.

 

Plastic or rubber: Six- and nine-inch rubber spatulas will accomplish most mixing and folding purposes. I prefer the traditional flat ones to the newer concave, spoonlike ones.

SPOONS

Both wooden and metal kitchen spoons (both slotted and unpierced) are useful. Keep wooden spoons for baking separate from those used for cooking to avoid transferring strong flavors, which are easily absorbed by the wood.

INDUCTION AND CONVECTION

Whether you have an induction stovetop or a separate unit that can function as an extra cooktop besides your stove, use a magnet on the bottom of a pan to determine whether it’s appropriate for induction cooking. If the magnet attaches strongly, the pan will work.

Many ovens have a convection setting that uses a small fan to circulate the air inside the oven. In general, when using the convection feature in your oven, set the temperature approximately 25 degrees lower than what is stated in the recipe. Convection is excellent for baking a sponge cake like a génoise; small yeast-risen pastries such as brioches, croissants, or Danish; or anything that needs to color quickly, such as meringue on the top of a pie or tart. Never use convection for baking bread, a butter cake (it will cause it to crack irregularly on the top), or cookies that need to spread significantly while they’re baking.

HAND TOOLS

A Microplane or stainless-steel box grater is essential for grating citrus zests and small amounts of cheese, chocolate, or such spices as nutmeg.

Strainers should have stainless-steel or sturdy nylon mesh. Fine-meshed strainers are good for straining the seeds from purees, such as raspberry puree, or sifting lumpy mixtures, such as cocoa powder. Coarser mesh is good for straining out large particles from a syrup or other liquid and for sifting dry ingredients into a batter. Though I never use a sifter for dry ingredients, use one if you wish.

Scrapers come in both plastic and metal. A flexible plastic or silicone bowl scraper is useful for emptying the contents of bowls or pans; a metal one or bench scraper is used for scraping dough from the work surface or for dividing dough into pieces.

A stainless-steel swivel-bladed peeler works best for peeling most fruit. Some swivel-bladed peelers now come with serrated blades, making the job even easier.

A set each of both plain and fluted round cutters are important for cutting baking powder biscuits and cookies. Novelty shapes may also be used for cookies.

Natural-bristle pastry brushes are used to apply egg white to delicate doughs, whereas silicone brushes with larger bristles are excellent for applying syrup to cake layers and other jobs where the brush is used to transfer rather than paint. Wash brushes in the flatware section of the dishwasher and allow to air-dry after each use to keep them clean and free of odors.

Disposable pastry bags are now the norm. They are available in a variety of sizes. Twelve-inch bags are great for piping on small quantities of icing, but for cookie doughs or any other dense mixtures, a sixteen- or eighteen-inch bag is preferred. Tubes may be metal or plastic and are available in hardware and department stores as well as in specialty cookware stores.

An oven thermometer that can hang from one of the racks in your oven can be useful for determining whether the oven temperature is accurate. An instant-read thermometer is useful for checking doneness for breads.

I like to use the kitchen timer that’s right on my stove, not to tell me when something is done but to remind me to look and check for doneness. I usually set the timer for about two-thirds to three-quarters of the suggested baking time in the recipe and then at shorter intervals to prompt me to go back and look again. Always use the signs of doneness stated in the recipe rather than a timer to tell you when something is done.

Round cooling racks are great for cooling cake layers or tarts in or out of the pan. Rectangular racks are best for cookies and any recipe that produces multiple items, as well as square or rectangular cake layers.

BOWLS

I use both stainless-steel and Pyrex bowls for mixing. Though I use plastic containers for storage, I don’t like plastic bowls for mixing—no matter how carefully they are washed they may retain fat and odors.

POTS AND PANS

Most of the pots and pans I use for cooking are enameled iron—they hold heat well and are completely nonreactive, so I need never worry that an acidic preparation such as lemon curd will pick up a metallic taste from the pan. Tin-or stainless-lined copper, and stainless-lined aluminum are also good choices. Stainless pans with a copper bottom or core are also excellent, but avoid all-stainless pans for anything but poaching fruit or boiling water—they heat unevenly and would scorch any custard or starch preparation cooked in them.

BAKING PANS

I regularly use the following sizes:

•8-inch square pan, 2 inches deep

•9 × 13-inch pan, 2 inches deep

•9- or 10-inch loose-bottomed tart pan

•8- or 9-inch round layer pans, 1½ inches deep

•9- or 10-inch springform pan, 2½ to 3 inches deep

•12-inch round layer pan, 2 inches deep (same volume as a 9 × 13 × 2-inch pan, which may be substituted)

•8½ × 4½ × 2¾-inch (small) loaf pan

•9 × 5 × 3-inch (large) loaf pan

•12 × 15-inch cookie sheets (if your oven gives strong bottom heat, invest in the insulated variety, or in several extras to stack together)

•10½ × 15½-inch and 11 × 17-inch jelly-roll pans (commercial aluminum half-sheet pans, approximately 12 × 18 inches, may be substituted)

All pies are baked in a 9-inch Pyrex pie pan.

Though not strictly a baking pan, a banneton is a type of basket used for proofing a loaf of bread, usually a round one. It may or may not be lined with canvas. A good substitute is an inexpensive bread basket lined with a floured napkin or flatweave kitchen towel.

LINING PANS

Parchment paper, aluminum foil, or silicone mats can be used for lining pans. For lining only the bottom of a pan, parchment paper is fine. For lining a pan that’s one to two inches deep, it’s better to use aluminum foil, molding it first over the back of the pan, then gently sliding it into the pan. Use regular aluminum foil, not heavy-duty, which can cut into a delicate pastry dough or cake layer. Silicone mats, or Silpats, are excellent for baking batters that need to spread out and become crisp, as the baked items can then more easily be removed from the nonstick surface than from parchment or foil. I wouldn’t bake chocolate chip cookies on a silicone mat.

 

 

QUICK BREADS

IRISH SODA BREAD

Variations:

Part Whole Wheat Soda Bread

Seedy Bread

QUICK BREAD WITH DRIED FRUIT

Variations:

Prune and Apricot Bread

Raisin Pecan Bread

Date and Walnut Bread

Fig and Almond Bread

COCOA QUICK BREAD

SANDY LEONARD’S BANANA RAISIN BREAD

LOW-FAT BANANA BREAD

CORN BREAD

BUTTERMILK CORN BREAD

Variations:

Kernel Corn Bread

Jalapeño Corn Bread with Jack Cheese

Corn Sticks

Bacon and Scallion Skillet Corn Bread

Cheddar, Bacon, and Scallion Corn Bread

BAKING POWDER BISCUITS

CLASSIC SOUTHERN BISCUITS

Variation:

Drop Biscuits

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

Variations:

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

Cream Cheese Biscuits

MARY MARGARET McBRIDE’S POTATO BISCUITS

SCONES

PLAIN SCONES

Variations:

Whole Wheat Scones

Toll House Scones

Cream Scones or Sour Cream Scones

Rock Scones

CURRANT TEA SCONES

OATMEAL RAISIN SCONES

LEMON CORNMEAL SCONES WITH DRIED CHERRIES

MUFFINS

JORDAN MARSH BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

Variations:

Blueberry Crumble Muffins

Lemon Raspberry Muffins

CHEDDAR MUFFINS

CORN AND GOLDEN RAISIN MUFFINS

LOW-FAT MUFFINS

LEMON BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

PUMPKIN MUFFINS

APPLESAUCE CORN MUFFINS

BRAN CEREAL MUFFINS

 

 

The first project many novice bakers undertake is a quick bread, or one of its many variations, the muffin, scone, or biscuit. All are easy to prepare and even fairly fast in baking time. The “quick” refers, however, to the fact that these yeastless breads require no waiting time for the dough to rise.

Quick breads originated in the mid-nineteenth century both as an alternative to and a substitute for breads made with yeast. With the invention of baking powder—chemicals that have some of the properties of yeast in that they form carbon dioxide gas in the dough or batter that causes leavening or rising to take place during baking—many thought unreliable and often allergy-causing yeast would be replaced. Occasionally, a quick bread is leavened by baking soda or a combination of baking powder and baking soda. When baking soda is used, there is always an acid ingredient—cocoa, chocolate, sour cream, yogurt, honey, brown sugar, or molasses—present. The baking soda foams in the presence of the acid and causes a supplementary leavening that counteracts the heaviness of the acid ingredient or provides all the leavening for the dough or batter.

Fortunately for us, an intelligent public did not give up its fondness for real bread made with yeast. Even more fortunately, the discovery of baking powder contributed to many wonderful new baked foods such as muffins and biscuits as well as new cakes and contributed a lighter and better texture to many existing foods.

The recipes in this chapter fall into several categories:

SODA BREADS: Variations on the classic Irish quick bread, a baking soda–leavened bread usually made with buttermilk.

LOAVES: Classic not-too-sweet quick breads studded with dried fruit, nuts, or both.

CORN BREADS: Quick breads containing cornmeal and little or no sugar.

BAKING POWDER BISCUITS: Individual, usually unsweetened quick breads, most often served with meals.

SCONES: A sweet, rich cross between a baking powder biscuit and a muffin. Scones tend to be richer than biscuits, but not so sweet or rich as muffins.

MUFFINS: Individual quick breads with berries and grains; can be made low-fat, too.

 

 

Quick Breads

 

What distinguishes a quick bread from a loaf cake? They look the same, and if you made a random arrangement of loaf-shaped quick breads, pound cakes, and fruitcakes, it would be difficult to tell them apart on the basis of appearance. There are, however, fundamental differences:

1.Quick breads are not as sweet as loaf cakes. They do contain sugar, but never in as high a proportion as a cake.

2.Quick breads are lower in fat than cakes. Although they may contain eggs, butter, or oil, the proportion of fat is much less than in a cake batter.

3.Quick breads use dried fruits and nuts not only for flavor, but also for moisture, and to help make up for the low proportions of sugar and fat.

4.A quick bread has a somewhat drier texture than a cake. This is why many are served with a spread of some kind—date nut bread with cream cheese, for instance, is a classic.

5.When mixing quick breads, be careful not to overmix or the bread will be tough and heavy.

6.Finally, quick breads can be served as breakfast, brunch, and late-supper breads. They are perfect when something slightly sweet will be welcome, but a full-scale cake would be too rich.

 

IRISH SODA BREAD

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1½ cups buttermilk

One cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan covered with parchment or buttered foil

ONE 7- TO 8-INCH LOAF, ABOUT 8 SERVINGS

Most American versions of soda bread are slightly sweet and contain raisins and/or caraway seeds—a variation of the classic called Seedy Bread (see below). This plain soda bread and its whole wheat variation are adapted from Full and Plenty: Breads & Cakes (Anvil Books, 1985) by Maura Laverty, a classic Irish cookbook (see an adaptation of Laverty’s barm brack, a yeast-risen tea cake on page 401).

1. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir well to mix.

2. Add the buttermilk and stir gently with a rubber spatula—it will form a slightly sticky dough. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest for about 5 minutes.

3. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

4. Remove the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured work surface and knead it until it is smooth, about 1 minute. Form into a round loaf and place on the prepared pan. Use a sharp knife to cut a cross about 5 inches long and 1 inch deep into the top of the loaf. Let the loaf rest, loosely covered, for about 15 minutes, while the oven is heating.

5. Bake the soda bread for about 45 minutes, until it is well risen, a deep brown color, and a skewer or toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean. Slide the loaf onto a rack to cool.

SERVING: Serve the soda bread for breakfast, brunch, or tea with butter and marmalade or jam.

STORAGE: Keep the soda bread in a plastic bag at room temperature—it is good for a day or two. Unfortunately this type of soda bread when toasted only becomes hard and crumbly, so it must be used fresh.

VARIATIONS

PART WHOLE WHEAT SODA BREAD: Substitute 2½ cups all-purpose flour and ½ cup whole wheat flour for the flour, above. Substitute an equal amount of honey for the sugar, if you wish.

SEEDY BREAD: This sweet and rich version of soda bread is probably familiar to the American palate. Although the caraway seeds are a typical part of this preparation, you may of course leave them out, if you wish. If you like raisins, add up to 1 cup dark raisins to the dough, right before adding the buttermilk.

Increase the flour to 3½ cups and sugar to 3 tablespoons; after adding salt and soda, rub in 3 or 4 tablespoons unsalted butter and add 1 tablespoon caraway seeds; mix in the buttermilk and proceed as in step 2.

 

QUICK BREAD WITH DRIED FRUIT

One 11- or 12-ounce package mixed dried fruit, coarsely chopped by hand or in the food processor

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

2 large eggs

¾ cup milk

One 9 × 5 × 3-inch loaf pan, buttered and floured

 

ONE 9 x 5 x 3-INCH LOAF, ABOUT 10 SERVINGS

Once every winter I make a compote from a supermarket box of mixed dried fruit, and this quick bread also uses the mixture to make an interesting, not-too-sweet breakfast bread.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

2. Place the chopped dried fruit in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a simmer. Drain and spread out on paper towels to soak up the excess moisture.

3. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl; stir well to mix.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, then beat in the sugar, just until mixed. Beat in the eggs and milk, then the flour mixture and dried fruit.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the loaf for 45 to 55 minutes, until it is well risen and a skewer or thin knife inserted in the thickest part of the bread emerges clean.

6. Cool the loaf on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and finish cooling.

SERVING: Serve thin slices with butter or cream cheese.

STORAGE: Keep well wrapped at room temperature for a day or two. For longer storage, refrigerate, tightly wrapped in plastic. This freezes well, wrapped tightly, for up to several months. Defrost and bring to room temperature before serving.

VARIATIONS

PRUNE AND APRICOT BREAD: Substitute 1 cup each pitted prunes and dried apricots, both coarsely chopped, as above, for the mixed dried fruit.

RAISIN PECAN BREAD: Substitute 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 cup dark raisins, and ¾ cup coarsely chopped pecan pieces for the dried fruit, above. (It is not necessary to bring these ingredients to a boil, as with the dried fruit, above.)

Substitute golden raisins or currants or a combination for the raisins. Walnuts or almonds may be substituted for the pecans. Omit cinnamon and replace it with 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, if you wish. For an all-nut bread, omit the raisins and double the quantity of nuts.

DATE AND WALNUT BREAD: Substitute 1 cup coarsely chopped pitted dates and 1 cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces for the dried fruit, above (no need to simmer). Substitute ½ cup dark brown sugar for the sugar, increase the baking powder to 1 tablespoon, and decrease the butter to 4 tablespoons.

FIG AND ALMOND BREAD: Substitute chopped mission figs (be sure to remove the hard, sharp stems) and coarsely chopped toasted whole blanched almonds for the dates and walnuts in the variation above.

 

COCOA QUICK BREAD

1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa powder

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs

¾ cup light brown sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or mild vegetable oil such as safflower

¾ cup sour cream

One 9 × 5 × 3-inch loaf pan, buttered and floured

ONE 9 x 5 x 3-INCH LOAF, ABOUT 10 SERVINGS

This rich, chocolate-flavored quick bread is a good tea or afternoon bread with a spread of tart raspberry jam, butter, or cream cheese.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

2. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices together into a mixing bowl; stir well to combine.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and whisk in the sugar. Continue whisking until light, a minute or two. Whisk in the butter or oil and the sour cream. Stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, being careful not to overmix.

4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the loaf for 45 to 55 minutes, until it is well risen and a skewer or thin knife inserted in the thickest part of the bread emerges clean.

5. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and finish cooling.

SERVING: Serve the cocoa bread with cream cheese and/or jam or preserves.

STORAGE: Keep well wrapped at room temperature for a day or two. For longer storage, refrigerate, tightly wrapped in plastic. This quick bread freezes well, wrapped tightly, for up to several months. Defrost and bring to room temperature before serving.

 

SANDY LEONARD’S BANANA RAISIN BREAD

1 cup dark raisins

1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

⅔ cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup finely mashed very ripe bananas (about 2 bananas)

One 8½ × 4½ × 2¾-inch loaf pan, buttered and floured

ONE 8½ x 4½ x 2¾-INCH LOAF, ABOUT 8 SERVINGS

My friend Sandy Leonard, an expert home baker, recently devised this recipe to use up some bananas that were rapidly growing too brown to eat.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

2. Place the raisins in a bowl. Remove a tablespoon of flour from the measured amount and toss with the raisins to coat them.

3. Combine the remaining flour, the baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and stir to mix.

4. By hand or with an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar until soft and light, 2 or 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.

5. By hand, being careful not to overmix, fold in the bananas, flour mixture, then raisins.

6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the loaf for 45 to 55 minutes, until it is well risen and a skewer or thin knife inserted in the thickest part of the bread emerges clean.

7. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and finish cooling.

SERVING: Serve thin slices with butter or cream cheese.

STORAGE: Keep well wrapped at room temperature for a day or two. For longer storage, refrigerate, tightly wrapped in plastic. This freezes well, wrapped tightly, for up to several months. Defrost and bring to room temperature before serving.

HINT FOR SUCCESS: Make sure the bananas are really ripe—the skin can even be dark brown—or the bread will have little flavor.

 

LOW-FAT BANANA BREAD

2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon ground allspice

1 cup sugar

3 egg whites

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 4 bananas)

One 8½ × 4½ × 2¾-inch loaf pan, oiled and floured

ONE 8½ x 4½ x 2¾-INCH LOAF, ABOUT 8 SERVINGS

Yet another banana bread—this time a low-fat version that works particularly well. Bananas provide the sweetness, moisture, and tenderness often lacking in baked goods that are low in fat. This is so good, the absence of fat isn’t even apparent.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, and allspice and stir well to mix.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg whites, applesauce, oil, vanilla, and bananas.

4. Being careful not to overmix, fold in the flour mixture.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the loaf for 45 to 55 minutes, until it is well risen and a skewer or thin knife inserted in the thickest part of the bread emerges clean.

6. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and finish cooling.

SERVING: Serve thin slices with a low-fat spread such as light cream cheese.

STORAGE: Keep well wrapped at room temperature for a day or two. For longer storage, refrigerate, tightly wrapped in plastic. This freezes well, wrapped tightly, for up to several months. Defrost and bring to room temperature before serving.

 

 

Corn Bread

 

Corn bread is a staple throughout the world because cornmeal and other processed corn products, such as hominy, have been the basic dietary starch of many cultures.

The following corn breads, perhaps the most popular of all quick breads, make good brunch dishes, either on their own or as an accompaniment to eggs and breakfast meat.

A Note About Cornmeal

Although cornmeal is easy to find in the supermarket, I always use a stone-ground yellow cornmeal for these recipes. Industrially ground cornmeal has had the germ removed. This helps it retain freshness longer, but unfortunately it also removes some of the cornmeal’s flavor and character.

 

BUTTERMILK CORN BREAD

1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup buttermilk

3 large eggs

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

One 8 × 8 × 2-inch pan, buttered and lined with parchment or wax paper

ONE 8-INCH SQUARE OF CORN BREAD, ABOUT 6 SERVINGS

This is easy enough to put together in the morning, but if you wish, measure the dry ingredients and combine them the night before; then, in the morning, it is only necessary to melt the butter and whisk the eggs, butter, and buttermilk together, stir them into the dry ingredients, and bake.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir well to mix.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk and eggs together. Quickly whisk in the melted butter.

4. Stir the liquids into the dry ingredients; avoid overmixing.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

6. Bake the corn bread for about 20 minutes, until it is well risen and firm in the center. Cool on a rack in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto the rack and remove the paper. Cover the corn bread with a platter, turn them over together and serve immediately.

SERVING: Serve with butter and jam—though it is rich enough and really needs no butter.

STORAGE: Store tightly wrapped and refrigerated or frozen. Bring to room temperature or reheat at 350 degrees for 10 minutes before serving.

VARIATIONS

To substitute milk for the buttermilk, omit the baking soda.

KERNEL CORN BREAD: Add 1 to 2 cups cooked corn kernels to the batter—a good way to use up a leftover ear or two of corn.

JALAPENO CORN BREAD WITH JACK CHEESE: Halve, seed, and mince 2 pickled jalapeños and add to the batter along with 1 cup coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese. Serve the corn bread with sour cream and salsa—or even guacamole.

CORN STICKS: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, generously brush a corn-stick pan with oil, and place in the oven to heat. Eliminate the sugar from the basic recipe, reduce the baking powder to 2 teaspoons, use 1 egg, and increase the buttermilk or milk to 1 cup. Remove the hot pan from the oven and fill each cavity to within ¼ inch of the top. Return to the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the corn sticks are firm and golden. Unmold the corn sticks to a rack, re-oil the pan, and return to the oven to reheat for 5 minutes. Refill the pan with the remaining batter and bake. Yields 12 to 15 corn sticks.

BACON AND SCALLION SKILLET CORN BREAD: This corn bread is so good, it’s an excuse to invite guests for breakfast or brunch. Traditional skillet corn breads have often been made in heavy iron skillets that have been seasoned by years of careful use. I use a 10-inch-diameter nonstick coated pan with excellent results. Finely dice and cook ¼ pound bacon in a sauté pan over low heat. When the fat begins to render, add ½ cup thinly sliced white part of scallions and cook until the bacon is crisp and the scallions are limp. Add to the batter at the end. Bake as for corn bread, above.

CHEDDAR, BACON, AND SCALLION CORN BREAD: Add 1 cup (about 4 ounces) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese to the batter along with the bacon and scallions in the variation above.

 

 

Baking Powder Biscuits

 

Baking powder biscuits, obligatory for breakfast and just about any other meal or gathering of importance in the American South, are made in many different traditional forms.

I was fortunate to have a short apprenticeship in biscuit making at the side of one of the greatest living southern bakers, Prudence Hilburn, author of the definitive Treasury of Southern Baking (HarperPerennial, 1993), and a veritable encyclopedia on the subject. I’ve also had the privilege of visiting the Hilburns several times at their home in rural Alabama, and it was during my first visit that I got to watch Prudence make her light-as-air biscuits.

Most southern cooks use a special southern brand of self-rising all-purpose flour for biscuits. This flour (White Lily is a popular brand) not only has the baking powder and salt already added, but is also lower in gluten-forming proteins than nationally available brands of all-purpose flour and therefore makes a less elastic dough, which leads to more tender biscuits. It isn’t impossible to make good biscuits with the flour in your cupboard, it just requires a little adjustment in the recipe. Each of the following biscuit recipes uses a different flour or blend of flours and even provides variations at the end of each recipe for different flours so that you can produce perfect biscuits no matter what type of flour you choose to use.

In the South, the traditional way to prepare biscuits is to put flour into a large bowl, make a well in the flour, and rub in shortening, then add liquid to make a soft dough. Only about 10 percent of the flour in the bowl is used and the rest is rewrapped and put away until the next batch of biscuits is made. This is how I watched Prudence do it early on a Sunday morning in 1986. I poked, pinched, squeezed, and pressed the dough so that I would remember its consistency and be able to duplicate it. Then I came home and experimented. You’ll see that the recipe calls for 2 cups of flour rather than the bowlful Prudence uses—more practical if you are not going to make biscuits every day.

 

CLASSIC SOUTHERN BISCUITS

2 cups White Lily, another self-rising southern flour, or self-rising cake flour (see Note)

4 tablespoons butter, lard, or vegetable shortening

⅔ to ¾ cup milk

One cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan covered with parchment or foil

 

ABOUT TWELVE 2-INCH BISCUITS

For this recipe I have used a typical southern brand of self-rising all-purpose flour, such as White Lily, to reproduce the most common biscuits on the southern table. Though such flour isn’t a staple item in supermarkets across the country, it is possible to search and order it online.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

2. Place the flour in a mixing bowl and, using your fingertips or a pastry blender, rub the fat in quickly, leaving the mixture cool and powdery.

3. Add a minimum amount of milk and stir in briskly with a fork. If dry particles of flour remain visible in the dough, gradually stir in the remaining milk.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and fold the dough over on itself several times to distribute the moisture evenly and make the dough slightly less sticky.

5. Pat or gently roll the dough to a ½-inch thickness. Cut with a floured cutter. Avoid twisting the cutter, which distorts the sides of the biscuits. Place the biscuits on the prepared pan.

6. Press any scraps together and pat to ½-inch thickness again, then cut the remaining biscuits. Discard any scraps left after the second rolling.

7. Bake the biscuits for 10 or 12 minutes, until well risen and light golden brown.

SERVING: Serve the biscuits as soon as they are baked, with butter and jam.

STORAGE: Biscuits are a little like soufflés—they are made to be eaten immediately. If you wish to make biscuits in advance and keep them, slightly underbake them, leaving them very light, then cool, wrap, and freeze them. Place frozen biscuits on a parchment- or foil-lined pan, cover loosely until thawed, then reheat at 450 degrees for about 2 minutes.

HINT FOR SUCCESS: Don’t be afraid of working with such a soft dough—if the dough were dry and firm, the baked biscuits would also be dry and firm. Work with biscuit dough slowly and carefully and use a spatula to transfer cut biscuits from the work surface to the pan.

VARIATION

Note: Substitute 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 cup cake flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt for the White Lily flour, above.

DROP BISCUITS: These easy biscuits require no rolling or forming—they are dropped from a spoon onto the pan. They’re a perfect quickly made early-morning treat for guests. Use the following ingredients:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

¾ cup milk

 

Make the dough as in Classic Southern Biscuits, above—the dough will be soft. To form the biscuits, drop onto the cookie sheet in 3-tablespoon mounds. Bake as above.

 

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

¾ to 1 cup buttermilk

One cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan covered with parchment or foil

ABOUT 12 BISCUITS

Though these are similar to Classic Southern Biscuits (page 14), I like to make them with slightly different proportions. You may also use the food processor to prepare this dough.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl or bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Stir or pulse several times to mix.

3. If you are working by hand, rub in the butter until completely blended using your fingertips or a pastry blender. If you are using a processor, add the butter and pulse about 20 times until the mixture resembles a fine meal.

4. By hand, add the buttermilk and stir in with a fork. In the processor, add the buttermilk and pulse 3 or 4 times—do not allow the dough to become a ball.

5. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and fold the dough over on itself several times to distribute the moisture evenly and to make the dough slightly less sticky.

6. Pat or gently roll the dough ½ inch thick. Cut with a floured cutter. Avoid twisting the cutter, which distorts the sides of the biscuits. Place the biscuits on the prepared pan.

7. Press any scraps together and pat to ½-inch thickness again; cut the remaining biscuits. Discard any scraps left after the second rolling.

8. Bake the biscuits for 10 to 12 minutes, until well risen and light golden brown.

SERVING: Serve biscuits as soon as they are baked, with butter and jam.

STORAGE: Biscuits are a little like soufflés—they are made to be eaten immediately. If you wish to make biscuits in advance and keep them, slightly underbake them, leaving them very light, then cool, wrap, and freeze them. Place frozen biscuits on a parchment- or foil-lined pan, cover loosely until thawed, then reheat at 400 degrees for about 2 minutes.

VARIATIONS

CHEDDAR CHEESE BISCUITS: These biscuits, which may be varied by changing the cheese to Gruyère or even Parmesan, go perfectly with baked ham. Or try adding a few fresh herbs or a pinch of hot paprika or cayenne to enliven them. Please note that these biscuits are baked at a lower temperature than the preceding ones. This is to avoid burning any cheese that may be on the surface. Add ½ teaspoon paprika, sweet or hot according to taste; ½ teaspoon dry mustard; and ¾ cup (about 3 ounces) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese to Buttermilk Biscuits, above. Bake the biscuits at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

CREAM CHEESE BISCUITS: These ultra-rich biscuits were made to be served with a slightly bitter marmalade or a sharp berry jam. Use 3 ounces (1 small package) cream cheese, chilled, and only 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter. Use just ¾ cup buttermilk or milk to moisten the dough.

 

MARY MARGARET McBRIDE’S POTATO BISCUITS

1 large (8 to 10 ounces) Idaho potato

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

½ cup milk

One cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan covered with parchment or foil

ABOUT 12 2-INCH BISCUITS

Mary Margaret McBride, one of America’s original food personalities, started out as a radio journalist in the 1930s. Though she may not have invented the interview format, she became famous for it, and all the most newsworthy personalities of the day were guests on her show. She was so well-known by the 1950s that on an early I Love Lucy episode Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance) went on a local television show pretending to be “Mary Margaret McMertz” to endorse bottled salad dressing she and Lucy (Lucille Ball) had prepared.

This recipe is adapted from the Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking produced by the Homemakers Research Institute in 1959.

1. Peel the potato and slice it into ½-inch-thick rounds. Place it in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, lower the heat, and cook until the potato is tender, about 10 minutes.

2. While the potato is cooking, set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

3. Measure the remaining ingredients and have them ready.

4. Drain the potato and rice or sieve it while hot. Measure 1 lightly packed cup of potato purée.

5. Place the purée in a bowl and cool to room temperature. Gently incorporate the dry ingredients into the potato purée, cutting through the purée with a rubber spatula, as though you were folding egg whites into a batter. Try to avoid stirring the potato mixture or it may become elastic.

6. Gently rub the butter into the potato and flour mixture, using your fingertips or a pastry blender. Leave the mixture a consistency of slightly wet meal.

7. Add the milk and incorporate it by cutting through the dough with a fork.

8. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and fold the dough over on itself several times to distribute the moisture evenly and to make it slightly less sticky.

9. Pat or gently roll the dough to a ½-inch thickness. Cut with a floured cutter. Avoid twisting the cutter, which distorts the sides of the biscuits. Place the biscuits on the prepared pan.

10. Press any scraps together, pat out to ½-inch thickness again, and cut the remaining biscuits. Discard any scraps left after the second rolling.

11. Bake the biscuits for 10 to 12 minutes, until well risen and light golden brown.

SERVING: Serve the biscuits as soon as they are baked, with butter and jam.

STORAGE: Biscuits are a little like soufflés—they are made to be eaten immediately. If you wish to make biscuits in advance and keep them, slightly underbake them, leaving them very light, then cool, wrap, and freeze them. Place frozen biscuits on a parchment- or foil-lined pan, cover loosely until thawed, then reheat at 400 degrees for about 2 minutes.

HINT FOR SUCCESS: Be sure to use a baking potato. A boiling potato will be starchy and elastic when puréed and make the dough gummy.

 

 

Scones

 

Scones, native to Scotland, have become a favorite American quick bread. They were originally baked on a griddle—and there are still many old recipes for griddle scones, which are like thick pancakes.

Richer and sweeter than a baking powder biscuit, plain scones are served for tea in the British Isles. They are often spread with clotted cream or whipped cream and jam.

All the following recipes are easy to prepare. Take the same precautions in making scones as you would in mixing pastry dough. Rub in the butter thoroughly, but don’t let it get pasty, and be careful not to mix the dough too much after adding liquid—only enough to moisten and no more.

SHAPING SCONES

Though a dough for scones may be patted out and cut like a baking powder biscuit, there is a traditional way to form them. Divide the dough into equal parts (each recipe specifies this) and pat each into a disk. Cut each disk into quarters, to make four wedges.

 

PLAIN SCONES

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup raisins or currants (optional)

2 large eggs

¾ cup milk

Egg wash: 1 egg well beaten with a pinch of salt

One cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan covered with parchment or foil

12 LARGE SCONES

These plain scones are shaped in the classic manner. The dough is formed into round cakes, then cut into quarters, so that the baked scones have a triangular shape.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.

3. Cut the butter into 12 pieces and rub it evenly into the dry ingredients, until the mixture has the appearance of fine cornmeal. Add the raisins, if you are using them.

4. Whisk the eggs and milk together and stir into the flour and butter mixture with a fork to form a smooth dough.

5. Divide the dough into 3 pieces and form each into a 5-inch disk. Using a sharp, floured knife, quarter each disk into 4 wedges. Place the wedges wide apart on the prepared pan. Apply the egg wash evenly, allow the wash to dry several minutes, then wash again.

6. Bake the scones for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are firm but not dry. Be careful that they do not color too deeply.

SERVING: Serve scones for breakfast, brunch, or tea with jam.

STORAGE: Keep scones loosely covered at room temperature the day they are baked. For longer storage, wrap or bag in plastic and freeze. Defrost the scones, loosely covered at room temperature, in a single layer for about an hour. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.

VARIATIONS

WHOLE WHEAT SCONES: Replace 1 cup of the all-purpose flour in the basic recipe with 1 cup whole wheat flour. Reduce the milk to ½ cup.

TOLL HOUSE SCONES: Use light brown or turbinado sugar instead of white sugar, buttermilk instead of the milk, and add ½ teaspoon baking soda to the dry ingredients. Add 4 ounces of chopped semisweet chocolate or ¾ cup chocolate chips to the dough instead of the raisins after the butter has been incorporated.

CREAM SCONES OR SOUR CREAM SCONES: Substitute ¼ cup light brown sugar for the sugar and ¾ cup heavy cream or sour cream for the milk. If you use sour cream, add ½ teaspoon baking soda to the dry ingredients in addition to the baking powder. Eliminate the raisins or currants. Before baking, brush the scones with additional cream (instead of egg wash) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

ROCK SCONES: Increase the sugar to ½ cup and the butter to 6 tablespoons, and use only 1 egg. Substitute ⅓ cup currants, ⅓ cup golden raisins, and ⅓ cup diced candied orange peel for the raisins. Form the scones by shaping the dough into an 18-inch cylinder. Cut into twelve 1½-inch pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Bake the scones at least 3 inches apart on a paper-lined pan. Do not use egg wash.

 

CURRANT TEA SCONES

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

⅓ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup currants

1¼ cups milk, cream, or buttermilk

Egg wash: 1 egg well beaten with a pinch of salt

One cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan covered with parchment or foil

ABOUT TWENTY-FOUR 2-INCH SCONES

This typical tea pastry has a rich, delicate, cakelike texture. The dough is so tender that you may easily press the scraps back together and recut the scones twice with no risk of toughening it. The technique for making these slightly flaky scones is a little like making puff pastry—the dough is pressed out and rolled up to create layers throughout it.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.

3. Cut the butter into 12 pieces and rub evenly into the dry ingredients, until the mixture has the appearance of meal. Add the currants.

4. Stir the milk, cream, or buttermilk into the flour and butter mixture to form a smooth dough. Knead lightly once or twice to complete mixing.

5. Press and roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 10 × 15-inch rectangle ¼ inch thick. Roll the dough up from one long side, as for a jelly roll, then flatten the dough and fold in half. Roll the dough ½ inch thick. Cut the scones with a floured, plain, or fluted 2-inch-round cutter.

6. Transfer the cut scones to the prepared pan and brush the tops carefully with the egg wash. Allow the wash to dry for 10 minutes, then apply a second coat.

7. Bake the scones for about 15 minutes, or until they are firm but not dry. Be careful that they do not color too deeply.

SERVING: Serve scones for breakfast, brunch, or tea with jam.

STORAGE: Keep scones loosely covered at room temperature the day they are baked. For longer storage, wrap or bag in plastic and freeze. Defrost scones, loosely covered at room temperature, in a single layer for about an hour. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.

 

OATMEAL RAISIN SCONES

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1½ cups rolled oats (regular oatmeal)

⅓ cup granulated or light brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter

1½ cups (about 8 ounces) raisins

1 cup milk, plus milk or buttermilk for brushing tops of scones (see Note)

1 tablespoon sugar mixed with ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

One jelly-roll pan or cookie sheet lined with parchment or foil

12 LARGE SCONES

This is like a giant, tender oatmeal raisin cookie; delicious!

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse 5 times at 1-second intervals.

3. Cut the butter into 12 pieces, add to the work bowl, and pulse 12 times, until the mixture resembles fine meal.

4. Add the raisins and cup of milk and pulse 3 or 4 times to form a very soft dough.

5. Generously flour the work surface, turn the dough out onto it, and fold it over on itself 3 or 4 times, until it is less sticky.

6. Divide the dough into 3 equal parts and press each into a 5-inch disk. Using a floured knife or bench scraper, quarter each disk into wedges.

7. Arrange the scones with 2 inches distance on all sides on the prepared pan. Brush tops with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake the scones for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are golden and firm when pressed with a fingertip. Do not overbake or they will be dry.

SERVING: Serve the scones for breakfast, brunch, or tea—they need no further embellishment.

STORAGE: Keep the scones loosely covered at room temperature on the day they are baked. For longer storage, wrap tightly and freeze. Defrost frozen scones, loosely covered at room temperature, for an hour, then warm at 350 degrees for several minutes before serving.

Note: If you want to use buttermilk, add ½ teaspoon baking soda to the dry ingredients along with the baking powder.

 

LEMON CORNMEAL SCONES WITH DRIED CHERRIES

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal

⅓ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup (about 5 ounces) dried sour cherries

1 large egg

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

One cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan covered with parchment or foil

12 LARGE SCONES

These scones are particular favorites of mine. The tart flavor of the dried cherries, like raisins, really complements the slight sweetness of the cornmeal.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.

3. Cut the butter into 12 pieces and rub evenly into the dry ingredients, until the mixture has the appearance of fine cornmeal. Add the cherries.

4. Whisk the egg, milk, zest, and vanilla together in a bowl and stir into the flour and butter mixture with a fork to form a smooth dough.

5. Divide the dough into 3 pieces and form each into a 5-inch disk. Using a sharp, floured knife, quarter each disk into 4 wedges. Place 2 inches apart on all sides on the prepared pan.

6. Bake the scones for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are firm when pressed with a fingertip, but not dry. Be careful that they do not color too deeply.

SERVING: Serve scones for breakfast, brunch, or tea with jam.

STORAGE: Keep scones loosely covered at room temperature the day they are baked. For longer storage, wrap or bag in plastic and freeze. Defrost scones, loosely covered at room temperature, in a single layer for about an hour. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.

VARIATION

Use raisins or currants instead of the dried cherries, if you wish.

 

 

Muffins

 

After trying many different recipes for muffins and scones, I came to realize that many muffins were exactly like scones but with more liquid in the dough. One of these recipes (Corn and Golden Raisin Muffins, page 27), in fact, came about exactly in that way—I mistakenly added too much milk to the dough.

Muffin recipes from the 1920s and ’30s were fairly lean—they did not have the large amounts of butter and sugar that many contemporary muffin recipes do. In fact, I remember that when I was a child, an aunt regularly baked muffins as an afternoon coffee treat and that the muffins were only consumed hot out of the oven. After they cooled they became too dense and heavy.

The following muffins are good freshly baked or cooled—and the low-fat recipes are perfect breakfast treats for those who are weight-watching.

 

JORDAN MARSH BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

8 tablespoons (1 stick) soft unsalted butter

1¼ cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling tops of muffins

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ cup buttermilk or milk

1 pint blueberries, rinsed, drained, and dried

One 12-cavity muffin pan with paper liners

12 MUFFINS

These are adapted from Marion Burros’s recipe that appeared often in the past in the New York Times. The muffins are sweet and cakelike, perfect with the melting texture of the berries. You must use paper muffin cups and be sure to butter the top surface of the pan—the tops of the muffins like to stick there. Though this recipe calls for buttermilk, it is not necessary to add baking soda.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

2. Cream the butter with the sugar and salt by hand or with an electric mixer until light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Mix the flour and baking powder together well and stir into the batter alternating with the buttermilk.

3. Crush a quarter of the berries and stir into the batter; fold in the remaining berries whole.

4. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with some sugar.

5. Bake the muffins for about 30 minutes, until well risen and deep golden. Cool the muffins in the pan.

SERVING: Serve the muffins for breakfast, brunch, or tea—they need no further embellishment.

STORAGE: Keep the muffins loosely covered at room temperature on the day they are baked. For longer storage, wrap tightly and freeze. Defrost frozen muffins, loosely covered at room temperature, for an hour, then warm at 350 degrees for several minutes before serving.

VARIATIONS

BLUEBERRY CRUMBLE MUFFINS: Do not sprinkle the surface of the muffins with sugar. Before baking the muffins, sprinkle the surface with the following crumb mixture:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

 

1. Melt the butter; combine the remaining ingredients and stir in the butter.

2. Let set for a minute. Break into large crumbs by hand and sprinkle over the muffin batter in the pan.

LEMON RASPBERRY MUFFINS: Add 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest to the batter along with the buttermilk. Carefully fold in 2 cups firm, dry fresh raspberries after the batter is mixed, instead of the blueberries. Try not to crush the raspberries.

 

CHEDDAR MUFFINS

2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter

1 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)

2 large eggs

¾ cup milk

One 12-cavitγ muffin pan with paper liners

12 MUFFINS

For a perfect lunch, serve these rich muffins with a mixed vegetable salad followed by fresh fruit for dessert.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

3. Cut the butter into 12 pieces, add to the dry ingredients, and rub in until the mixture resembles fine meal. Stir in the cheese.

4. Whisk the eggs into the milk and stir into the dry ingredients to form a very soft batter. Do not overmix or the muffins will be tough.

5. Spoon the batter evenly into the lined pan.

6. Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden and firm when pressed with a fingertip. Do not overbake or they will be dry.

SERVING: Serve the muffins for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or tea—they need no further embellishment.

STORAGE: Keep the muffins loosely covered at room temperature on the day they are baked. For longer storage, wrap tightly and freeze. Defrost frozen muffins, loosely covered at room temperature, for an hour, then warm at 350 degrees for several minutes before serving.

 

CORN AND GOLDEN RAISIN MUFFINS

1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1½ cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal

⅓ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter

1½ cups (about 8 ounces) golden raisins

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

One 12-cavity muffin pan with paper liners

MAKES 12 MUFFINS

One of my favorite cookies is from Venice, a cornmeal butter cookie studded with raisins, called zaleti (little yellow cookies). The flavor of these muffins recalls them quite strongly.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

3. Cut the butter into 12 pieces, add to the dry ingredients, and rub in until the mixture resembles fine meal.

4. Add the raisins, milk, zest, and vanilla and stir to form a very soft dough. Do not overmix or the muffins will be tough.

5. Spoon the batter evenly into the lined pans.

6. Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden and firm when pressed with a fingertip. Do not overbake or they will be dry.

SERVING: Serve the muffins for breakfast, brunch, or tea—they need no further embellishment.

STORAGE: Keep the muffins loosely covered at room temperature on the day they are baked. For longer storage, wrap tightly and freeze. Defrost frozen muffins, loosely covered at room temperature, for an hour, then warm at 350 degrees for several minutes before serving.

 

 

Low-Fat Muffins

 

Though I think the best way to ensure a healthy diet is to eat in moderation, I know that some people must follow special diets and still hate to be deprived of fine baked goods. The muffin recipes that follow are all low in fat. In addition to being a healthy breakfast choice, they make good snacks for children.

 

LEMON BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup low-fat buttermilk

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 large egg

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1½ cups blueberries

Cinnamon sugar made with 1 tablespoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

One 12-cavity muffin pan with paper liners

12 MUFFINS

These moist muffins have only a small amount of fat from the low-fat buttermilk, oil, and whole egg.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir well to mix.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, applesauce, egg, oil, and lemon zest until smooth.

4. Gently fold the applesauce mixture into the flour mixture. Add the blueberries when the liquid is about half absorbed.

5. Divide among the prepared muffin cups and sprinkle each muffin with the cinnamon sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the muffins are deep golden and baked through.

6. Cool slightly and serve immediately.

SERVING: Serve the muffins for breakfast, brunch, or tea—they need no further embellishment.

STORAGE: Keep the muffins loosely covered at room temperature on the day they are baked. For longer storage, wrap tightly and freeze. Defrost frozen muffins, loosely covered at room temperature, for an hour, then warm at 350 degrees for several minutes before serving.

 

PUMPKIN MUFFINS

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup pumpkin puree

½ cup low-fat buttermilk

1 large egg

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

One 12-cavity muffin pan with paper liners

12 MUFFINS

Here the pumpkin provides moisture as applesauce does in other low-fat recipes.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir well to mix.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the pumpkin, buttermilk, egg, and oil together until smooth.

4. Gently fold the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture, being careful not to overmix.

5. Divide the batter among the prepared cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the muffins are deep golden and baked through.

6. Cool slightly and serve immediately.

SERVING: Serve the muffins for breakfast, brunch, or tea—they need no further embellishment.

STORAGE: Keep the muffins loosely covered at room temperature on the day they are baked. For longer storage, wrap tightly and freeze. Defrost frozen muffins, loosely covered at room temperature, for an hour, then warm at 350 degrees for several minutes before serving.

 

APPLESAUCE CORN MUFFINS

1 cup golden raisins

1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups cake flour

⅓ cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal

⅓ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup low-fat buttermilk

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 large egg

2 tablespoons corn oil

One 12-cavity muffin pan with paper liners

12 MUFFINS

Vary these muffins by adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the batter.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

2. Combine the raisins and the tablespoon of flour in a bowl and set aside.

3. Combine the remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl and stir well to mix.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk, applesauce, egg, and oil together until smooth.

5. Gently fold the applesauce mixture into the flour mixture. Add the floured raisins when the liquid is about half absorbed.

6. Divide the batter among the prepared cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the muffins are deep golden and baked through.

7. Cool slightly and serve immediately.

SERVING: Serve the muffins for breakfast, brunch, or tea—they need no further embellishment.

STORAGE: Keep the muffins loosely covered at room temperature on the day they are baked. For longer storage, wrap tightly and freeze. Defrost frozen muffins, loosely covered at room temperature, for an hour, then warm at 350 degrees for several minutes before serving.

 

BRAN CEREAL MUFFINS

½ cup skim milk

1 cup all-bran cereal

1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon for raisins

2½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as canola or corn

½ cup apple juice

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

⅓ cup molasses

⅓ cup sugar

1 large egg, plus 1 egg white

½ cup raisins

One 12-cavity muffin pan with paper liners

12 MUFFINS

Be sure to use 100 percent bran cereal and not “raisin bran” cereal in these muffins.

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

2. In a small bowl, add the skim milk to the bran. Let stand for 5 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, mix the 1¼ cups flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

4. In yet another bowl, blend the oil, apple juice, applesauce, molasses, and sugar; stir in the bran mixture. Mix well. Add the egg and egg white. Mix well.

5. Add the applesauce mixture to the flour mixture. Mix until moistened. Mix the raisins and 1 tablespoon flour in a bowl. Fold in the flour-dusted raisins.

6. Fill the muffin cups three quarters full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until well risen and firm.

7. Remove from the oven and cool for 20 minutes.

SERVING: Serve the muffins for breakfast, brunch, or tea—they need no further embellishment.

STORAGE: Keep the muffins loosely covered at room temperature on the day they are baked. For longer storage, wrap tightly and freeze. Defrost frozen muffins, loosely covered at room temperature, for an hour, then warm at 350 degrees for several minutes before serving.

 

 

PAN BREADS

WHITE PAN BREAD

Variations:

Honey Whole Wheat Pan Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

CHOCOLATE ORANGE BREAD

OLD-FASHIONED OATMEAL BREAD

Variations:

Oatmeal Raisin Bread

Oatmeal Cinnamon Raisin Bread

STARTER AND SOURDOUGH BREADS

STARTER MADE WITH YEAST

Variations:

Purist Starter

Whole Wheat Starter

BEST AND EASIEST HOME-BAKED BREAD

Variation:

Part Whole Wheat Bread

BAGUETTES

RUSTIC WHITE BREAD

Variation:

Rustic Part Whole Wheat Bread

ITALIAN BREAD RING

Variations:

Herb Ring

Small Ring Loaves

OLIVE BREAD

Variation:

Olive and Rosemary Bread

SOURDOUGH STARTER

SOURDOUGH BREAD

Variations:

Part Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Part Whole Wheat Walnut Bread

Sourdough Olive Bread

Sourdough Rosemary Bread

WHOLE-GRAIN BREADS

SEMOLINA BREAD

FRENCH MIXED-GRAIN BREAD

WHOLE WHEAT WALNUT BREAD

Variation:

Whole Wheat Raisin Walnut Bread

SWEDISH RYE BREAD

SWISS RYE BREAD

Variation:

Swiss Rye Ring

DARK CARAWAY RYE BREAD

Variation:

Light Rye Bread

AMERICAN PUMPERNICKEL BREAD

Variation:

Raisin Pumpernickel Bread

SPECIALTY BREADS

CHALLAH

YOCHEVED HIRSCH’S ROUND CHALLAH

PARMESAN CHEESE BREAD

VIENNESE MILK BREAD (WIENER MILCHBROT)

ROLLS AND OTHER INDIVIDUAL BREADS

SOFT ROLLS

Variation:

Honey Whole Wheat Walnut Rolls

HARD ROLLS

Variations:

Poppy-Seed Rolls

Champignons

ENGLISH MUFFINS

Variation:

Part Whole Wheat English Muffins

CRUMPETS

BAGELS

 

 

When I was a child in the early 1950s, good bread was taken for granted in our community. Newark’s Fourteenth Avenue, which was almost 100 percent Italian, had nearly a dozen bread bakeries within a 5-minute walk of the intersection where we lived. Some were Neapolitan, others Sicilian, but they all produced simple, sometimes rough, crisp-crusted, flavorful bread.

Though we never were so effete as to match breads to foods, there were occasions that demanded a particular bread. On holidays we always had Sicilian bread—fine-textured part-semolina bread, either braided or constructed from a series of thin ovals pressed together into a long loaf, then covered with sesame seeds—its very appearance was festive. In our home, we usually had a long, thick, baguette-type bread with seeds. My grandparents, next door, usually had a panella, a round loaf my grandfather ceremoniously sliced by holding the loaf against his chest, while he sliced horizontally toward himself—with a very thin, very dull knife!

Some of the bread bakeries also sold cookies, but fancy desserts and pastries were only available in pastry shops, of which there were also many.

Although we used industrially made sliced white bread (“American bread”) for morning toast and for sandwiches (though my father never did), it never appeared at a meal as an accompaniment to cooked food.

Some people made bread at home, but we never did. My maternal grandmother, who lived with us, was an expert baker, but she concentrated on pastries, desserts, and pizza. Occasionally my step-great-grandmother (my father’s maternal grandfather’s third wife), who also lived next door, would bake small round loaves, like large rolls, which she would tear open hot and douse with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Not exactly what most American kids would think of as an afternoon snack, but delicious.

Though good bread has always been part of my life, baking bread is a relatively new pursuit for me. I spent the last twenty-odd years concentrating on pastries, desserts, chocolate, and sweet baking. But like so many other Americans, I have recently been bitten by the bread bug.

Before I began baking bread, I considered the process somewhat mysterious. How could so few ingredients combine to produce something with such a complex taste and texture? Surely there was a formula that would yield foolproof results, like a good puff pastry recipe. Reading recipes only confused me more: why would I need a baking stone or a brick or a coffee can full of ashes? Surely good bread could be made without all these affectations.

Lionel Poilâne, the late great Parisian bread baker, said that bread baking is more like cooking than pastry making. Bread bakers have a “feel” for what they are doing, the same way that a sauce cook will add just the right amount of cream to a sauce to enrich it, and know to stop when the sauce looks right, or a chef will look at a roast and give it a poke with a fingertip and know to remove it from the oven.

Now, after several years of experimenting, I am happy to say that making good bread is easy. Experience does give you a feel for the dough’s consistency and the amount of rising and baking it should have. But clear instructions, followed exactly, can help you to achieve the same results. I deliberately sought out people who had no experience baking bread at home to try the recipes in this section and they were all thrilled with the results of their first attempts.

Good bread needs the following ingredients and conditions:

1. GOOD FLOUR: I use an unbleached bread flour and unbleached all-purpose flour for most of the breads I make.

I have used all the following brands with excellent results: Gold Medal Bread Flour, King Arthur Bread Flour and the following unbleached all-purpose flours: Ceresota, Gold Medal Unbleached, Heckers, King Arthur, Montana Sapphire, Pillsbury Unbleached. Unbleached flour normally contains about 12 to 13 grams of protein per cup and bread flour about 14 to 15 grams —it is the protein that enables the flour to develop the strong gluten necessary for a good, elastic bread dough.

2. GOOD WATER: If your water is highly chlorinated or very hard, try using an inexpensive bottled water, such as spring water. Your bread should have the sweet flavor of wheat rather than that of purifying chemicals or minerals.

3. COOL TEMPERATURES: If your kitchen is very hot, find a cooler place for dough to rise, or refrigerate the dough after it has begun to rise. Long, cool risings develop the best flavor in bread.

4. KNOW YOUR OVEN: If your oven has hot spots and tends to burn things on the bottom or the sides, be aware where the spots are when you are placing pans of bread to bake. A charred edge here and there will give a rustic quality to your bread—too many burned spots and the bread will be bitter.

5. GET A THERMOMETER: If you are unsure of the temperature of the water you are using, or of the interior of the baked loaf, use an “instant read” thermometer, available for less than $20 in most hardware stores.

6. KEEP IT SIMPLE: If you want a baking stone, peel (flat wooden shovel for loading a loaf onto a stone), a Cloche (an earthenware pan and cover that imitate the moist interior of a brick oven), or other devices, by all means treat yourself to them. But they are not essential. A heavy-duty electric mixer or a food processor makes most dough mixing effortless, but even they are not essential. Good bread existed long before household appliances.

7. ABOVE ALL, TAKE YOUR TIME: Nothing can replace the flavor that comes from a long, slow rise with a minimum amount of yeast (or starter). There are, of course, bread doughs that can be mixed then put into the oven quickly. But many others, especially those that have crisp crusts and a flavorful, open crumb, require starters, sponges, and doughs that ferment slowly for hours. Those doughs often are baked 24 hours after they were started. The good news is that the dough only needs minimal attention during all this time, and the long risings actually divide the work of making the bread into no-more-than-5-minute periods.

8. LAST OF ALL, PRACTICE: Think of this relaxing and rewarding pursuit as a new skill you will have throughout your life. And best of all, once the bread bug has bitten you, you will never again have to settle for mediocre bread!

BASIC BREAD VOCABULARY AND PROCESSES

What follows are the basic steps of breadmaking, along with definitions and explanations of the procedures.

1. MEASURING: Accurately measuring all ingredients.

2. MIXING: Forming a dough from the ingredients, either by hand or by machine. In the straight dough or one-step dough method, all the ingredients are combined and mixed on low speed for approximately 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. In the sponge or two-step dough method, part of the flour, all or part of the liquid, and all or part of the yeast are combined to make a sponge that is allowed to ferment before the remaining ingredients are added.

3. FERMENTATION: Allowing the mixed dough to rise. Usually doughs are allowed to double in bulk (100 percent increase in volume at this stage). Fermentation usually occurs at room temperature. (See also page 40.)

4. DEFLATION: Punching the dough down and knocking the accumulated gases from it before beginning the shaping process. For some doughs, fermentation and deflation are repeated several times to develop flavor and texture before the dough is ready to be shaped.

5. RETARDING: Refrigerating a dough or sponge so that it ferments very slowly, or the fermentation process is interrupted.

6. DIVIDING: Cutting the dough into the required number of pieces for the breads to be made from it.

7. ROUNDING: Shaping the pieces of dough into balls so that each piece of dough presents a smooth outer skin, which will become the crust.

8. BENCH PROOFING: Allowing the rounded pieces of dough to rest or recover briefly after rounding. Note: In the case of small goods, such as rolls, the large, rounded, and bench-proofed pieces of dough are further divided and rounded into smaller pieces.

9. SHAPING: Forming the bench-proofed dough into the correct shape for the loaf.

10. WASHING: Brushing or spraying the shaped goods with egg wash, raw or cooked starch wash, or another liquid. This process may be performed several times or only before or after baking.

11. PANNING: Placing the shaped goods on sheets or in pans. Sufficient room must be left between items on the same sheet, or in a loaf pan, to allow each to expand up to three times larger than the shaped size.

12. FINAL RISING: The final fermentation before baking. This often takes place in a proofer or proof box, in which both temperature and humidity are high to provide a beneficial environment for the fermentation. If you are letting loaves rise at room temperature, it is best to cover them with plastic wrap that has been buttered or oiled to prevent sticking.

13. BAKING: During the initial stage of baking, air bubbles formed during fermentation expand, causing the goods to increase dramatically in volume. Before the internal temperature of the dough reaches 150 degrees, fermentation continues in a greatly accelerated manner, also causing the volume to increase. The combination of these two increases is known as oven spring.

14. DETERMINING DONENESS: Most yeast-risen goods test done when the bottom is tapped and the interior sounds hollow. A more accurate test is to use an instant-read thermometer; it should read about 210 degrees.

15. COOLING: All yeast-risen goods must be thoroughly cooled at room temperature, usually on a rack so air can circulate around all sides.

16. STORING: Store crusty breads, uncovered, at room temperature, the day they are baked; the crust will keep them fresh for a short time. Otherwise, wrap in plastic and freeze. Delicate goods, such as croissants or brioches, may be kept uncovered at room temperature for a short time, or wrapped in plastic and frozen for longer storage. To reheat frozen bread, remove plastic and place the bread in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until the bread is thoroughly heated through. Serve warm, or cool it before serving.

USING YEAST

There are two principal forms of yeast: dry yeast and compressed (also called fresh or cake) yeast.

Active dry yeast is available in the following varieties: standard, really just cake yeast that has been dehydrated; rapid rising, which rises dough fully in about half the time of standard yeast; and instant blending, which may be mixed directly into flour without first being mixed with liquid, as standard yeast is. Active dry yeast, instant yeast, bread machine yeast, and rapid-rise yeast are packaged in retail packages of three ¼-ounce envelopes and in bulk. Store dry yeast in a cool, dark, dry place. When I buy a pound of instant yeast, I decant it into several small jars, label and note them with the yeast’s expiration date and store them in the freezer.

Compressed yeast is packaged in ⅔-ounce cakes, 2-ounce cakes, 1-pound blocks, and in bulk—usually 36-pound blocks. Store compressed yeast, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator. If the surface of compressed yeast becomes moldy, scrape the mold off the surface, before using.

To dissolve active dry yeast or any other granular yeast, whisk it into a warm liquid and allow it to stand several minutes to dissolve; whisk again to disperse the dissolved yeast evenly in the liquid. Though yeast dissolves more easily in water, many formulas call for adding yeast to milk. If you are dissolving yeast in milk, be careful that it does not lump when it is whisked in.

To dissolve compressed yeast, crumble and whisk it into a warm liquid; compressed yeast dissolves immediately in liquid.

Note: The yeast cells don’t dissolve—it’s the starch medium in which they’re dormant that does.

YEAST MATH

The following conversions make it possible to substitute one form of yeast for another.

1 envelope dry yeast = 2½ teaspoons by volume

1 envelope dry yeast = ¼ ounce by weight

1 envelope dry yeast = ⅔ ounce compressed yeast in rising power

 

Therefore, 2½ teaspoons or ¼ ounce dry yeast is equal to ⅔ ounce compressed yeast.

1½ envelopes dry yeast = about 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon by volume

1½ envelopes dry yeast = 3/8 ounce by weight

1½ envelopes dry yeast = 1 ounce compressed yeast in rising power

 

Therefore, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon or 3/8 ounce dry yeast is equal to 1 ounce compressed yeast.

1. Multiply envelopes of dry yeast by ⅔ to determine ounces of compressed yeast.

2. Multiply ounces of dry yeast by 8/3 to determine ounces of compressed yeast.

3. Multiply ounces of compressed yeast by 3/8 to determine ounces of dry yeast.

4. Multiply ounces of compressed yeast by 3/2 to determine number of envelopes of dry yeast.

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How to Bake makes me want to head for the kitchen and bake something new right now!  Nick is a generous teacher. Sweet or savory, his recipes are enticing, smartly written, and accessible. Practical, no-nonsense tips and advice are confidence inspiring — the book is a gift to new and seasoned bakers alike.” — Alice Medrich, IACP and James Beard Award-winning author of Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies and Gluten Free Flavor Flour

One of America’s preeminent bakers and baking teachers reveals the secrets behind creating professional-quality confections. Nick Malgieri shares scores of mouthwatering recipes for plain and fancy cakes; breads, biscuits, muffins, and scones; sweet and savory pies and tarts; brownies, macaroons, rugelach, and all manner of cookies.
In addition to his clear, detailed instructions, Malgieri offers helpful tips for variations on classic recipes as well as suggestions for everything from making a pastry bag to mastering cake and pie toppings. Presented in order from the simplest to most complex, these recipes from the collection of a great pastry chef will add a whole new level of sophistication to your kitchen repertoire.

“Everything you want to know about baking is in this comprehensive, and classic, book by Nick Malgieri. With never-fail recipes and masterful instructions, How to Bake has always had a prominent place on my bookshelf — and in my kitchen. From scones to pizza, and quiche to cookies, everything you want to bake is in this book!” — David Lebovitz, author of My Paris Kitchen and The Perfect Scoop

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“This comprehensive baking book is a must for all bakers, amateur and professional. It’s well written with easy to follow recipes. I love that Nick explores American as well as European classics. You will want to make his Viennese “Saddle of Venison” cake as soon as humanly possible and have it with an afternoon cup of tea, as I have done.” — Miro Uskokovic, Pastry Chef

“What a wonderful gift, to have Nick Malgieri’s landmark cookbook on the counter and the bookshelf in this handsome new form. In How To Bake, Nick shares his encyclopedic knowledge of the world of baking, from techniques and ingredients to utensils and traditions. A world-class professional pastry chef with the heart of a teacher, Nick has written the definitive work on baking, essential for both beginning bakers and highly accomplished cooks. I keep it near the oven and learn from Nick all year long.” — Nancie McDermott, author of Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations

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