Monthly Archives: October 2011

Can Baking Cookies Really Be This Easy?


Making things look simple is sometimes easier said than done.

BUY IT! - The Cookiepedia: Mixing Baking, and Reinventing the Classics

Noun: A book giving information on many aspects of one subject, namely, the cookie.

Anyone who reads any of my writing knows one thing for certain. Baking isn’t my thing. It just seems so hard. When I see a plate of fresh, out of the oven goodies, I’m NOT thinking “That had to be a no-brainer”. Quite the opposite takes place in my head. “WOW, unless that’s from a tube of pre-made cookie dough, it looks like work”. That’s my mind set. Easy? Hardly.

My friend Kathy makes/bakes some killer chocolate chips. She’s told me on more than one occasion that all of the ingredients are strictly legal. I know she’s honest, but, my craving for them makes me doubt her words. It seems from appearances like there is really nothing special going on here. But, I can’t stop eating them. I love them, but, I don’t want to make them.

Now, there’s a glimmer of hope for skittish, non-bakers like me. Author, Stacy Adimando, is attempting to calm my surely unfounded baking fears. Her new book, The Cookiepedia: Mixing Baking, and Reinventing the Classics, shows you just how simple the baking life can be.

Included are amazing recipes for Snickerdoodles, Ginersnaps, Cornmeal Cookies and yes, let’s not forget, the beloved Chocolate Chip. There are some cooking making basics up front that show you just how easy it can be to impress your friends with a sheet of fresh baked delights.

One of the books more practical features is note taking spaces that accompany each recipe. It’s nice to able to jot down what went right (or wrong) with your creations. It makes the next attempt that much easier and might lead to some of your own delicious variations.

With all of this cookie making talk you’re probably ready to try a big batch for yourself. Kathy won’t give me her secret recipe (I really don’t want it. I want her to make the cookies). But, Stacy is more than happy to share hers with us.

Here’s how to do it.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (about 8 oz.) bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks

1.    Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a big bowl and stir. Set the bowl aside.
2.    Cream the butter and sugars for several minutes, until they look light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until just combined. Add the flour mixture right into the butter mixture. Mix on low speed until they’re incorporated. Then the fun part: stir in the chocolate chips.
3.    Go down the line dropping tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets. Leave about 2 inches between them so they have plenty of room to spread. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking.
4.    Try one hot out of the oven, but let the rest cool for a minute or two before lifting them to a rack to cool. If you get melted chocolate on your hands, you’re eating these too slowly.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe and above image: Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, Stacy Adimando, The Cookiepedia: Mixing Baking, and Reinventing the Classics, Quirk Books.

The Bottom Line: Looking for a great beginner cookie baking book? You just found it. These recipes are easy to execute and produce a fantastic result. Even for a novice baker (like yours truly). The Cookiepedia would be a welcomed addition to the cookbook collection of anyone who likes to turn out a warm batch of cookies.

BUY IT! - The Cookiepedia: Mixing Baking, and Reinventing the Classics

BUY IT! - The Cookiepedia: Mixing Baking, and Reinventing the Classics

Author: Stacy Adimando
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books: (September 6, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1594745358

Taking Cupcakes To A Whole New Level


I wonder if David Arrick’s sister had an Easy Bake? Mine did.

BUY IT! - The Butch Bakery Cookbook

My sister had an Easy Bake Oven when we were growing up. Just like many of your sisters. Or, possibly even you. At that point in my life, I was more into eating than cooking. Cooking seemed hard, eating was easy.

I remember being amazed at how a standard, everyday light bulb could cook anything. At the time, it defied logic. Something unexplainable was definitely at work.

My sister would mix the required ingredients then pop the small pan into the incandescently heated oven. Set the timer and wait. There was a little window, but, you really couldn’t see much. I remember being shocked when the finished product emerged. Not only was it cooked, but, most times it was even edible.

Cupcakes were one of the Easy Bake staples. As far as cupcakes go, they weren’t exactly bursting with flavor and more times than not a little on the dry side. Not really gourmet. I didn’t care, I was eight.

The recently released, The Butch Bakery Cookbook by David Arrick aims to set the cupcake world on it’s head. These are recipes that you just aren’t going to make in your Easy Bake. David has assembled a great collection that at times have you asking yourself, “Can you really do that with a cupcake?”. And the answer is yes!

This book is filled with delicious and fun recipes. The style and tone of the creations seem to be geared towards guys. But, lets be honest about it, most men I know would rather stop at David’s store for a pickup then fire up the mixer.

But, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort in the kitchen, David is going to set your feet on the right track. So many of these cupcakes are different and unique. A real pleasant change from the standard baking book.

I love s’mores, who doesn’t? So when I saw this recipe for the Camp Out cupcake I thought it would be the perfect one to share.

Here’s how to do it.

Camp Out
A Graham Cracker And Milk Chocolate Swirled Vanilla-Cinnamon Cupcake Topped With S’Mores Topping.

For The Graham Cracker And Milk Chocolate Swirl
3 21/2 x 5-inch graham crackers
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1.55-ounce milk chocolate bars, such as Hershey’s, broken into 11/2-inch squares

For The Vanilla-Cinnamon Cupcakes
11/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
21/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
10 tablespoons (11/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, broken into a small bowl
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream

S’More’s Topping
2 1.55-ounce milk chocolate bars, such as Hershey’s, broken into 11/2-inch squares
6 giant marshmallows, such as Campfire Giant Roasters, sliced in half lengthwise, or 3 cups mini marshmallows

Make The Graham Cracker And Milk Chocolate Swirl:
In the bowl of a food processor, combine all of the ingredients and process into fine crumbs, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed. Transfer to a small bowl. (Alternatively, for the graham crackers, you could crush the crackers in a resealable plastic bag and stir in the other ingredients until combined.)

Make The Cupcakes
Place a baking rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two 6-cup jumbo-size muffin pans with liners and set aside.
Place a strainer over a medium-size mixing bowl and sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In another medium-size mixing bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture, milk, and cream, mixing just until all the dry ingredients are incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Batter will be thick.
Spread one heaping tablespoon of batter in the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Evenly sprinkle one level tablespoon of the graham cracker swirl on top of the batter, and then place one 11/2-inch square of the milk chocolate on top. Cover with one more heaping tablespoon of batter, and smooth the tops. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the tops are just firm to the touch, about 25 minutes. (A tester may not come out clean because of the melted chocolate in the center.) Leave the cupcakes in the pan on a rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack to cool completely before continuing, about 1 hour.

Cupcake Construction
Place the cupcakes back in the pans, and top each cupcake first with an 11/2-inch square of milk chocolate and then 1/2 of a giant marshmallow or 1/4 cup mini-sized marshmallows. Place one pan of cupcakes at a time under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes, watching carefully, until the marshmallows are puffed and lightly browned. You may have to move the pan around a little to evenly brown the tops. If using the giant marshmallows, cool slightly and press the top of each marshmallow down lightly to cover the top of the cupcake. Cupcakes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container, or frozen for 1 month.

Camp Out Cupcakes

Recipe: Camp Out Cupcakes, David Arrick, Butch Bakery Cookbook, Wiley

Power tool alert! Use that baby blowtorch to brown the marshmallows to perfection, but be careful!

The Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a fun and imaginative book to cook from this is a great bet. If cupcakes are your thing then adding this cookbook to your collection is a no brainer. It contains lots of great recipes and ideas for all occasions. For safety sake, I would steer clear of the Jack Daniel’s Rush or the Rum and Coke for your eight year olds next birthday party.

BUY IT! - The Butch Bakery Cookbook


Author: David Arrick
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Wiley; (October 4, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0470930888

The Secret’s In The Sauce


It’s easy to ignore things that have been overdone. So, do so at your own risk.

Spaghetti Sauces: Authentic Italian Recipes from Biba Caggiano

If you lined up all of the pasta/spaghetti sauce recipes that are currently in print there’s a good chance it would stretch to Genoa and back again. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, let’s be honest about it, that space in the culinary world is pretty darn crowded.

When you pick up most Italian style cookbooks you can expect the expected. Some pasta recipes, roast chicken recipes, some fish, meats and of course the many amazing desserts of Italy. This broad brush approach to most cookbooks of that region is what sets this effort apart.

Born and raised in the northern Italian city of Bologna, Biba Caggiano, takes a more defined approach to the subject. The title of her book, Spaghetti Sauces: Authentic Italian Recipes from Biba Caggiano, says it all. Nothing more needs to be added. If you’re looking for a recipe for Bistecca Fiorentina, you’ve opened the wrong book.

Here’s the good news, if you are in search of an authentic, easy to produce, yet elegant pasta dish, then Biba’s got what you’re looking for. This book defines great, simple pasta and sauces. Enough said.

Broken down into it’s component parts, the book makes it easy to choose a style that suits your mood and taste. Cheese, Pesto, Quick Tomato, Vegetable, Seafood and Ragu. There’s no searching through indexes or page after page of recipes that all seem to run together. Simple is the theme of this cookbook.

Enough talk. How about some authentic Italian pasta (and sauce).

Proscuitto, Tomatoes and Peas

It was hard to choose, trust me. There are lots of great food images in this book. On one hand, it makes coming to a decision easier, but on another, those photos will make you second guess yourself.

Ah, the humble ham. I just love prosciutto. It makes anything you add it to just sing.

Sliced Prosciutto

I chose this particular dish because the ingredients and directions were so basic and simple that I just had to see what kind of flavor it would yield.


I ended up with a couple of nice pea shots, so you get to see both.

Peas Again

Here’s How To Do It

1 10 oz. package frozen peas, thawed (or 1½ lbs. unshelled fresh peas)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 or 6 fresh plum tomatoes, minced
salt and fresh ground pepper
¼ lb. sliced prosciutto, diced
1 lb. spaghetti
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

If you are using fresh peas, shell them and cook in a medium saucepan of salted boiling water until they are tender, but, still firm. About 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Start cooking your pasta according to the package directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until they reach a light golden brown and are soft. Add the garlic, stir once or twice. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook until tomatoes begin to soften. About 4 to 5 minutes. Add the prosciutto. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes then add in the peas. Stir until contents of the pan is heated through. Remove from heat.

When pasta is almost done remove ½ cup of the cooking liquid and reserve. When the pasta is done, drain and add to the skillet. Add butter and mix it quickly over low heat until all of the ingredients are well combined. Add some of the cooking liquid as necessary. Adjust the seasoning and sprinkle with some of the cheese.

Serves 4


Recipe adapted from Prosciutto, Tomatoes and Peas, Biba Caggiano, Spaghetti Sauces: Authentic Italian Recipes from Biba Caggiano, Gibbs-Smith

TIP: This dish really comes together quickly and easily. Since there are so few components in this dish, it’s important to use the freshest possible ingredients you can find. You’ll thank me later.

The Bottom Line: This is the type of cookbook that will get used time and time again in most every home kitchen. The recipes and equipment needed are within easy reach of any home cook/chef. You won’t have to embark on a treasure hunt for any exotic and hard to find ingredients. So, that means there is a reasonable chance that you can execute many of these dishes with things you may already have in your fridge or pantry.

If you happen to live in the Sacramento California area, you can get some of Biba’s food at her namesake restaurant.

Spaghetti Sauces: Authentic Italian Recipes from Biba Caggiano

BUY IT! - Spaghetti Sauces: Authentic Italian Recipes from Biba Caggiano

Author: Biba Caggiano
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: Gibbs Smith
ISBN-10: 1423606884