A baking book I’ve long been waiting for.
Baked: New Frontiers in Baking (Stewart, Tabori & Chang; October 2008) made such an impression on me with its graphic flair and unabashed riffs of revered desserts. The recipe for its “Baked Brownie” reverberated throughout the internet (proclaimed the best because it really is the best), and the Sweet and Salty Chocolate Cake is transcendent. To my mind, authors Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito are gods.
So it’s no surprise that their follow-up book, Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, is a book that I’ve been waiting for. Wanting to nab the first copy, I camped out at Fully Booked for months, nagging the staff and generally making a nuisance of myself.
Lewis and Poliafito are owners of Baked, a bakery in Brooklyn, New York and Charleston, South Carolina, that commands an almost cult-like following due largely to their inventively irreverent dessert offerings served with panache. Their second book continues the trend, this time focusing on regional American desserts – turned on their head.
The theme is immediately apparent with the Americana-like styling of the photos, of which there are thankfully plenty, almost one for every recipe. The featured recipes are products of those the authors gathered from their “dessert explorations” all over the US as well as what they call Abandoned Desserts, i.e. anything with mint and the oft-abused Boston Cream Pie (Cake, really).
The book’s recipes are – I assume, like their authors – bold and ballsy. The Breakfast chapter is big on breads, both quick and yeasted: Monkey Bread, Nutella Scones. The Tarts & Pies chapter makes me weak-kneed with the shameless amount of edible rapture capable of being stuffed into a crust. Could you honestly resist Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie, Almond Joy Tart, Malted Crisp Tart or even Mississippi Mud Pie – a pleasurable prospect of chocolate cookie, fudge, coffee ice cream, and bourbon?
Even if you never bake from this book, it’s a tactile wonderland of gaze-worthy photos and text that’s a kick to read. The authors’ voice, written from Matt Lewis’ point of view, is straightforward and sassy. These are recipes that are doable and what you’d want to do. The only chapter that presupposes some semblance of experience is the Cakes chapter that abounds with multiple-layer cakes and a Buche de Noel.
Naturally, creativity can breed rather unfortunate departures from common sense. Would you truly consider baking Tomato Soup Cupcakes or Strawberry Jello-O Salad? Neither would I. Yet, all is amended in the Confections & Pastry chapter with recipes escalating in levels of almost painful deliciousness: Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (homemade Nutella!), Chocolate Peanut Butter Fondue, Buckeyes, and Caramel Popcorn with Peanuts and Chocolate.
If you bake, buy this book. Dessert divinity awaits.
Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented
Hardcover: 208 pages
Stewart, Tabori & Chang (October 2010)
Available at Fully Booked