I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas surrounded by friends and family or just chilling. We loved being able to share the day with a few different groups of people, plopping from one dinner to another and a glass of Champagne to a glass of wine, surrounded by the warmth of a good fire and a few good hugs.
I have really felt like I have been on a mini vacation this past week, baking my way through The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, written by Melissa Murphy, owner and pastry chef of Sweet Melissa Bakery in New York city. When I received the book for preview I was really excited to finally make some of her creations in my own kitchen. I have been a fan of her work for a long time and promised myself I would straight to her bakery if I ever made it to New York one day. Well, it was even better this past week because I took a trip there four times in four days! I have tried to do a thorough review of the book for you guys but the best part is at the end of this post where I have the chance to give away 5 copies of this new book!
The book is a right along the line as a classic baking book filled with hundreds of recipes of every body’s favorites. This is the kind of book that references all the basic and classic American standards but often with a little spin to it (like an orange flavored cream cheese frosted carrot cake). Fans of the bakery are able to make some of their bestsellers right in their house at the spur of the moment and others like me can rely on a thoroughly written book for all the things that make a bakery a success. Out of the four recipes I have tried so far, (Blueberry Muffins, Lemon bars, Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Pie, Carrot Cake) all turned out perfect and delicious and there are plenty more I am dying to try like the cashew bar that Jennifer recently posted about.
For the sake of doing a true to the author’s work review, I baked the recipes as written and everything not only turned out delicious but I never once had to scratch my head saying "not sure I would have given the instructions like that, but eh…" I liked the book on so many different levels. If you are a novice baker, this is definitely the book to get to get you started in the kitchen, if you are a seasoned baker you will certainly enjoy revisiting the classics as well as childhood favorites. Each chapter is chock full of life and love for sugar, butter and flour!
How does Sweet Potato Bread With Cinnamon Rum Glaze sound from the chapter "Dessert for breakfast"? It also has some terrific recipes for muffins, quick breads, waffles and more. "After School Snacks" has been thoroughly studied by me husband bookmarking Snickerdoodles and Chestnut Honey Madeleines among the dozens of brownies, cookies and bars. I have been studying the chapter "It’s Somebody’s Birthday" closely lately as we have a few family members coming up with serious celebrating time and the Fluffy Coconut Cake With Passion Fruit Filling is high on my priority list! I can’t wait for B 's birthday to make the Chocolate Malted Layer Cake!
If you have read this blog for a while now, you know of my produce guy Sunny who seems to download all his surplus fruits into my cart!
I found my happiness in "What Will We Do With All This Fruit" making the Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Pie (recipe next week) and I can’t wait to try her Sour Cherry Pie With Pistachio Crumble. Now the recipe that really made it for us was the Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting in the chapter entitled "Sunday Supper Grand Finale". I love carrot cakes that are simple in ingredients and yet very moist. We are not big fan of pineapples in ours, and B. has an aversion for raisins so it was quite a delight to make Melissa’s version that excludes both but remains delicately moist and the frosting really gave the cake another dimension. What about a Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake or a Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie? I know! I can’t stop!! To end things on a strong sugar high, the final chapter is devoted to "Favorite Gifts" like Butter Toffee Crunch, Earl Grey Truffles, Peanut Praline, just to name a few!
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 Tb plus 1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 stick butter, melted
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 Tb granulated sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350F and line a muffin pan with muffin liners, coat with cooking spray.
In a large blow, whisk together the flour, baking powder granulated sugar and salt. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, and eggs until smooth. Whisk in the heavy cream and milk until combined.
Add the zest to the flour mixture and with your hands, gently rub the mixture together, releasing the oils and breaking up the bits. Add the fresh fruit and gently toss with your fingers to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl. Pour the butter mixture into the center of the well and using a spatula, gently pull the flour mixture into the center of the well until just combined.
Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling each until 3/4s of the way up. Bake 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with sugar and let cool on a wire rack.
Carrot Cake With Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:
For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ Tb ground cinnamon
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 pound carrots, grated medium fine
¾ cup chopped walnuts
For the frosting:
12 oz cream cheese softened
2 1/ 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Zest of 1 orange
2 sticks butter, softened
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour two 8×2-inch round cake pans. Line each pan with an 8-inch round piece of parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the eggs at high speed until light and frothy, about one minute. Decrease the speed to medium and add the oil, sugar and salt and mix just until combines. Decrease the speed to low and add the flour mixture until jut combined. Using a spatula, fold in the carrots and walnuts.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Tap the pans one against the other to level the top and eliminate air bubbles. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove and let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before turning the layers out onto the rack. Cool completely before frosting.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, sugar and zest. Start on low speed and then increase to medium high speed and beat until smooth. Add the butter and mix on medium speed until just fluffy and smotth, about 45 seconds. Add the vanilla and mix until just combined. Do not overbeat.
Use the frosting as both the filling and the frosting so divide some evenly between both layer and use the remaining to cover the sides and top.
I made 4 small ones (4-inch round) and use the frosting just in between the layer and also to cover them all. I split each layer in half so I had a total of four which is to me a little nicer on the eye.
Book Giveaway: I am really excited to be able to give away 5 copies of the book to you guys…Yes! Thanks to the great folks at the Penguin Group/Viking Studio, one book can be yours! All you have to do is leave a comment to this post between now and monday 3pm and I’ll let the Random Number Generator pick 5 lucky recipients. I will announce the winners on Tuesday 3/18 as well as tell you about another fantastic recipe from the book.