First there was Baked, the most beautiful and fun cookbook we had seen in a while. Followed up two years later with Baked Explorations, which sent food bloggers and bakers alike back into the kitchen with a flurry of new recipes and classic flavors reinvented for an updated audience ready and eager to taste test. And now the boys are back in the kitchens and presenting the third in their collection of dessert filled masterpieces with Baked Elements.
Baked was the first book to ever move me to want to write a review, and not just a ‘this is a great book, go buy it’ sort of review, but the kind that inspired other cooks to get their aprons out. Upon seeing news of a third Baked book, I couldn’t help but jump at the chance to get my hands on it. I own over 200 cookbooks easily, and I would venture that 70% of them are ‘baking’ and yet it is the Baked book’s that I religiously find myself returning to for when I need a guaranteed winning dessert. My beautiful hardcover copies are smeared with dessert, poof with flour upon opening and have more pages than I would like to admit, stuck together from stray ingredients. All of these, the signs of a very loved, very used cookbook; The best kind.
Not to be held back by the previous books, Baked Elements already has stains and smears from my few adventures within it’s pages.
Technical Level: From simple cereal bars and milk shakes to triple layer cakes and soufflés, the third book inspires just as many levels of bakers as it’s previous sisters. The best part about the more challenging recipes in Baked is that they bring out that feeling of accomplishment. If you are taking on soft pretzels for the first time, home made caramel sauce, or madeleines, you will leave the kitchen covered in flour, with a pile of dishes everywhere, feeling like an Iron Chef.
Graphic Design: Flawless. I wish all cookbooks would adapt the style and formatting that Stewart, Tabori, and Chang have shown on their last several books (Baked, Baked Explorations, Pie It Forward). One recipe per page, clean easily read ingredient list, short introduction, full page images. Sure, it means you don’t get as many recipes, but quality over quantity here, people. This book could easily be a coffee table book, it’s so pretty to look at.
Recipe Quality: I have only tested two of the recipes in Baked Elements, but both were great. Even when I messed up an entire batch of soft pretzels and had to throw them away, I nibbled on the less than perfect outcome. I have tabbed two dozen other pages and am wondering which pumpkin recipe will come first with the upcoming fall season. There are over a dozen recipes from the previous Baked books featured on Pass the Sushi and I don’t think that is going to slow down now.
Personality: Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito have established themselves in the baking cookbook club and sealed their positions as king of the castle. Are there bigger, more technical baking cookbooks packed with great recipes? Sure. But honestly, I’m not sure why you would even bother flipping through them. The recipes selected in Baked Elements are broken into 10 of Lewis and Poliafito’s favorite ingredients. From peanut butter to booze, there recipe choices, from Devil Dogs to pudding, show a love of all desserts. The book has all the class you need in a high end Rolls-Royce but the recipe choices how that the drivers still know how to have a good time.
Why’d I Buy: Um, Baked. Baked Explorations. 10 chapters of finger licking ingredients. I’m not sure I really need to gush any further over how amazing this book is. We’re past that. But if you need some more convincing let me just spell it out for you, Brooksters, Lacy Panty Cakes, Chocolate-chunk Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Milk Chocolate Malt Semifreddo. Yeah, I think you’re starting to get it.
Dulce De Leche
from Baked Elements
- 28 ozs sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 teas salt
Stir together the sweetened condensed milk and salt in a microwave safe bowl. Cook at 50% power for 4 minutes, stirring briskly halfway through until smooth. Cook at 30% power for 12-18 minutes, until very thick and caramel colored, stirring briskly every 2 minutes until smooth. Set aside to cool.
from Baked Elements
- 2 cups flour
- 3/4 teas baking powder
- 3/4 teas baking soda
- 1/2 teas salt
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 6 oz unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 tbs lemon zest
- 3 large egg yolks, plus 1 large egg
- 2 tbs light rum
- 1 teas pure vanilla extract
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups dulce de leche
- 2 tbs confectioners’ sugar for dusting
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Sift the cornstarch over the flour and whisk again to combine. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, heat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the lemon zest and beat for another 15 seconds. Add the egg yolks and egg, one at a time, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides again and add the rum and vanilla. Beat for 10 seconds.
Add half of the flour mixture and beat for 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour and beat until just incorporated. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Unwrap the dough and divide into 2 equal portions. Wrap the second portion back in the wrap and return to fridge. Place the portion you are working with on a lightly floured surface and form into a disk. Roll dough out to 1/8″ thick. Use a 2″ round cookie cutter to create the tops and bottoms, transfer them to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1″ between each cookie. Continue the process with the second piece of dough. Extra dough scraps can be refrigerated 10 minutes and re-rolled, if desired.
Refrigerate the cookie filled sheet pans for 5 minutes before baking. Bake for 8-11 minutes, rotating half way through. The cookies will be down when they are just beginning to color. They won’t be ‘brown’ but a very soft golden. Place the baking sheets on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to the racks to cool completely before filling.
Using a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip, or a small spoon, apply about 2 tablespoons of dulce de leche to the flat side of a cookie. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top. Press slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges. Repeat until all the sandwich cookies are made. Sift confectioners’ sugar over each cookie if desired, and let them set for about 15 minutes before serving.
The cookies can be stored at room temperature, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.