Baked Explorations is a cookbook by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. This is a review of the book, and a dessert recipe from the pages of the book for oatmeal chocolate chip cake with cream cheese frosting.
I have an addiction. OK, I have a few addictions.
Shoes. Books. Kitchen stuff. Clearance plates at TJ Maxx. All justifiable as I am never going to sell my soul for any of the above and I know when to draw the line, but really, can you ever have enough cookie cutters or good boots?
So as part of my 2011 resolutions for myself and blog, I am going to bust into that mountain of books I own more often and try to write some reviews for you. At least then I have a justifiable excuse to give Handsome, right? Ha.
This is my first official cookbook review so bear with me as I am trying to iron out this process.
Baked Explorations Cookbook Review
Technical Level: Baked Explorations is a book for anyone of any level who likes to bake. It has recipes for every type of baker of all skill levels which is great because that means there is something for everyone to learn and enjoy. OK, so if you are already a master pastry chef, then you probably have these skills covered – ignore my previous comment. But for those of us book buyers – Baked Explorations has a great selection of quick and simple (one, maybe two, bowl oatmeal cake) to timely and patient.
Graphic Design: Oh am I a sucker for great graphic design. I do not believe a cookbook should ever be judged by its cover, but instead, by the creases in its pages and the stains from years of constant use. But if there ever was a time and place to judge a book by its cover, Baked Explorations is where it’s at.
How could anyone not love the beautiful pictures, sassy layout, gorgeous colors, smart fonts, sharp call outs and great use of negative space? Really, I could go on. The photography is to die for. Simple and rustic. The pages are all clean and crisp. Never muddled with too much text or reading. The columns on the outer sides of the pages with the ingredients list – genius. My only negative point to this (and really, its hard to do because it is such a pretty book) is that I feel you lose quality recipe space to great graphic design. For $29.95 I could read a lot of recipes in a tiny font with no pretty pictures – but even as I type this I sigh because it is truly hard to fault them for lack of recipes.
Recipe Quality: Every recipe I have made in Baked and Baked Explorations has been perfect. Period. I am not a professional chef, nor do I play one on TV, but I can master every recipe in Baked Explorations. The careful explanations of tools, ingredients and technique really lend themselves to a great finished product that anyone could achieve.
Personality: I love the personality this book exudes. This ties into the graphic design section, but the comments from the chefs/authors are perfect. The little notes on how to improve your recipes and the descriptions at the forefront of ever recipe are awesome. You really feel like you are getting to know the recipe before you even get to the ingredient list. It really makes you believe that authors Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito love what they do and the creations they make on a day to day basis. I hope I can search out the adventure of finding a recipe’s secret ingredient and love my day to day job as much as they do some day.
Why’d I Buy: Sometimes you gotta have faith. The follow up book to the beautiful and awesome Baked had to be as great as the original, right? I picked this out without previewing just on the anticipation alone from its big brother. Normally, I’d read reviews or debate over books before settling on one. Not with this. Lucky for me I didn’t have to actually purchase it as my boss gave it to me as a gift (because I told him I would cry if I didn’t get if for Christmas from anyone). If I hadn’t gotten it though, you’d better believe I’d throw down the change for this one.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
From Baked Explorations
For the Cake:
- 8 ounces chocolate chips
- 1/2 teas bourbon, Scotch, or favorite liquor
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbs all-purpose flour
- 1 up rolled oats
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, at room temperature
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teas salt
- 1 teas baking soda
- 1 teas baking powder
- 1 1/2 teas cinnamon
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 5 tbs unsalted butter, softened
- 5 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 3/4 teas pure vanilla extract
Baked Note: Unlike most of my favorite cakes, this one does not require a standing mixer. You do not have to cream any butter or whip any egg whites. You just dump in the ingredients, stir, and fold. It is quick, easy and satisfying. The cake tastes great right out the oven, but most of my tasters and testers think it’s best after resting for a day.
Make the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position the rack in the center. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan. Heat 1 1/4 cups water to boiling.
Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl and toss them with the bourbon until covered. Sprinkle 2 tbs of the flour over the chips and toss until coated. This will keep them from settling at the bottom during baking. Set aside.
Place the oats and cubes butter in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water over the oat mixture, wait 30 second, and stir to moisten all the oats and melt the butter. Set the mixture aside for 25 to 30 minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, both sugars, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon until combined. Fold in the cooled oatmeal and stir until well combined. Gently fold in the remaining flour and then chocolate chops. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the vake or 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.
Make the Cream Cheese Frosting:
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is completely smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.
Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. ( The frosting can be made 1 day ahead. Let it soften at room temperature before using. )
Spread a thin, even layer of frosting over the cooled cake. Chill it for 15 minutes so that it can set. Slice and serve. The frosted cake can be kept, refrigerated and tightly covered, for up to 3 days. Bring the cake back to room temperature before serving. ( An unfrosted one will keep for 3 days, tightly covered, at room temperature. )
** My cake was completely baked (no pun intended!) at 30 minutes.
What do you look for in a new cookbook review? What should I include in my reviews?