When it comes to home baking, I tend to be utilitarian. I can turn out a serviceable loaf of banana bread, am fairly comfortable with basic yeast doughs and make a mean oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. However, once I stray beyond my familiar territory, things often go sideways.
It’s not that I’m not interested in more adventurous baking, I simply haven’t had much luck when I’ve tried things like homemade Oreo-style sandwich cookies (the filling separated and tasted like a grease slick) and many-layered cakes (never has a baked good so resembled the leaning tower of Pisa). And while even the ugliest disaster can still be delicious, it’s nice when you find that sweet spot of both visual and palatable success.
Knowing this, you’ll understand that I approached Hedy Goldsmith’s Baking Out Loud with both excitement and a little trepidation. Goldsmith is a pastry chef based in Miami, Florida, who is known for making over-the-top versions of familiar treats (like Twinkies and Cracker Jacks) and her glossy, beautifully photographed first book contains many of the items that have made her famous throughout the South.
The book is chock full of recipes for treats like Pop T’s (Goldsmith’s version of the classic Pop-Tart), Milk Chocolate Candy Bars, and Tootses (homemade Tootsie Rolls), as well as more refined and exotic desserts like a Chocolate Bourbon Fudge Tart and Peanut Butter Curry Ice Cream. All items in her book, while enticing, look decidedly out of my recipe comfort zone.
I gathered my courage, several large baking sheets, and a lengthy list of ingredients and took three recipes for a test drive. The first was Goldsmith’s Junk In Da Trunk cookies. They are essentially a motley collection of sweet and savory bits, including smashed potato chips, halved malt balls, chocolate chips, and shards of pretzel, loosely bound together with the minimum amount of cookie dough necessary to do the job. They are totally over the top, incredibly sweet and ridiculously good.
The next recipe, for Chocolate Caramel Peanut Butter Bars, is my favorite of those I tried, both for their simplicity and for their flavor. They are Goldsmith’s assistant’s take on a Snickers and hit all the notes of the iconic candy bar (even without a nougat layer). Best of all is how easily them come together. You melt milk chocolate chips, make caramel, stir white chocolate chips and peanuts into the caramel and then layer the two in a greased loaf pan, freezing between each addition. They are gooey and rich and I’m already planning on adding them to my holiday goodie list come December.
The last recipe I attempted was not nearly as successful as the first two, but I am certain that the fault lies with me, not Goldsmith. I made her Ricotta Gelato, which had appealed to me mostly because she name-checked two of Philadelphia’s most beloved South Philly bakeries in the recipe’s headnote. Everything was going swimmingly with the custard base up until the point when I tried to freeze it. I’m not sure if the custard wasn’t cold enough or if my ice cream maker bowl was to blame, but instead of ending up with something creamy and dreamy, it was shot through with ice crystals.
The thing that makes me most happy about this book is that there’s still more I want to try (I’m particularly anxious to take the Chocolate Bourbon Fudge Tart for a spin). When I picked out the recipes to make, it was hard to narrow the list down to just three things. It’s surely a sign of a good book when you want to make something on every other page.
There was just one thing that irritated me about Baking Out Loud and it’s something that has nothing to do with the book’s contents and everything to do with the design choices that Goldsmith’s publisher made. It is printed on glossy paper, which is nice for the photography, but not at all helpful once you take it into the kitchen. The result is that the pages are slippery and, if you cook in a kitchen with an overhead light, have such a glare that you become forced to prop the book up at wacky angles just to be able to read the instructions. This is a minor critique in the big picture, but it would have been nice had Clarkson Potter thought a little more about utility when putting this volume together.
All that said, it’s truly a wonderfully creative and carefully constructed book that deserves a place in your kitchen. We have three copies to give away so some of you may be making room for it on your shelf as soon as this week! If you’re interested in a chance at winning a copy, leave a comment on this post and tell us what childhood candy or confection you’d most like to be able to recreate at home.
Giveaway closes at 12 pm on Friday, October 19, 2012. Winners will be picked at random.
Junk In Da Trunk Cookies
Recipe from Baking Out Loud by Hedy Goldsmith
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably Valrhona 70%), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- ⅓ cup lightly crushed kettle-cooked potato chips
- ⅓ cup coarsely chopped salted pretzels
- ⅓ cup butterscotch morsels
- 12 malted milk balls, cut in half (about 1/3 cup)
- ⅓ cup salted peanuts (preferably Virginia), coarsely chopped
- Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Sift together the flour and baking soda.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until soft and smooth. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and salt and beat on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the egg and vanilla and beat for 1 to 2 minutes, until just blended. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix.
Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the chocolate, potato chips, pretzels, butterscotch morsels, malted milk balls, and peanuts. Stir until just blended. Don’t be concerned if it seems like there is more junk than cookie dough.
Using a 3-tablespoon ice cream scoop, shape the dough into balls and arrange them close together on a large plate or small baking sheet.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until well chilled. The dough can also be covered and refrigerated overnight, or up to 2 days before baking. Reminder: Cold dough bakes better.
Position the oven racks in the upper middle and lower middle over the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F (335°F if using a convection oven). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick liners. Arrange the chilled dough balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Using the palm of your hand, flatten each dough ball slightly. Sprinkle the tops with a little sea salt.
Bake for 11 to 13 minutes (8 to 9 minutes if using a convection oven), switching the baking sheets’ position halfway through baking, until light golden brown. I think these cookies are at their best when slightly underbaked and the chocolate looks oozy and gooey. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days and reheat before serving.
Makes 16 2½-inch cookies
Chocolate Caramel Peanut Bars
Recipe from Baking Out Loud by Hedy Goldsmith
- 8 ounces milk chocolate (preferably Valrhona), chopped
- ¾ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup heavy cream, at room temperature
- 6 ounces white chocolate (preferably Valrhona), chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup salted peanuts (preferably Virginia)
Line the bottom and sides of an 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan with parchment paper or foil and grease it lightly (preferably with Pam). Melt the milk chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over simmering water, stirring until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat. Pour half of the milk chocolate into the prepared loaf pan and spread it evenly. Freeze for 15 to 18 minutes, until cold.
Once the layer is cold, make the next layer. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and ¼ cup water. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear.
Increase the heat to medium high and boil, without stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sugar begins to turn golden brown on the edges. While gently and continually swirling the pan over the heat to even out the color, cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the sugar turns deep amber.
Slide the pan from the heat and slowly add the cream. Careful! It will splatter up, and the steam is hot. Stir until well blended. Add the white chocolate and salt and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the peanuts and stir until blended. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
Pour the peanut mixture into the loaf pan over the milk chocolate and spread it evenly. Freeze for about 45 minutes, or until cold and firm.
Once the layer is cold, make the next layer. Reheat the remaining milk chocolate, pour it over the caramel, and spread it evenly. Refrigerate or freeze for 20 to 30 minutes, until very cold.
Using the parchment paper or foil pan liner, transfer the candy onto a work surface. Peel away the paper or foil, and place the candy on a cutting board. Using a large knife, trim off the edges and cut lengthwise into 1½-inch-wide strips. Cut each strip into 9 pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Makes 18 pieces