If you're a fan of nostalgic American desserts, this is one you shouldn't miss. If you just appreciate the innovative use of interesting ingredients (malt powder, Nutella, black pepper) than this is doubly one not to miss.
Title and Publisher:Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito with photographs by Tina Rupp. Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010.
First Impressions: This book makes me excited to get in the kitchen and bake. Rupp's photographs evoke a strong sense of place: from academic parlors to hipster dens, the mood and feel of each treat is captured beautifully. You'll recognize many of the recipes, but will be blown away with the liberties Lewis and Poliafito take with wild and endearing adaptations.
The book itself is split into logical categories including Breakfast, Tarts & Pies, Cookies & Bars and Cakes. There is also do a cool chapter on Confections & Pastry which includes such treats such as Chocolate Marshmallow Cups and Soft Candy Caramels.
The Angle: This book focuses on classic American recipes that your grandmother once brought to a church gathering or a neighborhood picnic--a vivid tribute to some beloved recipes, revamped with interesting ingredients and new flavor profiles. As an example, take their homage to the Oreo: the Salt and Pepper Sandwich cookie. Or how about the Orange Creamsicle Tart?
The Recipes: The recipes are familiar and at the same time not at all. Lewis and Poliafito take a relatively standard recipe for a buttermilk scone and make it their own by adding carrots and coconut. They're also pros at taking a favorite childhood candy bar and turning it into a rather refined dessert. Take the Almond Joy Tart, for example. What I really love about the recipes here is not only are they interesting but they're not terribly difficult. You won't see any 15-step cake recipes.
Other Stuff: There are opportunities to brush up on your baking skills and technique as well! At the beginning of the book, Lewis and Poliafito discuss their Kitchen Tools and Equipment and give advice on brands they like to use when baking (two words: Valrhona Chocolate). Towards the back of the book they have a nice page listing their sources for baking ingredients and equipment and a Conversion Chart helping you figure out American to Metric and Imperial volume and weight equivalents.
Overall Impressions: As a classic first child and a type-A personality, I tend to follow recipes pretty closely while baking. Because of this, I have the utmost respect for people who don't. And Lewis and Poliafito have broken some rules and taken some chances here. While I think 98% of the time it works, I do wonder about possible reaches such as the Tomato Soup Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting (has anyone tried these?) or the Strawberry Jello Salad: a little gimmicky, no? But all in all, the recipes are clearly written and if it's anything like their first book, 100% delicious.
Recommended? Yes! Whether you're just beginning baking and need a few classic recipes for cookies and brownies, or whether you're looking for ways to shake up your baking rut, the Baked boys have got you covered! This is a unique, stunning, innovative book.
Recipes for Right Now: Farm Stand Buttermilk Donuts, Sweet and Salty Brownie, Whiskey Pear Tart, Malted Milk Sandwich Cookies, Banana Foster Fritters.
• Buy the Book: Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito with photographs by Tina Rupp, $19.77 at Amazon
• Visit Baked: Baked NYC website
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Image: Stewart, Tabori & Chang)