Read the recipes carefully, follow them exactly, and you will have great success
My first baking teacher as a child was Betty Crocker. My second, as an adult, was Maida Heatter. The above admonition is one I ignored often and it is only through years of experience, success and failure that I have learned that there are some cookbook authors on whom you should not riff. Maida Heatter is one of those. She really did test her recipes over and over again before publishing them. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t substitute dried cherries for raisins in the loaf of chocolate bread. It does mean that I followed the processes she describes to the letter. If you are looking for foolproof books to guide you through baking, you could do a lot worse than Maida Heatter and not much better.
Chocolate is Forever, and Cookies are Magic are being released this Spring, I assume in honor of Maida Heatter’s death at age 102 last year. The new forwards by David Lebovitz and Deb Perelman were not available in the advance reader copy, so I don’t know what they say. The recipes collected are not trendy or fashionable. In many of the short anecdotes before the recipes, Heatter talks about picking up a local recipe as she was travelling. She was interested in the foods that gave a city or area it’s flavor, and that’s reflected in the recipes gathered in these cookbooks. The recipes are traditional, but not, in the modern parlance, basic. There are gluten free cakes and desserts in Chocolate is Forever, but that’s because flourless chocolate cakes are part of Heatter’s Jewish culinary heritage and not because of a concern about gluten.
I am a creative baker (which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but I persist), so having a basic recipe on which I can build is a wonderful thing.
In a book full of cakes, puddings, pies and brownies, I decided to make the chocolate bread. Of course, I made substitutions. The recipe called for raisins and walnuts. I dislike raisins, so I used dried cherries instead. My housemate can’t eat nuts, so I left them out. If you can eat nuts, do add them. The loaf came together easily and baked beautifully.
I got the late Maida Heatter’s Chocolate is Forever as an arc from #NetGalley and made the Chocolate Bread at the end of the Pastries, Pies, Puddings and More chapter. My whole house smells amazing and this bread is so good. pic.twitter.com/6RYnTgwVra
— MonsterAllYear (@RochelleJennin7) February 12, 2020
It makes a large loaf of bread, so be prepared. The aroma was amazing. The chocolateness of the bread became more apparent when toasted the next day. It makes beautiful toast and more importantly, it makes beautiful french toast. It would probably make an amazing french toast casserole. Insert eyebrow wiggle gif here.
If you have ever considered making chocolate bread, but then decided no to, because what would you do with a whole loaf, my answer, chocolate french toast! #ChocolateisForever #Netgalley pic.twitter.com/kp00LRwqw7
— MonsterAllYear (@RochelleJennin7) February 16, 2020
I’ve baked from enough Maida Heatter recipes to know that they work. Feel confident when you buy this book that you will have some amazing bakes and learn some techniques that have gone out of fashion in home baking.
You may think 16 ounces of chocolate is too much to be incorporated into the dough. Just be patient. It’s not to much.
In Cookies are Magic, you really get a sense of Heatter’s love of discovering a local dessert. In just a couple of sentences, Heatter identifies where the cookie recipe comes from, or how she discovered it, or how she serves it. it’s a charming sweet glaze on the recipes.
I made the tropical sour cream cookies in this book. They are lovely, soft, and flavorful. I did not feel like struggling with rolling out this soft dough, so after I chilled the dough over night, I scooped the dough and flattened it slightly before baking. The cookies were reminiscent of muffin tops.
If I had to choose between the two books, I would choose Chocolate is Forever. But they are both worth your time if you want a solid dessert cookbook or cookie cookbook.
I received these cookbooks from NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.