Cbr14bingo Dough BINGO (row 3)
While I enjoy cooking shows, I don’t consider myself much of a cook. It isn’t that I’m not interested in improving my skills, it’s just that learning to cook full meals feels overwhelming. It seems like I’m always missing some important ingredient or kitchen tool, plus my kids have a variety of food allergies and intolerances that put some tough limits on me. Baking is one thing I have always enjoyed though and have been willing to take some risks for. Going out on a limb and screwing up a cake feels less fraught than ruining an entire meal. And the payoff when you make a good treat is worth some effort. Before the pandemic, and before the 2020 racism scandal, my husband and I used to watch the Bon Appetit channel regularly. One of our favorite personalities there was Claire Saffitz, who has since left BA and struck out on her own. Her first cookbook, Dessert Person, came out in 2020, and she has been producing YouTube videos demonstrating the recipes for a couple of years now. After watching a number of them and thinking I could probably pull them off, and maybe even make something the whole family could enjoy, I bought the book. It has been on a shelf since last Christmas but I finally got around to reading it and I am going to try some of these recipes before the year is done.
I think the organization of this cookbook really sets it apart from most other cookbooks I’ve read (although I haven’t read many, to be honest). It really is “user-friendly” if you are the kind of person who isn’t super confident in their baking abilities, but it is not by any means “dumbed down” for those who already have some expertise. Before diving into the recipes, Saffitz provides some very useful information about what you might need to have/know before beginning any recipe. She briefly goes over things like techniques, equipment and common ingredients that readers might want to have on hand. She also provides something that I think should be incorporated into all cookbooks: a “Recipe Matrix” that, at a quick glance, can show you how difficult a recipe may be and how long a recipe might take. So if you have very little time and are something of a novice, you might want to try the Marcona Almond Cookies or Seedy Maple Breakfast Muffins. If you have nothing but time and feel very confident in your baking ability, Croquembouche or Spelt Coissants might be your thing. The nice thing is, the vast majority of the recipes are suitable for the baker who is looking for easy to moderately more difficult recipes.
The book is divided into seven sections: Loaf/Single-Layer Cakes, Pies & Tarts, Bars & Cookies, Layer Cakes & Fancy Desserts, Breakfast & Brunch, Breads & Savory Baking, and Foundation Recipes. The latter includes things like frostings, a variety of doughs, frangipane, lemon curd, etc. These are recipes that might be included as part of the recipes in the other sections of the book. Recipes in each section start with the easiest and work up to more difficult. For each recipe in each section, Saffitz provides important information available at a glance, such as the seasons in which a recipe might easily be made, the total amount of time it should take, the difficulty (on a scale of 1 to 5), and also things like whether the recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan. She also lists the equipment and ingredients needed. Occasional footnotes indicate things like whether or not substitutions can be made and how that might effect texture, flavor, and cooking time. The recipes generally take only a page or two, and directions are quite clear. I remember a few of them from Saffitz’s YouTube channel, so there is also often the possibility of watching the chef herself prepare the item you want to try. The photos accompanying the recipes are gorgeous, too. My only gripe about the book is the index. Given the weird diets of my kids, it would help to be able to find things like “vegan”, “dairy-free” and “gluten-free” in the index so that I could easily find the recipes that would work for them. Unfortunately they are not listed there, but if you page through, recipe by recipe, you will find that information at the top of the page where it applies.
I feel like this cookbook is one that I will go back to, rather than have it just sit on the shelf as my few other cookbooks do. I want to try the Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers (gonna cheat and use store bought puff pastry!) and the Flourless Chocolate Wave Cake (gluten and dairy free!). Maybe if I start to feel more confident, I’ll try the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake and Focaccia. Overall I’d say this is a beautiful book, a useful cookbook and great gift idea for the budding bakers out there.