I seem to have had a run of bad luck over the last few months with pre-ordered cookbooks. There is never a Look Inside and usually no reviews either, so you have to go by instinct. The last three or four in a row that I've ordered have not measured up - to the point I vowed I would never preorder another book. Luckily, I forgot about Butter Baked Goods: Nostalgic Recipes From a Little Neighborhood Bakery. My copy arrived about a week ago. Since then I've read every word at least twice, gone over the recipes three times and even baked a few things. Let me tell you what's inside the cover and what I've found.
The book is very pretty, one of the nicest I've had in a bit, with gorgeous rose patterned end papers that match the wallpaper in author Rosie Daykin's Vancouver bakery. There is a full-page color photo for every recipe. The recipes are well laid out, with ingredients and any special equipment required listed in the left column of the page while directions appear in the right and nearly all take up just a single page. The book includes 99 recipes plus one page of variations on Daykin's marshmallow recipe and a recipe for "Six Minute Cake" - also known as Whacky Cake - that appears in her introduction. I did need to hunt up my reading glasses, mainly for the rose-pink type headings appear in.
The book is divided into 14 sections of interest, five that are preparatory material (an Introduction, The Pantry, Tools of the Trade, Methods to My Madness, Getting Ready to Bake). Nine chapters of recipes follow. I'll list each of those below along with the recipes that each includes and my comments.
CHAPTER 1 - Muffins, Scones, Cinny Buns and Loaves
Twice-A-Week (Morning Glory) Muffins
Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Little Pumpkin Pecan Muffins
Mixed Berry Crumble Top Muffins
Rhubarb and Almond Muffins
Pineapple Coconut Scones
Butterscotch Maple Pecan Scones
Apricot White Chocolate Scones
Apple Bacon Cheddar Scones - TEST RECIPE
Saturday Morning Cinny Buns - contains chunks of peach instead of raisins
Chocolate Pistachio Pound Loaf - only recipe in the book that calls for pistachio paste
Banana Chocolate Loaf
Grandma Daykin's Zucchini Loaf
The Lemon Poppy Seed and Little Pumpkin Pecan Muffins are two of the three bite-sized recipes that appear in the book. Others are larger than usual, to say the very least. I was particularly attracted by the flavor profiles of Daykin's scone recipes, but found the size of her scones way beyond huge. These are positively GINORMOUS - easily the largest scones I have ever heard of!
TEST RECIPE NOTES, APPLE BACON CHEDDAR SCONES - All of Daykin's scone recipes start with 5 cups of flour, the largest scone recipes I have seen anywhere. They also are extremely short, including 1 1/2 cups (three quarters of a pound!) of butter in each recipe. From these very large recipes Daykin cuts a mere one dozen scones, rolling her dough an inch high and cutting 3 1/2 inch rounds for scones that will bake up at around 4 inches in diameter and 1.5-2 inches high.
Scones, like Southern biscuits, do not keep particularly well and are best eaten on the day that they are made. Unless you are feeding an army, this recipe is simply much too large to be practical in all but the very largest households. I started by cutting the recipe in half.
Instead of rolling and cutting the resulting dough, I used a scone-shaping trick that I picked up at King Arthur Flour a while back. Divide your scone dough in half. Shape each half into a circle about 6 inches across on a separate sheet of parchment. Use your bench scraper (or a knife) to divide each round into 6 to 8 wedges, which you can separate or not as you desire. Bake one round. Wrap the parchment loosely around the other, seal it in a ziplock bag and freeze it for up to two months. No need to thaw - just add a few minutes to the baking time. I chose to cut the half of the dough that I baked into 6 wedges, each of which baked up to a very generously sized scone about 3.5 inches from point to edges, 3 inches or so across and an inch high. One scone was plenty to accompany scrambled eggs and they wouldn't have suffered any by being cut smaller yet to provide more servings for a brunch.
There are some things other than the size of the recipe that I would change were I to bake these again. Daykin's recipe calls for Granny Smith apples cut in 1/2 inch dice. The apple chunks didn't really have enough time to begin to soften and were a bit lacking in flavor. Next time I'll either use something sharp & tangy that softens more quickly like a Macintosh or use dried apples. In either case, I'll cut the chunks much smaller so there is a wider distribution throughout the dough. I used a regular cut bacon. Next time I'll use a thick-cut bacon instead. And finally, being a Vermonter, the cheese that inhabits my fridge at all times is an extra-sharp white cheddar, which in the amount called for in this recipe overwhelmed the flavor of the apples and bacon. Next time I would opt for something milder, maybe even (sacrilege!) an orange cheddar.
One final note regarding this chapter - Daykin's recipe for Chocolate Pistachio Pound Loaf calls for a mere two tablespoons of very expensive and hard to find 8 Oz. Pistachio Paste, a product like almond paste made from pistachios. Daykin seems to feel that pistachio paste is a must for any pantry. Unless I had previously tasted this recipe and was dying to duplicate it or had a wealth of recipes that called for pistachio paste (I've only seen these from Hermes), this is a recipe in which I would substitute more readily available almond paste.
CHAPTER 2 - DROP AND SANDWICH COOKIES
The Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookie
The Homemade You-Know-What
Maple Snickerdoodle Sandwich Cookies
Big Sugar Cookies
Oatmeal Cranberry Pecan Cookies (With A Little White Chocolate Too)
The Nutty Chocolate Chip
Chocolate Espresso White Chocolate Cookies
The Gingerstamp - very lightly spiced for the size of the recipe
Sticks and Stones Cookies
When Rosie Daykin names her sugar cookies Big Sugar Cookies, she isn't kidding about the "big" part. While not quite as obscenely enormous as her scones, all of Rosies cookies are well into extra-large territory. A picture of her Oatmeal Cranberry Pecan Cookies shows just 8 cookies on the same baking tray that I would fit a more restrained 12-15. The first three cookies on the list are sandwiched together with some variation of Daykin's extremely high butter ratio buttercream (more on that later) to produce 12 cookies. The remaining recipes, other than The Nutty Chocolate Chip, which produces 30, each produce 24 very large cookies.
I am not a proponent of larger than life cookies. Any of these are much too large for a child-size serving - or even one for most adults, the filled ones enough to send your little darling on a sugar high guaranteed to wreck your afternoon and while the flavor profiles are good, some of these recipes are very high fat.
Daykin portions her super-sized cookies with a medium ice cream scoop, similar to this Zeroll Universal Medium EZ Disher Food/Ice Cream Scoop, Blue, which holds just over 2 ounces (1/4 cup). Were I to bake any of these cookies, I would use the standard OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop that lives in my kitchen instead. That scoops 1.5 tablespoons to produce a cookie about 2 3/4 inches across, far more suitable for little hands.
CHAPTER 3 - ROLLED AND CUT
Butter's Shaped Cookies
Butter's Own Graham Crackers
Chocolate Caramel Shortbread
Double Chocolate Toffee Biscotti
Orange Pecan Biscotti
CHAPTER 4 - BARS AND SLICES
The Dream Slice - TEST RECIPE
Smartie Pants Bar
The Campfire Bar
The Nanaimo Bar
Peanut Butter Marshmallow Slice
Butterscotch Crispy Bar
Lemon Walnut Bar
Hey There, Doll Face - (Hello Dolly cookies by another name)
Chocolate Berry Cheesecake Bar
Marshmallow Bunny Bits Brownies
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies
You'll find some interesting and easy bars here. Many of the recipes included in this chapter bake in a 9 x 9 pan to produce 16 or 20 bars of fairly reasonable size. A few of the recipes, including the one that I chose to bake, bake in a 9 x 13 and are cut larger.
TEST RECIPE NOTES, THE DREAM SLICE - I decided to bake The Dream Slice, a pastry base topped with a filling of walnuts, coconut, maraschino cherries and brown sugar, then frosted with Daykin's buttercream after cooling. The bars were easy to make and went together quickly. However, the addition of the buttercream layer (see below) meant that these bars needed to be refrigerated and, because Rosie uses a buttercream that has such a high ratio of butter to confectioner's sugar, the frosting does not harden enough to enable the bars to be stacked, even with waxed paper between the layers. These would not be good travelers and would be decidedly messy in a lunch box. I found the buttercream to actually detract from the flavor of the filling, though that did mellow after a couple of days, and the bars to be so exceedingly rich with the thick layer of buttercream that I ended up cutting each of them in half. (They could have been smaller yet.) On a scale of 1-10, I would give this bar no more than a 4. If I were to make it again, instead of the buttercream layer I would use either a standard cookie/pastry glaze (perhaps lemon flavored) or a drizzle of white chocolate.
CHAPTER 5 - BUTTER CREAMS AND FROSTINGS
Butter's Famous Butter Cream*
Butter Cream Variations*
Deep Dark Chocolate Butter Cream
White Chocolate Butter Cream*
Peanut Butter Butter Cream
Cream Cheese Butter Cream
Marshmallow Fluff Frosting
Icing, How to Spread (and Pipe) the Love
I had problems with many of the recipes in this chapter. Butter Cream Icing/Frosting comes in lots of variations. Some, like Italian Meringue Buttercream, start with a cooked meringue base. Others, like German Buttercream, begin with a pastry cream base. American Buttercream, uncooked, is fairly lean - about 4 tablespoons of butter for 2 cups of confectioner's sugar. Butter Cream in the UK, also uncooked, tends to sport a ratio of butter to confectioner's sugar of 1 cup butter to 4 cups (just under a pound) of confectioner's sugar. There is Decorator's Buttercream, which uses more heat tolerant shortening in place of butter to allow for intricate decorations and a pure-white color. And then there is Daykin's butter cream - those I've marked with a * contain a 2 full cups of butter, an entire pound, to four cups of confectioner's sugar - also an entire pound for a 1 to 1 ratio of butter to confectioner's sugar by weight. This is not so much a frosting as it is a compound butter, far too rich and calorie laden. The large amount of butter present overwhelms other flavors (see my notes about The Dream Slice), requiring the addition of 2 full tablespoons of vanilla extract instead of the more usual 1 or 2 teaspoons for this amount of frosting. NOTE - One batch of Daykin's pound of butter/pound of confectioner's sugar buttercream is intended to fill and frost but a single 7" cake!
This type of buttercream does not travel well. It requires refrigeration and will literally melt off the cake in hot weather - or a hot kitchen for that matter. It is not suitable for piping anything even approaching intricate cake decorations as the heat of your hand will melt the butter in the icing before it ever leaves the piping bag. These are not recipes that I would recommend.
CHAPTER 6 - CAKES
Butter's Classic White Cake
Butter's Chocolate Cake
Butter's Carrot Cake
Butter's Coconut Cake
Cookies And Cream Cake - a variation of the quick dessert made with chocolate wafers and whipped cream that was one of the delights of my childhood, made with homemade chocolate wafers arranged in a cake shape.
Triple Lemon Layer Cake
Apple Cake with Maple Sauce - 9 x 13
Chocolate Espresso Poundcake - bundt
Orange Chocolate Ripple Cake - 9 inch deep, single layer
Nancy's Birthday Cake - frosted Angel Food Cake
I was tempted to make one of Daykin's cakes. (Butter's Classic White Cake caught my eye. Excellent White Cake recipes are few and far between.) There was, however, just one problem. Other than the recipes where I have given a pan size, most of Daykin's cake recipes call for two 7-Inch Round Cake Pans. Oddly, though I've been baking for more than 60 years and have a large collection of cake pans ranging from 4 inches to 16 inches, a 7 inch layer pan is one I've never had call for. Yes, I could have used 6 inch pans or 8 inch pans, but I decided to make cupcakes instead.
In all of these 7-inch pan recipes, Daykin calls for slicing the cooled cake layers through the middle to make four layers, a procedure guaranteed to give the inexperienced absolute fits, turning what was a lovely cake layer into a mess and inevitably turning that pristine frosting into a crumb-laden disaster. Wise bakers will simply bake the batter in four layers to begin with.
CHAPTER 7 - CUPCAKES AND WHOOPIE PIES
Butter's Vanilla Cupcakes - TEST RECIPE
Butter's Chocolate Cupcakes
Chocolate Nutella High-top Cupcakes
Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cupcakes
Pumpkin Caramel Cupcakes
Ode to the Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes
Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes
Lime White Chocolate Cupckes
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Red Velvet Whoopie Pies,
TEST RECIPE NOTES, BUTTER'S VANILLA CUPCAKES - Butter's Vanilla Cupcakes recipe caught my eye because it is a variation of the very first cake I ever baked, one I've been turning out for more than 60 years in all sorts of shapes and sizes. My great-grandmother's generation knew this cake as Number Cake but for the last 100 years or so this has been called 1234 cake - 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 4 eggs . . . Rosie changes the recipe up a bit, swapping out cake flour for 2 cups of the all purpose (you can use all all purpose or all cake flour too), buttermilk for the sweet milk and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (required by the buttermilk) for part of the baking powder, but this is, nonetheless, my dear old friend and faithful standby. There was just one problem with this. Daykin claims to get a mere 18 cupcakes from the recipe. I've baked thousands and thousands of 1234 cupcakes. You get 30 cupcakes if you use all purpose flour and about 24 if you use cake flour. (Yes, I fill the cupcake liners pretty well myself, though not quite to the top. I like a rounded top too, but those "mushroom" tops are not prize winners, often sticking to the top of the pan, making the cupcakes difficult to remove in one piece.)
They're just coming out of the oven now. 26 cupcakes, not 18. (My son-in-law will be happy!)
CHAPTER 8 - PASTRY, PIES AND TARTS
Butter's All Butter Pastry
Short But Sweet Pastry
The Quintessential Butter Tart
Oh, You Nutty Tarty
Butter's Lemon Meringue Tart
Strawberry Rhubarb Almond Pie
Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie
Chocolate Chip Walnut Pie
Bumbleberry Pie for Ayden
Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie
Raspberry Custard Pie
Good Ol' Apple Pie
The Only Pumpkin Pie
Shoo Fly Pie
Daykin's All Butter Pastry recipe is a fairly standard pie pastry done in the UK style with the addition of a dab of vinegar and an egg. Her recipe is huge - 5 cups of flour, an entire pound of butter - to make enough dough for 4 one-crust or 2 double-crust pies. Luckily, extra pie dough freezes well.
While all-butter pastry is tasty, it can be hard to work with and requires lots of chilling. I prefer to work with a pastry that is half butter and half shortening or lard - the butter for flavor, the shortening/lard for flakiness that you can't achieve with butter due to the difference in the melting points of the two fats.
CHAPTER 9 - CONFECTIONS
Butter's Famous Marshmallows
Grenades - marshmallows coated in Toffee, Rice Krispies and Dark Chocolate
Let's Talk Tempering
The Homemade S'More
Jackson Pollock Popcorn
Kitchen Sink Bark
Peanut Butter and Jam Cups
Peanut Butter Balls
Chocolate Honeycomb Brittle
Surprise Mocha Fudge
Rosie really shines with her selection of easy to do confections. The Grenades sound spectacular. I did have questions about the Jackson Pollock Popcorn. Corn is popped, then coated with a homemade caramel before baking for 45 minutes (???) . . . . and then drizzled with white and dark chocolate. The next time my granddaughter comes to visit we'll give this recipe a whirl. Not in my wildest dreams can I imagine what I might do with 24 cups of popcorn - before you add the goodies.
Grandma's $0.02 - About a 6.5 on a scale of 10, Butter Baked Goods: Nostalgic Recipes From a Little Neighborhood Bakery has much to love. Sometimes, however, the scale of the recipes (scones, super-sized cookies) is almost schizophrenic and anyone with any care whatever for their waistline would do well to skip Daykin's buttercream in all its guises entirely! There IS such a thing as too much butter!