Baked Occasions Hardcover – 1 Oct 2014
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About the Author
Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito left their day jobs in advertising to open their bakery, Baked, in Brooklyn to immediate praise from fans across America. They have been featured on Oprah, the TODAY show, the Food Network and the Martha Stewart Show. Their previous books include Baked, Baked Explorations and Baked Elements.
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Baked Occasions is exactly what it sounds like: a baking book dedicated to turning out holiday desserts. It is arranged by month instead of by category such as cookies or cakes. Some of the holidays are expected: Italian Christmas Cookie Cake on Christmas or Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cake with Milk Chocolate Glaze on Valentines Day. Others are a blast and clearly illustrate the authors' sense of fun (as well as why I keep buying their books), such as: a Coconut Bundt Cake with a Dark Chocolate and Coconut Filling to celebrate Dolly Parton's birthday (January 19th, if you're curious) or Derby Cookies to celebrate the Kentucky Derby.
The book begins with the typical "user's manual" introduction: what pans and implements will be used in the recipes and what main ingredients will be most used. I particularly enjoy the anecdotes at the beginning of each recipe. It's always fun to find out where the authors get their inspiration and pick up tidbits about perfecting each recipe. The recipes are well-written and give ingredients by both weight and volume. There are a few unusual ingredients (such as a purple yam powder and some gel colorings that are all available on Amazon). I think this is a book for the moderate level baker. Many of the recipes call for several components to make a finished dessert.The photography is beautiful, mostly focusing on the finished dish instead of relying on the current artsy fad of showing a cream covered whisk or a dirty pan. I applaud the authors for a book as beautiful as it is useful.
The only reason that I am deducting a star is that in this particular book, I felt the authors were reaching a wee bit far in order to produce a recipe in some places. As another reviewer noted, there is no way that I am ever going to construct a giant "cake" out of rice krispies. Cake would be better in every instance. There were a couple of other recipes in the book that didn't look to be anything special, such as the popcorn balls and an icebox cake. I also found that the index needed further work. The index states the giant rice krispy cake is on pages 161-163, but it is actually on pages 181-183. I don't think there are other errors because these guys generally produce great work, but I think it's important to note.
Those minor criticisms aside, I truly enjoy this book. The Toffee Coffee Cake Surprise was a real hit in my house--any cake with a ribbon of yummy through the middle is a winner in my book. Next up is the blood orange tiramisu! If you are new to Baked books and don't know whether to buy one, skip this one and get one of the earlier ones. If you already own a Baked book, then the answer is yes, you want this book too!
The only major difference in terms of style with this cookbook is the fact that there's no paper cover for the hardback. Otherwise, they go through all the kitchen tools and ingredients you'll need, including their specific preferences for certain brands in a few cases, with sourcing options at the end of the book. As before, each section has an overall story at the beginning, and then there's a cute little blurb in front of each individual recipe. Some of these recipes are quite complicated and may span several pages, but they have included notes with options for reducing the time (coconut sheet cake) or replacing a hard-to-find ingredient (purple yam in the Gonzo cake)
I was worried that there would be some "too similar" recipes, because how creative can two people be with four cookbooks in six years and lives to carry on? While there are definitely some obvious elements that are repeated across the four books, the recipes presented here are fresh and intriguing takes on their previously-established favorite ingredients (booze, coconut, chocolate, lemon, caramel, etc), with a couple completely different entries (Meat and cheese utopia easter pie). The inclusion of a vegan option - Hippie (chocolate) Cake is really nice to see. My lactose-free roommate is very excited.
In all, Baked Occasions offers roughly 24 cake recipes, 20 cookie recipes, 4 cupcake recipes, 3 bar recipes, 2 pancake recipes, and some miscellaneous recipes for things like pie, pudding, pop tarts, ice cream sandwiches, trifle, tiramisu, caramel corn balls, rice crispy "cake", and shortcakes. There are photographs for almost every single entry, and each one is stunning.
I made the black cocoa bundt cake today (I do love chocolate) even though it is not Father's Day, and my co-worker asked me to marry him. Seriously, these recipes are that good. Do yourself a favor, and buy this book.
Always fun, always tasty. I keep their cookbooks and will never part with them even after I've tired of other cookbooks and donated them to book sales or given them to friends. Like all of the Baked cookbooks, this one's a keeper.
A strong sense of the nostalgic runs throughout, including homemade Pop Tarts, fruit crisps, buttermilk, sheet, and pound cakes, and if you think you hate tapioca pudding, wait until you've tried the chocolate espresso tapioca pudding with Kahlua whipped cream. There are also charming, witty interludes that give more insight into Matt and Renato's upbringing, culinary influences, and traumatic Halloween experiences (and mega kudos for mentioning the Sandra Lee Kwanzaa cake!).
"Baked: Occasions" also edges into "fancy" territory with several showstopping ombré cakes and a rainbow-hued icebox cake for Gay Pride ("somewhere between a semifreddo and a mousse, all chocolaty, whipped-cream heaven - only 100 percent gayer"). However, the recipes in "Baked: Occasions" are often multi-step and perhaps best suited to those who already have some prior baking experience. With the exception of one or two recipes (the purple yam cake calling for ube powder and several calling for food gels), most ingredients should be readily available at your local grocery store.
The first recipe I tried was the Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake Chocolate Brownies. Now, the Baked brownie has been my go-to brownie for several years since the release of their first cookbook. I've tried variations such as the Spicy Baked brownie and caramel brownie, but I loved this autumnal variation, which is basically a half brownie recipe topped with a swirl of pumpkin cheesecake goodness. As I was making these for a Halloween potluck, I decided to go all-out and decorate with a Day of the Dead platter and edible marigolds, and the brownies were a huge hit (see photo). They also freeze well, making them a great choice for unexpected company.
The second recipe was the Nutella chip cookies, a jazzed-up chocolate chip cookie enhanced with Nutella, chopped toasted hazelnuts, and semisweet chips (I used my gold standard Ghirardelli 60% Chips here). The addition of Nutella gives an extra boost of flavor and moistness. And by all means, try sandwiching two of these beauties together with leftover Nutella as suggested in the Baked Note; you won't regret it! I have plenty of other recipes flagged to try, including the Cheesy Bastille Day Beer Bread, Orange Buttermilk Picnic Cake with Chocolate Chips, and most of the Bundt cakes.
I loved the variety on display here (especially the "12 Days of Cookies" feature for Christmas that includes traditional European cookies) and playful nature of both the stories and the recipes themselves. Recipes are also enhanced with notes, variations, and storage tips that will allow you to present and store your Baked creations to their full potential.
With 65 gorgeous photographs and 75 unique recipes, you'll have everything you need to create a wide range of sweet treats for quirky festivities and traditional holidays all year round. In the words of Matt and Renato, "Now go enjoy the holidays. Embrace the calendar. Eat Well. Be Sweet."
Starting with kitchen tools and equipment, the authors tell you what you need to bake their recipes, then go into ingredients and brand recommendations to make your baking a success.
The chapter arrangement is a little odd, by month instead of type, so cookies and cakes aren't grouped together, January has birthday cake, ugly but good cookies donuts, etc. However, the index is well laid out so it's easy to find recipes by name or type.
The pictures in the book are drool worthy, both inspiring me to try the recipe, and showing me how it should look when done.
The ingredients are easy to find in any supermarket. The recipes are well laid out, each recipe has a little back story, then then ingredients are listed on the left with the directions on the right.
Recipes range from the traditional, but delicious birthday cake, to the more exotic Chai spice truffle with mixed berries.
Measurements are given both in cup/weight. I like to weight for more accuracy when baking and appreciate being given the choice.
I remember my grandma buying jelly rolls, red raspberry goodness rolled up, but they were nothing like the light and lemony jelly roll with raspberry filling on page 79 (March). The lemon and raspberry pair together in a heavenly way, the result is light and airy.
There are a few non-sweet recipes, the cheesy Bastille day beer bread, and the Mega Easter pie for example, but mostly this is a book for the sweet tooth, the indulgence, the ooh and ahh of a wonderful presentation after a meal or with coffee in the afternoon.