What I’m Baking Now (or Eventually)

Most of 2015 had me deciphering Burmese food for the Burma Superstar Cookbook. And while I’ve enjoyed honing my wok skills, I’ve missed baking. Over the holidays (which now feels like forever ago), I tackled a project I’ve always wanted to do—make a yule log. It was actually a lot of fun—it worked! I also found my new favorite tart crust recipe. The holiday baking reminded me that there have been baking projects I’ve wanted to tackle…. but still haven’t. But there's no time like the present.

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Here’s what’s on my list:

No-Knead Bread, from My Bread. When Mark Bittman wrote up Jim Lahey’s way to making artisan-bakery bread at home way back in 2006, Lahey’s bread blew up the Internet. Lahey’s book, which came out in 2009, goes into greater detail about the method he uses. You don’t really knead the bread, and you bake it in a Dutch oven. On New Year’s Day, our family friend Gordon threw down a hearty feast, which included homemade rye. It was a beautiful loaf. And the recipe? From Lahey’s book. This year, I’ll finally give the method a try.

Sfogliatelle from Southern Italian Desserts. When I worked with Nate Appleman on the recipes for the A16 cookbook, I told him that the most amazing thing I ate in Naples was sfogliatelle. Could we make it? He said no. It’s not possible outside of Italy. Of course that’s bogus. East Bay resident Rosetta Costantino has a recipe in her book, which also came out in 2013.

English Muffins from The Model Bakery Cookbook. That cover hooked me in 2013, when the book came out. It basically acts like a teaser, as if Karen Mitchell and Sarah Mitchell Hansen (along with cookbook author and writer Rick Rodgers) are saying to us: “If you make 1 thing from this book, make the English muffins.” This year, I’ll make it happen.

Alegrías, from My Sweet Mexico. The translation that author Fany Gerson provided in her book, which came out in 2010, is “Amaranth Happiness Candy.” She says this is one of the oldest candies in Mexico, a bar of amaranth seeds stuck together with sugar or honey. When I was a kid visiting relatives in Mexico, I always ate these up. They tasted like sweetened healthy cereal—in the best way possible. This year, it’s time to try making them myself.

Digestive Biscuits, from British Baking. I read that the popularity of The Great British Bake-off has boosted sales of baked goods in that country. It’s a nice trend story that counters the anti-carb bandwagoners. This cookbook, which came out in 2011 by Oliver Peyton (who owns the Peyton and Byrne bakeries in London), has many classics, like treacle tart. But what I most want to make are the digestive biscuits. Oat-y, graham-y, these have always been one of my favorite British cookies/biscuits.