The title grabbed me, and the idea grabbed me, but honestly at first glance of this book I was not very impressed.
Then I read it.
I will start off by saying I’m a visual person and enjoy seeing pictures with recipes, which makes me a little bias, but over all this book is great!
Baking Basics and Beyond by Pat Sinclair, starts out with an introduction, an equipment list to get you started, the amazing power of ingredients and how to measure them. My favorite part of this section was the ingredients.
We, as a family, do a lot of baking, a lot of following recipes and yet I can say for myself that I don’t know the chemistry of these ingredients. For instance, wheat flour can become rancid. It goes on to explain the why, but I myself would have kept it around as long as our all-purpose flour, not anymore!
The chapters range from biscuits and scones to custards and bread puddings to pies and tarts, cakes and yeast breads and rolls. That’s just to name a few. I was surprised by the general break down and explanation of each chapter. A brief history, the techniques and fail proof methods, suggestions or alternatives, and key ingredient rolls.
Did you know baking soda neutralizes the acid in the milk to help biscuits and scones rise? I didn’t, until now, and little tidbits like this are all discussed when relevant.
At the beginning of each recipe is a small passage explaining the history of the recipe, specific tips and tricks for the recipe, or Pat Sinclair‘s history of the recipe, which gives it a nice personal touch.
I noticed a lot of reiteration which is helpful if you don’t read the book through like I did. Specific baking techniques are discussed at the beginning of the chapter and throughout each recipe, and as many recipes as it pertains to.
At the end of the recipes are “baker’s notes” and “secrets to success”. Here you can find alternatives to recipe ingredients, tips and tricks that she uses in her own kitchen, and/or history about ingredients and their purpose in the specific recipe. This is especially useful when making something for the first time as she notes cooking times changed by various sized pans, and letting you know if your muffins are left in the pan too long the bottoms will become soggy.
Also discussed are storage techniques, expiration dates, where to locate ingredients, what brands she uses to insure tried and true flavors.
While her recipe for apple pie varies tremendously from our grandma Bb’s, I noticed that serving suggestion included cheese. Our grandpa Dave always says, “Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.”
This book is educated while remaining warm and relatable, it’s unique and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Below is the recipe I chose to try out, Chocolate Chip Scones with Strawberry Butter. These were delicious, easy to make, and served fresh out of the oven with a glass of milk.
I’m a very picky eater and there are only a handful of things that didn’t interest me, like recipes that include mushrooms or bananas, which is saying quite a bit, but I can’t wait to dive in to what the rest of the book offers. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
Chocolate Chip Scones with Strawberry Butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup Dutch process cocoa
- 1 tablespon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup cold butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup milk chocolate chips
- ½ cup butter at room temperature
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons strawberry jam
- Heat oven to 400 degrees with oven rack in middle.
- Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces.
- Combine whipping cream and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture and stir with a fork until clumps form, making slightly sticky dough. Stir in chocolate chips.
- Place dough on well-floured work surface. Knead gently 8 to 10 times or toss dough like a pizza until it holds together and is no longer sticky.
- Roll or pat out dough to a thickness of about ½ inch. Cut scones with a 3-inch biscuit cutter. Press firmly with biscuit cutter to cut through the chocolate chips. If dough sticks, dip cutter in flour before each cut.
- Place scones on an ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle the tops with a little sugar.
- Bake 14-18 minutes or until scones are no longer moist and are firm when pressed lightly with a finger. Serve at once or cool on wire cooling racks.
- While the scones are baking, you can prepare the Strawberry Butter. Combine butter and powdered sugar in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Stir in jam and mix well.
Secrets to Success: The Dutch cocoa has been processed to neutralize the natural acidic-flavor of cocoa and create a richer, deeper flavor in baked goods. Unsweetened cocoa is a good substitute.
“Sanding” sugar doesn’t melt during baking and makes the tops of the scones sparkle. It can be purchased in specialty stores.