Mark Bittman's Guide to Baking Everything

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"Maple Pie" from HOW TO BAKE EVERYTHING, © 2016 by Mark Bittman.

Cookbook author Mark Bittman discusses his latest cookbook, How to Bake Everything: Simple Recipes for the Best Baking, a comprehensive guide that demystifies even the most complex baking projects with over 2,000 recipes, from classics like Baked Alaska and Whoopie Pies, to New Orleans beignets and Afghan snowshoe naan.

Event: On Thursday, October 6, at 7:30 p.m. Mark Bittman will be in conversation with Peter Meehan at [words] Bookstore (179 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood, NJ).


All text excerpted from HOW TO BAKE EVERYTHING, © 2016 by Mark Bittman. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Maple Pie

MAKES: One 9-inch pie, enough for about 8 servings TIME: About 1 hour French Canadians wait eagerly for maple syrup season to arrive each year—and with it, maple pie. Sweetened only with maple syrup, it’s a pie that’s about the simplicity and pleasure of natural flavors. It’s a cinch to make and a natural and unexpected stand-in for pecan or even pumpkin pie during the holidays. ½ recipe Flaky Piecrust (page 259), fitted into a 9-inch pie plate and chilled ½ cup cream 2 tablespoons cornstarch 1¼ cups maple syrup 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, cut into cubes 2 eggs, beaten ½ teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oven to 425°F. Butter one side of a piece of foil large enough to cover the crust; press the foil onto the crust, butter side down. Scatter weights, such as dried beans, in an even layer over the foil and bake for 12 minutes; remove the weights and foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking the crust until it starts to develop a golden brown color, another 10 minutes or so. Start the filling while the crust is in the oven. When the crust is done, leave the oven at 350°F and cool the crust slightly on a rack.

2. Whisk the cream and cornstarch together to make a slurry. In a heavy saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a simmer over medium-low heat. (Watch carefully and reduce the heat if necessary; it will quickly bubble over if it gets too hot.) Whisk in the cream mixture, reduce the heat to low, and whisk frequently for another 2 or 3 minutes, until slightly thickened.

3. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the butter until melted, and let cool just until lukewarm. Add the eggs and salt and beat until smooth. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet, then fill the shell with the maple filling.

4. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the top of the pie is bubbly and golden brown; it should shake like Jell-O in the center but still be moist and firm along the edges. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

MAPLE PIE WITH NUT PIECRUST Add a nutty undertone to the sugary pie: Substitute a Nut Piecrust (page 260) made with pecans for the crust.

MAPLE-MOLASSES PIE For a darker, spicier, sweeter pie: Substitute molasses for ½ cup of the maple syrup. Add ½ teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg to the mixture with the heavy cream.

HONEY PIE A lighter, delicately sweet pie: Substitute honey for the maple syrup.

BOURBON-MAPLE PIE Stir ¼ cup bourbon into the maple syrup mixture with the heavy cream.

MAKES: 1 loaf
TIME: A little more than 1 hour

Lemon-Poppy Bread offers light, refreshing flavor in a rich cake. It’s not too sweet, as the nutty seedsoffset the lemon’s tang. For dessert, top the loaf with a Lemon Glaze (page 567), pair it with a fruit sauce(page573), or serve with macerated berries (page 575).This recipe can serve as the foundation for avariety of citrus cakes (see the next page for ideas).

1 stick butter, melted and cooled, plus softened butter for greasing  2 cups flour, plus more for dusting  1 cup sugar½ teaspoon salt  2 teaspoons baking powder  1 ½ tablespoons grated lemon zest  ¼ cup poppy seeds  ½ cup fresh lemon juice  1/3 cup milk  2 eggs  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 × 5-inch loaf pan with softened butter and dust with flour.2.  Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir in the lemon zest
and poppy seeds until distributed evenly.
3. Whisk together the melted butter, lemon juice, milk, eggs, and vanilla in a separate bowl. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not over mix; it’s okay if the batter is not perfectly smooth.4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost entirely clean. Cool the pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then carefully turn it upside down to release the loaf. Serve warm or at room temperature or wrap it in plastic and keep at room temperature fora couple days.
MAKES: About 2 1/2 dozen cookies TIME: About 1 hours, plus time to chill
This Eastern European, mostly Jewish treat (I learned it from my grandmother) is a pastry masquerading as a cookie, with a delicious, rich, flaky cream cheese dough wrapped around a nutty filling. Here it’s sliced into pin-wheels, which is easier than the traditional crescents (if you must have that shape, see the box on this page). It’s easy to customize the filling too — check out the chart on page 501.

1 cup (8 ounces) cream cheese
2 sticks butter, plus more for greasing
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting ½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts
¾ cup raisins
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup apricot preserves
1 egg

1. Let the cream cheese and butter soften at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Combine them in a food processor with the flour, ¼ cup of the granulated sugar, the vanilla, and the salt; pulse until the dough is in pea-sized clumps.
2. Empty the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gather it into a ball, divide it in half, and roll each half into a log. The dough is a little crumbly, but it will come together as the butter warms up in your hands. Wrap each log tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour; you can also freeze them for several weeks and thaw completely in the refrigerator before using.
3. Finely chop the walnuts and raisins together, then combine in a bowl with the brown sugar and cinnamon. On a lightly floured surface, roll one log into a rectangle 1/4 inch thick (about 16 × 10 inches); leave the other log in the fridge while you work. Use an offset spatula or a bench scraper to periodically lift up the dough to make sure it isn’t sticking to the work surface before you fill it.
4. Spread half the preserves on the dough in a thin, even layer, then sprinkle half the nut mixture over the preserves and gently press it into the dough so it sticks. Starting with one long side, roll the dough into a tight log, pinch the ends to seal, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Repeat with the other piece of dough.
5. Heat the oven to 350°F and grease 2 baking sheets. Place the logs seam side down on a cutting board. Beat the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush it over both logs, then sprinkle all over with the remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar.
6. Cut into 1-inch slices, arrange on the baking sheets, and pinch the seams of the pastry to seal (if you’re having a hard time getting them to stick, use a little extra egg wash). Bake until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes; rotate the sheets halfway through baking. Cool for about2 minutes on the sheets before using a spatula to transfer the cookies to a rack to finish cooling.

How to Roll Crescent-Shaped Rugelach

Pinwheels are, by leaps and bounds, the easiest and fastest way to make rugelach. But you may want to make them in their traditional shape, which exposes more of the flaky, buttery dough and allows it to fully crisp up and get golden. Instead of shaping the dough into 2 logs, divide it into 4 evenly sized disks and chill. Working one at a time, roll the disks into 10-inch circles and spread the preserves and nut mixture evenly over each. Cut each circle into 12 wedges (imagine you’re looking at a clock) and, starting from the outside edge and working your way in, roll the triangles into crescents. Pinch the ends slightly to curve them into a crescent shape, then refrigerate and bake as directed.