If I had to name one of the most influential people in my baking life, it would be Alice Medrich. Before her I didn’t know how to cook, let alone bake something edible. So when I had the chance to meet and interview her, I was afraid I came off as a creepy fan girl when I gushed about how instrumental she was in changing my life.
Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts would have been a great book for me to start my baking journey. Baking is all about precision and technique and the recipes here are more forgiving for those who are more carefree in their cooking style. If you’re a more experienced baker, don’t let the title put you off from buying it. It’s not just about composing different ingredients together, the book dives into more complicated recipes like souffles and tarts.
Note: You have a chance to win a copy of this book!
During the short time I’ve had this cookbook, I’ve used it pretty extensively:
Rice pudding. The flavours are subtle and it doesn’t come across as heavy even though cream is added.
Stout floats. A favourite of R’s. I’m not a huge Guinness fan but the chocolate ice cream mellows out the flavour.
Lemon tart. This disappeared within a few minutes at work. I got many requests for the recipe. The sweet tart crust offsets the lemon and the filling is tart, but not too much.
A quick chocolate cake with quick fudge frosting and chocolate shards. Glass of milk strongly recommended.
Blueberry tart. This was the only recipe I tried that didn’t work out so well. The blueberry just oozed out when cut. I think it was because I didn’t have time to let it set properly? It made for a very messy tart. I felt the sweet tart crust was a bit too sweet for my taste with the already sweet blueberries so next time I’ll reduce the sugar.
Souffles. I used a bit of fiora di sicly to give it even more of a citrus and vanilla flavour. Think creamsicle in souffle form. If you’ve wanted to try making souffles, but were afraid of them failing, try these. Easy to follow and I had great results.
More recipes I made:
– Pavlova. I had this at the event held with Alice at Jo’s. The rosewater adds a special taste to it.
– Berry layer cake. You can make this in no time at all.
– Grilled chocolate sandwiches. I made this first! I like it with flecks of fleur de sel.
I often turn to this book first when I’m looking for an easy recipe that will turn out. While this book does focus on the easy, don’t think of this as a 20 minutes or less cookbook. Baking takes a bit of time so read through the whole recipe first. You don’t want to start and then realize it’ll take 40 mins to bake on top of prep time. For quick fixes Medrich offers suggestions on how to take ingredients to another level (e.g. Serving ice cream with a drizzle of olive oil).
Books to Cooks held a Tea with Alice event and I was lucky enough to interview Alice.
So what is a quick recipe from your book that would impress guests?
The Stout Floats which is and if it was going to be a dessert, I would do it in a short glass rather than a big tall soda glass, but it’s just a little bit of cocoa syrup which you can make or you can buy if you’re in a hurry at the bottom of the glass and a shot of Kahlua and a scoop of chocolate ice cream and then you pour it up with Guinness stout or porter or some other dark stout type beer. It’s divine. A little dab of whipped cream on the top and maybe a little drizzle of more chocolate syrup. Or chocolate pudding. That’s also good. On the stove top thickened with just a bit of corn starch, but not so much that it tastes starchy and then it’s got some melted chocolate in there too that gives it some body and richness and it’s not like the chocolate pudding like your mother made.
Do you see people turning towards more simpler easier food?
I think it goes both ways. I think people are doing really really really elaborate sort of modernist cuisine or interested in it on the one hand, but on the other hand or exactly counter parallel trend everybody is busy and people want really good things that you can put together really easily.
You’re a huge advocate for using a scale for baking. In what situations would a scale not necessary?
There are lots of things where a scale is not necessary. Once you start using a scale, I think you find that you use fewer dishes and the clean up is easier and it’s just second nature. And it has nothing to do with whether or not the recipe needs to be precise, it’s just a way of measuring ingredients. If you’re going to measure them, measuring them on a scale is easier once you get the hang of it than using the cups and spoons.
Is there a recipe where you should be using a scale? Like bread baking?
I wouldn’t necessarily say bread baking so much, but I think a lot of cakes and baking, especially the more fine baking, you’ll get a more consistent result because people measure. There’s critical ingredients, flour is one of them. Line me up 5 people and ask them to measure a cup of flour and weigh everyone’s cup of flour and it’s going to be all different. So if the person who is developing the recipe is communicates in weight, then that is the weight of the flour. And everybody is going to weigh it the same, even if they don’t scoop it the same.
Still reading? Here’s how you can win a copy of the book! Thomas Allen & Son publishing has graciously agreed to give one reader a copy of this book. I know that you’ll be as thrilled with the book as I am and it’ll be a great addition to your holiday baking. To enter, comment on what is your favourite holiday treat! Contest closes December 9. Canadian residents only.
Note: I was given a review copy by Thomas Allen, but as always, my reviews are my own opinions.
Easy Lemon Tart
Lemon Curd (can be made ahead)
6 large eggs or 2 large eggs plus 6 large egg yolks
Grated zest of 2 medium lemons
1 cup strained fresh lemon juice (from about 6 medium lemons)
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
Set the strainer over a medium bowl. Whisk the eggs (or egg and yolks) in a small nonreactive saucepan to blend. Whisk in the lemon zest, juice, and sugar. Add the butter. Whisk over medium heat, reaching into the corners and scraping the sides and bottom of the pan, until the butter is melted and the mixture is thickened and beginning to simmer around the edges, then continue to whisk for about 10 seconds longer. Remove from the heat and scrape into the strainer, pressing gently on the solids. Scrape any lemon curd clinging to the underside of the strainer into the bowl. Refrigerate until chilled before using. Lemon curd keeps in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
For the crust
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 (5.625 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.
To make the crust
Combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix the flour and baking powder together thoroughly, add to the butter mixture, and mix just until well blended, if the dough seems too soft and gooey, let it stand for a few minutes to firm up.
Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan to make a thin, even layer. This takes a bit of patience, as there is just enough dough. Press the dough squarely into the corners of the pan to avoid extra-thick edges. (The crust can be prepared 2 to 3 days. Ahead to this point, wrapped, and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before baking.)
Put the pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is fully golden brown all over. If the crust puffs up during baking, gently press it down with the back of a fork and prick it a few times.
When the crust is ready, add the lemon curd (you will have some left over) and spread it evenly. Return the tart to the oven and bake for 5 minutes to set the curd (3 to 5 minutes longer if the curd was no longer hot). Let cool.
Serve the tart at room temperature or chilled (when the filling will be a little firmer), with a spoonful of berries over or alongside each slice and some lemon zest sprinkled on top, if you like. Leftovers kept in the fridge are still good the next day.
Excerpted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts Cookbook by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books)
Creamy, Dreamy Rice Pudding
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) basmati, jasmine, or other long-grain rice (not converted or instant rice)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1/4 cup (1.75) sugar
1 cup heavy cream
A cinnamon stick or pinches of ground cinnamon for garnish (optional)
Rinse a medium saucepan with cold water and add the milk, rice, cinnamon, cardamom, and saffron and bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, stirring often, for 30 minutes, or until the rice is very tender.
Stir in the sugar, let cool, and refrigerate until chilled.
Whip the cream just until it holds very soft peaks. Fold into the cold pudding just until combined. Chill before serving. Grate a little cinnamon stick over each serving or sprinkle with pinches of ground cinnamon before serving, if desired. The pudding keeps in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
Excerpted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts Cookbook by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books)