The Baker In Me: a baking bible

The Baker In Me: a baking bible

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Daphna Rabinovitch has had a love affair with food most of her life, beginning as an enthusiastic baker through to a distinguished career as a pastry chef. In The Baker in Me, Daphna combines years of experience and a keen eye for detail, resulting in a comprehensive baking guide.

Daphna has been a culinary consultant, personal chef, and even TV personality. She was the director of Canadian Living test kitchen, and the pastry chef at David Wood Food Shops. She won the Cuisine Canada Gold Award in 1999 for the Canadian Living Step by Step Cookbook and has co-authored several other cookbooks. She lives (and bakes!) in Toronto and also contributes recipes regularly to The CJN.

“I am, at heart, a home baker,” Daphna says. “The Baker In Me is the quintessential baking book for both the novice and accomplished baker. It’s the definitive and personal guide for all the bakers in your life.”

She explains, “It’s not just the mixing together of lovely ingredients – unsalted golden-hued butter, melding with the sweetness of luxe brown sugar or the sultry melting of chocolate in a pot – I love to know why. And when. And how.

“I love everything about baking and want to try and impart that love and joy to you.”

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My go-to chocolate chip cookie

Rabinovitch shares, “To me, this is the ultimate chocolate chip cookie, slightly crisp and golden-brown around the edges, soft and chewy in the middle. Tucked away in an airtight container, they’ll stay chewy and delicious for up to 4 or 5 days. Although I am not a proponent of nuts in chocolate chip cookies myself (why ruin a perfectly good chocolate chip cookie?), feel free to add 1 cup of chopped walnuts to the batter along with the chopped chocolate and chocolate chips. Since the nuts may not be directly exposed to the heat of the oven, toast them first in a dry skillet set over medium heat for about 5 minutes, remembering to shake the skillet often. I find that the chopped chocolate disperses throughout the batter really thoroughly. With the addition of the semisweet chocolate chips, you’re guaranteed a chocolately bite each and every time.”

o 2 cups all-purpose flour

o 1 tsp. baking soda

o 1/4 tsp. salt

o 1 cup unsalted butter, softened

o 1 cup packed light brown sugar

o 1/4 cup granulated sugar

o 1 large egg, at room temperature

o 1 tsp. vanilla

o 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

o 1 1/3 cups coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 375. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a hand-held mixer, beat the butter for 1 minute. Beat in the sugars until the mixture is quite light, 3-5 minutes. Scrape down the dough. Beat in the egg. Beat in the vanilla. Remove the bowl from the stand.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, in 2 additions. Stir in the chocolate chips and chopped chocolate.

Drop batter in heaping tablespoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. You should be able to get about 12 lobs on a regular-sized cookie sheet. Flatten slightly.

Bake in the centre of the preheated oven until set and lightly browned around the edges, 8-10 minutes. Cool the cookie sheet on a wire rack for 2 minutes. Transfer the cookies to the wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough, cooling the pans slightly before adding unbaked cookie dough to them. (Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.) Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Baker’s Tips:

In my humble opinion, a good chocolate chip cookie should not have baking powder in it. The addition of baking powder makes the cookie rise too much and produces a slightly cakey cookie. Not one for my cookie jar. Baking soda is the leavener of choice here.

I’ve opted to go with one egg for my basic chocolate chip cookie, making it less doughy, and mostly brown sugar for its hygroscopic tendencies. I don’t care for crispy chocolate chip cookies, but if you prefer your cookies crisp, use 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar.

You can use the mixer on low speed to mix the flour into the butter and egg mixture, but since I am a bit of a perfectionist I always remove the bowl from the mixer and use a wooden spoon (or my hands) to mix in the flour. This prevents any gluten from forming and prevents overmixing and toughness as well.

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Chocolate cheesecake

“This cheesecake owes a certain amount of its genesis to the New York cheesecake. Dense, rich and tall, New York cheesecake is replete with cream cheese, sour cream or whipping cream, eggs and sometimes an extra egg yolk or two for richness,” Daphna says. “My cheesecake is not quite as tall as New York cheesecake, but it is dense, creamy and thoroughly luxurious. I always bake my cheesecake in a water bath and have even been accused of taking cheesecakes way too seriously. Perhaps so, but I am a big proponent of adding sour cream to the batter to act as a counterpoint to its sweetness and to provide the sensuous mouth feel that should accompany a great cheesecake.”

o 1 1/4 cups chocolate
     wafer cookie crumbs

o 2 tbsp. granulated sugar

o 1/3 cup unsalted butter,
     melted and cooled

Filling:

o 8 oz. semisweet chocolate,
    coarsely chopped

o 1 lb. cream cheese, softened
     (two 250-g pkgs)

o 3/4 cup granulated sugar

o 3 large eggs, at room temperature

o 2 tsp. vanilla

o 1 cup sour cream, at room
    temperature

Preheat the oven to 325. In a bowl, whisk together the cookie crumbs and the sugar. Pour the melted butter over and stir until the crumbs are thoroughly moistened. With the back of a spoon, press the cookie mixture onto the bottom of an 8-1/2-inch springform pan. Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Let the pan cool slightly on a wire rack.

Place the cooled pan on a large piece of aluminum foil. Press or scrunch up the aluminum so that it creates a solid basket or barrier around the springform. This will help prevent any water from the water bath from seeping into the cheesecake. Place the springform pan into a larger roasting pan so that there is at least 1-2 in. of space around the springform pan.

Filling: In the top of a double boiler set over hot, not boiling water, melt the chocolate. Set aside to cool slightly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally to ensure that there are no clumps of cream cheese.

On low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl. Beat in the vanilla. Remove the bowl from the stand. Gently stir in the melted and cooled chocolate and then the sour cream.

Transfer the mixture to the springform, levelling the surface. Pour enough hot water into the pan, avoiding getting any into the springform or between the springform and the aluminum foil, so that the water comes 1 inch up the side of the pan.

Bake the cheesecake in the centre of the preheated oven until the edges are set but the centre still jiggles, 65-75 minutes. Turn the oven off but keep the cheesecake in the water bath in the turned-off oven for 1 hour. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath, remove the foil and let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Refrigerate for 8-24 hours.

Remove the cake from the springform; bring to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Baker’s Tips:

Cheesecakes are essentially really, really large custards. They just happen to be made with cream cheese. A cheesecake made without starch, as the ones in my book are, tend to come out incredibly smooth. And if it has sour cream in it, as mine do, then it will be incredibly creamy, sensuous and luxurious.

Bake your cheesecakes until they are still quite jiggly in the centre. Remember, they will continue to bake, albeit at a much lower temperature, in the turned off oven. They will also firm up once they have chilled.

Cracks are due to overbeating, over-baking, exposure to sudden changes in temperature, and too high of a heat.

When making a cheesecake, opt for a high-sided springform pan, since it’s rather impossible to get a cheesecake out of a regular pan in one piece.

Springform bottoms come with a flat side and a ridged side. For best results and easier removals, make sure that the flat side is on the inside of the cake pan. The ridge makes it more difficult to remove the cheesecake from the pan.

I like to bring some water to a boil before I start beating the cream cheese, and then let it cool before I pour the hot water into the roasting pan for a bain-marie. Ideally, the pan in which you place the cheesecake should be a few inches wider than the springform and about the same height. A higher-sided pan will slow down the baking time.