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VINE VOICEon October 24, 2008
I first saw Baked: New Frontiers in Baking while on vacation. My willpower not to buy any more baking books lasted for exactly one week until I swooped into my local bookstore, drooled, purchased, raced home, and whipped up a killer batch of the Baked Brownie. The balance of chocolate (11 ounces), butter (two sticks), a dash of espresso powder, a mix of granulated and brown sugar, and a hefty dose of eggs (five) give this brownie the ideal texture: the perfect marriage of fudgy and cakey without being runny or dense.

The next recipe I tried was the pumpkin chocolate chip loaf (the recipe makes two loaves). A seemingly straightforward blend of canned pumpkin puree, spices (allspice, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg), and chocolate, the complex flavors of spice and pumpkin were complementary without overwhelming. Although the recipe calls for one cup of vegetable oil, you also dilute it with 2/3-cup tap water, so the bread is pleasantly moist without being greasy or oily (I've had that happen all too many times in many quick breads).

Next on my list was the Brewer's Blondie, a hopped-up blend of of malt powder, malt balls, semisweet chocolate, and walnuts. Bars are one of Baked's strengths, including a decadent grown-up Rice Krispy bar, the elegant Honeycomb Bar (sweet tart dough topped with dried fruit, honey, and a shot of booze), S'more nut bars, and the Baked bar. There are also more complicated layer cakes (chocolate malt, chocolate/caramel/sea salt, Whiteout, Red Velvet), cookies, and breakfast treats such as scones, granola (yay, finally a low-oil granola full of fruit!), and quick breads. Pies and tarts? Feast on Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie, Tuscaloosa Tollhouse Pie, Peanut Butter Pie with Cookie Crust and Easy Fudge Sauce, and Classic Diner-Style Chocolate Pie.

Baked has been featured on Martha Stewart, Oprah (their Baked Brownie had a centerfold spread in O), and on several high-profile shows, but does Baked live up to its claims of being revolutionary? That's a more difficult cookie to crumble. Sure, there are gourmet additions such as matcha, chipotle, and fleur de sel, but most of the Baked repertoire is firmly descended from comfort cooking, such as the Root Beer Cake, a modern update on the Southern staple Coca-Cola (or Dr. Pepper) cake, or the red velvet spiced up with Red Hots. Ditto on the divine Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie. It's still amazing, whether or not it's smashing any new culinary boundaries.

Even if you never cook a single recipe from Baked, the clever graphics (garden gnomes, plastic deer perched on a mound of fluffy coconut snow), useful sidebars (including variations), and notes make this a great investment. This is my favorite cookbook of 2008, and I hope that it will become yours as well.
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on June 14, 2009
Reading Baked, it seemed the authors had a new lens on American classics; as other reviewers have said, they interpret old standbys with higher quality ingredients and updated flavorings. I also liked the light humor expressed in a sparing use of candy to decorate the cakes. Here's what happened in the oven and on the palate:

1. Coconut Cupcakes (with coconut filling and coconut frosting). We served them to Mom on Mother's Day, and they were a hit. They require a bit of effort (wouldn't any cake that has filling?) but were light, fluffy, coconutty, and decadent. 2. S'more Nut Bars (rechristened Smut Bars at the party I brought them to) were rich yet casual. Baked's chapter on bars makes a convincing argument for whipping up bars and carrying them with you to any/all events. 3. The Whiteout Cake was a knockout. We used high-cacao white chocolate disks (Valrhona) for the frosting. A serious pleasure was decorating it with a few well-placed nonpareils, as recommended by the book's authors. 4. Today we made Peanut Butter Cookies (with milk chocolate chunks) because we're having some kids over. They look professional and taste perfect.

At least one reviewer has gasped about the amount of butter in these recipes. In their cakes, the authors call for shortening along with butter: perhaps this combination makes their cakes so fluffy and perfectly textured. Meanwhile, the frosting recipes have truly helped me turn a corner in my baking. The frostings for the cakes mentioned above require cooking, yet they are not difficult, and there's no thermometer needed. They emerge gorgeous, light, and inexplicably perfect. While dazzling your guests, it can be a little frightening to know these stunners contain so much butter. (The coconut cupcake frosting called for three sticks of butter; I was skeptical, so made a 2/3 recipe and had some left over.) My husband and I have concluded that we shall make Baked's cakes when we have enough guests to serve everyone a generous amount and finish it all up! You simply don't want to be stuck with a Whiteout Cake in your household of two, planning to enjoy it for the rest of the week.

For impact, style, fun, and taste, this is my baking book for now. I see no reason to go elsewhere for a while.
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on March 17, 2009
I am an avid baker, and recipe tinkerer. I appreciate some of the interesting flavor combinations, like the banana-espresso-chocolate chip muffins. And the scone recipe is top-notch. HOWEVER, often the ingredient proportions seem a little "off". Butter ration is twice what I've found in similar banana breads/muffins- maybe this makes them richer, or more decadent, but also makes them greasy. Likewise with the chocolate chip cookie recipe- slightly not enough flour, so it produces a flat and greasy cookie. I appreciate the innovative ideas, but I suggest "baker beware" of some things that need adjusting.
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on November 17, 2010
I was looking for comments on the Monster Cookies.... Followed recipe exactly..

A few things I thought looked weird as I read the recipe.

1. Oven temperature 375 degrees. (Too high with a bake time of 12-15 minutes)Cookies browned to fast on top and bottom and were not done inside.

2. One Tablespoon of Baking Soda,Never heard of putting that much in one recipe,(I could taste it in cookies, it makes my tongue tingle)

3. Explain what effect a 1/4 teaspoon of corn syrup would have on the amount of dough this recipe makes?

4. 2 cups, of Peanut butter, 3 cups of combined sugars, 5 3/4 cups of oatmeal, 5 eggs, and it states that it makes 36 cookies. (How large? It said to drop them in 2 in" balls. Try 60+ cookies.)

I've been baking cookies for 20+ years and these measurements and directions felt very awkward........The result--mediocre. Won't make them again

I also tried the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf, I thought the ratio of sugar and flour was way of wack... 3 cups of sugar for two loaves of bread really high amount of sugar, and only 3 1/4 cups of flour, just didn't seem like enough to go with the wet ingredients..oil, puree, doesn't jive. Result; Fell apart. Too moist..couldn't pick it up.

That's all I've tried so far. Wouldn't make either one of them again.

Seems gimmicky, like a new twist on recipes that didn't need to be messed with, and ended get messed up.
Not impressed,.... yet, but I'll try other recipes.
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on October 1, 2008
So far, I have made 4 items from this book and all have been top notch. Instructions are extremely clear and easy and this book would work well for those who are very experienced and also for those who are just begining working with pastry/baking. I am an ex-pastry chef and now just bake for fun. I have many favorite books, this is on its way to joining that list! Absolutely Delicious.
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on May 21, 2010
On the whole, I really like this cookbook. I haven't made a ton of recipes from it yet, but I have made a few, and people have raved about every one. I've made the Baked Brownies, which have joined my Ina Garten Outrageous Brownies ones as co-#1s (completely different textures, so they can be #1 together). I've made the Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chunk cookies (which is quite different from most "fork criss-cross" peanut butter cookies, texture-wise), and they came out perfectly and delicious. Finally, I've made the Sweet and Salty Cake, and it brought people to their knees (although I modified the recipe slightly adding 1 t. instant espresso and 1/4 t. cinnamon to the cocoa powder and used 2 eggs + 2 yolks in place of 3 eggs for a richer cake). There are a number of other recipes that look really, really good and that I look forward to baking -- I wish I had an excuse to make them sooner than I do!

A co-worker made the Maple Walnut scones and brought me one, and it was truly marvelous.

Although I am a devoted fan of Rose's Heavenly Cakes for cakes in general (which are so amazing as to not even need the frosting if you don't feel like making it) and would likely defer to her for "cake parts" of recipes, this book really has some wonderful bars, cookies, pies, scones and other items that I haven't seen in other cookbooks. Giving 5 stars for the great variety and the wonderful success of the recipes I've made/sampled, but I register the following gripes: occasional use of shortening, not adding weights for ingredients and not specifying what type of peanut butter is used (let's face it, there's a lot of different kinds of peanut butter and the choice can affect the sugar, salt and texture of a recipe).

If you are on the fence, though, this cookbook is very definitely a worthwhile choice.
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on February 6, 2013
I got this book around Christmas to make "the best brownies" for my family gift baskets. Were they the best? Well, they were unique and delicious, but people have different ideas about brownies. However, I made a number of other things and they have all be great. In particular the Sweet and Salty Cake, made for a friend's birthday, is the thing I am most proud of baking, ever. It was time-consuming, but hearing people continue to talk dreamily about it a month later is worth it! I took off a star for 2 reasons: one, you have to really pay attention and follow your instincts with some of the recipes that are clearly not proofread (example, if I frosted the cake the way the recipe instructed, it would have been missing a layer of frosting and been pretty odd), and two, there are not enough pictures. It's frustrating to see a cake described as "visually stunning" with no picture!
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on September 12, 2010
I am a cookbook junkie and a passionate baker. I was skeptical about this book at first, so I checked it out of the library for a few weeks in order to decide whether I would buy it or not. It only took one trial recipe and many hours spent reading the book to know that I HAD to have this book. Since then, I have made just about everything in the book, and each and every recipe gets rave reviews from anyone I serve to. My favorite is the Peanut Butter Pie with Hot Fudge Topping. I have made this countless times and am always asked to bring it along whenever I get invited somewhere for dinner. The thing I love most about this cookbook is that the recipes are easy and the results are consistently outstanding.
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VINE VOICEon March 2, 2009
I was extremely satisfied by Baked. Although I have more than 300 cookbooks (many of them for desserts), the Baked cookbook is a welcome addition to my bookshelf.

The authors have a fun conversational tone throughout the book and offer a brief commentary on each recipe. Each recipe also has a note about possible substitutions, kitchen tools, and/or prep tips. The illustrations, particularly the deer, are whimsical and add an element of fun. Of the 75 recipes (not counting frostings separately), 35 include a full page, color photo of the finished project. I liked that there was no food stylist for the book - it means the genuine finished baked goods are pictured (no food styling tricks were used to make them look way better than whatever the average home cook could produce).

Chapters include A Field Guide to Baking; Breakfast (maple walnut scones, pumpkin chocolate chip loaf, easy homemade granola); Cakes & Cupcakes (red hot velvet cake, grasshopper cake, milk chocolate malt ball cake, root beer bundt cake); Pies & Tarts (butterscotch pudding tarts, Tuscaloosa Tollhouse pie); Brownies & Bars (the Baked brownie - one of Oprah's favorite things, honeycomb bars, peanut butter crispy bars); Cookies (black forest chocolate cookies, hazelnut cinnamon chip biscotti); Chocolates, Candies & Confections (vanilla marshmallows, vanilla bean caramel apples, mocha fundgesicles, malted milk chocolate sauce); and Drinks (Baked brown cow, chocolate stout milkshake, green tea smoothie). The recipes in parenthesis are some (but not all) of the offerings in each chapter.

There are new, inventive recipes that look very appealing. I particularly can't wait to try the Sweet and Salty Cake (chocolate with salted caramel icing), the Almond Green Tea cupcakes, S'More Nut Bars, Millionaire's Shortbread (with caramel filling and a chocolate glaze), and the pumpkin whoopie pies. I will make a point to seek out the Baked bakery the next time I am in New York.

This book would make an excellent gift for a new or experienced baker (especially if accompanied by a pie plate, jar of vanilla beans or other baking supply).
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on December 14, 2009
We've had this book out of the library several times now, and now we're giving in and buying it. The Sweet and Salty Cake is now our birthday cake of choice, and the Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins are the bomb and the Peanut Butter Crispy Bars are a bomblet.
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