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The Fearless Baker: Simple Secrets for Baking Like a Pro Hardcover – October 24, 2017
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From the Publisher
Flourless Cocoa Cookies from The Fearless Baker
Makes 22 cookies
Whenever I’m called upon to make something gluten-free, I opt for classics that are naturally sans wheat flour—like Pavlovas, Macarons, Macaroons, and these flourless cocoa delights. These cookies are tender, delicately chewy, and incredibly chocolaty—if a brownie and a cookie had an affair, this would be their love-child. I like to add a sprinkling of flaky Maldon salt, because these are for grown-ups.
Make ahead and storage: The cookies can be stored airtight for up to 1 week.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the eggs.
3. Sift together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the eggs, whisking until the mixture forms a smooth batter, about 1 minute. Add the vanilla and chocolate chunks and mix until fully incorporated; switch to a rubber spatula if necessary. The batter will be very thick and sticky.
4. Use a #30 / 2-tablespoon scoop to portion the batter onto the prepared baking sheets—stagger the cookies, leaving about 1½ inches between them. Sprinkle a little Maldon salt on each cookie.
5. Bake the cookies, rotating the sheets from front to back and top to bottom at the halfway mark, until set around the edges and cracked on top, 10 to 12 minutes. The cookies may look slightly underbaked in the center—that’s exactly what you want. Cool the cookies completely on the pans.
Why It Works
Like brownies, these cookies get the bulk of their structure from eggs rather than flour. A healthy dose of cocoa powder doesn’t provide structure in the same way that flour does, but it helps the batter more closely resemble cookie dough and not spread too much in the oven.
Pro Tip: Err on the side of underbaking these cookies—they’re loaded with chocolate, and just like melted chocolate, they set up as they cool. You can think of baked goods made with substantial amounts of chocolate as a little like steaks: You need to allow for carryover cooking.
- 170 g / 3 large eggs
- 340 g / 3 cups powdered sugar
- 106 g / 1¼ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 g / ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 g / ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 7.5 g / 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 142 g / 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks
- Maldon salt, for sprinkling
—Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Baking Bible
“For years we’ve been the beneficiaries of the sky-high cakes and dreamy pies Erin has whipped up for Food52, and we’re so delighted she’s sharing her baking gifts in The Fearless Baker. Her six-layer Dame’s Rocket Cake and diagonal lattice crust are in our future!”
—Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, cofounders of Food52
“This book is not only a shortcut on the road to fearlessness, but also a plainly spoken guide to why ingredients do what they do, alongside a very welcome kitchen pep talk. All the tools to lend a good amount of confidence in the kitchen, plus Salted Caramel besides!”
—Joy Wilson, author and blogger, Joy the Baker
“Erin’s fierce understanding of the science of baking makes her one of the most trustworthy bakers that I know. But what’s even more special is that she does it all with the exact kind of friendliness and warmth that you want when you’re about to tackle laminated dough or French macarons for the first time. The recipes here are as encouraging and thorough as they beautiful and delicious. This book is an absolute must-have for bakers of all levels.”
—Molly Yeh, author and blogger, My Name Is Yeh
"In her first cookbook, McDowell, a baking columnist for Food52, endeavors to make baking easier and more understandable for home cooks. She distills the professional tips she’s learned over the years and offers advice that both new and experienced bakers will find indispensable. Her recipes run the gamut from simple chocolate chip cookies to the more involved chocolate palmiers, made with home puff pastry, and chocolate cream pie with whipped peanut butter cream. Her sense of fun is felt throughout the book with recipes such as PB&J Whoopie Pies and caramel corn layer cake. She adds twists to recipes to make them her own, such as with salted caramel-swirled meringues; grapefruit meringue pie; and raspberry-ripple crunch bars, an innovation that she explains came to her in a dream. Comprehensive tips on baking and decorating cakes and pies accompany tempting recipes, including for pound cupcakes made with honey-caramel glaze, mocha cake with a coffee and white chocolate ganache, and a simple cider caramel apple pie. Her clearly written recipes and tips, explained in a friendly, encouraging voice, will inspire confidence in experienced and novice bakers alike.
About the Author
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Erin's cookbook is everything an informative cookbook needs to be for the home baker. Inside this squat but many-paged tome, Erin has included recipes for a few basics, along with explanations for why they work (like the high ratio cake - aka why commercial bakeries use shortening in their cakes and why you might want to too). Beyond explanations of recipes themselves, this book is stuffed with tips for keeping your brown sugar soft, fixing a broken buttercream, etc as well as lengthy explanations and detailed photos for different pie crust styles, lattice weaves, weighing out crumb crusts for your pan size, etc.
The vast majority of Erin's recipes are either a spin on well loved classics or something you're unlikely to find in most/any other baking cookbook. I'm not sure I'll ever try her lemon-licorice meringue pie, but only because I'm not sure I like licorice that much. Her peppermint fluff cupcakes and butterscotch blondies however are going to become a part of my baking rotation.
What I like:
Clear recipe writing
Beautiful pictures of everything
Great advice and explanations about why things are done a certain way
What I don't like:
I wish the book were a little taller, so more of the recipe fit on a single page
What I've made:
Apricot cream cake
Peppermint devil's food high hat cupcakes
If I had to pick only three dessert cookbooks, this one would make the cut
The answer is: “Hallelujah! Baking Bejeesus! Yes, yes, yes!” I learned new tips just in the introduction...yeah, how is it even possible??!
The tone of the author is friendly and she is a thorough and well-informed teacher who explains why baking techniques work, gives the difficulty level for each recipe, throws in pro tips for those who want to take a recipe to the next level and at times suggests variations.
All well and good. What about the recipes?
Erin’s got that covered too. She provides creative twists on classics, giving you the comfort of familiar treats but adding that extra something special that makes your baked goods stand out and steal the show. For example, I just randomly opened my copy and there is a recipe “ Five-Spice Pumpkin Pie” followed by “Grapefruit Meringue Pie”. And even if you don’t want to stretch your culinary horizons in that new direction, I promise you will learn so much from her about baking that you will end up making better pie even when using your own favorite recipe.
Not every recipe has a photo but the ones included are great. The layout of the cookbook is very user-friendly and visually appealing. I love how the quantity, the difficulty level and tips on making a baked good ahead and storing are given in red at the top right of the page for the start of every recipe.
If you want to read about other bakers’ experiences using this cookbook, Food52 Baking Cookbook Club on Facebook baked their way through “Fearless Baking” in March 2018. Let’s just say these bakers had amazing photos and high praise for this special cookbook.
Categories of recipes include: Cookies & Bars; Cakes; Pies & Tarts; Pastries; Custards & Creams; along with Resources. There is plenty to love. I thought “Sweet” by Ottolenghi would be my top favorite 2018 baking book but “The Fearless Baker” wins hands down❣️
The book turns out to be beautiful. Fabulous pictures everywhere (plenty) and interesting recipes that I would have liked to make... But when I began making them, not a single dish comes out well (at least of those I tried).
The Flourless Cookies were an epic failure. Epic! Only after failing miserably, I looked up a few recipes online and, sure enough, nothing compares to the totally "off" measurements offered in McDowell's book. For example, the consensus seems to be that such recipe requires egg whites (makes sense! they'd allow the batter to hold shape). McDowell tells you to "lightly beat three eggs" at first, then add the cocoa and powdered sugar (cinnamon and vanilla) et voilà... one finds oneself with a runny batter that cannot be scooped or separated on a baking sheet into cookies.
Sadly (because it is visually gorgeous), I returned this book.