22 April 2015

Donna Bell's Bake Shop


1. I hate, hate, hate this new fashion of preparing dessert that looks for all the world as though it has been dumped from the compost bucket or dropped on the floor, stepped on, swept into the dustpan, and dropped on a plate. Use as many tweezers, pastry bags, offset spatulas as you like, spend hours plating, but truth be told, it looks like compost. I don't want my cake ground up to resemble dirt or coffee grounds(and furthermore, I don't want coffee grounds IN my dessert), I don't want specks of frosting, dots of coulis, tiny squares of jello, itsy bitty bits of candied anything strewn across my plate in a decorative arch.  I want cake, not yesterday's compost.

2.  At sometime during every single day, NCIS is on my television, like right now. My cats love it. I can turn it on, and say, "I can name the killer in 22 seconds...because I have seen each and every one about 20 times...because anytime of the day or night, some channel is showing NCIS.

My bias is noted.

I got Donna Bell's Bake Shop for my birthday.  (Thank you Anne!)  It is the perfect baking book. Look at the cover.  Pauley Perrette is holding a cake. Yes, a cake. We know it is a cake because it has layers of cake, it has an a frosting on the layers, it has whole, recognizable fruit on the frosting. It is cake.  I like cake!  You will probably recognize Perrette as Abby Sciuto from NCIS. She started the bakery along with Darren Greenblatt and Matthew Sandusky. Perrette named her bakery after her mother, Donna Bell, who died of breast cancer in 2002.  Like me, her mother was from Alabama. Like me, Perrette's family moved around quite a bit, but even though she wasn't born there, she considers Alabama home.  

This cookbook is traditional, but don't for a minute think the recipes are ordinary. The book is filled with cakes and pies and cupcakes and bars and muffins and biscuits and cookies and they all look like what they are. Flip through the pages and you will exclaim, "That's a cupcake!" And you will be right though you might find that your cupcake has a homemade turtle topping of pecans, caramel, and chocolate!

There is a wonderful recipe for Lemon Bars, a very traditional and comforting dessert. But there are several great variations on your usual bar cookie, including this one.

Seasonal Magic Bars

Nonstick cooking spray
Shortbread crust
1 cup Reese's Pieces
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c evaporated milk

Heat the oven to 350F.  Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with aluminum foil, allowing enough foil to overlap the edges. Spray the foil with cooking spray. Place the Shortbread Crust into the prepared baking pan, making sure to distribute evenly.  Press down on the crumbs to form a crust. Bake until golden brown about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together the Reese's Pieces, coconut, pecans, cranberries, white chocolate chips, and semisweet chocolate chips. Remove pan from the oven and immediately spread the chips mixture over crust. Mix the condensed milk and evaporated milk together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Drizzle evenly over the top. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Grab the foil handles with both hands and lift the pastry out of the baking pan. Cut into 24 bars.then cut into bars.

Shortbread Crust

2 cup flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Place the flour, sugar, and salt into a processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a couple of times to combine. Add the cold butter butter and pulse a few times until mixture resembles coarse meal. Be careful not to process too long or it will turn into dough.
Or, to make by hand, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the cold butter pieces and quickly press between your fingertips to break the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs.

I don't exactly know why this recipe is "seasonal"  but it sure is good. I made it "seasonal" by replacing the Reese's Pieces with Cadbury Mini Eggs left over from Easter. Whip up a batch today and settle down in front of the television, I'm sure you can find NCIS showing no matter what time you indulge. 

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