Books that teach a thing or two

The Baltimore Sun

Baking Boot Camp

By the Culinary Institute of America and Darra Goldstein

What's a Cook to Do?

By James Peterson

Artisan / 2007 / $16.95

With its unassuming title, diminutive size and down-to-earth headings such as "How high to turn the oven," this primer from a veteran cookbook author is in many ways the quintessential Cooking 101.

Unlike the somewhat intimidating world of Baking Boot Camp, this book makes cooking seem almost too easy. It isn't that easy to find the recipes, though - they're not titled like recipes in other books, but folded in with hundreds of techniques ("How to make a dump cake," "How to make my favorite cookie," "How to make a quiche").

If you're a stickler for ingredient lists and precise measurements, you won't enjoy the breezy style here; but if you're an experimental cook, you'll have plenty of fodder for playing around in the kitchen. Both the recipes we tried - Quick-Braised Fish Fillets and Baked Eggs - were nice, basic yet sophisticated additions to our repertoire of dishes simple enough to commit to memory.

Mudslide Cookies

-- Makes 2 dozen cookies

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant coffee

1 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

4 eggs

1 1/3 cups sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Melt the butter with the unsweetened and bittersweet chocolates in a metal bowl over barely simmering water and reserve. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a separate small bowl, mix the instant coffee and water, add the vanilla and reserve.

Beat the eggs, sugar and coffee mixture with a whip attachment on high speed until light and thick, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the speed and add the chocolate mixture. Blend on medium speed until evenly mixed, 1 to 2 minutes. On low speed, add dry ingredients until just blended, 1 minute. If necessary, refrigerate the dough until firm enough to hold its shape, 15 to 30 minutes.

Using a 1/4 -cup measure, scoop the dough onto sheet pans lined with parchment. Bake cookies until they are cracked on top but still appear moist, about 14 minutes. Be sure not to overbake. Cool slightly on sheet pans and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

From "Baking Boot Camp"

Per cookie: 159 calories, 3 grams protein, 10 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 20 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 40 milligrams cholesterol, 52 milligrams sodium

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