Thursday, November 25th, 2010
This write-up could obviously go in our “what we’re reading” section, but cookbooks should
be used more than read. I used to think that baking was amateurish when compared to cooking,
sautéing, slow roasting, carefully picked herbs and thinly sliced vegetables. Somehow this all
seemed classier than flour, butter and sugar. I’m an amateur myself and that was part of my
problem. I awoke to the degree of my naïve bias when some friends introduced my wife and me
to Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.
After working for several years in advertising, Lewis and Polifiato left their jobs in 2005 to open
their own bakery: Baked (of course), located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Their goal of creating
the best of the classic American bakeries was an instant success and their book, published by
Stewart, Tabori & Chang in 2008, made many of their famous recipes available to a public
audience that was begging for them.
I’ve never been to the bakery in Red Hook, but these recipes have done all but take me there.
From fairly simple Chocolate Chip Cookies and Easy Homemade Granola, to Sour Lemon
Scones, Banana Pecan Piloncillo Ice Cream, Sweet and Salty cake, and a rich selection of tasty
drinks, the book offers a treat for every level of cook and every area of every palate. Their
famous Baked Brownie recipe (p. 117), sitting prominently and symbolically in the middle of
the book, was awarded “best brownie” by America’s Test Kitchen and the Today show. Martha
Stewart rightly endorses their results: “very, very good.”
Added to that, the exquisite photos by Tina Rupp and the delightful narrative style in the recipes
will slow you down to enjoy the food you bake and eat. And their wit and culinary creativity
will leave you deploring the preservative-laden, plastic-wrapped junk on the grocery store
shelves that masquerades as food (hats off to Michael Pollan who makes this point so well).
And that’s important for more that just nutritional reasons; as Leon Kass rightly observes in his
book The Hungry Soul: “Recovering the deeper meaning of eating could help cure our spiritual
anorexia.” If this is true even in a small way, then Baked is an excellent source for both physical
and spiritual nourishment in an increasingly fast-food world. Happy baking and eating.