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The Secrets of Baking

Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts
By Sherry Yard (Houghton Mifflin Company)

The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts

Spago’s award-winning executive pastry chef Sherry Yard spent more than five years putting together her debut book, The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts. Her efforts shine in every page of this must-have new cookbook. For anyone even remotely interested in dessert making, it has the right balance of realistic challenge, subtle inspiration and expert instruction.

In every chapter, Yard first teaches how to master the basics and then build upon them. She begins with ganache—a simple combination of chocolate and hot cream. From there she shows how easy it is to enhance with Earl Grey or lavender-infused cream. Then it’s on to medium and firm ganaches, and how to use them as bases for perfect truffles, chocolate soufflés and even gianduja candy bars. Financiers? Get the basics right and soon you’ll be turning out chocolate, gingerbread and pumpkin versions (not to mention the only carrot cake you’ll ever need to know).

Yard provides concise and easy-to-understand instructions for making everything from caramel and brioche to lemon curd and lemon pound cake. Background stories for every recipe are so thoughtful and relevant that even two-ingredient basics are compelling. While the master recipes are reason enough to celebrate, the last chapter is an indulgence of irresistible “master combinations.” Anyone yearning to venture from merely impressive to spectacular will find success with the likes of Nectarine Tarte Tatin with Verbena Ice Cream or Boysenberry Brioche Pudding.

Perhaps the best thing about The Secrets of Baking is that it is user-friendly; equal parts learning tool and cookbook. Yes, it’s possible to make incredible desserts that look as good as the delicious full-page photographs. Yard supplements recipes and lessons with time-saving tips, historical footnotes and thoughtful commentary. She includes complete glossaries of baking terms, tools and ingredients, and a list of essential suppliers.

Yard loves her craft and she’s one of the best. Her generosity of sharing years of learning, experience and success makes The Secrets of Baking a mandatory companion for every kitchen.


Lemon Pound Cake
(From The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard, Houghton Mifflin Company, November 2003)

YIELD: Two 9-inch loaf cakes

Parchment paper (for loaf cakes)
Standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment (optional)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened if using a hand mixer
2 cups sugar
¼ cup finely grated or chopped lemon zest
4 large eggs

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¾ cup sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Adjust the rack to the center of the oven. Spray two
9-x5-x3-inch loaf pans with pan spray and line with a strip of parchment paper running along the length of the pan. Spray the paper.
2. Triple-sift the flours, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. Combine the buttermilk and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Using a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment of a hand mixer beat the butter on high speed until it is soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Slowly add the sugar and lemon zest and beat on high speed until fully incorporated and the mixture is fluffy, light, and a creamy white color, about 10 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time. Be sure each egg is completely incorporated and scrape down the sides of the bowl before adding the next.
5. Add one third of the sifted dry ingredients to the batter and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Add one third of the buttermilk mixture and mix until just incorporated. Repeat with the remaining two thirds of the dry and wet ingredients, in two additions. Be sure each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes, then carefully remove them from the pans and set on the rack to cool.

1. Meanwhile, bring the lemon juice and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring. Cook until the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes.
2. While the cakes are still warm, poke holes all over the tops with a skewer or a fork. Use a pastry brush to apply the lemon syrup. The holes help the syrup penetrate into the center of the cake. Serve warm or a room temperature. The pound cake will last for up to 2 days at room temperature or 3 weeks in the freezer if wrapped airtight.

Review by Kevin Schoeler

(Updated: 12/23/08 SB)

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