Carrot cake, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, apple pie: I think we can all agree that these are classic, timeless desserts. But what makes them so?
Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented (2010 Stewart, Tabori & Chang) is a new cookbook based on recipes from Baked, a Brooklyn bakery opened by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, who left their day jobs in corporate advertising to pursue their dream of opening a bakery. An out-of-the-gate success, they have since opened another Baked in Charleston, South Carolina, and their gooey goodies can now be found in stores like Whole Foods. The bakers and cookbook authors have been featured on the Today show, the Food Network, and The Martha Stewart Show. Their sweet and salty brownie is Oprah’s favourite. Their success is largely based on the popularity of the type of nostalgia-inducing treats (brownies, blondies and the like) that they sell at their shops, so I asked Baked’s Matt Lewis, why it is that some desserts achieve cult status while others fizzle in the baking pan.
“Generally speaking, I think baked goods that are highly adaptable (in terms of flavours, design, etc…) have the most ease in transitioning into an omnipresent bakery item,” explains Lewis. “Cupcakes, whoopie pies, and macaroons are examples of baked goods that have many variations — you can swap fillings and frostings with ease, and people adjust them to their preferred palette or regional sourcing (seasonal local fruits, chocolate, caramel, etc....).”
On the other hand, he says there are some fantastic regional cult desserts that might not spread across the country (or internationally) simply because they don’t lend themselves to interpretations (after all, there’s not much you can do with an NYC Black & White Cookie), or the main ingredient is hard to source (read: Cloudberry Pie).
Luckily, the whoopie pie is both adaptable and its key ingredients are easy to find. Here’s a recipe for this timeless classic from Baked Explorations.
(makes 10-12 large or 15-17 small pies)*
* I am hesitant to place a typical yield amount on this recipe. I encountered so many large, sandwich-size whoopie pies during my travels that mini whoopies seem disingenuous. Still, the final recipe is written for smaller whoopies. If you aim for the larger version, you will need to increase the cooking time by a few minutes.
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 cup hot coffee
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken
Swiss Vanilla Filling
5 large egg whites
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” cubes, cool but not cold
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Step 2: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, and set aside.
Step 3: In another large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and espresso powder. Add the hot coffee and 1/2 cup hot water and whisk until both powders are completely dissolved.
Step 4: In a medium bowl, stir the brown sugar and oil together. Add this to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined. Add the egg, vanilla and buttermilk and whisk until smooth.
Step 5: Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as you fold.
Step 6: Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets about 1” apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cookie comes out clean. Let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you make the Swiss Vanilla Filling.
Swiss Vanilla Filling
Step 1: In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar together (remember to substitute the sugar for the optional peanut butter filling**).
Step 2: Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water but do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and the colour is a milky white, about 2-3 minutes.
Step 3: Transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Step 4: Remove the whisk attachment and replace with the paddle attachment. Add the cubed butter and beat on medium-high speed (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. If the buttercream looks like it is breaking, don’t worry, it will eventually come together.
Step 5: Add the salt and vanilla and beat for 5 seconds to combine.
Step 6: To assemble the pies, turn half of the cooled cookies upside down (flat side facing up). Use an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to drop a large dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookie. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.
The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days, on a parchment-lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Bring the whoopies to room temperature before serving.
** Variation: Replace the sugar with 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed tightly). Fold in 1/4 cup unsalted smooth peanut butter after adding the vanilla extract.
Click here for more delicious dessert recipes.
1-3. Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented (2010 Stewart, Tabori & Chang), photography by Tina Rupp
I was browsing the aisles over the weekend, and came across several treasures. If you’re looking for Christmas gift ideas, look no further.
These pieces from Montreal’s Ceramik B stood out for their simplicity. Check out these organically shaped salt and pepper shakers.
Porcelaines Bousquet had beautiful white vases and tableware. The porcelain cones above would be perfect for holiday entertaining.
The Saltbox Shoppe, based out of Kincardine, ON, salvages vintage doorknobs for these coat hooks — crafty! I can picture the sapphire blue knobs in a cottage entryway.
These veneer gift tags from Flakes Paperie are an original spin on flimsy paper ones. Use pencil to write with so that they can be reused. Their handmade Christmas cards were gorgeous, too.
Heather Shaw, owner of Toronto’s Pi’lo, has toured us through her home for Online TV, and I caught up with her at the One of a Kind show to browse her latest crafts. These vintage-looking sewing kits (above left) are a great idea for those who prefer practical gifts. And how cute would her white feather balls (above right) be on a simple Christmas tree with white lights?
Hailing from Hamilton, ON, Jenna Rose screen-prints textiles with her own drawings. Her designs are inspired by everyday life, as illustrated with this whimsical bicycle cushion.
Sandy Middleton, of Tansy & Co., combined her background in photography with her passion for home decor. She uses her own original photographs for these handmade printed lampshades and repurposed window frames.
Christie Greyerbiehl’s fabric light boxes would make a perfect gift for people on your list with little ones. Their soft glow and fun drawings are so much more interesting than plug nightlights.
I’m not quite here yet, but I couldn’t get enough of all the adorable baby booths. Montreal-based Poids Plume uses 100% natural, organic cotton for their clothing and bedding, and all items are handmade in Quebec. These onesies were softer than a baby’s you-know-what.
Tulip+i hand-prints fun Italian phrases on blankets, bibs and pillows with water-based inks. I would like a “latte + biscotti” bib for myself, please.
So head down to Exhibition Place and see the show for yourselves! (It will also be in Vancouver from December 9-12.) Gift ideas galore!
Aren’t linen closets frustrating? They never seem big enough and you always have towels crashing down on you from above when all you wanted was one, measly pillowcase. If you’ve run out of space in your linen closet, why not expand your storage horizons with a dedicated linen cupboard? If you can find room in a hall or bedroom, you can easily set up a secondary linen station and even make it a pretty feature.
Like many great DIYs, this one begins with a cardboard box. Yes, it’s Ikea to the rescue once more. I chose a Hemnes cabinet with glass doors and lots of drawers for storage. After following those iconic instructions I had my basic piece of furniture.
Here it is, all put together, and it came in this very stylish grey-wash finish (solid spruce). But I didn’t like the way the cabinet’s stain clashed with the warm tones of the hallway floor, so I decided to go for a painted finish.
Before painting, I removed all of the hardware and used painter’s tape to mask off the glass panels on the inside and the outside. I also took the drawers out and painted them separately. Finally, I removed the thin backboard because I wanted to treat it to a special decorative finish.
I gave the armoire three coats of milky white interior latex paint (Martha Stewart Living’s Glass of Milk from The Home Depot) and replaced the hardware. These are super simple, tarnished brass knobs from Lee Valley. I love the way they add some patina to the cabinet. I covered the backboard with some leftover wallpaper and used double sided tape to adhere it. I’ve always loved this pattern — it’s called Brockhampton Star (BP 579) from Farrow & Ball. But you can use any paper you like!
I also decided to give the painted finish a light scuffing with my sander so it would have a nice, mellow, timeworn finish. The white paint with visible brush strokes, antique-looking brass knobs and wallpapered backboard all help to make this piece feel vintage and unique. Most people can’t believe it’s from a big box store. But it is — it literally came out of a box!
I like to tell people to live with beautiful things, and to keep them on display. It’s so nice to notice all of the fun and interesting things you’ve collected as you walk by a linen cupboard like this, and it really helps give the space a dose of personality. This cupboard holds everything from quilts and extra sets of sheets to towels and round boxes full of odds and ends. (They’re from Ikea, too!) And make sure to tuck in some quirky and pretty mementos like this little green glass bottle.
The wallpaper makes the perfect backdrop and definitely makes putting away laundry a lot more fun! Why not give this project a try at home? You get extra storage and a fun, decorative hit that will make you smile.
Learn how to transform the same Ikea cabinet into a kitchen pantry on our Online TV show.
1-5. Michael Penney
One essential trick for styling a photo shoot is to select a couple of good-looking books (some others include fresh flowers and wood logs). They add colour, personality and in general, character — the titles on your coffee table say something about your wit and style. If you flip through a few shelter magazines, you will notice that a lot of the same books keep popping up. So, in case you’re looking to impress some design-savvy friends, here are a few suggestions to add to your library or just casually leave on display.
In my opinion, fashion designer and film director Tom Ford established himself as an interior design authority with his film A Single Man (2009), not to mention his flagship store on Madison Avenue in New York. Tom Ford (2008 Rizzoli) is a fashion book chronicling his years developing the Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent brands. The black and white hardcover and graphic type adds a modern touch to any space.
Here it is on a bedside display in Stephanie Vogler’s condo — a Vancouver designer and owner of The Cross boutique.
If there were a Hollywood of interior designers, Kelly Wearstler would be at the top of the A list. Her most recent book Hue (2009 Ammo Books) is full of design inspiration, even if you aren’t going to follow her often over-the-top examples. (Check out some of her interiors from the book in this photo gallery.)
Here is her book in its boxed version on the coffee table of interior designer Elizabeth Bauer.
My personal favourite is Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People (2007 Knopf). It’s a collection of the magazine’s gorgeous interiors, plus some that were never published. It’s the “it bag” of design books.
House & Home editor Stacy Begg has it displayed in a vignette on her sideboard.
Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings and Drawings (2003 Taschen) is another title that pops up in many interiors, including House & Home. I wouldn’t say it’s affordable ($450!) but I would say it’s a statement accessory.
Here it is in the stack of books behind the chair in the New York apartment of art dealers and gallery owners Paul and Alexandra Kasmin.
This is just a small selection, but a few others to add to the list would be Design Art: Functional Objects from Donald Judd to Rachel Whiteread (2004 Merrell), Chanel: Collections and Creations (2007 Thames & Hudson) and Louis Vuitton: Art, Fashion and Architecture (2009 Rizzoli).
Of course, these aren’t must-haves unless you love them. Displaying your collection of hardcovers, no matter what the titles are, will add character and life to your space. But if you’re looking for some Christmas gift ideas, these would all be a pleasure to give or receive!
For more tips, read Michael Penney’s blog post on Styling A Room.
1. Tom Ford (2008 Rizzoli), Amazon
2. House & Home Condos, Lofts & Apartments 2009 special issue, photography by Kim Christie
3. Elle Decor March 2008 issue, photography by Simon Upton
4. Hue (2009 Ammo Books), Amazon
5. Lonny June/July 2010 issue, photography by Patrick Cline
6. Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People (2007 Knopf), Amazon
7. House & Home August 2008 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
8. Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings and Drawings (2009 Taschen)
9. New New York Interiors (2008 Taschen), photography by Francois Halard
I'm doing a bit of re-organizing at my home, which you can tour in episode 21 of H&H Online TV. Clothes, hats, books, old magazines — you name it, I'm giving it away or throwing it out and keeping only what I really need. I often think if I had a walk-in closet or dressing room, like one of these, I'd be so organized! Not sure if that's true, but they sure have inspired me to get my belongings in order. Which one is your favourite?
See more great closets in our Closets & Dressing Rooms photo gallery.
1. House & Home March 2007 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
2. House & Home March 2010 issue, photography by Ted Yarwood
3. House & Home October 2007 issue, photography by Virginia Macdonald
4. House & Home March 2010 issue, photography by Janis Nicolay
5. House & Home March 2010 issue, photography by Ted Yarwood
6a. House & Home March 2010 issue, photography by Donna Griffith
6b. House & Home Bedrooms 2006 special issue, photography by Donna Griffith
I was doing some research for an upcoming presentation on 2011 trends, and while flipping through old issues of House & Home, I came across this photo from our “Dressed to the Nineties” feature in the December/January 1990 issue.
Well, maybe not, since the leopard print trend is back. Interior designer Miles Redd has been incorporating it into his designs for a while. Check out these rooms from his portfolio:
I love everything about this living room: the super dark lacquered walls, the rich jewel tones, the chevron wood floors and the combination of patterns and textures. A tiny hit of leopard on a cushion adds a playful element to the space — just the right amount of leopard to throw you off a bit.
But then there are some extremists…
Way too much. Really?! Leopard print on the walls, drapes and furniture? I feel a little dizzy looking at this. Perhaps they took inspiration from our 1990 issue?
So my advice, dear blog readers, follow Miles’ footsteps and bring this recycled trend into your home (and wardrobe!) in small doses. It’s smart to invest a little in trends, we (and by we I mean House & Home) called it a trend 20 years ago and look, it’s already back.
Or, if you’re so brave, like me, start by investing in a great pair of leopard flats. They’ll look great on me and in my apartment, ha!
For Suzanne Dimma’s tips on how to spend wisely, see Top Trends.
1. From December/January 1990 issue of House & Home
2. Design by Miles Redd, photography by Francesco Lagnese, Habitually Chic
3. Design by Miles Redd, Whitehaven Interiors
4. Design by Miles Redd, photography by Thomas Loof, House Beautiful
5. Classic Glamour, Mary MacDonald
6. Kelcey Calf Hair Ballet Shoes, J.Crew