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Cookbook review: Baked Elements

Bakery owners share recipes based on their ten favorite ingredients.

By Virginia B. Wood, 12:19PM, Fri. Sep. 14, 2012

Cookbook review: Baked Elements

Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito are the owners of Baked, a popular artisan bakery in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. Their third cookbook, Baked Elements (Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, $32.50, ppg. 224), offers delectable recipes featuring their ten favorite ingredients. These guys are bakers after my own heart.

I first met Matt and Renato when they presented their first cookbook at the Texas Book Festival a few years back and I've been a devoted fan ever since. They are self-taught bakers who followed their fondness for sweets into business and have become very successful. The success of their bakery helped to spark the culinary renaissance happening in Brooklyn at the moment. In addition to the bakery, they have put out three cookbooks and created a signature line of baking mixes sold through Williams-Sonoma.

I immediately recognized Matt and Renato as fellow travelers because we share a fondness for many of the same ingredients in our sweets. This time out, they've built a whole book around their ten favorite ingredients: peanut butter, caramel, lemon and lime, booze, pumpkin, malted milk powder, cinnamon, cheese, chocolate, and bananas. Each of those ingredients has it's own chapter and a selection of mouth-watering recipes as a showcase. The Baked boys have a well-documented affection for American regional baked goods, candy bars, and other sweets. In Baked Elements, they've found a way to work their magic with all those things.

As always, my primary criteria for any new cookbook is how urgently do the recipes call me into the kitchen? The Whiskey Peach Upside-Down Cake (p. 87) proved irresistible because I knew there were plenty of frozen peaches in the freezer just waiting to be bathed in that brown-sugar whiskey topping. A batch of Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls (p. 104) used up that lonely can of pumpkin puree from last year's holiday pie extravaganza and now they wait patiently in the freezer for a cool, crisp morning when they'll be brought to warm, fragrant life. The Turtle Thumbprint Cookies (p. 74) have my name all over them, as do the Devil Dogs with Malted Buttercream filling (p.114),the Malted Madeleines (p. 123), the Brown Butter Snickerdoodles (p. 138), and the signature Brooksters (p.189), a brownie/chocolate chip cookie hybrid that looks dangerously delicious.

It's official. I'm a goner. I love this cookbook. The recipes are well-written and accessible to the home baker, which is always a plus. While many restaurant pastry chefs around the country are out there pushing the envelope and falling off the cutting edge adding savory ingredients to deconstructed molecular gastronomy masterpieces, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito have delivered another collection of uniquely approachable and delicious baked creations to satisfy any craving. How can you go wrong with guys who unabashedly admit to being candy-bar fan boys?

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