Saturday, October 16, 2010

Baked Explorations

Last night I took a class at Central Market from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. The class mostly showcased recipes from their newest book, Baked Explorations: Classic American Dessert Reinvented. I bought their first cookbook the week before the class but didn't have a chance to bake anything from it so all I knew going into the class was their brownies were supposed to be the best according to Oprah and others. It turned out to be a very fun class. Their personalities are great, and they have such wonderful stories to go along with each of the recipes.

The first recipe they covered was Chipotle Cheddar Biscuits. These are actually from their first cookbook. They looked very easy to make, and I thought the amount of spice was perfect. (I am a Texan though so keep that in mind if you're not used to the heat.)

Next up were the Marshmallow Chocolate Cups. They really stressed the importance of using a good chocolate and especially one with no oil. I had never made marshmallow before, but I think I will give these a try. I'm not a big fan of dark chocolate, but since it was combined with the milk chocolate I thought they turned out really well.

The Sweet & Salty Brownie tied for my favorite of the evening. And, I learned something about making caramel. They said when you stir the sugar, corn syrup, and water you don't want to splash the sides of the pan or you'll end up with crystals. The few times I've made caramel recently I've always ended up with crystals. The brownies are so delicious. The caramel seeps into the brownies when they're baked so you don't have a distinctive caramel layer, but you do have that flavor. This is definitely on my to-make list. One funny thing we learned was they disagree about which is better - corner or middle pieces. They don't ship corner pieces. I liked both but prefer middle. My husband couldn't believe they don't ship corner pieces. He said that's the best part.

Mom's Olive Oil Orange Bundt is great option if you want something a little lighter tasting. I really liked it with the optional glaze, but I like icing so that's no surprise.

The Caramel Apple Cake was my other favorite dessert and probably my favorite part of the class. A couple tips they mentioned for their cakes are spoon the flour into the measuring cups and then level, and when trying to get even amounts of batter in each pan use a large ice cream scoop with a release mechanism and alternate putting one scoop in each pan. So, when they started making the cake they asked if there were any cake decorators in the class. No one raised there hand at first so I tentatively raised mine because I don't do this for a living and am still learning. They asked if I would come up to decorate the cake, and I at first said no until they said they needed a volunteer from the class at which point I agreed. So, when the cake was ready to be iced I went up to the front of the class thinking for sure I was going to mess it up. The icing for this cake is one that uses flour, and it was very easy to work with. It went on very smooth. I just wish I had gotten someone to take a picture, but they did write "Thanks for decorating" in my book! This cake was very rich. I loved it. I talked my husband into letting me make this for his birthday this week so look for a post on it next week.

I have already marked recipes that I want to try out of both of their books. I'm tempted to try to do a little bake through challenge for their new book, but I'm not quite sure if I can do that and the Heavenly Cake Bakers group. Maybe once or twice a month would work.


  1. Andrea...such a great opportunity (Lucky you!). It must have been so much fun. I love your tips (or well their tips), thanks for sharing. I love, LOVE their baked brownies, so I can imagine the other choices.

    I have taken a look at their latest book and it's on my list to get it, eventually.. for now, I will be happy to try their recipes by printing them out from

  2. Monica, it was fun! I love taking classes on baking, cake decorating, or cooking, and those guys kept it interesting!

  3. That sounds like so much fun, Andrea. Thanks for sharing the tips you've learned with the rest of us. Especially the one on how they measure their flour (one of the main reasons I haven't baked from their book since it doesn't have weight measurements). I believe they're doing a similar class here in the TwinCities in a couple weeks but it was about their first book Baked and it was $75 so I opted out (includes copy of Baked). Would have been worth it, maybe, if it was their new book. Looking forward to your posts from their two books.

  4. Hanaa, I'm the same way about flour. I definitely prefer weight measurements, but at the very least I want to know how the measured. I always try to remember to ask in classes if it isn't specified.