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Interview with Gale Gand

I met Gale Gand a few years back at a culinary conference. I love meeting other bakers since we all share an unspoken bond, and we’re generally the nicest people you’re likely to meet (if I do say so myself). And I was happy to discover that Gale was no exception.

Gale’s the author of four highly-regarded books on baking, Just A Bite, Butter Sugar Flour Eggs, Short & Sweet: Quick Desserts with Eight Ingredients or Less, and her latest, Chocolate & Vanilla, aside from all the other hats she wears.

Gale is also the host of one of the few baking programs on television, Sweet Dreams, and is the Executive Pastry Chef and co-owner of TRU restaurant in Chicago. Gale also (whew!)) won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year in 2001 and she owns a coffee shop…and a soda company!

We’ve kept in touch over the years, and I was really happy when my copy of Chocolate & Vanilla arrived so I could tackle some of Gale’s recipes. (And for regular readers who’ve followed my problems with getting deliveries, you can imagine I was really, really happy just that it arrived at all!)

But it also gave me an excuse to take a moment to chat with Gale about her career in baking, and everything else that she’s involved with…

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David: How did you get your own program, Sweet Dreams on Food Network?

Gale: They called ME!

I used to call them when I was going to be in New York to be on Sarah Moulton’s show and they’d give me a show date. Then one time I called to get a date and they said they didn’t have any for me. I was shocked (and pouting)! Then there was a pause on the phone and then they said, “Because we’d like to offer you your own show!”

So I got super lucky. No try outs.

D: It sounds like your appearances on Sara’s show were your try outs. So you probably weren’t a jangle of nerves.

Speaking of nerves, what’s the hardest thing about doing a television program?

G: Leaving my husband and kids for 2 weeks to stay in New York while I film…and leaving my restaurant staff too.

D: Is there anyone on Food Network that you really liked cooking with, and anyone you didn’t?

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My 10 Favorite Books of 2006

Here’s a list of 10 books, in no particular order, that I’ve enjoyed this year.

Since I don’t have easy access to English-language books, I chose mine carefully. Although I usually like to read books about food, I got a bit literate and discovered few books about Paris that were truly enlightening…which is really saying something for someone that hasn’t lifted the lid on a history book since high school.

In addition to the books I’ve listed below, I’ve also enjoyed La Bonne Cuisine de Madame St-Ange, the updated On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, and Rememberence of Things Paris, some of the greatest food writing from Gourmet magazine from the past sixty years that is still some of the freshest and liveliest food prose happily back in print.

And on a sad note, I’ve finally given up on La Poste and assumed the two cases of cookbooks I shipped three years ago probably aren’t going to ever show up (hope is no longer springing eternal…), so I ordered a fresh, brand-new copy of Julia Child’s classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

A few books I’m looking forward to reading in 2007 are The Sweet Life: The Desserts from Chanterelle by pastry chef Kate Zuckerman, and books from my favorite bloggers, including Shauna, Adam’s untitled masterwork, Chocolate & Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier, and Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks.

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by Bill Buford

The most talked-about food book of the year, New Yorker writer Bill Buford starts from scratch in the kitchen of Mario Batali, then learns to make pasta by hand from an Italian master, and ends up butchering in Tuscany.

Continue Reading My 10 Favorite Books of 2006…

Interview: Baker Nick Malgieri

Since I’m on an Italian fling here, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to interview Nick Malgieri, whose fabulous recipe for Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies I recently featured on the site. Nick is one of the most knowledgeable bakers in the world, frequently hobnobbing with such luminaries as Pierre Hermé and Dorie Greenspan, swapping recipes and baking techniques. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from Nick’s books myself, which range from the ultimate treatise on cookies, to one of the most beautiful books on chocolate in my vast collection.

Continue Reading Interview: Baker Nick Malgieri…

Nick Malgieri’s Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Recipe

Recently I bought a sack of delightfully-crispy Boskop apples, my favorite of all French apple varieties.

After a quick rinse, I eagerly took a bite, my teeth breaking through the tight skin, anticipating the cool, crisp-tart flesh of a just-harvested apple.

But instead I spit it out: the flesh had gone soft and my precious apple was completely inedible.

Now any normal person would have tossed the rest of that apple in the garbage and grabbed another one. But not me. Since I am my mother’s son, I can’t throw anything away, no matter how trivial. But being quick-witted, I thought I would combine my frugal nature with my amazing generosity and the need to present a recipe here on the site, which is something I haven’t been able to do in a while due to my travels and travails.

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I’ve been working on an interview with master baker Nick Malgieri, who just came out with a new book, Perfect Light Desserts: Fabulous Cakes, Cookies, Pies, and More Made with Real Butter, Sugar, Flour, and Eggs, All Under 300 Calories Per Generous Serving (whew!). Look for that interview here, which became so lengthy and interesting that I’m still working on it, and will appear in the next week or so here on the site. I’ll talk to Nick about teaching, being the pastry chef at Window’s On The World, why he steals recipes from me, and what it’s like to write cookbooks.

Because the recipes in his latest book have less-calories than regular desserts, several recipes use applesauce as a base. So like the abnormal person I’ve become living alone in my Parisian garret, a reclusive phantom of le gâteau Opera, I made The World’s Tiniest Batch of Applesauce, but managed to turn it into two baking sheets of Nick’s exceptionally chewy, dense, and delicious oatmeal cookies.

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Here’s my adaptation of the recipe from Nick’s book. Although he calls for raisins, I didn’t have any, so instead of actually leaving my apartment, I dug deep into my valuable expat stash for the benefit of my readers (yeah, right…) and substituted tart, bright-red dried cranberries instead. But you could use any diced dried fruit that you want.
I didn’t have any oatmeal on hand either. So I used tofu.

Ok, just kidding (that was for all the ‘substitution’ people…and you know who you are!)
I used a mixture called cinq céréales, a blend of rolled oats, wheat, rye and other rolled grains that I stock up on at Naturalia, which is Paris’ health-food store chain and a great place to explore, and see how ‘healthy’ Parisians eats. (If you’re expecting to see Birkenstocks and draw-string pants, though, you going to be disappointed.) And although I’ve become un pea Parisian, I guess you can take the boy out of America, you can’t take America out of the boy, and I supersized them, making my cookies bigger using about 2 tablespoons of the batter per cookie. I got 16 cookies, which were gone in a flash, since I bribed…uh, I mean…brought them to vendors at my local market who had no idea what an oatmeal cookie was. Needless to say, I got a few more stranger looks than usual yesterday, handing out cookies from a sack, but no one seemed to mind. The French are pushovers for anything delicious, which has made my life a whole lot easier around here, let me tell you.

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Unfortunately, though, I ate quite a bit of the dough before it could be baked. How could I resist? It was like the most delicious, yummiest ‘bowl of’ oatmeal I’ve ever tasted, all bound together with a touch of French butter and golden brown sugar. And although my tinkering with the size probably screwed up the calorie guidelines, they were delicious and I figure I’ll just have one less glass of wine this month to make up for it.
Really.

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Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
About 36 cookies

Adapted from Nick Malgieri’s book, Perfect Light Desserts: Fabulous Cakes, Cookies, Pies, and More Made with Real Butter, Sugar, Flour, and Eggs (HarperCollins).

  • 1 cup flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 cup dark raisins (or dried cranberries)

2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, foil, or silicone mats

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and set the rack on the lower and upper thirds of the oven.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar until smooth. Mix in the brown sugar, then the egg, applesauce, and vanilla.

4. Stir in the dry ingredients, then the oats and raisins.

5. Drop the batter by rounded teaspoons 2-inches apart on the baking sheets and use a fork to gently flatten the dough.

6. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they “look dull on the surface but are moist and soft”, according to Nick. Rotate baking sheets during baking for even heating.

(I made mine bigger, so whatever size you make them, just bake them until they look as directed by Nick.)

Storage: Once cool, store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Will Write For Food

I took someone into a fromagerie the other day and he was asking me to describe a perfectly ripe, oozing camembert cheese. “Musty gym socks”, “funky undies”, and “barnyard-like” don’t exactly sound appealing, but were the most accurate descriptions that came to mind at the time (looking back now, however, perhaps next time I need to do some pre-editing in my head). The trick to is to make something as special as a perfectly-ripened wedge of cheese sound so good that you can’t believe it will taste better than it smells.
Conveying an exact sensation is the difficulty of food writing. How do you describe something that you think tastes good, and make it sound good enough for someone else to want to taste as well? (and if you think “musty gym socks” or “funky undies” taste good, you’re at the wrong web site).

Dianne Jacob, a seasoned culinary journalist and instructor with a long string of success behind her, shares her secrets and suggestions while explaining what food writing is all about: how to succeed, how to get published, and what you can do to make your food writing more evocative and compelling.

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Will Write For Food is one of the best and most comprehensive workbooks I’ve read on this topic and if you’ve fantasized about writing about food or wanted to know what it was like to write a review restaurant or well-loved cookbook, read the suggestions she culled from experienced food writers like Russ Parsons, Anthony Bourdain, Deborah Madison, and Alice Medrich.
Heck, I’m even in there too!