When I opened my review copy of “50 Things to Bake Before You Die” by Allyson Reedy (Ulysses Press, $24.95), I was instantly blown away by the smell of fresh ink. It was so strong I had to put the book down.
A few weeks later I cracked it open again. It still smelled strongly of ink, but it had become so soft that I could read it without holding my breath. And once I did – start reading, that is – I started salivating.
This book lives up to its (very long) subtitle: “The World’s Best Cakes, Pies, Brownies, Cookies, and More from your favorite bakers, including Christina Tosi, Joanne Chang, and Dominique Ansel.”
It was a pleasant surprise to see Kat Gordon (Muddy’s Bake Shop in Memphis) and Central Arkansas’ own Kelli Marks right among the 50 bakers featured in the book. And no, this isn’t one of those books that features someone from every state. Other familiar (to me) names were Daniel Boulud, Tieghan Gerard (“Half Baked Harvest”), Erin Jeanne McDowell (“The Book on Pie”) and Ashley Manila (Baker by Nature). That’s quite the impressive lineup of bakers.
Each recipe is accompanied by one or more beautiful photos, and each is written — even the complicated, multi-step ones — in an approachable style that encourages even novice bakers to give these recipes a try. Those in the complicated category are Courtney Rich’s Ultimate S’Mores Cake – a nine-layer “beaut” with graham crackers, chocolate cake, marshmallow filling, chocolate ganache, chocolate buttercream and marshmallow fluff that is toasted with a burner – and Christina Tosi’s Birthday Layer Cake, a colorful mixture of rainbow-sprinkled cake layers soaked in vanilla-scented milk and topped with buttercream topped with clusters of cake crumbs. On the easy end, there’s Stephanie Hart’s Pound Cake and Tessa Arias’ one-bowl Chewy Brownies, which Marks tells me is “completely obsessed.” She also told me that the book can be checked out at CALS (Central Arkansas Library System).
Marks’ recipe for Peanut Butter Pie falls between complicated and simple. Here’s what Reedy wrote about Marks’ pie:
“It’s not just dessert; it’s a state of mind. A peanut butter pie state of mind. A salty, sweet, creamy, bitter, rich mood that transcends calories and mascarpone and becomes a state of its own. Because that’s what happens when peanut butter butter filling meet cocoa cookie crust – consciousness is cracked and days are made.”
You will definitely make someone’s day if you bake this cake for them.
For more goodies from Kelli Marks, her cookbook “Easy One-Bowl Baking: No Fuss Recipes for Sweet and Savory Baked Goods” (Rockridge Press, $12.99) was released last summer and is available in print and digital editions.
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peanut butter pie
- For the crust:
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup Dutch-process cocoa
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- For the upholstery:
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate
- For the filling:
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 8 ounces mascarpone
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- Chopped peanut butter cups, for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine butter, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking powder. Mix with a hand mixer or kitchen mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the egg; mix until combined. Mix the flour in two batches.
Once combined, press the mixture into the bottom and down the sides of a 10-inch pie plate. (If you only have a 9-inch pie pan, don’t use all the dough; it will be too thick. Use only as much as you need to cover an inch of thickness on the bottom and sides.) Bake for 20 minutes. The sides will be puffy and the bottom will no longer appear shiny. Use a measuring cup to gently press the bottom and sides down. Set the crust aside and let cool.
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the ¼ cup of heavy cream and dark chocolate and heat in 30-second intervals until completely melted. Pour onto the bottom of the cooled crust.
In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat 2 cups of heavy cream to stiff peaks. Put aside. (Transfer the whipped cream to a separate bowl if using a stand mixer.)
Still using your stand mixer or hand mixer in a separate bowl, combine the mascarpone, peanut butter, salt and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, in three parts, mixing well and scraping the sides of the bowl, between additions. Fold in the reserved whipped cream by hand.
Pour the filling into the cooled crust and garnish with the chopped peanut butter cups, if desired. Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.
Makes 1 pie.
Recipe adapted from “50 Things to Bake Before You Die” by Allyson Reedy