I adore Mark Bittman. Having followed his New York Times food column for years, I have always found his evocative view of the world of food quite refreshing. Bittman has written more than 20 cookbooks, including this new one, “How to Bake Everything.” For an occasional and frightened baker like myself, his witty, caustic and opinionated banter provides a compelling counter to the usual staid baking books.
The more than 2,000 recipes in this book will satisfy every flavour craving. But, this is more than a collection of recipes. Pittman includes abundant variations, mix-and-match flavour charts, sidebars, and tips on adapting recipes—including how to make them vegan or gluten free—that give you the freedom to change things up at will. It’s the ultimate in flexibility. A pound cake, for example, can incorporate polenta, yogurt, ricotta, citrus, hazelnuts, ginger or anything you can dream up depending on your favourite flavours, your moods, or what you have on hand.
Pittman offers down-to-earth advice on everything from essential equipment to ingredient substitutions, and shares which rules to stand by and which ones to break. In addition, more that 250 illustrations take the guesswork out of techniques such as kneading and shaping bread, making a lattice-top pie, using a pastry bag or rolling up a jelly-roll cake.
Whether you’re an occasional baker like myself or a seasoned expert, you’ll find the world of baking wider and more flexible than ever before.
MAKES: One 9-inch pie, enough for about 8 servings
TIME: About 1 hour
A foolproof fall favourite, equally good with squash purée and best served with a dollop of whipped cream spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, or ginger.
1 recipe Cookie Crumb Crust made with gingersnaps or graham crackers
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups canned pumpkin purée
1 cup half-and-half, cream, or milk
1. Bake the crumb crust as described in the recipe. Start the filling while the crust is in the oven. When the crust is done, turn the oven up to 375°F and cool the crust slightly on a rack.
2. Use an electric mixer or a whisk to beat the eggs with the sugar, then add the spices and salt. Mix in the pumpkin purée and then the half-and-half.
3. Put the pie plate with the crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust all the way to the top (you might have some left over). Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the mixture is firm along the edges but still a bit wobbly at the center. Cool on a rack until it no longer jiggles, then slice into wedges and serve, or refrigerate for a day or 2.
PUMPKIN PIE WITH CRUMBLE TOPPING Bake the pie with no topping for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, top with Crumb Topping, and finish baking.
SWEET POTATO PIE A hint of orange takes this pie to new heights: Substitute puréed cooked sweet potato for the pumpkin and add 2 teaspoons grated orange zest.
PUMPKIN-TOFU PIE Use ½ recipe Vegan Pie crust for an all-vegan dessert: Substitute 1 pound silken or other soft tofu for the eggs and half-and-half. Drain the tofu, purée it with the other ingredients, then pour into the crust and proceed with the recipe.
CANDIED GINGER PUMPKIN PIE Add a hint of sweet spice: Sprinkle ⅓ cup chopped candied ginger over the filling before baking.
PUMPKIN PRALINE PIE A pumpkin-pecan pie crowd pleaser: While the pie bakes, combine ¾ cup chopped pecans, ¼ cup packed brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Sprinkle over the baked pie and return to the oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until the topping is toasted and fragrant.
CHILE PUMPKIN PIE WITH CARAMEL SAUCE The subtle heat of chipotle powder gives this pie a mysterious heat. (And who doesn’t love Caramel Sauce?) Add ½ teaspoon chipotle powder with the other spices. Make a batch of Caramel Sauce and drizzle it over the pie slices to serve.
MARBLE PUMPKIN-CHOCOLATE PIE A beautiful way to incorporate chocolate into pumpkin pie: Melt 4 ounces dark chocolate and let cool. Reserve 1 cup of the pumpkin filling and stir the chocolate into it. Pour the plain pumpkin filling into the crust (about three-quarters full) and dollop it with the chocolate filling. Using a knife or a toothpick, swirl the chocolate in large figure-eight motions. Do not overswirl or the effect will be lost. Bake as directed.
MARBLE PUMPKIN–CREAM CHEE SE PIE A refreshing dose of tartness cuts through the warm spices: Make a batch of Cream Cheese Filling from the Chocolate–Cream Cheese Swirl Cake variation (page 202). Pour the pumpkin filling into the crust (about three quarters full), then swirl the cream cheese filling into the pumpkin as instructed in the Marble Pumpkin-Chocolate Pie above.
PUMPKIN MERINGUE PIE WITH GINGERSNAP CRUST A meringue topping makes this exotic: Use a Cookie Crumb Crust made with gingersnaps. Bake the pie as directed, then let cool completely (you can speed this part up in the fridge). Make meringue and pile it over the top of the pie, making sure to spread it all the way to the edges of the crust. Set the pie plate on a cookie sheet and bake at 425°F for 6 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned.