Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented

Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented


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Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito’s 2008 Baked was published to national critical acclaim and raved about across the blogosphere. Since then, their profile has gotten even bigger, with continued praise from Oprah and Martha Stewart; product availability in every Whole Foods across the U.S.; and a new bakery in Charleston, South Carolina, with even more traffic than their original Brooklyn location.

Now, in Baked Explorations, the authors give their signature “Baked” twists to famous desserts from across the country. Here is their take on our most treasured desserts: Banana Cream Pie, Black & White Cookies, Mississippi Mud Pie, and more—from the overworked to the underappreciated. Readers will love this collection of 75 recipes from breakfast treats to late-night confections and everything in between.

Praise for Baked Explorations:

"They might look like another pair of fresh-faced Brooklynites (retro tie and mustache? check), but Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, the owners of the Baked sweet shops in Brooklyn and Charleston, are media-savvy butter fiends . . . Those whoopie pies? Four sticks of buttery fun. Oh to be young, decadent and baked in Brooklyn."
-The New York Times

"Lewis and Poliafito take on more underappreciated desserts, giving beloved treats like black-and-white cookies and whoopie pies a modern makeover."
-New York Daily News

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781584798507
Publisher: ABRAMS
Publication date: 10/01/2010
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito left their day jobs in advertising five years ago to open their bakery, Baked, in Brooklyn, NY, to immediate praise from fans across the country. The authors have been featured on Oprah, the Today show, the Food Network, and Martha Stewart. Their first book, Baked, was an IACP award nominee. Lewis and Poliafito live in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

















Breakfast, or the concept of a "proper breakfast," can be unpredictable. I like it that way. When I feel inspired, I like rummaging around the pantry and refrigerator for unexpected muffin, scone, or pancake ingredients. I might use up some fresh fruit, chop some chocolate, stir in a bit of brandy, or break apart a stale baguette. When I am feeling less ambitious, I might just reheat leftover macaroni and cheese, or grab a bagel from the local deli, or both. I leave myself open to either option — I consider myself a breakfast optimist, and I never plan in advance.

It's not that I am blasé about breakfast. Actually, I am quite a breakfast advocate; I just never structure the meal like I might a lunch for friends or a large dinner party. I have never "dressed" for breakfast (a frightening idea!), and I don't enjoy the idea of sitting formally at a table in the morning. I prefer to fly solo for my first meal of the day, and most likely I am hunched over the morning news, be it on my laptop or the daily paper.

My carefree roll-out-of-bed-and-grab-your-own-breakfast attitude is largely a part of my upbringing. Mom encouraged the scour-and-devour breakfast scenario that still is part my daily routine. On occasion we were treated to last-minute innovations like a spruced-up muffin mix (usually loaded with butterscotch or chocolate chips) or a pancake burdened with more toppings than a tricked-out ice cream sundae. Other times, it was a simple store-bought, and probably not very good, coffee cake. My breakfast never looked like the hearty abundance of a tweaked-and-Photoshopped Denny's picture menu.

While digging for this book, I unearthed more recipes for breakfast than any other section. People are passionate about their first meal of the day, and the nostalgia runs deep — deeper than with most recipes. I whittled the written and oral submissions down, keeping to the sweeter side of things, and edited them down again by preserving the items that felt the most homey without being too kitsch. I can honestly say that I had the hardest time regulating myself with breakfast during the book's testing phase. One time I lost self-control, nearly consuming half a loaf of Monkey Bubble Bread all by my lonesome. The other recipes in this chapter are equally delicious. I still daydream about the Double-Chocolate Loaf with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread. It is a rewarding and handsome breakfast loaf with a sinful flair. Mom's Olive Oil Orange Bundt is coffee-klatch heaven, and the Malted Waffles are a great excuse to use your waffle iron. If you are one of those rare anti-sweet breakfast people, I recommend the Baked Cheese Grits. Actually, I recommend the cheese grits no matter what. Have a great breakfast.


I SUGGEST ONLY MAKING THIS FROM-SCRATCH BREAD IF YOU ARE HAVING A LARGE GATHERING. Otherwise, you could end up (like me) eating more than you should. Simply put, this is addictive stuff. I liken these warm, gooey bread balls to the most amazing glazed doughnut hole you have ever had. There are several recipes floating about for monkey bread that use canned biscuit dough, but I ask you to kindly refrain from this expedient fix because the result won't be as tasty, and it is more expensive. The origin of the name monkey bread or bubble bread is quite hard to pinpoint, and while many dubious answers exist (the bread resembles a monkey puzzle tree or monkeys love to pull things apart), none of them are definitive, and some are cloyingly cute. I hate cloyingly cute. Suffice it to say that the source of the name is just one of life's great mysteries, and we should leave it at that.




1¼ cups whole milk

1¼ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

Generously spray the inside of a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small saucepan, warm your milk to slightly above room temperature, then remove it from the heat, add the yeast, and whisk to dissolve. (Do not warm it beyond 110 degrees F or you will kill the yeast).

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the flour, sugar, and salt until combined.

In a small bowl, beat the egg with a fork and add it to the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until combined.

Keeping the mixer on low, slowly stream in the milk until combined. Add the melted butter and mix until the dough comes together. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook attachment. Continue to mix on medium speed until the dough becomes silky and tacky, but not sticky, 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should mound together and easily come off the bottom of the mixing bowl. (If the dough is too wet, add some flour. If it is too dry, add a tiny bit of water.)

Spray the bottom and sides of a large bowl with cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around to make sure it is completely covered in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel and let it rest in a warm area until the dough has doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Use your clean hands to push down and deflate the dough. Remove it from the bowl and pat it into a rough circle approximately 8 inches diameter. Use a bench knife or serrated knife to cut dough into 1- to 1½-inch pieces (about ½ ounce each) — alternatively, use your hands to pinch apart the dough. Roll the pieces into balls (they don't have to be perfectly round). Place the balls on the sheet pan (you will get about 60 pieces in all). Cover the balls lightly with plastic wrap.


In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Place the melted butter in a separate bowl.


Remove the plastic wrap from the dough balls and dip one ball in the melted butter. Let the excess butter drip back into the bowl, roll the ball in the brown sugar mixture, and place it in the Bundt pan. Continue this process with each ball, until you have several layers, arranging them as if you are building a brick wall.

Wrap the Bundt pan tightly in plastic wrap. Set it in a warm area of the house for about 1 hour, or until the dough balls have doubled in size and appear puffy.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic and bake the Bundt until the top layer is deep brown and the caramel coating begins to bubble around the edges, about 30 minutes.

Cool the bread for 5 minutes, then turn it out directly onto a platter and serve warm. Should you have any leftovers (this is rare, I promise you), simply reheat them in a 300-degree oven until warm to the touch.

Baked Note

There are a lot of monkey bread misconceptions, and I will do my darnedest to dispel them. First, you do not need an icing or topping for this bread — too sweet. Second, you can make the dough ahead of time. Once the dipped dough has been placed in the pan, wrap it tightly, refrigerate it, and bring it back to room temperature to proof the dough before baking. Lastly, this is one of those breads that exists to be eaten warm, straight from the oven. Once the caramel begins to cool, reheat the bread in the oven before serving.

* * *


IF THERE WERE A PLACE ON EARTH WHERE YOU COULD EXPERIENCE A NEW ENGLAND FALL FOR TEN MONTHS OUT OF THE YEAR, I WOULD PROBABLY MOVE THERE. I would pursue leaf peeping like a sport, build a crackling fire nightly, and indulge in every hearty autumn recipe at my whim. Until I find this utopia, I will make do with my annual three months of fall. I will churn through umpteen pumpkins (pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, toasted pumpkin seeds) and hundreds of pounds of Vermont cheddar (grilled cheese, cheese and crackers, fondue), and on a few mornings, I will combine the two in this very autumnal muffin. Like all good muffins, this one is quick to put together. The pumpkin base is moist but spiced with cayenne and black pepper so the sharpness of the cheddar has a chance to shine. I also like to top the muffin with a little extra cheese, so you get a savory-sweet morning experience.



1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin puree
* * *

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray each cup of a standard 12-cup muffin pan with a little bit of vegetable spray and use a paper towel to spread the oil evenly along the bottom and up the sides of each cup.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and sour cream. Add the eggs and butter and whisk until combined.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and brown sugar. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well, and fold until just combined. Fold in three-quarters of the cheese.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and the pumpkin seeds on top of the muffins. Bake them for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the muffin pan cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out the muffins. Serve them warm.

Muffins taste best when eaten fresh, but they can be made ahead of time and reheated in a 200-degree oven.

Baked Note

I am addicted to the raw-milk cheddar offered by several farms in Vermont. The flavors are more dimensional than ordinary cheddar (though, yes, I am still a fan of the pasteurized version); raw-milk cheeses are nutty and chocolatey and earthy — and different from farm to farm. This recipe works well with any cheddar, the sharper the better, but make sure you try a raw-milk one if the opportunity presents itself (in or out of this muffin recipe).

* * *


IF I WERE A BETTER PERSON, I WOULD MAKE THESE MORE OFTEN. I would avoid the supermarket or mass-produced doughnut. I would take a stand and refuse to eat a doughnut that was not prepared by hand and eaten fresh from the fryer. These delicious doughnuts are what a doughnut should be, the type you might pick up from the side of the road at a local farm or farm stand. And though I'm often too lazy and lethargic to fire up the fryer, they really aren't that difficult to make.

Farm stand doughnuts are usually sold coated with cinnamon sugar and tucked inside a paper bag. Sometimes they are made with cider, and sometimes they are made with buttermilk, and they are always worth stopping for. I prefer the buttermilk variety (it produces a cakier doughnut), and I prefer mine dipped in chocolate, but they taste great au naturel as well.

Each topping makes enough for one batch of doughnuts. If you want to use more than one topping for your batch, reduce the amounts by half or by two-thirds, accordingly.




3½ cups all-purpose flour

4 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 70%), coarsely chopped

2 cups confectioners' sugar

1¼ cups granulated sugar

Line one baking sheet with parchment paper and another baking sheet with two layers of paper towels.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and sour cream until combined. Add the melted, cooled butter and whisk again.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the liquid ingredients into the well. With a rubber spatula, slowly fold the flour into the liquid center until the mixture forms a sticky dough.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface lightly dusted with flour. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and pat it out until it is about ½ inch thick.

Use two round cutters (3¼ inch and 1½ inch for large doughnuts; 2½ inch and 1 inch for smaller doughnuts). Dip the large cutter in flour and press out the rounds. Dip the smaller cutter in the flour and cut out the center of each dough round. Arrange both doughnuts and doughnut holes on the parchment-lined baking sheet, pat the dough scraps back together, and use them to make as many more doughnuts and doughnut holes as possible. Chill the dough while you heat the oil.

Pour enough oil into a deep skillet to make a layer approximately 1 inch to 1½ inches deep. Slowly heat the oil over medium-high heat until it is 365 to 370 degrees F.

While you are waiting for the oil to reach temperature, make the assorted toppings.


Place the chopped chocolate in a medium wide-mouthed bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream until it is just about to boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and wait 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in the butter. Keep the mixture warm.


In a medium wide-mouthed bowl, whisk together the sugar, the milk, and the vanilla paste.


In a medium wide-mouthed bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon.


Once the oil reaches temperature, gently lift the large doughnuts off the baking sheet and place them in the hot oil. Do not crowd the skillet — make no more than 3 doughnuts at a time. Once they have browned on one side (this takes 2 to 3 minutes), turn them over with tongs or a slotted spoon and continue to cook for another minute or just until browned (they can overcook or burn rather quickly). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to the paper towel–lined baking sheet and continue to fry the rest of the dough until finished. The doughnut holes will cook faster and can be made in two or three batches after the doughnuts are done.


Once you have finished frying, work quickly to dip the doughnuts in the chocolate or vanilla glaze, or the cinnamon sugar. If you like, decorate the chocolate or vanilla doughnuts with sprinkles. Serve immediately.

Baked Note

When you fry the doughnuts, make sure you maintain the correct oil temperature throughout the process. Generally speaking, doughnuts taste best served immediately after they've emerged from the fryer (and taken a quick dip in sugar or chocolate or vanilla); however, I have managed to find a few uses that play to the strengths of leftover (or day-old) doughnuts. Chop them into big coarse crumbs, toast them lightly, and add them to vanilla ice cream as a mix-in (if you are making it from scratch) or a topping (if you are serving store-bought). Doughnuts also work wonders (very rich wonders) when aused as the base of a bread pudding.

* * *


YES, RENATO AND I LOVE NUTELLA, THE LITTLE (OR BIG) JAR OF HAZELNUT AND CHOCOLATE BLISS FROM ITALY. Once stocked only by specialty stores, Nutella can now be found virtually everywhere. If you have not tried it, I beg you to stop everything, go to the nearest grocery store, and buy at least two jars: one for baking and one for a daily midday boost directly from said jar to your mouth.

These scones (secretly my favorite scones) have a decent-size dollop of Nutella folded into a cocoa-based dough. They aren't overly sweet, and the hazelnuts provide a great texture. Technically, they are still a breakfast treat, but they tend to make a bigger splash at brunch when people feel better about eating indulgently. Scones, no matter the ingredients, are still technically more difficult to put together than a muffin or quick bread. They require a little practice to perfect (i.e., getting a feel for the texture you want as you work in the butter and making sure you don't overwork the dough). However, once you master the scone, it will take you just a few moments to put together, bake, and serve a comfy little breakfast or tea snack. If you prefer to make your own, all-natural "Nutella," see the Homemade Nutella recipe.


Excerpted from "Baked Explorations"
by .
Copyright © 2010 Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.
Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Baked Explorations 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Veggiechiliqueen More than 1 year ago
In their second cookbook "Baked: Explorations," Matt and Renato focus on comfort foods rather than innovation; there's a much more retro feel in the photography and recipe selection, one that pays tribute to grandma's kitchen and heirloom recipes in general. That's not to say that you won't find any surprising combinations in here; there's always the chocolate salt-'n'-pepper sandwich cookies, tomato soup cupcakes with mascarpone frosting, or rosemary apricot squares. Breakfast features monkey bubble bread, farm stand buttermilk doughnuts, baked cheese grits, and the sinfully decadent double-chocolate loaf with peanut butter cream cheese spread (imagine biting into a Reese's for breakfast, and you've got the general idea, although this is gussied up with Valhrona cocoa powder and Ghirardelli bittersweet chips). I found that the included amount of sugar for the peanut butter cream cheese spread was a tad too much for me (1/3 cup for 5 oz. cream cheese), so you may want to start with ¼ cup of sugar and sweeten to taste. Baked: Explorations is like a culinary time capsule: the PB&J bars taste like grade school lunches, the no-bake peanut butter cookies bring back memories of time spent "cooking" with Mom in the kitchen, while the orange Creamsicle tart will take you back to childhood summers spent drinking orange soda (pop, Coke) on the front steps. Classic shortbread cookies, thumbprint cookies, and grasshopper bars (my grandmother used to make a very similar confection) conjure up memories of "high tea" with grandma and her neighborhood friends. Regional desserts, especially those rescued from the musty depths of community cookbooks, are featured prominently, including offerings from the Northeast (Maine's Joe Froggers, NYC's black and white cookie), buckeyes and heartland turtle bars from the Midwest, and strawberry Jell-o salad (even before I became a vegetarian, gelatin and I were on dubious footing). Southern cuisine gets a definite nod, with honey corn muffins, buttermilk pie, cowboy cookies, pudding bars, lady praline chiffon cake, and burnt sugar bundt cake with caramel rum frosting. To appease the various factions of mud pie purists, there are two different versions of Mississippi Mud Pie; the first is a chocolate-drenched, bourbon-laced coffee ice cream tart, while the second, Muddy Mississippi Cake, is a flourless chocolate cake "inside a cookie crust topped with a layer of silky chocolate pudding and whipped cream." As with their previous cookbook, "Baked: Explorations" is beautifully laid out on high-quality paper, and the eye-catching photography by Tina Rupp really pops. Reading each recipe's introduction is part of the fun; ingredients and instructions are clearly laid out and broken into manageable steps, while Baked notes and variations are also featured. You'll find a handy metric conversion chart and list of sources at the back, while helpful hints on ingredients, preparation, and storage can be found throughout. This is one cookbook that more than lives up to the high expectations of its predecessor, and will make the perfect gift for any foodie on your list. (Review copy courtesy of Abrams)
ansheehan More than 1 year ago
I am a baker. I am also a cookbook lover. I read them like novels. This cookbook reads like a classic. So many great recipes! This book has elevated my baking to a whole new level. Some of the recipes are time consuming, but well written and precise. The end result is well worth the time. Also, they share stories on how each recipe originated, then their take on it. Love it! If you love to bake, and love cookbooks, please make this book one of your own!
CA_Long More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this cookbook for the lone reason that it includes the recipe for the Sweet and Salty Brownie!!! However, it contains many other fabulous treats and is well written and easy to follow if you have basic baking experience. Some other coveted recipe's include: Strawberry Jell-O salad, Red Velvet Whoopie Pies, Heartland Turtle Bars, Monkey Bubble Bread, and Mississippi Mud Pie.
Madsgal More than 1 year ago
These two fellas really know what they are doing. I thoroughly enjoy the recipes in this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ive made cowboy cookies be4!!!
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The recipes are great...especially the cowboy cookies i have recieved numerous compliments on them!
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