Today is a special baking day. My baking-blogging group, Baked Sunday Mornings, has just wrapped three years of working our way through all 75 recipes in Baked Occasions, the 4th cookbook from BAKED in New York City. We are now going old-school and taking it back to Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, the very first book published by BAKED in 2008 (which I shall refer to henceforth as Baked Frontiers). The group started in 2010 with the 2nd book, Baked Explorations, and I joined about ⅔ of the way through, in the Fall of 2012. (Stellina Sweets turns 5 this month! How did that happen??) Now that we’ve finished Explorations, Occasions, and the 3rd book, Baked Elements, the only one left is Frontiers, so here we go!
This book holds so many warm fuzzies for me, as it was one of the very first books that helped me plunge into the baking world. This hearkens back to a quaint time before the BAKED Brownie had changed my life, before many visits to the BAKED bakeries, before recipe testing, before I knew how to make layer cakes, and really before I knew much about baking and food in general. That book, more than any other, made me a baker– it made me understand how good-quality ingredients affect the finished product, and made me curious about baking chemistry and a variety of baked goods. In the world of BAKED, it was long before their series of successful cookbooks and the opening of their Tribeca bakery location; at that time, it was just the original cozy shop in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn– one of my favorite Happy Places in the world.
As fond as I am of this book, I’ve made surprisingly and inexplicably few recipes from it. My favorites so far are the Sweet & Salty Cake, the aforementioned life-changing BAKED Brownie, and the Brewer’s Blondies. I had tried a few others that weren’t as successful years ago, such as the Butterscotch Pudding Tarts and the Lemon Drop Cake, so I look forward to re-trying those and being more successful now that I know so much more about baking. BAKED’s recipes have also evolved quite a bit since Baked Frontiers came out. There are little tips and tricks that I now know for their magical layer cake frosting, for optimal butter temperature, and for better cookie success. So as I go through these recipes, I’ll be sure to interject the tips that have worked for me.
We are kicking off Baked Frontiers with the fabulous Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf. I can’t recall if I had ever made this recipe, but I don’t think so– I’m sure I would’ve remembered it. I’m so glad we started with this one, because it’s the perfect time of year and is one of the coziest recipes in the book. I definitely enjoy pumpkin, but I also definitely have a limited tolerance window for it. I start to crave pumpkin and Fall spices right about now, but by early November I’ve generally hit my limit. This pumpkin loaf is super moist, perfectly spiced, and chock full of chocolate, which I fully endorse as a life philosophy… as you probably know if you’ve ever read anything on this blog. 😉
The recipe makes enough for two loaves. Because I had cinnamon chips on hand that for some reason I never seem to use, I decided to split the batter in half and make one loaf with chocolate chips and one loaf with cinnamon chips. The chocolate chip version baked up as expected; the cinnamon chip loaf came out rather strange. There was a sort of empty cavity under the top crunchy lid, and the center of the cake was way under done. I’m not really sure how this could happen with the exact same batch of batter in the exact same oven in the exact same baking time using the exact same loaf pans, but that’s what happened. It may very well remain one of life’s great mysteries. Despite this, the cinnamon loaf was still very tasty. However, the chocolate chip loaf was off-the-hook delicious, and I would make it again and again. And again after that.
The batter is very simple to pull together. You mix the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, baking soda, salt) in one bowl, and the wet ingredients (pumpkin purée, oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, water) in another bowl. The recipe says to stir the chocolate chips right into the wet mixture at this point; I decided for two reasons to add them after incorporating the dry ingredients. First of all, after making many chocolate chips desserts, I’ve learned that it’s generally best to fold them into the finished batter after tossing them with a bit of the flour mixture, so they stay suspended throughout the batter, rather than sinking to the bottom. Secondly, I needed to split the batter in half for the two types of chips. I split the spiced flour mixture into two small bowls and tossed in the chips. I then split the wet ingredients into two larger bowls and added the flour-chip mixtures. (By the way, do yourself a favor and don’t do what I did– I was going to weigh the batter to more easily split it in half, but I forgot to weigh my mixing bowls beforehand so I ended up transferring the batter back-and-forth to different bowls and therefore risked overworking it. Fortunately the recipe was very forgiving, but not all recipes are. Also, there were a lot of bowls to wash…) I added a handful of additional chips on top of each loaf because sometimes these things just feel right.
After 70 minutes, the chocolate chip loaf had baked up with a smooth texture on top, save for a few lovely, deep chasms. The cinnamon loaf baked up with a strange crackly surface (not in a good way) and was gooey in the middle, with the weird hollow part that I mentioned. I thought it would be completely inedible and would go straight in the trash, but by the next day it had firmed up enough to be somewhat edible and was quite tasty. I’d like to try that one again at some point, as it has a lot of potential. Maybe my chips were old and somehow affected the chemistry of the batter? The only thing I would change about the chocolate chip loaf is to use mini chips for optimal chocolate distribution. Or maybe a combination of regular chips and mini chips. *OR* maybe chopped chocolate disks that would theoretically bake up into gooey chocolate pockets…. (Be right back, gotta go bake another batch.)
This was an ideal recipe to make as the weather starts to feel a bit more crisp and the leaves start to turn golden. My tasters loved these loaves, especially the chocolate chip version. If you’re ready to say goodbye to summer, and you want your house to be filled with the aromas of autumn, this one is for you. You can find the recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf at Baked Sunday Mornings, and please check out my fellow bakers loaves while you’re there. I hope we see some new members in our group starting with this new book! 😀
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2017.