For years I’ve loved the Entenmann’s family of products, particularly the chocolate-frosted doughnuts (best when dunked in milk), the devil’s food cake doughnuts, the cupcakes, the chocolate chip cookies, and of course the chocolate fudge cake. I therefore was thrilled when Entenmann’s offered to send me a box of bakeware as well the company’s new cookbook, Entenmann’s Big Book of Baking, for free on the condition that I hold a baking party and document it on my blog. Done and DONE.
The timing could not have been more perfect. As it turned out, I was headed to the Hamptons this past weekend to celebrate a friend’s birthday (NEIL, to be specific — his name has been bandied about from time to time here). What better way to help ring in a new year in Neil’s life than by baking up a storm? With the help of my new friend Lynsley of Popcorn and M&Ms, I set up shop in Neil’s kitchen and churned out no less than five recipes from Entenmann’s Big Book of Baking.
Ah, but how did they turn out? Results after the jump…
Posing with a sizable Entenmann’s display in Waldbaum’s. Who knew they had so many glorious products?
We wind up purchasing two boxes of cookies and a box of “Little Brownie Bites.” They’re to be used in three different recipes. You see, the Big Book of Baking has a large, regrettable Sandra Lee-ish section wherein Entenmann’s products are used as ingredients (the chapter’s name is “Almost Homemade,” as opposed to “Semi-Homemade”). Normally, I would skip such silliness, but in the spirit of reviewing this cookbook, we felt it was important to take on a few of these dubious recipes.
Back at the house, it’s time to make a cookie crust for a Coffee Toffee Ice Cream Pie. One package of Entenmann’s cookies goes into the food processor.
It’s a thrilling step.
As usual, I approach cookie crumbling with utmost intensity and focus.
And we have crumbs.
Joining the cookie crumbs in a bowl is a whole lot of melted butter. A recurring theme for the weekend.
I then mash the crust into a pie tin using what Ina Garten always says are a cook’s best tools (my hands).
The crust comes together while a dog, Molly, stands guard.
There are several white dogs about. Their names: Molly, Oliver, and Buddy.
It’s not a dog party until there’s some feral humping.
The pie crust emerges from the oven. Sadly, the crumbs have slide down, creating a super thick bottom layer. This has happened to me before, and I don’t know how to remedy it. The best I can do is use a spoon (as directed) to flatten the crust out and force the crumbs back up the side.
As you can see, the results of the spoon method are not ideal. Nevertheless, we then sprinkle the pie crust with toffee pieces.
Next comes a pint of Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream.
I patiently spread the ice cream into the crust. Well, I’m not that patient because I hardly waited for the stuff to soften, causing great frustration for me.
At last, we have an ice cream pie, made with the finesse of a third-grader. I can say that because I remember making an ice cream pie when I was in third grade.
Lastly, more toffee.
Er, it’s RUSTIC.
After chilling for about two hours, this easy dessert is ready for consumption.
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with this. It’s ice cream with toffee and cookies. Oh, and butter. About that crust though… once it hardened, it became near impossible to penetrate by either fork or knife. There clearly is an art to cookie crusts that I haven’t mastered as the same thing happened to me last year when I made a pie crust with amaretti cookies. I have to work on that. Nevertheless, this was a perfectly fine dessert, and a great last-minute option (which is basically what it was — we decided last minute to make it with our Friday night dinner. The real baking would begin on Saturday).
Fast forward to Saturday! As you can see, I’ve started on my next recipe, which this time is 100% homemade. I’m making Chocolate & Orange Loaf Cake. In this bowl, I have a portion of the cake batter (the usual stuff — butter, sugar, flour, eggs, baking powder) that’s been mixed with chocolate.
Here is the rest of the batter. The recipe is very unclear about at least one thing. It calls for “2/3 cup (1.5 sticks) butter.” However, two-thirds a cup and 1.5 sticks of butter are two different quantities. 1.5 sticks is actually 3/4 of a cup, and that translates to an entire extra tablespoon of butter. Big difference, especially when it comes to baking.
Anyhoo, at this point the loaf cake has to be put on pause because a little elf named jash secretly ate the two oranges needed for the “orange” component of the Chocolate & Orange Loaf Cake. While we wait for replacement oranges to be purchased at the store, I move on to the next recipe: Cookie Truffles.
A glimpse at the work station.
Once again, we return to the world of cookies and food processors. As you can tell, this recipe comes from the “Almost Homemade” chapter in the book.
Once I’ve made crumbs of the cookies, I add a hefty bit of cream cheese to the food processor. It’s the second of three ingredients for this recipe.
A sweet mush emerges from the bowl. Cream cheese and cookies = can’t go wrong.
Time to turn this “dough” into truffle balls.
Here I am proudly showing off a my handiwork.
The ball-making continues for a while. Once it’s done, they all go in the fridge to set for a few hours.
Hey, it’s a pie plate!
And now there’s a shell in it! Exciting! This is for a lemon meringue pie, specifically requested by Neil, who is the birthday boy. We blind bake the shell for about twenty minutes or so. We don’t have any cake weights, rice, or beans; so we just have to live with the light puffing that ensues.
Meanwhile, back to the loaf cake! Two replacement oranges have made their way into the kitchen, and we can now continue on. I grate the zest into the yellow batter, thus allowing the concoction to fulfill its destiny as a chocolate & orange loaf cake.
Molly and Oliver look on as I pour the batter (first the yellow, then dollops of the chocolate, then the rest of the yellow) into the loaf pan. I then marble the two by inserting a knife and swirling it around. For the record, the recipe indicates that this should all be spread over two loaf pans, but as you can see, there’s barely enough for just one. Another questionable direction!
The loaf goes into the oven. Time to move on to our last recipe: an “Almost Homemade” brownie cheesecake. We decided to use the provided Entenmann’s muffin tin (who knew Entenmann’s was in the bakeware business?) and instead make mini-cheesecakes. Once again, a dog lurks.
Time to bust out the Brownie Bites, which serve as the crusts for our mini-cheesecakes.
Each pouch contains only three brownie bites. This strikes us as being not very environmentally sound. Consider this photo representative of our disdain (despite the accidental Mickey Mouse we made of brownie bites).
We are to roll the brownie bites all together into a flat dough, and in lieu of a rolling pin, I use a bottle of rum.
The process begins.
The bottle fails to properly mash the brownies. All we wind up doing is dirtying up the bottle.
Plan B: once again using a cook’s best tools to mash the brownies into submission.
I should note that it’s about 3:30 PM, and I’m still wearing the clothes I slept in.
I eventually line the base of the muffin tin with the flat brownies.
In a blender, I place all the cheesecake ingredients: cream cheese, egg, sugar, vanilla, salt. Curiously, the recipe calls for half a cup of toasted pecans and a teaspoon of rum extract, but neither ingredient is used in the recipe. Another sloppy cookbook mistake.
The cheesecake process is paused while beers are opened and dogs are wrangled.
Nevertheless, the batter goes into the cups. I then drop little pieces of leftover brownie into each mini-cheesecake.
Not the most stunning presentation.
In other news, the loaf is done. Because of the particularly resilient parchment paper, the cake winds up somewhat misshapen.
As for the cheesecakes, after twenty-five minutes, they are done, bursting.
Hey, remember the lemon meringue pie? Time to get working on that. Two bowls of successfully separated eggs.
On the stovetop, I bring to a boil cornstarch, sugar, and lemon rind.
It’s all thick ‘n’ stuff.
Off the heat, I whisk in butter and the egg yolks. The recipe says “leave to cool before spooning into the pastry shell.” I interpret that as “let it cool down” but not necessarily “make sure it is at room temperature.” Important distinctions…
In the mixer, I get to work beating the whites. Looking for soft peaks. Soft peaks and big hearts.
Once I achieve soft peaks, I add in sugar and beat until we achieve stiff peaks. I wouldn’t call this the stiffest of peaks, but it’ll have to do. Lynsley then listens to me fret that perhaps some egg yolk snuck into the whites.
I scoop the not-so-stiff peaks over the lemon filling, which is still too warm. It causes the meringue to kind of sink into it. Basically, the whole thing looks like a disaster.
Somehow though, the pie emerges from the oven looking more or less on point. The egg whites miraculously expanded, and the pie, for all intents and purposes, appears to be on the road to success!
With the baking done. it’s time to put the food out for company. Here are tomato tartlets, courtesy of Lynsley.
Everything looks clean and pretty.
Cocktails, courtesy of jash.
The full spread.
Macro shot of Lynsley’s divine onion dip. Imagine an onion soup without the soup. That’s how this tasted.
The lemon meringue pie. As you can see, it needed more time to set up in the fridge, and as a result, the filling kind of oozed out everywhere.
The cookie truffles (which I had dipped in chocolate).
Amazingly enough, we all agreed that the humble, simple truffle was the best of the night. The worst — by far — was the cheesecake. We actually threw it out.
Ah, but then came breakfast the next morning.
The chocolate and orange loaf cake was AWESOME. Utterly delicious. I’m glad we waited for the replacement oranges because the citrus flavor was bright and refreshing. Additionally, the chocolate swirls were rich and fudgy and totally delicious. This was by far the best baked good of the weekend (despite its error-riddled recipe).
Just for fun, here’s an awesome quiche that Lynsley made from our leftovers.
Oh, and what trip to the Hamptons is complete without visiting Ina Garten’s house? Here it is, seen fleetingly from the car window.
So what is the verdict on Entenmann’s Big Book of Baking? Largely positive. The book is big, glossy, and full of photos, which I always appreciate. The recipes are fairly simple and straightforward too, and the chapters cover a wide variety of baked goods: donuts, crumb cakes, muffins, loaf cakes, brownies and bars, cookies, pies, “indulgent cakes & desserts,” “party cakes.” Conspicuously absent: cupcakes, puddings, souffles, and mousses. Also unavailable are recipes to recreate some of your favorite Entenmann’s offerings such as the aforementioned chocolate-frosted doughnuts or chocolate fudge cake. Still, there are plenty of classic Entenmann’s items here (coffee cake, glazed doughnuts, etc.) to make up for some of the omissions.
Home bakers will find much to occupy themselves with here. I only wish the “Almost Homemade” chapter hadn’t been given such prominence. It’s the first section of the book, and at eighty-two pages, it’s also the largest. That’s not to say it’s a worthless chapter — our truffles and ice cream pie were perfectly nice, and furthermore, it was a great place to seek out a last minute dessert idea (again, the ice cream pie). However, a chapter like this should be stuffed at the back of the book. By no means should it be what we first encounter when opening the pages of The Big Book of Baking. Kind of sets a bad tone.
On a practical level though, this is all sort of immaterial. Just skip past the “Almost Homemade” section and go to the good stuff. The chocolate and orange cake loaf is 100% worth making, and the lemon meringue — perhaps in the hands of a more skilled baker — is also quite tasty (even if it is runny).
As for those cheesecakes, they tasted dense and bland — almost as if they were some premade, plastic-wrapped item one might purchase at a convenience store. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that the recipe called for only cream cheese and eggs (no yogurt or ricotta or heavy cream, like other recipes). The true downfall of the recipe, however, comes from the brownie bites — those spongy, somewhat chocolatey morsels that are the epitome of “store-bought.” If you’re going to mix brownies with cheesecake, make the brownies yourself. Don’t use these things.
Now why should you care about any of this? Wellllllll because now you have a chance to win your very own copy of Entenmann’s Big Book of Baking. All you have to do is submit your favorite cake recipe in the comments section. Finalists will be chosen and made, and the winner will get their own Entenmann’s Big Book of Baking! Get crackin’!