There are more great bakers and baking books out there than I will ever be able to discover. But every once in a while, I find an unsung hero in the industry – someone who may not be as well known as other recipe writers and cookbook authors, but is a total superstar. One of those people is Abby Dodge. Abby is not only a really nice, terrific person, but she writes great recipes (and a lot of them). Abby’s a contributing editor to my favorite cooking magazine of all time, Fine Cooking, and she also has what seems like a million other projects going on at the same time (just do a Google recipe search for Abigail Johnson Dodge – there you’ll find a huge number of delicious, reliable recipes).
Abby’s latest book is Desserts 4 Today, and I really like it – but the book I want to talk about was published in 2004: The Weekend Baker. This is the cookbook I most often turn to when I’ve got the urge to bake but am not sure what to make, or when I know I need to make something specific but I don’t have a lot of time digging for the right recipes. The recipes are grouped by how long they take, and range from simple to more elegant and complicated. Some of my favorite baked goods come from here:
- Big Batch Cornmeal Shortbread: Shortbread is never a bad idea, and I love the texture that cornmeal adds to this version. This is a perfect quick treat to make for a large gathering.
- Pie Plate Butterscotch Congos: Abby’s version of a blondie is super simple, and really delicious (the recipe is listed in the link, midway down the page).
- Emergency Blender Cupcakes: These really are quick if you need chocolate cupcakes in a hurry. I made these one night after work when I had a craving for chocolate cupcakes – just whipped them up as I was making dinner.
- Maple Sugar Scones: Buttery, flaky, tender – this is one of my favorite scone recipes of all time.
- Chocolate Nut Wedges: Genius – a cross between a bar cookie and a brownie, these take about ten minutes to make and are made in a pie plate so they can be quickly sliced into wedges. I love the idea of baking things other than pie in a pie plate.
- Southern Molasses Cake: This is a simple Bundt cake, unadorned and just the right level of sweetness. It’s terrific sliced and toasted.
- Chocolate-Chip Brownie Double Deckers: I make these bars on a very regular basis – it’s my favorite recipe in the book (so far). They can be frozen (in fact, they’re better when they’re cold). And while they’re not very fancy looking, people go nuts for the unique mix of brownie topped with a chocolate chip cookie.
- Ginger Molasses Cookies: In my hunt for the perfect ginger molasses cookie, this is the one that has come the closest to my ideal.
- Lemon Chiffon Pie w/Pretzel Crust: Pictured above. I admit this isn’t my most favorite pie – I don’t love the texture of the gelatin. But the pretzel crust is inspired and it’s terrific with lemon filling. The trick to the pretzel crust is to bake it a bit instead of leaving it uncooked – it will come out of the pan much easier. I’ve been using the pretzel crust with other pie fillings as well, and am thinking it would make a great base for some sort of bar cookie.
And I can’t wait to try:
- Big Batch Scone Mix: I bake for the tea parties that our local heritage museum puts on – I think these scones would be perfect for the occasion.
- Chocolate-Dipped Macadamia Brittle: I’m a sucker for nut brittles, and one made with chocolate and macadamias would probably not last long in my hands.
- Warm Cinnamon-Spiced Blueberry Cake: Cinnamon and blueberries are one of my favorite combinations.
- Lemon Poppy Seed Squares: I’m not sure why these haven’t come out of my kitchen yet – lemon and poppyseed are a favorite in this house.
If you’re interested in a virtual bake-along with Abby and a bunch of other fabulous people, take a look at her site – there’s a monthly-ish bake together post. Abby will post a recipe, and we all use it as a basis for our own take on it. It’s been really fun and inspirational, and has pushed me to get outside of just following a recipe.
- Lemon Chiffon Pie With Pretzel Crust (The Weekend Baker, p. 358)