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Cookbook Club: Baked to Order
Ruth Mar Tam, professional harpist & mom of three, on her book 'Baked to Order'.
Hi and welcome to the first installment of the Style Sweet Cookbook Club! Here you can find interviews with cookbook authors, inspiration for your next bake, and new books to add to your kitchen library.
First up, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ruth Mar Tam, the author of Baked to Order. Ruth is a professional harpist turned home baker and cookbook author. She is known for her delicious pastries and sourdough recipes as well as her anytime bakes and more casual cookies. Ruth has the incredible ability to pair unique flavors and give variations on classic recipes in a very approachable yet very detailed manner.
Baked to Order offers up 60 sweet and savoury recipes - but it doesn’t stop there. Within each recipe, she gives recipe variations for baking with the seasons, making pantry swaps, and even changing up the serving size and shape of the bake. From Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Snickerdoodles to Bourbon Butter Tarts and savoury Mushroom Diamond Pastries to Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, there is something to bake and devour for every mood and occasion.
Tessa Huff: Why did you decide to write this book?
Ruth Tam: Writing is one of my first loves -- I dreamed of being a journalist at one point! Life took other turns, but I've tried to maintain some type of journal (such as Cook Til Delicious -- my food blog) just to keep up the practice. When the opportunity to write a cookbook came up, I couldn't say no. Though I love the immediacy of blogging, the idea of working on something tangible and collaborative (seriously, it takes a village!) really excited me. I also wanted to do it for my kids -- to have a collection of recipes to pass down to them, and to encourage them to pursue their interests in all phases of life
TH: Which recipe should readers try first? Or which has become a stand-out recipe with readers so far?
RT: The sourdough cinnamon rolls and chocolate raspberry cake have been popular! If you're looking for a quick bake, try the spelt and honey oatmeal raisin cookies -- they're a family favorite.
TH: Can you name a must-have ingredient or signature flavor that you use in your recipes often? Or do you think there is special quality about your recipes or writing that readers can identify as being uniquely yours?
RT: I love incorporating different whole-grain flours into my recipes for flavor and nutrition. They're easier than ever to find these days (even my neighborhood grocery store carries a surprising variety), and each grain has unique properties that are fun to discover. In terms of recipe writing, my main goal is always clarity. I hope readers can visualize each step easily, even if there aren't any pictures to help.
TH: What keeps you inspired and creative in the kitchen?
RT: Memories of food I ate growing up, local and seasonal ingredients, the incredibly talented baking community, my family. I also like trying to come up with interesting ways to use leftovers.
TH: What were you listening to or reading at the time of writing this book?
RT: I like to write to classical music, particularly choral and piano. It puts my mind at ease.
TH: Walk into a reader’s home and where can you find your book? Displayed on a coffee table, next to the bed for late-night studying, or splattered with batter in the kitchen? What is the main takeaway you want readers to get from your book?
RT: I think that a dirty cookbook is a loved cookbook, so I'd be thrilled if mine were covered with floury fingerprints! I hope that my book can help readers appreciate both the technical and expressive sides of baking, ultimately inspiring them to put their unique stamp on their creations.
TH: What is one important key to success for home bakers wanting to try new recipes?
RT: Measure out all your ingredients before you get started. You'll be able to concentrate on each step and enjoy the process a lot more if you have everything set out and ready to go.
Loose tea leaves are gently heated in melted butter to bring out the floral, slightly citrus flavors of Earl Grey. Using the Reverse Creaming Method, the infused butter perfumes the entire cake while creating a velvety, plush crumb. The addition of Earl Grey syrup and lemon glaze take this unassuming loaf cake to dramatic new heights. I recommend serving with some fresh berries and cup of milky tea. You are going to love it! - Tessa Huff
Earl Grey-Infused Butter
10 tablespoons (140 g) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons (15 g) loose leaf Earl Grey tea
Earl Grey Loaf Cake
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup (120 g) sour cream, divided
½ cup + 2 tablespoons (78 g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (63 g) cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cups + 2 tablespoons (175 g) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (88 g) Earl Grey-Infused Butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons neutral vegetable or canola oil
Earl Grey Simple Syrup
¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 ml) water
1 teaspoons Earl Grey tea
1 cup (120 g ) icing sugar
1 teaspoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
To make Earl Grey-Infused Butter
Place the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat and cook until the butter melts. Stir in the tea leaves. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and cover. Allow the tea leaves to steep for 15 to 30 minutes. Place a mesh sieve over a bowl or sealable container, and pour in the butter mixture. Use the back of a spoon or rubber spatula to press the tea and extract as much butter as possible. Discard the tea leaves.
Cover the butter and refrigerate. When ready to bake the cake, the infused butter should be softened back to room temperature. You will need 6 tablespoons of butter for this recipe. Spread the remaining butter on toast or scones!
To make the Earl Grey Cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a bowl or liquid measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and about two tablespoons of the sour cream. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the all-purpose and cake flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. With the mixer on low speed, add a few tablespoons of the Earl Grey butter at a time, followed by the oil. The mixture should look slightly sandy. Add the remaining sour cream and mic until the batter begins to come together - about a minute. The batter will be thick. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Working in batches with the mixer on medium-low speed, pour in about ⅓ of the egg mixture at a time. After each addition and the eggs are absorbed into the batter, stop the mixer and thoroughly scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. The batter will look lumpy at first, but should smooth out by the final addition.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes. When done, a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs (not raw batter).
To make the Earl Grey Syrup
Just before the cake is done baking, make the syrup. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the tea leaves. Continue to simmer until the syrup slightly thickens, about 10 minutes. Strain the syrup before using.
After the cake comes out of the oven, poke the top of the cake all over with a toothpick or wooden skewer. Using a pastry brush, brush half of the syrup over the top of the cake. After about 20 minutes, carefully invert the cake and remove it from the pan. Poke the bottom and sides of the cake and brush on the remaining syrup. Allow to cool completely before adding the lemon glaze.
To make the Lemon Glaze
Place the icing sugar in a bowl and whisk in the salt, butter, milk, and lemon juice until smooth. Add more lemon juice or milk as needed until the glaze is smooth and thick, yet pourable. Spoon the glaze over the cake. It will set after about 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
The common theme of Ruth’s book is being able to take a recipe and easily adapt it to your needs. For this cake, you can bake it as a loaf, bundt, or round. For a bundt cake (12-cup capacity pan), double the recipe and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. You may also double the recipe and bake as two loaf pans or two 9-inch cake pans (start checking for doneness at 25 minutes).