Cookbook Club: Life is What You Bake It
Winning the Great American Baking Show was just the beginning for attorney-turned-foodie Vallery Lomas. Catch us on Instagram Live TODAY at 2pm East/11am West!
It’s no question that author and recipe developer Vallery Lomas was robbed after winning the infamous season of The Great American Baking Show that never aired. However, Vallery “made lemon curd out of lemons” and took the opportunity to leave her law practice after 8 years and go in a different direction. She deserves all the praise and more, and thankfully with the release of her new book, Life is What You Bake It, we are given another opportunity to celebrate her incredible talent.
Vallery’s new cookbook has it all: pastry, bread, family favorites, and more. From biscuits with as many layers as her flaky pie crust to show-stopping layer cakes, her book bursts with soulful flavors and stories from her southern upbringing, delicate pastries inspired by her studies in Paris, fluffy breads, fried dough, and tales from the tent. You will love the Chocolate Mint Moon Pies, but you won’t want to miss her NYC Bagels, Canelés, Bourbon Pecan Pie, or the wow-worthy Punch Bowl Cake.
Find Vallery at @foodieinnewyork on Instagram.
***Catch us on Instagram Live TODAY (Oct 7 at 2pm East/11am West) where we will talk about the book and more! Make sure you’re following @stylesweetdaily to tune in!
Tessa Huff: Why did you decide to write this book?
Vallery Lomas: This book has a strong memoir and storytelling component. I was the winner of the never-aired season 3, Great American Baking Show. And I wanted to be able to share that story, along with the winning recipes and family recipes, in one cohesive place.
TH: Which recipe should readers try first?
VL: Olive Oil Chocolate Chunk Cookies (p. 122); Old Fashioned Doughnuts (p. 259).
TH: Can you name a must-have ingredient or signature flavor that you use in your recipes often?
VL: Pecans! (I'm a Louisiana girl through and through.)
TH: What keeps you inspired and creative in the kitchen?
VL: I love updating recipes so that they appeal to me both in taste and preparation. I also love baking seasonally and celebrating the holidays.
TH: What were you listening to or reading at the time of writing this book?
VL: Probably a lot of contemporary gospel music! It was a really challenging journey and I needed all the encouragement I could get.
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?
VL: This book started next to the bed stand, but migrated its way to the kitchen! It's the go-to baking book for this home cook's favorites - whether it's the Accordion Biscuits for breakfast, or the Hushpuppies for Sunday dinner!
TH: What is one important key to success for home bakers wanting to try new recipes?
VL: Practice Baked Perfect! Don't be intimidated or afraid to try something new. A little practice will get you a lonngggg way!
Chocolate Mint Moon Pies
makes 1 1/2 dozen sandwich cookies
Rich chocolate and pillowy marshmallow in a tidy package? I don’t think you could ask for a better handheld treat. I thought these might be messy to eat, but the shortbread is super tender so the marshmallow filling doesn’t squish everywhere with each bite. Dipping the cookies in the chocolate glaze adds another level of joy. Plus these moon pie are surprisingly on the lighter side (especially for a sandwich cookie) - I couldn’t stop myself at just one! - Tessa Huff
Marshmallow Cream Filling
1/4 cup (60 ml) cold water
2 (1/4-ounce/7 g) packages unflavoured gelatin powder
6 large egg whites
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (120 g) corn syrup
1 cup (240 ml) water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Use a fork to combine as soon as the powder hits the water so that it does not clump. The gelatin will absorb the water and gel quickly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, start whisking the egg whites on low speed.
Add the sugar, corn syrup, and water to a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the syrup reaches 241°F on a digital thermometer, about 15 minutes. At this point, ramp up the speed on the mixer to high. The egg whites should be just starting to form peaks as the sugar syrup reaches 244°F.
While the sugar is cooking, scoop the gelatin into a small saucepan. Heat on the lowest setting just until the gelatin melts, which happens quickly. Pour the hot syrup into the whipping egg whites by setting the pot just along the lip of the bowl and drizzling the hot sugar on the sides of the bowl so that it doesn’t splash. Pour in the melted gelatin and continue to whisk on high speed for 1 minute. Add the vanilla. Reduce the speed to medium and continue to whisk until the mixture cools slightly so that the mixing bowl isn’t hot to the touch, 4 to 5 minutes.
Immediately transfer the marshmallow filling to a piping bag fitted with a large tip (such as Wilton 2A) to prevent it from setting.
2 batches Chocolate Shortbread Cookies (recipe to follow), made with 3-inch fluted edge cutter
2 (12-ounce) packages Wilton Dark Coco Mint Candy Melts (or other chocolate or candy melt)
1/2 cup (60 ml) vegetable or coconut oil
Set half of the cookies on your work surface. Pipe or spoon a mound of filling (about 2 tablespoons) onto the flat-side of the center of these cookies. Let the cookies sit undisturbed for 15 minutes so the filling starts to set. Place a second cookie, flat-side down, on top of the filling (don’t press - the weight of the cookie is enough to sandwich it). Let the cookies sit at room temperature for 3 hours.
Melt the candy melts according to the package directions, being careful not to overheat, which will ruin the silky texture of the chocolate. When the chocolate is melted, stir in the oil.
Place the filled cookie on a cooling rack with a tray underneath to catch drips. Dip the cookies in the melted chocolate or drip the melted chocolate over the top of the cookies and use the back of a spoon to coax it down the sides. Let the chocolate set completely, about 30 minutes. Remove the moon pies from the rack with an offset spatula or butter knife and enjoy.
Store in an airtight container, separated by parchment paper so that they don’t stick together, for up to 1 week.
Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
2 2/3 cups (333 g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (25 g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks/226 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (133 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add the flour to a large bowl. Sift in the cocoa powder. Add the salt and baking powder and use a whisk or fork to combine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed to cream the butter and sugar until the mixture becomes fluffy and very pale, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add the egg and vanilla and keep beating until it’s thoroughly combined, about 1 more minute. If the mixture starts to look separated, beat an extra minute or so until it comes together and is the consistency of a thick cake batter.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry mixture, a large spoonful at a time. It will appear crumbly at first, like pie dough that hasn’t yet come together. Keep mixing until the dough starts to come together in large clumps. You are looking for the Goldilocks principles of mixing here: not too much, not too little - but just right. Be careful not to overmix. If there is still flour at the bottom of the bowl that has yet to be incorporated, you can finish it by hand and use a large, sturdy spatula to fold the flour into this stiff dough.
Tip the dough out onto a work surface, press into a ball, and divide into 2 equal halves.
Roll one mass of dough between two 14-inch-long pieces of parchment or wax paper to a ¼-inch thickness. Slide the paper-sandwiched dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat with the second mass of dough.
Remove the first sheet of dough from the refrigerator. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Stamp out cookies using a 3-inch fluted round cookie cutter, and place the cookies on the baking sheet. If the dough sticks to the cutter, coat it in flour and continue cutting. Reroll the scraps by sandwiching them between sheets of parchment, then cut out the shapes and continue until all the dough is used. Repeat for the second sheet of chilled dough.
Return the baking sheets with the cutout dough rounds to the refrigerator to chill, at least 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the middle of the oven.
Transfer the baking sheet(s) to the oven and bake until the aroma of chocolate wafts through your kitchen and the cookies appear dry around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes.
Remove from the oven and transfer the baking sheet(s) to a cooling rack. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes - if you try to remove them too soon, the delicate and thin cookies will break from the pressure of your fingertips.
Gently slide the parchment paper with the cookies onto a cooling rack and let cool completely before serving.
Full Disclosure - I didn’t have the correct mint chocolate wafers for the dip, so I added 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract to the marshmallow filling. I also noticed that the recipe made more than the yield listed, but that’s never a bad thing.
The marshmallow filling recipe makes A LOT of filling. It barely fit in my stand mixer, so make sure you have a full-sized mixer or try halving the recipe.
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