Abigail Johnson Dodge is a professionally trained pastry chef who used to spend hours creating desserts.
No more. Now she's a mother of two, the test kitchen director for Fine Cooking magazine, and a woman who describes her life as "hectic with occasional insanity."
But she still bakes. And she's convinced that those of us with crazy-busy schedules can do the same. All we need are some clever time-saving techniques and some equally quick, clever recipes.
Enter Dodge's "The Weekend Baker" (W.W. Norton, 2004). Her goal is to provide dessert recipes that can be made even if you have as little as 10 minutes to stir together ingredients.
To help us, Dodge includes baking shortcuts she has fine-tuned over the years. Some of our favorites:
* Bake in shallow pans; they cut baking time in half. For example, bake bar cookies and brownies in a pie plate and cut into wedges. Instead of loaf pans, bake quick breads in square baking pans.
* Bake individual items. Muffins (or mini-muffins), cookies and scones cook in much less time than layer cakes.
* Want it to go even faster? Go with a no-bake dessert (Dodge has 10-minute Mocha Pots de Creme that are whipped up in a blender, then refrigerated while everyone's eating dinner.)
One of Dodge's most clever recipes was created late one night after a frantic friend called and said his daughter had just informed him that it was her turn to bring cupcakes to school the next morning. Dodge came up with Emergency Blender Cupcakes. The batter is made entirely in the blender; while the cupcakes bake, you can make the fast frosting.
Baking crisis averted.
Emergency Blender Cupcakes
Makes 1 dozen frosted cupcakes
Adapted from "The Weekend Baker," by Abigail Johnson Dodge:
For the cupcakes:
1 cup flour
1/2 unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup canola or corn oil
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the frosting:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 12 regular-sized muffin cups with paper or foil liners.
For the cupcakes: Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda and salt in a blender. Cover with the lid and blend on medium speed until well blended. Pour in the water, oil, egg and vanilla. Cover with the lid and blend on medium-high speed until smooth and well-blended, stopping to scrape down the sides once or twice. Pour into muffin cups, dividing evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one cupcake comes out clean, 17 to 19 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool.
For the frosting: Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave. Add condensed milk, corn syrup, vanilla and salt. Whisk until well blended. Set aside at room temperature, whisking frequently. It will thicken as it cools. When completely cool, cover with plastic wrap until ready to frost.
Per cupcake: 456 calories, 5 gm protein, 54 gm carbohydrates, 27 gm fat, 48 mg cholesterol, 11 gm saturated fat, 103 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber