What to CookBake

Inside the Stunning, User-Friendly Cookbook of the Most Fearless Baker We Know

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I’ve had the pleasure of working on cookbooks for almost 10 years. In that time, I’ve worn a lot of hats: I’ve been a food stylist, recipe developer, recipe tester, copyeditor, and ghost writer, even. My journey has taken me through over 60 books for other authors—and working on books is still my favorite part of my job. There’s seriously no better feeling than when that book (finally, many months later) arrives in your mailbox. But for all the magic mailbox moments I’ve had in my career, not much could have prepared me for receiving the first copy of my own book, The Fearless Baker, which comes out this fall.

If you’ve read some of my articles here on Food52, you’ll have an idea of what’s in store inside this book. My passion for baking comes from understanding the science behind why things work, and I think understanding those whys is the key to unlocking your best baking at home. Baking has a reputation for being very “by the book,” but I want to show bakers that there’s tons of flexibility to be found in baking, once you understand what’s happening behind a recipe. Then, it becomes okay to tweak recipes, or even create your own, the way I do. Suddenly, it’s okay to swap out the type of fat used in a cake recipe your mom has always used, or substitute honey for sugar in that custard recipe you’ve been dying to try. Each and every recipe in the book not only provides thorough instructions, but also explains what makes that recipe work. There’s a huge variety of recipes, from easy to hard—and they’re all designed to make you charge into the kitchen totally fearlessly. Plus, I share my tips and tricks for making desserts look as good as they taste.

I’m incredibly excited to share a first look into that book here today, in the form of my book trailer:

Some of my favorite recipes from the book include:

  • Chocolate Palmiers, made with homemade chocolate puff pastry
  • Cream Puffs, filled to the brim with decadent diplomat cream + iced with a glaze made from fresh berries
  • Sugar Pie, a favorite holiday pie of mine, which has the easiest + most impressive décor technique around
  • Dame’s Rocket Cake, a 6-layer spice cake filled with molasses buttercream!
  • Almond Danish Loaf, a brioche-based loaf filled with just-sweet-enough almond cream and featuring a super simple braiding technique.
Erin can teach you how to make this roulade.
Erin can teach you how to make this roulade. Photo by James Ransom
  • Chocolate Hi-Ratio Sheet Cake, which uses a mixing method commonly used by large-scale bakeries, so it's not often found in books for home bakers. But you can use it at home, and you should: It produces a cake so super-soft you won’t believe it.
  • A towering Strawberry Shortcake-inspired layer cake, featuring light and fluffy biscuit layers and a whipped cream that’s stable enough to last all through your next summer soiree (if the cake lasts that long)!
  • My favorite Yeast Doughnuts, a recipe passed down from my great-great grandma, plus tons of ideas on how to finish them.
  • My favorite birthday cake recipe of all time (hint: Devil’s Food + coconut)
  • Black Bottom Crème Brulee, which turns the classic custard on its head by adding a layer of creamy dark chocolate ganache

I can’t wait to share the rest of the book (and its 150+ recipes) with everyone this Fall. In the meantime, I hope this trailer gets you hungry to bake—especially some things that have maybe scared you in the past! (Psst: We at Food52 have rounded up a few of Erin's masterpieces, below, to get you started.)

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Chocolate Mousse Cake by Erin McDowell

Pretzel for a Crowd

Pretzel for a Crowd by Erin McDowell

Crême Brûlée Pie

Crême Brûlée Pie by Erin McDowell

Pasta Pie with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil

Pasta Pie with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil by Erin McDowell

Strawberries and Cream Mille-Feuille

Strawberries and Cream Mille-Feuille by Erin McDowell

Triple Chocolate Ombre Cake

Triple Chocolate Ombre Cake by Erin McDowell

Basic Yeast Doughnuts (with Many Variations)

Basic Yeast Doughnuts (with Many Variations) by Erin McDowell

American Flag Cake

American Flag Cake by Erin McDowell

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits by Erin McDowell

Mini Pistachio-Vanilla Cake

Mini Pistachio-Vanilla Cake by Erin McDowell

Chocolate Roulade

Chocolate Roulade by Erin McDowell

We Give You Bread Boats Filled with Ooey, Gooey Cheese (& Egg)

We Give You Bread Boats Filled with Ooey, Gooey Cheese (&... by Erin McDowell


What's something you've always wanted to make but worried you can't pull off? Let us know in the comments.

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Books