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Simple but comforting baked goods can transport you back to childhood

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Pixie Porcellato (left) and Rosie Daykin  with The Homemade You-Know-What cookies.

IAN LINDSAY / POSTMEDIA NEWS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Pixie Porcellato (left) and Rosie Daykin with The Homemade You-Know-What cookies.

Rosie Daykin has been baking since she was a little girl, almost from the time she could hold a wooden spoon. But when she opened a small neighbourhood bakery in Vancouver in the fall of 2007, she had no formal training, just loads of optimism.

Butter Baked Goods has since expanded to two locations, and some of the bakery's offerings, like Daykin's signature marshmallows, can be found at retail locations all over North America. Daykin's approach is still refreshingly straightforward, focusing on the kind of treats people remember from childhood. "I like to call it nostalgic home baking," Daykin explains, "but at the same time, it feels current for me."

Daykin's baking is meant not to impress but to comfort, and that means cakes with butter-cream frostings, classic pies and favourite cookies, bars and slices. "We're not putting on any airs," says Daykin, who spoke to the Free Press from her Vancouver bakery. "It's just good quality, really basic baking."

Daykin, who comes across as a very approachable baking maven, brings the same down-to-earth attitude to her first cookbook, Butter Baked Goods: Nostalgic Recipes from a Little Neighbourhood Bakery (Appetite by Random House, $35).

The recipes are accessible and easy to follow, and they use basic ingredients that you might already have on hand. There are lots of pictures -- "How else do you know where you're heading?" Daykin asks -- and not just pretty ones. The book also includes photo-illustrations of baking methods, such as handling pastry and decorating cupcakes.

There are notes on how to stock your pantry, a glossary of tools and techniques, as well as a few motherly hints. (Cream the heck out the butter and sugar. Clean as you go. Don't worry too much if baking, like life, gets a little messy.) "I wrote it as I see it," says Daykin, "and people have responded to that."

"For many people, baking is a scary thing," Daykin says. "But to produce something yummy, something delicious, doesn't have to be complicated."

Take Butter's peanut butter marshmallow slice. A sweet treat familiar from church teas or school bake sales, this is the kind of thing food snobs might dismiss. "At our house, the peanut butter marshmallow slice was this guilty pleasure that I only made at Christmas time. It's almost a bit of silliness," Daykin says. (Though it's a bit of silliness elevated by incredible homemade marshmallows.)

Daykin originally debuted the peanut butter marshmallow slice at the bakery as a holiday special, but found that customers were still clamouring for it in the new year. Since then, she's never stopped selling it. "How many times have I heard, 'Oh, my aunt made these, my grandmother made these.' It's very rewarding."

Another bestseller, a chocolate sandwich cookie with a creamy vanilla filling, is called "The Homemade You-Know-What." ("I knew I'd get around Mr. Christie," Daykin jokes.) Vancouver Magazine claimed the cookie for its 101 Things to Taste Before You Die list.

The cookbook is packed with recipes for muffins, loafs and scones. There are cookies, from tried-and-true chocolate chip to snickerdoodles with maple butter cream, as well as pound cakes and layer cakes, tarts and pies and of course, a rainbow of variations on Daykin's homemade marshmallows. And all the recipes are easily in reach, Daykin insists, whatever your baking skills.

"I would say to anyone who thinks they can't bake, you know, just give it a try," Daykin says. "Because if it doesn't work out, it's probably still going to taste pretty good, considering what the ingredients are."

The important thing, according to the infectiously optimistic Daykin, "is to just start baking."

 

The Homemade You-Know-What

3 cups (750 ml) all-purpose flour

3/4 cup (175 ml) dark cocoa

1 tsp (5 ml) baking soda

1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt

1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking powder

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) butter, room temperature

2 cups (500 ml) granulated sugar, plus extra for the cookie tops

2 large eggs

1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla

Filling:

1 cup (250 ml) butter, room temperature

2 cups (500 ml) icing sugar

1 tbsp (15 ml) pure vanilla

 

Preheat the oven to 175 C (350 F). Onto a large piece of parchment paper, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium to high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time and beat briefly after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and beat again to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Turn the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients and mix until fully combined.

Use a medium ice cream scoop to drop 24 equally sized portions of dough about 4 cm (1 1/2 in) apart onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Fill a small bowl with granulated sugar. Press a drinking glass or flat-bottomed mug onto a dough portion to make the bottom of the glass a little sticky with dough. Dip the glass into the bowl of sugar to coat and then press down slightly onto the dough again to transfer the sugar. Repeat for each cookie until they are all topped with sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 17 minutes or until the cookies are firm around the edges but still slightly soft in the centre. Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and icing sugar on medium to high speed until pale in colour. Add the vanilla, increase the speed to high and continue to cream until the filling is light and fluffy.

When the cookies have cooled, turn 12 of them bottom side up. Spoon 2 heaping tablespoons of filling onto each. Place the remaining cookies on top and press down lightly until the butter cream has spread to the edges of the cookies. Stack them high on a cake plate and holler for your friends and family. Makes 12 cookies.

 

Tester's notes: Crazy-good. And if you're using the medium ice cream scoop, crazy-big. Daykin does point out that her recipes make what she calls "Butter-sized" baked goods: These are being made for a bakery, after all, and customers want to feel like they're really getting something. If you want a little more portion control on the home front, you can make the cookies smaller. Just keep the size consistent, so you can match up the cookies for sandwiches, and adjust the baking time down a little.

This recipe makes a stiff dough. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can cream the butter and sugar with a handheld beater and then mix the dry ingredients in well by hand.

 

Lemon Walnut Bar

125 ml (1/2 cup) butter

250 ml (1 cup) large-flake rolled oats

250 ml (1 cup) all-purpose flour

175 ml (3/4 cup) dark brown sugar

125 ml (1/2 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut

125 ml (1/2 cup) ground walnuts

5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder

1 x 300 ml can (about 1 1/4 cups) condensed milk

125 ml (1/2 cup) lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 2 lemons)

 

Preheat the oven to 175 C (350 F). In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter (or melt in the microwave for about 30 seconds on high). In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, coconut, ground walnuts and baking powder. Pour in the melted butter and mix with a spatula or large spoon until the butter is evenly distributed, Press half the oat mixture firmly and evenly into a 22 x 22 cm (9 x 9 inch) pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper with an overhang on two ends.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the condensed milk and lemon juice until fully combined and slightly thickened. Pour the lemon mixture over the base. Use the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula to spread the filling evenly across the base. Sprinkle the remaining half of the oat mixture over the filling. Bake in the preheated oven 22 to 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan. Run a small knife along the two edges of the pan that do not have parchment handles. Carefully remove the slab from the pan and cut into bars approximately 5x5 cm (2x2 in). Make sure to use at least a 25-cm (10-inch) knife to avoid cutting and dragging the knife across the bars. Makes 16 bars.


Tester's notes: The rustic crumble topping makes a nice counterpoint to the lemony filling. Lining the pan with parchment paper might seem like busy-work, but it really helps in getting clean, neat squares.

 

Apricot White Chocolate Scones

1.1 l (5 cups) all-purpose flour

325 ml (1 1/3 cups) granulated sugar

45 ml (3 tbsp) baking powder

1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) butter, chilled and cut into 2.5-cm (1-inch) cubes

500 ml (2 cups) dried apricots, chopped into 1-cm (1/2-inch) pieces

250 ml (1 cup) white chocolate chips

425 ml (1 3/4 cups) buttermilk

15 ml (1 tbsp) almond flavouring

 

Finishing:

1 large egg

30 ml (2 tbsp) cold water

Coarse sanding sugar, for sprinkling

 

Preheat the oven to 205 C (400 F). In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, quickly mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt on low speed to blend. Add the butter cubes and mix until large crumbs form. Add the chopped apricots and white chocolate chips and mix again to incorporate. Stir together the buttermilk and almond flavouring. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until almost combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick. Use a 9-cm (3 1/2-inch) circular cutter to cut out 10 circles and place them 3 cm (1 1/4 inch) apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash. Use a pastry brush to gently coat the top of each scone with the wash. Sprinkle with a little sanding sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. A wooden skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Remove from the oven and allow the scones to cool slightly. These scones are delicious served warm from the oven all on their own. Makes 10 scones.

 

Tester's notes: This makes a very rich, very buttery scone. I like the apricot and white chocolate, but I might cut back on the almond flavouring, or even add a few chopped blanched almonds instead.

 

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 27, 2013 D1

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Updated on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 6:37 AM CST: Replaces photo, changes headline

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