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Greyston Bakery Cookbook
Brownies so important, they are used in Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream. But other recipes are even more impressive.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

BROOKE HERMAN is a professional food editor and recent graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education.

 

 

February 2008

Product Reviews / Best Reads / Cooking

The Greyston Bakery Cookbook

By Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan

 

When browsing through all the cookbooks at your local shop, tall and proud, thick and colorful, they almost screaming to you: Buy me. Me. I’m bright. I have lots of pictures. I swear I have the best recipes. It’s easy to look past the slim, the short, the unsuspecting. Those that are dark, that don’t boast fancy celebrity chef’s names, that don’t advertise words like fast, five-ingredient or no-bake, are tempting to ignore. And that’s why, when you finally do peer between the culinary giants and find the hidden treasure all home cooks hope to come across, the reward will be all that much sweeter.

That, I’m embarrassed to say, is how it went for me the first few (O.K., several) times I sat myself cross-legged on the floor to examine the newest baking page-turners. But then, many times in, The Greyston Bakery Cookbook, with a somewhat sparse cover, save for two strips of bar cookies, caught my eye. Because actually, the cover isn’t just graced with baked goods, but also teeny photo-booth style snapshots of mixer whisks, piping bags and cakes, which halo the  left spine. Yes, this is a book bursting with character, buttery recipes and quite a story to boot.

A little history: 25 years ago the Greyston Bakery was founded by a Zen Buddhist meditation group in the Bronx. Their original intention was to support themselves by making natural products and provide jobs for members of the local community, many of whom were struggling with poverty, prison records and addiction. Today, they have established Greyston Foundation, which not only offers jobs, but helps to provide child care, low-income housing, after-school programs and community gardens.

Cookies & Brownies

Many top New York City restaurants serve Greyston’s desserts (some claim them to be their own), but their biggest client is Ben & Jerry’s, who uses the baked goods in their Chocolate Fudge Brownie and A Swirl’s Best Friend Ice Creams. The cookbook features three inspired recipes: The Good Cookie (a sugar cookie of sorts inspired by Ben & Jerry’s leftover ground Brazil nuts and used to partially replace flour—a trend in this book), The Great Brownie and The Great Blondie.

Brownies
Greyston’s brownies from left to right: Chocolate Fudge, Walnut, Espresso Bean, Blondie. Yes, this is the brownie used in Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream.

Written by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, a food writer and the former director of the Community Garden Project for the Greyston Foundation, this book does not suffer from wordiness. Instead, it’s an almost-throwback to less modern cookbooks: simple descriptions, information when needed and an early section with basic recipes, which includes a pastry dough that is to be used for all 24 tart recipes. What the book may lack in specifics and details (readers may miss timetables, giving permission to bake a day or two ahead and serving suggestions that dare to reach beyond whipped cream and ice cream most of the time), it makes up in stunningly homey photographs (check out the adorable red velvet cupcake on page 77), originality and heart.

Cakes & Cakelets

The Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake (another made by whisking all-purpose flour with ground nuts—almonds in this case) is unlike most you will come across. Thanks to three disks of Mexican chocolate, buttermilk and a crumb cake-like topping, this unfrosted confection bakes up incredibly moist, amazingly sturdy and, oddly, pleasantly grainy. Ancho chile powder provides heat, but also a warm foil for the sweet, cinnamon flavor that the Mexican chocolate imparts on the cake. You may not know what to expect from the first bite, or truth be told, from the second. But, you are sure to return your fork to the plate until it is clean. And even after, you’ll find yourself thinking about this unusual dessert. This is a cake that would taste wonderful with dollops of whipped cream.

If you don’t already own individual ramekins, an assortment of cakelet recipes, from Steamed Lemon to Sticky Toffee, will be all the inspiration you need to invest in a collection of them. Garnished with flecks of candied lavender, they prove the theory that anything miniature is adorable. But, these gooey minis also provide the perfect easy-serve option (simply unmold onto a plate–no slicing) and are quick on the clock.

Bars & Tarts

For an even faster option, check out the bar cookies section. From Gingered Lemon Squares to Maple Oatmeal, readers are really faced with a dilemma. Luckily, somewhere after the Lime Bars with White Chocolate, my almost-pick, I stumbled onto page 174 and found the Pineapple Macadamia Upside-Down Bars. Thank goodness. The hardest part of this recipe (and granted, the messiest) is wrestling with a fresh pineapple to extract 60 1" equally shaped wedges, which you are to arrange evenly in the bottom of a baking pan into a flower pattern. All good intentions aside, there’s a chance you may just decide to scatter them, and don’t worry, that works, too.

These bars cool to a sweet, nutty and crumbly snack that’s pretty delectable. But, on a whim, I tossed them in the fridge. And let me tell you, that’s the way to go. Once chilled, the brown sugar-pineapple layer melds so perfectly with the firmed up buttery cookie-cake that you’ll quickly forget its room temperature cousin.

When it comes to tarts, you have many to choose from, and thankfully, most are originals (or at least, not your run of the mill varieties). The next time I need an elegant dessert for a party, I’m giving the Drunken Grape Tart a try. A blessing: the dough is extremely easy to work with, bakes up flaky and boasts just the right amount of sweetness, so you really can feel comfortable pairing it with any filling this book offers. Tarts don’t get easier, or funkier, than the Hazelnut Meringue. After it is brushed with melted bittersweet chocolate, the crust is filled with a nut-laced whipped egg mixture. One flaw, which I realized too late: This recipe (and it’s the only recipe in the whole book—I checked) is missing a baking temperature. So while it’s meant to bake up fluffy and whimsical, mine turned out flat and crisp. And still delicious.

The funny thing about Greyston is that the first time you glance through it, the journey’s quick. You turn the pages, past a sweet pretty sea of cheesecakes, tortes, tarts and cookies; and before you know it, you’re at the end. But then, you remember one recipe somewhere in the middle that caught your eye. Once you’ve flagged it, you remember the next. And before you know it, you’ve spent two hours reading this tiny little inspiration, that suddenly, doesn’t seem so small anymore.

  • Hardcover: Rodale Books; 2007
  • Pages: 200
  • Number of Recipes: 82
  • Recipe Index: Back
  • Images: Color—in sections
    throughout the book
  • Not to miss recipe: Mexican
    Chocolate Cake
  • Extras: History of the
    foundation, ingredient
    alternatives, foundation
    recipes
  • Price: $17.16
  • Click here to purchase
The Greyston Bakery Cookbook

 

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