Baker Kathleen King got her start selling all-natural baked goods off of a card table at her family's farm. Her scrumptious treats, now a foodie favorite sold from her bakery, Tate's Bake Shop in the Hamptons, still retain that handcrafted, homemade quality. The Ava Gardner of the cookie world, they're earthy and exceptionally seductive at the same time. "I baked the kind of cookies I loved to eat: crunchy, chocolaty and tinged with caramel. I called them 'farm cookies,'" Kathleen recalls, adding that baking was her way of connecting with people.
Nothing much has changed since the author-baker was a kid. Her new book, Tate's Bake Shop: Baking For Friends, comes out Tuesday, September 25.
The book includes recipes for more than 125 of her fave desserts, including the apple crisp she leaves on the doorsteps of neighbors or the thumbprint cookies baking in the oven when friends arrive. In addition to supplying gluten- and nut-free (but not flavor free) recipes for friends with special gustatory needs, the book is full of tips on making baking easier. Did you know you can freeze butter for up to six months? That freezing prepped ingredients is a good way to save time on days when you're too frazzled to whomp up a dessert in one go? My southern relatives, who were always bemoaning their "weepy" fruit pies, would have been glad to know that sprinkling cookie crumbs (graham cracker crumbs will do) in the bottom of the pie shell will soak up extra juices. Still, Kathleen's mantra is don't fuss, don't stress, don't try to make it "perfect." "If you bake a delicious chocolate cake for a friend who loves chocolate, believe me, you won't be critized for your frosting skills," she insists.
Here's Kathleen's recipe for Star-Shaped Blueberry Shortcakes:
Makes 10 to 11 shortcakes
This shortcake/scone can be made round and served warm with butter, as you would any scone, but I decided to do it in a star shape because it is more fun as a Fourth of July dessert, served with fresh raspberries and whipped cream. These are delicious and very festive!
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus
1 teaspoon for sprinkling 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt Grated zest of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold salted butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream, plus 2 teaspoons for brushing
1 cup fresh blueberries
1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, work in the butter until the mixture is crumbly with some pea-sized pieces of butter. Add the 1 cup of heavy cream and stir just the dry ingredients are moistened and combined. Do not overmix.
3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Spread the blueberries evenly on top of dough. Gently work the dough into a ball, being careful not to crush the berries, and roll the dough out again into a 1-inch-thick rectangle.
4. Using a 3-inch star cookie or biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out the shortcakes, cut- ting them as close together as possible to avoid excess scraps. Arrange the shortcakes about 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Gently press the scraps together, roll out again, and cut more stars. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the shortcakes with the remaining 2 teaspoons cream and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. 5. Bake until the shortcakes are golden brown and feel somewhat firm when the tops are pressed with a fingertip, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm, or let cool to room temperature.
The book is available from amazon.com for about $16. If you're not in the mood to bake, you can order online from her bake shop (tatesbakeshop.com). We can vouch for the chocolate chip sampler! (The day it arrived in our office was not a good day to be our pants.)