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Baking To Satisfy

Do your cakes fall, cookies crumble and pie crusts seem forever soggy? If your baking skills need help, the editors of Cook's Illustrated have a new book, "Baking Illustrated," that gives 350 foolproof-tested recipes.

On Thursday, Chris Kimball, the magazine's founder and editor, demonstrates The Early Show co-anchors Hannah Storm and Harry Smith three fun desserts from the book that celebrates the change in season with chocolate, apples and caramel.

The following recipes were taken from "Baking Illustrated."


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Summer Berry Pie
Serves 8 to 10

Berries are not sold in standard half-pint containers. When shopping for ingredients, use the weights on the containers as a guideline, but make sure to measure the berries (gently, to avoid bruising). If you wind up short on one type of berry but have extras for another type, make up the difference with the extras. If blackberries are not available, use 3 cups each of raspberries and blueberries. When pureeing the berries, be sure to process them for a full minute; otherwise, the yield on the puree may be too small. Apple jelly can be substituted if red currant jelly is unavailable.

Graham Cracker Crust
9 graham crackers (5 ounces), broken into rough pieces
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and warm

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a food processor, process the graham crackers until evenly fine, about 30 seconds (you should have 1 cup crumbs). Add the sugar and pulse to combine. Continue to pulse while adding warm melted butter in a steady steam; pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Transfer the crumbs to 9-inch glass pie plate; use the bottom of a ramekin or measuring cup to press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and up the sides, forming a crust. Bake the crust until it is fragrant and beginning to brown, 15 to 18 minutes; transfer to a wire rack and cool completely while making the filling.

Berry Filling
2 cups raspberries (about 9 ounces)
2 cups blackberries (about 11 ounces)
2 cups blueberries (about 10 ounces)
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons red currant jelly
2 cups Whipped Cream

Combine the berries in a large colander and gently rinse (taking care not to bruise them); spread the berries on a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet and gently pat dry with additional paper towels.

In a food processor, puree 2 1/2 cups of the mixed berries until smooth and fully pureed, about 1 minute. Strain the puree through a mesh strainer into a small non-reactive saucepan, scraping and pressing on the seeds to extract as much puree as possible (you should have 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups). Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl to combine, then whisk the mixture into the puree. Bring the puree to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon; when the mixture reaches a boil and is thickened to the consistency of pudding, remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and set aside to cool slightly.

While the puree is cooling, place the remaining berries in a medium bowl. Heat the jelly in a second small saucepan over low heat until fully melted. Combine the jelly with the berries, and pour into the cooled crust and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Distribute the glazed berries evenly over the puree and gently press into the surface. Loosely cover the pie with plastic wrap; refrigerate until chilled and the puree has set, about 3 hours (or up to 1 day). Cut the pie into wedges and serve with whipped cream.

Hot Fudge Pudding
Served 8

If you have cold, brewed coffee on hand, it can be used in place of the instant coffee and water, but to make sure it isn't too strong, use 1 cup cold coffee mixed with 1/2 cup of water. Serve the cake warm with vanilla or coffee ice cream. Leftovers can be reheated, covered with plastic wrap, in a microwave oven.

2 teaspoons instant coffee
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup (2 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa
1/3 cup packed (2 1/3 ounces) brown sugar
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly spray an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Stir the instant coffee into the water; set aside to dissolve. Stir together 1/3 cup of cocoa, the brown sugar, and 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar in a small bowl, breaking up any large clumps with your fingers; set aside. Melt the butter, the remaining 1/3 cup cocoa, and the chocolate in a small bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water; whisk until smooth and set aside to cool slightly. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a small bowl to combine; set aside. Whisk the remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar with the vanilla, milk, and salt in a medium bowl until combined; whisk in the yolk. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture and whisk until the batter is evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and spread evening to the sides and corners. Sprinkle the cocoa mixture evenly over the batter (the cocoa mixture should cover the entire surface of the batter); pour the coffee mixture gently over the cocoa mixture. Bake until the cake is puffed and bubbling and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the baking dish, about 45 minutes (Do not overbake). Cool the cake in the dish on a wire rack about 25 minutes before serving.

German Apple Pancake With Caramel Sauce
Serves 4

Tradition dictates that this supersized pancake should be cooked in a cast-iron skillet, but we found that an oven-safe, nonstick skillet worked significantly better. If you want to use cast iron, reduce the heat to medium-high after 5 minutes when cooking the apples; otherwise, they may burn in the oven because the cast iron retains so much heat. And be careful removing the pancake from a cast-iron skillet; it may stick unless your pan is very well seasoned.

2 large eggs
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 medium Granny Smith apples (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup packed (1 3/4 ounces) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
maple syrup, warmed

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 500 degrees F. Combine the eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, salt and granulated sugar in a food processor or a blender and process until well combined, about 15 seconds. Add the flour and process until thoroughly mixed and free of lumps, about 30 seconds; set the batter aside.

Add the butter to a 10-inch ovenproof non-stick skillet and heat over medium-heat until the butter foams. Add the apples and sprinkle the brown sugar and evenly over them. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples begin to turn light brown, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the apples are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Quickly pour the batter around the edge of the pan over the apples; place the pan in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425 degrees F and cook until browned and puffed, 16 to 17 minutes. With the heatproof spatula, loosen the edges of the pancake. Invert the pancake onto a serving platter, dust it with the confectioner's sugar, and serve immediately, accompanied by warmed maple syrup or caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup water
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon

Place the water in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan; pout the sugar in the center of the pan, taking care not to let the sugar crystals adhere to the sides of the pan. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat; once boiling, uncover and continue to boil until the syrup is thick and straw-colored (the syrup should register 300 degrees on a candy thermometer), about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until the syrup is a deep amber (350 degrees F), about 1 to 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the cream and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over high heat (if the cream boils before the sugar reaches a deep amber color, remove the cream from the heat and cover to keep warm).

Remove the sugar syrup from the heat; very carefully pour about one quarter of the hot cream into it (the mixture will bubble vigorously) and let the bubbling subside. Add the remaining cream, vanilla, and lemon juice; whisk until the sauce is smooth. (The sauce can be cooled and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Reheat it in the microwave or a small saucepan over low heat until warm and fluid.)

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