Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book review and a giveaway

If you're a frequent visitor of my blog, you'd know that I'm a big fan of Abby Dodge (which is short for Abigail Johnson Dodge). Her career is nothing short of amazing. She's a cookbook author, pastry chef, and Fine Cooking Magazine contributing editor. For my ABC baking group, we're happily baking our way through one of her books, The Weekend Baker.

© 2012 The Taunton Press, © 2012 Miki Duisterhof

Today I will be talking to you about Abby's newest book, Mini Treats & Hand-Held Treats. When her publisher, The Taunton Press, asked me if I were interested in doing a book review of Abby's new book, of course I said Yes! :o)

As soon as the book arrived in my mailbox, I browsed through it page by page. The color photographs in the book are just gorgeous, and almost every recipe has one. The front and back cover of the book are just as gorgeous!

Another thing that caught my attention immediately is that the recipes have volume measurements as well as weight measurements. I'm a big proponent of accuracy in baking and weighing your ingredients is the best way to achieve that with the added benefit of repeatable results.

Abby offers one or more tips for every recipe in her book. She calls them finishing touches, twists, and do ahead's. I like that she offers alternatives to some of the ingredients in her recipes such as flavorings or different frosting or nuts. I'm particularly fond of the "do ahead's" because it's not always possible to bake everything in one day.

Across the entire book you will find various tidbits of information called Kitchen Wisdom. In these sections Abby shares wonderful baking insight with us that she has learned over the years, to make our baking experience a success. One example that stood out to me is her Kitchen Wisdom on how to clean up your pot after making caramel. For those of you who've made caramel before, you know how after the leftover caramel cools, it turns into a cement-like consistency and attaches itself to the inside of your pot as if its life depended on it. Who thinks of including that in their cookbook? It's genius!

This book has something for everyone who likes to bake, whether you're a beginner or an avid baker. It has six main sections: Cookies, Mini Pies, Mini Cakes, Bite-Sized Treats, Frozen Treats, and Candies. I just love the variety of recipes in this book and couldn't be happier that Abby included a whole section on candy making. I could literally make every recipe in that section that's how wonderful they are. And with the holiday season around the corner, these make wonderful treats and gifts.

Last but not least, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the book was "Printed in the United States of America". This is something I don't see as much anymore so kudos to Abby and The Taunton Press :o)

Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets with its 100 recipes and color photographs is definitely a keeper. Whether you're a passionate baker or would like to become one, this book should be on your wish list. It makes for a great gift too. At a reasonably price of $22.95, it doesn't break the bank either. And at Amazon you can get it for even less than that.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets from the publisher, The Taunton Press. All opinions expressed in this blog post are mine.

The book review was easy. Choosing only one recipe to blog about was not :o) After narrowing it down to seven recipes, I eventually picked the Triple-Threat Chocolate Squares. What intrigued me the most about the recipe was the different components and textures the chocolate flavor was weaved into. Basically, this dessert is a chocolate cheesecake layer that's sandwiched between two brownie layers, smothered in a luscious chocolate glaze. This recipe should have been named Death by Chocolate, that's how much of a chocolate punch it had :o)

Since this recipe yields 54 bite-sized squares, I decided to make a batch and take it to work. Due to nut allergies, I left out the chopped pistachios (they were optional). I ended up cutting them a little smaller which resulted in 60 squares. Needless to say, these treats received rave reviews. The first feedback I received multiple times was "You're awesome!!!" :o). When I asked for specific feedback on the treats, I received a multitude of positive feedback. Here are a few of them:

  • "Yummy! Uber-moist, nice cheesecake flavor, and the chocolate is strong and balanced."
  • "Excellent! One complaint; cut bigger pieces, I had to take 2".
  • "Excellent. I detected a hint of nut in the 3X Chocolate Squares. Am I correct?" (I personally think it's the espresso in the cheesecake that prompted that).
This is the recipe I will be sharing with you today. I have no doubt your reviews will be equally favorable or better.

I have included step-by-step pictures at the bottom of this post. I hope you find them helpful :o)

Now, without further ado, here's how you enter the giveaway. It couldn't be easier:
  • You must be a US resident (for shipping reasons). I apologize to my international readers.
  • Leave a comment on this blog post telling me your favorite Abby Dodge recipe or your favorite chocolate dessert recipe.
  • Don't forget to include your email address in your comment so I can contact you.
  • You have until midnight on Saturday October 27th 2012 (CET) to enter.
  • I will randomly pick a winner on Sunday October 28th 2012. I will email the winner. If I don't hear back within 48 hours, I will randomly pick a new winner.
  • For one extra entry, simply tweet about this giveaway. Come back to this post, and leave another comment telling me that you did (please include your Twitter handle). Twitter message: {#Giveaway alert} Cookbook review + giveaway of Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets by @AbbyDodge over at @HanaasKitchen:
  • Good luck everyone! :o)

Triple-Threat Chocolate Squares
from Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets by Abigail Johnson Dodge
(reprinted with permission from The Taunton Press © 2012)

Like my love affair with all things ginger, I am obsessed with chocolate of all kinds. This cookie speaks volumes about the depth of my love. Riding the line between brownie and cake, it’s packed with cocoa and bittersweet and semisweet chocolates. Add cream cheese, butter, and a few other supporting characters and you’ve baked up a superstar dessert that will satisfy a crowd. I know you’ll be tempted to cut these into larger bars but don’t—the small two-bite version is just the right amount of chocolaty richness to cure whatever ails you. 

For the filling
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted (see p. 7)
1 yolk from a large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee, coffee liqueur, or water, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of table salt

For the brownie layers
1 1/3 cups (6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups (12 ounces) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Glaze
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) pistachios, lightly toasted and chopped (optional)

Makes 54 small squares

Make the Filling
Put the cream cheese in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer (hand held is fine for this job) until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the melted chocolate, yolk, coffee, vanilla, and salt. Beat until just blended.

Make the Brownie Layers
1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a
9x13-inch baking pan (I like the straight-sided kind) with foil, leaving about a 1-inch overhang on two sides (see p. 5). Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the foil.

2. Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until well blended and no lumps remain. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until well blended and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just blended between additions. Add the vanilla with the last egg. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and mix on low speed until a soft dough forms, about 1 minute. Divide the dough in half (each half weighs 1 pound, but eyeballing it is fine).

3. Scrape one half of the dough into the prepared pan and, using an offset spatula, spread evenly. Drop spoonfuls of the filling evenly over the batter and spread evenly. If the filling is still soft, pop the pan into the freezer for a few minutes until it’s firmer; this will make it easier to spread the top layer. Drop small chunks of the remaining dough evenly over the filling and carefully spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean (a few crumbs sticking is good), 27 to 29 minutes. Move the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Make the Glaze, Cut, and Serve
1. Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave or in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside. Scrape the glaze onto the top of the brownie and, using an offset spatula, spread evenly. Sprinkle the pistachios (if using) evenly over the chocolate. Slide the baking pan into the refrigerator until the glaze is set, about 20 minutes.

2. Use the foil “handles” to lift the entire brownie from the pan onto a cutting board. Carefully peel or tear away the foil and toss it out. Using a ruler as a guide (or by eye) and a large knife, cut crosswise into 6 equal strips and then cut each strip into 9 pieces. Cover and stow in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Serve slightly chilled.

Finishing Touches
Top each square with a chocolate-covered espresso bean or a candied violet.

Do Ahead
These bars can be prepared and baked, then covered and frozen for up to 1 month before glazing and serving. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before proceeding with the recipe.

Step-by-step pictures:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Oh wow - what a great giveaway. I'm sorry to say I'm not familiar with Abby Dodge, but her cookbook looks beautiful and the recipes sound truly fabulous! Thanks for hosting this giveaway!!

    My favorite chocolate dessert recipe is actually a cookie recipe. Little chocolate wafers that are chewy and completely addictive. I should blog about them soon.

  3. Wow, this book has been on my wishlist ever since I've seen it at Amazon back in July!
    Your chocolate squares looks awesome! I can just imagine the flavours that is packed in each bite!
    What a fantastic giveaway! Good luck, everyone!

  4. Hello my dear! You know, you've been on my mind for quite a while now and I feel like I've been meaning to write you an email for SO long to catch up. I miss you! I have lots to tell you, but I think I'll hold off in this blog post comment.

    You wrote a beautiful review of Abby's new book (your chocolate squares look phenomenal), and I'm now super excited to get my hands on a copy. "The Weekend Baker" has been a great addition to my collection- my very favorite of her recipes is for Big Batch Scones. They are infinitely versatile (I did a Cinnamon Chip Pecan variation with a Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Glaze). They were hands down the best scones I've ever made, and that recipe is an absolute keeper that I will go back to again and again.

    It is so kind of you to be running this contest, and I'll definitely be keeping my fingers crossed. Thank you for offering this giveaway!

    I hope you're doing well and would love to hear from you whenever you get a chance. Hope to talk soon!

    -Joy (I know you know my email, but to make sure I follow contest rules, here it is:

  5. I just tweeted about the contest too- (from @JoyDSaunders)! Happy to spread the word (and get another chance at winning a copy of the book, of course). Thanks again!


  6. Nice review - makes me itch to try it. But (as yet) no baking in my son's kitchen, his idea of necessary equipment is a deluxe espresso maker.
    Mother's visit with credit card is clearly needed.
    Take care, Hanaâ,

  7. Hi Hanaa,
    Great website!

  8. Hi Hanaa, great review! I am not familiar with Abby Dodge's recipes. My favorite chocolate cake recipe is Miette's Tomboy from Rose's Heavenly Cakes.

  9. I have made the poppy seed version of her Buttery Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls. My family fell in love!! Your post reminds me to go back and see what I have ear-marked in The Weekend Baker. I can't wait to get recommendations from other commenters!

  10. Oh, my email is

  11. I love anything chocolate, but my favorite would have to be chocolate cake! :) This book looks awesome, Hanaa...and you picked a really nice looking recipe!

  12. My favorite chocolate treat is definitely pot de creme.

  13. This looks like a great book! Since we've made quite a few recipes from Abby's book "The Weekend Baker," I must say that my favorite out of all the recipes the ABC bakers have made so far is the Classic Fruit Tart! For good measure, my favorite chocolate dessert is really anything that has raspberries in them :-)

  14. We love the simple chocolate brownies on the back of the King Arthur package. It uses Dutch process cocoa.

    This book sounds really great! I look forward to trying the recipe you shared. I love the make-ahead part.

    My email is

  15. Hanaa,
    I have a complaint too, cut even bigger pieces I had to take three :) as they were super yummy. I was of the lucky ones who tasted these chocolate squares, and let me tell you I really had to disagree with Abby when she said: " I know you’ll be tempted to cut these into larger bars but don’t—the small two-bite version is just the right amount of chocolaty richness to cure whatever ails you"
    It was a fun tasty 'threat'
    Excellent review on the book!
    As always proud to be your best friend.
    Love Always,


  16. My daughter would love the pot de cremes

  17. I almost died by chocolate just reading your blog entry... So far my favorite chocolate recipe is a devil's food cake recipe I got from a friend, who got it from her friend. That cake with dark chocolate ganache is a winner for me!
    I do hope I'm the winner of this lovely book :)

  18. These bars look phenomenal!!! My niece loves pistachios and chocolate so they are on my list. What do you do with all the things you bake? I'd weigh 500 lbs already!

  19. I remember Abby dodge and her articles on Fine cooking and enjoyed them back; this book sounds very useful and I will certainly buy it soon!

  20. oh gosh! i'm now a fan of Abby too, Hanaa
    her recipes are mostly a keeper and i'm seriously considering buying her other books and i guess i'll start with this book first :)
    all thanks to you, Hanaa :)

  21. Very nice, too bad I am bit late, but I am still for another giveaway.

  22. This recipe looks interesting. I also really like the bread-bread recipe. 've actually made ​​a very similar recipe and happen as above

  23. this book is very complete i think. i got it from my uncle when in my birthday. my hobby is cooking so i have try recipe in this book. so nice and awesome

  24. i ilke this recipe. I decided to make a batch and take it to work. Due to nut allergies, I left out the chopped pistachios


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