Mark Bittman Says You Can Learn to 'Bake Everything'

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 (Photo: Romulo Yanes)

Author and former New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman believes you don't have to be afraid of baking. His new book, "How to Bake Everything," breaks down recipes for everything from New Orleans beignets to Afghan snowshoe naan, making them accessible to even novice bakers. Bittman also adapts traditional recipes for the vegan diet. He joins us this hour to talk baking, eating vegan before 6 p.m. and the politics of food.


Mark Bittman, food writer, author and former New York Times columnist; author, "How to Bake Everything" and "How to Cook Everything"

Recipes from How to Bake Everything

Olive Oil Cake (with Creamy Lemon Glaze)

Olive oil cake no glaze
Photo: Robert Bredvad

MAKES: 12 to 16 servings
TIME: 45 minutes
Olive oil cake is rich and dense, but the flavor is nuanced and light. It's a simple but sophisticated dessert to serve for company; plus it’s incredibly easy to make: Dump the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and you’re good to go. Use good olive oil—its floral, grassy, or citrus notes will shine through in every bite. Top the cake with fruit purée (page 572), Orange Marmalade (page 575), or Vanilla or Lemon Glaze (page 567). Cupcakes made from olive oil batter, which take only 15 minutes to bake, are a refreshing change from the usual.



1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup milk

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9- or 10-inch springform pan with a little of the olive oil you will be using in the cake. Add a parchment circle and oil it. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and milk and beat until well combined. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the dry ingredients and stir until smooth with no large lumps of flour.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing the outer ring and letting it finish cooling on a rack. 4. Glaze if you like (see the headnote for suggestions). Store at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 4 days.

COCONUT OIL CAKE A rich, dense cake that’s part fruit, part nutty: Substitute coconut oil for the olive oil and coconut milk for the milk. Add 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut and omit the lemon zest. Fold the coconut in with the dry ingredients. Bake for up to 45 minutes.

LIME–SESAME OIL CAKE The intense, roasted flavor of sesame oil is brightened with a hint of lime: Substitute ⅓ cup sesame oil and ⅔ cup neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, for the olive oil. Substitute lime zest for the lemon zest.

RASPBERRY–OLIVE OIL TORTE Fruity olive oil is the perfect base for a berry add-in: Use 3 eggs instead of 4. Omit the lemon juice and increase the milk to ¾ cup. Add 4 tablespoons (½ stick) melted butter to the wet ingredients. Fold 2 cups raspberries (frozen are fine) into the finished batter.

ALMOND–ANISE–OLIVE OIL CAKE A classic biscotti combination translated into cake: Omit the lemon zest and juice. Increase the milk to ¾ cup. Add ½ teaspoon almond extract to the wet ingredients and fold 1 tablespoon aniseeds into the finished batter.

GRAPEFRUIT–OLIVE OIL CAKE Substitute 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest for the lemon zest and grapefruit juice for the lemon juice.

BOOZY OLIVE OIL CAKE A citrus liqueur is a sophisticated substitution for lemon juice: Substitute Cointreau or Grand Marnier for the lemon juice.

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cookies

chocolate flourless cookies on a cooling rack
Photo: Robert Bredvad

MAKES: 3 to 4 dozen
TIME: About 45 minutes
Sugar and egg whites make this rich, fudgy cookie crisp and glossy on the outside and nice and chewy when you bite into it. It’s simple and endlessly adaptable, so use any nut and just about any flavor you like, from coffee to dried fruit — see below for some ideas.

3 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
5 egg whites at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3½ cups almonds, toasted and finely chopped

1. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Whisk together the sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl.

2. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until foamy; add the vanilla and beat for another minute. Gradually add the nuts and the sugar mixture, stirring until a loose, sticky dough forms.

3. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, since these cookies can be very sticky. Use a spoon to drop tablespoon-size mounds of dough onto the sheets about 3 inches apart; keep the cookies small, as the dough spreads quite a bit. Bake until hardened on the outside, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cookies completely on the sheets, then remove with a spatula. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving if you like. These will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

MOCHA-PECAN COOKIES Add 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder to the sugar and cocoa mixture. If you like, chop 4 ounces dark chocolate and add that with the nuts.

WALNUT SPICE COOKIES Use walnuts instead of almonds. Substitute ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ½ teaspoon cardamom, and ½ teaspoon allspice for the cocoa powder.

PISTACHIO LEMON COOKIES Use pistachios for the nuts. Omit the cocoa powder; stir 2 tablespoons each grated lemon zest and juice into the finished batter.

HAZELNUT COOKIES The Italian name for this cookie is brutti ma buoni, or “ugly but good”; true on both counts: Omit the cocoa powder and use 4 cups hazelnuts instead of the almonds. After toasting them in the oven, rub the nuts in a tea towel to remove as much of the skins as you can, then pulse them in a food processor with the sugar until finely ground. If the dough is too wet for your liking, feel free to add more ground hazelnuts.

7 More Combinations for Flourless Nut Cookies
Nuts are a natural match for chopped dried fruit, so add up to 1½ cups or leave it out if you aren’t wild about the texture. Leave in the cocoa powder or omit it, as you like.

  • Almonds, dried cherries, and 4 ounces chopped dark chocolate
  • Peanuts, raisins, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pecans, dried apricots, and 1 teaspoon ginger
  • Walnuts, dried figs, and ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Pine nuts, dried currants, and ½ teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Macadamia nuts, dried mango, and 2 tablespoons grated lime zest
  • Hazelnuts, dried blueberries, and 2 tablespoons grated orange zest


Text excerpted from HOW TO BAKE EVERYTHING, © 2016 by Mark Bittman. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.