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Baking at the 20th Century Cafe: Iconic European Desserts from Linzer Torte to Honey Cake by [Michelle Polzine]

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Baking at the 20th Century Cafe: Iconic European Desserts from Linzer Torte to Honey Cake Kindle Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 275 ratings

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"A party waiting to happen. . . . [B]aked goods from across the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, rendered in Northern California flavors. . . . Recipes in Baking at the 20th Century Cafe range from Ashkenazi Jewish cookies to Californian puddings, preserves, savory and sweet tarts and enough varieties of whipped cream to wear out a whisk. The instructions are descriptive and exact, heavy on butter and cornball jokes."
--Wall Street Journal

"Richly gratifying desserts . . . make the book worth owning. So does the indomitable life force of its author, whose mischievous spirit shines as brightly in her sentences as it does at her restaurant."
--Los Angeles Times

"Polzine's knowledgeable explanations, humorous anecdotes and Hungarian and Austrian tales make this a book that's also exceptionally fun to read, even if all the baking you'll ever do is warming up a frozen English muffin.
--San Francisco Chronicle

"Dazzling. . . . [Polzine] brings a fresh approach and singular panache to some fairly staid classics of Central European baking. While most of these recipes aren't for beginners, her clear voice and precise, idiosyncratic instructions will allow home bakers to make exquisite fruit tarts with strawberries and plums, elegant cookies and layer cakes, and, with practice, sweet and savory strudels rolled with gossamer dough."
--New York Times

"Satisfying and splendid. . . . For the baker who wants a challenge with great results, this is your book."
--NPR's "Here and Now"


"I love [this] book."
--David Lebovitz via Instagram

"Michelle Polzine is one of the most gifted pastry chefs in America. . . . This book, as you flick through it, just keeps on giving. An absolute joy for bakers and pudding lovers."
--The Telegraph (U.K.)

"For passionate bakers, this book offers a path to one of the world's greatest dessert regions without leaving your home kitchen."

"It's an advanced baking book, from a professional pastry chef, assiduously detailing methods for assembling ten-layer tortes and stretching strudel. But for cake diehards, it's a rare treat, digging into the details of sachertorte, dobos torta, and of course, honey cake. . . . [F]or the more ambitious home baker, they're a serious treat."
--Eater SF

"To taste Michelle Polzine's desserts is to travel deliciously, stylishly, back in time. I count my lucky stars that through learning and cooking from this book, we can all access the wonder of her uncompromising vision."
--Samin Nosrat, New York Times bestselling author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

"Michelle Polzine is a master of dessert flavor and technique. Her recipes are the real deal. As a historian, she respectfully pays homage to a period of sweet cuisine mostly overshadowed by other parts of the world. Her deep creativity adds her own twists and adaptations."
--Emily Luchetti, pastry chef

"One might say that Michelle's gorgeous book is worth having simply for the honey cake recipe, or just to see her outfits and aprons, or for the quietly spectacular photos. But passionate pastry people will want it for the flavors, details, and ideas--beloved pastries from the Austro-Hungarian Empire are honored and perfected, to be sure, but they are also made new and fresh by a gifted chef with an inspired palate. Recipes are carefully crafted with enough detail (and humor) to make it happen in your kitchen."
--Alice Medrich, pastry chef and author of Flavor Flours

"Every recipe in Baking at the 20th Century Cafe is a treasure to be uncovered. Michelle's lifelong practice and discovery of pastry technique is demystified here for everyone. She gifts us with in-depth process photography, taking the guesswork out of how she creates her beautiful desserts."
--Nicole Krasinski, pastry chef and co-owner, State Bird Provisions and The Progress

"The luscious desserts in this book are very much like their fashionable creator--beautifully styled, with attention to detail and an innate sense of the final impression on the beholder. Michelle is inspired by Middle European sweets and gives each one her unique touch. In this, her first book, you get sure-to-impress recipes from not just San Francisco's beloved 20th Century Cafe but also some of the best bakeries in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, as seen through Michelle's informed lens."
--Rick Rodgers, author of Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague
--This text refers to the hardcover edition.

About the Author

Michelle Polzine is the chef/owner of 20th Century Café, and one of San Francisco’s best pastry chefs. She began cooking in North Carolina in 1992 and got her big break in 1995 at Chapel Hill’s Pyewacket restaurant. Polzine made the restaurant’s famous dinner rolls, and a pastry career was born. She has since worked at some of San Francisco’s best restaurants, from Delfina and Chez Panisse to the Range. She has been covered in Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and the New York Times, among other publications, and has been nominated as Outstanding Pastry Chef by the James Beard Foundation. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and cats. Follow her on Instagram @20thcenturycafesf.
--This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08518VQK1
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Artisan (20 October 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 54502 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 275 ratings

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top review from Australia

Reviewed in Australia on 1 February 2021
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Top reviews from other countries

Mrs G. A. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars She is fantastic, so enlightening and easy to follow
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 January 2021
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Gosia Bruen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great recipes thoroughly explained
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 June 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
Reviewed in Canada on 7 July 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars What a treasure!
Reviewed in the United States on 7 December 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars What a treasure!
Reviewed in the United States on 7 December 2020
I purchased this book on October, after reading the WSJ recipe ‘Linzer Torte’, dated October 24th. I found the article interesting and I tried the torte. I would say that this was the one rare time I did not have to modify a recipe and the result was: Wow!. I am very much average cook and the torte was delicious. Therefore, I went to Amazon to get the book. To mention that I don’t get much cooking books - find it easier to get recipes online and check reviews.

My thoughts, in case they help you:
- this book is a new level of baking and cooking.Plenty of helpful good advices that teaches to better do things, and Organic’ ideas ( proof old-fashioned method, starter for bread), advises from her failures.
- I also like that I don’t need to modify quasi anything ( apart from: failed on the kiffels because I did not use baking jam - do not use any jam as the book mentions, trust me, it doesn’t work with ‘any’; second: adjusted brown butter- toffee shortbread - rectangle should be 20x25 cms instead of 11x15cm, as per picture; and the third for the pogacsa p285, if you cut circles too small they tilt in the oven, and better if you freeze them before baking)
- I like the pictures, because it helps me to see the final result and adjust if I need.

- Recipes that I did without modification: Kipferl ( a must!), walnut Hamentaschen( good!), linzer Augen ( this cookie is sooo good that you could eat it without jam. I used the sour orange jam- perfect for me), Toffee (this is the best natural way/recipe to do toffee, I personally dislike recipes that use light corn syrup to make them prettier or faster to dry), I also backed the salty tarts ( gypsy and tartlets) and the pogacsa( see note above). I applauded the pierogis! What an excellent recipe! Never liked the stored bought ones, nor some farm made ones with just plain potatoes and some cabbage. I did not change a coma from the recipe and works fantastic. I also tried the breads, and the pumpkin seed one and bagels are a must. Again, I followed the recipes as described and perfect results.
My next steps are the strudel and honey cake. I am convinced that they will not disappoint.

As a con, the only comment I would make is that it’s kind of difficult and expensive to find some ingredients: Nocino comes from EU with an expensive price., special-for-baking poppy seeds (They are pricey!), others: I ordered via Amazon ( I was not able to find them in regular stores): buckwheat flour, barley syrup, special high-gluten flour (I got Kyrol from Amazon) for the strudel, .. some ok prices if you search. I also invested on a bigger scale.

In short, this book is definitely good, with good results. (after having tried a good amount of recipes )
I would like to see a ‘part 2’ of this book! It’s a little treasure including the 40s style...

12/18-Update: honey cake.
I baked it following exact directions. I only changed the boiling time of the condensed can to 4 hours. Next time I will leave it longer (to follow Mrs Polzine’s time) to get a darker color. Result: the cake was delicious,! not super sweet, it is still moist after day 5, very tasty. Of note, I checked video of Russian cake recipe (Chef John - food dishes) to visualize the mixing part ( butter, 2 honeys, sugar...). It helps to visualize it.
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Tara W
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious recipes, exquisite photography, and many happen to be gluten-free
Reviewed in the United States on 21 November 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious recipes, exquisite photography, and many happen to be gluten-free
Reviewed in the United States on 21 November 2020
They say don’t judge a book by its cover. But we all do. And to see the cover of Michelle Polzine’s Baking at the 20th Century Cafe is to want a slice of whatever that luscious dessert is... You may also think “10 layers? Not happening. I only have two cake pans and nowhere near the precision and patience.” But you know what? You need to open this book. You need to read the recipes and learn from the fastidiously documented photographic steps. It’s actually not that hard of a cake. You don’t even use cake pans.

What you think is impossible is made possible by this book.

But I’ll also say that what you think might be easy, like the well known strudel or knish, is actually not. Those are recipes that I may never attempt now that I’ve seen Michelle Polzine stretch and fashion these doughs. And that’s okay, because when I eventually go to the 20th Century Cafe after these wretched pandemic days are over, I will get a slice of her strudel, and I will appreciate what it takes to make one, and my experience of its flaky texture and rich buttery flavor accompanied with tart-sweet California fruit will be richer for that knowledge.

Another misperception you might have from the cover is that this is a book of Eastern European cafe cakes - the sachertorte, etc. Yes, those recipes are in there for you to enjoy and maybe try. But you’ll also find a strong offering of solid, everyday recipes:

Bulgarian shortbread - features a different technique for a rich and crumbly shortbread with a jam layer. One of 10 cookie recipes, many of them new to me, and all of them fairly straightforward.

Hot chocolate - specific but do-able instructions for a superior cup of hot chocolate.

Hot butterscotch - specific but do-able and sounds amazing.

Plum-ginger upside-down cake (and two other upside-down cakes as well).

Jams, candied fruit peel, chocolate truffles...

“Faux” red current jam - thank you Michelle! Red currents are impossible to find by all except the cookbook authors who tantalize you with photographs of these elusive berries.

Granitas, panna cotta, ice creams, and everyday cakes like cranberry ginger upside-down cake, vanilla cheesecake.

Cakes that require just a little bit more planning, maybe ingredient sourcing, and technical attention: poppyseed cakes, a variety of fruit and nut tortes, and the breathtaking but friendly honey cake.

I love just reading this cookbook, flipping the pages and enjoying the photography. I appreciate the effort Polzine makes in her prose and photography to instruct readers to make these professional-quality desserts in their home kitchens.

I’m also delighted by the number of recipes that are naturally gluten-free and all the better for it. I cannot find a list of them, but there are many including the ice creams, puddings, chocolate soufflé, buckwheat walnut cookies, chestnut-apple longer torte, coconut-marmalade torte with chocolate glaze, and hazelnut vanilla layer cake.

Yes, all in all, I’m delighted. I bought the book for the cover, but now forever in love with it for its contents.
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