Jessie Sheehan Author Of The Vintage Baker Shares Her Recipes
Jessie Sheehan lives most foodies’ daydream. Over a decade ago she abandoned her legal career to work as a pastry assistant at Baked in Brooklyn, where she baked. A lot. During that time she tested recipes for Baked cookbooks— now five in total. The anticipated May 15, 2018, release of her newest cookbook, The Vintage Baker, is her second cookbook. Along with her first book, Icebox Cakes, published in 2015, Sheehan has cemented herself as an expert at curating the classics. She pulls at our heartstrings with dessert recipes from the salad days of America’s Golden Age; Latticed Blackberry Pie that reminds you of summer BBQs growing up and Silver Cake with Pink Frosting that brings you back to a time in your childhood when your mom baked you her famous birthday cake. In The Vintage Baker Sheehan draws inspiration from vintage recipe booklets she collected over the years, and brings these desserts into the modern era with flavors like chai and caramelized corn flakes; They’re retro recipes with a modern twist.
The common thread linking each retro recipe is a salute to good old-fashioned technique. All of the desserts feature essential baking ingredients like flour, butter, sugar and eggs. If you have a well-stocked pantry, you can make many of Sheehan’s desserts on a whim, at home, on a cozy Sunday afternoon. The recipes are home-made, reliable and straightforward without unusual ingredients like glucose syrup and xanthan gum, that over-complicate some of today’s recipes. It employs simple techniques like creaming and tempering. Throughout the book, she gives simple Vintage Advice for the Modern Kitchen. Like if you’re baking cookies, use the back side of a baking sheet to promote better air circulation.
Sheehan became interested in retro cookbooks ten years ago when she stumbled upon some baking booklets from the early twentieth century at a flea market in Brooklyn. Their technicolor allure and flashback whimsy intrigued her. America’s history is in those recipes, like evidence of the rise of baking powder during World-War I, popularized by the frugal homemakers as a cheaper leavener for cakes than using whole eggs. Decades later, cookbooks from the 1950s tell of a more prosperous time, when dinner parties were extra extravagant, and homemakers made bloodsport of whipping up the most delightful potluck desserts on the block.
Flip through the pages of The Vintage Baker, and it’s hard to choose which recipe to recreate first. Do you want the recipe that reminds you of Grandma’s Famous Coffee Cake, like Sheehan’s Vanilla Yogurt Coffee Cake inspired by a recipe in Successful Baking for Flavor and Texture (1934), or do you keep it mid-century-modern-simple with Cornflake Macaroons with Chocolate Drizzle, inspired by 55 Recipes for Hershey’s Syrup (1945)?
That one is easy. Cornflake Macaroons with Chocolate Drizzle all the way. This simple, one-bowl recipe pays homage to a 1950’s trend of adding cereal to cookie recipes. Tighten your apron, maybe slip on some heels and be prepared to make this easy, family-friendly recipe again and again.
Cornflake Macaroons with Chocolate Drizzle
Reprinted from The Vintage Baker by Jessie Sheehan with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018
Makes 16 cookies
My go-to chocolate-chip cookie recipe is full of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies and I was over the moon to discover how frequently cookies with cereal surfaced in my booklet collection. A recipe from 55 Recipes for Hershey’s Syrup (1945) formed the base for this version of a macaroon. Adding salt to the batter proved essential (so many of these original recipes don’t call for salt), and I drizzled the cookies with chocolate after baking, rather than combining it with the batter, allowing these cornflakes to truly shine.
3 egg whites
½ cup [100 g] granulated sugar
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp table salt
2½ cups [70 g] cornflakes
1½ cups [90 g] sweetened shredded coconut
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling
2 ounces [55 g] semisweet chocolate, melted
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the sugar, vanilla, and salt and continue whisking until thoroughly combined and thickened. Fold the cornflakes and coconut into the egg whites using a rubber spatula. Once combined, and using your hands, crush the cornflakes in the bowl, mixing all of the ingredients together, until the mixture stays together when you squeeze it in your hand. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. The mixture will be much easier to scoop once it has been refrigerated.
Preheat the oven to 325°F [165°C]. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Scoop 1 to 1½ tablespoons of dough with a small cookie scoop or measuring spoon, making sure to really pack the batter into the scoop/spoon. Place on the prepared pan and bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until nicely browned. Sprinkle with the sea salt and let cool. Place the melted chocolate in a zippered plastic bag, cut a very tiny hole in one corner of the bag, and drizzle the chocolate over the cookies. Let the chocolate harden before serving.
The macaroons will keep in an airtight container on the counter for up to 3 days, but they get less crunchy with each day.