Our Sweet Friend: Celebrating Baker Jason Schreiber's First Book
Our food editors consider Jason Schreiber, a longtime contributor to Martha Stewart Living and Weddings, part of the family. That's why they were so excited to get their hands on his first cookbook, Fruit Cake ($32.50, amazon.com). After honing some serious decorating skills under wedding-cake master Ron Ben-Israel, Jason began dazzling us in his own right with confections that taste as incredible as they look. We've called on him to make everything from impeccable gingerbread houses (among them a Downton Abbey replica, no less) to cover-worthy cookies and woodland cakes.
In Fruit Cake, he shares 75 recipes that use nature's candy in thoroughly modern ways: Think maple-orange cornbread, banana tiramisu, and a sky-high guava crepe cake. "Above all, I wanted this book to be informative and useful," he says. But baking is also a soothing, restorative act for Jason: "Sitting on the floor, with my nose pressed to the glass, and watching the oven work its magic is one of my favorite places to be."
"Jason's love of shaking up tradition is evident, and adding fruits to bolster flavors in familiar baked goods is creative and groundbreaking," Martha said in her foreword to the book. The Martha Stewart food editors agree: "This book is filled with great tips and techniques you'll refer to again and again," says Sarah Carey, our editorial director of food. Here, Jason shares five that will help you shop smarter and bake better, as well as one very irresistible recipe from the book.
Jason is extremely eco-minded. To help you shop smart, he suggests looking for ingredients that are minimally packaged and avoiding plastic (bring your own bags and jars for bulk ingredients). Purchase locally produced items when you can, too. Next, he reminds us of the importance of proper measurement. We all have our go-to measuring tools and methods. If you use them consistently, and prep becomes second nature. The book has charts for each recipe that include volume (cups, spoons) and weight measurements.
To prep pans perfectly, Jason often mixes "pan goo," a combo of 1/4 cup neutral oil and 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, to brush on baking sheets. Even the stickiest sweets release without a struggle. In the time it takes to bake a cake, the temperature in your oven can vary by as much as 25 degrees (up or down). That's why it's vital to fully preheat—the longer you can let it settle in, the steadier it will remain.
Though Jason excels at elaborate piping and decorations, he loves the simplicity of chocolate curls. His technique: Hold a block of chocolate one foot above a stove's burner (set at medium heat) for a few seconds, until it's soft but not melted. Then use a sharp vegetable peeler to shave along an edge of the block. With a few practice strokes, you'll be curling like a pro.
Bim's Yeast Cake
This coffee cake is an adaptation of Jason's grandmother's recipe. It calls on fresh yeast to leaven and add complex flavor. Cinnamon sugar, pecans, and fresh and dried blueberries are rolled inside the dough (the dried berries bring intensity without added moisture), and a glaze of confectioners' sugar and whole milk tops it off royally.
Recipe Adapted From Fruit Cake, by Jason Schreiber. © 2020 by Jason Schreiber. Used With Permission by William Morrow. All Rights Reserved.