Pastry Chef Now Shows Her Sweet Side
Minneapolis Star Tribune
December 11, 2008

Wayzata native Amy Scherber has New Yorkers lining up for her baked goods, and now, her second book.

It's sweeter here.

Our cakes, cookies, pastries all are on the sugary side, at least compared with what Amy Scherber has baked in New York for 16 years at her much-lauded Amy's Bread shops. And our cinnamon rolls look nothing like the East Coast's earnest twists.

"People in Minnesota like them with more sticky icing," said Scherber, who grew up in Wayzata. "New Yorkers are more calorie-conscious."

Or tiresome.

Oh, just kidding. Ours are not the only sweet tooths in the nation, or Scherber wouldn't have produced The Sweeter Side of Amy's Breads (Wiley, $34.95). Recipes are for more than 70 favorites from her three bakeries in New York City, from her famous Pink Cake through Lime Cornmeal Cookies and Rustic Mini Peach Pies.

Scherber was in Minnesota last week to sign books at St. Olaf College, from which she graduated in 1982 with a degree in marketing. So ... she's a baker now? "Yes, but the liberal arts education all figured in," she said, laughing. "The French I took helped me when I baked in France. The accounting helped me make my business plan, and the writing helped me with my book."

It's paid off. The James Beard Foundation has nomi-nated her twice as pastry chef of the year.

Scherber's path to baking had its roots in her parents' Norwegian and German heritage, although her father's job at Pillsbury played a role, albeit not with the expected lesson.

"My mom would always make the Bake-Off recipes, and Dad would bring home foods they were working on," she said, miming a practiced rap of a biscuit can against the table edge. "We'd have all kinds of toaster pastries and weird waffles — and then there were these wiener wrap things."

Brown rice and veggies
Today, she mostly eats brown rice and vegetables, partly to demonstrate the advice she gives to aspiring bakers. "You really have to be in shape to do this work," she said. "I always tell them, if you're going to start a business, make sure you're healthy."

For those of us who just want to bake, her key piece of advice is to buy a kitchen scale. Weight measurement is the best way to ensure consistent results, and to avoid the dangers of using too much flour.

Other tips: Don't over-work the mixture, whether it's dough or batter. Use high-quality ingredients. Toast those nuts. Use an instant-read stem thermometer to check if the bread is done.

Scherber wrote the book in partnership with her pas-try chef, Toy Kim Dupree, an Amy's Bread employee when the first store opened in 1992. In 1996, they wrote Amy's Bread, which made a splash, then went out of print. The good news for bakers is that it's being reissued in paper-back in December 2009.

Today, Scherber bakes less for work, and more at home for her husband and their son, Harry, who's 4. She leans more savory then sweet, but in any case says that "baking is a small indulgence. And at the end of the day, you have something to show for all your work."

Makes about 3 dozen

1 tbsp. unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 c. plus 1 tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
11/s c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. plus 2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. instant coffee powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
11/4 c. whole hazelnuts, toasted
1/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
11arge egg for egg wash

Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 1 minute or until a sandy mixture forms. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until fluffy and light in color, about 1 minute more.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, coffee powder and cinnamon and whisk together. Add to the butter-and-egg mixture in two additions, and mix only until com-bined.

Fold the hazelnuts and chocolate chips into the dough and mix until evenly distributed. The dough will be thick and hard to stir. If it is too sticky, chill briefly.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. On a lightly floured sur-face, roll each into a log about 2 inches wide by 14 inches long by 11/2 inches high. Place logs on the prepared cookie sheet with sever-al inches between them.

In a small bowl, mix 1 egg with 1 teaspoon water. Brush each log with egg wash, evenly coating the top and sides.

Bake for 27 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet from front to back halfway through baking, until very lightly browned and somewhat firm. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Cool the logs for 20 minutes, then place them on a cutting board. With a serrated knife, slice each log on a slight angle into 1/4-inch pieces, keeping them in a row. Slide the row of biscotti to-gether, lift and place back onto the cookie sheet, then separate the slices, leaving 1/2 inch of space between them.

Bake again for 9 to 12 minutes, rotating once during baking until the biscotti feel slightly firm.

Cool and eat, or pack in an airtight container for up to 6 weeks.

By Kim Ode