Cookbooks

‘I love a cookbook, but let’s be real; we live in a digital era’: Molly Baz has an eye on the future

The successful US cookbook author and video host shares her mission to make cooking ‘approachable, accessible, unstressful and fun’

Molly Baz first rose to prominence through her work with Bon Appétit

Molly Baz may not have planned her current career as a cookbook author, recipe developer, video host, “weenie lover” – that’s dachsund lover, to you and me – and Caesar salad enthusiast. But she reckons that she’s landed exactly where she needs to be.

Baz first rose to prominence through her work with Bon Appétit, the American food website, a stalwart member of its formerly famous test kitchen video crew. When revelations of pay disparity for colleagues of colour emerged in 2020, she stepped down in protest.

That abrupt, unplanned departure left Baz without a plan. With Covid-19 still keeping the world shut, she decided to move from New York to LA with her husband Ben Willett and dachsund Tuna – a major fan favourite – in tow. There, she decided to continue making content on her own, leading to her subscription-based recipe club on Patreon.

It gained several thousand subscribers in just one month, according to Business Insider, and has continued to grow rapidly since. She is, as New York Magazine put it, a “bona fide celebrity, at least in some circles”, with over 700,000 Instagram followers and over 100,000 YouTube subscribers.

Her job, she tells me, is to make cooking “approachable, accessible, unstressful and fun for as many people as possible”. Writing cookbooks, shooting video content and running a recipe club are all fuelling that goal.

“I found my community super organically. I cook things that I’m excited to cook, and hope that those are the things that will resonate best. As it turns out, that has been the best way to find my people,” she says.

Her first book, Cook This Book, was released in 2021 and rocketed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Focusing on fundamentals, it highlighted cooking essentials and must-know recipes. Its most innovative feature further extended her teaching ethos: the book included dozens of QR codes that led to technique-driven videos from Baz to help readers along the way.

The cover of Molly Baz’s new cookbook

Her second book, More is More, builds on that initial mission while pushing readers to trust their gut and take things up a notch. It features 100 recipes that are packed with big flavours, bright colours and great ingredients. Minimalist it is not.

There are also more QR codes that lead to audio tutorials from Baz that provide a hands-free cook-along experience, as well as further videos.

“I am constantly searching for new ways to bridge the gap between modern technology and the slightly antiquated nature of cookbooks. Don’t get me wrong, I love a cookbook and its permanent nature, but let’s be real, we live in a digital era,” she says.

“The audio cook-alongs came about as an answer to the question ‘how can I meet my reader more closely where they are?’. The answer was through audio recipe walk-throughs, which hold a reader’s hand at every step of the recipe, in a way that the words on a page alone cannot.”

It wasn’t simple. Baz says “many months” were spent refining the technology and getting it to a place where it functioned seamlessly.

“I am so happy with how it turned out. I think audio cook-alongs have the potential to really change the kitchen education experience and offer support on a whole new level. It’s the element of More is More that I am most excited about.”

She has, she says, been a ‘more is more’ type of cook for a long time now.

“Once I shook off the last remnants of influence that my time in fine dining had on me, I became the professional home cook that I am today,” she says, citing “more herbs, more heat, better seasoning, no waste, big flavour, less measurements” as key components of her approach.

The recipes in More is More offer something for everyone, but lean heavily on Italian-American favourites. The book opens with Baz’s ‘rules’ for learning to cook without inhibition, including ‘turn ya burners up’, ‘if it ain’t yummy, fix it’, and ‘condiments are your BFFL’.

Read it through and you will gain an insight into how to live and eat á la Baz, who has curated a hyper-chic, 1970s aesthetic. The butter yellow kitchen in her LA home is widely coveted, while her penchant for jumpsuits and casual clothing alongside martinis and salty snacks gives the impression of an aspirational lifestyle that could actually be achieved.

Something else that sets Baz apart is her abbreviations, commonly known as ‘Mollyisms’. You might have seen Caesar salad called ‘cae sal’ in certain corners of the internet; that’s all Baz: see also yog for yoghurt, smoo for smoothie, morty-d for mortadella and umam for umami.

“Some people love ‘em, others hate ‘em. I don’t have a choice in the matter! It’s just how I talk. I am someone who is always looking to have a fun time, regardless of where or when, so I think that Mollyisms are just an extension of that inherent playfulness with the world,” Baz explains.

“What is the point in saying things the same way everyone else does? As for a favourite, I don’t think I have one. They change all the time, constantly evolve, and some fade away to make space for others. That’s what keeps them interesting.”

Baz has just finished a book tour that saw her meet thousands of fans across the US and reunite with some of her Bon Appetit family, but she already has one eye on the future. Could a Molly Baz cae sal restaurant be on the cards? Never say never.

“I love what I do and am constantly brainstorming new ways to dive into the food world and dig deeper into my goals. I will continue to write cookbooks as long as people want to read them. It’s my favourite thing in the world,” she says.

“And then who knows! I started a wine company, Drink This Wine, two years ago, which I will continue to grow. I would love to break into television in some capacity in the near future. Maybe I’ll open a bricks and mortar of some kind. It all remains to be seen, but I am so so excited to see where things go.”

More is More: Get Loose in the Kitchen by Molly Baz, published by Murdoch Books (RRP £26) with photography by Peden + Munk, is out now. Follow her at @mollybaz

Red curry hot wings rolled in peanuts

Red curry hot wings rolled in peanuts

There’s no reason to bust out a large pot of oil and a deep-fry thermometer for chicken wings when you can achieve the same effect by oven roasting. These wings take an hour in the oven, but in that time, they render all of their fat, leaving the skin as crispy-crunchy as ever.

Ingredients, serves 4-6

About 80g fresh coriander leaves and tender stems

2 limes

1.4kg chicken wings (25 to 30), drumettes and flats separated

1 tbsp kosher salt

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 x 120g jar or tin red curry paste

1 x 400g tin full-fat coconut milk

1.5 tsp honey or sugar

Red pepper flakes (optional)

75g roasted, salted peanuts

Method

1. Season the wings. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pat dry the chicken wings with a paper towel. Toss them with one tablespoon of salt on the baking sheet until well coated. Leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1.5 hours. This will allow the wings to properly absorb the seasoning, leaving them both tastier and more tender. You can also do this up to a day in advance and keep the wings, uncovered, in the fridge. Let them hang out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking

2. Roast the wings. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F. Drizzle the wings generously with vegetable oil and toss to evenly coat. Bake for 25 minutes. They’ll be pretty pale still, but this low temperature helps render out some of the fat from the skin, resulting in crispier wings once you crank the heat. Raise the oven temperature to 230C/450F and continue to cook the wings, flipping them with tongs halfway through, until the skin is very crisp and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

3. While the wings cook, make the coconut glaze. In a medium saucepan with a lid, heat another glug of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the red curry paste and immediately cover the pan. Cook, shaking the (still covered) pan often, until you hear the violent sputtering die down, about two minutes, then remove the lid.

4. Continue to cook until the paste is slightly darker and begins to stick to the pan, two minutes. Whisk in the coconut milk and honey. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat as needed to maintain a simmer and cook, whisking often, until the liquid has reduced substantially and thickened (it should coat the back of a spoon without totally dripping off), 10 to 12 minutes.

5. Determine your heat factor. At this point, the sauce is mild to medium in spice level depending on what brand of curry paste you used. If you like your wings very spicy, start stirring in red pepper flakes, to taste. Cover the pot until the wings are ready. (You may need to briefly rewarm the sauce over medium heat before tossing them.)

6. Prep your garnishes. Finely chop 75g roasted, salted peanuts so all the pieces are around the size of a lentil. Coarsely chop 80g fresh coriander leaves and tender stems. Cut two limes in half.

7. Transfer the cooked wings to a large bowl. Pour the hot coconut glaze over them and toss to coat. Add the peanuts and coriander and toss again. Squeeze the juice of one lime over everything and toss once more. Transfer to a serving platter with the remaining lime halves and lots of napkins ’cause these guys are messy.

Molly’s take on classic meatballs

Mollz ballz

I’ve never been much of a spag and balls girl, but I do LOVE a side of meatballs. From my perspective, meatballs belong on garlic-rubbed toast, or at least alongside it. Spaghetti isn’t sturdy enough to handle my balls. These are BIG meatballs – the size of tennis balls – because that’s how I like them. And while they might look classic at a glance, they’ve got a lot going on inside. Umami anchovies for depth of flavour, creamy ricotta for moistness, and a butt-load of fresh mint take them to a very delicious, extra-special place

Ingredients, serves 4-6

12 garlic cloves

1 bunch mint

1 large yellow onion

55g fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese

55g grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving

40g unsalted butter

2 large eggs

225g spicy Italian sausage, casings removed

340g 80 per cent lean minced beef

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 oil-packed anchovy fillets, plus 1.5 tsp of their oil

150g panko breadcrumbs

Red pepper flakes

795g tomato purée

Garlic-rubbed toast, for serving (optional)

Method

1. Make the meatballs. In a medium bowl, whisk together two large eggs, six grated garlic cloves, the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, two tablespoons of olive oil, 2.5 teaspoons salt, the anchovy oil, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Add the panko breadcrumbs, whisking until well hydrated by the egg mixture.

2. Finely chop the leaves of about half of the bunch of mint. Add the mint and sausage to the panko mixture, and work with your hands until the meat is evenly distributed. Add the beef and work together gently until well mixed. Divide the meat into eight equal portions and roll them into balls: they’ll be about the size of tennis balls. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet or large plate.

3. Make the sauce. Peel and finely chop the onion. Thinly slice the remaining six garlic cloves. In a large casserole dish, heat a few more glugs of olive oil over high heat. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook, turning every minute or so, until browned in most areas, six to seven minutes total. Transfer to a plate: the meatballs will still be raw in the centre but will finish cooking in the sauce later on.

4. Pour off all but two tablespoons of fat from the dish. Reduce the heat to medium, add the chopped onions, sliced garlic, anchovy fillets, and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent and just barely beginning to brown at the edges, six to eight minutes.

5. Stir in the tomato purée, unsalted butter and a few more mint sprigs (reserving some for garnish). Season the sauce with salt, it’ll need quite a bit. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat as needed to maintain a very gentle simmer and cook until slightly thickened, four to six minutes.

6. Nestle the meatballs back into the sauce, cover the pot, and cook over medium heat, turning the meatballs occasionally, for eight minutes. Uncover the pot and continue to cook, reducing the heat as necessary if the sauce is boiling too rapidly, until the meatballs are springy/bouncy when pressed with your fingers and cooked through and the sauce has reduced, 8 to 10 minutes.

7. To serve, pick the leaves of the remaining mint, scatter the leaves over the balls with more Parm, and drizzle generously with olive oil. Serve with garlic-rubbed toast alongside, if desired.

Bite-sized munchkins with ricotta cheese

Maple ricotta munchkins

I’ve never been much of a doughnut fan. A controversial take, I know. But before you throw this book into the ocean (please don’t do that, it would really upset me), know that I’ve never said no to a munchkin. It’s something about their perfect bite-size shape. These aren’t really doughnuts, anyway. Ricotta cheese gives them an ethereal, fluffy texture that takes them to an entirely different doughnut plane of existence. Let’s go there together, shall we?

Ingredients, serves 12-15

1 orange

227g fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 large egg

Rapeseed oil, for frying

60g plain flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp granulated sugar

3 tbsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

56g powdered sugar

Method

1. Get your oil going. Fill a large casserole dish or heavy-bottomed pot with enough rapeseed oil to achieve a depth of 1.5 inches. Set over medium heat and heat to 190C/375F, checking periodically with a thermometer.

2. Prep the doughnut batter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the plain flour, baking powder, and a quarter of a teaspoon of salt.

3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta cheese, egg, granulated sugar, one tablespoon of maple syrup, the zest of one orange and the vanilla extract. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones with a rubber spatula until the batter is thick and well combined.

4. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels and set a rack inside the sheet. When the oil has reached 190C/375C, use two large spoons or a small ice cream scoop to drop heaping tablespoons (about the size of a golf ball) of batter into the oil – enough to fill the pot without overcrowding. Fry until the doughnuts rise to the surface, the bubbling begins to mellow out, and the doughnuts are deeply golden brown, four to six minutes. They will likely flip themselves as they fry, but if not, encourage them to do so by gently nudging them with a slotted spoon. Transfer to the wire rack to cool slightly. Repeat with the remaining batter.

5. Glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, the remaining maple syrup, a good pinch of salt, and lots and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Add a squeeze of juice from the orange to thin the glaze to a drizzle-able consistency. When the doughnuts are no longer piping hot, dip them into the glaze, rolling them around to coat. Transfer to a plate and eat while still warm, if poss!