Claudia Fleming is back with a new cookbook and this time around, it’s all about home baking. The legendary pastry chef and author is most known for her work at Michelin-starred Gramercy Tavern, but North Forkers know Fleming best as the former owner of the North Fork Table and Inn, which she founded alongside her late husband Gerry Hayden in 2005.
It’s been over twenty years since the release of her first book, “The Last Course.” Reissued in 2019, the cookbook highlights innovative dessert recipes — like her legendary chocolate caramel tart — from her career as a pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern. Since then, the book has become a holy grail among pastry chefs with original copies reselling online for more than $200 each.
Her new cookbook, “Delectable: Sweet and Savory Desserts,” on sale at Bookhampton, is an ode to home baking.
During the coronavirus pandemic, when restaurants shut down and people were isolated in their homes, many turned to baking for comfort. Cooped up in her own home, Fleming too used this time to experiment in her tiny kitchen. There, without any professional equipment, she found freedom in being able to bake without the constraints and standards of fine dining.
“I didn’t have to develop something fancy for a fine dining restaurant, it didn’t have to fit into a particular style, and it didn’t have to satisfy a particular need of guests,” she explained. “It was all just very selfish and what I wanted.” The result? A cookbook with over 40 of Fleming’s favorite sweet and savory recipes that can be made from almost any kitchen.
“The point of going to a restaurant is that it’s something that you can’t do at home,” said Fleming. “The point of this book is just the complete opposite — it’s things that you can do at home and hopefully they’re simplified enough where they’re not at all intimidating.”
The cookbook is also in part an exploration of Fleming’s Sicilian heritage. Pizzelles, taralles, and escarole pie are just a few of the Italian recipes featured in the cookbook, each adapted from the recipes of loved ones or inspired by her childhood. “My grandmother would make Caponata — every August or September we’d make a massive batch of that, so I made a tart out of it,” explained Fleming. “Being French trained and working in fine dining, I was pretty snobby about my approach to desserts. This kind of gave me the ability to go back to some of my childhood desserts that I had growing up.”
Fleming shared one of her favorite recipes from the book — savory pretzels with everything bagel seasoning.
A Note from Fleming:
“I really like pretzels, but until recently it had never occurred to me to make them. As soon as the idea hit, I realized I needed to do some research. I learned that traditional Bavarian pretzels are dipped in lye before baking—that is what gives them their distinctive, slightly mineral-y taste. That seemed a little much in my tiny kitchen, so I was happy to discover that Harold McGee suggests a method for concentrating the alkalis in bak-ing soda in his book On Food and Cooking. He bakes the soda, then adds it to the pretzels’ pre-bake water bath, successfully mimicking the effect of the acid. Start this dough a day ahead.”
Claudia Fleming’s pretzels
- 7 grams active dry yeast (.25 oz)
- 1 tbsp molasses
- 320 grams bread flour (11.2 oz, or about 2 cups plus 3 1/2 tbsp)
- 100 grams rye flour (3.5 oz, or about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup sparkling water
- 28 grams unsalted butter (1 oz) diced and at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
- 6 grams Diamond Crystal kosher salt (2 tsp)
- 5 tbsp baking soda
- 1 large egg egg beaten
- 4 tbsp savory mixed seeds or sea salt for finishing