Cookbook Recipe Testing, Vol. 4

Welcome to another post in my Latest Recipe Testing series, and the 4th post specifically about testing cookbook recipes. See volume 1volume 2, and volume 3.

close-up overhead photo of brownies and blondies.

I love sharing behind-the-scenes peeks with you. Producing quality and well-tested baking recipes is a lot of work, but I’m grateful I can call this my job. Thank you for being here, and for joining me on this baking journey. Let’s dive into some exciting cookbook news!

4th Cookbook Coming September 2025

If you haven’t seen it yet, I’ve been sharing a lot of behind-the-scenes about my cookbook on my website and Instagram account. I’ve been working on this book for 2+ years so far, and it’s going to be my biggest, most polished book yet: 100 recipes covering many baking categories like breads, pies, cakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, cupcakes, and more. It will be in your hands September 2025, and after pouring my heart and soul into this project, I’m confident saying that you can expect the best.

Sally styling a French toast casserole scene.

And it feels so nice to be sitting down and typing this…

I mean, unbelievably nice…

My Manuscript Has Been Submitted!!

This manuscript took me over a year of intense work to write. (And 2 years of developing recipes!) Though this is my 4th cookbook, producing this one felt very different. Since my last cookbook in 2017, I’m now 7 more years into my career, I have children, I have a bigger audience and team, I’m with a new publisher, and I have more experience in the kitchen. I felt more self-induced pressure, and I really had to dig for some creative inspiration.

I found it, and I’m really, really proud.

The manuscript is out of my hands and with my editor. I feel a very large 75K-word weight off my shoulders!!!!

Not only am I the author of the book, I’m also the photographer. This past spring, I photographed my entire cookbook with a team of professional stylists: prop stylist Giulietta, food stylist Diana, plus my video and lifestyle photography team, the Paragraphic. (More on that to come!) Right now, I’m finishing up some step-by-step photography and then the book will really be out of my hands. Ahh!

behind-the-scenes photo of Sally taking photo of cinnamon rolls.
behind-the-scenes photo of Sally styling a quiche scene.

Since I’ve been so immersed in this book, you haven’t seen a lot of new material on my website the past 6 months. My brain is usually frazzled (I have young kids on top of all this… LOL), so I gave myself a lot of time and space to create exciting material.

I took a few breaks over the past month, and now I’m pumped to get back into developing new content for my website. (I send out updates and recipe collections on the regular to my email subscribers, so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already.)

Let Me Show You Some Recipe Testing & Results

A handful of recipes in the book will be from my website, but most (about 75) will be completely new and exclusive to the book. I don’t want to give too much away, but at the same time, I’m thrilled to show you how some recipes came to life.

The last I left off, I was nearly finished with the Pies chapter, and ready to dive further into the Cakes chapter and the Brownies & Bars chapter. I ended up adding a few extra recipes to the Pies chapter, changing a recipe in the Yeast chapter, and probably made 600 other small changes to the Table of Contents that I can’t remember at this point. It’s been a chaotic few months!

peach-topped pie.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the recipes you’ll see in the book. This is not the photography for the book; these are photos taken for reference.

The peach pie above is a test recipe that ended up working on the 4th try. It’s a lightly sweetened creamy peach delight with a crunchy crust, and probably one of my favorites in the book.

Millionaire Bars

Have you ever had millionaire bars before? They’re a decadent layered bar with a shortbread crust, thick caramel center, and rich chocolate topping. The caramel layer took the most work because it’s difficult to strike the perfect balance between gooey caramel and sliceable caramel. I’m happy to report that this recipe worked on the 3rd try, but we certainly went through a lot of butter that day. These are VERY rich… hence the name.

millionaire's bars.

Probably the Best Bread I’ve Ever Made

When I thought I was finished with a glazed pull-apart bread recipe, I decided to give it one more go. What you see below is a fluffy, flaky, walnut-studded, glazed bread. It was wonderfully delicious:

maple bread.

But I had a feeling I could intensify the flavor (maple) and thicken the glaze. The resulting pull-apart bread is one of the best homemade treats I’ve created. I actually said those words to my team member, Beth: “This is the best thing we’ve ever made.” LOL.

I’m excited for you to try this one.

maple pull-apart bread.

Sad-Hat Cupcakes Into Hi-Hat Cupcakes

Ahh, the day my marshmallow-like meringue just wasn’t working. It was humid outside, and the meringue was stubborn—it wouldn’t reach stiff peaks. I tried, believe me!

Hi-hat cupcakes are frosted cupcakes that you dip in chocolate. I rushed through the frosting, knew very well that it was droopy, and wound up with a sad, deflated mess! Apparently I’m as stubborn as this meringue was.

frosted cupcakes with frosting that has melted.

I finally decided to switch the frosting to something a little more stable, and something that tastes unbelievable with the other flavors in the actual cupcake:

frosted cupcakes.

I ended up freezing the frosted cupcakes briefly so they could dip flawlessly. Here they are the day we photographed the step-by-step photos:

behind the scenes photo of Sally with chocolate-topped cupcakes.

Baked Alaska-Inspired Treat

Don’t worry, the marshmallow-like meringue was redeemed! Here I tested it on a Baked Alaska-inspired treat complete with peanut butter ice cream. This is DELICIOUS and you’ll find it in the Pies chapter:

Baked alaska with peanut butter.

Super Fudgy, Chewy, & Thick Brownies

I have made PLENTY of brownie recipes before. My goal for this book was to offer a recipe that produced a 9-inch-square pan of fudgy, chewy, and thick brownies made with cocoa powder.

Though I adore brownies made with actual melted chocolate, brownies made with cocoa powder are a little easier, and provide exceptional chocolate flavor. I tested recipes with Dutch-processed cocoa powder, natural cocoa powder, with a mix of butter and oil, with a splash of hot water to help bloom the cocoa, with more flour, less flour, and pretty much every variation in between.

brownies compared together with notes on variations in recipe.

It was a CHOCOLATE HEAVY week. I’m excited to share this new brownie recipe, and it’s also a fantastic base for other bars like brookies and layered brownies. (I have a couple of those in the book, too!)

I’m going to share some behind-the-scenes about the massive cookbook photo shoot soon, so stay tuned.

Q: Which of these new recipes are you most excited to try?

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