A Note From Marcy - May 2006
The Pride and Pastry Issue or Tea With Jane
Dear Fellow Bakers and Friends,
Welcome to the May Issue of BetterBaking.com, otherwise known as the Pride and Pastry Issue, in honor of one of my favorite authors.
Don’t you find May is a perfect take-your-breath pause between the busy-ness of April (Taxes, Easter, Passover, exams, etc). By contrast, May is just a fresh, seasonal balm of new flowers with all the potential of summer in the wings. May has those same inner shoots of promise, much like those in your garden, unfolding in tender green stems and tree buds, yellows and purple crocuses, and stray early tulips. May also makes me think of elegant entertaining in a ladies-who-lunch sort of way. I want to experiment with teas, prance through my aromatherapy and perfume supplies but mostly, find my hammock and tuck into yet another volume of Jane Austen. In that spirit, and the new Pride and Prejudice just out on DVD, and my own hankering for the days of manners and civility, I have created this Tea With Jane edition of BB. For baking goddesses, the May issue of BB is really an umbrella concept wherein I can share some treats with a decidedly British bent.
Unlike the baking of Jane Austen’s time, my recipes involve baking powder. In Jane’s day, the baking was largely yeast-raised for baking powder was only invented around 1860. In Austen’s time, there was also far less butter used and far less sugar (which was expensive). But if you put up a pot of wonderful tea, in a beautiful cup, alongside little but elegant cakes, cookies or pastries, I have no doubt you will enjoy the offerings which are in keeping with the tone of the mood at hand. In deference to the Austen-era table, the recipes in this issue are simple but nicely regal and I have no doubt something sweet or savory will inspire you. Don’t forget to try out the tea blends or the Lilac, Lavender and Rose talc too!
There is much written about the foods, as well as the manners and social culture, of Jane Austen's time. Lynne Oliver is the editor of one of many fascinating sites called The Food Timeline, wwwfoodtimeline.org and she can guide you to some amazing sources on Jane Austen and her time. I also recommend an interesting magazine called Jane Austen’s Regency World, available through www.worldmags.com. Edited by Sue Hughs, this periodical blends old and new days of Jane, so to speak.Overall, like stepping back in time. I also enjoyed The Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black & Dierdre Le Faye, The British Housewife: Cookery Books, Cooking and Society in Eighteenth Century Britain by Gilly Lehmann and a totally delightful cookbook called Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson, Jones Books. For matters beyond literature and food, there is a book with a contemporary resonance called, The Jane Austen Guide to Dating by Lauren Henderson, which blends literature, Jane Austen’s beloved characters and the social code of our own era.
Regency Madeira Cake
A simple, good, classic cake that has graced the English kitchen for a century or two. This is one for your sideboard; a currant-studded, moist loaf that pleads for a cuppa ‘o fine tea.
Use a lighter, more tender flour and you’ll have more tender scones. These are clouds, not scones – simply tiny gems of pastry that are art. Make them small and watch them disappear in a trace.
Stately cookies, circa Pemberley House. Just the right size (tiny as coins) and crispness for dipping into sweet wine after dinner. These keep indefinitely, especially if stored in a crystal cookie jar. Historically correct butter cookies, these would be very at home at a French pastry shop or New York’s Dean and Delucca.
Mr. Darcy's Wheaten Scones
Integrity comes in all forms. These scones are crusty, rustic bundles that are nicely wheaty and a touch oaty, and bursting with currants and Thompson raisins. Make them small for teatime or larger for a coffee break. Nothing beats this blue-ribbon recipe for a satisfying taste of grains with a flaky crust and surprising nuggets of sweetness in the layers.
Mr. Collins Raisin Tea Brack
A totally delightful, raisin stuffed fruited quick bread that never stales and pleases anyone who likes fruity loaves but doesn’t like red and green cherries.
Jane Austen Tea Blend
A hearty, spirited tea blend especially created for our Tea With Jane edition of BB. This is a heady mix of English Breakfast, Assam, Orange Pekoe, a touch of Darjeeling to smooth things over and a secret ingredient or two extra to make it more memorable. Isn’t this the perfect blend for Elizabeth or “Lizzie’ Bennet of P&P? It is all things……her. One sip both soothes and inspires.
Is this a tea or a potion? Is this a beverage or an oasis?
Pound cake with a bakery-style crumb topping. Delicate crumbed and as perfect at breakfast as luncheon or high tea.
Scrumptious. Sweet, laced with a touch of mace and orange, and topped with crushed or coarse sugar. You can take a trip to Bath, England or simply make them in your own kitchen. Gorgeous baking, incredible aroma. People in Austen’s books holiday in Bath but was it for the weather or the buns?
Smooth, creamy, decadent but rustic at the same time; nothing beats this treat on a chilly spring night.
Pure, light, golden layer cake. It is good iced, plain, for jam of split with custard.
It even makes superb birthday cake; the tastes of shortbread but with a grain.
Dark, moist demerara sugar 'from the Colonies' makes for sumptuous shortbread. If you don’t have it on hand, use dark brown sugar.
An outrageously tall and mighty apple cake! If you had Bramley or Pippin apples, they would make a very British apple cake. But any across-the-pond apple will do in this mouth-watering, miles high apple cake that keeps like a dream.
Pull Apart Cinnamon Almond Buns
A sweet center of gooey cinnamon-scented almond paste makes these
oh-so-tender little buns somewhat liked pedigreed (and dainty) cinnamon rolls but a little less effort.
Caramel Sticky Pudding or Pouding au Chomeur
Pudding Cakes have a legacy that goes way back. Easy, luscious, gooey and just the right combination of cake and syrupy pudding, this is when you have company in 30 minutes and only 5 minutes to spare.
Tiny morsels of golden cupcake-style cake, with pastel fondant on top makes these company treats or tea time perfection.
The quintessential little cinnamon bun from across the pond. Flaky, sweet, lighter than American cinnamon buns but still rich and buttery.
Big rounds you make in the griddle. Serve them warm with strawberry preserves or homemade McMuffin thingies, or as the foundation for a weekend batch of Eggs Benedict. If these weren’t so easy and so much better, I would say buy ‘em. But they are easy, far better and awesome to every last spec of their rustic crumbs.
Zesty, cheese-laden biscuits that never last, no matter how many I bake.
Imagine a little bread, served hot out of a cast iron pan, each with built-in holes to catch dripping creamery butter. Why imagine? Just make them.
The British and Indian connection in cuisine dates back to Colonial times. Mango Chutney is usually served in Indian restaurants as a whet; it is also good with pound cake, or slathered on fresh cream biscuit, scones or fresh crumpets. This is one of our most downloaded (non-baking) recipes ever!
Another recipe of a sort from Scent of a Baker. A bouquet to dust on when the baking’s done and the bath calls….
Tea and Gifts with Jane
Since May is somewhat gifty a month, I have discovered a cache of neat things for you or the gal pals or moms in your circle. First is the most beautiful deal of the year, from www.brokenchinajewelry.com. What is this exactly? In Broken China Jewelry’s owner/crafter Linda Carrigan’s own words:
Our mission is to take something broken and discarded as useless and bring it back to life. Starting with a broken china dish, I cut and grind each piece to a shape that best captures the feel of the image. I then frame and embellish the piece with a silver- tin alloy. It adds durability and sparkle without distracting from the beauty of the china itself. China tells a story of history that most everyone relates to. My goal always is to reach into someone's soul and bring out that special "memory" of their grandmother or someone special in their life, that china has a tendency to do. I also do custom work with broken family china.
Nothing is quite as unique or special as these Chinaware hearts that come on a wine colored silk ribbon. If you have your own heirloom China and have a cracked piece you couldn’t part with but had no real use for, here is a place to recreate something whole from something broken and have a new treasured heirloom. A perfect Mother’s Day Gift.
Wishing you all a glorious, merry month of May and as always, sweet times in the kitchen and happy baking,
Editor and Head Baker
Previous Monthly Essays from A Note From Marcy:
Essays to tickle your funny bone, wake up your inner baker, twinge on your heartstrings, or make you smile and say, ‘I’ve know the feeling; I know the place”. If you missed an essay, or a season in baking or inner sensibility, we invite you to stroll through our archived Notes From Marcy.
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