March 2008 Baker's Stash
Classic Buttermilk Irish Soda Bread
Big, fat Thompson raisins stud this bread that bakes into a dream. It features white and whole-wheat flour and touches of bran and oatmeal, plus fresh buttermilk, and a wee lashing of butter. It’s so rustic you’ll be speaking with a brogue before the loaf is done.
Dear Bakers and Cooks and Friends of BetterBaking.com,
March is that Everything month. It's: Beware the Ides of March, the In Like a Lamb and Out Like a Lion warnings, flying soda breads, tipsy Irish whisky cakes, spirited apple pies and stray hamantashen....month. So much baking, so little time. It is a baking flood of the best sort – a mid-winter fest of temptations. But who could mind such a richesse? Besides which – both St. Pat’s and Purim are two of my favorite baking holidays.
I have a definite penchant for Irish recipes as those of you have my newest cookbook have noted. Why is that? Hmmm. Alas, not everything about this baker is for public consumption but suffice to say, the magic of the green captivated me lifetimes ago – for reasons that make sense and those that are purely mythic and mystical. Let's call it a baking-soul quantum leap. Beyond my personal bent, what’s not not like about rustic breads, bulging with fat raisins and tangy with buttermilk, Irish whisky soaked cakes and decadent Irish mist brownies, and a Guinness laced stew? I also know how to spread the Irish cheer. This week, I tested so many Irish Soda breads that the overflow had to go somewhere. Where else but my neighborhood Irish pub, McKibbons. I've only been to McKibbons on St. Patrick's Day when the music goes through the roof and the mood is unbelievably warm, happy and contagiously so. But I made them a special early visit and bestowed their staff and management with warm soda breads and a batch of Bailey's Irish Cream Brownies. I swear they did a jig. Never saw such smiles (nor surprise). I would have brought the treats to the gym but the muscle guys do seem a little more chunky lately. (They blame it on the February sweets and test samples I showered them with; I think they have to lay off the protein supplements)
As for Purim, this is a surprising thing. For over a decade, the hamantashen recipes on the site are only as downloaded as American Thanksgiving desserts. In fact, it’s a tie. Seems no one can resist hamantashen. Little cookie crisp triangles of pastry, filled with all sorts of amazing fruity fillings. They are addictive, easy to do, and keep for days. Like Irish Soda bread, hamantashen is something you will want to make tons of to give as gifts (which is actually the point of Purim). There are fillings here to suit any and everyone and as always, my favorite dough, The Almost Like a Bakery Hamantashen Dough.
Oh – lest I forget! Take a look at my friends at Love Potions – the most magical perfumers I know. I hope to be working with them soon, designing some of my own Scent of a Baker perfumes. For now, they’ve come up with a Hamantashen Perfume http://www.lovepotionperfume.com/perfume-Purim.html. This majestic, feminine perfume would do Queen Esther proud. It is brimming with a scent of fruits such as plums, peaches and notes of butter and vanilla – wearable (fat free) hamantashen.
BetterBaking.com also is proud to welcome a new partner in our BB Test Kitchen, Gay Lea, the pure butter folks at www.GayLea.com. Over the next couple of months, in honor of Gay Lea’s 50th Anniversary, I am creating special heritage, butter-based, recipes- one a month (free) to celebrate with our butter friends and their fine product. This is an Ontario-based butter and dairy company so if you are in Ontario, parts of Quebec or close enough (Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, etc.) to go border shopping, I encourage you to stock up on fabulous, sweet and salted, pure butter from Gay Lea. It is making the BB Test Kitchen sing. But we will also keep you updated on the newest, free recipe I create each month. The recipe will be available only at the www.GayLea.com website.
Speaking of butter, something in a bubka? My dearest friend and gracious colleague, aka, a baking queen, Rose Levy Beranbaum is celebrating A Passion for Baking and my bubka recipe with the recipe, an unbelievable photo of said bubka and a most generous commentary. Please visit Rose’s blog to read all about it. http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2008/02/bubka_bliss.html
I’ve known Rose since I first began baking professionally and before that, as a reader, as you are, of fine baking features and cookbooks. Rose has sat in my kitchen and had coffee and honey cake and we’ve corresponded for years. Like you, she’s inspired me in the kitchen and flour arts. Like me, she also dances, is a bookworm, a jogger, a swimmer, a musician and an artist (on some days, an architect). She is also an award winning cookbook author and baker. Clearly, this is not mere Cake Bible goddess; this woman is pure Renaissance stuff. No wonder she was recently immortalized in a passage in The Florist’s Daughter. But take a look at my bubka, on Rose's blog, done a la Rose. The photo alone is art. Thank you Rose - you are well-named.
I was also a guest again on Martha Stewart Sirius Radio on Valentine's Day. It was a great 15 minutes and I was asked to create Oreo Truffles. I might. There is also more radio next week. For those of you in Scottsdale, Arizona, stay tuned. I will be on KXAM 1310 on Tuesday, at 2:00 EST. I think that is it. At least, I hope so.
It's true, I am fond of Irish baking but that notwithstanding, this is one of my most special issues ever. The recipes are so caringly created and tested. Each and every recipe is a gem - worth their ransom in butter and magic. I cannot always promise you such a harvest (nor photos: batteries died, memory chip overloaded, computer snagged, broke two Irish soda breads in half during photo shoot, and slid on Bailey's Irish Cream ganache floor slick and hydroplaned into my piano...but otherwise, to bake, create, write, photograph, web master and attend court proceedings on electronic rights and writers....is a cinch. Virtually.)
Finally - I am done baking..and off to tango or my audition at the Lord of the Dance tryouts.The mood is high these days. There's an added crispness to the air as you feel winter buckle. Something is stirring. It's that green hopefulness (new wheat, tulips, buried snow shovel?) under the snow. No wonder I feel a bit of Irish in my step. Or maybe it's just spring. It might as well be. That lilt and lightness of spirit is yours too - for the asking. It starts with a soda bread or a nip of Bailey's (or O'Casey's) Irish cream and a hamantashen and just a great, big breath of relief that winter - is one storm or two away from being .....done!
Wishing you sweet times, and happy baking,
Host and Master Baker
Established 1997Old Fashioned McCann's Irish Oatmeal with Vanilla and Maple !! Free!!
These are the real deal. Make a big batch once a week and store it in the fridge. Then scoop out as much oatmeal as you need, microwave for a minute and lace it with milk. The mellow taste of vanilla and maple showcase the natural, buttery taste of the oats. Real oats lower your blood serum cholesterol and a small bowl anchors your appetite so that you don’t have cravings or snack your way to lunch. McCann’s Irish Oatmeal is the best for this; it still comes in a beautiful collector can/tin of white, gold and black. Visit www.mccanns.ie to find out where to purchase the oats that hail all the way from Naas, County Kildare, Ireland.
Guinness Irish Stew with Puff Pastry Cover
What could be better than a rib-sticking, deep-flavoured, hearty stew, with a buttery puff pastry ‘hat’ to tuck into? This is perfection from an Irish-spirited, if not wholly Irish, chef.
Bailey’s Irish Cream Brownies
These brownies are so good you’ll hear about it from Kilkenny to Kildare to Kansas. It’s not the pipes are are a-callin’ ya –it’s the sinfully decadent brownie with an Irish kiss. You can use Bailey’s Irish Cream in these or O’Casey’s Irish Cream. Irish cream liqueur is a blend of Irish whisky, pure Irish cream, and touches of vanilla and hints of chocolate. Classic Bailey’s Irish Cream now comes in a chocolate or caramel tinged version but the classic is what you need in this recipe. (Irish Cream is pure Irish whisky, with pure Irish cream, and vanilla, among other things – it is heavenly) This is a brownie which is about the best brownie on its own. Then you doll it up with a unique Irish Cream ganache which looks like icing but tastes like a molten truffle. Then, if you are in love or just want to be extra nice to those around you and want to go the distance, you offer a puddle of warm sticky toffee sauce on the side. You have three options and all will bring you luck and your own entourage. It’s a baker thing. (For gift giving, bring the sticky toffee stuff in a jar and just box up the brownies, with the special Irish Cream frosting and a shamrock).
Irish Cream Whisky Apple Pie
A sour cream flaky dough cradles an apple, Irish cream and brown sugar coated apple filling. This is beyond delicious; beyond comforting. It is an instant heirloom pie – whether you hail from the green isle or not.
Irish Soda Bread Scones
Soda bread nod in a buttery, rich scone. If you like soda bread taste but prefer a richer, more scone-like approach, this is the perfect recipe for you.
Follow the fellow who follows the recipe. Impish, pastel-colored sugar cookies are another sort of gold at the end of the rainbow. Roll up a stack of different colored doughs into a log. Then slice in round cookies, and then half again to form rainbow shapes and bake. These are bakery style, dense, buttery and crisp cookies that capture your eye and your heart in a single glance. Bake an extra batch for Finnegan. I used pink, yellow, lilac and green tints but you can use whatever hues you like (just green dough and white dough is perfect). Shortening gives this that bakery taste but all butter is always better.
Cream Irish Breakfast (Assam) Tea Blend
This is Irish magic in a tea blend. It is loose tea, with some amazing touches that turn this into a beautiful gift or hostess tea. It starts with strong, pure Assam tea leaves and then…..The rest is a secret. If you can find longer or full leaf Assam (as opposed to the finer tea leaves), that is better.
An Extra Bit of Mid Winter Baking
Woolworth’s Fudge Cake
I don’t know about you but the Woolworth’s around here used to have its own bakery. Scratch baking, old fashioned stuff like cupcakes, blueberry pie and corn muffins and brownies. The also made a diner style, lofty fudge cake that slices like a dream. It wasn’t too sweet – the icing was sweet enough –but it was so good! Woolworth’s is gone from the vista but the memory of homey, commercial but tasty baking remains – yours for the enjoyment in this wonderful vintage styled, but contemporary recipe I created from memory buds.
Bistro Pear Pie
Don’t overlook this pie!The French adore their pears but we Yanks and Canucks tend to somehow ignore the peartopia of Anjou, Comice, Bartlett, Bosc and crunchy, juicy Asian pear. With so to choose from, why not perk up your winter with this is a lightly spiced pear pie in a sweet pie crust that has an added streusel crisp. This is one outstanding pie that never made it out of the test kitchen to civilian tasters.
Triple Butter Cream Buns
What tastes like croissants, is as easy as pie, and bakes up as fast as Pillsbury crescent rolls? Triple Butter Buns. I won’t kid you – these are rich but fabulous. Note the technique in this recipe which calls for both salted and unsalted butter. If I tell you around here, they will beg for this recipe versus chocolate chip cookies, cheesecake and brownies, it would not be a fib. It’s a “when or when are you going to make those amazing buns again’…..sort of deal.
The Purim Connection
More fillings, best ever dough, it’s Purim party time!
Mixed Berry Filling, Mango Apricot Filling
Almost Like a Bakery Dough - It's a Whole New Purim
Famous! Bakery Style Hamantashen Dough
Hamantashen begins here. This dough, made with shortening and butter, yields a light, cookie-like pastry which is similar to the hamantashen you might expect to find in a commercial bakery. If you require a dairy free dough, simply use all shortening or non-dairy margarine (instead of butter and shortening). You can also use this dough to make cookie triangles - "mock" hamantashen - for children who prefer unfilled cookies. Brush with egg wash and dust with plain sugar or collared sprinkles
Bubbie’s Orange Oil Classic Hamantashen Dough !!! FREE!!
Homey and also traditional, this orange-scented dough made with oil is extra quick and easy - a bowl, wooden spoon and two hands are tools enough, and the one you'll probably most associate with your grandmother's famous recipe.
Fresh Yeast Challah
This is what happens when new age meets Old Testament – a paradise flavoured filling. This is sublime. I use iced Green Tea in the can but orange juice is also fine. Try and find California dried apricots –they make a huge difference in this filling.
Pineapple Mango Hamantashen Filling
This is tangy and tropical. You could add finely minced toasted macadamia nuts if you like.
Mixed Field Berry Hamantashen
Costco (around here) is selling bags of mixed dried fruits including sour cherries, sweet cherries, dried raspberries, cranberries and blueberries, conveniently in one mix. This recipe uses a mixed, dried fruit base for the most meadowy, freshest hamantashen around.
Dried Strawberry Hamantashen Filling
Dried strawberries are the dried sour cherries or the new millennium. Once hard to find, I got a package at Costco and most recently, at a Middle Eastern food store nearby. This makes a sunrise hued filling, mellow with apricots and perked up with a ton of beautiful dried strawberries
Fresh Blueberry Hamantashen Filling
Think blueberry Danish but in a little, crisp, hamantashen packet.
My Special Chocolate Peanut Butter Hamantashen Filling
Match this with regular or chocolate hamantashen dough.
Chocolate Hamantashen Dough
Chocolate hamantashen make for a nice change and they're perfect for kids who may not care for some of the more tart fruit fillings. You will find chocolate hazelnut paste(aka Nutella, but there are other brands which are kosher) in the peanut butter and jam section of most supermarkets. Or use this in the Chocolate Peanut Butter Hamantashen recipe in my Complete Recipe Archives.