Labor Day, End of Summer Blues? Just Preserve It!
Check out Mason Jar Coleslaw, Peach Apricot Ginger Preserves and more. Just pack up the last of summer in a jar and don’t be blue……
Welcome to the September 2008 Baker’s Stash, aka the Back to School, Summer’s Done, Football Tryouts, New Hockey Skates, and Isn’t Rosh Hashanah Late This Year and Perhaps I Should Marry Kenny Loggins…..Issue of BetterBaking.com.
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Dear Fellow Bakers and Friends of BetterBaking.com,
I can’t speak for all of you around the world but for those of us in this wee spec of the map, hovering around eastern Canada, it has been a summer that was at once slow, then fast and then suddenly done. More like rumor of summer. I thought it was just me that noticed the endless rain and resultant shortage of sun but the baseball parents at the last game confirmed it. Collective whining can be so validating.
Actually I don’t mind the rain; I am rather partial a lot of weather (in both quantity and quality) but the rain did seem unduly persistent. Moreover there were none of those languid, hot, humid cluster of days wherein you dart from air conditioned mall to cooler cars with big sighs and ‘oh that heat!’ expletives. Summer was more like an extended spring that came to an abrupt halt, evidenced by a few recent, chilly mornings and eau d’autumn in the air, both making my Gap khaki capris look silly and Ugg boots de rigeur.
Similarly, much like the sun that played peek-a-boo for much of July and August, things in the romance department were a tad lean, possibly (this is the assessment of my gal friends) because my concept of ideal is also off the map. If I could invent a man, as easily as I do a cookie recipe, I would be all set. So I began thinking – always a dicey thing for this overly-wired brain, all things being possible, maybe the only solution to the dating drought is to stop dabbling and just ask Kenny Loggins out. This is not as preposterous as it sounds.
First, he’s single; (I’ve heard), and I’m single. He’s musical; I’m musical, although granted he seems a bit more devoted. He’s cute, age appropriate, and has a record of two long term commitments. He has kids; clearly, the man is viable. He’s a celebrity; I have some of my own renown which is to say lest anyone think I’m a stalker seeking fame by association, there are in fact, many people who know my Notting Hill Brownie recipe and Lawsuit Muffins. I’ve been on Martha Stewart Sirius Radio. Seriously. In other words, I’m somebody. I mean, we all are somebody but I’ve made some of my own tracks. In some circles, if we did appear as an item, someone, at least one or two people, might point and say, there’s that fabulous cookbook author with some-guy-I-don’t-know-I-think-he’s-a-musician, plays a Taylor acoustic guitar; might have done the song Footloose and some other neat music. Etc.
Of course – there’s the small issue of 3000 miles between us and I so much as look as a plane flying overhead I become nauseous. I find it hard to imagine I will take a train out west because if I do I will surely waylay myself in Montana on a City Slickers dude ranch which is my ulterior motive to traveling west by train to begin with. This is also why I like the movie, The Horse Whisperer – not for Robert Redford but for the vistas of mountains, hills and streams and horses. Magnificent. Plus, in Montreal, no one really cares if you make great biscuits. But I figure if I was out West, my stock would rise and I would be far more appreciated as per biscuit prowess.
But most important and probably what I should have opened with: it’s not just my notion – this Kenny Loggins thing. Thousands, perhaps millions of women over a certain age probably all email him with the same thought in mind: that they should really marry Kenny Loggins.
Well, why not?
You only get one go round and new age, spiritual, masculine (so rare; and I blame Oprah for stripping men of their precious Y chromosome), talented (it’s remarkable really), achieving men are not around every corner. But more than this – it is his music launched many a new life tangent for me at various crossroads I’ve faced. Somehow there’s been a Kenny Loggins (add a bit of Steely Dan, Michael McDonald) soundtrack behind it all. What a Fool Believes used to bring me to tears; This Is It brought me courage. The Real Thing is enough to illicit a shiver in anyone and Celebrate Me Home is absolutely poignant, Buckaroo Holiday is a dancer’s dream, and the short but sweet The Will of the Wind always makes me both restless and calm. Kenny Loggins also wrote a book called The Unimaginable Life, (still available on Amazon) that was ahead of its time. Way before people were talking egos, and pain bodies and soul mates – Kenny Loggins was already there. So, all things considered, you can say I owe him. I could, I suppose, bake him cookies or create a Santa Barbara Biscotti; become a baking roadie. Can a Northern Baker-Dancer-Writer find the place where the horizon stops shifting in the gaze of a pop rock star guy? Stranger things.
You see, this is what I do when I should be writing about polenta or white tea infused brownies or the miracle of flax seed. Of course, I don’t ask guys out which represents the first of what I imagine would have been a few roadblocks. Years ago, I pledged Hard-To-Get in a secret Jane Austen ceremony of my own making. Perhaps most cogent among all this is that Fate (who plays less hard to get) obviously had other plans for me and I had to shelve my Plan A. Somewhere between late spring, a no-show summer and this tender new fall, the Kenny Loggins notion quietly bit the dust. Instead, just as I was imagining the wedding menu (replete with a cheesecake sweet table on its own stage), I got swept away by a tango romance I had dismissed as a summer fling. It totally explains why I didn’t notice all that rain. And yes, I know, never kiss and tango. So I won’t. But once I hear that bandeleon play, especially in summer, under the trees, in a gazebo in the city, with little twinkling lights, I get lost; newly smitten with the music that has my soul and my heart and this time - a little more than that. So suffice to say, unless Mr. Footloose is figuring on learning to strut to an Astor Pizzaiola tango (as per De Niro and Duvall) as well as he plucks that Taylor guitar – I do believe I am spoken for. At the least, Kenny and I are not quite a done deal. Mind you, I can only speak for myself.
Speaking of music, I have some musical suggestions. I have made a very long playlist on You Tube which offers a ton of Broadway and off-Broadway music which is a real treat. I found this great version of Kenny Loggins singing The Will of the Wind http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkMKmR32FiA but also discovered this singing phenom, a girl that calls herself MissBroadwayDork. She sings the most expressive, ‘acted’ songs on the Net – it is incredibly riveting. But her voice? Incomparable. She has a huge variety of videos (new and old Broadway) to choose from but take a look at any one of them and tell me you don’t see a star in the making. Or at least, are not moved by her talent.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itZT69LUHbI&feature=related
The recipes this month include seasonal as well as just-for-fun, new recipes. Enjoy.
As always, happy baking, and wishing you a sweet and gentle start to your fall.
Editor and Host
This is a www.BetterBaking.com blue ribbon bread recipe. I make a version of it in all my cookbooks because it is that good, and that easy. This particular recipe? Over 6070 people have downloaded the recipe since it debuted online in 1998. Despite the use of a sponge starter - this bread is not complicated nor does it take days ahead preparation. A 'sponge' starter is a terrific in-between approach to bread that is more interesting than straight dough bread and less long (and therefore also good for novice bread bakers) than a true sourdough. However, this recipe still delivers a crackly crust, hole-laden interior, slightly sour, wonderful tasting French country bread that is so easy - it will quickly become the core of your repetoire. It also makes superb pizza dough. It's good to use organic flour as the sponge starter and then unbleached, white bread flour for the rest of the dough/recipe. This method gives you a mixer with dough hook or bread machine approaches (or hands of course)
Preserve us recipes!
Italian Plum Jam
With so many types of plums out there – you can use whichever plums you like.
A great combination.The addition of cranberries brings standard blueberry jam to new heights. The result is a deep scarlet preserve, loaded with flavor, featuring just enough blueberries to satisfy the blueberry lover and enough tart, red cranberries to make it special.
Mason Jar Homestyle Coleslaw
Perfectly balance between vinegar and spices. This is neither oil and vinegary nor creamy coleslaw but somewhat inbetween.
Need something to dip that warm fresh bread into? Hummus is what you’re used to but this North African spin on the chick pea, Middle Eastern approach to a bean spread, is dynamite. It uses fava beans (canned are fine). Touches of dried chili pepper, cumin, plenty of paprika an a touch of lemon makes this a deep brownish-red, spicier hummus. It’s a nice change from the tahini (sesame seed paste) laden ones. Use this on crackers, flatbreads, or alongside grilled chicken or fish. Or eat it plain, by the spoonful – it is smooth as silk, spicy, a little hot and just outstanding.
This makes a huge cake that is cut in squares and each dipped in fondant. It is reminiscent old-fashioned fondant squares, you may have had as a kid at family owned, old-fashioned bakeries. It is only ‘twinkie-esque” in that it is a rich, great yellow-white cake, with a ton of fluffy, bakery style frosting. This makes a huge batch but it freezes well and lasts for days, as fresh each day, each bite, as it is the first day. But if you want less cake, halve the recipe and make it in a 8 by 11 inch pan (but it will also be aless tall cake square, as a result). If you want to skip the fondant dipping, then serve it as a large sheet cake, sandwiched with icing – That way, it is more like a slab of birthday cake but still absolutely amazing. To make this more “twinkie’, use only shortening and artificial vanilla –sorry, but that is some of the commercial aspect of traditional twinkies. I prefer to use almost all natural ingredients but the choice is yours.
This Czech pastry has many different names and many European bakers make a variation on this sour-cream dough, filled with fresh and beautiful apricot filling. You can use other fruit fillings but to me, apricot is the perfect match for this tender, buttery, sour cream dough. In my recipe archives, there is also a recipe for a yeasted kolache, if you prefer.
Apricot Kolache (Yeast Version) Sour Cream Dough/Dough Filled Czech Hungarian Pastries)This traditional Czech pastry is one of the very first yeast recipes I ever tried. It is good with any filling but I prefer apricot jam or cherry pie filling. Many recipes for kolache dough exist but it is inevitably variations on a sweet, supple dough, often with sour cream in it. Kolache fillings can also be savory (such as shredded cabbage). This is a round of dough with an indentation. The indentation cradles the fruit filling. Pretty to look at and great with a pot of spice tea. Enjoy
Blockbuster sticks of crisp, buttery biscotti, fragrant with butter, vanilla, and graced with fresh orange flavor, and shot through with Swiss chocolate. Two different finishes come with this recipe – but even plain –these biscotti are the bomb. So many biscotti take nuts and that makes them sublime and extra crispy/buttery/crunchy but once in awhile, a nut-free, high flavor biscotti is divine. The finishing touches (two choices in this recipe) also make these totally bistro biscotti.
Oh wow. What else can I say about this extravagant prize winner?
I had another Sticky Toffee Cheesecake but somehow, it wasn’t over the top enough. Which is the whole point to STC – it has to be smooth, creamy, decadent, different and over the top. This is a gorgeous, high standing, brown-sugar tinged cheesecake that features chunks of Sticky Toffee Cake and is anointed with sticky toffee sauce. It is grandiose, rich and beyond wonderful.
Almost Cheskie’s Rugulah
If you enjoyed Cheskie’s Cinnamon or Chocoalte Bubka, you will swoon for these. Puffy, yeasted Rugulah that taste like Zabar’s whipped them up. So good, so easy, so different. I make these partly with Cinnamon Sugar and on some pastries are filled with diced up apple pie filling and some raisins for a Apple Raisin Rugulah/Danish. Heavenly. Note: no doubt Cheskies Bubka is dairy free and mine, does include butter and milk. To make it dairy free, you would have to use water (no milk) and unsalted margarine. But bubka, to me, should be rich, buttery, and flavorful and that means butter, milk and a generous hand with the cinnamon.
A moist banana cake, chunked up with chocolate bits, butterscotch chips and pecans, and then anointed with a sticky toffee glaze after baking. Scrumptious beyond belief! It is a dense but not heavy cake that is amazing at room temperature but even better chilled and cut into large hunks. Make sure the bananas you use are ripe -not totally black and oozing but not too perfect and fresh - you need the banana chunks to melt into the batter with the other good stuff.
Raspberry and White Chocolate Chunk Blondies
I am now thinking wild blueberries would make these even more wonderful. Actually, these are so good you could omit the berries, even omit the white chocolate and even the pecans and have just the best blondie in the world.
Perfect for September brown bagging it.
Perfect for fall.
Apple Cider Chicken
Coq au vin in an apple rendition. This is more seasonally correct anyhow. A bottle of bubbly cider, a mix of apples braise plump pieces of browned chicken. A brief oven sojourn and 45 minutes later – heaven. Use a mix of soft and tart apples or whatever is ‘in’ at the market. Change the apples as the season progresses. If you were out of cider, you could try a mild beer. Is this good? Some 2200 people have browsed and cooked this prize winner. It is awesome - ask Marla at the gym who made it 3 times in one week. I prefer this with wild rice
Italian Market Restaurant Soup with Chorizo©
This is one of my best soups. Of course, I always think and consequently declare that but this one is outstanding. The larger chunks of vegetables make it different than usual homemade vegetable soups as do the hunks of chorizo (cooked) sausage which give the soup a bit more body. You can leave that out if you like or want a vegetarian soup. I serve this in crockery bowls, with garlic croutons on top, au gratin with Asiago or small chunks of parmesan cheese broiled into the croutons, at the last minute. This is a good time to have a basil, parsley, and rosemary plant on your kitchen window sill. This is a taste of summer in any month. Mostly, this soup is a taste of legend. It is that good.
Kourabiedes or Greek Almond Cookies
Almonds and ouzo? Yup – a tender, delicate, nutty cookie that is the queen of the Greek Isles. Everyone has a version of this recipe; but this one hits all the rights notes of taste, texture and fragrance. Thick, dense, crumbly bundles of heaven. Perfect with Greek coffee or a pot of Darjeeling.
This is a big, bold, pastry-like buttery cookie, with asmearing of Nutella in the center that makes this utterly decadent. Present them in confectionary paper cups (muffin liners) or wrapped like amaretti in colored tissue.