The March Break Baking Issue
Featuring Free Recipes from Mom's Recipe Collection and More.....
Free Cherry Cheesecake, Plum Tart, and Date Squares from Mom -
Plus Luck of the Irish Baking, and the Best Hamantashen Round Up Ever!
Dear Bakers and Friends,
Welcome to the March 2009 Issue of BetterBaking.Com
Just a reminder that the 6 month recipe subscription shore leave starts today (6 months subscriptions). If you are renewing or considering subscribing, it is all sussed out on our To Subscribe Page. There are currently just under 2500 original recipes on the site. Each month I showcase some favourites as well as new recipe creations such as this month’s Guinness Corned Beef and the Black Olive Biscotti. For those who also asked where they can see a quick run-down of previous months’ recipes and editorial are stored, just go to: http://www.betterbaking.com/viewArticle.php?article_id=191.
So, how do you take your March break? Straight up or with a little nostalgia by way of this jaunty recipe box that graces this issue? As the merry month of March strolls in with its variable weather (talk about ambivalence - March makes it an art form) you can head with other snow birds to Florida or stay consistently cozy in your baker’s temperate zone where it is always a balmy 350 F with sunny skies and a cinnamon sunset. It is the original Spa Cuisine.
Speaking of a March Break bake fest and things nostalgic, do you remember your mom’s recipes and that hallowed recipe box? Sometimes it almost pays to be a boomer. In lieu of computers and recipe software, back in the day, many of us grew up with recipes written out on cards, (yes, real paper) kept in recipe boxes, stored on a counter, near the phone and kitchen message center. Nowadays, a recipe box is vintage stuff. Nothing beats an old-fashioned recipe box, with the crisp index cards lined up inside, replete with grease stains and vanilla spills. Every second card had penciled in comments, attesting to a recipe’s popularity (‘Kids love this’) or lack thereof (‘This recipe is good but a lot of work.)
I have both recipes boxes from my mom, as well as her massive white cookbook called Look and Cook, that has her name engraved on it. No doubt, it was a unique cookbook offering my mother sent away for in the days where a give-away was a significant gift. Although the cookbook is called Look and Cook there is very little ‘look’ – there are almost no pictures!
At any rate, what’s neat about the recipe boxes I am now guardian to is that despite their hominess my mother was hardly traditional. Family lore has that it was she who convinced Betty Freidan to dump domestic life and start a whole movement. Suffice to say, my mom was not and has never been the June Cleaver sort. But oddly, in conjunction with being a feminist ahead of her time, my mother did know both basic and advanced techniques in cooking and baking, was pretty talented at exotic or glamorous dishes, and still, to this day, has a good palate and a keen sense of culinary aesthetics. Alas, her moments in the kitchen were erratic (ceramics, figure skating, peace marches, modeling, film extra work, and world travel all called) and I took over the home fires when I hit high school. I acquired my chef's diploma at hotel school but some of my best training was probably in the kitchen trenches of home.
In my mother's recipe tin, (the one in this photo is the actual heirloom), there are tons of cards, in meticulous handwriting of recipes my mother thought exceptional. No slouch herself, she was generous enough to offer a compliment to another cook. The recipes must have been memorable for my mom to both request them and record them (neither email nor text messaging in those days). She also made these recipes with such regularity that they became part of her tried and truest. Consequently my brothers and I grew up with amazing oatmeal cookies, a plum tart, a wonderful cherry cheesecake, and date squares. By 14 years old, I started adding my own inventions to the repertoire but I still remember the homey goodness of my mom’s favorite things. Oh yes, while she doesn’t bake lately, my mom is definitely a force of nature as she ever was. Concerning my cookbooks, she credits me warmly, but asserts that there is no cherry cheesecake quite as good as hers. Her recipe is in this issue.
For your March break, I offer you some recipes 'from the box' that shape my baker’s path, as well as a bevvy of hamantashen fillings and a master dough. You can also welcome St. Pat’s (all month!) with yet other temptations. I figure a ton of you will head for the Bailey’s Irish Cream Brownies, the Irish Whisky Apple Cake or the Irish Cream Apple Pie but the Guinness Braised Corned Beef is about the best thing this side of the Atlantic.
With warm wishes from an even warmer kitchen, where all is well so far. Mind you, the March School break doesn’t officially start until Monday morning. As is keeping with tradition, I expect my baker’s oven to do double duty as a pizza inferno, or as likely: be pressed into service for melting plastic hockey sticks so that they can be bended into a perfect edge). Wen my test kitchen morphs from that sugar and spice scent of the village bakery to smelling like a DuPont plant – that’s when I know March break has truly started.
Editor and Hose
Mom’s Recipe Box Recipes
Mom’s Cherry Cheesecake !! Free !!
This is the cake my mother made for all our special events and wonderful parties we had. In the morning, after such a party, very little of this cake was left but just seeing the cheesecake pan, with remnants of cherry cheesecake, now a memory, sticking to it – was proof a great time was had and a deluxe cake was there, holding court.
Mom's Famous Plum and Custard Cream Tart !! Free !!
A bouquet of tart-sweet plums, held in place by a vanilla and lightly spiced tinged egg and cream custard. Warm up some apricot jam and brush it on as a glaze for a pastry shop finale. My mother actually made this with canned plums - which would be fine. This is spectacular in flavour and just a nice change from chocolate or cinnamon things. As I look at this recipe now, it occurs to me it is really a spin on Clafouti, the rustic French custard and fruit pie, often made with cherries. I don't recall that this pie (or tart) ever lasted more than an evening at our house. You can use the tart dough here or a ready made pie dough crust (if you are in a hurry); either is fine.
Mom's Date Squares !! Free !!
So wholesome, sweet and homey. You don’t realize how good they are until you make them and wonder what took you so long!
Sweet Cheese Kreplach FREE !!
Hamantashen are the traditional Purim treat that is a cookie or pastry with a hidden inner filling of fruit. But sweet cheese kreplach are another sort of Purim pastry that is just as welcome.
The BB Hamantashen Festival!
Layered Rugulah Squares
Traditional done a whole new way - the taste you love but half the work. A super March coffee klatch treat or a Purim stuffer.
Guinness Corned Beef
This is worth the price of the whole issue! Spicy, deep-flavored pub style Corned Beef.
It tastes like a cross between ribs and pastrami but it delectably corned beef!
Classic Irish Soda Bread
Still my favorite thing (discounting Apricot Danish). Besides, where else can you get real Irish Soda bread unless you bake one yourself?
Irish Whisky Apple Cake
Morsels of tender apples float around a vanilla and Irish kissed batter. This is a slicing cake that is ready whenever company drops by. All you have to do is cue a pot of Assam tea (that's Irish Breakfast Tea around here)
Irish Cream Apple Pie
A sour cream flaky dough cradles an apple, Irish cream and brown sugar coated apple filling
Texas Deep Chocolate Chunk Cookies
You can't go away without some serious chocolate! These are about the size of Texas – big bold, sprawling puddings of pure chocolate. You could make them small or medium sized. The only thing you could do wrong here is to not make them. This recipe makes one of those perfect textured cookies – dense, chewy centers, crisp edges – perfect
Free Recipe and News on My Cookbooks
Special occasions call for a new and celebratory cake to usher in the news. I am delighted to announce that both A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, and The Best of BetterBaking.com, my first two cookbooks, will be republished in spanking new editions, with a very special publisher, Whitecap Books, this October 2009. I will have more information on both cookbooks in an upcoming issue of BetterBaking.com. For those who looked for the books (even me) only to find them out of print and outrageously priced on Ebay and Amazon, you will be able to get a new copy of either or both books (both with added new recipes)
As for the new recipe offering, it is inspired by my son Ben who loves pie crusts but is not a fruit pie fan. He is however, a brownie addict. This is a tender, flakey pastry that houses the best fudge brownie filling possible. It is then totally encased with a thin top layer of pastry. There are more tricks to this easy, decadent dessert but let me just say, that dark chocolate with buttery pie dough is brilliant, good warm or cold, and worth an extra spin class.
Stay tuned for more news and see you in in the April edition of BB.
Editor & Author