February 2010 Baker's Stash
Beautiful Sugar Cookies Hearts, The Perfect Way to Warm Up February's Chill
Free!! Sugar Cookie Hearts
February is the month of love, which, considering it is chilly mid-winter in these parts, and the wind howls outside my home office, is a good thing. We can use some warmth. Of romantic love, I can say much or nothing at all – and for now, I will go with nothing at all. Instead, I choose to speak about familial love as well as that between friends - the people in the cast of the play of our lives.
Like many of you, beyond nailing another great muffin or cookies, I bake to say, ‘I love you’ in a quiet way. Or when the words get in the way, I choose to bake instead. It’s a more subtle, tender touch. Like most of us who see the kitchen as an alchemist, shaman’s place of worship, I’ve baked to cheer people up, to feed their ailing spirits, (or my own), and to court them back to smiles and better moods. But you don’t always get it right. The palates change without warning. Little kids, little palates. Then allergy palates, or bland food palates, and then suddenly only junk food will do, or the same old (Mac and Cheese, McDonalds?) is the only bill of fare. One wants protein, one avoids fat, and others have other issues. And it’s the same with friends. Who is not eating sweets these days or avoiding fat, dairy or gluten? And so those of us who say ‘I love you’ with our whisks and mixing bowls, must respond to another kitchen tango.
Without going into it, I will share that I am not always successful at quickly adjusting to change – especially as it affects my kitchen, which is the same as saying as it affects my heart and soul. So I get a bit disheartened when what was so adored, is now left on the plate or under the cookie dome. Or when appetites disappear altogether and what made me magical as a mom and chef now makes me (for lack of a better phrase) out of season.
And then I remember: I’ve been through other food sieges – other times when the recipe and dance of love changed. What do they say? If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. I can take the heat. So I take heart. They’ll come back – both family and friends – to the offerings of love. Either that or I will figure out a new menu with the same vibration of care as its foundation.
Classic French Madeleines and Madeleines, a Story of Cake and Love
I also suggest you run to rent Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, and its Latin counterpart, Tortilla Soup. EDMW is about a widower, chef father of three grown daughters. They all still live at home, are unhappy and itching for change (all four; both father and daughters) and the girls barely notice their dad’s magnificent meals. He cooks in a hotel kitchen but he cooks for his daughter, in his home kitchen, with love and craftsmanship – and this is how he loves them. Food is his voice and embrace and the one thing they also seem to reject. But then his own taste buds go on strike. The chef-father looses his sense of taste and must navigate his recipes by heart. Like Mostly Martha, both the original film (EDMW) and Tortilla Soup capture food on film like few others. But it speaks to family values and how families grow apart and back together, with the stitches re-adjusted but still as strong. Both films are about tradition, change, and how life billows and flows, just as you think it is stale or famished – something new takes flight. February is also Oscar month and that being the case, you'll find a great list of special food films. Later on in the week, I hope to share some terrific Valentine’s Day gift notions, in jewellery, journals and perfume.
In the meanwhile, creating, whether in baking or scent, words or dance is what I am as well as what I do. I can bake for others (as you do), and not be attached to outcome or eaters. Which is why I share the story Madeleines, a Story of Cake and Love and the (free) recipe for Classic French Madeleines with you, because of its whimsy and my feeling that most special recipes came about in a collision of love, creativity and visceral appetites.
Speaking of baking as the healing art, I might add that one of my testers –let’s call her Shelly – broke one leg and then an arm in two non-related accidents. Her bed was brought down to the kitchen and she became, as she wrote me, one very acquainted with the kitchen in a very special way. She baked a ton and in the doing, fell in love with flour again and convalesced. She’s been helping me in testing and all she can do is write how I’ve given her a mission that has helped. There’s also Em, a divorce lawyer somewhere in the State of Ilinois, aka the Cupcake Lawyer, who handles testy divorce cases and family law by day and at night, and on weekends, is testing cheese scones and Shoofly Pie and reports she is a floury, happy ghost and her soul is soothed.
There are many testers helping me and write to tell me, how it’s helping them. If recipes were tonics, they would be written on prescription bottles. I suppose this is also a good time to tell you yes, there is a new cookbook. I am proudly working on The Baker’s Four Seasons, complete with some original prose and poetry of mine, and those famed teas but mostly, a baker’s harvest of seasonal recipes. Fresh new recipes to suit each season. We bake like we cook, by the season. Why didn't I think of this before?! The book is due out in early 2011 and I am now a Harper Studio author, as well as a Whitecap Books and Oxmoor House author.
** New Subscription Policy at BB ***
We are also, at long last, changing subscription formats, hopefully around March 1st. There will no longer be quarterly subsciptions - just 6 month and Annual or 1 Year Subscriptions to BB (as well as the free newsletter and pay-by-recipe). And better news is: you can sign on anytime. No more collective sign-on times. Sign on anytime for a whole year or 6 months.
Oh, one last thing - In watching Tortilla Soup and Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, I was swept away by the meticulous lunches the chef character packed each day for a little girl. Neat, layered, gourmet treats. So, I've stocked up on all sorts of neat containers at the dollar store and been making lunches (for whoever), with renewed artistry and care. It's all very green and noble but the look of food, caringly packed as it is caringly made is a whole new level of 'just lunch'. It's a mini banquet. I would never foil and plastic bag it again for myself or anyone else.
If you're baking Valentine's Day treats, browse my recipes for cupcakes, fudge, biscotti, cookies and chocolate anything.
Happy February, happy Valentine's Day, don't forget Haiti nor charities at home base, and keep warm,
Author, Master Baker
Classic French Madeleines FREE!!!
Snack cakes, French style. A French classic immortalized, according to culinary legend, by Marcel Proust. Proust wrote of these "plump little cakes called petites madeleines". I have another theory about these cakes. Read the love story behind madeleines in Madeleines, a Story of Cake and Love
This is a gorgeous film inspired treat. It's in The New Best of BetterBaking.com, Whitecap Books, 2009 and being permanently retired to the book so last chance (buy the recipe, buy the book or rent the movie)
BetterBaking.com's Famous No Fat, All Flavor House Vinaigrette (C)
A sweet and tangy no fat (or low fat) vinaigrette that is bold on flavour and sticks to your salad. Don’t you dislike commercial low fat dressings with their weird taste and textures? I got fed up and invented my own. This recipe is only here for a short time so enjoy it now.
Earl Grey Brownies with Glossy Earl Grey Ganache Glaze
Love the tea, love it in these decadent brownies.
All your lovin’ in a golden little cake.
Love is never black and white
Cake Mix Cinnamon Buns
I heard about a bakery that somehow combined cake mix and a yeast dough to make great cinnamon buns and was intrigued to try my own version. Wow! This recipe makes a light, almost feathery cinnamon bun. Chill overnight and bake off first thing in the morning for fresh buns by the time The Sunday New York Times arrives.
Still the best thing ever – rent the DVD and munch on these silken treats.
These Porcupine cookies are not my recipe but from the Jalapeno Café which proports these as the porcupine cookies, but smaller, from the delightful movie Tortilla Soup.
There are countless versions of this wonderful soup. Good job it is so simple. This is totally amazing soup; one spoonful transports you to Anywhere, South of the Border.
Belgian Milk Chocolate Chip Scones !!!!
Who doesn't like smooth, Belgium chocolate in a scone.
Yeasted Cheddar Cheese Scones
Cheddar stuffed quick rolls or scones – somewhat of a hybrid, these are fantastic fresh and even better, toasted and buttered.
French Chocolate Cookies
Decadent little bites that put Twilight nibbling to shame
Beer and Cheddar Biscotti
Not everyone likes sweet - some like savory bites.
Best Ever Key Lime Tart
The famed pie from Heartburn
Carrot Cinnamon Raisin Bread
If you like the flavor elements of carrot cake, you'll enjoy this perky loaf. Good with cream cheese sandwiches, or toasted with honey and butter.
White Chocolate Vanilla Cheesecake
It’s Valentine’s Day Month, you gotta have cheesecake.
A silky, dark chocolate wonder - somewhere between a cake and a torte, this deep, moist cake features fresh raspberries, raspberry eau de vie (if you have it; otherwise use a bit of raspberry extract) and is topped with ganache and dusted with cocoa for a truffle effect. Scharffen Berger, Callebaut or other fine quality, great melting semi-sweet chocolate is best.
Food Film Fest! Some of my best picks in food films
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
Like Water For Chocolate
Julie and Julia