March 2010 Baker's Stash, A Note From Marcy
Fresh from the BetterBaking.Com Kitchen Farm House Irish Soda Bread with Clabber
Full recipe collection for March is at www.BetterBaking.com, Baker's Stash
N.B. Sign on time….now or anytime, we now have annual subscriptions available and you can subscribe anytime; there are no longer restrictions (or just enjoy the free recipe of the month or via Twitter)
Dear Friends and Bakers,
Finally it’s here. It’s the March We Made It Through Winter month. No matter what the weather, if the calendar says it’s March, it’s alright by me. I don’t mind winter but who doesn’t feel lighter in spring? Perhaps I also feel lighter because my manuscript for my new cookbook, The Baker’s Four Seasons is just about on its way to the publisher. Thank you to all the testers who invested their hours, energy, expertise, eggs, and flour as well as their fine palates. Over 30 testers were involved in four seasons’ worth of recipes. I’ll keep you posted on the photo shoot and the publishing process. The book is due out Spring 2011. For now, I am just breathing a sigh of relief. At 500 single-spaced pages, this is some book. It’s Vivaldi’s Four Seasons but in flour and sugar.
The interesting thing about baking by the seasons is you wouldn’t think, when you bake, that it matters what the season is. These days you can get almost any fruit or ingredient at any time of year. So the implied sense of seasonality (not to mention the impact of global warming) has been redefined, especially in this last decade. That said, remind me if I do a sequel to this book, to test summer in summer. Seasonality does matter. For one thing, nothing beats fresh peaches in August to test peach recipes. For another thing, it’s easier to test recipes in the season you happen to be in. Not only is it about finding the ingredients at their optimal time but making peach cobbler and lemon ice-box pie in January or Brown Sugar Spice Scones in summer is a bit more of a stretch, in both mood and appetite. We do, as it turns out, have a seasonal palate to tend to. Just as we don't want a hot plate of stew on a sultry summer night, we tend to want a cupcake in August and a brown sugar apple pie in September. (ok, who am I kidding, we like cupcakes and apple pie anytime but you get the drift)
Nonetheless, the recipe offerings in this book are so lush it took double the time to test teach seasonal chapter. The book is slated to showcase 140 recipes; I had over 200 to test and choose the crème de la crème from. It took way more than four months (a season) to test each season so there was overlap. For instance, in winter, we were still testing fall recipes and now that it’s winter, we just wrapped up the second testing of summer recipes. Follow? Well, try to remember the kind of September when you were baking….and follow, follow, follow.
I hope you've enjoyed some of the Olympics - I am still transported by the Canadian Dance Pairs (skating) winners and the other heartwarming performances and stories of these Olympics. Another perk of late is The Bachelor is now over and we can relax. Is it just me or does anyone else wonder how 25 women can fall in love with the same man? Conversely, how can one man fall in love with 3-4 women, concurrently? It certainly makes me rethink the soul mate concept. How is it possible to ‘feel a connection’ so often, in such a short time? It takes me a month to get used to a new type font or chocolate chip - let alone 'feel a connection'. Actually I like The Bachelor; the show inspires me in ways too numerous to mention.
FYI I will be on Sirius radio on the Martha Stewart Everyday Food Show on March 17th and you can also follow me on Twitter and now the New York Times Cake Blog over at http://www.nytimes.com/info/cake/. It’s a neat microblog, part of the New York Times Open Topics Experiment that features blurbs on cake contributed by me as well as baking colleagues such as Rose Levy Bernambaum and other world-wide baking experts.
Irish Soda Bread and the Case for Memory Food
As you might note, my penchant for Irish baking flourishes each March. There is always a new and better way to another great soda bread and I am happy to share another batch or two, still hot and crusty from the oven, along with my favorite Guinness Corned Beef, which is as pub-styled a dish as you will get. To this wonderful mix, I’ve added some decadent new brownies, a touch of maple and some other new treats ensuring March comes in like a lion but will exit like a happy, and very full lamb.
When it comes to soda breads, they, like hamantashen, fruitcakes and honey cake and shortbread, have dibs on nostalgia. Whatever was your first experience in a certain food, even if it was horrid by comparison to better recipes along the way, one holds onto. In this month’s Bon Appetit Magazine, there are a few soda bread recipes brought to you by no other than once-Brat Pack actor, and Irish travel writer, Andrew McCarthy (Pretty in Pink?). He shares Mrs. O’Callahans Soda Bread. I looked at the recipe and it is good basic fare. I also made it. However, to me, it needs salt and more soda and I am not partial to margarine in my baking (and I still like raisins in my soda bread). But the recipe is rustic, hearty, authentically Irish and well, let’s face it, Mrs. O’Callahan has decades of making this fine bread and I don’t doubt her legion of loving fans. Moreover, I might be a honey cake pro but if I baked soda breads for three lifetimes of Sundays, I might never make it to the soda bread podium.
But here’s the thing. Even if Mrs. O’Callahan’s Soda Bread was the worst in the world (and this is not really the question at all) if that is what you had as a kid, you would find it the best. Because perfection – even what we deem exceptional, cannot possibly compete with nostalgia. This means in baking, and life, love trumps all. Content over form via the taste buds. Even the baking we love to hate (Aunt Bessie’s doorstop fruitcake), as the years go by, we start to love or at least, need to have in our lives – good or not. And such is what we bakers deal with – the psyche of our eaters and the reality of the food itself wherein the spirit meets and says yea or nay. If you appreciate that, you will never take offence to anyone who tells you your recipe for this or that is ‘not like so and so’s’. If so and so's recipe is what they had first - it’s not a fair food fight. But don't let it stop you from trying. Who knows, over time, it will become a new tradition and tradition, over time, waxes nostalgic, good or bad.
Wishing you the luck of the Irish in and out of the kitchen and always, happy baking.
Author, Master Baker
FREE!! Farm House Irish Soda Bread with Clabber
Most soda breads are great because they are plain and simple. This one is just that and farm house fresh with its lashings of pure buttermilk. I like it with painfully old white cheddar cheese, pickled onions and a steaming pot of Irish Breakfast Tea (aka Assam) from www.DavidsTea.com
Baby Irish Soda Breads with Baileys Irish Cream Glaze
These are soda bread-for-two sort of soda breads, wonderfully rustic but taken up a notch with a touch of vanilla and an addictive Irish cream glaze. To give as gifts, wrap a couple of these in brown paper or a pastry box with a green ribbon, or in two’s in a cello bag with a green ribbon and a side packet of Irish Breakfast or Assam tea. The eggs are optional since true Irish soda bread does not use them but the eggs also help these sweet soda breads conserve a bit longer.
Cream Irish Breakfast Tea
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 (especially if you pack it with a soda bread). It starts with strong, pure Assam tea leaves and then…..The rest is a secret. If you can find full leaf Assam (as opposed to the finer tea leaves), that would be optiomal.
Bailey's Irish Cream Apple Crisp
What could be better than a beautiful apple crisp, spruced up with creamy Baily’s Irish Cream or O’Casey’s Irish Cream. This brings this homey dessert to a new level. If you can find a retro, vintage or old-fashioned looking British pudding dish to bake this in, or those blue-stripped ceramics (which I believe are Irish in descent), that would be perfect.
Guinness Corned Beef
There are a million ways to make corned beef, from deli style to an Irish wash day classic. My recipe features a healthy douse of Guinness beer and is one of my all time favourite brisket or braised beef recipes. This recipe makes a reddish hued corned beef that is incredibly succulent. If I had to describe it, I would put it somewhere between the taste of smokey ribs and pastrami or Montreal smoked meat. It is spicy, a touch sweet, and deeply flavored due to the corning (spices and salt), slow roasting and the fabulous braising of dark Guinness beer.
Sweet'Sassy Honey Bee Gourmet Shop Mustard
This is the one to turn to for sandwiches with imported cold cuts or German style sausages and sauerkraut. Spicy and sweet. It makes a beautiful gift if you tuck it in a basket with a dry smoked sausage, fresh rye bread, imported beer or nippy cheddar cheese and fine water crackers.
My Favorite Cream of Leek Soup FREE !!!
How often is something elegant but hearty at the same time? This soup has it all. Offer some shavings of Asiago and French Hearth Rolls to make this the lunch special chez vous. A great way to use up harvest leeks. This is what leeks were born for. In March, this is a wearing of the green soup. After that, it is just classic elegance in a soup tureen.
Golden Cracked Wheat Bread
I should have made this years ago. It is so good! Cracked wheat (also known as kasha or bulgur wheat) gets thrown in a moist whole-wheat bread for the most fragrant, lofty, rustic bread ever. As always, make the dough in the bread machine but bake in the regular oven. Or use traditional dough making methods. This bread makes your kitchen smell like a professional bakery. The outside of the bread is grainy and crunchy;inside is whole-wheat clouds......
This cake is a cross between a muffin and a scone. It makes perfect coffee break food and an superb brunch bread. Freezes well.
Rainbow Cookies FREE!!
Look to the rainbow and follow the fellow who follows the recipe. Impish, pastel colored sugar cookies are another sort of gold at the end of the rainbow. Shortening gives this that bakery taste but all butter is always better. For some reason, these awesome cookies remain a most hit-on recipe at BB and it is a March/St. Pat's tradition to offer them free.
Famous Gingerale Bundt Cake
This is a secret recipe in so many communities and households. So many people seem to have a story to go with this great cake. This makes a tender, extremely flavorful cake. You can use lemon flavoring instead of orange or both. What makes this great is the emphatic, gorgeous flavor and it fairly sings with flavor and moistness of crumb. If you are out of gingerale, 7-Up would do fine. Gingerale Cake Cupcakes also work out well and for kids, slather it with white fondant and sprinkles for a whole new spin-the-gingerale-bottle cake.
Maple Crusted White Chocolate Chunk Blondies
Maple season is around the corner but this recipe beats the first sap to the punch line.Maple and white chocolate and nutty things – how could you go wrong?Topped with a caramel maple sugar glaze.
Crackly Top Rich Brownies
I love brownies of all sorts, I am afraid to say but asking a baker which brownie she prefers is like asking her to choose among her precious children. No favorites: chewy, cakey, crackly – you name it. Love them all. But some folks are partial to deep rich brownies with that amazing crackle finish on top. This is one of those.
Smooth as silk this is a bouquet of orange, hazelnuts and decadent Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) and a ton of chocolate. Each good on their owm but the trio becomes a symphony in our favorite thing (this week) : brownies.
Creme Brulee Cheesecake Blondies
Blond ambition in a bar. Creme brulee syrup, along with a layer of cheesecake get swirled into this golden, pecan and butterscotch chip blondie. A few steps and voila - you have baked up a legend.
Chianti, Black Olive and Parmesan Biscotti
A crisp olive-cheese biscotti - thin as bark shavings. Who needs potato chips?
Previous Monthly Essays from A Note From Marcy: