April 2010 BAKER'S STASH
Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,
This newsletter is necessarily (relatively?) short due to the seasonal infringements of taxes, Passover preparations, Easter weekend and guess what else? My newest cookbook, The Baker’s Four Seasons is on its way to the publisher. I finished! And it felt so right sending the manuscript (albeit on a USB key – it’s a whole new day in publishing) off in spring. Spring is the perfect timing to go with the mood when you finish a book. True, I feel like a mole that hasn't seen sunlight in 11 months but it also fields like a brand new day awaits. The next step on the journey is editorial acceptance and then the photo shoot and then the copy edit. I was busy of lately (sic in a mild panic) that I almost thought of a blank website for April with Happy April Fool’s day message as the tagline. But that sort of impish humor hardly suits me.
How is the new book looking? It’s big, bold and beautiful and a pretty unique cookbook, even for me. Unofficially, this is my 7th cookbook. Jewish Holiday Baking was first, then I had a book that never saw the light of day, called Coffee Time Treats (the title is according to Amazon; according to me, it was The Coffee Bistro Baking Book). In my view, that (unpublished) book is still #3. Then came A Passion for Baking and then my first two books were re-published with photos and new recipes and so to me, these books count as books #5 and #6. That makes The Baker’s Four Seasons lucky #7.
One day, I will delight in sharing the back story of these books and my life as the books were (and conceived, pitched, tested, edited) written. You won't believe where I've been and yet somehow, I emerge on the first of each month, back here with you. To me, the back story is almost more interesting but certainly one that is aching to be shared. The stuff I don’t say but many of you read between the lines is a book-in-waiting.
To me, each of my cookbooks has a different personality – almost as if they were my children instead of recipe collections. JHB is a book I am not even sure I could do today – it’s so big and thorough – so typically a first child persona in a cookbook. But moreover, having had a non-traditional upbringing, my mom still shakes her head when she speaks of my first cookbook and says: Imagine, I brought you up so differently and yet you wrote this traditional book!” Yes, I guess so. But I felt it had to be done. (As you might have guessed, my mom is not too average – a cross between Auntie Mame and Shirley McClean – compared to her, I am old school).
Best of BetterBaking.com marks the beginning of my rogue baking era (wherein my then-editor asked if I could not perhaps try and be like ‘the other cookbook authors’). Best of BB captures my experience as a Starbucks-baking-supplier wherein I created special things to sell to cafes when I was a wholesale baking entrepreneur. In its new edition, Best of BB is finally on time instead of ahead of its time and it is thrilling to see it shine as it does.
A Passion for Baking is the rogue baker in full form but this time, with the support of a super publisher who allowed me all the space I needed to express myself in baking and writing and create lavish (and grainy too) baking to entice all of us. In kid terms, A Passion for Baking is the happy, plucky, third child. As for the new editions of my first two cookbooks, it was like polishing the jewels already there and adding to them. This newest book, The Baker’s Four Seasons is yet another book ‘personality’. It is beautiful recipes, easier methods, but lots of feeling and mood, as I mature as a baker and writer, feel more confident to share with my readers, and bring it to the book. Because it is about the seasons, it is packed not only with recipes but what I hope is a bit of a our collective perceptions of the seasons.
Still speaking of books, as I used my own new edition of 10th Anniversary Edition of Jewish Holiday Baking, I could not help but tweak the recipes as I was baking them myself for Passover. (That is another thing; this year, I got to be a guest two nights in a row. True, I was the renown (talk about pressure) dessert-toting guest but still, it was more relaxing).
What did I do differently? For the Mock Chestnut Torte, I increased the recipe 20% to make a slightly bigger cake. I smeared melted chocolate on it and chilled it well, and then made a thickened fresh strawberry topping for it. In the end, the strawberries and chocolate atop that tender-decadent cake made it a total sensation. For the Caramel Matzoh Buttercrunch, I used white chocolate and dusted a bit of cinnamon and powdered vanilla sugar, as well as toasted coconut on top of some batches. I also used my Cuisine D’Or Carrot Cake in Jewish Holiday Baking. I used half matzoh cake flour and half matzoh meal (instead of flour), lost the baking soda and baking powder, and used par-boiled, grated carrots. I made a great Passover carrot cake with this recipe (doctored up thus) and used another batch to make Passover carrot muffins.
I should write my cookbooks on a washable board since I change my own recipes each time I make them. The thing is, as we mature, we bakers get better. We know more and are more adventurous. You realize that baking, like life, is asking you to push the boundaries. There are few absolutes (says she who is munching Passover Carrot Cake Muffins) and nothing bad happens if you bake outside the lines.
Taxes are not the only inevitable thing in life; so is great home-baking. I am pleased therefore to share some exceptional (my humble view) recipes to get you through the rest of Passover and Easter weekend and welcome you into spring.
Strawberries and anything, but particularly strawberries and rhubarb, are a favorite combo for me. Sure, the berries are here all year round but as our local berries come into the market, there is nothing that can beat their flavor or the inspiration they offer. Along with strawberries and rhubarb, I’ve created some maple sweets, added a few snacky tidbits and some springy, savory fare. I think you’re set for a bit. If you need anything else, for spring, Easter or Passover, the Complete Recipe Archives is the place to go.
And so, ducks and geese better scurry because after tango tonight to celebrate haulling in taxes, website, new cookbook and Passover, I am off to 2 days of overdue girl shopping (you try living with three young men; you would go girl shopping too- some days I want to just dive into a powder puff and stay there, along with my Ipod), to browse stores mindlessly, read Style and People magazine at the bookstore, suss out that new vanilla perfume by Guerlain, pear oil from Kiehl, and get a bamboo plant or two, find a new coffee joint in Old Montreal and take some photos of the Italian market as it opens up for spring and shakes off the winter dust. It, like me, must have had cabin fever. How else to explain the exploding stands of tulips and daffodils among the maple sugar stands offering samples of gooey maple on a stick, sticking out of a mound of artificial snow?
Author and Master Baker
April 2010 Baker's Stash Recipe Collection all at www.BetterBaking.com
Fresh Strawberry Bread with Cream Cheese Drizzle
No yeast, fresh berries, a bright, tangy taste by the slice. This quick bread is perfect spring baking – it is a jaunty quick bread, with a moist crumb, bejeweled with chopped strawberries which dart through it. A gorgeous cream cheese fondant drizzle crowns it (but it is fine without it).
FREE!! French Strawberry Rhubarb Tart
This is one of the first tarts anyone learns in hotel school or if you are from Alsace, by your mother’s side. This is a springtime version of Tarte Alsace, with diced, rosy rhubarb and strawberries, tinged with orange, all set in vanilla-scented cream and finished with a veneer of apricot or red currant glaze. This tart would be sublime with part diced fresh apricots.
Strawberry Rhubarb White Chocolate Cheesecake
Here is a beautiful, pure-of-heart cheesecake – all white chocolate and vanilla sweetness. As for the topping, well, I suppose this is more compote that coulis but compote has no flair (or business) in a recipe title. Offer this sauce alongside a vanilla and white chocolate cheesecake. It is the perfect marriage of smooth rich cheesecake and tart rhubarb. I would also offer this with rich, cream scones.
!!FREE!! Strawberry Apple Rhubarb Strudel
The taste of fresh strawberries with apples in this strudel is positively sparkling.
Hot Cross Bun Biscotti
This are so good; they should be classic. A nice crisp biscotti, redolent of orange, packed with currants and dried wild blueberries and a slick fondant – it almost got in the new cookbook but due to recipe overload, it gets to stay online.
Greek Filo Custard Pastries
These are perfect for Easter, with their egg, golden custard interiors all set in a buttery pastry.
Passover Matzoh Granola Bars
It’s not Rice Crispies although it is reminiscent of those classic bars; instead it’s another approach just in time for a Passover sweet snack (in case you get tired of Matzoh Buttercrunch).
Onion Skin and Tea Infused Eggs
These are great for Easter, Passover or picnics. A Middle Eastern inspiration and a conversation piece, these boldy, flavored hard cooked eggs are simmered in onion skins, and tea leave. The flavor is great but the beautiful mosaic of design that results on the egg white packaging is what sells this beauty. Serve with cheese and bread, or cold side salads. If you prefer a pinkish hued egg, check out my Beet Pickled Eggs recipe.
Matzoh Apple Hazelnut Cinnamon Chalet
A chalet is a puffy pudding. Made with apples and raisins, it is light, but a decidedly comfort dessert that’s perfect for Passover, especially the days that follow the seders.
Banana Buttermilk Streusel Muffins
These muffins are extraordinary but making them using Melitta coffee filter papers, put them over the top. I wanted big muffins with a novel shape.
Maple Croissant Puff-Up Casserole
Leftover brioche, challah work in this recipe but nothing beats it when made with big, puffy croissants (even slightly stale ones will work).The bread soaks overnight in a vanilla-tinged egg bath and the puffs up in the oven. Serve hot with warmed maple syrup nearby. Crumbled maple sugar would be nice to finish this off, but a dusting of cinnamon and icing sugar is fine. A lovely spring brunch dish.
Sweet Yeasted Maple Bread
A tender, hefty loaf that is crammed with maple and butter. It is super fresh, and heavenly, if you toast it.
Strawberries and Cream Shortbread
What could be finer than two favourite tastes wrapped up in a favourite genre: shortbread.
Buttermilk Vanilla Strawberry Scones
Dried strawberries in a perfect buttermilk scones. It floats away.
I am pretty partial to hummus and never, much like eggplant dishes, met a recipe I didn’t like. This one, I love. Probably because I love beets. I first had this served on cucumber slices – the combination of beet-red hummus atop crisp cucumber coins was incredibly refreshing. But pita bread works well too as the ‘side’.
FREE Quick Apricot Chicken
Tang up your chicken a tad with this sweet rendition of Duck a l"orange but made quick and easy and chicken-style for a family pleasing recipe. Wild rice makes this a show-stopper.
Bistro Asparagus and Herb Quiche
April in Paris quiche is more like it. Younger than springtime is this quiche, with its herbs and cheese mix. Perfect with lamb’s lettuce salad. You could substitute tender, sauteed leeks for the asparagus on another day.
Multi Grain Salad
Healthy and tasty, easy going, complex carbs. Serve chilled or warm. This big batch is on hand for quick lunches (poached salmon steak or herb infused chicken breast?) or put it alongside an omelette. It is good food, always at the ready. Complex carbs? Sure but nothing else about it is complex. Feel free to change the grains or use other sorts of canned beans or chick peas.
Classic Poached Wedding Salmon
April showers and sometimes weddings – so why not a little salmon to go with that occasion? A little poached salmon goes a long way;serve with Dijon Mustard Sauce or Chili Horseradish Sauce, tons of lemons, dills and parsley. This is the quintessential spring offering - a light and flavorful salmon. Always successful, never fails to inspire. I serve this with lamb's lettuce salad and wild rice. Or devilled eggs, hard French rolls, and potato salad. Or....see? Anything goes. (and you don't even need a poacher). For a smaller yield, make a smaller fish and halve the other ingredients. I might not get remarried but if I do, the one thing I am sure of is that they’ll be poached salmon at the reception.
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