Sometimes lean and mean has its advantages. One special perk in being the host of an independent and warmly personal online magazine is that once you appreciate that you cannot possibly keep up with the mainstream big food sites in providing mainstream content (Hello/Welcome to July and Our Red, White and Blue Desserts and Tailgate Picnic menu’s and best rib recipe…..) or quantity content (Over a Million Recipes garnered from who-knows-where and maybe not a million but let’s just say alot of recipes) then you are free to do what you like. Happily, on a good day, that also translates doing what one does best.
In my case, my editorial mission at BetterBaking.com is to create the best recipes in renditions, easier techniques and/or novel flavors and those I hope you will also enjoy. Released from competing in the broader, more commercial culinary venue, instead I can instead offer you some sumptuous, original and consummately unique things. I am inspired to do so 24/7 (who doesn’t like fiddling in the kitchen?) but I get an added thrill just imagining you, my visitors, trying any of the recipes that come out of my test kitchen. Morever, if you need help with my recipes, online or in my cookbooks, or even with your own recipes or those from elsewhere, I am here to assist. That, my baking friends, is something I can do.
This month, I was delighted to delve into the summer kitchen with renewed energy and spirit. The result is luscious new recipes (and photos!) that are both sweet and savory. There's !!Free Peach and Apricot Tart to start you off.
There's also an incredible Double Baked Apple Rhubarb Pie that resolves something for us fruit pie bakers: cook the filling first or not? I have it all sussed out for you. The New York Times featured their version: a crust was baked first, then filled and then baked again - hence their version of double baked apple pie. I didn't see the need for pre-baking the bottom - that's never a problem but the filling? Sometimes, it's the filling that needs a tweak especially when the apples of summer have bit the biscuit.
I also am reminded as this is a ‘better’ baking site to share baking technique with you. Usually I do that via recipe head notes and in my cookbooks but some bon mots from la boulangere once in awhile might serve.
Here’s a pointer that should seem obvious but given the email I get on this, it’s not. For bread recipes, usually there is a range of flour called for – whether it is by measure (cups) or weight. Regardless of what the end range is (5 cups of 3 pounds of flour); don’t dump all the flour in. Add in half the amount, mix and knead and then use your judgment as to how much more flour is required. On any given day, you might need less or more than the range, depending on water used (how measured), temperature of the ingredients, type of flour (and how measured), and what mixing method you are using. This is exactly where one’s discretion (in baking) counts and the recipe, as wonderful as it might be, in a yeast recipe, might be more of a guide than a map.
You can always add (easier to add flour than more water) so just keep that in mind. This is also why in bread baking, unless you are a commercial enterprise and weights are the only way to go, even weighing (in a yeast recipe) is not necessarily more accurate. It is still a guide – the final authority is the dough itself – how it feels, looks and reacts. And you, dear bakers, are the captain of the dough, master of its soul. So in this case, a scale (for yeast baking) is not necessarily more perfect. In pastry, a scale is sublime but more likely in yeast baking – your instinct and growing expertise is a little closer to perfect than any scale or measuring cup will ensure.
Please enjoy the recipes and may I also wish you a happy Canada Day to fellow Canadians, a Happy Independence Day (my American family and friends) and a happy vacation to all.
Warm wishes and happy baking,
Master Baker, Author
!! FREE !!! Peach and Apricot Tart
Lovely orange tones of two types of stone fruit in one sensational summery tart.
Why always red, white and blue around July? How about true blue shortcake? Celebrate July 1st or the 4th with this outstanding almond-kissed shortcake with a river of fresh blueberry topping and whipped cream.
!! FREE Summer Frozen Cookies ‘N Cream Cheesecake
Cheesecake on a stick? Close. This is a creamy and quick no-bake ice-cream cum cheesecake you can serve with hot fudge sauce or sour cherry topping on a summer or spring day. Use premium quality ice-cream for maximum stability. Cancel the order for the Dairy Queen ice-cream cake – this is just as good if not better. This calls for premium vanilla ice-cream and Oreo crumbs but feel free to use any flavor ice-cream you prefer.
Strawberry Pizza What could be more divine that a tender pastry crust, a cheesecake filling and gloriously sweet, red strawberries on top. This is dessert pizza but it is really easy French baking at its finest.
Garlic in the crust/dough pizza? Only a vampire would refuse this incredible savory garlic pizza that is thin, crisp and herb laced. You could also substitute the fresh garlic for slivers of roasted garlic on top, slathering it over the cheese.
Summer Solstice Strawberry Rhubarb Pie There are strawberry rhubarb pies that make you go ho-hum but let’s face it, even a bad strawberry rhubarb pie is like, heavenly. And then there are angelic SR pies that change the way the earth turns. On the longest day of the year, I created the most magical SR pie I could. It features a trick in it (all natural) that ensures you have a luscious pie but not a gloppy, wet one.
Double Baked Apple Rhubarb Pie
What does this mean? Double-baked? The New York Times featured their version of double-baked but it actually meant pre-baking the bottom of the pie, then filling it and re-baking. I could not see the point when the real challenge is the filling – not pre-baking the bottom. I’ve had no problems there. But I’ve often wondered about watery an apple pie which is the case if you make apple pie in summer. Why? More than likely, it is because you are using last year’s apples in your filling. Over time, even with the best great cold storage and along with your best baker’s efforts, even the best apples lose their apple perfection and can bake up into a watery pie. So I’ve wondered about cooking the filling a bit first, as pie filling manufacturers do, as evidenced if you’ve ever tasted canned pie filling or had a diner apple pie. I finally did it – and the recipe and my method makes the best ever apple pie (in summer) you will ever have.
State Fair Dried Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies I should stop fiddling with perfection but I would be lying if I didn’t admit being renown for my oatmeal cookie recipes. This time, I wanted something with summery blueberries in it, and a chewy, hearty cookie but one that suits lemonade or an ice-tea spritzer. No matter how many batches of these I made, they disappeared in an hour. Seriously – people must have inhaled the aroma of them baking and dropped by the kitchen just at the right time.
Love chevre for crackers and dipping but want a fancier presentation? This is the perfect savory ‘coat’ for that ubiquitous round of white cheese.
Previous Monthly Essays from A Note From Marcy:
Essays to tickle your funny bone, wake up your inner baker, twinge on your heartstrings, or make you smile and say, ‘I’ve know the feeling; I know the place”. If you missed an essay, or a season in baking or inner sensibility, we invite you to stroll through our archived Notes From Marcy.