Spring is on the way! Thaw out with a new spin on Irish Soda Bread, a fresh batch of delectable hamantashen or a brace of hand-held pies. Small but beautiful and oh-so-colorful, mini pie plates from Leslie Freeman Designs http://www.etsy.com/people/Lesliefreemandesigns?ref=ls_profile.
Dear Bakers and Friends,
Have you noticed all the colour in the air these days? Colour is on the comeback trail in fashion as well as house decor and of course, housewares. In response to prolonged economic challenges the colour trends, instead of dreary monotones, we are seeing waves of brilliant, peppy, cheery, unadulterated colour. I recently got to know more about colour when I got reqacquainted with Fiestaware http://www.hlchina.com/. If you're thinking colour in the kitchen, these are the folks. For them, color is not a passing trend; it’s their very legacy as a tableware company.
Is anything as colorful, contemporary and yet vintage all at once as Fiestaware?
Now in their 75th anniversary year, probably no one understands the sheer joy of colour more than the folks at Fiestaware and their diehard collectors and fans. I think it's time to wake up the kitchen with a fresh look starting with the plates we eat on. Take a look at the Hand Held Pie recipes (below) and check out the fabulous Fiestaware mini pie molds.
Scent Finalist - The Baker segues to scent....
Speaking of scent, I am honoured to announce that I am a finalist in the 2011 Canadian Fragrance Writing Awards to be announced in April. My feature on Angel Perfume first published at www.Basenotes.Net in the UK garnered a nomination. What is especially neat about this is that I'm in such good company with perfume writers from Canada’s Flare and Elle Magazine. As the only only cookbook author in the nominees it shows you can impose yourself in any world you like – if you are devoted enough and don’t pay attention to the rule books of life. I am also working with such classic companies as Guerlain, Coty, Chanel, and Chloe to name a few, bringing you more perfume features as time goes on. I also hope to be giving courses (here in Montreal) on scent (both making it and how to wear or choose one), as well as on Journaling, and other topics in what I call a Walden-pond mode.
New Cover for The Baker’s Four Seasons
When I am not test baking, I am usually writing for other markets (Food and Wine, this April) or working on book proposals. You'll also notice the amazing new cover of The Baker’s Four Seasons on the front page of BB. Because the book is due out November, the cover is now a fall theme. Speaking of books, publishing is having its challenges lately (it's somewhat of a 'sky-is-falling' mentality out there) but if you turn off TV, don’t read the publishing trades and remember to put your fingers in your ears when industry colleagues tell you untoward news, you’re fine. Besides which, I have too many books on my to-do list to publish to be bothered with anything less than positive news. There is, alas, no app for an optimistic spirit so one must create one’s own inner, happy, hopeful app.
Yes, it is slushy outside but colour is on the way because - be still my heart – March is finally here! With it, comes my eldest son’s birthday (today, March lst). The day my first son was born was an unseasonanal balmy March morning and then – as if in tandem to his own vibrant spirit a typical Montreal snow storm hit the very next day. Instead of a gentle thaw, I brought my son home to thickly snow-lined streets. And moreover, I have a distinct memory of delivering one last batch of carrot cakes to a couple of restaurants on the way home from the hospital. After that day, I turned my attention to both motherhood and foodwriting and cookbooks and said, (at least for then), goodbye to my bakery supplier days.
But what I remember most about that first baby, on the first of March that year was that it was also, in that particular year, Purim. In addition to baby stuff (cards, balloons, toys, and fuzzy pyjama gifts) there was a ton of hamantashen in the air. The first batch was given to me in the maternity ward by a chirpy trio of women from the Jewish Ladies’ Auxiliary. They appeared like the three good fairies from Sleeping Beauty, toting packages of hamantashen to give out to all the new mothers. I will never forget: becoming a new mother and being showered with pastries, streamers and noise-makers in the maternity ward louge. It made new motherhood particularly festive and to this day, many years later, I associate my first-born son’s birthday with the joy of Purim. With that in mind, I guide you to the many hamantashen filling recipes on the site, in my cookbook, and the now famous Almost Like a Bakery Hamantashen Dough. Certain recipes of mine seem to become legend and this is one such. As for what is on the bday boy's menu? By request: Spaghetti and Meat Sauce, Caesar Salad, Garlic Bread, Soup? (Carrot or Leek and Potato) and homemade apple pie.
Hamantashen Techniques? What’s the deal with the triangle?
HOW do you describe the rolling of the hamantashen (a delicate, fruit filled pastry) into a triangle. I wish I had a schematic but in lieu of that, here are my best imagery/directives.
First cut a 3 1/2 to 4 inch circle of dough. Using your thumb and third finger of each hand, fold the left and right sides of the circle (mid point of the circle on each side) to form a triangle or point – like the roof of a house. Then, using both thumbs, roll or fold the remaining flat (bottom third or southern part of the circle) ‘up’ as if you had a roof of house and now we’re bringing up or forming the floor.
Make sense? No? There is always 1-800-Hamantashen-Hotline. Seriously, the trick is not trying to make the triangular shape in one motion. It’s two steps. First, you bring two sides inwards as if you are making a paper airplane. Then fold up bottom flap.
Irish Soda Bread, Are you a Traditionalist or Pace-setter?
March is not just about birthdays and hamantashen; it is also about my other favourite thing: Soda Bread. Why do I like soda bread so much? Mostly because I prefer rustic sweets and soda bread – being not quite bread, or muffin or scone, suits me perfectly. But I have a soft spot for Irish baking and what is more quintessentially Irish than soda bread? In the Complete Recipe Archives, you’ll also find other St. Pat’s treats like Irish Bailey cakes and apple pies, Guinness apple cake.
Hand Held Pies
Little Pie molds from Fiestaware http://www.hlchina.com/
I’ve seen baking trends come and go and some stay. There’s been chocolate chunk cookies, then quiche, carrot cake, croissants, cinnamon buns, bagels, muffins, scones biscotti, and ever popular cupcakes. So what is it now? Hand Held Pies. These are any variety of individual pies in any sort of filling or flavour. I was saving hand held pies for summer but the truth is, the pies go with the colourful little pie pans from Etsy and Fiestaware and I couldn’t resist.
A hand-held pie is a turnover or mini or baby pie. It serves one person generously or even two. It can be a pie shape, a little tart, tartlets pie (those are truly mini), a half-moon (like a savoury pie or roti). But the gist is, it is a smaller, more fun pie. It's also a gift for those that like the buttery pie crust as much as the filling and a great way to use up pie dough scraps. You can also make a few of different fillings to suit any taste. To start you off on the hand-held pie trend way before summer pie season arrives, I am sharing McInstosh Baby Apple Pies and a zesty Blueberry Hand-Held Pies (you will have to use fresh berries or part with the cache of frozen summer blueberries. It’s almost spring – might as well break them out; a fresh crop of berries is only a few months away)
I could chat on about the many diversions of my work but it's always better to show than tell. So, without further ado, I happily share the recipes for this issue.
(Don't forget you can still subscribe to the Complete Recipe Archives. Just visit the To Subscribe page. If there is a recipe you need but can't find - please email the management - whether it is baking or cooking).
Sweet times in the kitchen and as always, happy baking,
Author, Master Baker
FREE BetterBaking.com's Classic Pie Dough
FREE Blueberry Hand-Held Pies
FREE McInstosh Baby Apple Pies