Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,
Good morning to you all on this snowy, April Fool’s Day and welcome to the April 2021 Issue of Betterbaking.com.
I know Easter is still before us and Passover is winding down so this issue is all about uplifting spring tastes. I promised myself I would sniff out new baking challenges and create things that intrigue me even if they take a bit of extra effort. It's all about lighter recipes or more elegant and pretty ones. Spring after all, along with my watching Bridgerton and now The Crown series, is the feminine season. This is also the occasion of pandemic fatigue; so to re-engage my own appetite and share the results with you I'm turning it up a notch. Sure, I love sourdough and biscuits and would be quite happy with Ploughman’s Lunch every day. But there are fresher fields of baking out there and there is much for me to learn or relearn. How I see things has changed so much this year that the same things change just because my gaze has. How did Wayne Dyer put it? The more you change how you see things, the more you see things change.
Inspiration is also everywhere: online and off, in cookbooks, magazines and if I let my mind rest and become a creativity petri dish, the sky’s the limit. Come on – it’s spring! Jump in. Please don’t tell me ‘this is how I always do things’ or ‘this is what works for me’. That was then; this is now. We’re all in a unique collective do-over. Plus think of the thrill of dropping off something other than banana bread on someone’s door step and the amazed, appreciative look on their face when they see you went and did something different!
Olive Oil Gold and other follies and indulgences...
On other notes, the other day, feeling bold with my one vaccine now a month old, I raced in and out of an Italian food store (wearing 5 masks and breathing like Sea Biscuit) hell bent on picking up an artisanal pizza order. But then I also spied beautiful bottles of imported balsamic vinegars and artful decanters of olive oil. I grabbed one of each (a vinegar and an oil), thinking they would be pricey. But how much could they cost? $14.99? $19.99? I knew I wasn’t in Costco anymore and was prepared to step up. I also envisioned the feast these elements would make along with a homemade baguette, pickled onions, assorted olives and a new Spanish cheese I found, which tastes like a marriage of Wisconsin Asiago and Vermont strong cheddar. The bill was indeed higher than I anticipated but without glasses, tripled masked and rushing, I didn’t really check it until I got home.
On the left, Candied Lemon Burnt Cheesecake. Ridiculously easy and using only one pound of cream these, this is a stunner.
The oil was $36.99 and the vinegar weighed in at $26.99! My goodness! I blanched a bit and chided myself for being indulgent and not checking the price tags first. Then I realized a few things. Number one: what I don’t know about quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar is a lot and it’s time to learn. Number two: As a tee-totaller I guess I can spend my non-existent (except for cooking wines and liqueurs) alcohol budget on gourmet oils and vinegars. And #3, maybe it’s time to expand what I think is expensive. I’m still not buying $1000 worth of double-strength vanilla. Of course the kicker was the olive oil turned out to be a white balsamic dipping vinegar which explains why in addition to its superb taste it was viscous or somewhat thick but not greasy or oily which made me check the label. Ah so. How good were these new tastes? Sublime. Then I turned on Stanley Tucci’s Italy series and dug in to a beautifully annointed tray and a can of Peach Perrier water.
More Urban Adventures Ahead, are you game?
Once we’re all safely vaccinated twice, I’m setting out on a new adventure and going out to explore my city’s gourmet stores plus the new food businesses that are sprouting up everywhere and/or upscale restaurants with new take-out services or overhauled, democratized menus. . I intend to try new oils, vinegars and condiments (another favorite of mine) until the cows come home. I’ll do with those things what I’ve been doing with spices, i.e. curating the best or plunging into new lands of taste. All of it only shows me how asleep I’ve been. Buying jugs of olive oil by rote and settling with customary things or ‘good enough’ things. 2021 is my year of raising the bar in all ways. What’s your new adventure and how are you, going forward, going to re-invent your life? You are its author after all. The book of you has blank pages which are not in any way influenced by the pages that went before.
Left, welcome the season of the lamb with a tender Leek and Asparague Feta Cheese Tart. This is so good, courtesy of the sour cream flakey dough, you'll be making variations each week. https://www.betterbaking.com/recipe-items/leek-asparagus-and-feta-tart/
(You can also find it at the Free Recipe of the Month)
More good news? When I started writing this newsletter, outside there was a mini snow storm and a fair bit of purple clouds lacing the sky. Drat. But now as my last test Fondant Baufois cake comes out of the oven and I’m about to lay my pen (metaphorically speaking) aside, there’s sunshine, the snow has stopped and I can see my baby rhubarb plant pushing up a rosy sprout as earnest as a toddler finding and showing his first dandelion to show you.
As a season, spring can't be beat.
Warm wishes, happy holiday weekend and stay safe. The healthier we all are, the more we can all bake together.
Author, Master Baker
Free Recipe!!!Leek Asparagus Tart