Hello Bakers and Friends,
Welcome to the December 2020 issue of Betterbaking.com!
It’s hard to believe we made it through the year, if not the continuing storm, aka 2020.
Just a few months ago the world as we knew it shifted and at times actually shut down. Our lives became about health, family, and appreciating things we once took for granted. We were pre-occupied with finding face masks, flour, toilet paper, yeast and Lysol wipes. The trending wellness industry took a quantum step forward as self-care became the order of the day. Yoga welcomed many newcomers, indoor sports equipment disappeared like free cookies, skeptics became meditation converts and we discovered Zoom holidays, birthdays, briths and even Zoom Broadway.
Above, this beautiful Hanukkah menorah is brought to you by Atonetto on Etsy)
How Covid made for real and cosy....
On a personal level, I’ve also morphed. My friendships got closer or further as I pared down on non-essentials like anything that’s not honest or viscerally fulfilling. And I’ve dropped my expectations : a great family dinner is now held in a local parking lot with my family assembled in separate cars, all of us connected by cell phones but able to see each in real time as we talk. A sunny day that is cold but one I can still take a walk in is like gold.
I rediscovered that alone doesn’t necessarily equal lonely. Alone can breed a stillness and reflection that’s filled with quiet joy and an inexplicable sense of freedom – freedom to putter, to work or not, to wear double the perfume, experiment more with recipes or décor. These unique times have been special permission to be absolutely myself. It’s like I have a hall pass on life, uncurtailed by how things should be and just organically led to what feeds me. The rules of the game of everything is now up for grabs so I’m free to forge a new path, while honing some of the good stuff. It took a pandemic to give me clarity. (This all said, btw, I am rarely alone - I have a family that is wonderfully close and in constant contact - some might say we're in each other's hair but I'll take it)
I’m also fascinated by the world as it reinvents itself in every possible domain. I always knew we were resilient; I just had no idea how inventive and creative we could be. Speedy vaccines is one thing (that leaves me speechless with awe and gratitude); new ways to facilitate connection, communication, entertainment, education is another. In this difficult time, there are Phoenix birds, both big and small, all rising.
In my baking centric world, I’ve ditched my stainless steel nested bowls for ceramic (breads rise better, things are more fun to mix up in a hearty pottery bowl) and bought my first ever hand-mixer which has changed how I bake and has revealed the secret to better mashed potatoes. My spice cabinet is spectacular as I replaced the entire set with new jars, labels and fresh spices. If you want absolutely gorgeous new spice labels look no further than these spice labels and please tell Erez I sent you. He's at the helm of VintaHomeDecor . I looked high and low everywhere for great spice labels. It became my doctorate. Vinta Home Decor's special set has 200 labels plus some blanks. If there's anything missing on that list - tell Erez.
The labels also come in Hebrew.
For other Hanukkah and holiday recipes, please visit the Betterbaking.com Recipe Archives where you’ll find fine baking for gift giving, amazing fruitcakes, an egg nog pound cake and far too many treats to mention but guaranteed to keep you busy. You can also check out The Baker’s Dozen Best Holiday Cookies , A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, The Newish Jewish Cookbook or any of my cookbooks as gifts or for inspiration.
New Cookbooks? Zoom Baking Classes?
While I hate to put many things in writing because then it's real and I am committed, I am hard at work on new cookbooks. Best Scones, part of The Baker's Dozen Series is next, as well as Bread and a niche cookbook on Montreal restaurants from back in the day. I've developed a lot of Montreal recipes that you might like as well. I happened to mention it on Facebook, I was deluged with messages back and suggestions. So, now I'm all in. (Yes, it will include Montreal Smoked Meat, cheese bagels and pouding au chomeur. Stay tuned). I've also scheduled my very first Zoom baking class for next year; if that goes well - I'll do more.
Before I head off, I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the beautiful notes many of you send me, especially this particular year. Writers work in pleasant vacuums and it's a breeze of special oxygen when someone takes the time to say thanks for the recipes or 'our family makes this or that every year because of your cookbook or website' or 'I appreciate what you do'. I maintain this site because I love it, as well as baking, writing and you! True, getting a day job was never my strong suit but I would choose this pathway again and again even if I had a day job. In fact, some days I wish I was just starting all over again because I've loved each step, even delivering carrot cakes, while pregant, on a icy, slushy Montreal winter day. But when my readers are responsive, I feel inspired to find yet more things to tempt you into my kitchen.
Warm holiday wishes everyone. Keep safe, keep warm and stay the course because wherever you are relief is on the way. Above all, keep calm and carry on baking.
Your village baker and friend in flour,
Author, Master Baker
Est. 1997Recipe Collection for December 2020