Happy February my cocooning friends! I hope you’re ready to bake some special things because this issue of Betterbaking.com features four new recipe gems that are game changers! I was going to make this issue my usual Valentine’s Day sort since it’s one of my favorite holidays. Call me corny but I wish Valentine’s Day was every day. Why can’t people just be loving 24/7 without a Hallmark prompt? What a world that would be! Anyway, instead of my traditional approach of heart-shaped cookies and gooey chocolate desserts (although I am working on a Black Raspberry Cake and a gorgeous White Velvet Cake) I opted for some totally fresh inspirations that would be welcome any old day (or Valentine’s Day).
The contagion of optimism or a baker's back story
A guy once I dated told me that I was relatively easy to understand but dubbed me complex, as opposed to complicated. I supposed ‘complex’ goes a way to explain my tendency to combine excess worry with bright-eyed optimism. I’m a very healthy worrier, a blue-ribbon worrier in fact. Just ask anyone who knows me. But I have a tandem strong streak of Pollyanna in me. I honestly feel the sun will come out tomorrow and that things have (mysterious) ways of working out (more often than not). I have had as we all do, my share of difficult patches but somewhere along the pathway I learned the benefits of buoying myself up. It’s a must if you want a life well-lived. Being upbeat or even feigning it is a really cool trick when the realists have their way with me.
Admittedly, it’s a balancing act to be both nervous and sunny-natured, especially in these times with the general news feeds more disheartening every day. Even if you are able to ignore it or otherwise filter it out, it can be overwhelming. That collective yucky vibration in the air is its own form of contagion and one you should never underestimate. The psychic math is that good news and good feelings, energetically speaking, just don’t seem to have the same weight as the negative news and negative feelings. It’s not quite Einsteinian in its logic (although one day they may indeed prove that the energetic measurement of moods and emotions is a provable science) but in my experience it seems to take a disproportionate amount of positivity to offset even a wee bit of negativity.
So what to do when this old world starts getting me down and I wonder what I can possibly do to offset its lacks? I decide to bring it joy. Even if I’m pretending – I decide I can be a flagbearer of joy. I do it to pick myself up as much as those around me. I do it with a smile or bestowing extra patience instead of irritation, a salute to another driver who lets me in, or sharing a bag of cookies with a stranger or simply resist engaging in the external yuck out there. Joy is no matrch for CNN but joy is also no slouch and it’s catchy – maybe not as much as fear or sadness but joy has its own capacity to go viral. Sometimes that pay-it-forward joy is too tall an order. In those times, I opt to be less of a fear-monger because even that’s of service.
So I appeal to you, my baking friends, who I know (because it comes with the territory) are generous, caring, sensitive, warm souls to carry forth joy or extra kindness, compassion or comfort. These things might not be all healing but as everyone’s grandma used to say, it won’t hurt either. We bakers know the wonderful ripple effect of our baking on we share it with. Let’s harness that same power and extend goodness. The world needs your light. Maybe us being bakers makes it Valentine's Day 24/7 afterall.
Other than matters of the heart, these days I’m all about finessing my baking. I’m still so fascinated with the flour arts and constantly want to create new things or break the mold with classics. My focus lately seems to be on making things taste absolutely, extraordinarily exquisite! I want each recipe to be an absolute pearl capable of making someone actually pause in a moment of bliss. I’m doing this with cooking as well as my baking but the baking is what I usually bring to the table.
Still, if you crave chocolate recipes for this month check out the richesse of the BB Recipe Archives. Otherwise, it’s a given: each of these new recipes has a ‘bake me first’ tag on it although I’d start with the Triple Crumb New Jersey Crumb Cake…nah – the Pistachio Lemon Loaf affair. Cancel that: make the No Knead Rustic Cranberry Walnut Bread. What am I saying? You must absolutely try the Banana Bread Scones!
Happy baking, much love from my kitchen to yours,
Author and Master Baker
Recipes for February 2020
No Knead Cranberry Walnut Bread
The free recipe of the month!
I love this combo of walnuts, cranberries and a wee bit of rustic whole-wheat flour. This effortless loaf is artisanal in character and good to the last crumb. You can also use part currants instead of all cranberries.
Banana Bread Scones
Warm banana bread, mellow with natural sweetness of bananas, milk chocolate chunks all done up in a scone with a maple glaze.
New Jersey Triple Crumb Coffee Cake
Ever watch Food Network TV? I binge watch the baking shows and an episode on “Baked’ showcased this wild and crazy crumb cake that was all crumb, little cake. It looked mouth-watering and I had to try and replicate it. This is a thick, chewy topping of the crumble atop a velvety, buttermilk coffee cake underneath. I cannot tell you how good this is! Testers were addicted at first bite.
Pistachio Lemon Loaf
A beautiful lemon loaf updated with a tantalizing swirl of almond-kissed ground pistachios.