Dear Bakers and Friends,
Welcome to the summery month of June. School is almost out and Father’s Day is around the corner. Even though the weather feels a bit balmy to bake (depending on where you live) there’s always something short and sweet you can bake and treats are always appreciated.
This month I’ve assembled four little recipes that are special favorites of mine. They include a wonderfully rustic Italian bakery bread, a crispy Special K Mandelbrot or biscotti made nicely crunchy with Special K cereal, a beautiful Quebecoise Caramel Pudding Cake and my take on an amazing Levain Style Oatmeal Cookie, inspired by New York’s famed Levain Bakery.
Other than baking, I recently tried the Beyond Meat Burger. I bought one such burger, ready-made at a local A&W and I bought it as a raw product from the grocery store to make my own burgers. It cost $8.00 for ounces which is significantly more than real meat but hey, this is 'beyond meat'. Just in case you’ve been sleeping and unaware of what the second wave of vegetarian burgers are all about, the goal of these new burgers is about replicating the flavor, chewiness, sear and ‘bloodiness’ of real meat. It’s also about saving money (producing meat is expensive), saving the planet (plant based burgers leave a lighter imprint) and being kind to animals.
Generally these next level burgers, unlike regular vegetable-based such as black bean and quinoa or soy-only burgers are meticulously formulated using different combinations of proteins (notably wheat, soy and pea protein). Due to some clever bio-engineering, the state-of-the-art burgers are chewy and actually bleed a bit when cut, thanks to the addition of beets. The good news is that animals are saved and the environmental imprint is better (although, not at this point in time, measurable).
Unfortunately, I seem to be in the minority of people who didn’t enjoy this product. I looked online and most folks rave about Beyond Meat and it's rival, the Impossible Burger. I found it Beyond Meat (both at A&W and the one I barbecued at home) tasted pretty funky. Moreove as a sometime vegetarian, I don’t really need my vegetarian burger to taste and look ‘just like meat’ so that I feel I’m still enjoying the attributes of meat but really eating something plant-based. I rather like quinoa burgers and the like because I enjoy that style of vegetarian cuisine. Also, if you look up the nutrition of the Beyond Meat Burger while it may not be meat, it’s not impressive nutrition. This Beyond Meat and meat alternatives is a really hot food topic (and public stock listing) and there are other contenders emerging. Still on alternative meat, there’s also ‘lab beef’ aka real meat grown from stem cell samples in a lab. This too is presumably is more humane to animals and is kinder to the environment for more than one reason. At this point, lab meat, sometimes referred to as 'clean meat' is not yet perfected and the cost is currently about $11 for 8 ounces but the future of lab food is actually here and now. It seems possible that one day, recipes will be chemical formulae and farmers and chefs might be replaced by white-coated technicians who produce food for all of us.
But for now, you can still cook and bake with old-fashioned 'real food' such as basaic ingredients like beautiful unbleached, organic eggs, pure vanilla extract, pale yellow sweet butter and all-purpose flour. What can you do with all this bounty? You can make a batch of muffins that are homemade way versus cloned and bite into something that doesn't pretend it's anything other than wonderful baking. Speaking of which, I also have a really lovely feature on Southern Layer Cakes coming up in the Huffington Post. I'll keep you posted on when it runs. But researching that feature and finding out more about the history of Southern Layer Cakes only served to remind me of the beauty of natural things like home baking.
Warm wishes and happy baking,
Master Baker, Author
Free !!! Pouding Au Chomeur
Special K Mandelbrot
Levain Bakery Style Oatmeal Cookies