Hello Bakers and Friends,
Welcome to the Leap Year issue of Betterbaking.com!
It’s March and that means Purim and St. Pat’s but mostly March is a transitional month. No matter how ferocious the weather might still be (it’s a frozen tundra here) winter begins to lose its grip. It’s climate bravado because spring is indeed, around the corner. Mind you, it’s still a cozy time to bake so I won’t complain.
No doubt anyone reading this has been called a great baker by family, friends, social groups and co-workers. Trust me – I know you as well as I know myself and your reputation is surely sterling. I know this because an avid baker is generally a good baker. But it’s more than that. I’ve noticed at yoga classes, while all classes are wonderful (even bad yoga is good yoga) some are exceptional. In those classes, the teacher gives a bit more of themselves. They say calming things or have wider wellness messages they incorporate in their practise or they’re smiley and warm-natured if you have any questions. Somehow, they add something extra and they’re stand-outs. They’re big spirited people and it comes out in their yoga guidance.
Conversely, I have a friend who’s lovely, chirpy, charming and passionate about food. But each recipe of mine she tries never seems to work out. She tells me the recipe either lacks spice, salt or flavor. When she mentions something about a ‘lack’ in my recipes, I shrug (I am so good at pretending to be good-natured!) I tell her I’ll check the recipe again and see if I can tweak it or refine it. I’m not above improving. But this same friend, who is legacy-affluent, also has an inordinate concern about anything financial. There’s no reason for her to worry but she does. She counts, calculates and clutches. And she does this for calories (she’s rail thin) as well as costs. Anyway, one day she served a pie recipe of mine and it was falling apart! I wondered if my recipe was indeed wrong. The dough was rolled as thin as filo dough and couldn’t support the fresh fruit filling. It was a fiasco. I asked her if she followed my recipe exactly and she said yes, ‘but I only used half the dough and essentially used ¼ worth of dough for the bottom crust and the same small amount for the top crust to save dough and calories. When I rolled it out, it actually looked as thin as a lace doily”. This is to say, she used half a double-crust recipe and divided it in two. I wasn’t surprised to see the fruit falling out of the pie and the crusts burnt like thin paper. I realized in an instant that my recipes were likely fine but how she made them was the variable. It was all about stinting or holding back. This is only my personal take but her concern about wealth or perhaps emotional sense of impoverishment got into the recipe. Like the yoga teachers who bring their ‘all’ and give an inspired class, my friend brought her all into the kitchen with different results. In the end, whether you are baking bread or scoring an opera, being a parent or a friend, you cannot bring less or more than what and who you are to any endeavour. If you broaden this concept, think about the most exceptional performers you know. Sure, there is a base-line expertise or g-d given talent but there’s this magnificent humanity that leaves a profound effect.
So I know when people tell you that you’re a great baker – it’s not just how you handle flour and sugar – it’s that ‘all’ you too bring to the kitchen. Extra love, extra patience, extra kindness, your very soul - it coats everything you touch and create; anyone can taste it shining through as potent as double-strength vanilla.
In case you need something heart-warming but not sweet, I suggest you head over to this delicious recipe of mine for Italian Wedding Soup. If you need more hamantashen recipes, or soda bread or anything else, please check the recipe archives.
Until next month, warm wishes from my kitchen to yours,
Free recipe of the Month
Mixed Berry Hamantashen
My new favorite filling. This recipe (along with the dough that follows the most meadow-y, freshest hamantashen around.
Moist Cherry Corn Muffins
Corn is such a mellow, buttery grain and when it’s baked into a moist muffin, it’s heavenly.
Oh my – this is a keeper. I can’t believe I never created my own version of this unique cheesecake.
It takes like crème brule but in a cheesecake and it happens to be as easy as pie.
Toronto Blueberry Buns
I love sweet yeast baking when it’s just a little sweet and tastes like the best of old-fashioned baking.