Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,
If this newsletter is late it’s because I’ve been baking all night and watching the pandemic Golden Globes. Much of the baking was testing new recipes for this issue of BB and the other baking was a special order for the Michel Germain perfume company. Recently they gifted me with beautiful vanilla-laced perfumes. I’m returning the gesture with vanilla-laced baking. It’s so fascinating that the baking and perfume industry both consumer most of the world’s vanilla supply – no wonder (here’s looking at you Matt Nielsen) both smell so good!
Welcome to the March 2021 issue of Betterbaking.com!
March is one of those turning point months, especially in these last two years where it’s been as mercurial as your worse frenemy. Overall, March hasn’t exactly lived up to its in like a lion and out like a lamb reputation. Since last year, it’s been more in like a lion and stay the course sort of deal. Suitably, this month is a kitchen collision of last minute hamantashen, corned beef and soda bread, the beginning of maple recipes and on this end, a family birthday. Of the latter the family birthday is today and rumour has it I’m down for making the chocolate layer cake to be served al fresco in a nearby McDonald’s parking lot. Too bad I can’t just bring the corned beef I tested with candles on it but hopefully as you’re reading this I will have also managed the birthday cake deadline for my eldest born son. And last, the floury magic dust of the last hamantashen is still in the air. It’s been a haul.
I hardly know what to bake in March; I’m not yet tired of sourdough, hearty rolls and banana cake but I could use some colour. Maple season is almost here and I’m already thinking what to do with the promise of rhubarb and first strawberries. But this year has taught me to stay present and pace myself because here we are in the now of baking. That being said, I’m delighted to share a diverse recipe collection that touches on funky fun such as the Confetti Savory Babka, a luscious Maple Pecan Schnecken, a warm and cosy Oregon Spice Cake and a decadent Sour Cream Irish Bundt Cake. Speaking of St. Pat’s. for those of you in the States, please check out your print copy of Costco Connection; I have a nice feature on corned beef and Irish Soda Bread on page 87 (thanks Diane for alerting me!). It might also be online but I haven’t seen it yet.
I don’t know about your weird baking habits but I’ll let you know one of own secrets. Whenever I bake something, especially for a special occasion of baking order as I did recently for the perfume company, I get everything done, clean the kitchen and pack up the goodies. But then I take a pause, brew a cup of tea, put on a Spotify playlist, sit and finally taste what I’ve baked. I close my eyes and pretend I am enjoying my own baking for the first time, as a random person receiving the baking. I try and envision what the said random person would experience and wait for that bliss factor. Everything has to have the bliss factor or it doesn’t leave my kitchen. As I mindfully nibble, I focus on the taste, texture and scent. Usually, I am able to say: “Yes, brava. This is perfection; this is a joy’. It’s like stepping outside yourself and objectively witnessing your own craftsmanship. It might sound odd but it gives me a true and positive appreciation of myself in objective terms. I’m a tough critic so that’s saying a lot which is to say, it’s not too shabby to like yourself. At the end of the day, if you’re not for you – who, goodness knows, will be? Besides which, taking a moment to breathe, whatever the motivation is customarily overlooked. And that, my friends, is the baker’s wellness report for now.
With warm wishes from my kitchen to yours,
Master Baker, Author