Dear Fellow Bakers and Friends,
Hola and welcome to the May 2022 Silver Anniversary Issue of BB! I trust our month apart has been well-spent and filled with special moments in and out of the kitchen.
Although I would describe myself as commitment-shy I did some math the other day and it turns out I’m actually an all-in person, albeit on a protracted spectrum. I’ve been baking and writing for sixty years, dancing for fifty-seven, swimming for fifty, a perfume addict for forty-two years and last but not foremost, a mother for thirty-seven years. On that note, let me wish a Happy Mother’s Day to moms, grand-moms, proxy moms, step-moms, and moms-to-be and anyone who is imbued with the kindness we ascribe as motherly.
What intrigues me about the objectivity of numbers is what they can imply. Long-term numbers can account for something subjective but at the least they infer that you’ve stayed the course. The course at hand can be good or bad but the fortitude it takes to do anything for a long time surely counts for something – if only we can all put that strength into the positive. Overtime, quantity becomes a quality.
This brings me to this issue of Betterbaking.com. This month is my 25th anniversary online, which is to say, 300 newsletters later, Betterbaking.com is a quarter of a century old having begun in the last century which birthed the invention of the television, airplane, transitors, radio, the computer and the official entry of the automobile. A more recent reference is that fact that many of you go back with me in the days of Ask Jeeves, My Space in a world that didn’t yet know about online dating, Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, Instagram or TicToc, a world in fact wherein 'cookies' actually referred to real cookies.
When BB began, I was a freelance food writer about to launch her first cookbook. Someone mentioned that there’s this thing called the Internet and told me I could promote my book on it if I could find someone called a webmaster to create a ‘home page’. I actually thought the Internet was going to be a brief trend like Chai Pets (which we grew for fun, not to eat) and so I plunged in, immediately throwing up hundreds of recipes online without pacing myself. I’d always wanted to publish a baking magazine and thanks to this thing called the Internet, I could now do it.
Over time, I saw websites become blogs and blogs become Facebook pages become Twitter become Instagram and then Reddit live streams, YouTube, TikToc videos and all things Apps which is all of the above and something in and of itself. Once upon a time people had reputations and then they had 'brands' and platforms and in lieu of being socially adept became good at something called social media.
Fortunately, for over two decades I've been habitually overwhelmed, a single parent of three for a significant chunk of it and chronically without any sort of budget or staff). I simply couldn't stray in any other directions. The easiest path was to just show up once a month with fresh recipes and a bit of chat. When digital cameras became more accessible and I found a way to manage my own site (versus paying exorbitant fees to IT folks) I was too deep into the digital forest to start retro-shooting all my recipes. I could only go forward with more current recipes with photos, all thanks to the IPhone. Learning the technical part of my site is an ongoing challenge and it often feels like I am navigating a massive ship with one oar and a few batteries.
BB is not the easiest or slickest site but IMHO it’s one of the ones with the most history and the best customer service. It’s been pure joy to be me as a writer and baker to thrive without any gate-keepers telling me what I should be, allowing instead a beautiful freedom in words and wheat that I can share with you. I've also enjoyed steering you to better baking with tips, tricks, easy but elegant recipes and my open door should you need personal responses. My goal has always been to make you look good - so I have tried to create recipes that guarantee success or ones that are low on effort and modest in time but with exceptional results. It has always been and remains about sharing something real, about spreading joy disguised as beautiful baking.
Speaking of you(!) Betterbaking.com wouldn't be anything without all of you all because then BB would be a Walden Pie sort of thing with me communing all alone.
A big hug of appreciation goes to the many companies that have enabled me to share their products with you but also took me seriously and with respect from the beginning of my career to this moment in time. There are too many to mention but it certainly includes Nielsen Massey Vanillas, Harney and Sons Tea, Melitta, Bodum, Fermipan, Fleischmanns and Red Star Yeast, Boyajian Fine Oils, Kitchenaid, Capresso, Saco Foods, Garland Range, The Lodge, Weber Stephens, All-Clad and Costco.
That brings me back to the honoured craft of baking. In twenty-five years so much has changed in the world and in especially in cuisine which loves its trends. But baking? I think the only big changes I’ve seen since I began is that now we more often use instant yeast, we're more sourdough proficient, and realize that we don’t have to knead bread for hours or let it rise for a day. But baking is about the same as it’s been for 14,000 years - we've been baking before we even farmed the land, gathering wild grains and making breadstuff. I would say that makes baking the oldest profession.
We might be on a pizza binge, no-knead bread foray, ancient grains centric or gluten-forward but bread is the same yeasty rock-and-roll it’s always been, despite the diets of the day that do their best to quell the romance. Unlike cuisine or clothing fashion, keeping up in bread is not a travail nor a casualty of FOMO and it’s accessible to everyone as well as being a relatively low-rent pursuit.
Twenty-five years of running a magazine on my own is pretty nuts but as mentioned, I’ve never excelled at extricating myself from marginal places let alone leave a party I love which is what BB is to me. Actually, it’s more than a party - it’s home. I hope for a couple of minutes and a couple of recipes a month, it’s been that for you as well.
Warm wishes from my kitchen to yours and hoping for a happy,
tender and balmy May.
Master Baker, Author
Celebrating 25 years online 1997-2022
Recipes of the Month