Dear Fellow Bakers and Friends,
Hello and welcome to the October 2020 issue of Betterbaking.com.
A hearty thanks to all of you who bought my cookbooks in digital format during my first ever e-cookbook sale! Please be patient as you await the log-in information for your BB bonus subscriptions that allow you all access to my recipe archives. It’s all being processed and you’ll receive your information soon.
Quick Breads or the roots of comfort baking
Sometimes the monthly edition of Betterbaking.com coincides with a full moon and/or some bit of world news (or my city is pronounced back in the Covid red zone) and I’m left quietly reeling. On the mornings of such days it’s not as easy as pie to switch gears and publish a cheery newsletter. Happily there are tonics for such things. When I feel wonky I gravitate to tried-and-true, simple baking. It’s always grounding to reconsider old-fashioned baking standbys – those classic things you can rely on, that use pantry-ready ingredients; things that are familiar that you can bake with your eyes closed.
Carrot Loaf, Cranberry Tea Bread, Lemon Loaf, Chocolate Bread! What shall I bake?
Returning to basics on this October morning means a salute to ever-pleasing quick breads and modest but amazing coffee cakes. You know the ones: carrot cake and zucchini loaves, pumpkin breads, apple and cranberry dessert breads as well as prized Lemon Loaf and in this issue, a spectacular French Chocolate Mint Loaf. These are time-honored ‘keeping cakes’, i.e. baking that keeps well and is perfect for drop-by company. Since the notion of drop-by company is oh-so-pre-2020, instead, these are perfect ‘drop off’ versus drop by recipes. Make two, give away one. Leave it on a doorstep or a park bench, stand three meters or three miles away and watch a friend or family member you’re not sheltering with, pick up the goodies. Or take them to the fire-station, hospital or even your favorite Starbucks barrita as a gift, tagged with an encouraging note. Front line workers whether medical or in hospitality will be delighted.
Modern Baking Powder and a whole new genre of cakes
Quick breads and coffee cakes are unique because before modern baking powder was invented (around 1860), these cakes really didn’t exist. Egg whites or yeast were the usual leaveners (angel food cake or yeasted sweet goods) or pound cake (no leavener) were the order of the day. I imagine the cakes of yesteryear were good but somewhat dense. There probably might not have been an iota the variety back then as there is now. Then came the invention of modern baking powder and which gave rise (ha!) to a plethora of new cakes, muffins, cookies, pancakes, scones and biscuits. At the top of the list of this 'new' style of baking was a whole new category: quick breads.
Quick breads aren’t really 'breads' in the traditional sense but as they’re often baked in loaf shapes that's the label they inherited. Unlike regular breads, however, they are indeed: quick. Quick breads are nicely flexible in that whatever works as a quick bread does double duty as a batch of muffins and you can make almost any flavor you want. With so many flashier recipes out there (cheesecakes, chocolate decadence, cronuts, triple layered brownies), quick breads can get overlooked but they are still the hallmark of comfort baking. Case in point: who hasn’t made at least one banana bread in the last few months?
There are far more quick breads in my cookbooks and on my website than I can showcase here so I’ve chosen some that are favorites of mine (today, at least) to share. If you want some other suggestions, such as Zucchini Bread, or Carrot Loaf, Zesty Lemon Loaf among other suggestions, head to the BB Recipe Archives.
Sourdough Fried Chicken? It's the greatest thing since sliced sourdough!
As a bonus free recipe I am delighted to present Sourdough Fried Chicken. Face it, you can spare some of that sourdough starter in another sort of recipe that's not about bread although in my case, I can’t. In the midst of making this recipe, my starter, looking healthier than it’s ever looked, met its maker when it fell out of the fridge, pushed to its demise by a huge casserole of brisket. You don't know what mess is until you clean up sourdough starter and glass off a tile flour. At any rate, Sourdough Fried Chicken is extra crispy and flavorful, the best thing since sourdough sliced bread. The recipe for Sourdough Fried Chicken is here, on Medium.com.
By the way, if you're making frie chicken you must have a great cast iron pan (if no one has passed it down to you yet). We're testing some great new contenders in American cast iron. We're loving Smithy
Check out this great 12 inch Smithy Cast Iron pan https://smithey.com/collections/ironware/products/no-12-cast-iron-skillet
In other news, aside from my time with you and the bakery, my Zoom edition of my regular book club started well with a discussion of American Dirt (and where to buy Hungarian Paprika: eBay). My ballet classes and yoga in the park has segued to (at least) live Instagram yoga and solo tango exercises a la YouTube. Just so you know, that woman in her apartment, wearing high-heeled, suede black dance shoes and sleek black pants, rehearsing tango twists and turns while checking on bread in the oven is me. I live in hope that perhaps by spring or when the pass is no longer frozen over (i.e. there's a safe vaccine) I'll get back to dance. Dancers around the world (not to mention musicians) are pining. It does take two to tango and one flute is nice but two is a duet: nicer. I guess it's safe to say we all miss the world (most of the time). Other times, it's a cosy, surreal sabbatical.
I’m also attending a live streamed Broadway event, free/courtesy of the New York Times, fiddling with indoor herb gardening and like you: taking this indescribable time in our lives one day, one cup of flour, at a time.
Stay safe, be kind and I wish you happy baking. As always, from my kitchen to yours, with much love,
Author, Master Baker