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A Note from Marcy

 

A Passion for Home Baking,
The Baker's Batch of New Recipes

Big Baking Issue September 2003

Welcome To Wheatland,
Sense and Sensibility from the Baking Heartland

Back to school, autumn baking, and a sweet new year

Imagine a cozy world that has all the warmth of a grandmother’s kitchen, the old world cachet of a Parisian patisserie, and the homey familiarity of a local bakery or corner café.  Picture yourself in such a place. Maybe there are bagels with their steam rising as they hit the kettle water or open-faced pies, mounded with apples, awaiting a top crust, or perhaps butter is slowly melting on a stovetop before being whisked into brioche dough or a tender crepe batter. Close your eyes and let your ears hear the music of the gentle thump and clomp of bread being kneaded or the swift sharp sounds of a knife mincing up three kinds of pure and luscious chocolate. Enjoy the citrus fragrant surprise as a fine mist of orange zest spray hits the top of your nose. To borrow a line from the film Field of Dreams,  is this Heaven?â€? The answer is a gentle, knowing smile and, why no, it’s simply home baking and the operative word is home.

Home baking is the warmth and sensory bouquet of all these things – the scents, sounds, touches, and visions – but most of all: it is a feeling. More than a feeling it is a taste that cannot be bought, sold, borrowed or feigned. That, in its finest hour, is what home baking is about and has always been.

In my own mind, I have long nicknamed the territory of home baking, and my own test kitchen where I sojourn as a professional baker, Wheatland. Wheatland is just a notion, an umbrella concept but for me, it conjures all the magic and earthiness I feel each time I step inside its borders. Wheatland? Hmmmm…think of Camelot, but with a cinnamon twist.

There is no admonishing hand in Wheatland telling you to make it cheaper or quicker because the food here is not for sale. Time, while precious and of the essence, is not a commodity here; the baking is not off an assembly line where the minutes lost or saved means pennies garnered. This baking is not for show or to impress. It is not a prop on a Food Channel T.V. show. It is not a recipe that looks right in a glossy magazine but doesn’t work on paper or in your own kitchen. This is not baking that is meant to perform on camera or stage. This is as real as real food gets. It is a joy to make and a joy to receive.

Sure, homey stuff may not be always pretty or perfect, but it is, absolutely, undeniably, innately beautiful in its own right.

Home baking is wonderfully unique. It cheerily refutes change, whilst embracing innovation. It is about constancy over consistency, nostalgia over nutrition (although nutrition is part and parcel of home-baked things) and sweetness that comes as much from sugar and honey, and the very nature of the baker.

Truth to tell, Wheatland, as well as BetterBaking.com,  is close to heaven. Here, as well as in your own home kitchen, home baking is all about creativity, experimentation, boldness, and doubt, fused together in a 350 F oven.  Anyone who says baking is old-fashioned is absolutely right. But it is also as elemental, eternal and as present as oxygen.  It is as out of style as a horse drawn buggy and as au courant as designer spring water.

So, please slow down, take a breath, relax and join me in the kitchen. Find an apron or put on some old jeans, snag a favorite mug for a fresh coffee, and settle into a kingdom that time and modern life forgot. You do not need a passport, just a touch of the baker’s passion, a rolling pin, and wood spoon. Travel light, just stock up on vanilla and a packet of butter and sack of sugar. It is a journey in flour to a special heartland where the native fire dweller, the early explorer, the chuck wagon cook, the village baker, the aspiring chef as well as the Paris patissiere, and the sugar plum fairy all hang out. It is, as they say, where dreams are made. Welcome to Wheatland.  Welcome home.

Fondly,
Marcy Goldman
Master Baker, Baking Mother, Wheat Siren

Ok, the dreaming is over, my baking friends. The usual update is in order.

This, as newsstands often crow, is my biggest issue ever. It is chock full of new recipes and news.  You will find out about real, American wood bread and biscuit bowls and our friend who makes them, Leon Neal. There is also bulging Country Bakery Sour Cream Raisin Cookies and tender Chelsea Morning Buns. I salute the late, great Katherine Hepburn with a batch of Brownies you have to add to your repertoire (or rent The African Queen and munch the brownies). There is a bonus feature on the history of Aprons and some Apron Strings Cuisine (think a slew of pies, from Lemon Meringue to heavenly Bumbleberry Pie ) will have you ordering an apron and rolling pin faster than you can say Ozzie and Harriet.  There is also a salute to the Jewish New Year in honey and apple baking (and a sumptuous Chocolate Velvet Honey Cake) and yet more apples in our Seasonal Table, when the orchard is honored once again. If you make only one thing, make the Apple Crunch Biscotti. Two words: oh my. Did I mention some savory sides such as 40 Clove of Chicken and a fresh smooth gourmet Atwater Market Tomato Soup that will make you thrown out all those cans? If you need to feel noble but well fed, the Red River Cereal Bread is your first order of business. Learn the basics of squares in Baker Basics and bone up on your salt gene with a crock of real Dill Pickles. I am sure I have left something out so please read this issue carefully. It is here today, gone by end of October. (But we will have our mailer in a couple of weeks.).

On the commercial front, the test kitchen has been blessed with two new bread machines. We are thrilled with our new Zojirushi as well as Hamilton Beach bread machines. A warm thank you to both companies. These are Trojan bread machines anyone should consider. Yes, indeed, a ton of our yeasted things go through the bread machines as well as our KitchenAid mixer. Speaking of which, I will be hosting the chat on September 16th with Kitchenaid. So check my site under Kitchenaid as well as Kitchenaid. I would love to chat with you all there. The subject is Baking with Apples, so please drop by. Or come to Loblaws in Montreal where I will be teaching a series of classes.

Autumn is usually my favorite time of year but I did enjoy my summer. It was busy work-wise, and featured some 150 baseball games (excluding the Expos who I also cheered). So, like most of you, it is with some regret, I see the leaves turn and school (and all else) resume. Yes, it IS good baking weather but summer was mellow and sweet and all too short. Thanks too for all your notes (we were flooded!) on the new cookbook. It still is a bit up for grabs if my next book will be baking or cooking but both are inevitable. Stay patient and stay tuned and thanks for such an amazing response.

And on a last note, times and cycles change. These days, the trend is TV, reality shows such as the Restaurant, and glamorous, showy chefs, who fling food and humor faster than a Cuisinart chops up an onion. It is all about showmanship. Pizzazz. In a way, that's great. The more people care about food and are interested, the better. Food is theatre. Chefs are dynamic, many of them, and the kitchen, can be high drama. Lately, all I have heard by those who know about such things, is that to be really successful, I should have my own show.  I shouldn't be Canadian. I shouldn't be a baker. You have no platform without a TV show, said one. No one bakes anymore. It is not sexy,? said another. You are a chef but you are not Emeril (bless him). You are not exactly known. At a foodie conference, a major online food magazine/colleague even asked does anyone even own a rolling pin anymore??

Well, it is enough to make you pause. What I am is a baker and pastry chef who writes. A writer who wrangles dough and the perks and quirks of managing a web magazine. What I do might not be sexy but even better, it is who I am with every fiber of my being. I might not be on TV and my cookbooks might not be ranked with the latest diet (!) book at Amazon. And yet I to do what you love, to have your passion tended to, each and every day, is a fine thing. It is the blessing I spent most of my twenties searching for. Moreover, to be in touch with all of you and somehow connect in a personal way, through the Internet and a bag of flour is also pretty darned special. To know I can get someone in Toledo inspired enough to make doughnuts to someone in the Florida Keys to try a Cola Brisket is a thrill.

At the end of the day, it could be, this homey place called BetterBaking.com is exactly the platform I was meant to have. It keeps me in touch. It reminds me that we all have a voice that adds to the world. If Hollywood or the Food Network ever comes running, I won't say no. But it will take more than all the wheat combined from the American Great Plains and the Canadian Prairies to turn my head or surrender my apron. Fame and fortune have their value (and their cost); but knowing who and what you are: priceless.

Happy Baking, wishing you sweet times, and a sweet new year,

Marcy Goldman
Head Baker, Author, Host
www.BetterBaking.com
Baker Boulanger Magazine for Bakers
1997-2003

A Passion for Home Baking,
The Baker's Batch of New Recipes


Previous Monthly Essays from A Note From Marcy:

Essays to tickle your funny bone, wake up your inner baker, twinge on your heartstrings, or make you smile and say, ‘I’ve know the feeling; I know the place”. If you missed an essay, or a season in baking or inner sensibility, we invite you to stroll through our archived Notes From Marcy.

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