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A Note From Marcy

December 2003 Sugar and Spice Issue

The Baker’s Batch of New Recipes

Clementine Cranberry Biscotti

Classic Shortbread

The Best Vegetable Soup I Ever Made


Best Ever Turkey Frame Soup a bonus!

The Chanukah Recipes

New Way Famous Potato Latkes
Restaurant Style Potato Laktes (pancakes)


Happy Holidays to Our Friends and Fellow Bakers,

“Sugar and spice and everything nice” is the usual expression, isn't it?
From a baker’s point of few, anything is much nicer, and ‘righter’ with sugar and cinnamon added to it. (Which is more than I can say for capers.) Indeed, this time of year is veritable spice, sugar and butter baking paradise. The store baking aisles are resplendent with scratch ingredients that are pure inspiration. All I can do is gaze at the nuts, chocolate, extracts, and array of flours and wonder when I am going to get time to make each and every thing I want to! So many ingredients, so many recipes, so little time!  (and so many people I want to bake for!) Pillsbury puts out special cookie sets that just put you in the mood, Italian food shops import gorgeous panettones and panefortes, local bakeries compete for your attention with their version of fruitcake, speculaas, shortbread, holiday tortes. At schools, teachers preen over foil-wrapped pie plates, piled high with odd-shaped sugar cookies brought in as gifts. In offices, the lines of work and 'personal' blur a bit, as co-workers bring in home-baked goodies, revealing a part of themselves in each recipe they share. From some, it is a surprise that brings a smile (who knew he or she baked/); from others, it is already a tradition to look forward to (i.e. you all know the great bakers in every office). You can be sure, with every bite you take, you will taste something different to your own baking heritage. That is that special flavor that cannot be bought in the baking aisle.

On the home front, December has a way of converting the ‘sometime baker’ into a regular baker; and the ‘never baker’ into a baker-for-a-day (at least). 
 It is a time of year that almost everyone is in the kitchen, discovering what we diehard bakers knew all along: baking is sublime. All else is an interruption in an otherwise tranquil haven of flour. But, much like the new gym members who start in January only to abandon us ‘regulars’ by Valentine’s Day, the sometime bakers will disappear around New Year’s Day. Until then, we are all cozy together and on the same track: what to bake?

What packs well?
Brownies, squares, pound cakes, fruitcakes, biscotti and Buttermilk Pancake Mix.May I suggest Dulce de Leche Brownies, an old-fashioned Cherry Pound Cake, or a newly minted Eggnog Poundcake, Club Med Biscotti, or White Chocolate Spice Biscotti or my famed Buttermilk Pancake Mix. I also suggest you bake and bake in dollar store pans, and wrap those pans (cooled, of course), in florist’s cello wrapping (it is the best – ask your local florist or do a trade).

What is a great party cake?
Cheesecakes! Try a Chocolate Eruption Cheesecake, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake or my new Waffle Bottom Maple Cheesecake. Try a fruitier finale with an Apple Cranberry Tart Cake or ridiculously easy Apple Strudel in the Round.

What will impress anyone?
Clementine Cranberry Biscotti, Pumpkin Pie Biscotti with White Chocolate, Company Stand-Up Quiche, and Toblerone Shortbread and Cherry Garcia Cookies, Fig Newton Biscotti, or simply a batch of homemade New York or Montreal bagels. Or, a French Country Bread or a home Panetonne, still warm, wrapped in plain Kraft paper and tied up with string (do you hear music suddenly?).

Which Chanukah latkes to make? All and any. Store bought potato pancakes are just embarrassing. You are better off to get a batch of McDonald's hash browns and serve them with apple sauce. Do try my New Latkes recipe (you par boil the potatoes for faster, lighter, crispier potato pancakes) as well as the Traditional Recipe. There is a week of Chanukah - you might as well give in and do one batch of different latkes - I promise you will never return to the tried and true. Despite being incredibly corny, rent Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights anyway.

What bakeware is best?
Ah...that is a question. Are we talking gift or working militia bakeware?
Giftwise: any of All-Clad's bakeware would be pure heaven to receive. It is about the best I have ever tested and is investment bakeware. I also am pleased to recommend Chicago Metallic and Wilton's Professional lines, any commercial glazed bakeware (DO check out local restaurant supply stores before you shop online. It is often less expensive and just more fun - providing you have time). For pies, graniteware (you know, the speckled stuff) - hard to find in a pie tin but also - about the best for pies. Ceramic or pottery pies dishes are beautiful as gifts or serving with (Chantal, Emile Henry). For cookie sheets - honestly, nothing beats doubled up, rimmed, commercial aluminum sheets and tons of parchment paper. Yes, silpats are dynamite but I would need a king's ransom worth of them and baking on that sort of surface still makes me uneasy - so parchment is my choice. Whatever you opt for, do not bake directly on any cookie sheet -even nonstick. Holiday cookies need TLC . (Parchment
also makes clean up a breeze). As a gift to yourself, buy a gorgeous set
of stainless steel heart shaped measuring spoons and cups from RSVP International (available through www.paragongifts.com) or an wood cookie mold from our new friends at The House on the Hill (www.houseonthehill.net). As for rolling pins, I am partial to my own Patissiere Pin with my original company name embossed on it, Cuisine D'or. They are the quintessential baker's gift and available from www.Golda'sKitchen.com.

Baking and recipes aside..... what is nice about this season is that despite grumpy shoppers, line-ups, and elves indiscriminately spraying Chanel 5 on you, is that not only do more people ‘get’ the baking thing, but people, in general, are nicer. Spice and vanilla notwithstanding. I wait all year round for this surge of friendliness. Sure, some say it is ersatz Christmas cheer and Madison Avenue marketing. But I am of the mind that whatever it takes to provoke extra warmth and smiles is fine. Some of us need to be reminded via the calendar and the decorations to find our inner angelica. Of course, it should not take one day or a compressed few to trigger this but life being how and what it is these days, it does. Maybe it is just part of the natural ebb and flow of the autumn into the winter. Perhaps we need to bunker down in late fall to prepare for the upswing and new feel of winter-on-the-way. No sugar, no spice; no salty, no sweet. Life, like the kitchen, is a beautiful mosaic of contrasts.

This holiday marks my 6th holiday at the helm of the BetterBaking.com Test Kitchens. Close to a million visitors pass through the swinging doors each month. The mailing list of ‘regulars’ is huge and filled with you (!) all, and other wonderful people scattered from coast to coast and as far away as New Zealand, Brazil, Malaysia and Hawaii. I may be sleeping, but somewhere, someone is up and in their kitchen and may be making one of my recipes. Walt Whitman once wrote that he ‘hears American singing”. Sometimes, I believe I hear the America, Canada, and in fact, the world baking ....and it bakes, (to quote the old Coke ad) as it sings: in perfect harmony.

I get email from all sorts of bakers who convey their every joy and frustration in the kitchen. I have been sent recipes that others want to share, photos of cookies and cakes, pictures of grandmothers and their grand-daughters baking a bread from this website, and thank-you notes, for offering recipes and advice that helped someone through both a special occasion as well as an especially hard time – when home baking played a comforting role. When someone tells me a recipe of mine saved the day, made the party, earned them kudos and recognition and best of all, has become their own, new tradition, I swell with pride that has mutual roots. I have mentored new bakers, encouraged more than one law student to become a pastry chef or open a restaurant, consulted with those starting their own baking business as well as helped fellow professional bakers online, as they tweak a recipe for production. I have shared recipes with my Fed Ex driver who is now a BB regular, and inspired my UPS gal to make her first homemade pizza. I have brought test kitchen rugulah to a friend's yoga class (but not before tripping on everyone on my way in, sending boxes of pastries flying) and treated my tango class to (what else?) alphahores cookies. I have learned your tricks and ingested your good advice as well as dispensed my own. I have been honored every day, knowing my writer’s voice reaches someone in a good way and they are thoughtful enough to let me
know. I hear the amazement when visitors discover a real person hosts BetterBaking.com and questions get answered. (I also had someone write and insist on ‘speaking to my boss’!).

Recently, when I posted the recipe for the renown Black Fruit Cake, at least 100 people wrote – each with questions or remarks on the famed cake. As I write this, I am certain far more than 100 people are babysitting a bowl of dried fruits in rum and port, intended for a real, baked Black Cake. At this end, the energy of that reality is palatable. I hope we all have success with the cake as it makes it way out of the oven. Thank you all for showing me time and time again, there is a baking pulse out there. It resonates with a gentle humanity that cyberspace cannot dilute.  That, as well as your interest and support, as always, keep BetterBaking.com a going concern.  

The new issue of BB will be out in early 2004. The BB Test Kitchen will be on slow mode/autopilot during the holidays; the baker is in, and questions as always, are welcome throughout the holiday baking and entertaining season. Some unusual but special gift suggestions, as well a special edition of Scent of a Baker are on the way in another note (or two) from Marcy. However,  I shamelessly remind you that a gift of a BetterBaking.com Subscription is one of those gifts that keep giving (and growing). It does not come wrapped but it does arrive on your doorstep faster than Fed Ex.

The Baker’s Batch of new recipes is a mostly classic collection, In addition to offering you some Chanukah essentials, enjoy Clementine Cranberry Biscotti, a buttery Classic Shortbread, a luxurious ,  rich, crisp and unique , and a heartwarming The Best Vegetable Soup I Ever Made (trust me, it will be the best soup you ever made too).. To get some more suggestions, browse the recipe archive index by subject. (The Baker's Batch is the collection of available-to-everyone recipes that appear in each issue for everyone. Once they are retired, they are replaced with a new batch and the previous collection goes into Archives). 
 
Thank you all for visiting the BetterBaking.Com and for your good wishes that flow in all year long.  Wishing you all the best for the holidays, and a joyous and peaceful New Year,


Marcy Goldman
Head Baker, Host, and Writer
www.BetterBaking.com
Baker Boulanger Online Magazine for Bakers
Est. 1997-2004


The Baker’s Batch for December 2003
(Freely available until the end of the year)
Clementine Cranberry Biscotti
Classic Shortbread


The Best Vegetable Soup I Ever Made

 

P.S. 

 

Happy Holidays Everyone,

 

Please join us in celebrating this late-breaking news:

Our very own cookbook,  The Best of BetterBaking.Com,

Marcy Goldman and Yvan Huneault (BB’s founding webmaster) cookbook has just won a "Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2003" in the category Best Dessert Book (In English/Rest of the World). The cookbook is published Ten Speed Press USA and Random House Canada. Copies are still available at amazon.com and amazon.ca and major bookstores.

This year, the Gourmand Wolrd Cookbook awards are held in Barcelona. The Best of BetterBaking.Com joins a host of prestigious fellow authors, from the U.S. U.K, and International cookbook community.  A full list of all categories and winners are at the www.cookbookfair.com site.

 

In the meanwhile, here are some post-holiday treats for those inbetween days, some decadent  Caramel Popcorn or a soothing soup Ramen Soup With Attitude or even more soothing,  .



Best wishes,

Marcy Goldman
www.BetterBaking.com
1997-2004

 


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, Ive 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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 BakerBoulanger / BetterBaking.com 1997-2003