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A Note from Marcy

January 2004

Hello friends and fellow bakers,

I suppose if I was tempted to follow the pack, this would be the “whole new you’ issue of BB. Or, a Brand New You, or Resolution 2004 (a dietary, not political thing), or ‘the fresh start’ and/or ‘less is more, low fat’ issue. Wait for it: it could have been the 2003 Retrospective Issue of Food Trends of 2003 (dulce de leche, celeriac, sticky pudding, and Beer Butt Chicken) or the BB Vintage Food Issue (carrot cake, quiche, and fondue). I was tempted to go the way of fellow foodies in my editorial spin for the New Year. I did consider a nod to 'lean' but when it came down to it, I am more inclined to start 2004 in a gentler way  - with some easy-does-it things. In this edition you will find a wonderful Vermont Cheddar Cheese Bread as well as a super bran muffin to match my own-again, off-again dedication to eating more complex carbs. I also offer some comforting old friends: a lovely cinnamon coffee cake, tender blueberry baby cakes and dynamite Almost Commercial Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipes are all linked below). Savory is not forgotten. Just try the Winter Bosc Pear, Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad if you want to feel as elegant as you please, at the bistro table, chez  vous. If you need something more staying, there's a rib-sticking Mushroom Barley soup that is pretty well fat-free.

Personally, I tend to watch what I eat most of the time and do not, go ‘all out’ during the holidays. Yes, my sweet baking friends, I take my treats in bits in a daily dose – a cheese scone here, a bite of shortbread there, and alrighty then, a herb and egg white omelet. I prefer small bites of uncompromised, great baking. I suppose I make bread my nutritional warhorse and leave the scones, cookies, cakes, and biscotti intact, in a purist pastry chef sort of way. (Still, there are plenty of healthy things in the BB Recipe Archive - just check). 

I always shy away from the word 'diet', since minus the ‘t’ it really doesn’t spell anything too nice. I prefer, ummm, ‘lifestyle eating' – so much more jaunty sounding. Eating well has always been about moderation. Add to the concept of eating well, other things like how (and if) you exercise, then add a sprinkle of music, a dash of friendship, some water, some sun, clear air, etc. It goes from the table to the great beyond of living well - not just eating well. There is no panacea for or a one-size-fits-all food regime. The answer, again and again, is always the same:  it is about balance (and right, yes, moderation). A medical nutritionist for Time Magazine once reported that even if you dedicated your entire day to eating ‘right’, it would still only account for 20% of your health.

So what is eating ‘right’? That seems to be something only the current trend can answer and that changes more often than the la carte menu at the trendiest restaurant. It means different things to everyone and even then, people will embrace many different approaches over the course of time. Diets of the day, nay, the hour, get embraced and disgarded. What I can tell you, regardless of trends, is that a sound diet is neither feast nor famine. It is not about living to eat but it is about eating as part of a broader joy, sound nutrition, and communing. Which brings me to a film I saw over the holidays: Something’s Gotta Give. Reviewers did not give this gem the best shake, which is a pity since it is a great movie. But, what is particularly memorable about the flick are the food, the kitchen and the dining scenes. Each and all and each reveal both a love of food and people that the central character (Erica/Diane Keaton) has. The acute portrayal of those passions earns kudos for the director and set/prop people. The simplest foods -  take the ‘pancake scene’ for instance - become contemporary art. Suddenly, it is as if you never saw pancakes being made before. There is such evident joy and vitality that emanates from the kitchen of Something’s Gotta Give that it makes you tingle to get back to your own kitchen (as well as order everything in the most recent Williams Sonoma catalogue). In one shot, a colander of cherries gets rinsed over and the camera lingers so caringly that I was, surprisingly, very moved. The cherries were lush, red, and fresh. The succinct gesture of washing fruit, albeit a subtle backdrop, struck me as a thing of sheer and absolute beauty. I remembered, (and this is for someone who is already in food!), how much I like preparing food, creating new dishes, seeing bread rise, creating new recipes to share with my visitors or best of all, sharing a meal with my sons. Only one cinematic shot, barely two seconds worth – and I felt a renewed interest in food – in the middle of winter when the very notion of fresh cherries is far away.

So, instead of a ‘whole new, leaner you, low-fat, flax seed-packed, time saving family casseroles and 350 ways with skinless chicken breasts’ issue (did I miss anything?), I offer simple baking instead – uncomplicated things to get you baking again and gently court you back to the hearth. What is old to some is classic to others, and totally fresh to new bakers. Good things, true tastes, simple pleasures have a way of coming around again. Recipes I thought I had moved on from suddenly have a unique élan when time, style or my own evolution makes me perceive them in a brand new way. Like the pancakes in Something's Gotta Give, or even Cornflakes ("Taste them again for the first time"), or just seeing a bowl of cherries get rinsed........the foods that define us get reinvented when we make or taste something we had thought we knew all too well. They are like the people we love and who are most familiar to us, who one day, just turn their gaze, and suddenly, they see us, and we see them, in an entirely new light. I mean, how cool is that?

Happy New Year all,  happy baking and sweet times in 2004, 

 

Marcy Goldman
Editor, Head Baker, Host
www.BetterBaking.com
1997-2004

The Baker’s Batch of New Recipes

Multi Grain Bran Muffins
Oh my, omega is in. A new year with a new nutritional resolve. So, like, how complex are your carbs? These luscious muffins have all the right health news notes without sacrificing flavor or a nice, moist crumb. Bake ‘n freeze.

Cinnamon Vanilla Swirl Kutchen
Moist, golden, boldly laced in cinnamon, this cake is a winter brunch and coffee klatch winner.

Almost Commercial Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies
Oversized and thick, these cookie rock with crisp edges, dense, chewy centers and a crackly top.  Come on, you know you want ‘em. Add 10 minutes extra on the ‘dread mill’ at the gym. Drink with low-fat, extra calcium milk.


Morsels of goodness, dressed up as mini-quick breads. Tender with yogurt, bursting with blueberries.

Vermont Cheddar Cheese Bread
A shipment of Cabot’s fine sharp white cheddar cheese arrived, as a holiday gift to our test kitchen. Oh the glorious things great cheddar cheese can be baked into. This is one such.  All fresh bread is great but this one, toasted, approaches nirvana…..in a dairy world sort of way.

Winter Bosc Pear, Blue Cheese and Bibb Salad
The salad of the season – elegance on a winter’s day.

Old Fashioned Mushroom Barley Soup
Fast, hearty, and close to fat free.


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