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A Note from Marcy

The September Recipe Collection
!!!Our Free-for-All Monthly Recipe !!!

Dark 'N Delicious Rye,Cranberry Currant Rolls
Honey Cake Bread Pudding, Marcy Goldman BetterBaking.com


Fresh Yeast New Years Sweet Challah
Apple Dapple Cake


Blue Ribbon Zucchini Raisin Walnut Cinnamon Loaf 
Farmers Market Apple Cranberry Muffins
Cheddar Asiago Bacon Scones

Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,

Welcome to the Catcher of the Rye, Fall Baking Issue.

Don’t you love September? To a baker, it is the original City of Unyielding Potential. There are new pots of honey, crates of apples at every turn, late berries, blushing pears, mammoth zucchini, a ridiculous assortment of plums and marvel of marvels, seedless (!) Concord grapes. Everywhere you turn, there is something that beguiles and beckons. In spring, harvests start sweet ‘n modest with strawberries and some new shoots of rhubarb. By summer, the pace picks up a beat. But at that point, we are warm and in slow-mode or vacation. Baking in July and August seems much like going back to night school: a great idea but just not now. And then, suddenly, September, and ‘they’re’ all here –that glorious cast of ingredients that makes a baker dizzy with possibility.

Being the village baker is akin to being the belle of the ball; in lieu of pretty dresses, laid out on the bed, there are recipes, ball gowns of a different ilk, so to speak, all vying for attention. Yeast breads, over here, calls one pile of recipes. Hey yo! Say chocolate (!) catcalls another. Make another apple pie, toast some nuts for oatmeal cookies – ah shucks, put on Diana Krall and peel me a grape. There is too much bounty to properly do it justice. But, we shall try.

Wheatland is always open but in September, the sleepy sentinels of the oven and flour canister wake up. It’s coming around again, whisper the baking elves. Both August and Atkins have left the building. Good carbs mix with ‘treat’ carbs for a banquet that will take us clear through to next spring. It is back to school, the Jewish New Year, bake sales, brown bag lunches, Indian summer picnics. Sooner or later, the baking bug will get you. The air will get nippy and you will find your way back to the hearth. The next thing you know – the crock-pot will be out again and the bread machine will be dusted off (“Did we sell it in the garage sale or what?’). It’s cosy time again. Time to gather at the table time - together – as a family and with friends. No more sandwiches eaten on the way to soccer/football/baseball playoffs or in front of the plasma monster watching other people do Olympian feats. 

This month, I could (and probably should) talk about baking basics –and I will, up the road a bit, especially as we head into Thanksgiving and the other holidays. I might mention that the lion’s share of my baking knowledge is in my cookbooks – for that is where it is easiest to lay out the sort of text and baking advice people need to know. Don’t forget, the new paperback edition of  A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking should be out. My own copy is already soaked in oil and sticky with honey. The BetterBaking.com website is more current, rich with new and innovative recipes being churned out of a live test kitchen, but it is impossible to stock a website with all the information such as a book can offer.  That all said, if you have baking questions, ask away. That’s why I’m here.

Please do welcome our friends and colleagues at King Arthur Flour to our midst. The good folks at King Arthur are sharing some ingredients, tools, and cool bakeware we always wanted to try with us so that the BB Test Kitchen can find out what is nifty, new and share it, in turn, with you. I will also be contributing some recipes to the King Arthur Baking Sheet and creating recipes that use some special ingredients that should enliven all our baking.


What Falls Away, Savouring the Sweet and the Bittersweet *
The September Essay From Marcy

*Dedicated to all those on my watch, but especially, to a certain Leo.

Baking aside, September is a honeyed month that always makes me take stock. It is not just the pantry I look at to see what I need, what I have enough of, or what I might need to procure or what I already have that I need revere anew. I take stock of my family and friends and pause in gratitude, for it is a harvest of a different ilk.

Yup, September, and certainly, Rosh Hashanah, makes me take a look at the year that passed and wonder, as the leaves slowly begin to turn, where have I been? What have I done right; what could I have done better? What lessons has someone shared with me? What gift of human passages might I pause to consider? September just seems to be that time you can grab a moment and do this sort of reflection. I treasure the friends, both old and new, that share my path here and now, and treasure too, others, who no longer grace my presence nor theirs, I. They are still and forever, in my heart and mind and part of my fabric.

There is a custom at Rosh Hashanah, called Tashlik. It involves tossing bits of breadcrumbs into the water – not so much tossing your sins away (well, I am not keen on that explanation) but casting your negative thoughts away – letting the water carry them off. You get to apologize to those you may have offended around New Year’s –it is a wonderful tradition.  You also might receive an apology and be asked to forgive the person who offers it. If you offer and it is refused, or similarly, someone offers you one, but you refuse – the debt is cleared at any rate. The gesture was made.  What a great way to start a new year! Sometimes, I clear the slate with a verbal exchange or a note sent (or email) or a simple meditative moment. Other times, most times, I simply have the dialogue in the quiet place of my own private thoughts. I feel the positive energy carries – whether the intended recipient ‘hears’ it or not.  This is not as selfless as it sounds. Saying “I am sorry’ is as much a gift to ourselves as it is to the recipient.

Relationships, whether blood bound or chosen ones, as friends and lovers are, are anything but easy. Some have deeds on them; some have extended leases, and some are summer rentals. Some come and go and you hardly feel the dent – as they expire or fade away, and others, are like a soul exchange and regardless whether you ever see that person again or not – they become part of your ‘watch’. Like cherished baggage, you carry them with you. (By the way, ‘baggage’ meaning, history, versus the online dating definition of ‘baggage’, which is, to me ‘history with pathology’.)

I think the two biggest truths I ever heard about relationships – and I cannot recall who said them but they have stuck with me are:

Sometimes, you forgive someone - simply because you still want them in your life’.

The other is, “Sometimes, you have to leave people you love.

Now this latter sentiment sounds strange but sometimes, as much as there is a visceral bond between you and another, friend, lover, or family – it is simply, painfully, impossible to honour each other. The karma, if there was that, might have exceeded its half life. And that is when you know it is time to leave or release each other. By the way, if you know the secret to gently releasing someone, or how to endure being ‘released’ please tell me about it. Like my sourdough bread, it is a skill I am still honing.

Now, I never would have thought anything other than ‘love conquers all’ but I have indeed, with great reluctance and no shortage of tears, have seen that this is true – sometimes, you do have to leave people you love.  Sometimes, a time-out is tonic enough but just as often, the season of a relationship runs its course. You grow at different rates, fate steps in, or its very premise, like a shaky house foundation that was iffy to begin with, had rotten beams or dubious rafters and fogged up windows, will, at some crisis point, be revealed for what it was – its good, its bad and its untenable. These crisis points can make or break a relationship. They are turning points you cannot turn from. To ignore the authenticity or lack thereof – is not possible. Don’t we all wish it putters to a soft fade out? But we do not always have that option. Relationships, like flour and water into bread – takes two elements – two people. You can only account for one set of oars in the water:  yours, in the boat you share with someone else.

What’s nice about passages – regardless of how they might chafe you, is, that in time, one does mellow. What falls away is the periphery of pain, confusion, and your own balking acceptance of something that has ended. Instead, if you are plain lucky, prone towards inner healing and/or watching infinite amounts of Wayne Dyer or reading similar things, you are left with what was good and true.

If you have really lost someone, you already know about this talent of the human spirit to pare the pain from the precious. It is the emotional equivalent of separating the wheat from the chafe.  But if you have parted company for a myriad of other reasons (which are all in all, less dire), it’s comforting to know, that in time, with reflection, daily life, other people, other things – and no end of soul searching, you do indeed remember, or opt to remember, only the good. It doesn’t mean you can go back or make a deal with a relationship where respect, nurturing and nourishment were notably absent or inequitable. It does mean, you remember what was positive and real.  Love exists on its own immutable plane and defines context, circumstance, time and space. That energy stays with you – and nothing, not betrayal, lack of longevity of the relationship (which in not the only measure of its success), the passage of time, or other, better/different relationships, ever diminishes its value. What was 'meant to be' has its own place in your rogue’s gallery of life. It exists in a vacuum of memory; it resides in the hallowed chambers of the heart.

The rest of it?  Well, you have to know when to fold ‘em. Do you want to be right or be happy? Chuck out the bad parts, learn from it, leave it, and revel in the richness of what was good and right. Tuck it under your arm. Take it to the next place and person that is part of your path. I really think this sort of psychic luggage is our richesse. It is not a weight; it is our anchor. It is part of a warrior’s arsenal.

Other people have contributed to my way of viewing relationships, the pain and the joy.  A few months ago, a baking/writing colleague of mine who is attending baking and pastry school when she really should be retired on a desert island said of her fellow classmates: “Frankly, it gets tiring and difficult. Some people are great. Some (fellow) students are real pains. The teachers can be horrid. But I am so happy for the experience, I even love the people I don’t like’.  I get that. Either I have gotten dotty or I have learned to love even the difficulty – in life, in people, in myself. More recently, a brusque but warm-hearted legal aid lawyer friend of mine confessed,  ‘Even heartbreak – however awful, convinces me, I am indeed alive and feeling. I am feeling something – even if it hurts. And I love even that part of it. It means I am, at least, in the game’. So am I.

I will take both the sweetest apples and the windfalls. I will gather the most rotten apples in my yard and find the smallest wedge of apple to use in a muffin or pie. I do not mind the blemishes even as I gravitate towards perfect, scarlet orbs I know will make for better baking. Like a mother choosing favourites between her children, only cherishing the good parts of apples, of people, of life is somewhat of a disservice. Maybe that is why Rosh Hashanah is such a smart holiday. The underpinnings of it are all about savouring the bitter and the sweet. Each is the seasoning for the other.

What and who falls away, we are often loathe to part with, even as it is clear we must - such is the mystery of how our souls work. Such is the sensibility of the inner seasons. There is an art to letting go. One day, whatever it was, and whoever it was, will make you smile. Trust me. Time is a balm, and the residual love you find after time does its job is a salve of the highest order. If there is someone, family, friend or lover, that still has a way of catching you unawares with a small but still poignant twinge (and yeah, even if it is disguised as anger), then, like a bread you keep checking too soon that never seems to rise nor bake: it is simply not done yet. When will it be done? When it it's ready.
When will it feel better? When it’s time. And some day, you might even get another go round to make it better. Until then, have faith, it’s all good.

Wishing you a warm September, a sweet and happy New Year or serene back to school time, a better bread, a higher muffin, a sweeter pie, but mostly, all the bounty of the harvest of your heart.

Marcy Goldman
Wheat Siren, Writer
www.BetterBaking.com
1997-2005

 


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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