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A Note from Marcy

 

BLT Bread? Sara Lee Cheesecake At Home? Yes and yes. Plus the best golden, crisp, Corn Fritters on the house……and still more……

 

Hello Fellow Bakers,

 

Just a few weekend treats and inspirations –

Enjoy and Happy Baking,

Marcy Goldman
Editor and Host
www.BetterBaking.com

 
Did you forget tomatoes have a life outside salad? Come on! Mayo and fresh, flavorful tomatoes, grindings of pepper…….The only debate is toasted or not. Don’t forget the gherkins, fussy toothpicks, and side of rippled chips. Oh yes, this is also perfect grilled cheese bread.

Our Best Fresh Corn Fritters  !!!FREE!!!!
On the house – hot, golden, delicate little fritters. Douse them with hot sauce or go sweetie-side up with maple syrup or a dusting of confectioners’ sugar. Offer them in a basket alongside fried chicken or a shore side supper. Check out the free!!! Chicken Vesuvio below.


One word: Amazing. More words: Exactly like the real thing


Caught you! No need to buy one of these great yellow cakes – you can make it. Berries, whipped cream and compliments.


A package of Walker’s shortbread is the culprit behind this inspiration. These are sandy shortbread, respun into a gourmet symphony of seasonal berries and ‘bits’ of cream in a cookie you have to share.

Wedding For Bella Biscotti
The best summer rental, other than….Mostly Martha - this biscotti is one of my most-requested of all time. A gentle reminder…..

 Baker Girl Big Pie Dough Cookies
If you like pastry or like cookies –this is for you. If you miss rugulah but hate the work, this is also for you. In fact, whoever you are, these are for you. They are awesome cookies that are begging to be called pastry.

Brined Deli Style Garlic Dill Pickles
Something salty to tame all the sweets….

 Chicken Vesuvio
!!FREE!! Legendary chicken from Chicago. Make it once, make it weekly.

Summer Foccaccio, Toffee Scones, and More…..

Hello Fellow Bakers,

Please enjoy some weekend inspirations, both sweet and savory. The soup is on the house,

Enjoy,

Marcy Goldman
Editor and Host
www.BetterBaking.Com

!!!FREE!!! Atwater Market Roasted Garlic and Tomato Soup
Heavenly, spirited seasoned broth good enough to compete in a culinary Olympics. A BB Test Kitchen legend.

Summery Tomato, Zesty Olive and Onion Foccaccio A local bakery puts out samples of their newest creations each week. Premier Moisson in Montreal is a great bakery chain, offering French style breads with American efficiency. Most of their breads are good but this one was excellent. It is so simple but each bite of olive oil graced bread, topped with fresh summer tomatoes, big fat, pitted black olives, and slivers of onion is unbelievably, surprisingly incredible. Don’t make the mistake of thinking simple is not exciting. This bread is not just another pretty face. It is a trip to Tuscany.

Fudge Toffee Scones 
The chocolate hit of the week – decadence in 5 minutes….tops.

Soft Cherry Biscotti
See the sour cherries in the market? Pit and toss them in this gorgeous, golden biscotti for a cookie that marries the best of sweet and tart in a gold and scarlet cookie stick.

 Orchard Field Preserves  A jam the color of a summer sunrise.....or sunset. Sweet, just barely tangy and a pure symphony of a preserve. This is not a low-sugar jam - On the other hand, it holds well, doesn't need a freezer to set it, and mold is out of the question! Old-fashioned, real, pure, amazing jam.

Our August 2005 Tao of Pie Issue
Recipes of the Month Below

A Note From Marcy

Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,

How is your summer going? Mine is going, going and almost gone.  So many warm days, so much baking, writing and living to do and suddenly, given the school knapsack sales and Halloween decorations on display (can you believe that?) makes me think I’ve missed summer altogether.

How ‘bout you? Have you swung idly on a rickety swing, wandered a beach or swam or, in lieu of great intentions to catch up with all manner of projects, happily puttered instead?

I have been lucky enough to spend some of my summer having lunches with out-of-town favorite cousins and stolen an hour here or there with a special friend or two who are always up for endless cups of coffee or game for strange food, in stranger parts of town, no questions asked. Time speeds up and slows down as per the company and occasion. I also found time to tango under the moonlight in the park, on the generous terrace of white stucco chalet, set in the middle of a giant pond. I managed to cheer four baseball teams,  got my novel into shape for its own brand of pitching, finally read Shoeless Joe, the book that inspired Field of Dreams, and designed and printed a slew of bar mitzvah invitations. Yes, my household is transitioning. No more two-and-a-half men; the third son of a third child will be a man in a few short weeks.

Do you also find that something changes in August? There is this subtle back shift, reverse and toddle forward into the month. Regardless how warm and balmy August is, something in the air has you thinking ahead to fall. No matter how great the sales on those wrinkled, cotton, flounced skirts. Alright, I caved. I bought one in a goldenrod, which, when paired with a cotton peasant top, dubbed  'flour white' by a gentleman friend who knows how to turn a phrase quite nicely thank you, reminds me of a snow-covered wheatfield. But overall, it it is hard to indulge in more summer togs. Something inside even a hardcore fashionista cues summer’s demise. Or maybe it is less fashionista and more a case of our baker’s souls sniffing the winds of the baking season up ahead. Cooler weather means we got game.

It may be hard to indulge in summer clearance sales but it isn’t hard to indulge in pie. What’s not to like? You got your fruits and other filling choices, and you got your pie crust. All’s you need is about 45 minutes to bake someone happy. Nothing is as satisfying in a sentimental, home-baked way as pie. Only oatmeal cookies and under baked brownies come close.

But even competent bakers have their secret weaknesses and many folks confess to being pie dough phobic – something that ranks closely with fear of yeast and the terror of whipping and folding egg whites. (Personally, I have a fear of hamburger meat). I too, was once scared of pie dough until I wound up at hotel school and pie dough, or pate brisee was the very first lesson. In the end, it was pie dough that taught me almost everything I need to know about just about everything else. Knowing how to make pie dough is more than about pie –it also releases you to make better scones, quiche, and pastries. You can read more about it below in this month’s essay, The Tao of Pie.

And for those of you who are both cursing me and blessing me for the Twix bar recipe, thanks for writing in and letting me know of your success and expanding waistlines.

Meanwhile, I wish you bon appetit, and hope you enjoy the last gorgeous month of summer. Thanks for carrying the baking torch with me.

Wishing you sweet times in the kitchen,

Marcy Goldman
Editor and Host
www.BetterBaking.Com


The Tao of Pie
Marcy Goldman

My very first in hotel school, many years ago, we were introduced to the first of what would be a repertoire of trademark, ‘restaurant quality’ desserts, such as pie, éclairs, and tasteless sponge cakes.  There I was, hair net and little white pastry dress, jammed up with hopes and nerves both. I was terrified of pie dough, aka pate brisee. For years I had built up a particular resistance to pie dough and was convinced it was something only home economists in support hose and grandmothers of the 40’s knew how to do. I had tried and I had created edible ceramics.  Whatever did ‘cut fat into flour’ directives in every single baking book mean? I could not imagine it. Having tried pie dough on a few occasions I concluded early on, like when you think you know everything which is at like 20 (although apparently the new 40 is 30 so that makes the new 20….ummm, like 10?) that I would never master it. I decided that we are all good at some things (like chocolate chip cookies and picking a good blush) and poor at others (like math) and nominated myself pie pathetic. I became (secretly) balky. The more I avoided recipes calling for pie dough (which is a huge span of wonderful things!), the more pie dough loomed as an impossibility. I even used packaged pie crust mix -a total cheat! 

 It wasn’t even about rolling one or the mechanics of assembly; it was the damned dough, which of course is the foundation of the whole art of pie.

By the time I got to hotel school, feeling counterfeit altogether, in a sea of competent pastry chefs, I was certain my lack of pie dough prowess would be discovered and I might even be banished. ‘Off with her head’ shrieked the Queen of Tarts!  (In hindsight, I should have reserved all that angst for when I really needed it: chocolate tempering and wedding cakes). Finally, I had met my nemesis face-to-face for it seemed we would have two full classes devoted to pie – ten straight hours!

We started with which fat to use (where's the butter? I asked, to no avail), and which flour to use and how to 'fresse la pate' which is a gentle sort of kneading you do to help the dough gather some body. After seeing exactly what fat cut into flour looked like, I got it. I don’t think even a video or TV show does it justice. I remember having one of those ‘aha’ moments. Why didn’t anyone say so!  You have to SEE it to get it. This is not difficult! This is child’s play. Who knew! And with pie dough mastered, the sky was the limit.

Then we moved on to filling our pies. Our first batch was to be classic apple pie. Out came buckets and buckets of institutional frozen apple slices. Then came a box of something loudly labeled Epaissant. “Epaissant’ is French of course and it means industrial thickener or mega cornstarch. Industrial pie thickener is the commercial pastry equivalent to underwater epoxy; you can seal a submarine leak with this stuff.  Actually, you can build a boat with it. I am sure Jacques Cousteau used it on the Calypso. Then what followed was a truckload of Apple Pie Spice #3 and what is best described as the noble and only logical companion product to Epaissant: the deadly Yellow Shade #2.
Add a truckload of sugar and we were done. I blanch to recall it.

We rolled (and incidentally, great, well made pie dough rolls like a dream; if you are struggling, that is not an ideal batch of pie dough or ideal recipe to being with. You can also chill it and give it a go 20 minutes later), we filled endless pies, and finally, we baked. Within the hour, the six rack oven belched forth an army of the most crassly perfect, restaurant style apple pies. Once the pies cooled, we sliced them. They literally gleamed with that cafeteria neon yellow glow of undissolved, bleached white apple slices in a gelatinous overcoat. The chefs from Cuisine devoured them (they also said the Rum Balls were good so go figure). I had a coffee. Montreal has a great chain of chicken restaurants called St. Hubert BBQ –they are known for making their own desserts, which have a strange appeal for their picture perfect appearance – very much a form over content approach. “My goodness, I have just made St. Hubert’s style apple pie!”  But step, by classic French pastry step, along with shoddy ingredient by shoddy ingredient (shortening instead of butter, thickeners, bad cloves, yellow dye and frozen apples), we had taken superb techniques of pate brisee and created mediocrity. But, and this is cogent, I had pie dough down pat. With a dull sense of achievement, I thought, Peggy Lee fashion, “Is that all there is?”.

Now you might think that means I was disappointed. Quite the contrary for I learned more than one thing that day, aside from acquiring the freedom to imagine pie, tart and quiche vistas for years to come. I learned that I have a nasty habit of making little things into big molehills over naught. Pie dough was hardly the Everest I had made it, a lesson I need to remember more often. Secondly, why use each wonderful, incremental techniques to ultimate create less than perfect? With each step we had an option (better apples or not, nicer thickeners or none at all, no food dyes and easy on real cinnamon, no anonymous Apple Pie Spice that was reminiscent dental cloves more than anything else) to go higher ground or low end. Regrettably, with each step, we went further away from something real and made something well, fake. It is like being a Grand Prix race driver and using that skill to do the summer fair bumper car circuit. Major overdrive, major waste. I vowed, now knowing the foundation of pie, which is the crust which houses pie filling, I would take my time, choose my ingredients wisely and make a point of superior pie – superior anything actually. Each step of the way, in all you do, you have choices. If that class on pie was a building block experience; life is that much more. Layer good choices on and pretty soon you have inner architecture and moral real estate –well, to my mind of thinking.

Now, not all hotel schools teach pie that way and perhaps even my own alma mater has changed its approach but to this day, I have yet to taste a pie outside the home front that is anything close to how incredible and creative homemade could be. I got so hooked on pies that years later, I even designed my own pie rolling pin (still available at www.Goldaskitchen.com or www.Arescuisine.com ) and collect pie tins. I prefer restaurant-style aluminum pie plates, adore graniteware (you know, speckled enamel on steel like campfire ware?) and ceramic of any and every description. I am not keen on Pyrex but do like them for ice-box pies and out of nostalgia, for my Aunt Helen’s Cortland Apple Pie. If budget is no object, I would recommend at least one All-Clad pie pan – it is functional, high performance art.  Check out Wearever and Chicago Metallic, and especially browse Wal-Mart, hardware stores, for great pin pans in unexpected places.

In the end, what I take mostly from the pie dough lesson the wisdom of not making mountains of the things I think I don’t know. I look at computer downloads, parts that come with appliances, make-your-own bar mitzvah invitation kits and pretty well any instruction manual with horror and resistance. Then I have to remember – I once also froze at the mere thought of pie dough – pie dough, of all things! The real difficulty is attitude. If you can master attitude, you can master life.

The baker’s upshot of all this is pie is of course, a regular part of my repertoire as a mother and as a pastry chef. Somehow, nothing is as calming to make and making one never fails to remind me that step by step, I have choices. I can make St. Hubert BBQ pies that are food stylist perfect (meaning you cut a slice and the nothing happens: nothing moves or jiggles - think Botox for pie) and are bereft of taste and soul or I can make 'memory food', as my friend Linda used to call anything that tastes sweetly comforting as home.  When you make a pie that is pure memory food, no one will sing, a la Peggy Lee, ‘is that all there is?”. They might hum another tune, maybe something from Oliver, something like, “Please sir, can I have some more?”

And that, for now, is the state of the art of pie.....


Marcy Goldman

Our Pie Showcase

FREE BetterBaking.com's Classic Pie Dough
On the house, for your pies de maison……

FREE
Lemon pie as you like it – tart and sweet. A dash of dried egg white powder will make your meringue a weep-free affair.


Silky, wondrous, creamy pie. Why would anyone use this decadent and delicious dessert in a comedy sketch?

Pastry Chef's French Peach Tart
A package of puff pastry, a basket of peaches and thou. Fuss-free baking with cachet to spare.

Dreamy Creamy Vanilla and Brown Sugar Pie Decadence in a caramel spin. Unbelievably easy, quick and deelicious!

Free Form Italian Plum Crostata
A taste of Italy wherever you are. Frolla or sweet tart dough and a heady fusion of berries make a crimson tart come alive. Apricots also work for yet another spectacular rendition of this dessert.

Tea Room Lemon Refrigerator Pie
Lemon pie in a summer convertible model. Whipped and chilled into a cloud-like tart. This one looks like it came straight out of a 50’s diner.


Just desserts for chocolate lovers; a swell pie for everyone else.
If berries and creamy pies don’t suit, this is your ticket to ride. Ice cream and hot fudge sauce, optional. (Alex pie recipe is not done but here is code)

Fruits of the Forest Summer Tart
Berry, berry good. A fruit symphony packed in a butter, flaky crust.

Plus Some Corn Harvest Specialties

Corn and Blueberry Scone Farm Cake
A high standing cake/bread that is lightly corn tasting and wonderful, with jam or cheese or plain. This is not a quick bread, not cake, not bread, and not a muffin. What is it? It is a farm cake -in a class by itself.

Cowboy Chili Cornbread Lasagna
Cornbread bottom, zesty taco filling on top, Monterey Jack cheese and salsa make this casserole a campfire legend. Serve with a side of sour cream and avocado slices for a Tex Mex sensation that is delectable and staying.

Field of Dreams Magic Corn On The Cob
If you make corn this way, Shoeless Joe himself might show up for dinner
You will never make corn the old way after this.

And Some Extra Treats

Ooey Gooey Chocolate Chippers
When you need something sweet, chewy, chocolaty and different

Big, Fat, Satisfying Old Fashioned Jam Sandwich Cookies
Forget about that  ‘roll dough thin’ routine. These babies are legend because of their heft. Crisp, crumbly and then satisfyingly chewy at their centers, these were recently served up to the stage crew at the Just For Laughs Comedy Fest in Montreal. They drew more raves than the comics. Just ask the band! Do we road test our recipes at BB? Yes’em, we do. We also serve these minus the jam but dipped in a bath of melted milk chocolate and gift-wrap them in cello bags with a tie.


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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