Current Issue
BB Past Issues
A Note From Marcy
Complete Recipe Index
Subscribe to BB
Subscriber Sign In
Free BB Classics
About Us
Contact Us
When Bakers Write - Features
Scent of A Baker
Books
Music and Dance
Product Reviews

A Note from Marcy

September 1st 2006
The Back To School Issue of BetterBaking.com

 

Complete Recipe Collection, www.BetterBaking.Com


Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,

Welcome back to Baker’s School. The Class of 2006 Commences Now!
Try To Remember the kind of September that featured....Carrot Cake.

BetterBaking.Com University of Baking cordially invites you back to school with an outstanding curriculum of fall baking. The BB 'U' campus is worldwide but our acceptance standards are very high. You must have at least a pound of flour, a wooden spoon, faith, hope and energy, and a heart as big as the village baker’s oven. You do not need calculators, Ipods, or Blackberries or any navigational system beyond your own good taste and inner baker's instinct.  If anyone comes to class (the classroom-kitchen is just down the hall from the dorm) with a cell phone thingie clipped on their ear like a giant electronic grasshopper, you will be summarily asked to leave. When you return to class, make sure you have that apron we told you about at commencement. Everything else is in the handbook.

Seriously, alumni and freshmen are all and always welcome in the BetterBaking.com Baker’s Class. BB is graduating to its 10th anniversary year online. Yes, we have been here just about a decade. We have gone from freshman on the Internet campus to sophomores. For myself as a baker, cookbook author and food journalist, I have seen the years fly by in a floury blur. Carrot cake has come and gone and returned in waves of other trends: chocolate chunk cookies, cinnamon buns, croissants, bagels, panini, tiramisu, cheesecake, biscotti, cupcakes, cream puffs (small rise and fall), and back to basics. The Silver Palate cookbook just came out in hardcover and The Moosewood Cookbook endures in the latest new edition and the Joy of Cooking in its umpteeth edition seems an inevitable staple if not quite an endless joy. We started with Julia and now it is Rachel Ray, Emeril, Nigella, Iron Chefs, Take Home Chef, Restaurant Make Over, and tons more (which I hear about but I don’t get the Food Channel which is just as well because then I would be watching instead of baking and writing). When I first proposed The Best of BetterBaking.com, an editor at a major publisher cautioned me that ‘no one will bake off the Internet’. And now, there are washable keyboards for the kitchen, built-in computer screens in fridges and bread machines that are interfaced with your microwave and toaster (yes, there are). Starbucks thrives but almost any kitchen can be equipped enough to make us all feel like baristas (don’t you love that word? Who wouldn’t want to grow up and be either a barrista – the word  just slides off the tongue. Better that a barista? How about 'stevedore'?).

But the nicest thing about food and baking, is that it remains, in broad terms, on the menu, regardless of trend. We still have to eat, versus download our meals and digitally digest. Bread is here to stay and still wonderful but even bread is better than ever before. Yeast is improved, there are choices in flour. Our tastes, experience and knowledge of bread has expanded. We all know more and expect better bread both in our own kitchens and from the supermarket bake section. We also routintely, those of us involved in the craft, use far more interesting ingredients. Ingredients like orange oil, once exotic and mail order only, are now found in Wal-Mart. There are also amazing housewares to make our time in the kitchen more fun and expedient. We eat out alot, true - and the mother (or dad) who still bakes is the stuff the Smithsonian is made of. Nowadays, there are even community kitchens where you can go, assemble quasi-homemade food, with strangers as company (but nice strangers) and prepare your own home-assembled foods that are recipe-ready all for a flat fee.  In lieu of three generations of sweating women at one tiny stove, you work in food stations where the mis en place is waiting for you. But hey – food is food. Nutrition and the pleasure of the table are still, year in and year out, always on the "A" List.  So, at the end of the day, are we, in fact,  ‘baking off the Internet” ? In a manner of speaking, I suppose we are - at least, if you are reading this online. But who cares how we get the recipe as long as we get the recipe.

With back-to-school upon us, and that scent of autumn nostalgia in the air, we salute Carrot Cake as the quintessential food trend. Carrot cake, incidentally, was my trademark cake when I launched my career as a commercial baker. My first business company name was Cuisine Carotte. Sure, Lawsuit Muffins and my Oreo Cheesecake brought some fame but it was my carrot cake that earned its keep and kept me in business. When I began supplying restaurants with carrot cake, I had a 10 cake minimum and the cakes literally flew out the door. I made so many of them that once I stop producing cakes for restaurants and segued to food writing and cookbooks, I never had a bite of one since - I was carrot-caked out, having baked and decorated, what, like thousands of carrot cakes. Until this issue of BB, I had forgotten how good carrot cake can be. It is fantastic. So I made one,  sat down with a slice and marvelled. I had been away too long! What a great cake. Sometimes, it's not a bad thing to miss something because you appreciate your reunion that much more. Carrot cake is the recipe that marked my freshman year as a cake supplier and pastry chef. Years later, it is still popular. But to sweeten our back-to baking class,  I have also provided some other fall classics, from creme brulee brownies to a basic black dress banana cake, plus more treats to tempt you back to the University of BetterBaking,com.

How has carrot cake changed? I now use orange oil and pure orange extract. I might make it with white whole-wheat flour, I definitely opt for organic carrots, walnuts and raisins, and that same old carrot cake has also birthed carrot cake biscotti, chocolate carrot cake, and a carrot cake scone. I no longer use only yellow raisins for my carrot cake as I used to insist; I now use a mix of dark and light) and no more two layers with tons of cream cheese icing. Instead, I make one huge layer, with a reasonable amount of icing. I don’t ever use ‘lite’ cream cheese and I insist on blending three types of cinnamon I get from Penzeys for a cinnamon perfume that is extraordinary. In winter, when the carrots begin to taste like sawdust, I add in grated Granny Smith apples to perk things up and have been known to add in crushed pinepapple or bits of diced, dried mango. I have never made marzipan carrots but I do, on occasion, pipe some orange icing carrots on top of my carrot cake.  I switched from single strength vanilla to Nielsen Massey's Double Strength Vanilla and also spritz in a bit of fresh lemon juice. And yet? The essential, marvelous taste and concept remains. A great carrot cake is like a Chanel suit : always in vogue.

Recipes get tweaked, methods get streamlined, the baker gets ever more skilled but the basics of baking craftsmanship endure for semesters of baking school eternal. Learn those basics and you can graduate to the state of the art of Baking. At the end of the day, it’s a balance between going forward and reinventing, keeping a respect for what has gone before and forging yet new frontiers. Baking, as all learning, does not happen in a vacuum. As you evolve  as a baker, so are your tastes and the tastes of the world outside you. But the scent and sense of well being that comes with fresh baking? Does that change? Never! Just ask my three sons who were present for the whirlwind of test baking that made up this issue. After ten years of publishing BB, they still ask me, on the frenzied baking and testing days before a new issue: Are we having people over? Are we invited to a party? I remind them it is once again, almost the first of the month and a new issue of BB Is pending. I don’t think they even hear me, so embroiled are they, each seeking out their favorites among the spoils of fresh-baked treats that cover the counters, baker’s rack and range top. The flood of baking is sweet evidence that both BB and all of you are still truckin’. The energy my test baking produces on this end is indescribable. I only hope you feel it on your end, in each and every month of new offerings - because the genesis of each of these recipes happens in a real place; a place as real as your kitchen. After testing for a new issue, it takes a good two days to clean the kitchen, restock the baker's pantry, and walk, jog, or bike off the extra calories. But there is also a sense of accomplishment, nurturing, creativity, and sharing that is incomparable.

On this occasion of a wonderful baking homecoming month, I wish you as always, happy baking, and sweet times, in the kitchen and beyond. Happy September. How does the song go? 
Try to remember, and if you remember....try carrot cake...and follow, follow, follow..... 

Marcy Goldman
Editor, Host, Head Baker
www.BetterBaking.Com
Est
. 1997

About The Art On Our Cover

We are indebted to the generosity of the Flanders Art Gallery in Minneapolis, MN as well as their artist, Sue Howe, for the loan of this extraordinary still life of carrot cake.  Howe’s canvases focus on everyday objects, (check out her Oreos and Milk painting, as well as other food themes), and the art found in familiar and deceptively simple subjects. The Flanders Art Gallery www.flanders-art.com has a host of other talents, along with Howe, www.suzannehowe.net.

 


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.

Printer-Friendly VersionRecommend This Page

 BakerBoulanger / BetterBaking.com 1997-2003