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A Note from Marcy

Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,

Happy New Year and welcome back!

Strange thing: it’s only time or a day more or less, but a new year also does feel brand new. Is it mood, attitude, context or the calendar? What a difference two weeks make. It’s like we all have a December version of ourselves which then flips, like the day-date book into the January version of us.

I can’t speak for all of you or all bakers, but come January, I find myself baking less or baking simple things (unless I let the recent rave report from one of my testers on my White Chocolate Coconut Cake induce me to bake yet another one; boy, is that cake good!). Instead, I head for my soups, salads and favorite stews in my recipe files. Mood and palate are coaxed with savory things that hail from my ‘cook’s side’ of myself, or my inner sous chef. With this alter ego chef in residence, and with the warmth of sharing, I offer you an issue of some my most treasured cooking recipes, as well as some new baking delights.

Interestingly, in the professional kitchen, most pastry chefs as well as bakers are very capable cooks. FYI, Pastry chefs are the folks who decorate and do the sculpted stuff, plated desserts, cookies, scones – you name it. Bakers are the ones, in the professional kitchen, that do the breads, croissants, Danish and muffins) and anything with yeast. They, as well as pastry chefs, are generally very talented at anything they do whether it is soup, salad or pies or tarts. They have both the hand-eye skills and taste and both converge to make them great chefs - regardless of what part of the kitchen they are standing in.

Pastry chefs start their day around 9 am; bakers, being handmaidens to the yeast, can begin their work day from midnight on.  Conversely, most cooks  (and I hear shrieks already) are not are as flexible or as able or equally able in both sides of the kitchen. Oh sure, they can make the odd pie dough for a quiche but throw them a cake to decorate, a bread to conjure, or construct a mouth-watering scone? Ah, like, no, I don’t think so. Also, fyi, in the professional kitchen, at least around here, we call chefs: chef boulangere (baker) or chef patissiere (pastry chef) or chef cuisiniere (cooks). 

Not to get too macho about it but I believe our ‘bakers’ versatility of skills is what makes bakers so special. The best baker is generally well able to make anything else – flour-laden or not. As for cooks? My colleagues are oh-so-terrific at plated entrees and inspiring appetizers but they are more tourists in Wheatland, whereas bakers and pastry chefs are native sons (and daughters) wherever we may roam. I could cite the possible reasons but I am sure the fire is already lit somewhere in the culinary kingdom. Best to make a quick exit! On the other hand, however, home cooks, who are most often (still) women, reflect this same phenomena – tons of us are great cooks but still can’t bake or claim to be less comfortable with baking, than with cooking. But great baking women are also generally great cooking gals. How do you know if you are more baker than cook?  You hurry through the garlic mashing, dressing the turkey/roast/, throw a salad together just so you can finally relax and get to....acres of baking which for you, is the real pleasure. You love cooking; you are in love with baking. Easy.

On another note, I have good news and perhaps, somewhat disappointing news.

The disappointing news is that BB is winding down for a bit as the baker takes a sabbatical, regroups, writes and recharges. The good news is, I am still writing and baking, and still here, in some capacity with you. When and if I am able to sneak away to do a Note From Marcy, I most certainly will and perhaps sneak in a recipe or two but BB will be, much like winter wheat, in a quiet place.

The winter holiday was a perfect time out to reflect. It came to me, after a great debate, which dates back well before this holiday period past, that BetterBaking.com, while a labor of love, takes all my energies – as writer and baker, as well as president of operations and web goddess tasks. Increasingly, BB has demanded the lion’s share of my time and energy, leaving me no time to do and be what I am.  The sheer girth of BB commands my alter skills, making me pine for what I love and do best: baking and writing. My own wish to broaden what I write (including other cookbooks) has also been percolating. In short, I am not able to simply do less of a site – being an all or nothing sort of baker. I have, as one of my editors once commented, a 'largesse' of spirit.  So, for now, I am taking a much-needed time out and hope you will stayed tuned and enjoy the many offerings already present online. With over 2000 recipes, there's lots to go through.  

Everything will look more or less the same but instead of tons of new recipes, essays, and features, but on March lst, 2007, you will notice things will be simple. I will be in touch via the newsletter with notes on my sabbatical and the new cookbook, A Passion for Baking, (Oxmoor House, September 2007), and upcoming works and endeavors.

We are leaving the subscriptions as is – for $14.99 per 3-month segments and this is really for those that enjoy having all my online recipes, on hand, as their online cookbook and resource. The cost is essentially/conceptually a user fee for the Complete Recipe Archives. For those who prefer, there is also the Pay-by-Recipe feature.  I appreciate the ripple of dismay loyal bakers might experience but I encourage you to browse the various free recipes on the site and archived Notes From Marcy. A look at Previous Issues of BB will show you where we've travelled in the last few years. If you find a recipe link that does not connect to a recipe, btw, chances are, that recipe is now in a new home in the new cookbook. Speaking of which, the new cookbook is now just months away and the cover, as you see, says it all, A Passion for Baking.

That heart in flour is something I often do just as I am cleaning up my baker's wood work surface. My youngest son caught me one day, just as I finished inscribing yet another beautiful heart in the flour and he snapped a picture. When my publisher, Oxmoor House came to visit last May, they too, snapped a photo of one of my baker's hearts in the flour. They, much as my son Ben, must have agreed - nothing captures how I feel about baking better than
that.But you can imagine the wonderful surprise I got when I saw that my very own flour heart became the exceptional and beautiful cover of my latest cookbook. It is....captivating.

BetterBaking.com began as a web page that was intended to be my electronic byline. I have hosted this enterprise as an enterprise and it has in turn, amplified by name, brand and personality. But now it is time to step back, make space for new things, and focus those things I do: write, bake, communicate, teach and hopefully inspire, as both writer and baker.  And who knows, maybe BB will evolve in yet some other magical ways that may lurk around the corner that neither you nor I have dreamed of that will be even better. It’s not goodbye; it’s baker breathing room.  If you need to contact us, it is still editors@betterbaking.com.

Please enjoy the January issue and the February 'big’ issue. I thank you all for coming to visit, as you have, for the past decade, when BB and the Net both were in their frontier days and hope you will stay tuned. My new cookbook is ever closer to the finish line; it is a mere 9 months away and we will let you know where and when to purchase, online and in retail stores in the United States and Canada.  Beyond that, I am sure there is far more words and wheat ever evolving in the wind. 

Warmest wishes for a great new year, and wishing you, as always, happy baking and sweet times,

Marcy Goldman
Editor, Host
www.BetterBaking.com


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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