Behind every successful baker is a mixer playing sous chef.
Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,
Just so we're clear, this is not an ad for Kitchenaid but Kitchenaid is frankly, part of many of my best kitchen times. I've been through a lot of KA mixers which represent many more fold great kitchen moments. In my mind, it's all inseparable - the equipment, tools and ingredients use and my own efforts - it's become a special culinary cast of which I am the director. Speaking of direction.....
Each month, I am flooded with thoughts of sugar and spice but never more so than as the end of the year approaches. This year, with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s all in a giant food and celebration convergence, I am pulled this way and that, as I decide what to bake for my family, for friends, as gifts, and for you, my lovely baking companions. In mid-November, I got caught in a gingerbread groove and waxed between American style gingerbread cookies (chewy and crisp with crackles) and UK or New Zealand style cookies, also called Gingernuts which are hard, dunking style gingerbread cookies. I'm still working on it. Note to self (and you): always buy powdered gingerbread as fresh as can be, use it up and buy more when you need it. Note to everyone else: always stock up on your baking staples, get organized, do one thing at a time, and take many breaks from the kitchen. Most of all, be prepared so you don’t run out of ingredients mid-bake. I also suggest you cruise your local dollar store and indulge in a few extra spatulas, measuring spoons and cups. Don’t be washing up a utensil here and there and imposing on the rhythm of your baking. Work smart, bake better.
Speaking of being prepared, and as noted by the glorious Kitchenaid mixer on this month’s cover, make sure you are well-equipped to produce great baking. Amazing recipes, fresh ingredients, an extra spatula or two and your own artful hand are the essentials but a great mixer is the heart and soul of my kitchen and probably the same is true for you. So choose a mixer you adore and invest. A great mixer is a work horse. If you’re not ready to invest in a mixer, use a strong wire whisk or a good strong wood spoon and some added patience. Baking is the tastiest meditation I know. But overall, to craft great things, you need to 'gift' yourself with the right stuff to do the job. Always give yourself the right tools to work well. You are a baking goddess (or god) and you (and your baking) deserve it.
This is also a time when despite the beguiling treats we can make and want to bake, there’s also a hankering for a pot of soup and fresh bread. And in the back of our minds, we’re also thinking – the diet begins in January. But January is still up the road so we can put off spartan nutrition for just a bit. For now, it’s the sweetest time of year and great home baking is a major reason why. So, make some soup and bread, study the various diets (I'm thinking Paleo Hanukkah) but for now, enjoy the baker’s largesse and indulge, invent, create, stir, whip, bake, frost and wrap to your heart’s content. No one will refuse you. On this end, one of my sons and I will be having our annual biscotti marathon, wherein we bake tons of various biscotti, bag and label them and make a list of lucky recipients. Said son seems to like my company but then there is also the draw of a 60-inch restaurant range with huge oven capacity which makes short work of a ton of biscotti. This year, we're making maple biscotti, chocolate chip mandarin and lemon poppy seed or Cranberry Sugar Crusted Biscotti. And I am on a mission to fine a good online supplier of cellophane bags which are perfect to showcase biscotti.
And so, as December is upon us, I am offering this simple but perfect wish, that you enjoy some of my favorite holiday recipes, and your own family favorites and keep evolving your traditions. We food people are the keeper of the keys and the guardians of the hearth. Keeping the home fires burning is not only centering, it offers a solace that's incomparable.
Until the next issue of BB, I will be baking and writing, this holiday season as well as relaxing. Look for an upcoming feature on vanilla perfumes (and some www.MistressofScents.com new perfume reviews) and some last minute gift product reviews.
I wish you joy, peace and love in the kitchen and beyond. Bake someone happy and make that first someone…..you!
Author & Master Baker
December 2013 Recipe Collection
FREE!! Best Ever Roll-Out Sugar Cookie Dough
Easy to handle, and adaptable to all sorts of handling and additions (miniature chocolate chips, different extracts, finely ground nuts, spices, etc.) this is another 'little black dress' of cookie recipes to have around.
FREE!! Orange Vanilla Butter Nuggets With White Chocolate Glaze
hese are thick, vanilla-laced, dense and sandy butter cookies. Divine on their own, an orange-and-vanilla scented, melted white chocolate coating makes them ambrosial. These would be equally divine with semi-sweet chocolate on top.
Tortugas Style Rum Cake
This ultra tender (think Sara Lee Pound Cake but better/different), gold cake is reminiscent of famed Cayman Island Tortugas Rum Cake except it is a scratch cake, made with all natural ingredients – perfect to serve or give for the holidays. This uses the British method of cake blending and results in a rich, deeply golden, moist, buttery coffee cake soaked through with a special Rum Glaze. Apricot Brandy Fruit Cake
If you ever had Matthews House 1812 fine Apricot Fruitcake, you will love this recipe for that was my inspiration in creating this wonderful fruitcake. Way before the Internet, I had to mail away to purchase this cake (since I love anything apricot). I am not surprised to see Matthew's House is still in business and has greatly expanded their line. But I also like DIY so enjoy this golden wonder and I highly recommend you use Californian dried apricots - I get mine at http://www.bellaviva.com/ They are deeply orange and amazinly flavorful, tart and sweet and the soul of this cake.
Cranberry Sugar Crusted Biscotti
Fresh, scarlet cranberries, perfectly tart and flavourful, dot this sweet , orange accented biscotti dough. A special technique makes these a sugar plum of a biscotti.
Pumpkin Chocolate Bark
Is it me or have you noticed allot of pumpkin chocolate bark appearing online at specialty sites? It sounds so good! But I wasn’t sending away for something I could create but I am glad for the inspiration. This is slathers of milk and white Belgium chocolate, along with some orange-tinted, pumpkin-pie flavoured chocolate marbled in. It’s pretty, intriguing, a fine gift and holiday perk, and as gourmet as you please.
Eggnog Bundt Poundcake
A dusting of sugar and spice is perfect but you can also make a glaze of softened cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, touch of orange juice and pinch of nutmeg and drizzle this over the warm cake. Better yet, go for the addictive Buttered Egg Nog Glaze that is drizzled warm, over the cake.
Free!! Decadent French Mint Cookies
There's something innately and enduringly appealing about the chocolate mint connection. It's a flavour combo that never fails to impress. These are decadent fudge cookies, with crackly tops and a texture midway between cookie and brownie (think crisp edges and fudgy insides - like a truffle cookie). Warm, out of the oven, they are anointed with a peppermint patty or After Eight mint.
Essays to tickle your funny bone, wake up your inner baker, twinge on your heartstrings, or make you smile and say, ‘I’ve 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.