Winterset Strudel !!! free!!!!
Bit of scarlet berries, set in a golden pastry, capped with a snowy crown of confectioners' sugar (aka Icing Sugar for fellow Canadians). This is a gorgeous, easy, centerpiece of a strudel cake, perfect for any and every holiday.
Dear Fellow Bakers and Friends,
At last - it’s the end of the year and what a year this has been! How nice to meet back here in the kitchen with you and focus on the warmth of the winter holidays.
This is probably preaching to the choir but with the economy being as it is, it’s not surprising people are rediscovering baking. We bakers bake regardless; we just go into overdrive during the holidays. We bake beautiful gifts with extra heart and soul packed in them but alot of us simply because we enjoy the cosy oasis baking affords. In fact, each time there is some news show does the requisite segment on seasonal mood disorders due to lack of sunlight and recommend those wonderful natural sunshine lamps, I always wonder why they just don’t throw some vanilla extract into the lamp box with a recipe for oatmeal cookies. Once your house is fragrant with fresh baking, it’s really difficult to feel too down. At the least, if you are baking, your hands are busy and even a racing mind follows suit.
I suppose you can say the same about cooking but baking attracts a certain sort of person. If we were in baseball, we bakers would be the catchers; in hockey –the goalie, in music – conductors- maybe cellists. Something about bakers are leader/iconoclastic, nurturing sorts. We are also incredibly zealous – sleuthing out plans for indoor tandoors or outdoor bread ovens, fetching ancient sourdough starters home from trips to Europe, or convincing a local quarry to cut a slab of stone we can use in a make-shift pizza oven. We religiously hold on to a flee market rolling pin or our grandmother’s best apple paring knife and purr when we see butter on sale or someone gives us double strength pure vanilla as they step off a plane from Mexico. Sure, we know how to cook and we appreciate fine dining but we tend to remember the bread and dessert when everyone else goes nuts for the all-you-can-eat pasta bar. We are the ones that write Bon Appetit RSVP and want the recipe for the biscotti or toffee pie. We are not above trading a recipe for soup or a great vinaigrette but let’s face it – there’s no thrill like replicating a Hardee biscuit or a Krispie Kreme doughnut or making a better artisinal boule or figuring out yet a better pizza than the weekend before.
To me, bakers are foodies but not all foodies are bakers. Foodies can be had for flair and celebrity in food; bakers want food with soul in it. We love food – of course we do - but the flour arts speak to us in a whole other way that only another baker understands. Did I mention we live to seduce with sugar and nostalgia and that the pleasure someone else takes in our food is only second to the pride and love we feel when we see we’ve made that happen.
Ah bakers - gotta love us.
This month, there are some special treats but as always, I remind you all there’s tons more buttery cookies, sumptuous holiday cakes, baking gifts, tea blends, company and party-style appetizers and more, in the Complete Recipe Archives. This is really the resource for subscribers and since I cannot showcase each of the 2500 original recipes, I do hope you browse or search for anything you might need. Speaking of which, I have a favour to ask of those of you in Toronto, I’ve been asked to replicate a pastry from the Haimish Bakery called a Chocolate Buffalo. If anyone has a photo or a can describe this pastry, (since I don’t live in Toronto) that would be helpful. I’ve also been asked if I can teach by email or phone, as in offer a mini-baking lesson. I’ve agreed for those who ask, to do a mini private lesson via email and phone. For those who are interested in this Private Baking Class (it’s only during the holidays when I have a bit more time), please email me (or if you want to give it as a gift for someone else). Those currently doing a private class choose the item they have issues with (pizza or bread or cheesecake or a combination of things or questions) and we take it from there.
I’ve been busy working on new cookbooks and awaiting the first shipment of my new perfume, Wheat Siren. I also hope to share some neat gift ideas for unique products for the kitchen and home as well as new book reviews. Later this month, you will also get to browse one of the most interesting editions of Scent of a Baker, that includes new perfumes as well as the rediscovery of some vintage scents you will be thrilled to know still exist.
As the December issue of BB arrives on your cyber doorstep, it finds me, as most of you, ensconced with holiday shopping, baking the things that please me and mine, stocking up on books, DVD’s, music, and times with friends, the Andy Warhohl exhibit, the Nutcracker Suite, street choirs, as well as looking ahead to a quiet, warm family time. Hanukah is pretty festive (and creative) in our home but it is the pause from the bustle of the year is what I cherish most.
This is also a time of year I dig out a piece of fiction, intended as a script for a Hallmark seasonal special one day. It is called the Night of the Maccabees and I started it when my eldest son was three years old. I work the story here and there but alas it is still unfinished. The Night of the Maccabees is an adventure tale, geared towards 6-14 year olds. It is about Hanukah, and the significance of the holiday in contemporary terms, as well as about Christmas, family and community connections, and tolerance. Yes, I know - hardly original stuff but I still am smitten by this tale which I will probably finish when that first son has his first son (which should be some years away – so I have time).
I suppose the reason I keep writing is that over the years, especially at this time of year and especially when my boys were smaller, they would ask me: who are our heroes? I’ve told them about the Maccabees, who were essentially guerrilla fighters who fought for the freedom to worship their way. The Maccabees were inspiring and stalwart; a rough and tumble bunch, many of whom fatally fell before managing a pivotal victory around the second century, BC, reclaiming the SecondTemple. From that event, come the eight nights, candle lighting, latkes or potato pancakes, games of dreidel for the kids and the giving of small gifts. Thanks to the Maccabees, we have Hanukah, a holiday that lights up the darkness of a Canadian winter night and leaves an oily memory in its wake. Having three boys, I am often called upon to tell them of other heroics they can relate to.
Truth is, when I think of heroes, the Old Testament ones were somewhat lame. Moses was probably as diffident as Charleton Heston played him – slowly rising to his destiny and taking the Israelites out of Egypt. But gung ho and confident, Moses was not. He was – for all his royal upbringing – a plodder and doer but a leader? Destiny made him so but otherwise he might not have examined the status quo. Hard to say. He also, as people love to point out, stuttered.
Then there’s Gideon, who was similarly hesitant, albeit far less regally born. Gideon was a shepherd who crops up in Prophets. Called on to go against requisite foe, Gideon initially resists God’s bidding before agreeing to lead his people into battle. In the end, Gideon was revered, became a judge but was always renowned for not only superb military leadership but ultimately winning a battle without raising a single weapon.
Of course, there’s Jonah of Jonah and the Whale fame – another resistant fellow who ended up in the belly of a whale before finally, upon being spit out ashore, did some good. Self-serving Jonah’s real foe was his indifference to the greater good for reasons that were never clear to me. Jonah actually tried to hide from God, which of course, in terms Old Testament values, is a poor man’s game.
We could also cite Abraham who went from being a total wild man (well, in all fairness, so was everyone else at the time, pretty well) to being so devout he almost did away with his own son out of a show of loyalty to God. I always found that sort of devotion a bit problematic (certainly polar) but Abraham’s transformation is usually lauded and a moral metaphor in sermons. And what about old Noah – skeptical of pending floods (rumours, rumours) but finally caved in, and artfully built that amazing ark and floated his family and two each of the animal species to higher ground.
Of course, nowadays, my boys are a bit too old to hear about the Maccabees. As boys becoming men do, they have new heroes. Their heros are found in the world of music, sports, politics, comedy, movies and in precious moments: each other. But at this time of year, most parents have a holiday wish for their children and I am no different. On occasion of the beginning of this universal season of light, hope and peace, my wish for my sons is that they are, in their time and fashion, as strong as Samson (but get a haircut every so often), as wise as Solomon, as plucky and kind as King David, as forgiving to each other as Joseph of multi-coloured dream coat fame, and finally, as is fitting, as brave as the Maccabees. I also hope they remember not to light the candle menorah too close to the electric one that caught fire and melted into the wicked witch of Oz, last Hanukah. And may I just also say, please be careful when frying potato pancakes in hot oil over a gas flame. Put the oil in the pan BEFORE you ignite the flame – sequencing is everything.
To all my baking friends, and just friends of the baker, happy holidays. I wish you a safe and happy vacation or time off, and thank you for sharing another special year of baking and chatting.
With warm wishes, for sweet times in the kitchen and in life, and a happy new year,
Remarkably, male Jewish heroes of old are painfully, poignantly, warmly human. Thoughtful, hesitant, reflective and doubt-infused, they are the opposite of super heroes. They’ve been known to balk and resist, doubt and question and only seize the day by the end of the day. On the other hand, the Old Testament gals: Hannah, Rachel, Sarah, Deborah, Esther of the Purim legend, and our feisty Hanukah heroine, Judith, are renown for literally lunging into battle or facing off and up to all sorts of evil oppressors, and generally upholding morality, belief systems and on occasion, their own virtue. They neither suffered fools nor villains lightly and not one of them suffered from a surfeit of social reticence. Yo, girls. The dames were legends of another ilk that have traditionally got less ink.
But the thing is most of these heroes were low key. No special powers and all in all, pretty fallible folk. Perhaps the humble recount (which is necessarily revisionist) is deliberately unassuming so that people could identity with the human thread. We can more easily appreciate (and be inspired by) greatness when it emerges from ordinary human beings. Who knows what greatness we can do, if called upon? To me, these stories are about possibility. They also remind me that perhaps the line between a victim and a hero is quite thin. Maybe a victim is just a hero in a prone position - something to think about in challenging times, as well as equally historical times as these.
Our December 2008 Baker's Stash Holiday Recipes
(Hanukkah Ones Follow)
Winterset Strudel This was one of the favourite recipes of all time. It is simple, pretty, widely appealing and as good for Christmas as it is for Hanukah. It is also refreshingly light. The combination of cranberries and apples makes this an extraordinary; not only does it taste delicious, look spectacular, but the pectin in the cranberries does amazing things with the filling. With its halo of confectioners’ sugar, over a crimson interior, this strudel does indeed evoke memories of SwanLake ballet.
Brazo Gitano Spanish Roll Cake
This Spanish cake roll, also associated with Puerto Rican cuisine, is similar to a Quebecoise Yule Log or British style sponge roll jam cake. It features a light sponge cake that is filled with rum/vanilla whipped cream. You can also fill it with jam or a thin layer of dulce de leche, and then the whipped cream for this deluxe recipe. Brazo Gitano translates as Gypsy’s Arm. It makes a perfect holiday cake.
Cake Flour Buttermilk Pancakes These are restaurant (think IHOP) style pancakes. They are tender but hearty and probably the best pancakes you will ever make. I am already working on a multi-grain version but these are holiday makers. These pancakes positively shriek holiday vacation!!! The malt powder is another trick in this recipe and the source for malt powder online, is included (it’s also in our Product Reviews).
Classic and always popular Earl Grey tea was named for Charles Grey, the second earl in his line, who was also prime minister to King William IV in the early 19th century. Usually a mix of Indian and Sri Lankan tea, the unique flavour comes from a touch of oil of bergamot. There are many types of Earl Grey – Twinnings of course is one such, but www.Serendititea.com or www.Harney.Com are terrific sources. Middle Eastern food stores also have great Earl Grey tea at bargain prices. If you like Earl Grey, try different one. I do and Iike them all. They all feature the bergamot but the tea leaf blending is different and the overall flavour quite different –each and every one. For gifts, dollar stores have tea tins or visit (if you are fortunate to have one) Chinatown in your city.
Pink Champagne New Year's Eve Cookies A tiny bottle of champagne is all you need for these elegant cookies. These are tiny butter cookies, slicked up with a glaze that lends them sudden sophistication. Make tons of these and wrap them in pretty cello bags as a take-away gift at a wedding or take them as a hostess gift to a New Year’s Day brunch.
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
Vanilla Bean Shortbread Flecks of pure vanilla bean and pure extract mellow up the buttery taste of classic shortbread. Fleur de Sel Chocolate Shortbread
Nothing brings out the bittersweet lusciousness of a chocolate-butter bouquet than fleur de sel. This recipe uses a sweet chocolate shortbread base but adds a touch more, larger grain, fleur de sel on top for the zap of sweet/salty bouquet. Fleur de sel comes in fine flakes (for inside the cookie) and slightly coarser grain for the cookie tops.
Blueberries and Cream Shortbread
Dried blueberries (or semi-frozen, small fresh blueberries) make these an incredible new tradition in holiday cookies. Cream and a touch of white chocolate take this forest berry to new heights.
French Rum Pound Cake Fruitcaked out? Didn’t think so. At any rate, in case you are but still have candied fruit left over; here is a delightful little rum and fruit pound cake that is one of my favorites. It is festive, buttery, moist and flavor-infused. It is a great hostess or holiday gift. I generally triple this recipe and make about 6 small loaves as gifts. If you don’t want to use spirits, use orange juice or brewed tea instead. Golden Almond Holiday Stollen
Delicious European holiday sweet bread. For a softer crust, you can paint your stollen with melted butter as it comes out of the oven or a special wash of sugar syrup included in this recipe. This is a rich, tender bread filled with candied fruits and a core of sweet almond paste. As good fresh as it is a few days later, plain or toasted.
Holiday Almond Pistachio and White Chocolate Biscotti Crunch and more deeply almond crunch, plus the subtle bouquet of orange, vanilla and white chocolate. Top it off with the surprise of pistachio nuts. If you don’t have a large processor for this recipe, use a stand mixer but it whips up in less than 7 minutes in a food processor.
Black Cherry Fudge Biscotti
Deep chocolate, holiday biscotti with a ribbon of cherry preserves, spiked with Cherry Herring or Kirsch, all coated in a special white ‘snow’ or set ‘whipped cream’ for the full Black Forest Cake effect…but with a crunch.
Fiori Di Sicilia Cookies with White Chocolate Glaze Tiny little butter cookies that taste like a vanilla creamsicle in a cookie. The Fiori Di Sicilia is a specialty extract that perfumes these morsels just so. I get mine from King Arthur Flour or use my own version you can make at home with pantry extracts (it’s all in the recipe).
Brown Sugar Scottish Shortbread Lightly butterscotch in character, fine shortbread by any other name. Make a tin of mixed white sugar and brown sugar shortbread. Pulverized sugar is the trick along with a smidgen of rice flour and slow baking.
Every cheesecake maker needs one marble one in their repertoire and this is mine. Cheesecakes were the mainstay of my cake business when I was a wholesale baker. This one is an institution. A dramatic version of a chocolate marble cheesecake. Bittersweet chocolate swirling throughout with a glossy fudge glaze. Make sure the milk chocolate you use for the cake batter is of excellent quality. For an all-chocolate cheesecake, tint the batter throughout with melted chocolate, instead of marbleizing it.
I wish someone would try this. It is ambrosial. If you don’t, you don’t know what you’re missing. It is Dickens gone gourmet.
Eggnog Bundt Poundcake
This makes one big loaf or two gift-able ones. This whips up in a food processor in about 2 minutes. 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 Eggnog Glaze that you pour, still warm, over the cake
New Way Famous Potato Latkes FREE !!!
How does a baker make the best latkes? Easier than the way you’ve been taught and (I think): better. How do you describe these exceptional potato pancakes? Perfection. Once you make them according to my special recipe you might never go back to the grandma-classic. Oh – do yourself a favour: buy an OXO Good Grips Potato Peeler. It is the best Hanukah gift (give it the first night!) possible. And a bag of potatoes, sour cream, and organic apple sauce (we’re going green this Hanukah.)
Real Cheese Danish with Easy Danish Dough
Isn't Hanukah the time to make something special? Isn't cheese a traditional Hanukah food? Come on. Go for it! This really makes any sort of Danish you want. It is a superlative (and easy) real, butter, real Danish Dough – the sort delis and bakeries used to make. As family bakeries bit the dust and/or bakers started scrimping and the buttery (and best) part of Danish began to disappear, the need to make it yourself became clear. This is so outstanding. Why? It tastes like the real McCoy(stein), the dough is supple and a pleasure to work with, the taste is incomparable; the fine delicate/bready pastry is addictive. You can fill this with the sweetened cheese filling called for here or make it with chocolate or cinnamon smear, or prune or apricot filling.
Hanukkah Jelly Doughnuts
There's nothing like homemade...especially when it comes to Chanukah doughnuts, or soufganiot. Grind the sugar in a food processor before you toss the doughnuts for a real doughnut shop professional touch. You can make these small or big, in soufganiot style rounds or leave out the jam for amazing, old-fashioned sugar, ring/hole doughnuts. For pareve meals, you can use water, instead of milk in the dough. Tons more Chanukah recipes are in A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking (Marcy Goldman, Broadway Books 2003). This recipe is a classic jelly doughnut for anytime of year but especially welcome at Chanukah. I also fill them with apple or blueberry pie filling.
Montreal Cheese Bagels
Similar to a Danish. This dough is flaky and delicate. If you are in a hurry, substitute store-bought puff pasty dough.
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, ‘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.