January 2009 Issue of BetterBaking.Com Dear Fellow Bread Bakers and Bread Winners,
Happy New Year!
Welcome back and to life in the January lane. I hope your holidays were warm and toasty. No doubt many of you, as I have, reflected on the issues of the day this past holiday, browsing CNN and the New York Times with clucking tongues and some hand wringing. But on a happier note, a lot of us also newly cherish what we do have (family and friends, passions and palates). Maybe we are relearning to value what is real and enduring. And not to harp on the E word (as in economy), I think we need salute each other. We are indeed, bread bakers and bread winners. We are, to quote fellow Canuck Gino Vanelli, powerful people. When things get frosty and times seem less certain, one of the best responses is to focus on what you can do and what comforts.
For me, that means not only comfort cooking and baking for my family (and not fancy stuff, but heart-warming, crock pot dishes and hefty, rustic breads) but also reaching out to friends with baking. The holiday feeling shouldn’t quit because the calendar has turned a page. Being generous is the best tonic for both psychic and fiscal diets. It is a largesse of spirit that propels you forward, re-anchors your authenticity and lets the meaning and feeling of the holidays spill over to a new era. To hold back or tighten (not our wallets but our faith) when we are fearful is akin to clenching muscles in fear. It hardly makes a person a joy magnet. A true warrior is flexible and resilient – neither a door mat nor an aimless dreamer but someone who possesses the ability to stand still in difficulty and somehow stay open to what is possible. Punctuate this attitude with a simple homade loaf or batch of 40 Karat Carrot Cake and not only does some worry melt away but solutions as well as a touch of courage, emerge.
For those who bake, and flour being still under a dollar a pound, that can-do spirit means bread. It’s impossible to feel bad as you create goodness, nutrition, warmth and that sense of can do. Americans are terrific at this and at reinvention; we Canadians (in fact, all of us around the world), are at the least sturdy, stoic folk. It’s our version of can do. What can we do during these times? Interestingly, President Bush, at the most recent world economic meeting (of some sort) said,’ it’s time to be creative’. Creative. Yes, that’s the word he used. If President Bush can look at the financial woes of the globe and talk about solutions in terms of such things as creativity vs. numbers, it signals (at least to me and a few pundits) a new right brain era is upon us. Right brain is the outside the box/conceptual approach vs. empirical data based (my personal definition). But we bakers have the right brain (with a balance of left brain) in spades.
We cannot solve new problems with old ways of thinking. Even if it works for a time, a mixed cocktail of traditions and forging ahead to new ones seems in order. Even in old-fashioned baking - when was the last time you saw someone grind their own grown wheat and churn their own butter to make a pound cake? But the cakes we bake are if anything, more toothsome.
With a little can do, we can prevail. At the least, we can move past these times to a whole new start – a greener earth, a more peaceful planet, a leaner yet richer life, eat better (and for less), and make warm connections via our own family table as well as the global Internet kitchen. I truly feel that if we collectively, as best and as often we can, focus on that inner great spirit, and see it exemplified in rising breads, puffy muffins and mostly, our attitudes, we can see the future differently. We can create a future beyond probability. Moreover, we owe it to each other to buoy each other up. We bakers navigate via an inner North Star and thus resist shrinking inward, waiting for things to happen or as per economists tell us. Any baker can create magic from four elements: flour, tap water, sea salt, and free yeast from the air. From such magic, one can be as hospitable as a king. This is wealth as close as your fingertips. You don’t need a broker to get some of this magic nor the stock market to shift but the gains are immediate. This month, I am sharing my most outstanding French Bread to start you off as well as some Red River Cereal treats (Red River Cereal btw is now available online, along with other Canuck products like Robin Flour, tea, and unique chocolate bars via www.CanadianFavorites.ca).)
There’s also some other heartwarming recipes and a special treat, $$$$ Millionaire Bars that will rock your socks if the 40 Karat Blue Ribbon Winning multi grain carrot cake doesn’t sweep you away.
On another note, to Unsubscribe – just send us a note saying Unsubscribe in the Subject Line. For those that (occasionally) mark BetterBaking.com as Spam (and we are really prompt about those Unsubscribes), we run the risk of AOL (for one), dismissing BB as spam but then blocking our main server. In other words, we won’t be able to send out the newsletter. So we ask for your courtesy in such matters to enable those who want to receive the BB newsletter to keeping enjoying it.
And last, a Scent of a Baker tip. For all the scented candles bits you have left from the holidays? You know the sort - bits of wax that are too chunky (and smell too nice) to throw out but are wickless? Use them as wax melting tarts. As for tart melters? A free one is as close as using a double boiler (to melt the wax slowly and let the fragrance waft) or there are ones from Crazy Mountain (they make a variety of wax melters) and other sorts (check Ebay, Google under Electric Tart Melters, and The Body Shop has a super one). I found a variety of the most amazing, inexpensive and beautiful electric melters that take leftover scented candles and transform them into a whole new product that uplifts the home.
With warmest wishes for a new year, and a new era, of breaking bread and making peace,
$$$$ Millionaire Bars
$$$$$$ !! Priceless. A buttery shortbread base is the throne to a special caramel filling all topped off with a yet another unique chocolate triumphurate crown. No wonder these are Millionaire Bars –they are a treasure. Forget about the economy, breathe in and out, and munch on one of these. Makes 24 ‘shares’. I’ve been perfection this recipes for ages but January 2009 seems just the right time to decant it before it goes back in the vault.
40 Karats Carrot Cake
What’s up Doc? Your cake reputation!Take some fresh carrots. Introduce them to a multi-grain flour and some other good things and you have the freshest carrot cake on the block. This cake is not too sweet (nor fatty) and springs off the fork with a pure flavor. It is wholesome but hey, it’s still….cake.
!!!FREE!!! BetterBaking.com Original Red River Cereal Bread
This is made with Canada’s legendary Red River Cereal, which was originally formulated in St. Boniface, Manitoba. Now a Robin Hood product, the cereal is vintage health food, in this era of whole grains and contains the grain of the moment: flax seed. You can find Red River cereal at www.CanadianFavorites.Com or learn more about it at www.RobinHood.ca. This is a wonderful flax, rye and cracked wheat cereal that bakes up into an awesome bread. This recipe makes two loaves – gently crusty on the outside, freckled with whole grains inside, and overall, moist, fragrant and almost springy with body, making it superb fresh, days later, or toasted. This is a great choice for morning bread or sandwiches. This freezes well and so you can have one bread right away and one for the week after (or a gift to give)
!!! FREE!!! My Best (and easiest) French Country Bread It’s still one of my best – an easy way to a French country bread that works with any sort of yeast, almost any sort of flour, mishandling, mis-shaping, bread machine or hand-made or dough hook, best oven in the world or an outdoor BBQ, and whether a professional baker makes this or this becomes your first (but not last) bread ever. When my kids were little, I made 30 of these a day, took them out in snow storms and drove to the local bakery where they kindly sliced all my loaves and I packed them in the freezer so we were stocked with this basic, amazing bread for awhile. When all 30 were just baked, the song of the crisping, cooling crusts made an audible, collective crackle. One of my sons still says, he remembers the ‘bread singing’.
Beer or wine braised, hunker down stew – one of the best and also has a secret trick for chefs. Edible Bread Bowls
What makes a meal more special? Serving dishes. Especially when they are edible.
Cheddar Glazed Biscuits To me, biscuits of any sort are a meal. Cheddar biscuits, like caramel corn, are one of my weaknesses. These biscuits, when made with sharp cheddar, have pure biscuit soul.
Real Chili with Garlic My version of a bowl of red - a zesty, piquant, deeply flavored chili to warm up a sports weekend fall, winter, or a chilly night in-between seasons. Texans make a face if you mention tomatoes or beans when it comes to chili; Cincinnatians add cinnamon to theirs and it often appears atop spaghetti. Californians, well, Californians do what they like (add beans, tofu, chocolate and kiwi to taste...just kidding). Here's my version of a bowl of red - heat, spice, flavor and rib-sticking beefiness and a big smack of garlic.
Diner Style Old Fashioned Brown Sugar Oatmeal Apple Crisp If you can’t remember the last time you had this, it is time to make it again. Simple, nutritious, and gone in a flash. This is a nice, quick dessert and such a treat in mid winter –where sweet comfort, as per pantry ingredients and always at-the-ready apples is all you want. It’s all you need.
Rolled Oats and Golden Raisin Scones
Tons of butter, golden raisins, cranberries and cream make these the most tender, moist scones ever. They include a touch of whole-wheat flour for a rustic taste.
Cinnamon Bread Pudding This unique presentation of a buttery and rich bread pudding will have you thinking you are tasting cheesecake - it is that rich and good. The use of a spring-form mold (or 9-inch tart or quiche pan) dramatically changes the presentation to a dense lovely torte. The use of heavy cream makes for a thick and smooth interior. A great way to turn leftover egg bread, brioche or challah into a deluxe affair.
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.