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March 2009 Baker's Recipe Stash

 

 

How do you take your March break? Straight up or with a little nostalgia? As March ambles in with its variable weather (talk about ambivalent; March makes it an art form) you can stay consistently cozy in your default baker’s temperate zone where it is always a balmy 350 F with sunny skies and a cinnamon sunset.

Speaking of nostalgia, do you remember your mom’s recipes and the recipe box? That recipe box? Sometimes it almost pays to be a boomer because in lieu of computers and recipe programs, many of us grew up instead, with recipes on recipe cards, (yes, real paper) kept in recipe box tins. Now, it’s so retro, it’s charming.  State-of-the-art moms used loose leaf folders with plastic covered recipes but to me, nothing beats the jaunty recipe tin, with the crisp index cards lined up inside, replete with grease stains, vanilla spills and penciled in comments, attesting to a recipe’s popularity (‘Kids love this’) or lack thereof (‘This recipe is good but a lot of work. Special occasions only’). In fact, that very distinct look and shape of a tabbed index card still says ‘recipe’ – even when you see it online, in a digital version.  

I have my mom’s two recipes boxes, as well as her massive white recipe book called Look and Cook, that has my mother’s name engraved on it – no doubt a unique cookbook offer specimen she sent away for. Although it’s called Look and Cook there is very little ‘look’ – there are almost no photos in the book! But what’s neat about the recipe boxes I now am guardian of is that despite their hominess my mother was hardly traditional. Family lore has that it was she who convinced Betty Freidan to dump domestic life and start a whole movement. Suffice to say, my mom is not run-of-the mill. But oddly, in conjunction with being a feminist ahead of her time, my mother did know both basic and advanced techniques in cooking and baking, had an ability to make exotic or glamorous dishes, and still, to this day, has a good palate and sense of culinary aesthetics.
Alas, her moments in the kitchen were erratic (ceramics, figure skating, peace marches, and world travel called) and I took over the home fires when I hit high school.

Nonetheless, in these treasured two recipe tins, (the one in this photo is the actual recipe box), there are tons of cards, in meticulous handwriting (and some are typed) of recipes my mother thought exceptional. No slouch herself, she was able to give a compliment to another cook. The recipes must have been memorable for my mom to both request them and record them neither email nor text messaging in those days). Of course, she also made them so often that they became part of her tried and truest. Consequently my brothers and I grew up with amazing oatmeal cookies, a plum tart, a wonderful cherry cheesecake, and date squares. By 14 years old, I started adding my own inventions to the repertoire but I still remember the homey goodness of my mom’s favorite things. Oh yes, while she doesn’t bake lately, my mom is definitely a force of nature as she ever was. She credits me warmly, concerning my cookbooks but maintains there is no cherry cheesecake quite as good as hers. Try the recipe – it’s in this issue and let me know.

For your March break, I offer you some recipes I grew up with and that helped shape my baker’s path, some Purim delights (yes! It’s hamantashen time) or you can join me in welcoming St. Pat’s (all month!) with some other extraordinary delights. I know a ton of you will head for the Irish Whisky Apple Cake or the Bailey’s Irish Apple Pie but the Guinness Braised Corned Beef is about the best thing this side of the Atlantic.

And guess what? I am working on revised editions of my first two cookbooks. It is a special surprise but it’s looking like this fall you will see both A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking and The Best of BetterBaking.com back on the shelves – in new editions, featuring added fresh, new, recipes and photos. In April, a photography crew will descend on the BB kitchens for a week long photo shoot of my favorite recipe picks. This all means that the BB Test Kitchen, my test kitchen manager Ellen Fuss, and our testing team is busier that ever. We were hard at work on A Passion for Cooking and have just switched gears to get these cookbooks ready for the ball again. Stay tuned. If you hear a shrill scream from New York State, it is Ellen, cursing me for ladling quadruple copies (I tweak, edit, and change things - what can I tell you), of a cookie or a cake I wanted tested yet again or yet another version of something I emailed twice before. What you need to know about Ellen is not only is she exacting but she has a dietician’s degree and sensibility. For her to oversee testing of the lavish desserts I create and not quite faint in disbelief is a feat in itself. She’s too good.

I am also reviewing/reading a neat book on not dieting which you might want to take a look at. It is by Beyond Word Publishers and it is The Gabriel Method


Recipe Box Specialties!
Mom’s Baking
 
Mom's Cherry Cheesecake !! Free !! 
This is the cake my mother made for all our special events and wonderful parties we had. In the morning, after such a party, very little of this cake was left but just seeing the cheesecake pan, with remnants of cherry cheesecake, now a memory, sticking to it – was proof a great time was had and a deluxe cake was there, holding court.
Mom's Famous Plum and Custard Cream Tart !! FREE !! 
A bouquet of tart-sweet plums, held in place by a vanilla and lightly spiced tinged egg and cream custard.  Warm up some apricot jam and brush it on as a glaze for a pastry shop finale. My mother actually made this with canned plums - which would be fine. This is spectacular in flavour and just a nice change from chocolate or cinnamon things. As I look at this recipe now, it occurs to me it is really a spin on Clafouti, the rustic French custard and fruit pie, often made with cherries. I don't recall that this pie (or tart) ever lasted more than an evening at our house. You can use the tart dough here or a ready made pie dough crust (if you are in a hurry); either is fine.
Passover Chocolate Genoise and Butter Cream Roll !! Free !!
So wholesome, sweet and homey. You don’t realize how good they are until you make them and wonder what took you so long!

Sweet Cheese Kreplach !! FREE!!

Hamantashen are the traditional Purim treat that is a cookie or pastry with a hidden inner filling of fruit. But sweet cheese kreplach are another sort of Purim pastry that is just as welcome.
 
Hamantashen Extravaganza!
If you haven't had one - make them. These are tiny pastries in a triangular form. Made with a very special (but easy) dough and filled with any one of these fillings, you will make friends, family and office colleagues very happy if you bring a batch of these around.



 
Because man does not live by hamantashen alone.

My Favorite Guinness Corned Beef 
This is this issue's most treasured recipe. Not - it's just one of my new favourite recipes.

Irish Whisky Apple Cake 
Apples tumbled through a vanilla whisky batter. No need to be lucky when you have this cake going for you.
Irish Cream Apple Pie
A sour cream flaky dough cradles an apple, Irish cream and brown sugar coated apple filling.
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One of my best of one of my favorites things (discounting caramel corn)
 
Baileys Irish Cream Brownies
Sumptuous. No other word needed.|

Guinness Irish Stew with Puff Pastry Cover 
What could be better than a deep-flavoured, hearty stew, with a buttery puff pastry ‘hat’ to tuck into? 
 
Unique, and full of flair, savory, crunchy sticks for anytime munching.

Texas Deep Chocolate Chunk Cookies 
These are about the size of Texas – big bold, sprawling puddings of pure chocolate. You could make them small or medium sized. The only thing you could do wrong here is to not make them. This recipe makes those perfect textured cookies – dense, chewy centers, crisp edges – perfect.

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.

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