April 2011 A Note from Marcy, Baker's Stash
Get eggy with it! Eggs are excellent, don’t you think? Pure, simple, accessible – who birthed such a great idea? Eggs are just the trick for Passover, Easter as they are symbolic of rebirth, renewal, and seems to me, a ton of great baking always seems to start with eggs. Check out as well as some Passover recipes and a quartet of the best Easter breads and some other treats. All free, all month. It’s all at www.betterbaking.com
Dear Fellow Bakers and Friends,
Apparently, spring is on the way but I neither feel it in spirit nor temperature. Actually, in spirit, the joy is returning on a slow but lazy healing curve, nicely bolstered by April tango (and new tango shoes on order), a fresh batch of perfumes (both bought and created), a simmering Bath and Body vanilla coconut candle, the kindness of friends and mysterious strangers, and mostly, my inability to stay away from life’s party too long.
As for the climes, to me it’s always 350 F – more than a balmy spa, my kitchen is a warm oasis – which is more than I can say for the brisk Montreal air. Speaking of brisk, I’ve been busy – busy baking, as well as setting up www.MistressofScents.com (this is where my column on fragrance, Scent of a Baker will segue to), revamping www.TangoConfidential.blogspot.com and writing proposal after proposals for agents and publishers. What is a proposal? A proposal is the very special hoop you jump through that gets you, if you are very lucky and very blessed, to a book contract with a publisher.
I have a hard time with proposals. Being a creative writer, I can wax lyrical about a piece of lint (if I had to) but I can’t write a straight, business-like sentence for love or flour. And once I get underway with a proposal for a book I am keen on (i.e. all of my ‘babies”) I tend to write the book itself right into the proposal. It’s just my natural zeal of course, but it doesn’t help when a proposal that should be 10 pages and somehow I write the equivalent of Moby Dick (the first draft). I have left more than one agent and editor faint with the onslaught of my verbiage; only the brave (and you too, gentle readers) seem to hang tough.
In-between proposals, I tend to play and pray (hourly), and do a ton of affirmations and write journal pages I throw out in the forest near my house (unless they are cheery entries) and go on culinary adventures in the city (I found raspberry, white chocolate cream cheese scones I now will just have to recreate). I’ve also been out with a tango friend who is doing his best to initiate me to Thai cuisine (I refused to buy a bottle that had a squid on it and we almost had a row in the store aisle) – I am sorry- I hate anything 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in food packaging graphics). Truth is, I go for the company (and he actually thinks I am a foodie and I cannot bear to disillusion him) and education on Thai ingredients (although said friend rolled his eyes when instead of staking out a better Thai curry paste I got waylaid at the incense section). I also go on my online culinary missions. The current preoccupation is: how to make better coffee; I am on it, will report when I come back from Javaland and a few interchanges with one of my heros, author, food scientist, Harold McGee.
Other than food, I am reading Peace and Plenty, Sara Ban Breathnach (the Simple Abundance author) which I recommend – it’s like a kinder, gentler, new-age Suzy Ormond but a cautionary tale if you ever thought being on Oprah or winning the lotto was a good thing. Seriously, Peace and Plenty is a must as are Susan Piver's most amazing daily meditation videos (www.SusanPiver.com) and Igvanla Vanzant (remember her) but on www.HayHouseRadio.com. Whether you know her or not or read her books, her radio show is brilliant and she is one of the most insightful, articulate speakers around. Plus there’s some amazing new baking books out including The Sono Baking Company Cookbook, Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook, Cakewalk (Kate Moss, culinary memoir) , The Grand Central Baking Book, The Tenth Muse (Judith Jones, Julia Child’s editor/discoverer) and Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life.
I’ve begun noticing trends (rare for me – I tend to sleep through trends or are on them too early or too late which results in the same un-time-ly-ness) such as hand-held pies (as you know but will inevitably lead to little tarts by this time, next year), blood oranges, rhubarb, quinoa (still), vegan for meat-lovers, Weight Watchers (if you can resist Jennifer Hudson’s voice or new waistline, good on you), drip coffee makers (I said I would report, now I’m just teasing), composite wood Adirondack chairs (not food but it’s a trend), baking powder biscuits (it’s about time – they’re my favorite thing) ribolitta soup (it’s in the Recipe Archives), flavored hummus, Portuguese chicken, squash and pumpkin anything (pie, casseroles, soups, tortellini) and here, in BB test kitchens, Persian Tea. Vitamin packed waters are also in but I don’t believe in them (it’s either more sugar than you need or chemical sugar you also don’t need). Wait: I forgot a trend – take only half a multi-vitamin at a time (says Dr. Oz)
All Free Recipes
I am also presenting the recipes this month, as I did last month, all free for the month before they go into a cookbook or back in the Recipe Archives. This approach seems less complicated (I never liked the tiered system of recipes, some free and some not) and keeps the Archives as the resource it is. I am testing new recipes all the time all the time but writing them up, mid keeping my various day jobs, takes time, so I hope you will be patient. Check Past Note from Marcy’s to see the recipes of each month. But please know that as it is spring, my Recipe Archives have far more salmon, leeks, rhubarb, strawberry, Passover, Easter, and maple treats than I can possibly present in one issue so don’t forget to check out the rest of the bounty. As for all else, there are my cookbooks, especially the 10th Anniversary Edition of Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking with Whitecap Books – not only is it home to but there is a super-duper bonus cooking chapter with all my holiday (Passover and otherwise) cooking dishes.
You can also tune in on April 12th on Martha Stewart Sirius where I will be chatting about homemade matzoh and horseradish or check out my feature in a similar vein in this month’s Food and Wine Magazine. Over at www.Clabbergirl.com of course, I have a monthly column you can always check out.
A little bit on Easter Breads
(Thank you to my friend, fellow author Beverly Swerling who asked me to dig out my best Easter Bread recipes. They come from one of my first features for the Montreal Gazette and Boston Globe and other papers)
Most major religious holidays are celebrated with foods of symbolic importance and are made according to recipes handed from one generation to another. Perhaps no other holiday but Easter offers such a variety of specialty breads, which is only fitting, considering the significance of this springtime holiday. Unlike Passover where bread is out, for those celebrating Easter, bread is in.
Bread, the staff of life, is an integral part of Easter meals for many cultures and such breads breads are often rich with added eggs or yolks, candied fruit and/or nuts, and are often colorfully garnished in Easter colors. One of the more familiar of Easter breads is a spicy, soft yeast bun called Hot Cross Buns. Made legendary in a children's nursery rhyme and originally called "Good Friday Buns" in England where they were first produced, Hot Cross Buns are marked with a cross on their tops. But there are others.
From Russia with love, comes the towering Kulich, an Easter bread known for its light, almost brioche-like texture, and imposing cylindrical shape – in fact, it’s very similar to an Italian panettone. Once baked in special Kulich molds, this tall loaf can also be made in either one or two pound metal coffee cans. The top of the baked loaf is lavished with dripping confectioners' icing and decoratively dusted with "non-pareils" or colored sprinkles for a festive touch. All sources admonish the cook to treat this light golden bread with special care and even go as far as to advise turning the baked bread out onto down pillows, so as to prevent any indentations in the soft sides. Kulich is flavorful alone, but is usually offered with an accompaniment called "pashka", a molded cheese spread made with sweetened cottage and/or cream cheese, eggs and studded with rum-soaked raisins and candied fruit. And if you like Kulich, you will also adore Greek Easter Bread and Italian Easter Bread.
Free Roasted Rhubarb Compote with Blood Oranges
This is a new spin on something old but ambrosial: stewed rhubarb of oven compote, perfect for spring and sublime for Passover when you need a perk amongst all the starch. Rhubarb marries well with sweet blood oranges (who also do their best to tint the rhubarb a deep rose colour). A touch of brown and white sugar and pomegranate molasses (honey is a fine substitute) make this rustic and sophisticated all at once.
Free Are You Sure These Are For Passover?Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
If you prefer, you may substitute raisins for the chocolate and add chopped nuts. If you are not serving these for a Seder supper, I would strongly suggest you use butter. What else could you call such a cookie that tastes like a gourmet chocolate chip cookie and yet, miraculously, is 'ok' to eat at Passover? This is what gets you through Passover week.....the perfect sweet nosh.
Free My Famous Matzoh Caramel Buttercrunch
I call this my "Trademark" dessert because I invented this treat ages ago - as a respite from all the heavier Passover desserts. This is only as easy as it is addictive. Warning: make a box for yourself before Passover and one box to serve at your Seders. Ground up, this makes a great Passover truffle or sponge cake coating.
Free Deep Dish Passover Apple Cake
This low-slung apple cake is tasty, moist and tinged with a bit of cinnamon. Great with only apples or throw in some cranberries or sour cherries. A cinch to make.
FREE Italian Easter Bread
This is an anise-scented braid or rounded loaf, topped with sesame seeds and presented with vibrant scarlet-dyed hard-cooked eggs, embedded in the top. It is usually served on Easter Sunday and ends the Lenten fast. Traditionally, various family members select a red egg from the loaf and lightly bang it against the egg of his neighbor. This continues in a round-robin chain reaction. The person who egg survives unscathed "wins" and the remaining hard-cooked eggs are enjoyed along with the rest of the meal.
Recipes for this Russian Easter bread vary greatly. This somewhat easier-than-most recipe makes either three cylindrical loaves, or one large and one small cylindrical loaf. Use 1 and/or 2 pound coffee cans to shape breads.
A flavorful molded cheese spread, traditionally offered with slices of Russian Easter bread. Raw yolks go into this and considering eggs are pasteurized and the mix is refrigerated, it is not a worry. That said, I use 2 tablespoons Byrd’s custard powder instead of the yolks myself, to thicken the spread but not worry about raw egg yolks. Up to you.
FREE Italian Easter Bread
Shaped in a rounded braid, the colored eggs that "nest" in this bread, look appropriately "Easter-ish". Italian Easter bread is similar to the Greek braided bread but is served with multi-colored, raw eggs inset into the bread. The finished bread resembles a braided "nest" in which the eggs sit. In addition, as with the Russian Kulich, the bread is covered with a confectioners' icing and colored sprinkles
Double or up the recipe as you need. This is wonderful for Passover, Easter, brunches or wedding day luncheons. A Fiestaware egg dish is perfect for this.
Free Onion Skin and Tea Infused Eggs
These are great for Easter, Passover or a gourmet picnic. A Middle Eastern inspiration and a conversation piece just because they look so unique, these boldly, flavored hard cooked eggs are simmered in onion skins, and tea leaves. The flavor is great but the beautiful mosaic of design that results on the egg white packaging is what sells this beauty.
Free Bistro Asparagus and Herb Quiche
April in Paris quiche is more like it…Younger than springtime is this quiche, with its herbs and cheese mix. Perfect with lamb’s lettuce salad. You could substitute tender, sautéed leeks for the asparagus on another day.
FREE Mock Cinnamon Buns Maple Hot Cross Buns
Delectable classics in a sweet new twist
Free Maple Glazed Doughnuts Maple Glazed Doughnut Squares
These big puffy, lightly sweet, barely chewy but oh-so-good doughnut squares of fried dough covered with a thick and luscious maple glaze are irresistible. Although the recipe calls for yeast, there's no kneading or punching down required. The yeast just helps these puff and inflate. And don't worry about frying either. Unlike French fries, dough doesn't spatter as it hits the oil. I use a wok for deep frying.
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