Current Issue
BB Past Issues
A Note From Marcy
Complete Recipe Index
Subscribe to BB
Subscriber Sign In
Free BB Classics
About Us
Contact Us
When Bakers Write - Features
Scent of A Baker
Books
Music and Dance
Product Reviews

October 2012 A Note from Marcy


Rustic Plum TartBeautiful, simple, tasteful - the plums of fall abound.

Dear Bakers and Friends,

Welcome to this new issue of BetterBaking.com and the debut of October.

October is the baking blitz month. Actually every month until April is a sort of baking blitz month, what with holidays, special occasions and the cosy chilly weather butindulge me, at least for argument’s sake. October offers bake sales, coffee klatches with friends, Canadian Thanksgiving and Halloween but what you probably didn’t knowis that October is also National Popcorn Month; ditto for Caramel, Apple, Pickled Peppers, Chili, Cookie, Dessert and National Pretzel Month. Although, officially, October lst itself is Vegetarian Day, which of course, is no deterrent to celebrating October lst with some sort of baking (preferably egg free, gluten free, dairy free and not containing beef chips).

For those of you celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving, don’t forget the Recipe Archives are chock full of classic and innovative Thanksgiving baking, mains and sides. For those of you needing inspirations in your coffee klatch baking, there’s the Recipe Archives or some special recipes I’ve chosen this month, including Rustic Plum Tart and Pull Apart Monkey Bread.

These little known national baking holidays notwithstanding, and not that they are not very fine inspiration, I don’t follow any calendar when it comes to baking. I tend to bake what I’m in the mood for and lately, it’s a bit of everything. No matter how much I bake, I never seem to get it all done! To baking to-do list is an impressive spectrum of exciting things I always want to try, or perfect or revisit. I waver between improving my sourdough bread to re-invented Tollhouse Cookies to simply wanting to just sit with a cup of tea, and enjoy a frill-less banana bread. And I haven’t even gotten to do that of late. Instead, I’ve been researching self-publishing and despite that being entirely overwhelming (which is why a ton of authors resist, especially if they’ve been traditionally published), I think I will be getting into that fray soon. I’ve also been researching thyroid diets (Are you a thyroid person? Then you know what I mean – we are a different breed and the down low on bedding and sheets. For this, I got immersed in cotton, bamboo and all sorts of textiles and thread counts in-between. There’s a lot to know and it’s worth reading my as well as visiting my new go-to linens place online, www.DreamSoftBedware.com. My feature can be found at Dream Soft Sheets and Everything You Wanted to Know About Quality Sheets and Thread Count But Never Asked

You know how pleasant I can be and I skirt around things? Well, this month, I can’t. I have to speak my truth. I’ve been reading Cook’s All-Time Best Recipes, which is aspecial edition and wonderful collection of 20 years of their collected ‘best’. I love Cook’s – I used to write for them and as a reader, I used to devour their interesting, scientific-ish approach to recipes. Now, as a chef and cookbook author and general opinionated person, I just have to say: I am baffled with this particular special issue of the magazine but I am disenchanted in general. The recipes in this collection are all ‘perfect’. That’s the first problem. There is no perfect in food. God forbid. Food is live and passionate and evolving – as are our tastes and palates. What makes sense in the 60’s (insofar as taste goes), might not make sense now.

Moreover, inasmuch as I adore food science, you cannot always dissect every recipe, apply weird science (trial and error based on a foundation of some sort of taste bias), do strange things to the recipe (and make it generally difficult and affected and hard for someone to replicate) and keep a passion and curiosity about food. The recipes are all labeled : Best, or Fool Proof, Ultimate, Better, Great or Perfect. Perfect? From Yellow Cake to Ultimate Cupcakes, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Best Drop Biscuits. I notice two things. No matter who is the author behind each recipe and feature, the voice sounds the same. It’s like the same person wrote every feature. Cook’s has a huge and wonderfully talented staff and test kitchen and yet each feature soundsbleached of personality. I want to hear different food voices! But there’s a definite Cook’s style and it feels homogeneous and that is not what makes great food – greator interesting – nor do I feel a real, live person is home.

The recipes are interesting enough and I confess, I learned some things and became reflective and questioning about others. Fair enough. But there are also so many odd, a chef-would-never-fiddle-in-such-a-way approaches. Adding vinegar to make a fake sourdough bread taste ‘sour’? That is a horrid trick bad bakers used to do to sell instant-rye bread too quick (vs. the real way to rye). Or, reducing bananas not once but twice – heating them in the microwave and then reducing them further in a skillet, and cooling them before adding them to Grandma’s Banana Bread? Or the simply bad technique of adding yeast directly to buttermilk, eggs, sugar and salt (for Cinnamon Buns) when in fact, basic good baking suggests that yeast hates nothing more than direct contact with dairy (it prefers a bit of water to wake it up), salt and sugar. There is more but I won’t go on. The truth is that while it’s fun to have curiosity, adventure in the kitchen and a sense of logic these things are not a substitute for culinary training (in school and on the job) but more so, an intuitive respect for how things work or the traditions behind them. Adding the vinegar to make an immature sourdough bread taste ‘sour’ is just a total ignoring of the broader picture.

Sure, any recipe can stand a revamp. But there needs to be a foundation that is not just whimsy or taste but a base that is true food science, as well as professional culinary training in the field – not just a test kitchen. And there needs to be a sense of recipes created with heart and soul, and an understanding it’s for real people. There has to be a sense where people live when they cook and bake. Is there time to microwave bananas and then further cook them down in a skillet and cool and drain them? Last, I can’t speak for you but I like my recipes, and my life, imperfect. Better is one thing but perfection and ultimate? No. Not for me. And if I do happen on a Best Ever Cupcake, I am humble enough to admit it might not be yours.

Please be discerning when you read recipes that promise you ‘the best’ and dissect everything to where it’s not cooking or baking, but it’s lab work. That is part of where we are in food – check out http://modernistcuisine.com/. Here however, you have a team of diverse, trained professionals who do play with food (and I’ve attended one of their live presentations) but it is pure science, with aesthetics along for the ride. The issue with Cook’s is that it takes home cuisine and puts it on a table that is between the kitchen and the lab and somehow, eradicates its heart and spirit.

For those of you celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving, don’t forget the Recipe Archives are chock full of classic and innovative Thanksgiving baking, mains and sides. For those of you needing inspirations in your coffee klatch baking, there’s the Recipe Archives or some special recipes I’ve chosen this month, including Rustic Plum Tart and Pull Apart Monkey Bread

www.DreamSoftBedware.comDream Soft Sheets and Everything You Wanted to Know About Quality Sheets and Thread Count But Never Asked

Warm wishes,

Marcy Goldman
Author, Master Baker
www.BetterBaking.com
est. 1997

FREE!! Rustic Plum Tart

FREE!!! BLT Bread (or World's Finest White Bread)

Apple Pie Biscotti

Banana Buttermilk Streusel Muffins
These muffins are extraordinary no matter how you bake them but making them using Melitta coffee filter papers put them over the top (or get those new bigger muffin baking cups). They look mah-valous! I wanted big muffins with a novel shape and figured this would do the trick. Coffee filters (sprayed with non-stick cooking spray) fit right into muffin cups and help create gorgeous, big topped muffins that break the mold in looks at taste. Taste? Smooth bananas, with caramel, pecans, brown sugar and vanilla – these are bouquets of autumnal sweetness. When I am out of pecans, I use sunflower seeds instead.

Pull Apart Monkey Bread

Asiago Cheddar Potato Bread
This is a coarse textured, lusty bread that you make in a springform pan (or two loaves). It is one of those signature breads people will remember about you.
It suits toast or sandwiches or just buttered with slices of tomatoes on top.

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pancakes

Salty Sweet Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter Cookies

Boston Cream Pie Doughnuts

Congo Bars

Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Rolls

 

 


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.

Printer-Friendly VersionRecommend This Page

© BakerBoulanger / BetterBaking.com 1997-2003