Dear Fellow Bakers and Friends,
It's the February 2024 Issue of Betterbaking.com!
Welcome to the’ heartiest’ month of the year where our fingers and toes may be boned-chilled but inside our hearts are warm and glowing. It’s the second month of the year, aka the love month, book-marked mid-way by Valentine’s Day. Ah Valentine’s day… a day people love or hate or hate to love or love to hate. To me, like the song says, everyday is a Valentine’s day. Still, it’s a comfort that for at least for one day of the year I’m not the only silly romantic out there. This is of course keeping in mind that sort of love is just the tip of the ice-berg.
Romance aside, chilly February is the time that can pass as a chilly wasteland of utter stillness. But as you know after twenty-seven years of reading my newsletters, there are crops like winter wheat, already germinating under the blanket of snow. Nothing is fallow; we and the earth are just in this a lie-low state. Some call it hibernation; I call it nesting.
I just read a fabulous novel, Daughters of Olympus by Hannah Lynn. Not only does this novel tie in with my thoughts this February it’s a beautiful, literary treatment of the myth of Demeter and her daughter who is abducted by Hades of the underworld. Mother’s love and Hade’s obsession of Persephone collide in a mother and son-in-law compromise. The two agree to a deal that promises Persephone spends six months with her husband underground or the underworld. For the other six months, when the flowers start blooming and the earth is green and renewing, the prodigal daughter returns to the above-ground earth, sunlight and seedlings and her mother’s arms. I imagine Demeter, pining for her kidnapped Persephone, probably did her fair share of nesting too.
One of my new year’s resolutions was to go slow, take more time, do less, and make wellness a 365 days-a-year thing –not a day here or there or a spa hour but 24/7. In short, I want to nest more often and I’m not alone. I read a short essay by Suleika Jaouad who pens The Isolation Journals.
Suleika is a cancer survivor but she’s primarily a professional writer aka known as the wife of Jon Batiste, jazz musician who appears nightly on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show. In one of her recent postings she spoke about the ‘gift’ of her hospital stays were about that although she was in choice-less circumstances, she had opportunity could give herself permission to do her best thinking and writing, and creative planning. In other words, she had permission to relax and just be which we all need. For more on how to nest and do winter, check out The Power of Wintering by Katherine May.
Some of us won’t admit it or already forgot but in some ways I miss those sprawling days the pandemic gave us. Yes of course it was brutal, sometimes isolating or depressing but there was a slowness and uninterrupted sheets of time that allowed for deeper reflections. There was less striving (besides finding out where to find N95masks, flour and yeast) and you could unapologetically take things slow and all over the world others were doing the same thing. BB inherited a lot of new bakers in that time!
We shouldn’t have to wait to have a cold or worse, or a pandemic or a winter snow storm to take it easy. You can also nest in spring or summer, each and everyday; I give you permission. I now make 4-5:30 pm my regular, daily oasis of nothing-ness. I might meditate, journal, or stare into space, read, listen to a podcast or a symphony, or watch a movie (oh the delicious pleasure of a matinee chez moi!) but that’s my sacred time. For ninety minutes I bask in stillness. Quiet time builds something inside out that’s restorative. It doesn’t always feel natural and I often feel apologetic even to myself for being ‘lazy’. But factoring in deliberate stillness is incredibly beneficial. You and I deserve it. Once it’s time to get busy again, here’s some lovely baking ideas. If you need any other suggestions just type into the BB Index for whatever your heart desires. With about 2800 original recipes, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for!
Valentine’s Day usually means chocolate and I’ve included some suggestions here the recipes below. I’m also happy to announce that Indigo Canada now carries all my titles including, just in time for Valentine’s Day, my romantic memoir, Tango Confidential. Check my author page at Indigo.
Oh - almost forgot - a free original Valentine's Day poem from the baker.
100 Words for Snow.
Wedding for Bella Biscotti
Notting Hill Brownies
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Red Velvet Brownies
Meanwhile, happy Valentine’s Day, happy February, stay centered, don’t stop being friendly – this world needs your warmth.
From my cozy kitchen to yours,
Master Baker, Author, Publisher
Recipes for February 2024
FREE!! White Chocolate Raspberry Sundae Cheesecake
I love marshmallows with anything but especially with raspberries. This is a gorgeous, creamy, New York Style cheesecake, with hunks of white chocolate, marshmallow cream and a ribbon of raspberry preserves is a cheesecake dream. It’s like a Raspberry Sundae, only better and pretty enough to serve as a knock-out dessert. It also doesn’t melt away like an ice-cream sundae but it does vanish quickly.
Costco Raspberry Cupcakes
Costco’s in-store bakery is often my muse. It’s not that I don’t think of making this sort of confection but recently Costco doled out a sample hunk of this raspberry cupcake with buttercream and a snowfall of white chocolate I knew I’d have to replicate it. Nothing is finer than pink cupcakes for Valentine’s Day.
Carrot Walnut Bread
There’s a gorgeous bakery here in Montreal called Boulangerie Miette. Once a year (November only!) they make an amazing carrot bread that has walnuts and a touch of spice but it is a rustic yeast bread. I’ve replicated (several tests later by me and a BB tester too) and you have a bread that you’ll never forget. https://www.mietteboulangerie.com/fr
Red Velvet Biscotti
The trouble with most things called Red Velvet is that they look great but taste….meh.
Usually the problem is a short of real cocoa and chocolate in the recipe with the recipe originator relying on too much red food colouring to dupe the eater into thinking something awesome is on the way. This recipe knows how to torque up the flavor with tons of pure cocoa, a hefty amount of real chocolate chunks and a glitz of white chocolate on top. Want to impress? Here you go. Thank me later.