Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,
Welcome to the July 2022 issue of Betterbaking.com!
One of the ways I know it’s officially summer is because I’m temporarily or chronically without A/C and I certainly feel it. It hardly makes me want to bake but I have been doing so despite. My need to bake is greater than my sense of self-preservation or rather, baking is my self-preservation. I can take the heat of the kitchen as time and life has proven.
I’ve also been rushing around too much in the heat, packing in as many errands into my days as humanly possible. It’s just this thing I’ve always done, i.e. plan out a steeple-chase course where I dash around like a woman possessed, leaving off stuff, picking up packages or mailing them out, visiting a friend, dipping by a new café or retro décor shop and spending time at some browsing at some food market, spice and tea store or a new bakery.
Clearly, there’s a bit of a compulsion to my pace but my reasoning is if I get it ‘all done’ I will inherit swaths of calm time afterward. From doing too much in one swoop I reckon I can then rest in big freed-up time windows. I'll put these spaces to good use by reading or baking or sit and contemplate why the cardinals on my deck prefer challah over blueberries and sunflower seeds.
Well I’m here to tell you after decades of doing this, it’s not working out. I don't suppose it ever has. Instead of an oasis of free time unfettered by activities, I’ve twice ended up with a migraine in the mall parking lot outside the Bath and Body Shop and had to do slow breathing. I realized the only tonic might be to flip the other way and become a sloth. What is a sloth? I never knew so I looked it up.
Peaches anyone? Baking with fruit is as natural as ice tea on a porch with a swing on it. This beautiful cake also does well with nectarines or apricots.
I’m embarrassed to say I thought a sloth was a nickname for a person who was lazy but I was thrilled to find out that a sloth is the cutest animal on the planet (except kittens) that moves exceptionally slowly and always seems to be blandly smiling. Check them out on YouTube. To me, a sloth has it right and should be the poster icon for the wellness industry. The sloth sports a ‘it’s no problem and not a big deal’ look even if the attitude underneath is not quite a match up but their biology. By moving very slowly sloths blend in and avoid predators. Sloths also have really slow metabolisms which accounts for their chill lifestyle. Their facial structure is such that even in pain, they appear to be smiling and not just smiling, it’s this big, bland goofy grin on top of it.
Overall, from the outside, sloths seem mindful and I'm inspired. And here’s to my new goal: move slowly and smile blandly no matter what is going on and maybe nix doing twelve errands a day. I don't have to earn my calm windows for reading and baking by rushing about.
Just recently, this philosophy also impacted on my baking recently. I made my usual buttermilk yellow cake and spent a long time just relaxing and slowly creaming the butter and sugar, scraping the bowl. Then I gently blended in the eggs, one by one, taking a whole lot of time in-between each egg and just observing the baking flow. And you know what? My ‘good’ cake became a superlative cake. Best yellow cake I ever made! So slowing down has a lot of rewards. It’s summer and things should be easy-going. Where are you rushing to anyway? And trust me, faster doesn't make things taste better and I'm certain when we rush, you're also tossing in some yucky food energy that our recipes don't need. None of us were drawn to baking because it's speedy. We love it because it's old school slow of pace in a modern world.
Happy Canada Day, happy July 4th, and a happy beginning to balmy July. Here's hoping summer offers its placid warmth to our spirits as well.
Happy baking from my kitchen to yours,
Master Baker, Author
Garlic Cheese Babka
If I called this plain old Garlic Loaf you might not consider it. Calling it babka ensures you’ll make this recipe and you should. I made it three times in one week due to popular demand!
Strawberry Apple Rhubarb Slab Pie
Slab pies or pies made in a sheet pan are crowd pleasers in a few ways. Visually they’re extra appealing and they’re perfect for dessert for events like long summer or fall weekends. My trick for this pie is to use three types of apples: Cortland, McIntosh and Granny Smith but use whatever apple you prefer.
OG QUEBEC SUGAR PIE
This is a superb pie and one of my personal favorites. Traditionally, grated maple sugar is called for but I use brown sugar and maple syrup. If you like pecan pie, but not the sludge/stickiness or the nuts but the wonderful caramel flavor and decadent sweetness, this is a pie for you!
I love this with iced coffee or iced tea. It’s such a good biscotti and I am a good judge of biscotti – trust me.
Peach Upside Down Cake
This can be made in a springform pan or a 9 by 13 and feel free to swap nectarines or apricots –it’s so summery!
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