It's September and that means it's the beginning of the season of spice, apples and pumpkins. Quiet applause and a whisper of hurrah - the 'baker's ball' of autumn has begun! Welcome back to the wheaty land of Baking Camelot aka Betterbaking.com.
Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,
Welcome to the September 2023 issue of Betterbaking.com! I’m happy to say hello to Labour Weekend even though it signifies the end of the warm days (or it used to mean that).
September is transitional and this long weekend is one where I hope to catch my breath albeit I have a wedding to attend and a tango ball. For a myriad of reasons, my August was wild. It played out as if every single day was the offspring of a full moon night before. So much turbulence of all sorts came to visit that it doesn’t bear going into but I'm still standing. But here we are now, at summer’s official end and as I sip coffee and write this A Note from Marcy all is well (ish).
I’d thought about what I wanted to say in this note but for expediency’s sake I will have to just stick with the recipes since I’m a bit late to press. I can’t offer any silly patter or seasonal advice other than share a quartet of recipes that are based mostly on my own whims and tastes. That said, we all have been of similar baking sensibility these many autumns so I trust you’ll find something appealing. I've included some traditional recipes for the holiday at hand and some seasonal ones.
For those celebrating the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, please remember to taste the apples before baking up your holiday apple desserts with them. This is true of all of us apple bakers. When apples are so fresh they can be a bit harder or more tart. Later season apples are always sweeter and while storage does little to help apples' texture, it does make them a bit sweeter. Before you bake with them, microwave a few slices and see how they soften and/or bake a few on a cookie sheet on parchment paper and see their sweetness, baking (wilting) attributes. Then choose which apples are best for the job. I prefer Cortland, McInstosh, Golden Delicious as well as newer varieties (Jazz, Tango, Honey Crisp or anything Costco introduces me to) and I like to mix them up in my various recipes. But taste before you bake and then like blending an ambrosial perfume, create some apple alchemy that will make your recipes sing. Don't just dump them in like salt and pepper!
Speaking of Rosh Hashanah, as busy as I’ve been, I already managed to roast and slice a brisket, made the chicken soup and sweet and sour meatballs (all the recipes are in my Newish Jewish Cookbook….not pushing, just sayin’). I can’t believe I am somewhat ahead for a change! It somehow reminds me of my late mother-in-law Shirley who used to spend many days in the kitchen (and she ran her own company full time too as a single mother) preparing for the major Jewish holidays. By the time the meal was served she plopped down at the table, satisfied with her efforts but concurrently proud and fatigued. At that point, she didn’t even eat a thing herself. Everyone would say: Shirley – you’re not eating!!!! And she’d say – I had a ton of brisket and everything else while I was making it; I’m not even hungry now. I ate already when I was tasting. Who doesn’t get that? Tasting while preparing a meal often leaves you worn out or vaguely stuffed before you even serve the meal. When you cook such a feast your own appetite seems to vanish. But what about the leftovers the next day? That’s the prize. The kitchen is clean, there’s every sort of dish from the menu neatly packed away but easily accessible. Furthermore you’re rested and there’s not a deadline to rush towards. That’s when you really enjoy the meal although seeing your beloved guests partake is a joy.
Of sweet and bittersweet…A Tribute to a Fallen Baker
So, short and sweet is this note - short as the days of fall approach and as sweet as a New Year. But on a bittersweet note, I dedicate this issue of Betterbaking.com to my late friend Heidi Kaplan Hefter who is missing her first Rosh Hashanah and her 67th birthday which would have followed soon after. And I will be missing her. I met Heidi thirty-seven years ago and we were both baking entrepreneurs. We went through pregnancies together, shared secrets, triumphs and stumbles, divorces, romances, children rearing – going from our tender 30-something days to our wiser, but still tender sixties. My friend recently moved from Montreal to Connecticut and was starting a brand new, beautiful chapter of her life. But instead of harvest, it was journey’s end which she greeted with fantastical courage and pragmatism. Like many of you who have lost people in this age of devices, I have all her texts which I am unlikely to ever erase. I know she’s no longer on the other end of them but the warmth of her spirit remains, which I suppose is the best and most lasting legacy. Btw, if any of you have ever made my Chicken Soup Recipe – thank Heidi. She taught me the value of kosher chicken for that hallmark recipe. (Apologies to my millennial readers and one of my own sons: when I say Chicken Soup; I am of course referring to Bone Broth). Chicken soup is always good but without the kosher chicken, it lacks soul. And without my friend in this world this New Year’s for me and all who loved her dearly will also lack a little soul: hers.
Warm wishes, wishing you a cherished September and beautiful start to a beautiful baking season,
Master Baker, Author, Publisher
Moist and Majestic New Year’s Honey Cake
My Mother’s Famous High Apple Cake
Chocolate Zucchini Loaf
Caramel Popcorn Cupcakes