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A Note from Marcy

A Note from Marcy

JANUARY 2006 You're Toast Issue

Honey-of-a-Whole-Wheat Bread !!!FREE!!!
Moist, fragrant, lofty whole-wheat which will help you keep some diet resolutions without compromising your taste for great flavor.

GARLIC SLATHER BREAD (this is now in my cookbook, A Passion for Baking)

A little Molini Pizzuti “00” flour or your own all-purpose, a ton of garlic, and the patience to wait as these rise and bake. Honest - the fragrance will drive you wild. Remember Domino’s Twisty Bread? These are that taste but with my ingenuity and your oven. Cue some zesty marinara for dipping.

Someone asked for a Delancey Street Bakery style coffeecake. I am guessing this is something like it. This is simply a great dense, bubka tasting, awesome cake. It is better the next day. It is not a round cake – it is a big, boxy pan of this layered dough with an unbeatable filling that all bakes, then compresses into an indescribable. …thing. Pastry? Cake? Strudel? It is in a class by itself. It is probably nothing like Delancey Street but it has New York schmeck all over it. The filling is good enough to eat on its own. This recipe won’t be around long. Get it while it’s hot!

Country Style Buttermilk Bread
Ever want homemade taste but wonder-bread texture and ease? This is the stuff.
It is probably the most favorite bread of our own testers – the bread they bake when they are not testing a new one!

Everything Bagels
All the right stuff for a winter’s day – onion/poppy/salt crusted big bagels. If you’re snowed in –this is what you want to bake. If you are out of fresh yeast, a substitution with dry yeast is given. These are big, fresh, amazing bagels that only satisfy palate as much as they impress the home crowd.

Real Butter, Real Homey Crescent Rolls
Move over Pillsbury doughboy. These crescents rolls are puffy, buttery, and bulging with flavor. Our tester just emailed back one word for these: ‘Outstanding’.

Tuscany Bread and Panchetta Salad
How do you make a salad a meal? Add in some bread. This is the Italian answer to fattoush. This is outstanding enough to make once weekly. It is a meal, masquerading as a salad.

Harbor Potato Cheese Bread
More of a batter than a dough this yields a coarse textured bread that is crusty but moist. rough. One of those breads you have on a trip up some coast where you stop at some no-name restaurant and the meal is ok but that bread they served that you took for granted sticks in your memory for years. This is great fresh bread that also keeps well and just is different but excellent.

Romanian Corn Meal and Cottage Cheese Kugel
If only this is what they really meant by global warming. This is a staying dish that tastes like a giant, golden blintz; only you cut it in squares. It takes literally seconds to whip this up and is brunch of lunch fare.

Soul satisfying cookies. Wholesome, rustic, sweet, crisp, soft, fruity – it produces a glow of well being in each bite.

Light Hungarian Rye Bread
A little Euro-rye in your bread is like perfume of the baking gods.

The Pam Pam Restaurant Famous Hungarian Cheese Sandwich
Mamke the secret spread recipe and add the fixin’s and you have the famed sandwich from this Montreal/Hungarian coffee hotspot, now a memory, if not for this recipe. Serve with a bowl of Sweet Paprika Smokey Bean Soup or Bableves

Dear Fellow Bakers and Friends of BetterBaking,

Welcome to the You’re Toast Issue of BetterBaking.Com, January 2006.

Happy New Year everyone. I trust your holidays were great or at least, a change of pace. Don’t you find each holiday is nicer than the year before? I sometimes think that the current or present holiday, much like loving the one you’re with philosophy, is what coats the holidays with its special glow. Surely each holiday season is different but somehow, I always love the one most recent if only because each year, I get closer to celebrating in a fashion that suits me/us, versus adhering to that formidable ‘should’ holiday style.

We have just de-tallowed our 8 menorahs of their multi-colored wax build-up and put away the extra gift-wrapping. Gift returns (minimal) are done; the Ikea purchases we swore we would never succumb to but did are all assembled and we have an impressive alan key collection to prove it. But oh, that post holiday, stunned feeling! The end of December is like one long, special weekend and then the first week of January hits and it has ‘where am I?/ What day is it? Is this my regular life? written all over it.  But what better cure for the reality of January than baking. I find my own holiday baking fervor is replaced with another sort of baking zeal. I don’t want little cookies or biscotti just yet. I want something big, wholesome or heart-warming – something to keep my-hands-busy sort-of-baking and make me feel I am taking care of the homestead. It is no surprise that bread is what I turn to.

On a business note, we are still figuring out how to offer recipes in the year ahead.
We are likely turning to a two-phase implementation wherein issues of BB will be available by the month like a print magazine (perhaps a few months, at a reduced rate). Recipes will be either retired after that month (into the cookbook) or into Recipe Archives. That second phase will be recipes available by-the-recipe (to be confirmed…but you asked!) so that recipes retired into the Archives will be available there, on that basis (if you miss a month or simply want one recipe or have commitment issues). Some recipes do make the ‘print-book’ cut and still more will never appear on this website but will only be available in the cookbook. We thank you for your patience for all this all takes time. In the meanwhile, until there are these new options, you can still sign on in the old format until September 30 of this year ($40/ all recipes, all the time).

And now, the Note From Marcy….You’re Toast or Comfort of Carbs…

Speaking of bready things and the baking routine of a new year, there is this myth about chefs – which is that we both create and prefer to eat exotic grub even when off duty.
But most chefs are just folks when it comes to comfort food. For instance, my own favorite happens to be toast. I test recipes for my cookbooks and website. At the end of the day I am loath to make anything more complicated than a stir-fry but there is more to it. My passion for toast goes back to way before I had a notion to become a pastry chef. It has to do with my dad.

In our house, my father manned the daily breakfast shift. He set a pristine table very early in the morning. Eggs were poached, kippers (kippers for goodness sakes!) were fried up in a cast iron skillet while coffee perked away, and then, the crowning touch, “Dad’s baked toast’.  He lavishly buttered several laterally split baguettes and placed them in a preheated oven. Baking crisped the interior crumb, turned the edges of the bread deeply golden, and best of all, intensified the pure flavor of the butter. You cannot imagine how something so simple, could have tasted so good !  In my callow viewpoint, it was a veritable feast. Is it is any wonder I became a baker?  I could bake all that bread that would become toast to my heart’s content.  When I was a teen, after school coffee and a plate of toast was an oasis. I never liked things too sweet and toast has this can-go-either way (sweet or savory) thing about it. It also is the perfect companion to my third favorite food, or rather potable: coffee. (Cheese is my other favorite food group).

Truth is, comfort food is a catchall phrase often affixed to cold weather cuisine such as casseroles, stews, and desserts that have requisite apples and cinnamon in them. It can be liquid (chicken soup or real cocoa) or mushy (oatmeal or eggs) or dairy-based (rice pudding, tapioca, and custards). There are those classic comforts and there is the genre of personal  ‘comfort foods’. These are dishes you have liked since childhood such as Eggs-in-a-Frame or English Muffin Pizza, or weird stuff born of a can of Campbell’s soup and soda crackers and what-not. In Louisa May Alcott’s time, it was Blanc Mange. Highly personal comfort food is the stuff no one else thinks is palatable – let alone comforting –except the person who finds it so. (We are not talking midnight bowls of Corn Flakes here –the range of concoctions is staggering). But who hasn’t nattered on, defending one’s own favorite potion or strange snack to someone who listened with rolled eyes and doubt?

Comfort food is the food we associate with people, special times and occasions. The flavor is real; the unique spice is nostalgia, and the common ingredient is simplicity and speed of preparation. Comfort food is we turn to when we really need a hug, a bath, and room service. It has very little to do with cuisine and nutrition; it is everything to do with how we are stirred by the scent of the familiar and the feelings of home it invokes.  True comfort food does not come from cookbooks nor is it written down but it is likely the first recipe we teach our kids, figuring it will soothe them as it soothes us – or maybe it is carrying on traditions we didn’t know we had lovingly tucked inside us that is the real tonic.

Many years and miles have past since those breakfasts of baked toast with my dad. Nowadays, his three grandsons, my sons, make baked toast for each other and me (especially if it is a rather chilly, post holiday, Saturday morning in January).  Each bite of the crunchy golden treat is an edible legacy of those breakfasts past and the love that lingers long after the toast has cooled.  I talk about how to make the toast just so, just as ‘grandpa’ would have. The boys hang on every word, beguiled as all kids are, about their heritage and family history and that fascination kids have for imagining, us, their parents, at their own current age. A stranger listening in might think I am going on about plain old toast (toast for goodness sake!) but a stranger with loving ears and a similar sensibility would know I am imparting another legacy. Trust me, it’s not about the toast.

Dad’s Baked Toast

4 8 inch lengthwise slices of baguette
Lots of unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slather butter on the crumb part of the bread and all over the outer crust. Bake until the butter saturates the bread and the edges are barely beginning to brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Beyond Dad’s Baked Toast is another foundation to my love of toast, which is my love of bread. Oddly, I got more into bread with the advent of bread machines. Now before you have kittens let me explain by saying, before bread machines, I made bread once in awhile. At the outset of my food writing and pastry chef career, I was embroiled in the search for definitive muffins, cookies and brownies. Bread to me, always seemed like a weekend thing to do. I only got into bread machines because I protested them so much (sort of like protesting the Web or Ipods) that I finally investigated them. What I discovered is that bread machines notwithstanding, bread was magical. I quickly realized I could use the machine to make doughs (but yes, I certainly also use my Kitchen Aid with dough book as well as hand make some doughs) and my fluency and passion for bread only grew. Somehow, the bread machine gave me wings and a curiosity for yeast that has never abated. I still endorse bread machines for making the dough and because for many new-to-yeast bakers, it is an appliance that offers fledging bread bakers a certain ease of passage. In other words, it engenders familiarity, ease, and success that leads to yet more efforts (and success) in bread.  If you got dough, you got game. If a boxy little machine (that otherwise makes rather insipid Bread Machine Bread if you use it to bake the loaf rather than mix and proof it) can ignite your interest and confidence in bread, by all means – get one! Otherwise, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands (or Kitchen Aid) ready, stock up on bread flour, rapid-rise yeast (also known as instant yeast or bread machine yeast – all names for fine dry yeast that is markedly resilient and trouble-free) and get started.  When I wrote about bread machine breads for Fine Cooking years ago, Julia Child was the first person to call me and say – Good job – you made bread machines the food processors now! You made it ‘ok’ for home bakers to try them. 
(Thank you, Julia).

Beyond fresh bread, there is a plethora of things that come from bread: bread-and-butter and tomato sandwiches, toast of course, baked toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, bread puddings, French Toast, wonderful bread salads, and even croutons for Caesar Salad. One of my own favorite sandwiches that relies on rye bread, is from a long-gone restaurant called the Pam Pam. The Pam Pam was nestled on Mountain Street in downtown Montreal. They served a sandwich of rye bread, topped with Hungarian Cheese (a paprika, scallion cottage cheese spread), and slabs of green pepper. There might have been thin slivers of Hungarian salami on it as well. That was a simple but totally incredible sandwich. Another favorite sandwich? Sourdough bread, grilled with garlic and olive oil, melted chevre, Brie, panchetta, sundried tomatoes, black olive tapenade, and a final drizzle of balsamic vinegar and hot sauce. What’s your favorite sandwich? Whatever it is, it all starts with bread. Which bring us to toasters, I am a diehard Dualit fan ( but also endorse toasters from Australia from the Breville Company ( as well as Kitchen Aid, Waring, Cuisinart, Viking, and Krups. You have to try many toasters until you adopt one but in my view, the bigger, more commercial, the better. Serious bread bakers and toast people will not be happy with the usual domestic models –nor do they last. You can buy 5 toasters at $25 or one at $200. At that price, the performance is only outmatched by the looks.

Here’s toasting 2006 in bread, toast, and more. Happy Baking everyone and welcome back. Underneath the snow of the new year, the spring wheat is beginning to stir. As white and cold as it is outside, there is a certain energy just under the surface of things. Hope you have your second wind cuz there’s similarly a strange Westerly blowin’ through Wheatland. It has flour, yeast, and the magic of home baking all over it. It’s even whistling your name. 
Baking 2006 – it’s in the breeze. 

Wishing you sweet times in '06, as we share another year of this never-ending, baking conversation.

Marcy Goldman
Editor, Baker, Writer

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.

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