Thursday, November 8, 2007

Chat with Marcy Goldman

I must say up front that I am not a great baker, which is why I fell in love with A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. The recipes were simple and simply delicious. That was my introduction to Marcy Goldman who just published another awesome cookbook – A Passion for Baking.

Her newest book captured me at the cover…drawing hearts in flour is what my daughters used to do and I did as a girl as well. Already I was excited. The book is filled will gorgeous photographs (another big plus for me) and each recipe looked more delicious than the one before. But that was not what really stole my heart. It was the first chapter – Baking Secrets.

Every cookbook I own has scribbles in the margins, reminding me later that I loved (or hated) a recipe and what ingredients I added (or left out). But I’ve never actually underlined passages and put big stars beside them before. Marcy gives some wonderful tips for the less than expert bakers among us (like me).

For instance when measuring flour, she suggests using a whisk to stir it a bit in the canister before scooping into a dry measuring cup. Or my very favorite new tip so you know whether your baking powder is fresh or not…(You can check out the answer in her book or at AskRuth). And, since no one loves kitchen toys like I do, I now have a long shopping list including doubling up on my baking sheets. Marcy stacks two together and lines the top one with parchment so that the browning is even and not overly browned.

I could go on forever, but I’d rather share a chat I recently had with Marcy.

R: How did you get into the food business?
M: My mother was a feminist ahead of her time. She worked and left very little food for us, allowing me instead to experiment and master the kitchen on my own. I loved cooking and particularly loved the challenge of baking. My first real “teachers” were books from the Time Life Series. I would go through each book as they came in and taught myself. I still love the Smothered Chicken with Mushrooms from their American Series.

I was self trained and already a baking entrepreneur for about 5 years until I enrolled for three years of study at the Quebec Hotel School - where I graduated as a full fledged, Chef Patissiere Boulangere - full degree as a chef.

(R: I still have my Time Life Series, and like Marcy, I couldn’t wait for the once a month arrival. I guess I’ll have to check out that chicken recipe next).

R: Over the years, what's been the most requested recipes of yours?
M: Biscotti and scones and old-fashioned cakes and cookies, of course.

R: What is your favorite meal of the day?
M: Breakfast, without question…hot freshly brewed coffee, some wonderful bread (bagel, scone….) and gamey cheese.

R: What is your favorite food?
M: Bread and cheese. And I do love soups and salads.

R: What is your guilty pleasure?
M: Caramel corn, dulce de leche, scones.

R: What is your favorite kitchen toy/gadget/utensil?
M: I would be lost without my bird’s beak paring knife for apple peeling and acres of wood surface to work on. You can never have too much of it.

R: What's always in your fridge and pantry?
M: For cooking…garlic, lemons, olive oil, pancetta and whole peppercorns. For baking…acres of unsalted butter, sugar, good vanilla, sea salt and a wide variety of flours.

R: I know that in addition to baking, you also make perfumes, candles and potions. What are your favorite scents?
M: For me it’s the layers of scents that is important. I love vanilla and from the garden…lilac and jasmine. I also love the smell of rain on pavement.

R: I know you’re also really taken by the tango? What appeals to you most about it?
M: Everything. But mostly - the music, the sheer joy of dance, the incredible connection that one yourself and with others, and the getting lost in a demi-monde. Tango is mostly French here...and i can speak French but not DANCE and speak at the same time. So it is nicely exotic but also- I get a chance to focus and be quiet. It is also - so different than baking....just a complete change of pace - and a place wherein I don't lead or navigate -I have to let go and leave the driving to someone else. It is also a place where people listen with their body and soul both - without speaking.

What do I like about tango?
Everything - Did I mention getting dressed up and feeling feminine and not like anyone's mother? ;-)

R: If you could invite 4 people to dinner, who would they be?
M: Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Astor Pizzaiola (the king of modern tango), and Aaron Copeland.

R: Last question…what would you tell people who are afraid or, at least reticent to bake?
M: Just jump right in and don’t bail if the first time or two aren’t as successful as you’d like. Don’t fret too much and don’t have too rigid an idea about the outcome. Also get good books with good recipes to follow and …you can email me at and I’ll be happy to help.

Naturally I get to share a recipe….and I had a very hard time choosing from so many great sweet and savory breads, cakes, cookies…the list is almost endless. There are over 220 mouth-watering recipes in the book. But in the end, I went with the ...

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Orange Glaze because I know my Honey will gobble it up in no time.

So if I were you and only going to buy one baking book...this one's it!

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