Dear Bakers and Friends,
Welcome to the sweetest month on the baking calendar! Valentine’s Day is on the 14th but I start the holiday early. I bake, pick small gifts and do my own girl shopping. There are three times of year where I buy a new perfume: my birthday, when a new event in my life happens (which needs a new scent to celebrate) and ....Valentine's Day. I am leaning towards the new Chloe Love perfume but I might fold at the last minute and get Clinque's Happy. But on to food.
Of course there’s always a few great chocolate recipes I love to share with you as chocolate is the patron flavor of this romantic holiday. But this year, somehow I got diverted to bubka-making for three weeks solid. I think the yeast has gone to my head. Just what is bubka? It’s a wonderful cake that tastes like Danish and comes usually in either chocolate or cinnamon varieties.
Personally, I am very partial to sweet yeast baking: it’s not too sweet, it’s different than a loaf of bread and it’s difficult to buy great sweet yeast baking unless it’s the cinnamon buns at IKEA or you happen to live near a great European style bakery or are in New York City. Like most great baking, which bubka is, if you want or love a particular thing, you’ll have to do it yourself. Happily, when you make your own, you can also use pure butter. I only say this because few bakeries, unless they’re French (and therefore making baguettes, croissants and wee fancy cakes) use butter these days. Most bakeries these days use oil or shortening and most are made with water (versus milk), to which I say: meh.
Of course, bubka is not new to me; I made bubka years ago for my cookbook A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. It was crumb-topped, lofty and the sort of bubka you can also slice and toast if you wanted. That sort of bubka is elevated cinnamon bread. But lately, I craved a moist, gooey bubka like Cheskie’s in Montreal and (apparently) Russ and Daughters in New York. So I set about researching and testing. Then, to further inspire me Food and Wine’s January cover is all about bubka! Great bakers think alike. But more to the point, by the time I saw that bubka cover shot, I was feverish to make a definitive one myself.
So I’ve been baking bubka non-stop in my new home. I wanted it just perfect, especially with the inside filling or schmear (chocolate or cinnamon) good enough to knock your socks off. I think I succeeded. In the recipe (whether you like the chocolate or the cinnamon, you’ll find something somewhat shocking – two things actually….so I hope you try the recipes to find out these secrets). One secret is: the dough is rolled out almost as thin as strudel dough. How do I know? I visited Cheskie's Bakery in Montreal and they informed me that they use a sheeter to roll out the dough. A sheeter press the dough down until it is as thin as you want. To illustrate, the young lady at Cheskie's folded a piece of paper in half and said: There -that's how thin it has to be. Who knew!
All this brings me to another matter. For one thing, it appears that my cookbook A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking is going out of print (in the paper version). There are only 136 copies left in the warehouse. If you want that book (the Whitecap edition) I would click as fast as you can to Amazon and purchase it. Now you see it – tomorrow –it’s possible you won’t.
Next – I am once again attempting to relaunch and otherwise renovate Betterbaking.com into a nice, workable, pretty site. For the new website, I will maintain the subscription option but the pay-by-recipe option is being phased out. So from now on, unless the recipe is a freebie, if you would like to bake one of my recipes, please buy one of my cookbooks or subscribe to the website since there won't be single recipe purchases available.
Without further ado, I wish you a warm and sultry Valentine’s Day and that you have a lot of fun baking these special things. There’s tons more inspiration in the recipe index (more chocolate, more butter) as well but this is a good start.