A ‘BEAUTIFUL CHAT’ WITH MARCY GOLDMAN, MASTER BAKER AND COOKBOOK AUTHOR EXTRAORDINAIRE
A ‘BEAUTIFUL CHAT’ WITH MARCY GOLDMAN, MASTER BAKER AND COOKBOOK AUTHOR EXTRAORDINAIRE
WELCOME, welcome my friends! The tea is ready! I am so excited that you have chosen to stop by today of all days. And, oh, what a beautiful day it is! I promise that you are truly going to enjoy this visit. We have a very special guest with us – I cannot wait for you to meet this amazing woman…
MEET MARCY It is my absolute pleasure to introduce to you Marcy Goldman! Many of you may already know Marcy through her thoughtful and beautiful bestselling cookbooks, her yummy international food columns and her expert and entertaining guest appearances on Martha Stewart Living, Sirius Radio.
Bitten by the ‘baking/writing bug’ at a very young age, Marcy’s interest in such admirable pursuits may well have been considered somewhat unusual at the tender age of 7 when she first dedicated herself to taking over the family kitchen and started her own street newspaper at age 12. From what I’ve learned about Marcy, she must have been very much in her element, and extraordinarily capable even then, in both disciplines that would become her true calling later in life. It seems as if she was born unto it. Her devout passion for both “wheat and words” (to borrow a phrase from Marcy’s own ‘lips’) seems to have sustained her well throughout her entire adulthood.
“A PASSION FOR BAKING” Marcy graduated from McGill University with a degree major in English Literature, although she perhaps always knew deep down in her heart of hearts, that what she really wanted was to be a professional baker/pastry chef. In following her dream, she subsequently – and perhaps courageously – enrolled in a three-year professional pastry chef program at Quebec Hotel School (Quebec Hotel School-L’institut Tourisme et d’Hotellerie de Quebec), Montreal. To become a master pastry chef is not a career for the faint of heart after all. An even temperament, patience, discipline, determination, love for detail, and stamina – lots of stamina – are just some of the characteristics required of a master baker.
Since her days at Quebec Hotel School, Marcy hasn’t wasted any time building her career. She has skillfully, mindfully, and clearly successfully, combined her love of writing with her love of baking much to the delight of her many fans worldwide. There is something to be said for finding – and honestly acknowledging – one’s career passion earlier, rather than later, in life.
Marcy appears to have adeptly figured out ‘the recipe for success’ early on and openly embraced it. She confessed to me, however, that she, in fact, did not have some magical formula – a master plan – for a fast-track to reaching her professional goals. “The truth is, it was all serendipitous. I had no idea, no career path at all. I was thwarted in becoming a writer early on – nothing to write, no one would hire me, and I got fired from clerical work all the time. The only response was to DO something. And, so I went to my alter/second skill and love which was baking. But it’s totally luck and obliviousness and a fear of unemployment that had me trip from one thing to another. It’s only in retrospect, or to someone else looking in, that it seems like a master plan.”
Quite simply, what is true is that when a person loves what they do, it shines through in their work. This is certainly true in Marcy’s case. And, she has perceptibly managed to graciously embrace her passion authentically, all the while surviving the tentative publishing world and managing her busy family life while raising three active young sons, for the most part, as a single parent. She is truly one determined and inspiring woman.
Since the day she applied to pastry school, taking a brave new footpath in her career, she has published several bestselling cookbooks: “A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking” (nominated for a Julia Child Cookbook Award), “The Best of BetterBaking.com” (as well as “The New Best of BetterBaking.com”) and “A Passion for Baking”.
I own copies of Marcy’s latter two publications and they are most certainly outstanding books, spilling over with WOW-ing! mouth-watering recipes and gorgeous glossy photos. Even if you don’t happen to be a baker girl, you’ll love Marcy’s cookbooks for their sheer beauty and exceptional quality. I’ve spent hours poring over them, loving time alone (just ‘Marcy and me’) on a rainy or snowy afternoon (or sometimes not) ambitiously bookmarking far too many pages… Her newest book, “The Baker’s Four Seasons”, is due out this fall, which is my most favorite time of year to bake. I can hardly wait.
PUTTING FOOD INTO WORDS If you’ve ever picked up copies of Food and Wine or Bon Appétit food and entertaining magazines, or visited them online, you’ll find Marcy there contributing her recipes and culinary wisdom. As a renowned food journalist, she is a long-time contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Cooking Light, Eating Well, Costco Connection, and more…
BLOGGING PIONEER AND VISIONARY Marcy is perhaps considered to be a pioneer and visionary in the blogging world. No matter whether the result of true-to-form vision, or a fortunate first keystroke of serendipity, she is the driving force behind BetterBaking.com, an outrageously popular on-line monthly baking magazine and newsletter launched back in 1997, (before the blogasphere exploded), offering up her fabulous original recipes, “aha” master baking hints and techniques, and answering questions posed by her loyal readers and would-be bakers. In the early days, BetterBaking.com started out with just a few pages. It has now expanded to house an archive of over 2,500 of Marcy’s original recipes, features useful product reviews, lifestyle articles and even recommendations on music, books and scent. Its readership has grown to well over 20,000 subscribers and visitors to the site number in the millions every year (760,000 per month).
Beautiful things do seem to come in three’s for Marcy: her sons, her cookbooks and Google has ranked BetterBaking.com among its TOP THREE baking sites – no easy feat and definitely award-worthy!!!
Unleash your inner baker with Marcy’s gorgeous bestselling books. Get them at Chapters, Costco, and on-line at Amazon. Probably among her most-famous recipes are ‘Lawsuit Muffins’, ‘Chocolate Eruption Cheesecake’, ‘Famous Carrot Cake’ and ‘Tango Cookies’…Happy Baking Everyone!
- “A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking – The Tenth Anniversary Edition”, Marcy Goldman, Whitecap Books Ltd, (The updated edition of a kitchen classic, which includes 35 new recipes for favorite holiday dishes.) Nominated for a Julia Child Cookbook Award*.
- “The New BetterBaking.com”, Marcy Goldman, Whitecap Books Ltd., 2009 (More than 200 classic recipes from the beloved baker’s website)
- “A Passion for Baking”, Marcy Goldman, 2007 Oxmoor House, Inc. (Bake to celebrate. Bake to nourish. Bake for fun. Marcy Goldman, pastry chef and passionate home baker, shares 220 best-ever recipes)
*The Julia Child Cookbook Awards are presented annually by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), whose members worldwide represent virtually every culinary profession. IACP is dedicated to promoting the highest level of culinary professionalism.
MARCY AND MARTHA – A SWEET COMBINATION! You will also hear Marcy’s warm voice on the air waves as a regular guest on Martha Stewart Living, Sirius Radio dishing up more of her delicious recipes and expert baking secrets.
YOU COULD WIN ‘SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL’ IN THE COMING MONTH!
If you’re a frequent ‘Beautiful Ideas’ follower, you probably already know that you have a chance (in some cases more than one) to have your name entered in a draw in the coming month to win ‘Something Beautiful’ (NOTE: The contest deadline has been extended to April 30th). I’ve teased you a little these past weeks, withholding the secret as to what you might have an opportunity to win…Well, I’ll keep you in suspense no longer…
Ta-da! One lucky reader will receive a gift of Marcy’s cookbook duo: “The New Best of BetterBaking.com” and “Passion for Baking” AND, the icing on the cake…Marcy’s gift to a lucky reader: a subscription to her on-line baking magazine BetterBaking.com
You are truly going to love everything about this exciting gift pack! “It’s a Beautiful Thing!”
IN THE KITCHEN WITH MARCY – A ‘BEAUTIFUL CHAT’ ABOUT BAKING, PASSION AND LIFE…
I am truly honoured that Marcy chose to take time out of her schedule to talk with me about her work and a little about herself. She is one busy and dedicated woman! I am still pinching myself that she generously agreed to do this interview. Despite her celebrity status, Marcy balks at the very notion of being called a ‘celebrity’. In my conversation with Marcy, she reveals herself to be, in fact, very much a well-grounded ‘everyday person’ who, like the rest of us scullery angels, each morning, pulls on her pant legs one at a time. The tone and warmth of her words immediately put me at ease…
LINDA: What is your first baking memory?
MARCY: My Betty Crocker bake set perhaps –
LINDA: What was your first job?
MARCY: The Goldman Times, my own newspaper – at 12 years old.
LINDA: You are a graduate of McGill University with a degree in English Literature. Did you have an ‘epiphany moment’ wherein you made the decision to switch your career path to become a professional baker and pastry chef?
MARCY: YES – it was first – to be a writer – but I could not get into the field (usually, one freelances or does copywriting or journalism – I didn’t seem destined for those things at the outset). Then it was – if not writing – what else? I liked baking…and, so I started baking at home to order and then started supplying restaurants. Then, pregnant with my first son, I realized I had to segue to another way to do what I was doing…And it was an epiphany one day, delivering carrot cakes and reading the Montreal Gazette food section, that I could write about food or baking.
LINDA: When did you know to pursue a career as a professional baker/pastry chef?
MARCY: Probably another pivotal moment – I was about 21 or so, newly married – at home, sick with a huge cold. The first day I felt better after being hold up for 10-14 days, I saw an ad for a free Christmas baking lesson given by Janis Gill, a baking expert and cookbook author. I went to that lesson (in a department store) and knew in an instant – this is what I wanted to, and could, do.
LINDA: Is your love of baking born of nature or more nurture?
MARCY: More nature – and, if nurture, only insofar as in my home/family of origin, it was most often a case of – if you wanted to eat, you made it yourself. But I was often on my own as a young kid – a bit of a difficult household – and baking seemed like something creative to do. It was also mystical to me – not (so) easy to ‘get right’ or things to work out. Unlike cooking, which seemed (to me) a no-brainer, baking was very elusive – whether it was pie dough or, heaven forbid, a ‘yeast bread’ – flour seemed like a magical substance, that if you knew what you were doing with it – it could be transformational – (and) certainly impress people with tasty things!
LINDA: Is there anyone who most influenced your career?
MARCY: Cookbooks and cookbook authors were my ‘friends’ and companions when I was a pre-teen. I read for ‘company’ and those voices – James Beard, Julia Child – inspired me. Then I became fascinated with the foods in the Time Life cookbook series and wanted to master each cuisine – from souffls from France, to best Southern Fried Chicken from the United States, or Quebec Sugar Pie, or best pizza from Italy. I began to self-teach, recipe-by-recipe, technique-by-technique.
Because I am a writer myself and huge reader, it was also fiction books that inspired me. I spoke about this recently when I gave a presentation at McGill University about food writing – that even fiction – food descriptions from Steinbeck novels, to “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (the food of poverty and inventiveness, really), “City Boy” (Herman Wouk’s account in that book of a young boy becoming sick on too many French pastries whilst having a special afternoon out with his father) – just the food writing, even in a fictionalized account, stuck in my mind and sensibility – the importance of food, memory, mood, and spiritual nurturing.
One of my influences was my grandmother who lived with us. She was blind. A way to ‘reach her’ or connect was to ‘feed her’, or bake for her. She was impressed no matter what tasteless, saw-dusty things I made (at first) – very loving – and we shared a special bond from the get-go.
I also, until recently, was a single parent to my three sons (I did 14 years solo…or ‘one gal/three guys’ – crazy, special experience.) I think baking and food – even though it is/was my career – kept the home fires burning in all sorts of ways. Lots of our best, albeit modest, family times were, and are, centered around food and the kitchen. Our ‘best pizza-dough wars’ are still ongoing. But my food testing, product testing, food shoots, the book deadlines – ‘seeing me at work, at home’ – has had its challenges but has also been a connective force. Bread is anchoring in all sorts of ways. 🙂
LINDA: At what moment were you inspired to write a cookbook?
MARCY: When I realized I could do a longer ‘freelance’ article, (i.e a book) and when I didn’t see the sort of cookbooks out there that I wanted myself – as a reader. I realized it was time to do something bigger – as intimidating as it was to me – since like all of us, I, too, admired cookbook authors as a reader – I had no idea I was on my way to becoming one myself.
LINDA: I think that we sometimes aren’t really able to comprehend the tedious, labour-intensive task of producing a cookbook. Each of yours are truly ‘works of heart’ and it is evident that much time and work goes into every one in order for you to bring them to us. What do you enjoy most about the process of creating a beautiful cookbook?
MARCY: I have to say it is not tedious. It does take time but it is a joy from the minute I think of a new book idea or possibility, to finding an agent or proposing the book to publishers myself, to choosing the recipes I’ve created that will ‘make the book’ (get ‘called up’ as it were to being part of a new recipe collection in a new book), to the recipe testing (with a ton of amazing volunteer testers from all over), to the writing, the copy editing back and forth with my editors, the art and photo shoot, seeing the book design… and, then, one day – a box of books arriving on my door – my ‘new book’…and seeing people enjoy it and write to tell me – Seeing the book in my local Chapters – It is a blessing to get to write a cookbook. Hard work? Yes. Labour intensive? Yes. But you get to contribute something that is lasting, feeds people, brings them and their families joy (and co-workers and friends), and shifts the world a wee, wee bit at a core place. Plus, it combines my two passions: writing AND baking…
LINDA: I love how your recipe names roll off the tongue: ‘Blueberry Hill Oatmeal Cookies’, ‘City Bakery Apple-Raspberry Upside Down Cake’, ‘Apricot Sunrise Biscotti’, ‘Mr. Darcy’s Wheat Meal Scones’, ‘Village Baker’s Holiday Cranberry-Orange Bread’ *– I could go on. ‘Lawsuit Muffins’ is such a catchy and curious name. Is there a cautionary tale behind the name, or maybe even some advice? Don’t feel obligated to answer this question. I don’t want you to tell any secrets! LOL
MARCY: This is about two things – maybe three. For one, at my website, I didn’t have many photos – and, so – to engage people (same is true of my freelance features – especially in newspapers – not many photos nor colour), I named things riveting titles so people would be drawn into making fabulous recipes.
Next, I am a born promoter and know a good name is the first hook. But mostly, I am so, so passionate about my recipes, their creation, history, etc. and want people to try them. So, I name them indelible things – titles that capture the imagination.
I sort of know where people ‘live’ in their heads and appetites – and to make a recipe dance off the page and court you to trying it, well, that takes a name that jumps off the page itself. ‘Wholewheat Scones’ is just scones – ‘Mr. Darcy’s Wheat Meal Scones’ captures an era, a romance, a time in history, the ceremony of scones, the glory of whole-wheat…*’Village Baker’s Holiday Bread’, etc…In a few words, you can envision what that bread is like – the sweet treat of it – the holiday feel – the gorgeous elements of cranberries and oranges…Vs; Orange Cranberry Loaf – those titles just ‘sit there’ and seem like same old, same old. I think of each recipe I create as art – or almost a portrait – But in the end, I am surprised myself how things like ‘Notting Hill Brownies’ or ‘Lawsuit Muffins’ become legend. It’s amazing to me that my recipes are almost trademarked by title – and reputation. That’s powerful.
LINDA: What items are among the must-haves in your pantry?
MARCY: Flour. Butter. Yeast. Sugar. Vanilla. Salt. Apples. Cinnamon. Lemons.
LINDA: Apples?! 🙂
MARCY: I love so many apple-based recipes – as do so many people. Apples and cinnamon in pie, strudel, pancakes, muffins – it’s homey and old-fashioned…so yes, apples.
LINDA: What is the one thing that you can’t do without in your kitchen?
MARCY: Music and my rolling pin and restaurant range.
LINDA: Is there a favorite recipe you most like to make? That’s probably an impossible question…
MARCY: Whatever recipe I am making at the moment, but other than that…bread or pies. I love the sheer physicality of it, how grounding baking is – you get lost in it – and yet back to yourself.
LINDA: Do you develop and test all your own recipes?
LINDA: Does your family taste-test your recipes, too?
LINDA: Have you ever had a failure in the kitchen at an inopportune time?
MARCY: Not really – more so – when I’ve taught baking.
LINDA: Do you have a favorite restaurant?
MARCY: Not really –
LINDA: Have you ever thought about opening your own restaurant?
LINDA: I’m sure it would be worth the trip to Montreal! / What is your favorite ‘take-out’ meal?
MARCY: Great pizza ….Portuguese roasted chicken
LINDA: I’ve never tasted Portuguese roasted chicken… Do you have a recipe for that you could share?! LOL
MARCY: The recipe is on my website, BetterBaking.com.
(NOTE: Marcy has kindly offered to make her ‘Portugese Roasted Chicken’ recipe free on her website for one month for readers of ‘Beautiful Ideas’ – WATCH FOR DETAILS ON HOW YOU CAN ACCESS IT. Thanks, Marcy! :-))
LINDA: What is your favorite meal?
MARCY: Great bread, great cheese, amazing coffee.
LINDA: We share something in common! Isn’t that called a ‘ploughman’s’ lunch? Although ploughman’s might include apple and a pickle, which I love, too…
MARCY: YES – LOVE ploughman’s lunch and I make my own pickled onions. But I love simple, great foods – farmer’s market foods – best corn-on-the-cob – high-flavored, simple/international foods. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I think we can make too much of ‘fancy’ food or food as entertainment, and (we) forget the simple things – that it is about breaking bread – that people are not all eating. There is global hunger we need take to care of – when you put that alongside some of the excesses of food show TV, I have a hard time witnessing the disparity.
LINDA: Where is your hometown?
LINDA: Where would be the first place you’d take a visitor to your city? And, why?
MARCY: Jean-Talon Market – because it lives and breathes food, people, and joy.
LINDA: If you would indulge me one last question, please Marcy. For anyone (especially young students) aspiring to the profession, what part does science and history play in being a master baker?
MARCY: I think everything is richer when you understand all that goes into it. Baking is science, alchemy, art, nurturing, mechanics (hand craftmanship), as well as history in that – when you know where foods come from…or realize the wheat you bake with – hales from bible days and times and people long gone….but the same wheat was ‘blowing in the wind’ then – AND the wild yeast spores – or realize that the fruit cake we mock is really a new edition of the bread the crusaders took with them (paneforte seems to be a precursor to modern-day fruitcake) – or that baking powder shifted the whole way we bake ever since 1860, or so – you bake in a more cohesive way with a totally different, enriched awareness.
LINDA: Merci beaucoup, Marcy – for being so nice, for the gift of the interview and the subscription to BetterBaking.com for one lucky reader! Our ‘chat’ was, indeed, beautiful and so enjoyable – it has been a pure pleasure to get to know you a little better! I wish you everything in life that is good and beautiful!
We’ll be looking forward to your newest cookbook, “The Baker’s Four Seasons”, to be released in Fall 2011. And, I’m sure everyone will be checking out BetterBaking.com.
THE GIFT OF A RECIPE FROM MARCY’S KITCHEN
(Excerpted with permission from “A Passion for Baking”, by Marcy Goldman. Published by Oxmoor House, 2007.)
*Village Baker’s Holiday Cranberry-Orange Bread
- 1/3 cup warm water (100°F to 110°F)
- 5 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
- 4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup warm milk
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon orange oil or pure orange extract
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
- 3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips or regular chocolate chips, minced
- 1 large egg
- Pinch each white sugar and salt
- White sugar, for dusting
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Generously spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place pan on it.
In a mixer bowl, hand-whisk water and yeast together and let stand 2 to 3 minutes, to dissolve yeast. Add 1 cup flour and then add warm milk, butter, egg, egg yolks, salt, sugar, vanilla, orange oil, and most of rest of flour. Mix ingredients and then, using dough hook, knead on low-speed to make a soft dough, 8 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as required.
Remove dough hook, spray dough with nonstick cooking spray, and place a large clear plastic bag over entire mixer and blow. Let dough rise 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate. Press dough down into a flattened round and press cranberries and chocolate chips into dough, folding and incorporating as best you can – the shape doesn’t matter at this stage.
Let dough rest 15 minutes and then cut into 12 portions. Shape each into a ball and arrange on one level in prepared pan. Whisk egg and pinch each of white sugar and salt. Brush dough with egg wash and dust with sugar. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until puffy and almost doubled, about 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake bread until nicely browned, about 40 to 50 minutes.
Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature. If making this as a gift, leave it in the pan. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, wrap in cellophane, and tie with ribbon.
That was so much fun, wasn’t it?! And, what a sweet treat for us all! Where has the time gone?! If you know someone who loves to bake at home, who works as a baker, or is contemplating a career as professional baker/chef, be sure to share with them this interview comprising Marcy’s thoughtful introspection and valuable insights. I hope you will let me know your thoughts on this post, especially if you acquire any of Marcy’s cookbooks, subscribe to ‘The Magazine for Bakers’ at BetterBaking.com, or try the recipe. I look forward to your visiting again soon…
Wishing you all a beautiful day,