Sarabeth Levine - Goddess of Bakedom
 
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CATEGORY: Brunch

 

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKES

 

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I love these Strawberry Shortcakes and have been serving them in our restaurants for over 20 years. I learned to bake them from a wonderful baker and friend, the late Craig Ruttman, who was inspired by James Beard's recipe. We think of Craig whenever we make them at the bakery— his wonderful nature lives on in these exceptionally light and delicate cakes. Paired with vanilla scented strawberries and vanilla flavor, they are an easy summer dessert and great for brunch as well.


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BRAN MUFFINS-LOST AND FOUND

 

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I love this bran muffin and it alarms me that sometimes a great old recipe can unknowingly slip away or be forgotten by the excitement and fickleness of finding a new recipe. Our bran muffin at Sarabeth's has undergone very few changes since its debut in 1981. In fact, every January I review our recipe books and reprint the pages so that we can start the new year with a fresh copy minus the fingerprints of butter and the flour that has found its way between the pages. Sometimes the bakers will make a note or two in the margins; adjustments to the baking time and temperature depending on how large the batches are and how full the oven is. There are also recipe edits that I have made during the year in my own handwriting. These tweaks are subtle—more vanilla, extra lemon zest or a different chocolate.

Last week while working with the evening bakers, I noticed something was not quite right with our bran muffin. (Anyone who has had our muffins knows how particular I am, not only with the taste but with their appearance.) I decided to do the bake off that evening and keep an eye on them myself. I was on a mission and stood in the oven room and watched. To my dismay, the muffins began to spread and they took too long to bake. When they came out of the oven I became impatient—wanting to taste them right away, I restrained  myself. You can't judge anything correctly right out of the oven. When I did finally break the muffin opened, I was surprised how overly moist the inside was.—much too wet and although it tasted ok, but it did not have the wow factor of the original muffin. 

I opened our recipe book and turned to the recipe. To my surprise I discovered a change in one on the ingredients. It was buttermilk instead of the original whole milk called for in the recipe. How does such a thing happen? Many times the bakers will say" Sarabeth, you made the change", and sometimes they are correct— but not in this instance When one uses buttermilk, there is usually the addition of baking soda to calm the acidity from the cultured milk. That was the tell tale giveaway, there was no baking soda in the recipe. Still puzzled, I turned to my recently published baking book to compare the recipes—as I suspected, whole-milk. As much as I love tweaking and trying to improve recipes— if it's not broken, don't fix it.


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WHOLE WHEAT PANCAKES + SARABETH'S PURE MAPLE SYRUP

 

After so many years, and numerous requests, the maple syrup that I have been serving at our restaurants since 1981 is available for you to enjoy with your very own pancakes, waffles and French toast at home. I know this sounds like a commercial, and it is—100% pure grade A  medium amber  maple syrup. The flavor is exceptionally delicate and not overly sweet. And just look at the color. The first bottles have just arrived and are available at the bakery and if you contact our mail order department at the jam factory in the Bronx, Bill will be happy to ship you a bottle or two. It is imported from Canada and the flavor is outstanding. And now for the Whole Wheat Pancake recipe to go with the syrup...

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ORANGE-TOMATO JAM + HOW TO SEGMENT AN ORANGE

 

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 I adore cooking for my grandchildren and often try to feed them fresh fruit for dessert when possible. There is always an expectation that Bubbe (aka Sarabeth) will bake their favorite dessert. Last Saturday's dessert included some succulent Cara Cara navel oranges. The interior fruit is a vibrant deep rosy- orange, especially sweet and low in acidity. They are considered by many to be the best of the navel family—I  buy them whenever available. I segmented three and chilled them for the dessert— having planned to serve the oranges with 2% low-fat Greek yogurt and a touch of orange blossom honey. 

Later that evening, after returning from driving the boys home, I went to the refrigerator for some chilled water, there was the bowl with the ORANGE SEGMENTS— they never made it to the table! Jack and Drew had opted for ice cream cones with Oreo-vanilla ice cream and sprinkles—there went my healthy dessert. How could I leave them overnight to lose their flavor and freshness? Sitting on the counter were some beautiful ripe cherry tomatoes— could work nicely with the oranges. I have never combined tomatoes with any fruits to make a jam or preserve before. Thinking this might be something really good, out came a saucepan, the sugar and a vanilla bean. I was very surprised with the results. It was delicious and the color was pretty amazing. Cooled and covered, I popped the bowl in the refrigerator— Bill (aka Mr. Sarabeth) and I would have it with our breakfast in the morning. I had all night to dream about what would accompany my new treat.


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LEMONY "PEAR-SNICKETY" PRESERVE MAKES NEW FRIENDS

 

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I like to keep my apartment on the cool side, and lately, I have added a cashmere scarf and socks to my sleeping ensemble of comfy warm pajamas. I usually rise around 6:00 in the morning, but lately, it has been so cold and snowy outside, and I have been extra toasty in my bed and the extra half-hour passes quickly. By 6:30, I am off to the kitchen for my predictable cappuccino—two in fact, a toasted, grained bread, plenty of cream cheese, and a very large serving of my orange-apricot marmalade. This morning was different; my mind was filled with ideas for the new Sarabeth's which we plan to open in Tribeca this spring. I was sipping my  second cup, enjoying my new whole-wheat scone covered with the Lemony Pear- Pineapple Preserve, and reflecting on my recent visit to the restaurant job site. Everything is coming together and the kitchens are almost ready for the equipment to arrive and be installed. Can't wait for the brick oven and thinking off all the flavorful dishes that we can cook in it. Brick oven dessert too—what a thought! P.S. I am sure this preserve will find its way there.


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WHAT SHOULD I MAKE FOR BREAKFAST?

 

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IF YOU ARE LIKE ME, you are always thinking about what to make for breakfast on Sunday mornings. This is a recipe I make for my family and it will be on our menu in the near future. It is quick, easy, and delicious, and you won't have to wait on line at Sarabeth's for an hour to have it. Make sure you select good cheese, it really does makes a difference.
 
I love supporting our local farms and so I chose a strong flavored, soft goat cheese and a firmer raw Jersey cow milk cheese like, the Rupert from Consider Bardswell Farm in Vermont, which is similar to Gruyère and Comté. (The farm is owned and operated by Angela Miller, who is also my literary agent.) 

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CRANBERRY-CORN MUFFINS ON MY CHRISTMAS GIFT

 

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The day before Christmas, I arrived at the bakery around 5:30 A.M. The scones were already in the oven and the bakers were organizing the orders for the first delivery. I decided to make some last minute maple muffins as well as finish my Bûches de Noël. I wanted them to be very fresh for the holiday so I decided to come in early to complete my orders. What a surprise I had when I went into the retail area of the bakery to help the girls restock the jam racks and display our bakery items for our biggest shopping day of the year.

Picture 5.pngThere in the center of the floor stood this perfectly restored vintage display figure of a "blissful hostess", holding an old silver-plated tray.

 

Permanently propped on her nose, was a handcrafted miniature replica of my very own gold- rimless eyeglasses. Stacked on the tray were two of my new books, Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours. What an incredible surprise! Jackie, our retail manager, had arranged with the gift-giver to have it secretly delivered the previous evening after I had left the bakery. My spiritual-meditation teacher, Baba Ganapati, had found "her" at a swap meet in Escondido, California, where she was meticulously refinished to her  original condition by fellow students.  Her eyeglasses were handcrafted in Ghent, Belgium, brought to Esondido, where they were placed on her face. She was shipped to New York City, assembled on her pedestal and delivered to the bakery. There she stands 4-feet tall and quite a beauty. Stop by and see her and have a cup of hot chocolate while you are there. If you see me in the window of the baking room, wave at me and I will come out and say hello. Happy New Year.



 


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