There are more cookbooks on baking than I can even imagine. Everyone has some take on it. Trying to navigate through them to find ones that speak to you and how you like to bake or even more importantly what you like to bake can be hard. So when I stumbled across John Barricelli’s The Seasonal Baker I stopped and did a double take. Cooking by the seasons is fundamental to how I approach food but I never thought about it from a baking standpoint. I mean is there even a time of year when chocolate chip cookies aren’t perfect?
John starts with telling you how to stock your pantry. He even goes into detail as to how to buy produce. Meaning, instructions on buying, storing, and evening some basic prep instructions to the specific item. Maybe you don’t have a sweet tooth so you think this book isn’t for you or that you wouldn’t be interested in baked goods but there are a lot of things in the world of baking, from breads and muffins, to pizza and flat breads, and even cookies and cakes.
I think what I love most about his book is that I can think about my baking from a more limited perspective. By that I mean now I can think about cranberries are in season so I should look to Cran Oat Cookies or Cranberry Nut Muffins. In winter I also love chocolate. There’s something dark, warm, comforting, and satisfying about chocolate in winter. So I want to look to chocolate desserts that maybe have fruits incorporated that are made of the summer preserves I put up. As we head into spring I am thinking about rhubarb and raspberries. Summer is all about stone fruits and what I learned is fall is all about the persimmon and pear. If you can think about baking this way you hone in on specific recipes and your baking doesn’t seem so repetitive and stale. As I talked about in my post about menu planning it’s not just about breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s about snacks, desserts, and pastries too!
The first recipe I tackled was one for a persimmon pudding cake. This caught my eye due to it’s unique combination of flavors in less predictable ways. He did things like walnuts and molasses in the forsting. The persimmons keep this cake super moist and deliciously naturally sweet.
Come winter I wanted to do something that was more fitting with the season and nothing says winter like chestnuts. This odd rubbery “nut” can be a tricky bugger. Trying to figure out how to make it into a sweet treat isn’t always easy. However when I saw there was a recipe for Chestnut Layer Cake with Raspberries I was intrigued. I didn’t love that he was using raspberries but I went ahead and special ordered everything I would need. Since chestnuts have fallen out of favor in the mainstream their byproducts can be hard to come by. Shortly after I decided on this cake I was out running errands and discovered my local co-op had fresh lingonberries! I knew as soon as I saw them this was the answer so I changed out the raspberry for lingonberries and now I had a true winter treat!
As spring and summer are approaching I am looking for more seasonal cakes as well and another jumped out to me as a potential summer cake and that’s his Lemon Daisy Cake. The bright freshness of lemon should be the perfect answer to the heat and humidity that summer brings.
So if you’re looking for a fresh take on baking this is a great place to begin.