Baseball managers are remembered for many things. Some are brilliant strategists or superb teachers of the fundamentals. Others are inspirational leaders. I may be the only manager in baseball history who will be remembered mainly for my baking.
That's not why I started coaching baseball, of course. No, I got into it to keep my sons from suffering terminal IRFF (In Right Field Forever) syndrome, something that is as common to Little Leaguers whose parents don't volunteer as rotator cuff surgery is to big league curveballers.
It's not that I was a baseball know-nothing before. I learned the game from my dad, who had a deep appreciation for the cliches of the game ( "Nothing is a given," "It's all stats and strategy," "On any given day
Each spring for the last eight years, I have had this fantasy that finally I'll be noticed for something--anything--besides my cooking, but I'm skeptical. I've given up on having one of my sons make training camp for the Braves or the Yankees, or on winning enough games to earn an appearance on "Oprah." We'll probably never even win the regionals, and I'll probably never be coach of the year.
At this point, I'd be willing to be remembered for simply being able to pick up that humongous equipment bag by myself. Just once. Zip 'er up, hoist it over my shoulder, wave goodbye to the umps and stroll off into the sunset. That would be sweet.
As it is, it'll probably be another year of having the boys do the lifting. And of me doing the baking. If you can't win, you can at least feed 'em right.
With my sons' teams, of course, that doesn't mean any fancy dishes or profound flavors. We're talking Little League baseball here. Instead, I try to fix them stuff that I know they'll like, hopefully done a little better than they might be used to. In cooking, as in baseball, there are no small victories.
Homemade Cracker Jacks, lemonade and corn dogs. Homemade pretzels dipped in ballpark mustard. And especially chocolate chip cookies. These are the kinds of things kids want to eat.
It adds a whole new twist to "getting it over the plate."
Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Serve these with mustard for dipping. Corn flour is available at Indian markets and health food stores.
2/3 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn flour, optional
1 teaspoon salt
Dash white pepper or cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons oil
About 1/2 cup seltzer or plain water
10 hot dogs
Flour, for dusting
Oil, for frying
Whisk together the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, corn flour, salt, pepper, egg, oil and seltzer in a large bowl.
Insert a wooden skewer in each hot dog, then dust the hot dogs with flour. Roll or dip them in the batter so that they're totally coated.
Heat 1 inch of oil in a large wok or cast iron skillet to about 375 degrees. Cook a couple of corn dogs at a time until they are lightly browned, turning them over, about 4 to 5 minutes.Drain them on paper towels and repeat with the remaining hot dogs.
10 corn dogs. Each dog: 460 calories; 973 mg sodium; 79 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 56 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams protein; 0 fiber.
Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes plus 1 hour cooling
I like to use Perrier for this. Citric acid is sold at health food stores. Lemon oil--the flavoring, not the furniture polish--is sold at gourmet stores.
1 1/2 cups lemon juice
1 cup extra-fine granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon oil, optional
1/8 teaspoon citric acid, optional
Ice cubes, lightly crushed
Sparkling or spring water
2 to 3 lemons, thinly sliced or quartered
Simmer the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat to dissolve the sugar. Cool well, about 1 hour, then stir in the lemon oil and citric acid.
Prepare each glass with some ice cubes, then pour about 2 to 4 tablespoons of the lemon mixture into each glass. Fill them with chilled Perrier or spring water.
Garnish with lemon slices and mint leaves. Serve these with straws.
6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings: 110 calories; 1 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 0 saturated fat; 30 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.21 gram fiber.
Active Work Time: 35 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 2 1/2 hours
Malt powder is sold at health food stores.
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoons dry yeast
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon malt powder
2 1/2 to 3 cups bread flour
1 egg white, beaten
In a large bowl, stir together the water, sugar and yeast, then quickly add the oil, salt, malt powder and most of the flour, mixing until the dough is no longer sticky. (Add more flour, if need be.) Knead until you have a soft dough, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Let the dough rest, covered, until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 portions and let the portions rest a few minutes before rolling each into ropes.
To form pretzels, form a 15-inch rope, rolling the dough by hand. For each pretzel, form the rope into an upside-down "U." Cross the ends about a third of the way from the rounded part of the U, and fold the ends up at an angle.
Place the pretzel on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll out and shape the remaining dough.
Let the pretzels rise until very puffy, 30 to 40 minutes.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Brush each pretzel with the egg white, then sprinkle with salt. Bake the pretzels until nicely browned, 12 to 15 minutes.
12 pretzels. Each pretzel: 130 calories; 595 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 0 saturated fat; 23 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 1.06 grams fiber.
Hot Dog Buns
Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 2 hours
Who remembers real hot dog buns, made with malt and a superb unbleached white bread flour? I use my bread machine on "dough cycle" for this recipe. Shape them by hand. You can find malt powder or syrup at health food stores.
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast
1/3 cup oil
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon malt powder or syrup, optional
4 1/4 cups bread flour
About 3 tablespoons milk, for brushing, optional
About 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, optional
Place the water, yeast and a dash of sugar in the bread machine pan and let the mixture stand for a couple of minutes. Add the oil, 1/3 cup of sugar, salt, malt powder, if using, and flour. Place the bread machine on "dough" mode. If using a mixer, combine the water, yeast and a dash of sugar in the mixer bowl and let them stand a few minutes. Add the oil, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, malt powder, if using, and almost all the flour, holding back a bit. Mix with the paddle attachment, then knead to form a soft dough, about 8 to 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and let it rise, covered, in a greased bowl, about 30 to 45 minutes.
When the bread machine cycle is over (or the dough has risen, if mixing by hand), gently deflate the dough. Divide the dough in 10 portions, cover it with a clean tea towel and let it rest 5 minutes. Shape each portion into an oval bun, about 8 inches long by 2 inches wide--the shape does not have to be exact and might depend on the variety of frankfurter used. Place the buns, evenly spaced, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Insert the entire sheet in a large plastic bag (like a garbage bag).
Allow the rolls to rise until quite puffy and almost doubled in size, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove them from the bag. Flatten each roll gently with the palm of your hand. Brush them with milk and sprinkle them with sesame seeds, if desired.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the rolls until nicely browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
10 buns. Each bun: 290 calories; 592 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 48 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 1.94 grams fiber.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Active Work Time: 30 minutes Total Preparation Time: 1 hour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
3 cups chocolate chips or chunks
Combine the butter, brown and granulated sugars, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking soda, flour and chocolate. Chill the batter 20 to 30 minutes (or refrigerate up to three days).
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Stack 2 baking sheets together and line the top one with parchment paper.
Place big gobs of dough on the baking sheet (about 3 tablespoons full) 2 inches apart.
Bake the cookies until they're puffed up and set, 12 to 14 minutes. Let them rest on the sheet before removing, about 10 minutes.
18 cookies. Each cookie: 387 calories; 200 mg sodium; 51 mg cholesterol; 21 grams fat; 12 grams saturated fat; 52 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 1.96 grams fiber.
Honey Caramel Popcorn
Active Work Time: 20 minutes
Total Preparation Time: 1 hour
1 to 2 cups Spanish peanuts
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup corn syrup
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
1/8 teaspoon salt
16 cups popped popcorn
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the peanuts on a baking sheet and roast them until they're slightly colored, about 12 to 20 minutes, turning every so often. Let them cool.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add the brown sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, baking soda, vanilla and salt. Stir, allowing the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and boil gently without stirring, about 3 minutes (or until the mixture registers 285 degrees on a candy thermometer--soft-crack stage).
Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the popcorn in a large, heat-safe bowl. Slowly pour the syrup over the popcorn. Stir and toss, adding in peanuts at the same time, and toss to coat as best you can.
Turn the popcorn onto the baking sheet. It will not look thoroughly coated with caramel at this point, but that will take care of itself as it bakes and dries.
Bake the popcorn, tossing and shuffling it every few minutes, for about 20 minutes.
Cool and break the popcorn into serving-size pieces. (This keeps for about three days. You may freeze the cooled popcorn on large baking sheets, which will keep it crisp and reduce clumping. Once frozen, place portions in paper bags and store it in the freezer. The popcorn will come out of the freezer crisp, but it begins to get soggy if not eaten right away.)
17 cups. Each 1/2 cup serving: 111 calories; 24 mg sodium; 11 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.92 gram fiber.
Goldman runs the Baker Boulanger Web site, http://www.betterbaking.com.