Anyone catch the premiere of Martha Stewart's new show, Martha Bakes, this week? It's airing Mondays at 11 a.m. on the Hallmark Channel, and I'm here to tell you to add it to your DVR schedule. Like many enthusiastic eaters, I have mixed feelings about Ms. Stewart. On the one hand, her first book, Entertaining, blew my mind way back in 1998, and made me think differently about eating and cooking for others. Something akin to The Silver Palate Cookbook in an era of Steak-umms and Sizzlean, Entertaining was like a message from the future: Someday, people will care about what they eat.
On the other hand, some of the Stew's programs have been painful to watch, mainly because she often condescends to, dismisses, and interrupts her guests. It's so uncomfortable that you want to turn off the show, even though you really do want that recipe for lemon chess bars. But the new show has no guests, just Martha, doing what she does best: demonstrating extremely precise baking recipes and techniques.
The first show focused on yellow cake and its versatility. Martha made her father's favorite birthday cake, a layered yellow cake with orange curd and thickly frosted with chocolate, as well as upside-down stone-fruit yellow cakes and a variation that uses fresh strawberries for cupcakes. Martha's never going to be down to earth or accessible on-screen, but she knows what she's doing in the kitchen, and she has a nice calm, straightforward way of explaining the steps of a recipe that reminds me of the shows I used to enjoy in the early days of the Food Network (Mario, I miss you).
Here's a clip of her frosting her dad's favorite cake, so you can see what I mean.
By the way, if you somehow missed Martha's turn on The Simpsons in December, Hulu has it streaming free. Don't miss her transforming a supine couch-potato Homer into a classic Christmas tableau and Bart and Milhouse into duct-taped windup soldiers.