Bake it great

Try a new, sweet recipe with the Chilmark library’s Sweet Book Club.


Tracy Thorpe, program coordinator at the Chilmark library, had a delicious idea. An avid baker herself, she decided last September to initiate a Sweet Book Club, which, as the name suggests, centers around your sweet tooth.

Here is how it works. Each month Thorpe chooses an enticing cookbook, hopefully one everyone can lay their hands on. Then it’s up to members to peruse the book and find some intriguing recipes. Then you set forth and bake, taste, and just in case, taste again.

“Take some pictures to share at the Zoom meeting. But even if you don’t have the book, or don’t have time to bake, you can join in and hear what others thought about the book,” Thorpe says. The group gathers this month on Jan. 16 at 6 pm, when they will discuss and bake from “Scandinavian Baking” by Trine Hahnemann.

“What I want people to experience is the delicious innovation that is going on in the world of baking now,” Thorpe says. “Black sesame seed strudel. Brownies with rye flour and tahini. Carrot curry bread. Toasted milk powder. Even though my favorite and most sublime thing to make and eat is apple pie — a real apple pie, with crème fraîche on it to offset the sweetness — anyone who loves to bake will go nuts for the new flavors coming out of baking books these days.”

Thorpe said her own baking origins began when she was in fourth grade and threw some flour in a bowl. Her mother said, “How about a recipe, honey?” And she’s been baking ever since.

“Both my sister and I have always loved to bake, and we are always talking about baking books and sending photos of what we made, especially for the holidays,” Thorpe said. “I saw that a couple of libraries on the Island were doing cookbook clubs, and I thought a baking cookbook club would be really fun — if you like to bake or eat cookies.”

Constance Sable, a participant who started baking bread in the 1970s, only became interested in desserts in the past five years. She talked about why she likes joining the Sweet Book Club. “It introduces me to new cookbooks and gives me the motivation to try something new, and the opportunity to discuss baking with others who share my passion. It is very useful to get feedback about certain recipes before trying them myself,” Sable said. “Since I can’t share my goodies at parties or in groups right now, it is fun to see everyone’s photos and decide if I want to make it myself.”

She said she’s only tried two of the recipes so far, both bringing something new to the table. “Using rye flour in sweets was something new for me,” she said. “The cocoa-rye cake was very good, but I was disappointed in the carrot-curry cake. The rye flour was a tasty change, but there wasn’t any curry flavor to speak of.”

Sable advised beginners, “Make sure your ingredients such as baking powder, baking soda, and spices are fresh. Follow the recipe the first time, then experiment if it isn’t exactly what you wanted. Join a cookbook club so you have the advantage of other people’s experiences.”

Another participant, Ann Meads, has been baking since seventh grade, having started in a home economics class. And she reports, “My mother made homemade desserts for every dinner.”

Meads says she was glad to find this Zoom group. “I listen to Martha’s Vineyard Radio every day from here on Cape Cod. Back in March, I heard the Vineyard libraries were hosting many online Zoom classes,” she said. “It’s fun hearing what others are making, and getting hints and shortcuts from them.

“For the Sweets Book Club, I made the apple tart from Poilâne. But I added cranberries, and brushed the crust with orange marmalade when I took it out of the oven,” Meads said, putting her own twist on the recipe.

So there couldn’t be a better time to fire up the oven and whip up something sweet, or just join in the fun and see what others bring to the Zoom table.

The next Sweet Book Club meets Saturday, Jan. 16, at 6 pm. Email for an invitation.