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Often we have clients come to us, hosting a special event, and while they know they would like a festive dessert of some type, they don’t necessarily know what they would like. In this particular case, our client was hosting … Continue reading

March – Frozen Food Month

March is “Frozen Foods” Month. I am the “loves to cook more than needed and freeze the extra” sort of person. On nights when I don’t feel like cooking, I pull open the freezer and there, just waiting for me, is a delicious “left over” – it feels like Christmas morning!

Well wrapped room temperature food (homemade or store bought) seals in the flavor and keeps items fresh, and makes them freezer ready. (There are some foods and sweets that can not be frozen, but these are few). Once in the habit, this is a great saver! Bagels, for example, freeze beautifully. You can buy several – in many places you have discounts at certain quantities, and wrap them individually; once wrapped place them all in a freezer -grade ziptop bag, pop in the freezer. When ready, just take one out, slice, place in your toaster oven or toaster, on a medium toast setting.

When you’re trying to make something last, like banana bread, and you only want a portion out: Cut the banana bread into quarters or thirds. Wrap one protion for fridge storage and then individually tightly wrap the other portions and once again, to ensure they will not get frost bite, zip them up in an airtight freezer bag.

When ready, take your frozen item out of the freezer and let come to room temperature. (If you’re in a hurry a microwave can shorten the defrost time. Just use it cautiously; start at 10 second intervals. Or let thaw a little and then pop in the toaster / toaster oven until warmed). Enjoy!

Gingerbread Victorian Townhouse Row

We have started off the holiday season here at the bakery. Cakes, pies, and holiday specialties are throughout the bakery. And we are starting our gingerbread making, so to kick off this blog I am sharing our Gingerbread Townhouses from last year.  This 2 1/2 foot tall, 3 ft- long house set in a cozy winter scene, was a task my team was excited to get and happy to see delivered! Now, don’t get me wrong; it is fun and nostalgic doing gingerbread houses. Gingerbread mansions, they are, well, more delicate and require a lot more tlc. Thankfully, Bing Crosby serenading us with White Christmas made a notable difference to our disposition and its execution. 🙂

gingerbread house

Some of our lessons learned: Roll your gingerbread dough as absolutely thin as you can – especially the roof pieces. Roofs are heavy, meaning they need a lot of support, and having them be lighter, I found was to our advantage. Thinking through the assembling of the pieces. We found it worked best to adhere each roof piece to one of the side supports of the house, then add front and back piece, and then finally adhere the other side piece. I wish I could say we were fully present and did a photo documentary of our steps, but, alas, we were fully in construction mode.

gb_victorian_side copyAnother lesson: when my daughters’ were young, before my own-start-from-scratch gingerbread house making days, I used to think that it might be nice to make the gingerbread myself – but I never did because of time, planning, etc. Well, as an experienced gingerbread -maker, I say to those out there who contemplate the same thought – don’t do it, and don’t even spend a moment blinking an eye feeling bad about it. When you calculate the amount of time and preparation, and ingredients, and pieces that break until you get the hang of it – it’s not worth it.  Enjoy and fully embrace the pre-packaged ready to assemble gingerbread houses found in the store! (Use the time making gingerbread cut out cookies with the kids!). Enjoy what I think is the fun part, of decorating them! As gingerbread houses aren’t generally eaten anymore (if you are certain they won’t be) – you can even pre-assemble using hot glue.

Now, our construction gingerbread recipe is different from our gingerbread cookies/people that we offer (one is for construction; one is for devouring), so we suggest whether you make your own gingerbread structure or buy it, that you have gingerbread cookies on hand to resist temptation of eating the structure. (An absolute important lesson learned).

Ready, Set, Decorate, and that is the best part, in my opinion. Our gingerbread mansion was a victorian winter scene, not specific to Christmas or a Holiday, as our client requested, but make your own theme. Most importantly, have fun!

Some fun decorating ideas are : cereal for the roof tiles, long candy-cane sticks which can  act as structural support and festive details, peppermint wheels, very large gum-drops snipped into or stacked for  trees.  Another important tip:  royal icing is your ‘cement’, and for ‘construction’ work you want it to be quite stiff (if you pull a knife out of it the icing stays almost straight up). For detail piping you need a slightly thinner icing, so it flows but does not run out of the bag.  To get the different consistencies, follow the directions on the back of the meringue powder purchased at Walmart, JoAnnn’s, Michaels… and create for the thicker consistency. Later when ready for thinner icing simply add a little warm tap water, a few drops at a time, stirring in between until you get the somewhat thinner piping consistency. As an fyi- keep your royal icing coved as it will crust over and harden fairly quickly-!

Whatever your imagination can dream up will absolutely make the best gingerbread house ever!

gb_victorian_back

August – Baking Tips

When my daughters were little and the summer break was just beginning to reach the end, I often found it was sometimes the hardest time to keep them busy and re-engage their minds. One of the ways I used to do this was by giving each of them one week in which they had to plan dinner for the week. That included grocery shopping (with myself, of course), taking the lead in meal preparation with supervision and help, as necessary, etc. It was quite an interesting insight into their personalities, as always, food is such a part of who you are, and what they chose certainly reflected that.

As they are MY children, dessert was always part of their meals; requiring much consideration, and it was a great way for me to teach them a lot of the basics in baking. (Though it has been constantly reinforced through out their lives, as I still get calls asking about this or that – much to my delight and occasional chagrin due to distance, when a wild disaster has occurred that needs salvaging).

Being inspired by the start of August and last few weeks of summer, I’ve decided to include in this blog some of my favorite baking tips that I think are essential to mastering the art of baking.

BakingBESTPoster

• Always make certain you have all of the necessary ingredients – Baking is not the place for random substitutions or “close enough.”

  • Always read all the way through a recipe before beginning
  • Clean as you go. This will help you immensely at the end.
  • Creaming’ means with an electric beater beating the butter and sugar together, until it is soft and looks like mayonnaise
  • For eggs and butter to come to room temperature: leave out overnight or when you leave for work/school in the morning & they’ll be ready for you when you get home later in the day
  • Keep your hands as clean as possible! Wash,wash wash (sometimes after every step, if it’s a particularly messy recipe) NOTE: Never dry your hands or wipe your hands on the same towel you use for drying clean pots, pans, utensils, etc. Keep clean- clean! Never clean raw egg up off a counter with anything other an a paper towel. Raw egg rinsed out of a wash cloth and then used to wipe something down can still transfer bacteria / salmonella.
  • Dry Measure & Liquid Measure
    • Glass Measures are for wet ingredients including frozen or canned pureed fruits or vegetables as well as sour cream, cottage cheese, & ricotta cheese.
    • Measuring cup sets = ÂĽ cup up to 2 cups are for dry ingredients and need to have the flour, sugar, etc. “Spooned” into them and then leveled
    • Measuring has to be exact for a terrific outcome
    • Measuring Spoons = ÂĽ teaspoon up to 2 Tablespoons are universal and used whenever a small amount of anything is specified
  • • Never measure ingredients over the mixing bowl (especially salt, baking powder, baking soda, flour), as you want a precise amount and not any extra!
  • • When measuring a sticky liquid (like honey or oil), lightly grease your glass measure first
  • *      When a recipe’s baking time is for example 20 – 30 minutes, Always set the timer for the *shortest baking time and check *. Never open the oven door ” to check” before the timer goes off, as it changes the oven temperature!

Happy Baking! And enjoy with limeade or your preferred ice drink and a nice nibble of something sweet this warm August.

February & Chocolate

It’s February , the month where winter is still prominent, the holiday treats are past, the work out routines are seeming old and something to look forward to doing in summertime, and chocolate is desired!

We have a love – like relationship with chocolate at the bakery. We love to eat it in all its delicious forms; we like to work with it (sometimes more than others), in all the ways that we do. And there are so many forms of chocolate: cocoa powder – natural and dutch processed, chocolate bars that are meant to be melted and baked, chocolate best blended and melted with other ingredients to be a ganache or for fondue. There is white chocolate, dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Chocolate for covering petit fours and cakes, chocolate butter even for painting! And who can forget artisanal chocolates?

eloise's pastries chocolate layer cake

Now, I could make this the longest blog entry (or at least an entry for the title), if we devoted it to explaining all the different types of chocolates, and which type you use in what. As we are not chocolateers, I am not going to do that. I can however tell you a few tips so that the next time you might be wanting to make a chocolate creation yourself, you will have a better understanding.
The difference between  baking with a good quality baking chocolate and a Hershey chocolate bar, are the additives. Bakering chocolate is a pure chocolate, without other ingredients, such as cream, sugar, vanilla, etc. Often for baking this is preferred as 1) you control the flavor and strength of chocolate 2) you taste a deeper richer chocolate. Perfect for melting and stirring into your next chocolate mousse. (Which is essentially melted chocolates whipped in egg, cream, and sugar mixture until light and fluffy).
forms of chocolate
Quick note when purchasing baking chocolate bars look at the percentage rating on the label; this will tell you the type of choc
olate and it’s strength of flavor. For instance, milk chocolate has a lesser amount of cocoa and therefore a lower percentage number. On the other hand dark, dark chocolate will have an 80+ percentage number.
Now, another form of chocolate that we commonly use, and that can be a bit confusing is cocoa powder. Pure Cocoa powder (*not Nesquick and not hot chocolate mix) comes in two forms: natural and dutch processed. Pure cocoa powder is produced when the liquid chocolate is processed to remove most of it’s cocoa butter. The solid that is left is processed into the powder. (The idea is similar to making ricotta, for all our cheese makers out there…).
Natural coco powder is very dark, very bitter and an acid, thereby acting as a rising agent wh
en it bakes. Perfect in cakes, brownies – anything dark and chocolaty! Yum!!!
Dutch processed cocoa powder is much more subtle in its’ chocolate taste, almost sweeter, and reddish in color. The way of processing the chocolate leaves it as a neutral (yes, think back to your days of chemistry with acids and bases), and so it requires baking powder in the recipe when being used. Dutch processed cocoa powder is ideal in more sophisticated pastries and complex desserts. We southerner’s and all you converts love it in our red velvet cake!
Wishing you the best of February, Chocolate and Valentines Day!

Eggs In Depth; Baking / Cooking Tips

Always crack eggs open individually in a separate bowl. By this I mean that when  a recipe calls for say 4 eggs, crack the egg in one bowl, inspect it by looking at it to make sure that it is clear, has no smell, then pour it into the bowl where all the eggs will be together. This way, if you have a bad egg lurking in the batch, you do not lose all your eggs.One bad egg in with fresh eggs means you’ll need to start over.Some recipes with meringues or high lift can use up to 12 egg whites, which is when you really  don’t want to have to start over!

When a recipe calls for egg whites this means you must seperate the yolk (the yellow center) from the white. Remember, a little egg white in with the yolk is fine. It will not ruin the recipe. A little yolk in the egg whites will  ruin the recipe. The eggs will not rise or puff up as they should, so pay attention.

Temperature of the eggs : For baking you almost always want your eggs to be at room temperature. Just take out the eggs you will need and set them on your counter for a few hours before you will start baking. Nothing will happen to them, and you will not become sick. Don’t put them in the microwave in an interest to save time, as you will actually cook the eggs. If you are in a hurry and don’t have hours to wait and it’s hot outside, place them outside, out of harms way and /or direct sunlight, and they will come up to room temperature faster.

Brown eggs have as a natural occurrence in many of their eggs, blood specs’. It just looks like a tiny drop of blood in the egg yolk. As long as their is no smell or cloudiness in the egg, it is still a good egg. It really is just a natural occurrence. If it grosses you out, take part of the cracked egg shell and scoop it out. The rest of the egg is good and should be used.

If you have a piece of shell that has fallen into the egg when breaking it, using part of the shell to scoop it out will get the job done quickly. As I’ve learned from experience, any other utensil, including your hands, will take you longer and a lot more irritation, to get it out; the shell naturally attracts back to itself. (Too cool).

While I know veganism is a growing movement, and we do offer vegan versions of many of our products, nothing replaces the taste, texture, and healthfulness that using fresh, room temperature eggs provide in your baking and cooking! So get cracking!… 🙂

Eggs : Simple Tips Everyone Should Know

An egg. Simple. No longer do you have to go out into your chicken-coop each morning, wary of the snakes or foxes that might still be lurking, and take the eggs left to you by the chickens who are demanding their breakfast in return for giving you yours. No, gone are the days when having eggs are the standard breakfast; who has time for it? We just go to the grocery store, buy a dozen, and are set for the week. Ah, but which size to choose? Farm fresh, organic, or generic? Grade A or Grade B? Brown or White? Extra Large, Large, Medium, or Small? A dozen or 3 dozen? The recipe for the brownies my son has to take to school for the fundraiser tomorrow just says 2 eggs. Nothing else…

In a bakery, eggs are as essential as air is for breathing. We know our eggs and how best to use them. Let me impart some knowledge gained.

Terminology: the yolk is the yellow center of the egg. The yolk is what has all the nutrients, vitamins, healthy fats, and cholesterol. The egg white is the exterior, which is what is used to beat and fluff to give the light and airy quality (found in omelets) to cakes.

Brown or White? The color of the egg is irrelevant.

Large? Extra Large? Any recipe that asks for ‘1 egg’ is asking for a ‘large, grade A’ egg. An extra-large egg is about 1 1/4 – 1 1/2  eggs. If you’re getting your eggs from a farmer’s market where the eggs are all different sizes, you measure the egg in a liquid measure. One Grade A Large egg is approximately 2 oz, for a base reference.

The smell. Fresh eggs have no smell, and they are clear. If the color of the yolk or egg white are opaque or cloudy, and / or have a strong odor, you have a bad a egg. Like an avocado, you can’t tell what’s inside until you crack it open. However, if you smell it unopened in the container – run!

Organic or commercial? For me, the argument is too compelling not to buy organic eggs. First of all, it’s the taste. Fresh, organic eggs have a much stronger flavor; you can literally taste the difference. It has been proven that healthy chickens, who live a lifestyle normal to their heritage and not stressed, lay tastier, better quality eggs. The color of the yolk is brighter and deeper. From an environmental stand point, large conglomerate egg companies do not take responsibility for the chicken waste that is produced on their farms (which is an enormous amount), by their commercial business. This is  a huge disservice to our planet, and in my opinion, irresponsible. Also, it is my opinion, that the way they mistreat their chickens is awful. (Note: I am not a ‘tree-hugger’ as it were; but some things are just too inexcusable to ignore.) If you can afford organic – I encourage you to do so. The taste is far better and it supports the small farms trying to do the right thing for us and the environment.

Gluten-Free Sweets

I can not believe that it is March 11, the clock’s sped up one hour last night, and yet somehow it feels like it’s sped up one whole month! I am most shocked that it has been almost a whole month since I have last posted something – which I will be playing catch up in the coming weeks. Many fun experiences have occurred, and yet the most ironic of all is that I have actually been busy writing blog entries for other sites that I am connected with.

So, while we re-engage and catch up, dear reader, I am submitting now one of my favorites entries recently written, about gluten-free desserts.

Sit back, wet your tongue and hopifully awaken your appetite, and enjoy the read! I will be back soon with a ‘newsy – blog’.

I never cease to be amazed at how many persons with celiac’s disease, aka suffer from a Gluten intolerance, expect to compromise on taste.  I am here to tell you, you don’t have to.

Gluten Free does not automatically mean you must feel like you are pic-nicking on the beach and sand has invaded each and every bite, or that this lovely taste fills your mouth, pleasure erupts on your lips and then, WHAM, the after taste hits and spoils the experience. OR, there are those delicious looking gourmet treats in the case, or packaged at the grocery, or pictured on line; a small fortune is extracted for their purchase; you wait with anticipation to finally enjoy the first bite….it’s so promising. Typically you take your first bite and disappointment replaces pleasure.  The exquisitely packaged and tempting treat is flavorless, or hard, or dry or all of the above, possibly has a weird texture or flavor and into the trash it goes.  Unfortunately, baking gluten free at home does not typically render more favorable results. So you Glutenites tend to either give up all together, or just know it won’t taste like the original and accept that…. don’t. There are those of us professionals, who believe the gluten-free item should be so close to the original that the difference can only be detected when side by side.  This  includes the likes of dinner rolls, muffins, pie crusts, cakes, cupcakes, cookies… whatever you are craving.

Your science lesson: Gluten free flours react differently than traditional flours when combined with other ingredients; for instance a true Southern butter cake when gluten free won’t be as rich as the original because the butter does not permeate the alternative flours the same way. In a blind taste test the gluten free butter cake was declared delicious and was not detected, until the traditional and gluten free were side by side. (The richness or depth of flavor in the two is very different, though the texture is similar.) When a blind taste test was conducted with Red Velvet and Chocolate, 85% could not distinguish between the traditional and Gluten free, even side by side; those who could tell in the end, struggled with their decision. These are examples of how Gluten free should be! (Equal results were found with the bakery goods).

If one of you is Gluten free do not hesitate to have the entire cake Gluten free; if it is deliciously executed your guests will never know and y’all can enjoy whatever bite you like.  The only negative note, which has to be addressed is cost.  Gluten free does not have to cost you a fortune to be good, however be aware that Gluten free will cost more as alternative flours are very expensive. Insider tip: if anyone is charging you more than 30% over the price of the exact same traditional counterpart, shop around; you are being gouged.

Take away: Glutenites, don’t give up, Gluten free is not all the same. Keep your standards high; there are Gluten free baked goods which will evoke Sweet Memories!

After holiday treat!

It’s the day after Christmas, the sugar high is easing, cleaning up is looming, and work is beginning to call, and yet I the air to go slow, be indulgent, and just enjoy life is what I breathe! So, before everyone gets full into their diets and purges any left-over sweets, I saw this this morning and wanted to share. Plus, this is great for those coming off the shopping rush of the after Christmas sale!

For anyone who made or purchased eggnog and have some left over, how about Eggnog French Toast, with fresh fruit, whipped yogurt and a drizzle of warm maple syrup. And most likely all the ingredients are in your pantry and fridge. What makes this such a fast, easy recipe is that the eggnog replaces all the wet ingredients in a traditional french toast, as it already has the milk, eggs, and seasoning!

Needed:
eggnog,
day old bread – such as french baguette, sliced bread or hallauh
griddle or panini pan
fresh fruit or berries
plain or vanilla yogurt
maple syrup
and crispy bacon for those who choose!

Directions!
Pour the eggnog into a long dish that you can lay a slice of your bread in. Coat each slice thoroughly, allowing the bread to absorb the delicious flavor of the eggnog. Then place it onto your pan, medium high heat for approximately 3 -5 minutes, until the bread is brown and no longer soggy. Plate and dress with fruit of your choice.
You can use oranges, strawberries, raspberries, whatever sounds good to you~! If you like whip a little yogurt to lighten and dollop on top. To heat the maple syrup just pop in the microwave in an heat proof container, for about 12 seconds.
As I am a firm believer that bacon makes everything better, I like to add a few slices of crispy bacon.

Enjoy!

Intimitaded by Baking Math?

We are in full baking mode here at the bakery. In ‘normal’ times of the year we are a unique blend of baking our bakery line and baking / decorating wedding and / or occasion cakes. Yet in December it is mostly baking for the bakery line. Which I love and enjoy. It fills your senses with the holiday season. And my youngest daughter who still lives with me loves it because there is always something to ‘sample’.

However, large quantities, and multiple quantities mean a lot of math. Now, unlike a lot of bakers I see highlighted on Food Network shows and the like, I am most definitely not a mathematician. In fact, I told my children’s teachers that I could no longer help them with their math homework after grade 5. Algebra II, Calculus, are all just words to me that can remain pleasant as long as we don’t enter the deep labyrith of their meaning, or worse, application.

And yet, I am very adept and quick at baking math. Somehow the simple fractions and changing from teaspoons to tablespoons, cups to pounds, ounces to cups, are not so or so complicated to me. Which always makes me chuckle when I’m working with people who love math and sometimes struggle with it. Now, before you think I’m bragging or gloating, don’t; their is no ego, just baffled amusement. And I want to help everyone who does struggle with it, so I am putting these notes below, to help you until you’re baking sufficiently that it becomes second hand knowledge.

1 cup of butter = 2 sticks (8 oz) (1 stick = 4 oz, 8 TB)
16 oz = 1 lb
16TB = 8 oz
2 TB = 1 oz
6 tsp = 1 oz
3 tsp = 1 TB
3/4 tsp = 1/4 Tb
â…“ , 0.33 = 5 Tb + a bit
Âľ (0.75) cup = 6 oz,
1.5 cup = 12 oz
2.5 cups = 20 oz, 1.25 lb
2 lb = 32oz
5 TB = 2.5 oz

oz = ounces, Tb = tablespoon, tsp – teaspoon, lb – pound,

While fluid ounce and solid ounce are the same equivalents in weight, it is not interchangeable measuring and should be measured in their respective measuring tools.

So be afraid no more; Go forth and Bake!