July -A Grateful Look Back –

July has always been a month for reflective appreciation of our forefathers and this nation they formed. Independence Day is always a reminder for how blessed we are, how grateful to those who fought to form our nation on its principal and liberties, and for those today who continue to fight for them for all of us

At a time when there is much polarization in both state and local governments , it is renewing to remember the roots of this nation, it’s principals, and those who sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so that we may have the life we do.

So, with that heart the recipe this month is the quintessential American fruit pie. Depending on which part of the country you hail from, decides if your “American pie” is apple, cherry, blueberry, strawberry, ….

butter-loc

Our foremothers didn’t have grocery stores to go buy butter , or flour, and they didn’t have refrigerators and climate controlled environments either to keep things cool and fresh (their closest option was a cellar, if they had one). They did have sort insulated clay jugs, but butter was labor intensive muscle-work out to create, and meals/desserts  had to be planned out days to weeks in advance, to ensure they had what was necessary for when.

Our foremothers were masters at knowing what do with what little they had, and how to make a little go a long way. They lived green and self sustaining – “going locavore” or note.

Obviously this is not our life now, but their planning and efficiency is something worth emanating.

My “home” pie (which also happens to be my favorite) is apple pie. As I do it from my short hand memory, here is an easy recipe I found that is just deliciousness by Betty Crocker  (no required beating cream into butter for hours before either! 😉 )

Betty Crocker’s Easy Apple Pie

Crust:

**Store Bought. Pillsbury in refrigerated section of store- rolled-up in a box

Filling:

Apple Pie

1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup Gold Medal all- purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

8 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples ( 8 medium)

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Directions:

1. In Medium bowl, mix 2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in shortening, using pastry blender ( or pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite directions), until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans side of bowl ( 1 to 2 teaspoons more water can be added if necessary).

2. Heat oven to 425 F. With floured rolling pin, roll one pasty round into round 2 inches larger than upside- down- 9-inch glass pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths; place in pie plate. Unfold and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and sale.

3. In large bowl, mix sugar, 1/4 cup flour, the cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir in apples until well mixed. Spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Cut butter into small pieced; sprinkle over filling. Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1/2 inch from rim of plate.

4. Roll other round of pastry into 10-inch round. Fold into fourths and cut slits so steam can escape. Unfold top pastry over filing; trim overhanging edge 1 inch from rim of plate. Fold and roll top edge under lower edge, pressing on rim to seal; flute as desired. Cover edge with 2 to 3 inch strip of foil to prevent excessive browning.

5. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust, removing foil for last 15 minutes of baking. Serve warm if desired. And let’s not forget the ice-cream! If you’re from up North, you can add the cheese (though to me that’s pollution)…

** Makes 8 servings ( depending how you slice)

June ‘Favors’

Gifts. Sharing of joy. Reinforcing a memory with something tangible,  something for the eye to savor, the hands to hold, and, when edible, for the mouth to delight in.

Ideas? Here are some that we offer and have done in the past.

Heart shaped shortbread cookies, pecan, citrus, traditional Scottish – tuxedo style ( half dipped in chocolate), with a corsage ( gumpaste flower) or monogrammed.

Cake truffles – a twist on the iconic truffle, decadent and rich, elegantly packaged in individual boxes, tied with your custom ribbon.

Springerles – this ancestral cookie was first known to be made over 1,000 years ago. Like the French breads and Venetian pastries, these delicious, not too sweet cookies are beautiful and unique. Enjoy them in traditional anis, citrus and classic vanilla flavors. Packaged, they are sure to wow their receivers.

Hand Decorated Cookies – Create your custom look or theme on these delicious butter- sugar cookies. These tender and tasty cookies are just the right balance for your icing design.

Cake Pops- from bride and grooms to your colors and swirl. Monogrammed or subtle, they are fun and a fan favorite!

These are just some ideas to spark your imagination!

May Blossoms

It’s May! Happy Mother’s Day!
The flowers are in full bloom ~ though without any scent as they are made of gumpaste in the bakery. With Mother’s Day and Weddings, we are in full spring mode. We make all of our gumpaste flowers in house, and what a great irony; I have a brown thumb!  I know my father and grandmothers are watching down on me laughing, because despite myself, I have finally learned all these different types of flowers 🙂 .
cherry blossoms
Just as a gardener plans the layout for the beds before getting seeds to germinate, we plan how much time it will take to make the flowers, how far in advance to start, assemble, and decorate. While I would never dare to say that our flowers can compare our flowers to the exquisite ones grown in gardens and along byways around the world, I am awfully impressed with what my team’s hands can do! (And the more we do, the more impressed I am by Mother Nature!)
The different sugar flowers take different amounts of time, need different amounts of patience, tenderness and finesse (yes, it does sound like I’m raising a child, but trust me it does relate!). For example, peonies are a favorite flower, and one of the most expensive for us to produce, as they literally have to be made over days! Where as Daisies, Cherry Blossoms, and Cala Lilies all equally lovely and delicate, yet more independent – not so in need of our hands, and therefore can be more budget friendly.
Roses are by far one of our most popular flowers, and just as in real life, the art is not only in the formation of the flower, but also in the finesse of the color / hand painting of each part. As no two flowers are alike, so too do we customize each flower for the special person receiving it.

April Showers

“April Showers” as the beginning of the rhyme goes is not limited to the spring rain. Rather in the bakery, we are having ‘showers’ all the time. Bridal showers, baby showers, engagement parties, graduation celebrations …. Occasion cakes are always a fun centerpiece, but sometimes it’s nice to do something a little different and a little more personal –   individually sized treats. They look lovely on a plate, blow your guests away, and can add to a lot of variety.

A vary fast easy way to make a personal ‘spring dessert’ is to purchase a store bought Sara Lee poundcake, some berries, and your frosting (your favorite flavor and brand). Lay a few pieces of the pound cake out on a cutting board. With a small cookie cutter in theme with your celebration, cut out the pieces of the poundcake (a small square or round cutter are always perfect too). One thing to consider is whether or not you want your guests to be able to pick up the bite with their hands or need a proper plate and fork. The size and shape of cookie cutter will dictate if it needs a fork or if it is finger friendly; the cake will break if too big or too awkward to hold. Then, with a spoon put some of the frosting into a ziploc bag and push it down into one of the bottom corners. Fold the bag over so it’s shut and snip the bottom end where the frosting is squeezed to. Now, simply pipe the frosting into little dollops onto the cake cut-outs. Add a berry on top to finish! It’s sure to impress!

If you’re not a fan of store bought frosting, an easy alternative is Chantilly cream, and here’s how you make it. *It can be made ahead and stored in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days – or until someone eats it 🙂 .

Chantilly Cream: Take 1 pint of whipping cream, whipped with a little powdered sugar until you’ve reached the sweetness desired. I suggest starting with a quarter cup of powdered sugar at a time for a half pint of cream.

Cut Cut-outs

Another idea that is simple to execute is if you take ribbon – it could be a customized ribbon with initials or the date , or regular ribbon – and add it around an undecorated cookie. It adds a dash of color and panache to a simple and delicious treat!

Cookies with ribbon

My favorite Spring dessert : Berry Filled Angel Food Cake. A fast and easy dessert if not from scratch. Buy a store-made Angel Food Cake. Cut the top half off (holding the knife horizontally). Set aside on a clean plate – you’ll need it again. With one tablespoon, hollow out a ditch or tunnel throughout the center of the cake, leaving a ½” wall on either side. What you’re doing is making a moat around the inside of the cake, so that it will hold all the delicious berries.

In a separate bowl, wash and dry about two pints of berries. If using strawberries, slice them before adding to the bowl. Add a little sugar if the berries aren’t fully sweet. Then gently toss with Chantilly cream . (*Recipe above. Set aside about 3 Tablespoons full for the finishing panache). Now, take your cream-berry mixture and spoon it evenly into the moat. Take your top piece of cake that has been resting on the plate and carefully place it back on top. A strong but gentle hand is needed here.

Now add your reserved Chantilly cream by drizzling it. Then  sprinkle the berries over it for that finishing touch.

Filled Angel Cake

Keep chilled until ready to slice and serve. Enjoy!

March – Easter Treats

Image

The thawing of winter and blooming of spring is a time that always goes by so fast. Yesterday it was Christmas and winter.  Tomorrow it’s Easter (depending on the year it’s here before you blink), and spring! The ground thaws and creatures come out of hibernation…

In the bakery, chocolates, bunnies and marzipan chicks are hatching up everywhere!

Easter is one of my most favorite seasons — and I love to make it special.

Here are some thoughts for you:

Dress your table up for the occasion! Get inspiration from the outdoors; cut some fresh flowers and leaves, strewing them along the center of the table. Remember to keep in mind that you want eye-height field of vision clear, so that conversation is not stunted by people not seeing you through tall and bulky table settings. You can add, just remember to have it spaced. Also, the narrower the better -you need for plates! 🙂

Want to show off some of your easter eggs? Nestle them in the greenery, or onto candle sticks (in place of the candle). Inexpensive Easter garlands can be found at any craft store and many grocery stores; if you take them apart you can use them as napkin ties or around chairs. For a more sophisticated look or to keep it from feeling too busy, try to stick with one base color (maybe two if it’s white and green, for example), and have 3 or 4 accent colors that just give the punctation to the decor. It’s the hint of color and whimsy that just make it fun!

My fun and relatively painless Easter dessert is decorated Sugar cookies! They are always a hit, and are fabulous to bake and/or decorate with kids (big and small). Just get out the cookie cutters, sprinkles, and icing! These can also be set out on the table top and become a conversation starter for groups who don’t know each other well. Display them on a “silver tray” until time for dessert!

My personal favorite Easter decorating activity is dying the Easter eggs. This could possibly be because it means there will be an Easter Egg Hunt, which is so much fun to watch with little ones!

We used to make our own dye – I found it much easier to maintain, cost effective, and my girls enjoyed the challenge with the colors.

To make the dye:

1 tsp food coloring, (the McCormicks in the little squeeze bottle from your grocer’s shelf)

1 tablespoon white vinegar,

½ cup hot water. (This is the amount you need per color for the dye).

Tips for boiling your eggs:

Start with cold eggs sitting in a pot of cold water. Bring to slow boil then broil for 5 minutes.

Let cool down in the water and then dry.

Now your ready to dip and decorate to your hearts desire!

Happy Easter!

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!

January – Juicing Blog

January seems to be that time of year when many of us decide to “get healthy” and among things purchased in that pursuit are juicers; so I thought some insight might be helpful. As a juicer my entire adulthood, I have learned that juicers are not all one in the same, some are better for certain fruits/vegetables than others, and there is a difference between juicing and blending.

The first juicer I ever purchased (20+ years ago), was at the low end of the market. The juicer died within 6 months and preparing and cleaning took longer than juicing and drinking! After purchasing a second mid-priced juicer, which died within a year and again required much preparation, I decided to truly commit. Plunging into my bank account I purchased a Champion Juicer, the leading maker at the time (it is still available today). It required little prep, was easy to clean, and a had a strong fast motor; in truth the motors will out live us all- making the whole experience of juicing pleasurable. It served me faithfully until five years ago, when I chose to give it away, not because of it’s death, but rather the items that I was juicing changed. Instead of denser fruits and vegetables, like pears, apples, carrots, etc I began juicing many leafy greens. The result was that I needed a juicer with a much more efficient and fine strainer, with variable speeds.

So like all good Americans I saw an infomercial for a juicer created by a health guru and endorsed by a long line of the famous and not. The verdict: it worked but not without a lot of prep-time and definitely not on leafy greens. So the search continued, ending in the purchase of a Breville Ikon Juice Fountain …worth every penny! It required no real prep, has easy clean up and it loves leafy greens. (You can compost the discarded pulp mixture). *Note here: I first purchased the Juice Fountain Elite which is a little less clean up friendly over time and I have seen no real difference in the additional 100 watt motor strength).

So, do I want a blender or a juicer? The blender at high speed grinds items into a homogenous consistency with the help of liquid that you add to it. It does not separate anything that is fed into it such as peels or seeds. This could be a good thing if you like texture and want extra fiber. That said, it can also be a bad thing as some fruits and vegetables have toxic seeds/peels if chopped/ground up and consumed. Ex: apple seeds contain arsenic. So do your homework before going this route.

The juicer, on the other hand separates the skin, pit, and seeds, resulting in pure nutrient juice without pulp or fibers. Note: the texture is very thick, nothing like store-bought. No added liquid is needed in this juice. The fundamental job of the juicer is to separate the unwanted parts from the nutrient juice, by collecting the skin, pulp and fibers in one part of the machine so pure juice flows out of the spout into a container at the end of the juicer. Another note: other than the champion, fruit like bananas and avocados will be juiced into a puree if you’re lucky, but usually you just get a mess! *Frozen bananas juice brilliantly through the Champion, for a tasty healthy alternative to ice cream; kids love it!

Happy juicing and a healthy 2013!

Happy 2013!

Hi Everyone!

Happy 2013 This year, in hopes of some balance and a commitment that I can maintain to this blog, we have decided to make one post per month. Our theme this year is all about sharing some knowledge and experience gained. It might be about the history of the sweets celebrated at a particular holiday, or the difference in baking techniques. You’ll just have to read and see!

We are looking forward to sharing through this year with you! Happy Baking!

chocolate chip cookies

The way to end the day

Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Thanksgiving is one of my absolute favorite holidays, because it is all about Giving and Sharing. At the bakery, we choose to provide some sweet treats and cakes to some of our local family shelters.

This Thanksgiving, we are thankful to be growing and having more opportunities to know our clients better. We love sharing stories, hearing the family traditions, and find it an honor and joy when supplying a small part to their special table.

Like most families, there are things that are tradition and we always seem to add something new to the feast. For the bakery, the traditions are the pecan pie, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, angel and sweet potato biscuits.

Our new items this year are pecan pie bars , molasses cookies, and Turkey Cake Pops! Personally, I think these cake pops are just too cute.

Our family is blessed to have an oven and a turkey in it- which right now needs my attention… So thank you for another year and dropping ny!

For each of you we wish a  meaningful and Happy Thanksgiving!

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We appreciate our Veterans!

Last week was elections, and today is our day to honor all of those who are serving and have served. Both days are highly patriotic and are a fabulous time to reflect as a nation, on who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.

In the bakery, we love to know the origins of our recipes, and knowing our nations history is part of that. Our fore-fathers, whether civilians or soldiers, all fought for our to vote, and for our voices to be heard. Whenever we vote we are honoring their fight!

For those who continue to serve and have served in the military, to show our appreciation we offer a selection of cookies and pound-cakes at a reduced price, and a 10% discount on our occasion and wedding cakes. We appreciate yours and your families service and sacrifice.

Our way of celebrating these two occasions was with our Red, White, and Blue Cupcakes, and the Democrat and Republican Mascot  Cookies.

An easy tip for making patriotic cookies – take your cookie dough and split into thirds. One third take and roll it into a log,  the diameter being the size of the cookie you would want. I would say, anywhere from 2 inches – 4 inches. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge until you need it. One third add some red food coloring to – paste food coloring works best- the deeper the color the more you’ll need. Then, knead the dough, spreading the color throughout. Once the color is evenly mixed, roll into a log and wrap, I suggest the same size as the first, but it’s up to you. Set it aside in the fridge. To the last third, add  blue paste food coloring. Knead and again, roll out into a log, wrap it in plastic wrap and into the fridge it goes! Let them set up for at least 30 minutes before working with them again.

Take your chilled cookie dough out of the fridge and just slice to about ½ inch in thickness and bake. A fun detail to add is a new, unused stamp to give it a little personality or theme. Now you have red, white and blue cookies!

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