Sunday, October 31, 2010

Week 5, Nov. 2

Cakes are wonderful. There is always an air of celebration surrounding cakes, and many gatherings often seem to fall short if one isn't present. While other desserts are certainly common place in my family too, birthdays, baby showers, and other special occasions always feature at least one cake, and because of the lack of good bakeries (sorry, but store-bought just doesn't cut it) and my desire to create something delicious and memorable, the task often falls on me to bring one that's perfectly suited for the guest of honor. By baking for so many family members throughout the last ten years or so I've had the opportunity to develop some awesome cake and icing flavors.

Many people cut corners when they make "homemade" cakes. Some use mixes from a box, cans of frosting, pre-made rock hard decorations, and/or cheap ingredients like Crisco. While there are always better ingredients to be found, I feel confident that I have located ones that enhance my creations to make them the best they can be. I use unbleached cake flour, which gives a delicate crumb while being formulated to rise high without being chemically bleached. I use potent spices and rich cocoa powder from Penzey's, high quality chocolate, evaporated cane juice, farm fresh eggs, and whole milk and butter for a moist, rich crumb. The result? My cakes may cost more than others, but they're divine.

This week members are receiving a sample of one of my layer cake creations. Each share will pick up a six inch, two layer Chocolate Cake, slathered with Saffron-infused French Buttercream. While most American frostings consist of shortening and/or butter, and powdered sugar, my version is less sweet, smooth, and delicately scented with saffron. While cake crumbs are undesirable and slightly tacky when visible in cake icing, do note that this particular buttercream has specks of orange in it (from real, high quality saffron), and is also the reason why the color is a pastel yellow. The chocolate cake has been infused with a hint of Grand Marnier (an orange liqeuer). I finished them off with a simple decoration of homemade candied orange peel and chocolate flower cut-outs.

With the small size of these cakes, I doubt anyone will have leftovers or the desire to freeze slices. In fact, cakes are best kept in their cake boxes until eaten, within three days. French Buttercream freezes wonderfully well, however, so if you find that you'd like to set some aside for later, freeze the cake, unwrapped, until solid. Once frozen, double-wrap it in plastic and store for up to one month in the freezer.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gluten-Free, Sensitivities, and Allergies

Gluten-Free assorted cupcakes! 
Raspberry-Orange Swirl,
Chocolate-Dipped Orange,
Vanilla Bean,
Raspberry-White Chocolate
Many people have asked me about gluten-free baking. While my usual fare isn't usually allergy friendly, I make a vast variety of items. It's hard to say that I do or don't make things that might be acceptable for someone's special diet. It varies from person to person, treat to treat.

Starting this October, I will offer a Gluten-Free CSB share!  The pick-up will be once per month, the first Saturday of October, November, and December.  Please contact me for more information, and to reserve your spot.

Additionally, if you're trying to reduce sugar or follow a gluten-free diet (or dairy-free, etc), we can definitely discuss the dessert that would be perfect for you, available as a special order. I can ensure it's made to your specifications and if you have a sensitivity/allergy to, say, wheat, I can make sure no "regular" cookie crumbs fall onto your dessert, possibly resulting in a reaction.

Gluten-free flour can be substituted for regular flour in many baked items. Most of my cake flavors can be made Gluten-Free; please ask for examples. GF oats can be used instead of my regular ones for special order granola (bulk orders only, please). Flavored popcorn, for example, is naturally gluten-free, and can be free of many other allergens as well (some varieties are vegan!).  I make a killer flourless chocolate "cake" that many clients request again and again...most of whom don't even care that's it's gluten-free!

Please allow 48 hours for special orders, and I will try to accommodate your needs as best I can!

Maple-Chile Popcorn,
Buttery Caramel Corn

GF Apple Spice Cupcakes,
Vanilla Buttercream,
natural orange coloring,
chocolate sprinkles

Monday, October 18, 2010

Week 3, Oct. 19

People can be pretty particular about their brownies. Some like them chewy, some are fans of the fudgy types, and some like them more cakey. Others might like a thick spread of chocolate icing on top. This week's treat doesn't really fall into those categories, so when I said I was making brownies...well, it's not really that simple!

Each CSB member will receive a whole pan of my special brownies this week, topped off with a decoration of freshly candied organic orange peel. These brownies include Scharffenberger chocolate, toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), ancho chile powder, and a hint of orange. They are rich, full-flavored, chocolatey, chewy, and slightly fudgy at the same time.

Cut them into bars the size you prefer, stack them on a plate, take them into the office tomorrow morning to share, or individually wrap the ones you won't eat right away and freeze for quick additions to lunch boxes. These also make an amazing brownie sundae, topped with vanilla ice cream, a drizzle of caramel, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

This is an original recipe, created by me, and you are more than welcome to recreate them by clicking here to learn how.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Week 2, Oct. 12

Cookies are sinful. They're the perfect size to grab and go, and if I'm not careful I end up eating way more than I should! This week members are receiving 2 dozen cookies in three different flavors. Two varieties feature a classic sugar-butter base, but with more artful flavor combinations. The third is a little healthier treat, with a canola oil base and whole grains. Read on for more details....

~Hazelnut-Coconut Cookies: Toasted hazelnuts, flaked coconut, and a hint of nutmeg make these rich, delicious, and addicting!

~Lime & Pepita Sugar Cookies: Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), the zest and juice from fresh Persian limes, and a roll in sugar crystals make these hard to put down!

~Blueberry & White Chocolate Ginger Cookies: These cookies are full-flavored and delightful as well, but they're a little more healthful (shhh!). Made with pure crystallized ginger, dried blueberries, real white chocolate (not the imitation stuff), rolled oats, canola oil instead of the usual butter, and a touch of wheat germ.

Cookies keep well in an air tight container, at room temperature, for several days. Honestly, I have never frozen cookies (they're just not around long enough), but if you would like to save some for a later date, go ahead! Wrap well in plastic, place in a zip top baggie, and freeze until needed. Be sure to keep flavors separate, or they might end up "sharing" as they sit.

Should you need more serving ideas, other than the classic milk-and-cookie combination, the Hazelnut-Coconut Cookies would pair nicely with toasted coconut or a coffee-flavored ice cream, or even a hot cup of java. The Lime & Pepita Sugar Cookies would be wonderful with lemon or tropical sorbet. The Blueberry & White Chocolate Ginger Cookies are a perfect match for chai tea or alongside vanilla ice cream (sometimes we crumble these and either stir them into milkshakes or sprinkle over the top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream).