Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dec. 29, Week 12

This is the last CSB pick-up for 2011! Stay tuned for information on a Spring session. I will update the site when we finalize schedules and plans.

The Boston Cream Pie is a well known quintessential American treat. It's the official dessert of Massachusetts, having been invented By a French chef at Boston's Parker House Hotel, and has become a favorite for many. It's not really a pie, rather a vanilla sponge cake that's been split and filled with handmade vanilla custard, then a smooth chocolate ganache poured over the top.

Usually when I make the filling for this "pie", it's a light yellow color, but like all things seasonal, the color of the eggs yolks will determine the outcome of the custard. Our chickens have drastically slowed down production, and I was unable (!) to locate local eggs when I went supply shopping a few days ago. So, I found organic free-range eggs, which are a decent substitute, but the yolks just don't compare to the bright orange of pastured hens. The filling still tastes fabulous, though! The chocolate that makes up the ganache is from Lille Belle Farms in Central Point, OR, and is organic, fair trade. It's the best I've found! Yum.

Please keep your cake in the refrigerator. The custard will ooze out if it gets too warm, and could pose a safety risk if left out for hours on end (remember, it's mostly milk and eggs). You can freeze it for a treat later on, if desired. Simply place the unwrapped cake in the freezer until solid, wrap well with plastic, and keep frozen up to one month. To defrost, unwrap and place in the bakery box (in the fridge) for an hour or so.

The easiest, least messy way to cut a Boston Cream Pie is to run a sharp knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and cut the cake, repeating as necessary. This way the chocolate won't stick, crumbs won't get mixed into the ganache, and the custard won't squeeze out all over the place. You'll have nice clean cuts and a pretty presentation. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dec. 21, Week 11

I have had an incredible amount of work to do to get ready for today's pick up! Two whole days of prep and baking, and I'm taking a break from the kitchen to write this post. A tremendous mess awaits my return.

I have SO much fun making Christmas cookies, and even without the CSB I would be baking this time of year. Still, baking for so many special orders and CSB members, I can make many more varieties than I would dream of doing just for family and friends.

CSB members each get to take home a generous assortment of all kinds of cookies:

~Almond Horns
~Gingerbread Men
~Sugar Cookie Cutouts with Whiskey Buttercream
~Chocolate Thumbprints
~Coconut Pyramids
~Maple Cinnamon Rings
~Black & White Striped Cookies
~Black & White Pinwheels
~Pistachio Moon Melts
~Pecan Sandies
~Spritz Wreaths with Icing
~Meringue Stars
~Neapolitan Cookies
~Chocolate Mint Marshmallow Clouds

See what I mean?! TONS of cookies! I have so much fun making them, though. For storage, most can be frozen (don't ever freeze meringues). Otherwise, keep the cookies in an airtight container. I suggest enjoying the sugar cookies and neapolitan cookies first, and, if you must, saving the others for later.

Happy Holidays, and a very Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Gingerbread Men, Coconut Pyramids, Neapolitan Cookies,
Meringue Stars

Black & White Striped Cookies, B & W Pinwheels, Spritz,
Spritz Wreaths, Chocolate Thumbprints, Almond Horns

Maple Cinnamon Rings, Chocolate Mint Marshmallow Clouds,
Sugar Cookies (naturally colored frosting), Pecan Sandies,
Pistachio Moon Melts

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dec. 14, Week 10

Ah, caramels! Every year my husband stands and stirs the rich, buttery candy until it turns amber in color and is just the right temperature to pour into a huge pan. Then we let it set up for two days before cutting it and checking to see if it was made to our standards! Luckily, we have had few variations thought the years, although the weather can make a difference in the final chewiness. This batch turned out perfectly.

This week each CSB member gets to take home a sample box of assorted caramel-themed goodies. Included are:

~Smoked Sea Salt Caramels: These have become an annual tradition for us, after I received some smoked sea salt one year from my sister and wondered what to do with it (now I use it in all sorts of things). Chewy caramel covered in organic dark chocolate from Lille Belle Farms in Central Point, OR, with a touch of smoked sea salt on top.

~Pecan Clusters: Pecan halves with caramel and dark chocolate, topped with a sprinkle of Oregon sea salt.

~Butter Caramels: A generous rectangle of chewy caramel wrapped in wax paper.

~Caramel-Wrapped Marshmallows: Our handmade chewy caramel wrapped around freshly made vanilla marshmallow.

Also included are a few treats that have the caramel baked into them:

~Caramel-Rum Squares: A crumb-topped bar cookie that has strong notes of rum enhancing the caramel filling. This treat happens to be 100% whole grain!

~Choco-Caramel Crinkles: My own original recipe, starting with a fudgy chocolate cookie dough that's wrapped around caramel, rolled in powdered sugar and baked. The result is a chewy, delicious treat with a soft caramel center and crinkly appearance. A seasonal favorite of my family's!

Store all of these treats at room temperature. Do NOT refrigerate them, or the caramel will be very difficult to chew. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dec. 11, Week 9

Holiday Eggnog, Coconut Kiss, &
Mandarin Squeeze Cupcakes.
Cupcakes are so much fun to create!  I had a blast coming up with six different seasonal flavors to compliment the holiday season. 

While I would LOVE to take credit for coming up with the most exotic flavor, the chestnut variety, I must admit that a local chef friend came up with the interesting combination first.  I read his facebook post, asked permission to "steal" his idea, and concocted my own version (it's my recipe, not his).  Also, many people might think the combination of lemon with gingerbread is slightly odd, but a very traditional way of serving a square of classic gingerbread cake is to present it with a large dollop of lemon curd on top!  Here are my takes on traditional (and not-so-traditional) favorites:

~Holiday Eggnog (lightly spiced cake made with organic eggnog, eggnog French buttercream with a hint of rum, and a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg)

~Mandarin Squeeze (made from freshly squeezed Satsuma mandarin oranges, this cake and icing combination has a subtle aroma of sweet-tart citrus, topped off with a slice of candied mandarin orange)

~Gingerbread Twist (classic gingerbread cake, topped with fresh lemon glaze and candied ginger)

~Peppermint Cocoa (chocolate cake, peppermint American buttercream, naturally colored sprinkles and crushed candy cane)

~Winter Chestnut (Full flavored and delicious, this super moist chocolate cake has a hint of bourbon baked in.  It's topped with a honey-mascarpone-and roasted chestnut buttercream, and a roasted, honey-candied chestnut.)

~Coconut Kiss (chocolate cake, all-natural coconut buttercream, toasted coconut shavings)

All cupcakes should be stored in the fridge, in their bakery box.  Bring to room temperature before enjoying.  To freeze, remove any decorations (candied chestnut and candied orange), freeze until solid, wrap in plastic, and place in a zip-top baggie.  Store up to one month.  To defrost, keep the cupcake wrapped and place in a lunchbox or on the counter for about 30 minutes.
Peppermint Cocoa, Winter Chestnut,
& Gingerbread Twist Cupcakes.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

GF CSB, Month 3

The month of December is filled with holiday get-togethers, festivities, and traditions.  Many people remember having awesome cookies this time of year, but going gluten-free may have put a stop to that.  Sure, there are a few options in the grocery stores now, but it's the made-from-scratch, fresh and buttery morsels we crave. 

For this month's GF CSB pick-up, each member will take home an assortment of Holiday Cookies.  Flavors are:

~Lemon Cornmeal Shortbread (with a hint of coconut)
~Hazelnut Biscotti
~Meringue Stars (naturally colored sprinkles)
~Pecan Sandies (aka Mexican Wedding Cakes)
~Almendrados (flourless almond cookies)
~Hazelnut Cocoa Meringues
~Gingerbread Men
~Chocolate Chip Meringue Drops
~Almond Crescents
~Cranberry Orange Butter Cookies
~Coconut Macaroons (with a drizzle of dark chocolate)

With the exception of meringues, these cookies will freeze well, should you want to save some for the holidays.  Cookies should be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to three days, then refrigerated or frozen.  Meringues last indefinitely stored in airtight containers at room temp (never chill them or they may get gummy).

(picture to come soon)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dec. 1, Week 8

Working with whole grains has become a specialty of mine.  Growing up, my parents always had whole grain foods around (whole wheat or multigrain bread, and, when it became available, whole wheat pasta), so I have never been a stranger to the healthier stuff.  When my son was born, almost 8 years ago, I remember walking down the bread aisle at a local grocery store, reading the ingredients and trying to determine which brand would be best, both flavor-wise and health-wise (I have always paid attention to ingredients, but even more so once my kids came along).  So many options were becoming available, touting whole grains, 100% whole wheat, etc, but the preservatives, fillers, and (in some brands) high fructose corn syrup were discouraging.  I decided to figure out how to bake my own 100% whole wheat loaf instead of buying bread.

Once I nailed the from-scratch, 100% whole wheat bread, I started experimenting with other whole grains, even incorporating them into sweets and desserts!  Most people seem to shy away when they're told a cookie is whole grain (especially if it's made with barley flour), that I get a kick out of being able to share such oddities with my CSB members.  While members don't have a choice in the desserts they receive, that is definitely a bonus in the case of whole grains!

I am pleased to create four different whole grain lunch-box style goodies today.  Each CSB member gets to take home a sample box filled with:

~Golden Pumpkin Bars:  These cakey bars are made with 100% whole wheat flour!  No refined grains are present, and each bite is enhanced with fabulous spices, Oregon dried cranberries, and a hint of Lille Belle organic dark chocolate that has been drizzled over the tops.

~Salted Cashew Crunch Cookies:  These crispy cookies are stuffed with organic cashews and have a sprinkling of local, Oregon sea salt over the tops.  They are made entirely with 100% old-fashioned rolled oats!

~Soft Barley Sugar Cookies:  Barley flour often needs a bit of refined all purpose flour for stabilization.  Still, the flour in these cookies is 3/4 whole grain barley flour!  They are certainly an acceptable after school snack, filling up tummies until dinner time.  I made these extra big so they'd be soft, slightly cakey, and yet crisp around the edges.  You'll find just a hint of nutmeg in each bite.

~Lemon-Oat Squares:  Not to be confused with tart and tangy Lemon Bars, these squares start with a 100% whole grain crust, made with rolled oats and whole wheat flour.  An organic lemon creamy filling is smoothed over the top, followed by a sprinkle of more oats.  100% whole grain!

Store cookies and bars at room temperature, in air tight containers, up to three days.  The cashew cookies may be stored even longer, if you have them around that long!  All varieties can be frozen and defrosted well.