Friday, December 30, 2011

View from the baking table- 10:30 am 12/29/12

A moment of sun between the storms!
Sunrises and Sunsets, when we get to see them, are a highlight of these dark days. 
Bearing witness from our warm bakery with this view out our window, we feel especially lucky. 
And as the sun sets on an old year and rises on a New Year, 
We wish everyone a peaceful 2012 that is full of Love and Light!

"In the depth of winter I found within me an invincible summer"
-Albert Camus

Friday, December 23, 2011

Spreading Holiday Joy

Nothing brightens up these dark winter days so much as the smiles we see everyday when people stumble in out of the wind and cold into our warm and bright bakery with it's amazing smells and colorful array of festive treats. It is one of the times of year we are especially grateful for our job and the satisfaction that it brings. The family of people who have been using our services to round out their celebrations is very loyal, we have been around long enough to become a part of their own family traditions, it is a responsibility we have learned to take very seriously. As in any small town, when things don't go so well, even if folks don't directly call the store to complain, for certain it will come up the next time we are in line at the grocery store! To stem these embarrassing moments, we have become quite good at assessing our limits and working within them at as high a level possible. We count and recount the orders, like Santa checking his list...we must be extra sure we have what we need and then try to make a little extra just in case. That method has seemed to work pretty well in recent years, and as long as I remember to put sugar in the pumpkin pie...we are good to go! Once, about 10 years ago, I had the most amazing homer grown pumpkins for Thanksgiving pies...I roasted them to golden perfection, pulled out the slimy seeds and mixed the golden flesh into a rich spicy filling. the pies were truly beautiful and I sent each and every one of them off with pride. The friday after, I went to work still basking in the glow of a job well done when a man walks in with a bakery box and all but throws it at me across the counter. "This is the worst pie I have ever ruined our holiday dinner!" All the blood drained from my face as I'm certain he got the response he was looking for. My head was swimming, what could have gone wrong? I gave him a fast refund with a bewildered, but sincere apology and turned my attention to the pie...the minute it hit my tongue I knew what I had done. In my excitement over the great pumpkin I completely forgot the sugar! It wasn't horrible, like he was spicy and custardy but definitely not sweet. I immediately ran down the list of who had bought those pies and contacted each one apologizing and arranging refunds...I swallowed a huge portion of my pride that day, it took quite a while to digest! Now, I've learned my lesson and I take a little taste of every single thing I make. I think that makes me a better cook, or at least a more consistent one.
 Which is very important when your job is spreading joy. 

Have a wonderful Holiday!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Cookies 2011 and the answer to the question: "Mommy, where do cookies come from?"

After such a traumatic fall we are all ready to focus on something a little more fun and with the winter holiday season upon us, cookie making is just the ticket. It's hard to be sad looking at the smiles of the little kids that come through the shop, pressing their face to the glass display case with all the beautiful cookies lined up.
Most of us have, tucked into that warm cozy place in our minds, a happy memory attached to holiday cookies, whether it's standing on a chair, curling our tongue around the spines of the beater from the mixer as our grandmother bakes them or we are leaving the cookies and milk out for Santa. Cookies gives us that immediate sweet satisfaction while connecting us to a time, a place, an emotion. Little do we realize when we are gathered together making cookies to share for the holidays that we are expanding on a tradition that is more than 600 years old. Cookies themselves have been around as long as people have manipulated their food. Beginning, no doubt, as a type of cracker pressed together, made to travel. And travel they did, on through time, eventually sweetened and refined with more advanced milling technology which produced finer flours and sugars.
The earliest decorated holiday cookie can be traced back to the 1400's. The swiss made 'springerle' was a dry buttery dough that was pressed into molds or rolled with intricately carved rolling pins to produce beautifully detailed imprints on the cookies. These fancy treats moved quickly into the heart of European holiday celebrations, in Latvia in the year 1510 the 1st Christmas tree was believed to have been decorated with cookies. Because cookies traveled so well, they became quite well traveled, stacked in tins, wrapped in brown paper boxes clutched under arms or tucked into baskets, a perfect gift of food from one home to another. Through these edible gifts, they shared a bit of their lives. There were cookies in the duffels of those first immigrants coming across the sea to settle the wild new world. Their recipes for those cookies scribbled into tattered journals or burned on their brains.

gingerbread man!
Holiday cookies hit the shores of north america in the 1600, thanks to the Dutch who called their little treats 'koekje'...which was morphed into 'cookie' by the relatively new americans. And while that innocent little cookie may look like a simple sweet confection, it's production over the years has been fraught with politics and controversy.
On through the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe, baking as a profession was very strictly regulated through official guilds. As with any trade, it took long hard years working through the ranks of apprentice, journeyman and master baker, each level documented and recorded by the bakers guild. What they were allowed to make and the supplies they were allotted were also tightly controlled. With the finest ingredients saved for royalty and the rich.  Many bakers fled to the new world to escape those rigid laws, bringing with them their rich holiday baking traditions. Still they were hemmed in by available ingredients and had to adapt their formulas to work in the 'new world'.
Another big influence on the American cookie scene came about when importing laws changed in the 1800's, along with more efficient shipping routes this led to a flooding of the US market of, among other things, cookie cutters. German made metal cutters with their fancy designs suddenly transformed the American tradition of holiday cookie making to what has become a national obsession.

green tea shortbread dipped in white chocolate
 And obsessed we are! Well, here at the bakery anyway. We clear the top rack of the big display case and line up trays and trays of delicious colorful cookies. 

It is a bit overwhelming, both for the purchaser ("Oh I just can't decide! Maybe I should get another pound.") and the producer ("what do you mean we need more coconut macaroons...I just made those yesterday!"), but overall it is a frenzy we are all embracing. The promise of delight that each of these sweet treats provides brightens even the dreariest day. And here there is something for everyone...soft and elegant chocolate-almond kisses, refined lavender or green tea shortbread and, yes coconut macaroons for those with a serious sweet tooth.
Look for some of our favorite holiday cookie recipes over on the recipe blog
If you need even more cookie inspiration, my friend Emilia over at wrote a great post where she shares some family memories and a couple of special cookie recipes.

the most popular of all: coconut macaroons!
Want to buy some of our cookies? Come on down to the bakery (...sorry, no mail orders)
Cookies are $10 a pound and our selection includes about 20 different kinds. The official list is over at  Call (907)235-2280 to order ahead