Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Solstice!

In Latin solstice means sun standing still. In Homer right now, that's exactly how it feels. The sun seems to move so slowly in it's short arc across the sky. Celebrating Solstice by the lighting of lights, the gathering of people for feasting and celebration are all really just ways to get through the long days with very little light from the sun and, in the northern hemisphere, cold temps which limits outdoor movement and gives way to 'cabin fever'. We are no strangers to cabin fever here in southcentral Alaska, though we have nothing to complain about compared to Barrow in the far north, which lost it's sun about a month ago and will not see it again for another month! All over the state, solstice celebrations go back as far as the indigenous peoples who populated our shores. When the russian's brought orthodox christianity, the roman's had already decided that christ's birth should also be celebrated at this time of year, weaving a colorful tapestry of tradition through our festivities. This year we were all brought together by a common thread in the occurrence of a lunar eclipse during the full moon on solstice. They say it hasn't happened since Galileo's time. With clear skies holding strong all week, everyone in town was buzzing about it. The weatherman called for cloudy skies that night, but for once we were glad they were wrong!

I could not get a good shot of the actual eclipse to save my life, but my friend Michael Armstrong has some great pictures up on the Homer News website. Everyone I talked to the day after had seen it. It was an amazing shared experience and I remember as I sat by the fire that night, surrounded by all our great neighbors, it felt like we stepped back in time and were celebrating the beginning of the holiday season by focusing on what really matters, the marvels of the world around us, good people to share that world with, and oh yeah...staying warm. It was one chilly night.

Here are some snowflakes that won't make you chilly! In fact they are nice and spicy so they warm you from the inside out...perfect accompaniment to hot chocolate on a cold evening of celestial wonder.

Thanks to Ben and Irene and Shea, Abbey and Ryan and Stephanie for pumping out the most amazing cookie display we've ever had. You are all awesome! And to the Barista's who keep the cookie train running: Bri and Jill, Rachel and Hailey and Beth, Maya and the amazing Natalia. We are so grateful to you all! 

We are taking orders just until the end of the day today, though our elves will be baking away to make sure there are enough holiday treats for everyone. 
We'll be open Christmas eve until 4pm. Closed Christmas Day.
Back to our regular schedule after that, yes we will be open New Years Day with lot's of biscuits and gravy to soak up the last of the holiday cheer.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Northern Lights

The clear cold weather we've been having is the perfect time to look for the northern lights. Local photographer Dennis Anderson has been shooting the aurora all over Alaska, but his images from the Homer area are my favorite (find more of his fantastic work at We get less of the red colors than they see in the far north, but the greens and yellows and blues that wind their way through the sky here perfectly reflect the sea and snow of the landscape below. At the Homer Nutcracker faire this past weekend, my husband and I stopped to chat with him at his booth (see Dennis' response at the end of this post, let's just say he clears up a few things!) and his photographs reminded me of something we had been working on at the bakery.

Stained glass cookies are a beautiful way to dress up cut out sugar cookies. Just smash up any hard candy and sprinkle in the holes of your favorite shape. Bake as usual. 

We love these maple butter cookies, so good they'll make you see stars.
(or if your lucky, the northern lights!)

Aurora Update:
Dennis just sent me a note after reading over my post to correct me on my aurora facts. I have always seen mostly green and yellow lights here and was told by someone long ago that it was because we were so far south and that the lights were related to the cold, but he tells me:

"Even though the auroras are visible more frequently further north, the percentage of colorful shows is lower. we actually get more colorful shows down here. They are still quite rare, but one reason is that the colorful events are related to powerful solar flares.The strong geomagnetic storms resulting from these  flares, and there coronal mass ejections, or CMEs,  drive the auroras further south so even though we don't get auroras as often, when we do they are more likely to "count". Another reason has to do with the angle of the charged particles entering the atmosphere. Further north the angle is more direct and further south the angle becomes less direct so the the particles end up taking more time to penetrate the thin air. This also contributes to more red emission. Most all of my colorful shots are taken right here on the Kenai rather than further north with very little exception.
   Another mis-conception is that the auroras are  in some way is related to the cold. In reality, there is no direct relation as auroras occur all year. We just are not able to see them during the brightest summer months but I have seen them from late July to late May from Homer. Clear skies and darkness are all that is required (and a little solar activity). Of course, in the winter clear skies usually mean cold so that is how people come to relate the two." 

That's two urban, er, I mean rural, myths debunked for me...thanks, Dennis!

Aurora Update #2

An anonymous commenter left me a link to an interesting site where you can view the northern lights while they are happening!  Here it is: The Aurora Max Project.
Thanks to you, Anon...but one question...where did your comment go? First it was there, then it wasn't! Regardless, I appreciate the link, very cool website.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

So Thankful!

1 beautiful sunrise. check.
40 pies, check.
50 dozen rolls. check.
1 bottle champagne. check (Thanks, Red!)
1 crew of awesome people to work with. CHECK.
100's of happy customers. check and check.
I think we're done here.
Happy Thanksgiving to Thankful for All of You!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tartine Bread and other delights.

One of our favorite baking books of 2010 is Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson. Chad, along with his wife Elisabeth Prueitt owns Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. They have been a huge inspiration to us, and this bread book is just the icing on the cake. Sharon met Chad and Elisabeth back in 1998 at the same bread conference she met Alan Scott. It was a turning point for our bakery, to find these people living the life we were, with the same passion and insane work ethic. When we finally built our own oven with Alan in 2004 it was an amazingly humbling experience. We thought we had worked hard before, now there was wood to wrangle, a fire to build and an oven to clean, besides mixing, and forming and baking the bread. It has been worth it though, and reading Chads great stories and following his detailed and excellent recipes brings us right back to why we do this in the first place...because we are crazy! Oh, and there's nothing like making people happy with our food. 
Speaking of making people happy...Ben made fudge

It's just one of the many treats coming out of our kitchen for the holidays. The season kicks off in earnest next week as we get our pie on for thursday, then starting friday we introduce our 2010 Holiday Cookie List. We have already made thumbjams and cranberry orange cookies as well as lavender and green tea shortbread. The rest of the list is still working itself out, stay tuned! Until then we will be prepping pies and rolling rolls in anticipation of a busy day before Thanksgiving. It is exciting to have such an amazing staff to help us pull it all together. We remember many a tuesday and wednesday before making it happen ourselves, working long, long days only to collapse on Thanksgiving day after the requisite plate of turkey. 
Which reminds me:
 Don't forget to put in your Thanksgiving orders in by 6 pm on Tuesday! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

New Blog Design

Shaking things up....Let us know if things aren't loading right for you, or if you have a hard time reading the content. I hope you like the new look!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

View from the baking table: 11/08/10

An early winter snowstorm struck last weekend, forcing us to close the bakery on Sunday. Though we didn't get so much in town, the upper elevations got dumped on! My house, at 500 feet got over 18" and Sharon, who is more like 1000 feet up, was digging out of 30"! What did I say about getting all the stuff picked up out of the yard? Too Late!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bacon Truffles

The days are much shorter now, the darkness enfolding our days as the chill moves in and we surrender uneasily into the throes of winter. Snow is starting to stick and people are rushing to finish winter preparations like getting the snow tires on the car and splitting a good supply of wood, oh, and don't forget picking up all that stuff in the yard that will be lost until spring once the snow really falls. The cool weather and impending holiday season make me think of sweet's time to make candy! Ever since trying bacon truffles out for the first time almost 2 years ago I have made them periodically and they are always an interesting conversation starter, and yes, actually quite popular as well. This year I tweeked it a bit, deglazing the fried bacon with brandy and then making a brittle with some of the bacon for the topping. The brittle sprinkled on top before the chocolate hardens gives them a crunch that really enhances the bacon experience. It is so fun watching people's faces when they encounter something so unusual here in this funky little bakery on the beach at the end of the road. Of course, we weren't the first to think of pairing chocolate and cured pork products. While the blog I heart bacon has references to chocolate covered bacon as far back as 2005, Homer Simpson is credited with being one of the first to herald the virtue of this unusual food pairing. The Minnesota state fair started selling chocolate bacon under the fetching name of 'pig lickers', and before you know it, specialty chocolate shops on both coasts were pedaling their own versions. Then luxury chocolate maker Vosges introduced a bacon chocolate bar, the now famous 'Mo's Bacon bar' and Zingerman's, the big deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan began serving a bacon and chocolate gravy over biscuits, a dish with roots firmly planted in Appalachia (apparently when cocoa powder became readily available in the late 1800's they added it to their milk gravy as a way of jazzing up this simple low country favorite). These days you can even order chocolate covered bacon from almost any foodie catalogue or try a bacon infused chocolate from one of those fancy shops in the mall. With or without bacon, chocolate is enjoying a very real and sustained surge as a versatile, nay even 'healthful' food. I, for one, am and always have been a big fan. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Carmel Apples.

I promised you she would make them. 

We remember apple picking every fall. (Sharon is from Pensylvania, I'm a Michigander)
 The cider. The doughnuts. 
But most of all...the carmel apples. 

Sharon recently perfected her carmel sauce and she was so excited to use it to make carmel apples this fall. 
She let the carmel cook just a little longer to reduce the water content, and washed and dried organic apples. a skewer, appropriately placed and a dip in the slightly cooled carmel.
It really isn't fall until you've had one of these:

All wrapped up for your favorite ghoul:

and while your at it...why not stock up on some spider cupcakes.

or ghoulish merengue mummies...

or ghastly ghosts! 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Fall is one of our favorite times of the year here at the bakery. Business has slowed, but not so quiet we're worried. It's more like, ahh...we can breathe. Create. Experiment. I read a lot about food and cooking and it's nice to be able to implement fun ideas when they come your way. This ciabatta is just that. When I read on writer Michael Ruhlman's excellent food blog about his Chipotle Corn Ciabatta, I couldn't wait to adapt this to our own ciabatta bread. I don't generally make the bread here at the bakery, Abbey and Sharon do the brunt of the bread baking during their early morning shifts. One bread I still get to do is the ciabatta on tuesdays. I have to make a plain version because we have such a following for it, but the last few weeks, I've been making a kalamata olive flavor also. Then I read Ruhlman's post. It sounded so good I had to try it out today. Oh, I made plain and k.olive loaves, too, by dividing my double batch of starter into thirds. I placed the very wet dough into bowls. Little slips of paper on the top of each cloth covered bowl reminded me of the timed intervals at which I had to 'turn' each batch. I was a veritable ciabatta factory, so fun! It came out beautiful and was a total hit. One thing I changed is, sadly, I had no I used cheddar cheese instead. Yeah.  

When I wasn't in bread-land I realized that it was time to make some scary treats. A little carrot cake jelly roll turned into creepy goblins and the ever popular 'Boo Brownies' made their first appearance of the season. Bite Me, indeed.


Coming soon...Sharon's carmel apples. You know you want one.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

View from my house 10/9/10

The sun is setting long and slow on the volcanoes out my window at home. This was a spectacular fall day that reminds us how fantastic it is to live here. We are glad to have the weather lighten up as we celebrate the marriage of one of the three couples we had working for us this summer. We have always been a family affair here at Two Sisters, but never has it been more apparent than the fact that two of our former bakery lovelies had babies this year (go Corina and Melissa!) and we have gotten to witness the 'so perfect for each other' attraction of Brianna and Ryan and stood by as Chase and Hayley navigated the waters of new commitment. In that spirit, Beth and Shea share their wedding vows with us tomorrow at a beautiful spot on the beach. We wish them the best and can't wait to party like the rockstars we are. Til then, let's enjoy a parting shot from the my dinner table. I made berry pies for the rehearsal dinner and had one left over...which, as you can see, made my family really happy their mama is a baker. :) 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The bittersweet end of berry season

 As I pulled away from the bakery this evening, a couple of girls from my son Charles' class were in the garden gigging and laughing, then I saw them spy the red raspberries still clinging to life. They picked and ate and kept on laughing. This scene made me so happy. I love berry season, when mother nature puts out her finest gems for us. Here in Homer, the best patches are wild and discovery of one gives you license to forgo most common courtesies to protect your source. We have a tiny patch of raspberries that have seeded themselves around the bakery, there isn't enough to make stuff to sell, but there are plenty for Katy and Nonah to pick and eat and giggle over.
One of the local russian farmers brought us potatoes and carrots last week and his wife handed me this cup of highbush cranberries. They are tart and very seedy, I think they will make an amazing sauce for the delta grown pork chops my husband brought home. 

Blueberries have been over for a little bit now, but while they were happening we enjoyed them every way we could. And while they were a hit on these cheesecake squares, they were also very popular on granola, too! These lovelies were delivered to us by Tree Things in our last delivery of the season.
Earlier in the week I scored some well priced, big, beautiful raspberries. Set on top of cheesecake tarts and brushed with a little malbec glaze, they are the perfect parting shot.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

ummm...I think there has been a mistake.

                                                      Who uses this stuff? I mean, seriously!

Friday, September 10, 2010

A sea of cupcakes

Wedding season is not quite over yet and still one of our most popular ways to interpret the classic celebration dessert is through cupcakes! These little gems are chocolate cake with a dark chocolate truffle filling and a vanilla buttercream on top and decorated, as requested, with a fresh raspberry...simply perfect.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Iron Chef!

Fot the past several years, our local family planning clinic has held an iron chef competition on the porch of The Saltry restaurant in Halibut Cove. As a past board president for KBFPC, I have always wanted to compete, but between wedding cakes and my husband's halibut fishing schedule I could never pull it off. This year, when the call came, I realized there was nothing holding me back. Lucky for me, the talented and hard working Irene was also up for just such a challenge!
We boarded the boat at noon on Sunday. 6 teams with all of our gear, we were told to bring everything we needed except the food. They provided a two burner propane stove and a very comprehensive condiment table/pantry which we did get to peruse for an hour or so before the competition began. What we did not yet know was the secret ingredient and the contents of our mystery box, which we would get 5 extra points for using all of. 

the view from our station

What we didn't know is you could bring table linens... in the station next to us, the Tutka Bay Lodge folks had placemats and chargers and their own plates. We brought lemons, so we put them in a line down the center of table and called it good

For the competition we were to compose a main course for 12 in one hour with the people we were about to feed looking on just inches away from our was scary and nerve-wracking and very exciting. The pressure was on as our table was loaded with long time bakery customers and devoted fans...we really wanted to give them a delicious plate of food...but wait,  The secret ingredient? 
MAKO SHARK! (with some side stripe shrimp on the side :)
What to do?
 We trimmed the dark meat off the shark and wrapped the firm white filets in thinly sliced purple potato, searing them to brown the potato and then finishing in the oven while we sauteed the side striped shrimp in tomatoes, fennel, onions and garlic, all from the box. We reduced red wine with figs and fennel and shallots, added cream and herbs to make a buerre rouge sauce for the fish. For a starch we steamed couscous with the chard from the box and served it all with a little shredded beet and carrot salad on the side. The plates we borrowed from the Saltry were the perfect compliment. 
While we didn't win, our table was very pleased, all of them licking their plates clean and pleasantly suprised that the shark could taste so good. 
This guy, Harley won with his cooking partner, Beka from the Still Point Lodge. They made shark enchiladas in a mole sauce with a mango salsa and wild rice...I heard it really packed the flavor. 

All in all it was a spirited, but friendly competition and the folks at the Saltry took mighty fine care of us!
A special Thanks goes out to Maura Brenin and the board of the clinic for their hard work putting this all together.
Best of all, everyone had a good time, a lot of money was raised for a good cause and the ride home at the end of the night was  spectacular

A big shout-out to the other chefs in the house, Michael Hiller of Mermaid Cafe along with his lovely daughter Jess took 2nd and 3rd went to Mikal and Mike of the afore-mentioned Tutka Bay Lodge, in the losers bracket with us was the effervescent Teri Robl, who, along with writing a great food column for the Homer News, is a damn fine cook in her own right. She partnered with Amy from the local favorite, Cosmic Kitchen. Also, Nancy and Roland from the always yummy Sweetberries Cafe brought their best to the chefs table...Thanks again to everyone for competing, it was an honor to cook alongside y'all.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Love Extravaganza!

 After 11 years and two children, 'sister'  Sharon and her partner Dale finally got hitched for reals. It's been a productive union involving negotiating early morning bakers hours and, oddly enough, the procurement of recycled paper products. We are glad they finally decided to tie the knot, because it was, truly, the party of the summer!
                                                       Salmon and kabobs on the grill 
Many Thanks go out to Ryan and Brianna, Natalia, Irene, and Red for helping to wrangle the food and to Maggie and Rachel for setting up the bar and serving the signature cocktail of lemon syrup, small batch vodka and soda water with a little mint...very refreshing for what turned out to be one of the most pleasant afternoons we've had in this very rainy summer! We closed the bakery on Sunday for the wedding, but were back at it the next morning...Yay for Abbey, Ben, Shea and the whole Monday crew for toughing it out with me through the busy day, no matter how tired or hungover we all were...good times!
Update 8/26/10: A few very important Thank You's i forgot to include above: Hayley and Chase for taking care of the coffee and to the wonderful Corina for spending the morning of the wedding with us at the bakery putting together beautiful trays for the appetizer table while my awesome daughters filled and frosted 300 cupcakes...Thank You also to all the friends and relatives who helped Sharon and Dale pull this off...we love you!