Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pie Judge

For a couple of years now, I have been participating as a judge of homemade pies at the DAR booth (Daughters of the American Revolution).
Here are a couple of my fellow cohorts this year, Sue and Rob.

It has been a lot of fun and it is alwa
ys interesting to see what people decide to make and submit for judging. If I remember correctly, the pies have to be berry based but other than that I think it's open season on how one interprets that.

Here's Jann, she's one of the wonderful ladies of the DAR and the one who asked me to judge in the first place.

Here's the winning pie for this year. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, pie.

It's a tough job really...but someone has to step up and do it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Farmers Markets

Ringing of the bell, the aroma of coffee combined with the tantalizing whiff of fresh tortillas and vegetables sizzling on a hot griddle. The faint sweet caramelly scent and sound of Kettle corn crackling just past the next booth. Ah, Farmers Markets in the morning.

It's one of my favorite pastimes, just wandering down the aisles looking at
all of the wonderful produce, flowers, and other treasures that I can take home and use to create something wonderous for dinner or breakfast.

Coming from a place that is fairly limited on what's growable (and not too bitter) to someplace that is overflowing with abundance of practically everything, I tend to get overwhelmed and want to buy everything I see: plump sweet blueberries, freshly cut kale and butter lettuce, tender garlic shoots, freshly caught salmon-so many ingredients and not nearly enough imagination to keep up with all the potential combinations at my fingertips.

I have to be very careful when I do go there because it becomes something akin to a gambling addiction...one more bundle of asparagus, two heads of that gorgeous Porcelain garlic...{I'm sure I can use up that half pound of delectable Chantrelle mushrooms by tomorrow}...and suddenly I wind up at home with too much of a good thing and not nearly enough help around to consume it all in time. Cest la vie. I manage somehow and then strictly inform myself to be more judicious next time and only purchase what I really, conceivable will use up in the next two or three days...

Wait a minute, were those fresh Morel mushrooms? Wouldn't that go beautifully, sauteed with the Blue Lake green beans over there? Oh, and those fresh Shuksan strawberries-sooooooo good with just a touch of basalmic vinegar, mmmmmmmmmm.

Darn, I've done it again. ; )

Friday, June 11, 2010

Snobbish Chocoholic

I admit it, isn't that the first step? Admitting that you have a problem? Well, I admit it and I accept myself for who I am, a Chocoholic who's also a Chocolate Snob (I KNOW! the worst kind right?:)

For the past few years now I have been delving into the deeper, the darker, the more cacao the better. Bittersweet? the bitterer the better. Bring it on I say-except for unsweetened-I can't quite go that far down into the darkness, the rich...velvety...darkness...not yet at any rate but 76% or 85%? maybe even 92% on a good day-I am so there.

There are a couple of national brands of chocolate bars that I used to love, used to be the only chocolate that I would eat (okay, not completely true but I am trying to make a point)-now they are almost all too sweet and/or waxy for me. They smell the same, they look the same as they used to (okay, maybe just a bit tinier yet more expensive) and I keep thinking that "Oh, this time will be different, this time this chocolate (fill in the blank) will taste like what I remember"...they don't.

I have gone to the dark side. Do I miss those innocent days when things were simpler, before I knew of the seemingly endless varieties of artisanal chocolate that exists?...No.

Those standard chocolate bars and truffles just won't cut it anymore for me. I need the big fix-fair trade, organic, single source-all made with ingredients that you can pronounce. It's not just the chocolate bars and truffles either (though you really should try the dark spiced chocolates from Euphoria Chocolate Co. in Eugene OR-OMG!),I am hooked on other chocolate delights as well.

What could they possibly be? Well, I am glad you asked ;)
there is the yummy drinking chocolate from Cacao-fair warning the
spicy is not for the timid-, Choffy-(crushed roasted cacao nibs that you treat like french press coffee), and my current fave {fanfare erupts} Chocolate Hemp Bliss, it's like soy milk sort of but not-there are a couple of similar brands out there but I like the Bliss.

Anyhoo, here are a few of the items that are currently residing in my cupboard at home just to give you an idea of how far gone I am-but I can quite cold turkey any time man. I could, you know. No problemo. Any time...

Sunday, June 6, 2010


This is Ross, one of the high school extern students who graced our bakery this year. Hi Ross:) (waving of hand)
He was a lot of fun to have around and always managed to brighten our day.

Anyhow, we have students year round, mostly from the culinary schools in the area but also from a number of high schools. The high school students often job shadow for a day or two but a few, like Ross, have done a "mini" externship with us.

Most of the students, wherever they come from, grasp that baking and cooking aren't the glamorous activities like they see on the telly. Baking on a commercial scale can be fun and exciting however, there are oodles of repetition that aren't shown on the TV programs.
Not every customer that orders wants or needs a 5 tier creation of your "vision"-often, they simply want a half dozen of the chocolate chip or snicker doodle cookies, or maybe a couple slices of the yellow cake.

{Tip for any future bakers and chefs-Consistency is the true hallmark of a quality chef or baker. Anyone can do something well once or twice but to do it 50, 70 times a week and to do it well is not that simple.}

These externships give the students a taste of the "real world" and for most, it seems to be something they enjoy doing. There are always a few who seem to think that they will instantly be the next celebrity or executive chef at the first place they choose to grace with their presence. A few others make you wonder if they've ever heard the words oven or mixer before in their lives and why they seem to think baking would be such an easy thing to pick up "Hello people, we are talking about CHEMISTRY here!" Granted, tasty chemistry but still...

Anyhow, it's always nice to have someone like Ross (high school), Scott (WCI), or Jennifer (Jen) (WCI), who so obviously enjoy and really get what baking is about and that helps keep me enthused and inspired as well.

Now, go forth and BAKE!