Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I survived my first nor'easter since, well....I can't remember when I experienced the last one.  With Dave Mac in NC, my sister spent the night and she explained it perfectly as we were sitting on my couch looking out the windows at the snow.  It felt like we were in a cottage inside a snow globe and being shaken fiercely!  We woke up to over a foot and a half of snow and no way to leave the house.  Caffeinated and trapped inside a small cottage with no where to go is the best time, I found, to bake!  Since we were approaching the holidays and it couldn't feel more blustery outside, I would bake some traditional treats!  Turning the temperature up to 350 on the oven I started toasting almonds for linzer cookies and mixing dough for a holiday challah bread.  
Challah (pronounced hallah) is a Jewish celebration bread, baked typically on the Sabbath, brushed with egg and braided.  Following a recipe from The Bread Bible that stated it made one loaf, I dutifully braided my three strands, thinking to myself that it seemed awfully big already before the proof.  As the loaf rose it grew and grew and grew right out of the pan I was planning on baking it on.  I transferred pans, egg-washed, and baked big bertha off...an hour later as I pulled it out of the oven, it looked like a character out of ghost busters.  Laughing hysterically I placed it on two wire racks to cool and thought to myself it could probably feed a whole village!
Linzer dough has an Austrian history dating back to 1653, named for the City of Linz, this sweet treat is one of Austria's most famous desserts.  The dough traditionally consists of flour, ground nuts...typically almonds, sugar, yolks, spices and lemon zest and filled with preserves.  This gave me the chance to use some of my hand-picked, homemade blackberry jam that I had made in Oregon (although traditionally black current preserves are used).  I took my time rolling and cutting out each cookie then sandwiching the tasty jam in between, the final product looking just as hoped!
Wrapping up my projects, the scent of fresh baked bread and toasted almonds filled the cottage and I couldn't have felt more satisfied...hope you all had a fabulously warm and cozy holiday, see you in the next year!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

time for a change...with the season

Happy Holidays to all!! 
For all those that know me, I am a sucker for change and with the extreme change in the season, I felt a different shade for the blog was needed.  A breath of fresh air. . . a jolt of inspiration.  I also felt the need to cut out the word "bakery" from the title, merely because I have been feeling more inspired lately to write on anything that feels good.  Baking will always be my #1 priority (adding some of my favorite recipes to the mix) and I will continue to write as much as I can about what is fun, new, and interesting in my world of food.  I hope you all like the new changes and I would love your feedback!  
Before I go, I wanted to give you a little glimpse of the "festivities" in the cottage:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

For as long as I can remember my grandmother has been the core of our Christmas celebration.  Yes, my mother has been the driving force behind our belief in the magic of the holiday, the ultimate advocate of "be good or there will be nothing but coal",  "Santa is watching", and her love for the enchanting nature of the entire experience.  

However,  Nan always sat quietly by as if patiently waiting her turn to tell the "true" story of Christmas. . . and tell it she would.  On Christmas Eve every year after all the excitement of Santa and presents and cousins and family and loudness she would sit us down in our matching pajamas (for real) and read to us out of the Bible. 

As I grow and experience life, I have spent a few Christmas's away from family on my own and I realize that the sound of her voice and the depth of her belief in this holiday as she knows it is really something to treasure.  I feel so completely thankful to be back in her presence one more Christmas Holiday and look forward to her story as we are sent off to bed... (or Santa won't come...according to my mother).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

something a little new

With Thanksgiving over and the pies all baked I thought I would try a little something new and fun at the store... something a little christmas-ie.  I found a recipe for cinnamon pecan shortbread and thought I would give it a go this morning.  Now, I figured it would be a bit of a chance to try to sell them at The Sea Store, shortbread in a fancy wrapper is not really the style of most customers there. They like the classics:  chocolate chip cookies, whoopie pies, chocolate cake, you know, the comfort foods.  
However, I am coming to realize there are a few out there that would enjoy a treat such as these and I think it is due time to say thank you to my number one fan at The Sea Store - Mrs. Warren, who, as if on cue, was at the store when I brought the shortbread in this evening and bought the first bag.  Thank you Mrs. Warren for all the support and advice.