Thursday, February 14, 2013
Dungeness Valley Creamery, $1.50/pint
Live Chocolate-Walnut Cookie
The Cookie Jar, $3
Whatever the dairy equivalent of "bread basket" might be, the Sequim-Dungeness Valley would have earned the title for much of the 20th century. The arrival of the first cows in 1860 inaugurated a thriving industry; eventually the area boasted hundreds of dairy farms and thousands of cows, most of them Guernseys and Jerseys producing buttery high-fat milk.
Over the last fifty years, though, Sequim-area dairying has declined. The new norm emphasizes larger farms, industrialized techniques, lower-fat milk, and higher-yielding cows (typically Holsteins).
One of two dairies remaining in the Valley today, the Dungeness Valley Creamery is extremely choosy about which trends it follows and which it bucks. Located on the bluff above the Dungeness Spit, the creamery facility was built in 1992 by a family who have been in the dairy business since the 1970s. The farm's 38 acres are home to 60 vintage Jersey cows, each with her own name and personality. Their milk is sold unpasteurized and unhomogenized, so that the cream rises to the top, and since 2006 Dungeness Valley Creamery milk has also been certified raw.
The milk is cold and frothy with the sweet-clean aftertaste of mown grass. It begs to be put to work washing something down, and the Creamery has the perfect partner on hand: Live Cookies. Available in a number of flavors, these substantial treats feature flours ground at the last minute and stored cold in order to maintain their nutrients.
The Creamery's stock of Live Cookies is limited to what was left over after Live Bread Shoppe owner/baker Sherry Fry closed her Sequim-based business in 2012. Fry's new nutritional counseling business in Puyallup will eventually offer Live Cookies, along with a cookbook, Nutrition From the Cookie Jar.
(If you're navigating using Sequim's free tourist map, note that the Creamery's location is marked incorrectly.)
Dungeness Valley Creamery
1915 Towne Rd
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Lavender Ice Cream
Purple Haze, $4
Around 1850 settlers who reached the Sequim and Dungeness Bays at the northern end of Washington's Olympic Peninsula began to take advantage of the flat plains and fertile soil left behind by retreating glaciers and the protective "rain shadow" cast by the Olympic Mountains. They cleared, irrigated, planted, and harvested handsomely, eventually shifting their focus from vegetables to small-scale dairies.
A little over a century later, a new wave of settlers began to arrive, drawn to the same favorable conditions but for different reasons. After a syndicated newspaper column for retirees published a letter praising the area's mild weather and low cost of living, the small town of Sequim experienced a population boom. One struggling dairy farm after another was replaced by housing developments and chain stores.
But just when it looked like nothing could check the spread of the cul-de-sacs, a Sequim civic committee convened in 1995 with the goal of revitalizing the area's agricultural traditions. Like the settlers and the retirees, they looked at the landscape and the weather and saw yet another new solution: lavender.
Today Sequim has positioned itself as "America's Provence," with more than 30 local farms collaborating on events like the annual Lavender Festival, which attracts thousands of tourists in mid-July. But visitors who arrive outside the high season don't miss out: farmstands and shops feature a wild variety of value-added products, from sniffable sachets and soaps, to edible lavender-laced cheeses, cookies, and chocolates. The Purple Haze farm's mainstreet shop even sells lavender and white chocolate ice cream, produced by Elevated Ice Cream in nearby Port Townsend.
Purple Haze Lavender Shop
127 W Washington St
Crumb Grabbers Bakery, free (!)
Crumb Grabbers Bakery is a popular spot for light meals and treats located in a friendly-looking house on a side street just off Sequim's main drag. I had to elbow through the lunch crowd to reach the bakery counter, but that effort quickly paid off.
"It's our one-year anniversary," said the woman behind the counter, "Would you like a free birthday cupcake?"
Giddy with good fortune, I rushed out to the less-crowded parking lot to enjoy my freebie. The chocolate-on-chocolate cupcake was moist and not too sweet, with a good balance of frosting to cake--even factoring in the frosting that mysteriously ended up on my face and shirt.
Crumb Grabbers Bakery
492 W Cedar St
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Calico Cupboard, $6.49
I learned about Calico Cupboard from a rabid fan of their apple cake who was loudly talking smack in a rival bakery. Visiting lovely little La Conner on a day trip, I reckoned I'd judge that apple cake for myself--but it turns out only to be available "in season". So instead I had (part of) a cream puff the size of a kickball but much more toothsome: flaky pastry, glassy chocolate, rich custard, and airy whipped cream.
And I added "apple cake" to my fall calendar.
720 S 1st St
La Conner WA
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Buttermilk Lemon Sorbet
While I can vividly remember resenting buttermilk for not tasting like melted butter, I've since either matured enough killed off enough taste buds to appreciate this tart, old-fashioned dairy stalwart.
Buttermilk in pancakes? Yes! In bran muffins? Of course! In this crazy-easy buttermilk lemon sorbet? Don't get between me and my spoon!
The buttermilk contributes an easy-to-digest but velvety richness that comes through even if you skip using an ice cream maker. Meyer lemon juice adds another layer of tartness, so mix in just enough sugar for balance.
Don't be put off by the large number of variables in this flexible recipe. Using regular lemon juice instead of Meyer? You might want a little more sugar. Trying to cut back on the sugar? You might want to go for the cream or milk option instead of full-on buttermilk. If it comes out too tart, just serve with shortbread or a little chocolate syrup.
Buttermilk Lemon Sorbet
2/3 c freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 c sugar (to taste)
2 c buttermilk + 2 c other dairy (more buttermilk, cream, whole milk, kefir, etc)
Combine the sugar lemon juice and either whisk in a bowl or shake in a sealed jar until the sugar completely dissolves. Whisk the juice together with the buttermilk and any other dairy products. Pour into a large tupperware container and chill for an hour. Transfer to the freezer and rake with a fork every 45-60 minutes to break up the ice crystals as they form.
Sunday, January 6, 2013
Nata de Coco
In the Philippines, around a third of the population makes a living from coconut-related activities and products. Known affectionately as the "tree of life", the coconut palm yields an astonishing range of goods, from buttons and building materials to a store's-worth of edibles including coconut flesh, cream, milk, jam, curd, sugar, flour, and oil.
One of the simplest coconut products is the basis for one of the most complicated. To make coconut water all you do is poke a hole or two through the hull and pour out the refreshing drink sloshing around inside. To make nata de coco, you combine that water with a specific bacteria, acetobacter xylinium, and let it ferment. The bacterial colony produces a thick, squishy mat of coconut-flavored cellulose. Cleaned, sweetened, and cut into pieces, that gel is a high-fiber, low-fat delicacy enjoyed in drinks, pudding, fruit salad, or shaved ice desserts.
Although nata de coco is Spanish for "coconut cream", these cubes have a uniquely rubbery texture. Nata de coco is chewier than agar, less sticky than tapioca, and much tastier than an eraser.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
New Year's Cake
This New Year, how about partying like it's 1834? You'll just need a batch of New Year's cakes.
The practice of making New Year's cake arrived in this country with seventeenth century Dutch immigrants, spread from there to their New York neighbors, and then to Quakers and Congregationalists. The cakes were a perfect match for the old New York custom of throwing open one's doors on New Year's Day to a parade of visitors. The occasion called for impressive but achievable refreshments, so hostesses relied heavily on small cookie-like cakes; they might be cut into exacting shapes, dotted with exotic aromatic spices, or embossed with ornate designs.
The popularity of the illustrated cakes sparked an entire industry centered on the production of carved wooden "prints" of varying size and intricacy for both commercial and home use. John Conger was one noted print carver; his large mahogany molds are now rare and extremely valuable.
With no Conger in my kitchen, I tried making my own mold--but new to both carving and using this type of mold, I made several rookie mistakes. Next time I'll carve my designs more deeply, roll the dough and then chill it before doing the embossing, and let the raw cookies sit overnight as instructed. The finished cookies were great with coffee: light and just sweet, with the unexpectedly cool, savory flavor of the caraway seeds--and the faint hint of my intended design!
New Year's Cake Recipe
-circa 1834, from William Woys Weaver, America Eats
2 sticks salted butter
2 c sugar
1 c sour cream or plain yogurt
2 T caraway seeds
5 c pastry flour
1 t baking powder
1 1/2 t cream of tartar
Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the sour cream and caraway seeds. Sift together the flour, soda, and cream of tartar twice, then sift into the batter and mix well. Wrap and allow to ripen in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
Roll part of the dough out to 1/2" thickness and if using a mold, press it into the dough and then cut out the cookie; if not using a mold, use a knife or cookie cutter to create shapes. Rework all the dough scraps until all of it is used up.
Set the cookies on greased baking sheets with at least 1/2" between them. Let them sit in a cool place overnight so that the imprints will set.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bake for 10-12 minutes; the bottoms should be golden and the tops pale.
Friday, December 28, 2012
European Foods, $7.49/lb
Although honey, sugar, and "sweetener" sit side-by-side on most coffee shop counters, each flavor represents such a different stage of human history that a book I'm reading distinguishes between the Ages of Honey, Sugar, and Science.
The use of honey predates written history, and versions of honey cake are known from ancient Greece and Egypt. In many parts of Europe, the baking of honey-rich breads and cakes was first associated with religious communities and then with regulated guilds. In the middle ages in Slovenia, artisan bakers specialized in honey cake, and their daughters' dowries were barrels of cake dough with a 30-year shelf life.
With the arrival of industrialization, sugar took a big slice out of honey's market share, but areas of eastern Europe have seen a recent revival of honey-infused foods. The Czech or Slovakian medovnik is a decorated sweet bread, often heart-shaped and given as a sentimental gift. The Polish miodownik or Russian medovik torte is sophisticated party fare; thin cakes of honey sponge spackled together with creamy caramel frosting and flocked with a fuzzy layer of its own crumbs.
What these cakes have in common with each other and with those barrels of Slovenian dough is a remarkable longevity, thanks to honey's humectant and anti-bacterial properties. Decorated medovnik bread harden into long-lasting decorations while mature medovik torte develops a richer flavor and more delicate texture--allowing Seattle's European Foods to import perfectly edible cake all the way from an East Coast bakery.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Huong Binh, $4/bag
Huong Binh's housemade almond tuiles are like fortune cookies let off the leash: free-form pools of delicately flavored batter, topped with a pinch of sliced almonds, and griddled until perfectly golden and crisp.
Friday, December 7, 2012
P.S. Suisse, $2.85
Langley, Washington is not so much small as concentrated: you could drive in one end and out the other in about 45 seconds, or you could pull over and spend all day exploring bookshops, cafes, spas, boutiques, the world's best-organized thrift store, and, at the far end of a tiny pedestrian mall, the P.S. Suisse bakery.
Originally from Ligerz in western Switzerland, Peter Boden served a 3-year apprenticeship in Davos then worked as a confectioner and pastry chef in hotels and restaurants around Europe. After moving to America, he first worked in Illinois, then Michigan, then relocated again to Colorado--as much for the skiing as for the kitchens. Some of the framed memorabilia on the walls at P.S. Suisse comes from this period, including a feature story on the Vail Grand Marnier Chef's ski race, with a picture of Peter schussing down a slopes in apron and toque.
After several years as the co-owner of Vail's Alpenrose restaurant (est. 1975), Peter took some time off to concentrate on producing his sought-after chocolate sculptures and paintings...and somehow ended up in Langley, WA, in a tiny shop at the end of a small mall. I would've liked to ask about that, but the lunch rush crowding the bakery's few tables put a damper on investigation.
Peter's wife Sandra covers the front of the house, hustling plates and extracting pastries from the crowded cases. The cookie choices include spitzbuben (or "rascals," two-layer sandwiches with jam filling peeking out through holes in the upper cookie), linzer (similar to spitzbuben but made with hazelnut dough), shortbread Orcas painted with milk or dark chocolate, and almond horns (above) wrought from mildly sweet marzipan dough, dark chocolate, and a glassy sugar-egg-almond glaze. There are also strudels, tarts, danishes, Napoleons, croissants, and a shelf full of breads.
As the shop's sole baker and cook, Peter has plenty to do in back. In addition to keeping the cases and bread rack full and whipping up lunch plates, there are the seasonal specials. During my visit Peter was hard at work filling orders for Engadin nusstorte, a shortcrust pastry stuffed with walnuts, honey, and cream. A traditional holiday-time treat, the Engadin is named for the valley surrounding St. Moritz and is a soft-spoken reminder of the poverty endured by generations of Swiss villagers; the Engadin recipe probably spread as bakers went further and further afield in search of work.
221 2nd St #12A
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Passports with Purpose is a group of travel bloggers who band together each year to raise money for an overseas development project. In 2010, they raised more than $60,000 to support village construction in India; in 2011, PwP raised $90,000 towards building two libraries in Zambia.
This year's project focuses on supplying clean water to communities in rural Haiti in partnership with Water.org. I'm thrilled to be taking part!
How it works:
All of us participating bloggers have pledged awesome items for the PwP Sweepstakes. Between now and December 11th, visit http://passportswithpurpose.
to check out the prizes on offer. Each $10 donation will support the project AND enter you in the drawing for whatever prize catches your eye.
When I'm not busy researching and writing about sweets, I make jewelry. While the two pursuits might seem very different, they appeal to me for many of the same reasons: craftsmanship, nostalgia, and the opportunity to see more clearly what people value and how they express their feelings for one another.
My double-sided vitrine lockets were inspired by Victorian lockets designed for holding fragile treasures such as miniature paintings, butterfly wings, fabric, or locks of hair. I loved the idea so much, I spent more than a year just figuring out how to make them!
Each vitrine is made up of two curved lenses held together in a sterling silver frame. To customize a vitrine, just unscrew the the loop at the top to open the frame; put paper, pictures, or small objects between the lenses, and screw the frame closed again.
I make each locket myself using watch crystals and sterling silver. They're available in S (25mm), M (35mm), and L (45mm). Each one comes with a hand-finished sterling chain that adjusts to three different lengths, and travels in a sturdy steel tin.
For the PwP Sweepstakes, I'm offering a vitrine in your choice of size, PLUS, if you would prefer not to fill your vitrine yourself, I'll provide a custom design service. Just send me the small items of your choice; I'll arrange them in the appropriate vitrine and send it right back to you.*
Heading out on a journey? This is the perfect accessory: since you can change the contents every day, it'll go with everything!
Or just getting home? Make a meaningful memento by filling a vitrine with a ticket stub, some beach sand, a dried leaf, or other small souvenir.
*Here's my fine print:
It is the winner's responsibility to send me any items for inclusion in the vitrine pendant. l will contact the winner for approval before any irreversible alterations (eg, cutting, gluing) are made to the items. The prize must be redeemed by June 30, 2013.
Posted by Julia at 8:59 PM
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Cherry Almond Tart
Tarte Nouvean, $4.50
No wheat? So what! Shelley Baumgarten whips up combinations of tapioca, rice and other flours for crusts so toothsome you won't even miss the old amber waves. Her Tarte Nouveau baked goods are certified gluten-free and celiac safe. The rotating menu features seasonal specials like this cherry almond tart and luxurious year-round favorite flavors such as chocolate, marzipan and mousse. Order online for free delivery within Seattle or find Tarte Nouveau in booth 23 at the Fremont Street Market, Sundays 10am-5pm.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
World Market, $3.99/box
Amaretti morbidi: what a great expression! Alas, instead of being death-obsessed little goth biscuits, these are soft-textured versions of the classic Italian cookie.
Although almonds are often substituted, the primary ingredient in old-fashioned amaretti is apricot kernels; "amaretti" refers to a slight bitterness that comes from the kernels' natural cyanide content.
Legend has it that when the Cardinal of Milan made an unexpected stop in the town of Saronno in the early 18th century, one devout young couple whipped up these cookies with the only ingredients they happened to have on hand: apricot kernels, sugar, and egg whites (one wonders what they were planning to have for dinner...?). Presented in colorful paper twists, the cookies were a hit and the couple's descendants have been making them ever since; their company, Chiostro di Saronno, is still based in the cloisters of a former monastery in central Saronno.
Other competitors have been producing amaretti for nearly as long, with Lazzaroni being perhaps the best known internationally. Lazzaroni has been a pioneer in both manufacturing and marketing, industrializing the production of its cookies in the 1800s and shipping its products in eye-catching packages since 1888.
Most amaretti are hard enough to shatter when bitten, unless dunked first into tea or coffee. The amaretti morbidi is a relatively new innovation. Although its surprisingly chewy texture calls to mind the chemical laced "Soft Batch" cookies of the 1980s, there are no surprises on the ingredients list: 48% apricot kernels and 2% almonds plus sugar and egg whites. Perhaps the heavy airtight plastic wrapper inside the paper twist is the real secret ingredient.
Friday, October 5, 2012
Behind the Museum Cafe, $2.75
Certain things about the Pacific Northwest have helped generations of homesick Japanese visitors and settlers to feel more at home: the stands of tall, dark cedars, the intricate coastlines with little islands emerging from blankets of haze, the familiar grandeur of Mt. Rainier or Mt. Hood.
Now add to that Portland's Behind the Museum Café.
In the neighborhoods where I lived and worked in Tokyo there was almost always at least one gem of a coffeeshop. While they varied wildly in style and size, all tended to be tricky to find and strongly atmospheric, with an unusual selection of carefully prepared drinks and food.
Behind the Museum fits that description--except for it's relatively prominent location in back of the Portland Art Museum. It's a narrow, high-ceilinged room in a modern glass highrise; a selection of Japanese antiques and contemporary crafts adds warmth to all that chrome.
Owner Tomoe Horibuchi was a cafe manager and culinary instructor in San Francisco before feeling the pull of the Pacific Northwest. She's dedicated to cultivating a space that's more than just a cafe, offering exhibition opportunities to artists, tables large enough to accommodate small group meetings, and regular demonstrations of Japanese traditions such as the incense ceremony and calligraphy.
The cafe serves tea, locally-roasted coffee, Japanese beer and sake. Appetizers and small meals are made in house, with organic ingredients wherever possible. In addition to cookies and pastries, Horibuchi handmakes fresh Japanese confections such as the manju of the day above: a small, soft bird filled with smooth red bean paste and flavored with toasted soybean powder.
Behind the Museum Cafe
1229 SW 10th Ave
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Writing in The Flavor Thesaurus, Niki Segnit observes that, "As a society lady at the turn of the twentieth century, you were nobody until you'd had a peach-based dessert named after you." She cites Sarah Bernhardt's peches aiglon, singer Blanche d'Antigny's coupe d'Antigny, and the peaches-and-kirsch concoction known as "Princess Alexandra".
Around the same time but a world away, the women who settled the Pacific Northwest were also intent on peaches and posterity, making summer's bounty last a little longer with the help of peach pickles. Jacqueline B. Williams includes one 19th century recipe in The Way We Ate: Pacific Northwest Cooking, 1843-1900; since it called for nine pounds of peaches and some spices that I don't keep in the pantry, I made a few adjustments.
-Wash and dry 1 1/2 lbs of ripe but firm peaches; halve them and remove the pits.
-Combine 1/2 lb sugar, 1/2c white vinegar, 2 sticks cinnamon, 12 cloves, and 1 Tbs cardamom seeds; bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and reduce the liquid to a syrup.
-Remove the syrup from the heat and gently add the fruit, stirring to coat.
-Follow your usual canning procedure or pack the cooled fruit and syrup in a jar and store in the fridge.
-Eat as-is or with vanilla ice cream, and use the delicious syrup as a dessert topping or drink flavoring.