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Archive for the ‘pastry’ Category

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I’ve been doing quite a bit of recipe development work lately which is great but there is always the same end result: piles of random, leftover ingredients. The bags and boxes are open so I can’t donate them to the food pantry and it’s often too much for me to work through, knowing the next assignment is coming down the pike with even more stuff. In fact today, the FedEx guy delivered a 15 pound box of even more stuff from a client. Of the 9 things in the box, I really only need 2 of them and I’m not really sure why their light brown sugar is better or different than the brown sugar I have. But it is not for me to decide these things; I’ll use it at some point. The 5 pounds of lecithin, I’m not so sure. I’ve joked with my friends that when this round is over I’m going to have a pop-up grocery store in my dining room. Half filled bags of stuff for cheap! Kathy’s Store of Cheap Random Crap. C’mon down!

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Today is another of those goofy food holidays but this one actually makes sense given the season: National Zucchini Day. It’s that time of the year when for a lot of people, zucchinis grow 2 feet overnight and overwhelm their lives. Enthusiastic gardeners plant a little too aggressively in the spring and to their delight, the plants flourish. Come August, these formerly delightful gardens are spitting out giant zucchini like aliens. I’ve seen them abandoned in office kitchenettes, in paper bags mysteriously left near front doors, in sidewalk boxes marked “Take me! PLEASE!” and once, I saw a woman whip one out of her purse and give it to the bewildered hostess as an open house gift. Also around this time of year, I tend to get requests for a good zucchini recipe that isn’t a quick bread. As good as those are, they get pretty tired so I usually recommend this simple savory tart.

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Today is another of those infamous food holidays that either annoys me or makes me laugh depending on the subject: National Doughnut Day. Always the first Friday in June, I assumed it was something created by The National Doughnut Council or some such public relation entity until I did a little digging. Turns out National Doughnut Day is a real legit thing not some made up food holiday. The Salvation Army started National Doughnut Day during the Great Depression as a way to raise funds and bring awareness to their social service programs and is still one of their biggest annual fundraisers. The day commemorates the “donut lassies,” female Salvation Army volunteers who provided writing supplies, stamps, clothes-mending and home-cooked meals, and of course, doughnuts, for soldiers on the front lines during WWII. Who knew? (Well, since you asked, Google. Go figure.)

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In French bakeries, often in a basket by the register, you will typically see little sugared pastries that look like unfilled cream puffs. When I first started traveling, I wasn’t sure what they were so I asked. “C’est chouquette. Pour l’enfant” I was told. I understood the “for the kids” part but I wasn’t sure what “chouquette” meant or even if I heard it correctly. Were they cream puffs? Was there cheese in there, like a gougeres? What the hell were they? Creamless cream puffs did not sound very appealing but I was too intimidated to do anything but smile and nod, like I knew what they were talking about. I always purchased something else.

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For a few summers, I worked my friend Pete’s fruit stand at the Green City Farmer’s Market every Wednesday and Saturday morning. It was an early start, the market opens at 7am, and not being much of a morning person it took me a while to get rolling. Once we got the stand set up and I got my bearings, I was usually looking for something to eat before the big crowds rolled in with their double wide strollers and large dogs who liked to pee on our sandwich board signs. Oh joy. You need some sustenance to deal with that. My standard go-to breakfast, one I really looked forward to, was from Hoosier Mama a fantastic pie company in the city. On the back of their checkered tables was a large black plastic warmer thing. If you were smart, you knew this is where they kept the amazing savory hand pies nice and toasty. While there were always a few varieties, the breakfast sausage hand pies were my favorite and apparently others too because they sold out fast. A warm flaky pastry filled with herby breakfast sausage, I could inhale 42 of these things in no time if given the opportunity.

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The last several weeks have been rather complicated. I’ve made two multi-tiered wedding cakes for good friends and countless desserts for a client tasting, many with numerous components and sub-recipes. To-do lists are spilling from my computer at an alarming rate and stacks of receipts have turned my wallet into something worthy of George Costanza. Today I just wanted to make something simple. Spying the basket of apples on my counter, I formulated a plan.

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Ah, pears. So fragrant, so delicious, so damn hard to find. Yes, I know, pears are everywhere. I see them too but where are the good ones? Huh? The ones that are heavy for their size, which you can smell 20 feet away, the ones where you bite into them and juice runs down your arm? Not so easy to find, are they? It’s a common dilemma with fruit these days. The farmer’s market is a sure bet but like peaches, you have to hit them just right. It’s certainly possible but it’s a roll of dice. Blink and you missed them. Grocery stores, unless you are very very lucky, are nearly always a miss. They arrive unripe and they stay that way. I am beyond tired of flavorless, hard, mealy pears. Be they Barlett, Anjou, Bosc, Comice or the adorable Forelle, chances are good they’re mediocre. The best possible solution is grown your own but few have that option. So I’ve come up with a better idea. Find someone with a tree. Which is exactly what I did. I highly recommend this option.

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