September 29, 2010 § 2 Comments
When I was in Portland, I spent some time at the library. One afternoon, I happened upon a recipe in a magazine for “Blueberries & Cream Cookies.” I thought to myself: Wow. And so I scribbled the ingredients down into my journal and ran up Munjoy Hill to bake with Ben. This is what came of the BCC’s: I know. Amazing. And in this photo, you can see that the edges of the cookies became kind of caramelized, adding this crunchy-toffee kick. I ranted and raved: these were the best cookies I had ever made! And it was all thanks to these “Milk Crumbs” that go into the dough.
Milk crumbs are made of dry milk powder, corn starch, sugar, flour, butter, salt and melted butter. You bake them ahead of time, and they keep for about a week. So there ya go. Milk Crumbs. Interesting. Last night, I set to work recreating MCC’s. (Since dried blueberries are so expensive, I’m changing the name of the cookies to plain old Milk Crumb Cookies. Leaves the door open for experimentation.) As you can see by the image above, baking cookies sometimes collides with apéro’s. Not a bad thing.
As I’m fluffing my milk crumbs with a fork, I’m noting all of the autumn decor around the house. It snuck up on me this year. The random acorn cornucopia shrines should’ve prepped me. So here we tumble into a new season. Working in a coffee shop, you talk about the weather with every other customer, yet it never really sinks in. The trees are props on screens, in windows. The leaves are filler. Fluff. I think I’m just now, today, realizing that my favorite season has ambushed me. Is everywhere. I ought to have made pumpkin bread the topic of this blog entry. That’s more fall-ish. However, I gotta say–these cookies totally trump the last loaf of pum’kin bread I baked. Check this action out: I thought they turned out a little crunchier than the Portland variety, however this batch was a little smaller than the others. Also, I changed up the ingredients. I did more dried fruits: figs, raisins, dried cranberries, and some chocolate chips, too. It might sound funny, but I want this recipe to be my signature recipe. You know how some people have their specialty dish? I want to be the gal who makes killer Milk Crumb Cookies. Once I make a few batches and get the name out there, then maybe I can move on to the acronym that makes them sound like electronic equipment or something.
For now, I bake. I distribute. I rant and rave. And soon I’ll have the whole block moony over Milk Crumb Cookies. Ahem, Kelli’s Milk Crumb Cookies.
*So, I am sorry, but the MCC recipe will not be shared here. If you really must taste these, send me your address, and I’ll mail a sample to you. I’m determined to make these little buddies my trademark!!
September 9, 2010 § 3 Comments
I went to Portland, Maine on a couple of missions. Mission #1: Spend quality time with a good friend, Mission #2: Journal, wander the jagged coastline, and quiet my monkey mind, & Mission #3: Visit Portland’s bakeries.
Now, Portland has got tons to offer by way of bakeries, coffee shops, and of course seafood, however—the bakery that was maybe the most recommended to me was The Standard Baking Company. It’s this incredible bakery tucked between taller brick buildings and set back a bit. If you weren’t on a mission, you might walk by the “Bakery” sign swinging on the sidewalk and think it’s just another of Portland’s bread havens. And you would be wrong. I mean, even my guru Lynne Rossetto Kasper and her buddies Jane and Michael Stern swear by this Standard. My friend, Ben and I ambled down Munjoy Hill in the 90+ degree heat of the day (already, at 10:30 in the morning). Not the most desirable of outdoor temperatures for visiting a toasty bakery. It was tough, but we were up to the challenge. Ben loves bread just as much as I do, and so it was totally amazing to me that he had never—after having lived in Portland a year and a half—been to the Standard. Dude is nuts. We walked in and I was utterly flabbergasted. These baguettes! These pastries! Everything looked just like, and smelled just like, real French boulangeries! I salivated at the sight of their blackberry peach muffins, sticky buns, and croissants. How on earth do I pick just one thing to eat for breakfast? Ben ordered this: The sticky bun. This is the thing Road Food folk, the Sterns , just raved about. So the crust is flaky on the outside, so it’s got this great little crunch to it—then it’s got these perfect, soft layers of sweet cinnamon roll bread spiraling inward and loaded with butter and cinnamon-caramel and pecans.
I finally picked out something to try, tooClassic croissant, right? It’s got all that light, airy interior and crispy flaky exterior. I was so impressed. It’s hard to find a good croissant like this in the states. A lot of bakeries try, but you just wind up with these pale little pillow-people croissants. We carried our goods back up the hill a ways until we reached Coffee By Design. You can smell them roasting beans all day long. They sell their coffee to shops all over Portland, and even ship some to Seattle—so that says something about how great this coffee is. We grabbed mugs of the java elixir, plopped down at a table, and dug in. I was in heaven.
Meanwhile, regulars were coming and going from the coffee shop, chatting about the weather. A local artist was hanging her paintings of the bay while drinking a chocolate frappuccino. The atmosphere around the city reminded me of Minneapolis a little. I saw friendly people whose daily footpaths swirled around coffee shop center points. It was nice to see. Man, if only Minneapolis had a Standard Baking Company to swirl around…
September 6, 2010 § Leave a comment
I had a long list of things to do. It circulated on ticker tape at the bottom of the screen in my head: Are your bags packed for Portland? Do you have your cupcakes baked for Sies’s bachelorette party tonight? Do you have your toothbrush? Which podcasts will you listen to on the plane? Did you make Sies a card? What will you write?
I started with the cupcakes. When in doubt, right? So my recipe was vegan because my friend, Anna can’t eat dairy. Now, I don’t know what it is about vegan stuff, but for some reason, I usually like it way more than ordinary old stick-o-butter bakery. When I worked at French Meadow Café, I would covet the day-old vegan scones before anyone else could. They would sit in a big basket, tied in plastic, waiting for someone to adopt them, and I would swoop in before so much as saying Good Morning to my co-workers or getting that all-important first cup of coffee.
I had forgotten my passion for vegan treats. Rediscovered it in a heartbeat: These were basic chocolate vegan cupcakes, but if I had had some on hand, I would have crumbled up Oreo’s and put ’em inside. Goll, that would’ve been awesome. Although, I gotta say—these little vegan cake-ems could hold their own against standard chocolate cake any day of the week, one little cupcake hand tied behind their….back? And seriously, with this soy milk, saturated-with-vanilla-and-sugar frosting? Killa Kupcakes.
Right. So these were for a Bachelorette Party. This was to be my first, and maybe I didn’t have my mind in the gutter, as I should have. Here’s the X-Rated version of my poor vegan cakes. The little guys didn’t see that blow comin’ : Aaaaaand I’m sorry that I had to go there. But there you have it.
And so it goes: four 25-year old women ran around Minneapolis eating hamburgers, analyzing art, playing with Ballpark Franks & nylon stockings, then stuffing our faces with vegan cupcakes. (And I gotta say, my cupcakes were head over heels better than the red vel-what? complimentary cupcake they gave Sies at the burger joint. It was like something you’d find in the Super America Bakery department (which, actually, I have a soft spot for. Can’t beat those cake donuts before catching the 134 into Minneapolis from St. Paul on a cold morning. Ah, memories…) Anyway, here’s what my cupcakes totally trumped: And here’s the city that will make any gal feel like a princess when she’s celebrating her fleeting singledom pre-matrimony in late August:
…and I should mention I’m going on a blog rampage to write about all the amazing things I tasted in bakeries all over Portland, Maine. I just returned and was so incredibly pleased with what I found by way of bread, sugar, and butter. Preview: Mmmmmaine.