Let's start at the very beginning

If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It (vernacular for emphasis)😊

I was coming back from a recent vacation with my husband and son and we were served these yummy cookies, Biscoff, that I discovered for the first time last year. Last July my son Jordan and I were visiting friends whose parents live in Bermuda, which is where I was first introduced to this delicious cookie. I decided to close the shop for two weeks instead of one week.  Well, my friend Susan suggested that we visit with them and I said that Chris couldn’t come because he had just started a new job. Susan said with such a smile, “ We love Chris, but you and Jordan can still come!” I never thought to go without him and when I mentioned it to him he said with such excitement, “  You and Jordan should go!  You work so hard and deserve to go.”

No need to twist my arm!  We were there for 5 days and many of the nights ended with cookies and biscuits and many rounds of SkipBo. This vacation could be described with my four favorite “F” words: friends, fun, food and family all rolled into one wonderful vacation.  I just loved the Biscoff cookies.  Oh, the gorgeous Bermuda water and sunsets were just amazing too!

I brought a few bags of cookies home with me, not realizing that they were sold in my local grocery store.  I immediately went to my kitchen trying to recreate this cookie, with one disappointing batch after another.  Not that they weren’t good, they just weren’t that exact sensory experience that I had.  Of course, once I discovered that they were sold here, I stopped trying to duplicate them.  Usually from a creative standpoint I would have kept going, but as I get older I have learned to weigh my time versus the effort and the true outcome I’m looking for.  At this point in my life , I am all about work life balance. And all of those extra hours that I would spend trying to get that perfect cookie right, that already exist, is time I could spend with my family.

As my dad often says about himself and I adopt the same philosophy , “I am a work in progress.”  I am trying to be a good student.35FCCF03-7EE0-4857-8EBE-4F56578B8F96

Let's start at the very beginning

Giving Thanks!

IMG_2603After preparing for a very busy Tuesday and Wednesday of making pies, cakes, muffins and so many other desserts, I am always thankful for wonderful colleagues, supportive and loving family and wonderful customers, many who I now call friend.  At the end of the day, after all the running around, it all comes down to spending time with friends and family.

I hosted Thanksgiving years ago and after working 20 hour days my husband reminded me that I needed to hang up my “Wonder Woman Cape”.  Chris said, ” I love that you think you can do it all, but you set these goals, that are unfair to you.” I was stressing about getting the food out piping hot and on time and he reminded me that no one knew what I had planned for dinner and that it is all about family and friends.  He also reminded me that we have a microwave, just in case we need to do a reheat. I smiled, laughed and breathed remembering that we had an option for fast food, pizza, or something😀.    My cousin Elaina and her husband Peter were kind enough to host Thanksgiving for a large group of us.  Peter, is a chef and currently working as an amazing ice sculptor at his business in Philadelphia called Fear No Ice. I call him Renaissance Man because his talents are endless. After working a crazy week Peter, with a lot of help from Elaina, hosted a wonderful dinner. Thank you cousins!!

Before and after eating, in one room the younger cousins were playing Uno with some adults and kids watching football and in the other room some adults were doing our version of Kareoke with the help of Alexa.  Of course I am always up for a fun sing along! Great food, great family and friends and lots fun conversation and laughter.  Simply a great day!  We hope you had a wonderful Thankgiving😊.

While everything was wonderful, I left that evening reminding myself that it is not about the perfect meal, perfect tablescape or perfect fill in the blank.  It is about great times with family and friends and even making new friends.  Happy Thanksgiving!🍽🍁


Let's start at the very beginning

The Story of the Sweet Potato Muffin

2002 Chef Jordan @ 20 months (4)SP1_009

Recently, I had the pleasure of being at a friend’s birthday party and as I sat next to a close friend of the birthday girl, I was asked about the origin of the sweet potato muffin.  I was asked if it was a family recipe and my response was, with a smile of course, “I wish it was!”  It certainly would have been a lot less work.  The funny thing is I still get such delight, when people first bite into the muffin.  If I give a sample, I am known to ask people to try it right then and there.  I never want to put people on the spot, but there is something so satisfying about knowing how much work went into putting a smile on faces day after day.

The story of the sweet potato muffin started when I had my son, Jordan.  I told myself I was going to be the mom, who not only cooked, but also cooked all of the baby food from scratch.  Well, I made sweet potato puree, just knowing that my son was going to LOVE it.  Not only did he not love it, he wanted no part of it.  I was a bit over zealous with the puree making and I had to find another use for it, since clearly my son was not an option.

At the time, the only sweet potato products we made were sweet potato pie and cheesecake.  As popular as they were, I wanted to come up with another sweet potato product that was a little more unique.  I thought that a muffin might be great.  We went through a few versions and I knew I had success when Jordan asked for a second taste. I had to sneak the first crumb in my son’s mouth as he moved his head back and forth in protest.  It almost didn’t happen because I was laughing so hard.  Once he had a chance to “savor” the crumb he asked for more, as well as a 10-month old can express.  In that moment, I had a flash back to the Mikey commercials for Life cereal.  I said to myself, “If Jordan really likes this muffin, I think others will too.”  Jordan has always been my picky eater, so that was a good litmus test.

People often ask how we come up with recipes. It can be for many different reasons, but in this case it was a bit out of necessity to avoid wasting perfectly good sweet potato puree.  I will say that the sweet potato muffin is still one of Jordan’s favorite dessert items, but he has expanded his dessert choices.

Pastry Tips

The Quest to Perfect the Sticky Bun.

Through the years of cooking and baking I have learned not to get too frustrated, if I don’t get the dessert right the first time. Practice makes as close to perfect as one will ever get.  At the shop we rarely make desserts that have yeast because it requires precise timing and the dough waits for no one.  So, when that dough is finally proofed to perfection, that oven better be fired up with a space or two waiting. I did find a way to shorten the proof time by a total of 2 1/2 hours.  I will be certain to share that in the next post.

One dessert that eluded me for many years was the sticky bun.  I had been making sticky buns for years and even with my Aunt Lena’s recipe, they were never quite as good as hers .  It is the same

Aunt Lena's Sticky Bun

thing for my dad’s potato salad.  I used to make it when I was in college and my roommates loved it, but I would always say that it is not my dad’s potato salad.  They had no point of reference, but I grew up with it.  Don’t get me wrong, I thought my potato salad was good, but not as good as my dad’s.  It is that slight of hand that makes the difference.

I asked my cousin for his’ mom recipe again because through the years of trying to perfect the sticky bun, I had changed the recipe so many times that I needed to get back to the original recipe. I stopped over thinking it and let the flavors remain very simple.  To my surprise, my dad, who is one of my most honest and harshest critics, said that they were great.  All of us at the shop were also happy with the outcome. The sticky bun is so simple, yet so complex and truly delicious.

For any frustrated pastry chefs or culinary chefs at home, as I had to remind myself,  don’t over think what you are doing, trust your instincts.

Let's start at the very beginning

Buttercream vs. Frosting

There has been a debate for years over the difference between frosting and true buttercream Hopefully this will
help you a little.

Whenever customers come into our pastry shop for the first time, we like to tell our philosophy about baking and
all about our desserts.  We almost always lead with explaining the fact that our cakes are made with real buttercream not frosting.  Many bakeries and pastry shops call what they put on the outside of their cakes buttercream, but in reality it is frosting.  There is nothing wrong with frosting, which tends to be denser and sweeter; in fact we make a lemon white chocolate frosting for the icing on our lemon pound cake loaf.  The truth is a real buttercream should taste rich, like….like…BUTTER!

We explain that our cakes need to be refrigerated, but they are meant to be enjoyed at room temperature, so they require  little extra care, but it is well worth it.  Many times when we tell our first time customers to leave the cakes out at room temperature for at least 4 to 5 hours before serving, the initial response is, “Are they frozen?”

We explain that because we use a true buttercream our cakes need to be refrigerated, but the mouth feel and
flavor is so much better when the cake and buttercream are at room temperature.  The best analogy we give is
using cold butter versus room temperature butter on your bread.  Most would agree that the room temperature is preferred.

I remember giving a new customer our “care for your cake” instructions and she had a certain look that said, You lost me at hello.”  She came in a few weeks later, admitting that she really was not listening to my instructions, but she was trying to be polite.  She said, “The cake was good cold, but OH BOY was it awesome when it was at room temperature.”

Buttercream is less sweet than frosting and is made with 100% butter instead of using shortening or margarine.
Our buttercream is made with an Italian meringue, which is cooked sugar and egg whites then we add some creamy butter and pure vanilla extract, which gives this buttercream a rich tasting, but light on the palette finish.

An Italian buttercream is relatively simple to make with five basic ingredients.  Be on the lookout for instructional

Pastry Tips

The Art of Baking- Early Memory

Pastry Tips

I have been baking ever since I was little.  I remember baking, from scratch, chocolate cupcakes with a vanilla frosting. I actually made the cupcakes from one of Maida Heater’s Cookbooks. I took them to my friend Tanya’s house when we were in Junior High.  She was having a lot of people over, so I decided to increase the recipe without any real science to it…..a little more milk here and a little more flour there and a few eggs to get the consistency I was use to looking for.  As I sat in a chair talking with friends, I turned my head and noticed someone BANGING, yes banging my cupcakes on a table.  The cupcakes were hard as a rock.  Well, maybe not a rock, but pretty close.  I heard some ask who made them, but at that very moment I did not confess.  My friends thought that they knew what to expect when I was bringing dessert, so they never considered that I had anything to do with making these inedible cupcakes. Oh, boy were they wrong.  I soon confessed and we all had a good laugh.  This was a pivotal moment in my baking career.

It was great when I baked and the desserts turned out as planned, but I wanted to know about the exception, not the rule.  For example, I wanted to know what factors played into a cake falling, was it overmixing or not the right flour.  I wanted to know what happened.  I learned that baking is truly a science and I quickly grew to respect the art of baking.

Let's start at the very beginning

Long time Pastry Chef…..First Time Blogger

Well, thanks to a great friend I decided to start blogging.  I so enjoy the education of baking and pastry, but it can get a bit long in my newsletters and facebook posts.  I love talking and listening, as many of my friends know, so I am hoping that everyone will find the information helpful and that we can have a great exchange of ideas.

If I wasn’t baking in my shop, I would love to teach, so this should be fun for me and I hope fun for others as well.  I intend to give many useful tips and to receive tips from you.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Let the blogging begin!