Morning Glory Bakery, Bar Harbor, ME

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Start your Acadia National Park day by stopping at this Bar Harbor bastion of great baked goods.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

On the first morning of a recent visit to Bar Harbor, Maine, I ate an egg sandwich at Morning Glory Bakery. Stunned, I immediately ate another.

Each involved a fresh-baked bagel with an organic egg, spicy sausage, and white cheddar layered inside plus poppy seeds and sesame seeds baked on top. They were sublime. And they did a fine job of getting me going for a long and happy day of hiking rocky trails in Acadia National Park, the beginning of a vacation that would also include kayaking offshore from Mount Desert Island and bicycling on old-fashioned “carriage roads” where motorized vehicles aren’t allowed.

So I made the egg-bagel breakfast at Morning Glory Bakery a daily ritual the whole time I was there, once substituting a bacon-scallion-cream-cheese bagel instead just for variety. I never had a bad one, and none of the other baked goods I tried failed to impress either.

Continue reading

Honey Crème Donuts, New Albany, IN

Remember cream horns?  Rediscover them at Honey Crème Donuts

Remember cream horns? Rediscover them at Honey Crème Donuts

Honey Crème sits at the corner of Vincennes Street and aptly named Donut Alley

Honey Crème sits at the corner of Vincennes Street and aptly named Donut Alley

Honey Creme_Donut Alley 2_Bakery Boy Photo

Glazed apple fritters the size of your fist feature bits of real apple

Glazed apple fritters the size of your fist feature bits of real apple

Take your pick of “doublaro twists” glazed with either chocolate or maple

Take your pick of “doublaro twists” glazed with either chocolate or maple

Chopped peanuts stuck to maple or white icing entirely cover these square donuts

Chopped peanuts stuck to maple or white icing entirely cover these square donuts

A short-term sugar buzz and some lifelong memories await these three

A short-term sugar buzz and some lifelong memories await these three

Honey Creme_Donut Alley 3_Bakery Boy Photo

Alongside “Donut Alley” in this town across the Ohio River from Louisville there’s an old-fashioned donut shop where I reignited my love of cream horns.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

How could I have forgotten about cream horns? Cream horns are awesome, but you just don’t see them very often anymore. I made them by the thousands in the bakery where I grew up, but somehow I’d gone years without eating one or thinking about one, much less making any. Then I stumbled upon Honey Crème Donuts in New Albany, Indiana, and fond cream horn memories came rushing back.

Honey Crème Donuts is a classic little old-fashioned donut shop that just happens to sit at the corner of Donut Alley and Vincennes Street in downtown New Albany. Well, not “just happens to,” exactly. Four generations of loyal customers have patronized this long-operating shop, often parking in a narrow side street while running inside to grab some snacks, and people usually referred to that street as Donut Alley. Eventually, the city went ahead and made the designation official, with signs and all, since everyone called it that anyway.

Now about the cream horns at Honey Crème: Each one is a small cornucopia-shaped “horn” made from a single long strip of puff pastry dough wrapped in an overlapping spiral around a removable metal tube and baked until it’s a flaky, hollow tunnel about the size of a hot dog bun. Once cooled, the hole left by the metal tube gets filled with fluffy whipped cream, and then the top is sprinkled with powdered sugar. At Honey Crème, they dip the ends in shredded coconut that sticks to the whipped cream, providing a little extra flavor and a nice visual touch too. The result is simple and elegant, and I’d forgotten how much I liked them until I bit in.

Once I recovered from my slightly delirious reintroduction to the cream horn, I explored the rest of the showcases at Honey Crème. The glazed apple fritters caught my eye because of the obvious bits of real apple (not the mushy canned stuff) peeking out from the lumpy, brown, amorphous masses about the size of my fist. There was also an interesting variation called an apple nibbler (just 55¢) comprised of a small puff pastry square baked with more of the same apple bits on top.

I also ate a cream-cheese-and-cherry Danish. And a square-ish donut completely covered on top with chopped peanuts held in place by a smear of either maple or white icing, take your pick. And a slice of coconut cream pie, perhaps because the small amount of coconut highlighting the ends of my cream horn left me wanting more. And, for old time’s sake because they’ve long been my favorite and because I’ve learned to gauge a donut shop’s overall quality by how well they handle something so basic, a got a chocolate-covered cake donut. The verdict? Honey Crème passes, with honors.

One woman working behind the counter (who wouldn’t let me photograph her) said her boyfriend is the current donut maker. “I told him I’d go out with him but he needed to bring me one of these apple fritter every day,” she said, tapping the counter above a tray full of them. “He did, and he still does, and now I work here too.”

After she saw what all I’d ordered — I consumed about half immediately and tucked the rest away for later — she insisted I try what has become a Honey Crème signature item, the doublaro twist. A doublaro twist is two long strips of donut twisted together like a loose braid and folded back around itself, forming a roughly oblong “double twist,” which is then generously coated in either chocolate or maple glaze. It’s a sticky mess requiring a napkin or (better yet) some serious finger licking, but given the opportunity I wouldn’t pass up the chance to eat another right now.

While we were talking and while I was snacking, three small kids came tearing in, trailed by their grandmother who was keeping them for the day while the parents worked. The kids immediately got noses-close to the showcase glass, talking fast and loudly and all at once, their fingers pointing at what they wanted, which was just about everything in sight, and their eyes wide. I don’t think they blinked for at least five frenetic minutes. If they ate all the sweets their grandma bought for them, I imagine the drop-off back at home later was a wild scene. But hey, don’t a lot of us have fond memories of times like that, reveling in a trip to a donut shop?

Honey Crème is a good little donut shop in a squat, unassuming, white-brick-and-red-roof building beside an alley just off the main drag in downtown New Albany. Those three kids will probably remember it as a palace of wonder. I’ll remember my visit to “Donut Alley” for several reasons, but mostly because it reintroduced me to the simple glory of cream horns. Thanks, Honey Crème.

______________________________

Honey Crème Donuts

514 Vincennes Street

New Albany, IN 47150

812-945-2150

Hours: Sun-Thu 5 a.m. – 1 p.m., Fri-Sat 5 a.m. – 8 p.m.

______________________________

For more about the New Albany area: http://www.cityofnewalbany.com or http://sunnysideoflouisville.org

For more about the greater Louisville area: Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau www.gotolouisville.com

Blue Dog Bakery, Louisville, KY

The more I heard about Blue Dog Bakery — from a waiter, a shopkeeper, a pastry chef, a far-away friend — the more curious I became about the home of Louisville’s best breads.

Gingerbread_Man_Logostory & photos by Bakery Boy

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Baguettes by the basketful at Blue Dog Bakery & Café in Louisville

I’d been in Louisville for only a couple of days, and everywhere I went I heard about Blue Dog Bakery & Cafe in the Crescent Hill neighborhood.

When I ate dinner at The Blind Pig, a European-comfort-food “gastropub” in Louisville’s Butchertown neighborhood, and raved about my sandwich, the waiter said without hesitation that the crusty-outside, chewy inside roll holding together my Ivory Bacon Sandwich (boudin blanc sausage, bacon, muenster cheese, and aioli) is a “pug,” short for pugliese, a style of bread from Southern Italy.  He added,  it came from Blue Dog Bakery.

Blue Dog Bakery anchors the rebounding Crescent Hill neighborhood

The next morning, during my second bakery visit of the day gathering material for future Bakery Boy Blog articles, the pastry chef I was interviewing said that if I’m a bread man (and I absolutely am), then I shouldn’t miss Blue Dog Bakery in Crescent Hill.

Later I was at Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Market on Bardstown Road in Louisville’s Highlands area when an employee stocking shelves saw me inspecting the bread and volunteered that it was all good and all from Blue Dog Bakery.

Blue Dog’s levain gets its slight tang from a well-nurtured sourdough starter

Blue Dog’s levain gets its slight tang from a well-nurtured sourdough starter

Then she spoke, more to herself than to me, about needing to get back there soon for some poached free-range eggs, Serrano ham, spinach, and Parmesan on French sourdough levain, a brunch special she recited so perfectly it’s clearly a memorable favorite for her.

Intrigued by three recommendations from such different sources in such short order, a called my friend Wanda two states away in Alabama.  She is, as I am, a longtime (though now former) travel writer for Southern Living.  During the 20 good years of my writing life I spent at that magazine, Kentucky was nearly always Wanda’s “beat,” and she knows Louisville well.

With nine grains kneaded in and rolled on, this bread has got to be good for you

“Oh, yes, I remember that place,” she said, glad to reminisce about a favorite city.  “That’s the bakery facing the railroad tracks in a part of town that used to be really run down but has come back nicely.  Wood-fired oven, fresh local ingredients if they can get them, no preservatives, and I think the owners even raise their own hogs for the meat they serve.  Artisanal everything, especially the breads.  If you’re still doing your Bakery Boy Blog, you’re going to love Blue Dog Bakery.”

With now four recommendations in less than a day, I knew I was on to something.  So I headed to Crescent Hill (indeed come-back-story neighborhood strung along a rail line east of downtown), found Blue Dog Bakery, and was blown away by how good it is.

A classy sign that you’re in bread heaven

Tables outside and inside were filled with patrons visibly pleased to be there.  Everything was photogenic and, I soon learned, tasty too:  Crusty breads in wicker baskets, big cookies in neat rows, fruit tarts gleaming on chilled trays, muffins stacked on tiered platters, and on and on.

Raspberry chocolate ganache tarts at Blue Dog Bakery

Raspberry chocolate ganache tarts at Blue Dog Bakery

I ate an entire baguette immediately while taking it all in, then bought for later a plump round miche and a dark cranberry-walnut levain.  And a half-dozen flour-dusted white Italian “pug” rolls like the one I’d enjoyed at The Blind Pig the night before.  And a half-dozen densely multi-seeded “flute” rolls (see photo).

Even with all that, I nearly ran out before getting home the following day.  No, I didn’t eat all of it myself.  My two hungry teenagers, who were in town for concerts at the Forecastle music and art festival in Louisville’s Waterfront Park, ate their share during the drive home.  Yes, my car floor is perpetually crumb-covered!  In retrospect, I wish I’d also gotten a loaf each of Blue Dog’s pecan raisin, kalamata olive, and harvest nine-grain breads.  Printed on Blue Dog’s bread bags are handy instructions for freezing and defrosting any such oversupply.

From left: peanut butter, chocolate chip, and oatmeal molasses cookies

On the advice of customers who graciously let me squeeze in between them to photograph things, I ordered a chilled raspberry chocolate ganache tart and a warmed morning glory muffin for immediate consumptions, plus two each of the  peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and oatmeal molasses cookies, also for on-the-road snacking.

Crusty outside/chewy inside “pug” rolls are small versions of Italian pugliese loaves

A table opened up, so I took a seat and ordered that poached free-range egg on levain item the Rainbow Blossom woman had mentioned.  It was a fine but difficult choice, considering the options included exotic sounding “octopus tartine with potato, chorizo, tapenade, and smoked paprika oil,” and “bacon, Tillamook cheddar, cheese curds, cider vinegar onions, and spicy mayo,” and “pastrami Reuben, gruyere, kraut, and thousand island,” among other temptations, each on a wide choice of breads.  Next time.

I see poppy, sesame, and fennel seeds on the “flute” rolls (there might be others too)

I am now officially a fan of Blue Dog Bakery.  My one regret is that I never met the owners, Bob Hancock (who does, indeed, pasture-raise Red Wattle hogs, hormone-free and antibiotics-free, as a sideline) and Kit Garrett.  That’s poor planning on my part for not scheduling an interview, even on short notice after hearing so much about the place.  Add in bad luck as well, for not running into either of them during three stops over the course a long weekend.  Next time.

For now, I’ll let my photos tell the rest of the story.  Enjoy the slideshow, and if you get to the Blue Dog Bakery on my recommendation, let me know what you tried.  Together, apparently with a lot of word-of-mouth help from others, we’ll spread the news.

Blue Dog Bakery is frequently teeming with satisfied customers

______________________________

A tasty “blue” island in a leafy green neighborhood

Blue Dog Bakery

2868 Frankfort Avenue

Louisville, KY 40206

502-899-9800

www.bluedogbakeryandcafe.com

______________________________

For more about Louisville: Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau  www.gotolouisville.com

For more about Kentucky: Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism www.kentuckytourism.com

 

Allergy-friendly Annie May’s Sweet Café, Louisville, KY

Allergen-free treats dominate Annie May’s menu because Annie May is on a mission.

Gingerbread_Man_Logostory & photos by Bakery Boy

 

“I’m allergic to corn gluten and about 50 other things,” says Annie May McGill, the founder, namesake, head baker, allergen-free-ingredients missionary, and generally smiling owner of Annie May’s Sweet Café in Louisville, Kentucky.

Annie May McGill develops allergen-free baked goods at Annie May's Sweet Cafe in Louisville.

Annie May McGill develops allergen-free baked goods at Annie May’s Sweet Cafe in Louisville.

You might think her multiple allergies got Annie May started in allergen-free baking, but the way she tells it, her motivation first grew from baking for someone else.

“I have a nephew who is allergic to nuts and eggs and wheat, three common ingredients in a lot of baked goods,” she says.  “To make him a birthday cake, I had to find things he could eat.”

So Annie May studied up on substitutes for various ingredients, eventually discovering useful things like brown rice flour, tapioca starch, rice milk, palm fruit oil that works like a soy-free shortening, and other gluten-free, allergen-free, and non-dairy items good for replacing traditional foodstuffs.  Through experimentation, she eventually converted a neighbor’s basic cake and icing recipes into allergen-free versions for her nephew’s birthday cake, no doubt earning favorite-aunt status as a welcomed side effect.

But she didn’t stop there.  Repeating that same basic process of converting recipes in order to avoid ingredients many people are allergic to, she added more and more goodies to her baking repertoire.  The hobby grew into a career track that blossomed when she opened Annie May’s Sweet Café, billed as “Louisville’s only dedicated gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free bakery,” on Frankfort Avenue east of downtown Louisville.

Annie May's Window_Bakery Boy photo“I’m a totally self-taught baker,” Annie May says.  “I like figuring out ways to make treats people with allergies can enjoy.”  Her lineup now includes a wide variety of cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, bars, cheesecakes, banana bread, pizza crust, crescent rolls, hamburger and hot dog buns, blueberry muffins, and by the time you read this most likely a few more as well.

Building on her original success with her nephew’s birthday cake, Annie May’s features about a dozen different kinds of cakes and about twice that many kinds of icing, nearly all of them featuring allergen-free and vegan ingredients.  Consider her carrot cake:  It includes brown rice flour, tapioca starch, sorghum flour, carrots, carrot juice, palm fruit oil, eggs, cinnamon, baking soda, cream of tartar, xanthan gum, and sea salt.  Only the eggs present a potential allergy problem, so she also developed a second version, a vegan carrot cake, by substituting flax seed for eggs.

Other cakes, some with vegan versions and some made only seasonally, include pumpkin, red velvet, strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, mocha, lemon, and spiced beer cake.  For the spiced beer cake, the title ingredient is gluten-free beer that contains only sorghum, buckwheat, honey, water, and yeast.  Between layers and atop these cakes, she spreads her host of icings, each one built around butter cream (using palm fruit oil for shortening), cream cheese (with rice milk), or whipped agave nectar.

Among Annie May’s assortment of allergen-free cookies, which range from chocolate chips and snicker-doodles to pumpkin spice, lemon, and oatmeal, one version has risen to become this bakery’s signature item.  Annie May calls them Allergen Free Supercookies (see photo).

Allergen Free Supercookies are a signature treat at Annie May's Sweet Cafe.

Allergen Free Supercookies are a signature treat at Annie May’s Sweet Cafe.

An Allergen Free Supercookie involves dairy-free chocolate cream cheese filling smashed between two thick chocolate chip cookies that are vegan and allergen-free, with no eggs, no gluten, and no dairy, Annie May explains.  After a Supercookie is assembled, one end is dipped in a vegan chocolate coating for accent.

As a service to her allergy-prone customers, who are intensely interested in every detail about what’s in their food, Annie May posts ingredient lists online for all of her baked goods.  Here is a breakdown of what’s in the Supercookies:

  • Cookie: brown rice flour, tapioca starch, sorghum flour, palm fruit oil, brown sugar, chocolate chips (evaporated cane juice, chocolate liqueur, non-dairy cocoa butter), egg replacer (potato starch, tapioca flour, calcium lactate, calcium carbonate, citric acid, cellulose gum, modified cellulose), water, vanilla, salt, xanthan gum
  • Filling: powdered sugar, palm fruit oil, agave nectar, salt
  • Coating: chocolate chips (evaporated cane juice, chocolate liqueur, non-dairy cocoa butter), palm fruit oil, agave nectar, salt

Annie May's exterior_Bakery Boy photoAnnie May McGill has followed her baking muse from that early interest in making a birthday cake for her allergic nephew to making all kinds sweet treats for all kinds of people with all kinds of allergies.  Her constant quest to develop new allergen-free items even leads to creations such as spiced beer cupcakes, which she fills with a homemade caramel that includes a dose of beer from the nearby Apocalypse Brew Works, an enterprise that must be like-minded because it offers a gluten-free beer among its craft-brewed selection.

“It’s fun coming up with new things,” Annie May says.  “All of our desserts are made fresh, from scratch.  We never use wheat, gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, or soy in our recipes.  We also segregate other allergen ingredients and use different baking areas, different utensils, and different cooking devices to avoid cross-contamination in our vegan and allergen-free items.”

______________________________

Annie May sign_Bakery Boy photoAnnie May’s Sweet Café

3110 Frankfort Avenue

Louisville, KY 40206

502-384-2667

www.anniemayssweetcafe.com

store hours: Tue-Friday 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., Sat 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

______________________________

For more about Louisville: Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau  www.gotolouisville.com

For more about Kentucky: Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism www.kentuckytourism.com

 

WildFlour Pastry, Charleston, SC

“Sticky Bun Sunday” has such a nice ring to it. Join the happy crowd smacking sticky fingers at this neighborhood treasure in historic Charleston.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

The main attraction on Sticky Bun Sundays at WildFlour Pastry in Charleston, SC

Friends meet up at WildFlour Pastry

The Sunday morning line at WildFlour Pastry stretches out the door and down Spring Street, but nobody standing in it seems to mind waiting. In chatty groups or as cuddly pairs or alone, people laugh and talk or read newspapers or thumb iPhone keypads in the shade of breeze-ruffled palmetto trees as they anticipate the treat ahead.

It’s Sticky Bun Sunday at WildFlour Pastry, a weekly tradition just three years old, like the bakery itself, but about as established as any upstart tradition can be in city as steeped in them as is historic old Charleston, South Carolina.

Sticky Buns arrive at one of WildFlour Pastry’s window tables

The line gradually moves forward each time someone emerges sporting a satisfied smile or toting a to-go box, disappearing on foot or by bicycle or in a car that has been idling nearby or circling the block.

Once inside the close quarters of this narrow storefront operation, I find a tiny seating area including a pair of tables wedged into twin alcoves with broad windows facing the street. There’s a somewhat roomier courtyard just out a side door with more tables tucked among garden greenery. Finally reaching the service counter at the front of the line, I trade $3 for a red plate bearing a fine specimen of Sticky Bun Sunday’s glorious signature pastry: a WildFlour Sticky Bun.

Courtyard dining at WildFlour Pastry

It’s a delightfully gooey (because it’s loaded with butter) sweet roll coated with cinnamon-sugar and topped with about as many pecans as can fit. It’s served warm and with an optional thick blob of creamy white icing on top.

Looking around as I eat, I spy a few neatniks approaching this delicacy with a fork and knife, performing a sort of culinary surgery and carving off small bites like they’re savoring fine steaks. Others, like me, just pick it up and let the sweet ooze drip, happy to lick sticky fingers later. I even see a few quick tongues tidying up sticky plates, messy chins be damned.

All Hail Pastry Chef Lauren Mitterer

Behind the counter leading her small team of fellow bakers (currently WildFlour has four employees) is owner and sticky-bun queen Lauren Mitterer.

The WildFlour crew, hard as work

A Chicago native and former Seattle-area resident, Lauren went to the University of Virginia on a rowing scholarship (earning a seat on the U.S. Rowing Junior National Team), took a degree in studio arts, and went on to develop her creative bent in the food world, graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 2004. She has worked as a pasty chef at Tavern on the Green in New York City, Larkspur Restaurant in Vail, Colorado, and Red Drum Gastropub in Mount Pleasant across the Cooper River from Charleston. She’s been nominated twice for awards in the pastry chef category from the prestigious James Beard Foundation, once while working at Red Drum and once at her own WildFlour Pastry.

Lauren struck out on her own by opening WildFlour Pastry in September 2009, leasing a 700-square-foot space on the first floor of a petite two-story cottage in Charleston’s Cannonborough/Elliotborough area, a delightful old neighborhood tucked between the city’s bustling King Street commercial district, the Medical University of South Carolina, and The Citadel — The Military College of South Carolina.

Come on in, the pastry’s fine

She introduced Sticky Bun Sundays soon after opening, and at last count was making around 200 of the hefty sweet rolls for the occasion each week, frequently running out of them before the 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. serving hours end. (Hint: go early!)

The walk-in retail side took off quickly enough, but to bolster the operation Lauren also set up a catering business, creating wedding cakes and setting up dessert bars at special events. Through WildFlour Pastry she also supplies baked good to such noteworthy Charleston restaurants as The Macintosh nearby on King Street, Next Door in Mount Pleasant, and her former employer Red Drum, also in Mount Pleasant.

But Wait, There’s More

Like most of the Sunday morning crowd, I was at WildFlour for the always-satisfying Stick Buns. But many other choices crowd the showcases. Such as:

Double Chocolate Brownies at WildFlour Pastry

• Apples caramelized in brown butter and spiced sugar, nestled into phyllo pouches, baked, garnished with caramel sauce, and topped with aged cheddar

• Double chocolate cookies made with cocoa powder and dark bittersweet chocolate

• Double chocolate brownies, likewise combining cocoa power and dark chocolate and cut into large squares

• Scones, both sweet and savory varieties, in a constantly changing lineup that recently including strawberry jam, blueberry lemon curd, ham and cheddar, pesto and mozzarella, goat cheese and roasted red pepper

• Plus a host of biscuits, cookies, cupcakes, custards, turnovers, tarts, cakes, sweet breads, croissants, and more

Last Word

A glimpse into the WildFlour sense of humor

What does Lauren love most about running her bakery? “Everything!” she says. “It’s been such a challenging and rewarding endeavor. The people I encounter on a daily basis are probably what I appreciate the most, and also the freedom to create menu items and just play around with pastry ideas at my leisure.”

Sticky Bun Sundays

Don’t miss Sticky Bun Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every week at WildFlour Pastry. Bring friends to hang with or something to read in case the wait gets long, but don’t let the prospect of a delay deter you from a popular, worthwhile, tasty experience.

______________________________

WildFlour Pastry

73 Spring Street

Charleston, SC 29403

843-327-2621

www.wildflourpastrycharleston.com

______________________________

MoonPie Drop, Mobile, AL

Here’s an inventive use for a staple snack: Drop a giant MoonPie from a tall building to mark the New Year.

by Bakery Boy

Everyone knows about the giant crystal ball that descends in New York’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve, but have you heard of the giant MoonPie Over Mobile that serves a similar purpose down South?

A stylized MoonPie 12 feet across and suspended 34 stories above Mobile will "drop" on New Year's Eve at midnight. Photo courtesy of the City of Mobile

As midnight approaches on December 31 in downtown Mobile, Alabama, a huge, shining, plastic, electrified likeness of a MoonPie — measuring 12 feet across, weighing 350 pounds, and brightly illuminated from within — drops from the top of the 34-story RSA BankTrust building. It plummets 317 feet in 60 seconds and stops at the 6th floor, directly above a crowd of street-party revelers on St. Joseph Street and St. Francis Street, just as the countdown ends and both January 1 and fireworks begin.

There it goes, a giant MoonPie plunging downward along a corner of Mobile's second-tallest building. Photo courtesy of the City of Mobile

The free event, which drew an estimated 40,000 people last year, begins with a 7:30 p.m. parade, continues through a series of live concerts and a laser lights show, peaks with the midnight MoonPie Drop, and concludes with wee-hours restaurant and bar hopping. This year’s featured band is Three Dog Night, which will undoubtedly play suited-to-the-occasion hits “Joy to the World” and “Celebrate” and, who knows, might even play “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” and “An Old Fashioned Love Song” too.

WHY MOONPIE?

You might be asking: What does MoonPie have to do with Mobile?

Try to follow this reasoning: 1) Mobile hosted the America’s first Mardi Gras celebration in 1703, before nearby New Orleans began its famous version, and takes great pride in the long-running annual tradition. 2) MoonPie is a favorite treat for Mardi Gras parade-float riders to throw to people who line Mobile streets and watch. 3) Mobilians typically consume more than four million MoonPies annually, and many consider the cellophane-wrapped goodie to be an unofficial emblem of the city. 4) If MoonPies are good enough for Mardi Gras, they’re good enough for New Year’s too. 5) Hey, does anyone really need a reason to do silly things like this on New Year’s Eve?

Mobile's pie-in-the-sky electric MoonPie, all aglow on New Year's Eve. Photo by Tad Denson

MoonPie aficionados (they are legion) will point out that the MoonPie is more closely related to Chattanooga, Tennessee. That’s where the iconic chocolate-covered-graham-cracker-and-marshmallow sandwich cookie originated in 1917 and where Chattanooga Bakery Inc. continues to produce them at the rate of about a million a day. The bakery teamed with Mobile to create the giant electric MoonPie for dropping during the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

With that cleared up, one  key question remains. Will you wash down your celebratory New Year’s Eve MoonPie with RC Cola or champagne? Either drink goes well with it. Happy 2012!

______________________________

More about MoonPie Over Mobile: www.mobilenewyear.com

More about Mobile: www.mobile.org

More about MoonPie: www.moonpie.com

______________________________

Happy Holidays from the Bakery Boy Blog

Here’s to another great year of baking and bakeries. Thanks for joining me on the journey.                                 — Bakery Boy


Springerle Cookie Molds

Artfully embossed Springerle cookies evoke a sweet nostalgia. 

story & photos by Bakery Boy

Think of them as sweet little woodcarvings that you can eat. Springerle cookies — thick, cake-like, anise-flavored cutouts topped with intricate three-dimensional figures — date from medieval times in southern Germany. Yet you can make these “picture cookies” fresh right now wherever you are. All you need are a handful of molds and a few helpful tips from Connie Meisinger.

Connie Meisinger makes embossed-topped Springerle cookies and sells molds in more than 500 designs.

Connie Meisinger is the queen of Springerle (pronounced SHPRENG-er-luh) and an enthusiastic expert on the subject. Based in Elmhurst, Illinois, just west of Chicago, she owns House on the Hill, Inc., which sells more than 500 different Springerle mold designs. Pressed firmly into rolled-out cookie dough, the molds create embossed images such as birds, flowers, pine cones, fruit, harps, angels, snowmen, stars, baskets, houses, trees, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and more. Rolling pin versions create a variety of images with a single pass over flattened dough.

Springerle pine cone mold and cookies pressed with it.

I met Connie when she taught a Springerle making class at Susan Green’s Birmingham Bake & Cook Company near my home. Connie travels extensively to tell her story, share her recipes, demonstrate her techniques, and promote her line of Springerle molds (for a schedule of appearances visit houseonthehill.net/news-and-events.) She has been on TV shows including NBC Chicago on WMAQ Channel 5, ABC News Saturday Morning on WLS Channel 7, and The Martha Stewart Show on the Hallmark Channel. During presentations she tells her story while rolling dough, dusting molds with flour, pressing shapes into dough, cutting and transferring cookies to baking sheets, baking them and eventually letting everyone try samples.

The molds press intricate images into cookie dough.

House on the Hill offers many nostalgic designs.

Connie became an avid Springerle baker when her aging grandmother was no longer able to make the old-fashioned treats that were eagerly anticipated by her family during the holidays. She scrounged up harder-to-find key ingredients including anise oil and hartshorn (ammonia carbonate today but formerly a preparation made from ground-up deer horns) to go with the more readily available flour, sugar, eggs and butter in grandma Nini’s recipe. She found a few factory-machined molds that didn’t quite satisfy but that eventually led to her current career as a mold designer and distributor. Her extended family, glad to the see the tradition continue, rejoiced at the tasty results and gobbled every cookie she made.

On a lark in 1993 Connie submitted her recipe to the Chicago Tribune’s annual cookie contest. She was named one of several winners and got mentioned in the newspaper. Caroline Kallas, the owner of a little homegrown Springerle mold business called House on the Hill in nearby Lombard, read the article and contacted Connie to invite her to check out the merchandise. “I did, and I was hooked,” Connie says. “I became a frequent customer, collecting as many molds as I could afford. Caroline died in 1999, and three years later my husband and I bought House on the Hill from her husband. We’ve been running it ever since.”

The Showstopper Rolling Pin (top center) presses 25 different images. Photo courtesy of House on the Hill

The molds look like they’re hand carved from solid wood just as they were centuries ago. Modern versions, though still handcrafted, are made from resin and wood composite. Most are replicas of antique carvings, giving them a historic and traditional appearance. “Bakers in guilds back then had to be excellent woodcarvers too, so they could create their own molds,” Connie says. “When a lot of German families immigrated to America in the late 1800s, they couldn’t always bring big things like furniture, but they brought cherished cookie molds made of clay or wood or metal. Many of those heirlooms are in museums and private collections now. Sometimes we’ll borrow an antique mold from a museum and replicate the historic design to add to our selection. We also have a woodcarver create new designs.”

...then lifts the cutout to a baking sheet.

Connie cuts around a pressed angel image...

During her classes Connie offers interesting tidbits and helpful hints. Traditional Springerle cookies are flavored with anise, she notes, but she also uses orange, lemon and almond and is experimenting with a cherry-almond combination. It’s best to make them after the first freeze, she says, when humidity is low and the dough stays dry so it doesn’t stick in the molds. She says symbols play a big part in Springerle designs, ranging from pomegranates (once given as wedding gifts because their many seeds represented fertility) to depictions of great cathedrals (created as souvenirs for travelers who visited renowned religious sites).

The molds look like carved wood but are made of resin and wood composite.

By the time her class ended and I was nibbling a one of the pretty little white works of edible art, I could hardly wait to get home and try a batch of my own. If you’re interesting in making Springerle cookies and need some molds to get started, order some from the House on the Hill website, which has pictures of each design.

I recently learned that in German the word Springerle means “jumper” as in a jumping horse. I wonder if the unique style of cookie got that name because jumping horses were once depicted on them. Or because pulverized deer horn (deer jump too, right?) was once a key ingredient. Or because the dough “springs” out of the deeply carved molds or “springs” up as it bakes. I also read an account of how medieval Yule festivals among pagan Germanic tribes involved animal sacrifices in hopes of appeasing the gods into sending a mild winter, and that poor people who couldn’t afford to kill their livestock instead created token sacrifices in the form of animal-shaped breads or cookies.

I don’t know the definitive answer, if there is one, but I plan to ask Connie about it the next time she comes to town to teach her Springerle baking class. Meanwhile, I’ll just enjoy some cookies and hope you do too.

______________________________

House on the Hill, Inc.

650 West Grand Avenue, Unit 110, Elmhurst, IL 60126

630-279-4455 or toll free (in the U.S.) 877-279-4455

email support@houseonthehill.net

See a catalog of Springerle molds and order online at houseonthehill.net

Find out where Connie Meisinger will be demonstrating Springerle techniques by visiting houseonthehill.net/news-and-events

Pristine white Springerle cookies might look too pretty to eat, but go ahead!

Santa Bread

Put a little Dough! Dough! Dough! in your Ho! Ho! Ho!

by Bakery Boy

This Santa Bread photo came to me from Joan, a loyal subscriber to the Bakery Boy Blog and a friend and neighbor of my sister in Virginia. Joan works at a physical rehabilitation center and says a thoughtful patient presented this homemade flaxseed Santa Bread to the staff as a token of her appreciation.

I’m glad Joan took a minute to snap this picture before she and her coworkers tore into their holiday treat. Seeing it reminded me of various shapes my father made out of bread at the Dutchess Bakery where I grew up in Charleston, West Virginia. He’d make Santa heads, reindeer, Christmas trees sleighs and more, all out of creatively shaped bread dough.

For some reason I’ve never figured out — since we didn’t live in alligator country — my Pop made alligator bread complete with scissor-sniped spikes running along the backs and tails and with mouths propped wide open through a clever arrangement of folded cardboard during proofing and baking. Maybe he just made them because he could and because it was fun, which would be reasons enough. I made some recently just to see if I could remember how. They turned out well and kindled a fond memory, just like Joan’s Santa Bread photo did.

For a couple of years while I worked as a baker at Le Panier Very French Bakery in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, I made elaborate holiday stars out of braided bread. Some were nearly a yard a wide, great for dangling in the shop’s windows as bakery-themed decorations. Others were about the size of a regular loaf, used as table centerpieces for parties. The smallest would fit in the palm of your hand and served as Christmas tree ornaments.

Good times. I’ve also seen bread shape like a cable car and a sea lion in San Francisco, bread shaped like a cactus and a fish and a donkey-pulled cart in Albuquerque, and bread shaped like a lobster in Maine. Someday I should write an article all about bread shaped to look like something other than bread.

There’s no recipe or how-to lesson with today’s post. You can find plenty of those just by entering Santa Bread into any search engine. TasteOfHome.com has a nice version and so does MarthaStewart.com, to name just two.

Or you could just take your favorite bread dough recipe and wing it, using your imagination and maybe a little well-placed food coloring to devise your own version of Santa Bread. Maybe it’ll turn out great or maybe it’ll be an absurd mess, but either way you’ll have a little fun and create a new holiday memory.

Whatever interestingly shaped bread you make please snap a picture and send me a copy (find my email link at bottom right). I’d like to put together a slide show of the best and the worst — as well as the funny, the odd, the what’s-that-supposed-to-be? and other gallant efforts — for a blog post to run next year at about this time.

Until then, happy holidays!

BOOK REVIEW Sweet Auburn Desserts by Sonya Jones

Bookjacket photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

When Chef Sonya Jones told me she had a baked-goods book coming out, I knew it would belong in my kitchen library.

by Bakery Boy

Sweet Auburn Bread Company is a tiny bakeshop in downtown Atlanta. There’s barely enough room for more than a few customers at a time in front of the bakery’s showcases and less room behind for owner Sonya Jones to maneuver among her ovens, mixers, refrigerator, workbench and sink. These limitations don’t stop regulars from crowding in, and they sure don’t keep Sonya from turning out an incredible volume and variety of scrumptious baked goods.

The last time I dropped in to eat some of the Sweet Potato Cheesecake she’s best known for and to box up some Sweet Potato & Molasses Muffins to bring home (see earlier post), Sonya told me she had a cookbook in the works. “It’s been in the works for a looong time,” she said with a hopeful expression that suggested she thought it was finally going to happen.

Well it did, and it was worth the wait. Sweet Auburn Desserts (from Pelican Publishing Company, $24.95) appeared in September. As expected it’s filled with recipes I wanted to try right away, starting with the gorgeous — and surprisingly easy-to-make — Strawberry Jam Stack Cake pictured on the cover.

Subtitled “Atlanta’s Little Bakery That Could,” the book includes a generous 108 recipes grouped in chapters for pies; poundcakes; stack cakes & jelly rolls; puddings & cobblers; cheesecakes & layer cakes; cookies, muffins & quick breads; and jams, jellies, butters & sauces.

Among those I’ve already made or will soon make are her Coconut Cream Pie, Brown Sugar Poundcake, Dried Apple Stack Cake, Tart Cherry Cobbler, Naked Hummingbird Muffins (so named because they’re not wearing any cream cheese icing), Cast-iron Skillet Cornbread and a simple Whiskey Butter Sauce she recommends spreading on bread pudding and fruit cobbler.

Sonya and her publisher kindly agreed to let me reprint a few of my favorites from the book here on the Bakery Boy Blog, including the Strawberry Jam Stack Cake, the Sweet Potato Custard Pie, and the Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding (click each to see separate posts).

Chef Sonya Jones with some of her sweet potato goodies at Sweet Auburn Bread Company. Photo by Bakery Boy

The 10th of 11 siblings who grew up in Atlanta but spent time on a family farm in Florida where relatives loved to cook and bake with farm-fresh ingredients, Sonya found early inspiration in the kitchen with her grandmother, mother and aunts. There was almost always cobbler on the countertop, she recalls, and the aroma of something good baking. For decades her mother, who passed away shortly before the book went to press, ran a neighborhood Soul Food café on Atlanta’s south side known as Cat’s Kitchen.

Sonya studied at the Culinary School in Atlanta and the Culinary Institute of America in New York, worked as a pastry chef at upscale restaurants in both of those cities, and taught baking classes at Atlanta Technical College. Even with such formal training, she found her best successes working with simple and unglamorous foodstuffs, particularly the lowly sweet potato. In 1997 she opened Sweet Auburn Bread Company at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market in an area of Atlanta known for its African American heritage and business community, an area that figured prominently in the Civil Rights Movement and is home to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.

Mashed sweet potatoes form the basis for some of Sonya's best-known desserts.

It was through the Curb Market that I met Sonya, not long after then-President Bill Clinton dropped by during a tour to promote economic development and urban revitalization. He ate some of her signature Sweet Potato Cheesecake and declared it “really good,” an endorsement that made business boom. I was a writer and editor for Georgia Living, a regular section within Southern Living magazine, and I’m proud to say that an excerpt from the article I helped put together about Sonya and her bakery landed on the back cover of her book.

Sweet Auburn Bread Company is now located one street over from the Curb Market, with a narrow storefront facing Auburn Avenue in the slowly reviving Sweet Auburn business and historical district. “This was sort of the unofficial center of the African American community back when I was a little girl,” Sonya says, “and I want my bakery to be part of its comeback. I want to share my good fortune, and with my book I want to share my recipes too.”

______________________________

To order a copy of Sweet Auburn Desserts by Sonya Jones, contact Pelican Publishing Company at www.pelicanpub.com or 1-800-843-1724. The list price is $24.95, but ask about a 20 percent discount (which you learned about here on the Bakery Boy Blog!) and drop the price to $19.96.

Sweet Auburn Bread Company is located at 234 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30303; 404-221-1157, www.sweetauburnbread.com.

­­­______________________________

Click here for the Strawberry Jam Stack Cake recipe

.

Click here for the Sweet Potato Custard Pie recipe

.

Click here for the Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding recipe

.

Click here for a profile of Sonya Jones and her Sweet Auburn Bread Company in Atlanta

______________________________