Category Archives: Reviews

Popovers at Jordan Pond House, Acadia National Park, Maine

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Popovers hot from the oven at this historic restaurant are light, airy, fluffy, and oh so good with butter and jam.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

For weeks before going to coastal Maine, I’d been looking forward to eating warm popovers at Jordan Pond House on Mount Desert Island. You might say I’d been looking forward to it for years, ever since I first went there three decades ago and came to appreciate the restaurant’s signature item.

Popovers, for the uninitiated, are uniquely light, airy, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth rolls that, on a bread-and-pastry scale, lie somewhere between egg bread and cream puffs. The key ingredients are eggs, milk, flour and, well, air. (I’ll include a recipe in a separate post). Whatever they are, I always want more, no matter how many I eat.

Jordan Pond House is ground zero in the world of popovers, the place that sets the high mark by which all other popovers are measured.

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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.”

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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.

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Click here for the Strawberry Jam Stack Cake recipe

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Click here for the Sweet Potato Custard Pie recipe

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Click here for the Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding recipe

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

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House Divided Cookbooks Turn Auburn-Alabama Rivalry Into Tasty Tailgate Parties

Dueling cookbooks by a married pair of bakers/cooks with opposing college football loyalties stir up pregame flavors for Dixie’s most fabled rivalry.

by Bakery Boy

Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post about Louisa’s Bakery, co-owned by cookbook authors Missy & Browne Mercer

Browne and Missy Mercer, signing their dueling tailgate-party cookbooks at The Alabama Booksmith in Homewood, AL. Photo by Bakery Boy

In Alabama, the term “house divided” has outlived its reference to the Civil War. For decades it referred to families splitting to side with the Union or the Confederacy. Now it more often refers to households that support opposing football teams—either The University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide or the cross-state rival Auburn University Tigers.

The latest battlefront in this House Divided saga: otherwise happily married bakers/cooks Missy and Browne Mercer. They work together at a trio of businesses they own in Montgomery, two restaurants and a bakery in adjoining buildings. They love their alma maters. And they have written cookbooks, each splashed with their school’s colors on the outside and each packed with 30 school-themed tailgate party recipes inside.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY COOKBOOK by Missy Mercer (Gibbs Smith Publishing, $14.99)

Her book gets Auburn fans charged up for games with Kick ’em in the Butt Big Blue Chili, Sis Boom Bah! Sausage Balls, Rah Rah Rah Corn and Avocado Salsa, Roasted Red Beat-The-Tide Hummus, and Roll Over The Tide Chicken Wings. Aubie’s Heart-of-Dixie Caviar—Aubie is the school’s tiger mascot—involves no fish roe but plenty of peppers, onions, corn, and black-eyed peas. Desserts include The Tiger’s Den Lemon Bars, Tiger Paw Cookies, and Old South White Chocolate Pecan Blondies (see recipe below). Wash it down with swigs of Orange-and-Blue Passion (with vodka, orange juice, ginger ale, and Blue Curaco) or Fourth Quarter Whiskey Slush (with Jack Daniel’s Black Label Whiskey, black tea, lemonade, and orange juice).

THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA COOKBOOK by Browne  Mercer (Gibbs Smith Publishing, $14.99)

His book stokes Alabama fans into game-days frenzies with Bama Bourbon-Glazed Park Tenderloin, Drown ’em Tide Brisket, Rammer Jammer Baked Beans, Rollin’ with the Tide Salsa, Capstone Coleslaw, and Give ’em Hell Alabama Deviled Eggs. He carries the theme forward with Dixie’s Football Pride Potato Salad, Crimson Flame Black-Eyed Peas (cayenne pepper packs a punch), Got Thirteen? Chili (a reference to the football team’s impressive total of 13 national titles), and Roll on to Victory Lemon Pound Cake. The Big Al’s Peanut Butter Bars (see recipe below) are named for Alabama’s raging elephant mascot and symbol.

TRUCE AT HOME?

Missy adds "War Eagle!" to the copies she autographs. Photo by Bakery Boy

So, do these two school-spirited foodies get along, despite all this football-based conflict? Yes, they say. Not only do they live together and work together—jointly running Louisa’s Bakery, Tomatinos Pizza & Bake Shop, and Café Louisa in Montgomery’s historic Old Cloverdale neighborhood—they even do book-signing events together when they promote their dueling cookbooks.

Browne adds "Roll Tide!" to the copies he autographs. Photo by Bakery Boy

People who show up as such signings aren’t always as cordial as the couple. I’ve seen people totally ignore one or the other, even though they’re sitting side by side at a signing table. Some fans will purposely speak only to the one who shares the same team interest while getting books autographed. This rivalry can be that way.

The one thing Missy and Browne don’t do together is to watch the Alabama-Auburn game. “We’ve tried that,” Missy says. “It just gets too stressful. We each love our team too much.”

Here’s one dessert recipe from each book. If you have a dog in this fight, as we sometimes say around here, choose one or the other accordingly. If you’re neutral in this ongoing turf war, feel free to try both.

OLD SOUTH WHITE CHOCOLATE PECAN BLONDIES from Auburn University Cookbook by Missy Mercer

Old South White Chocolate Pecan Blondies. Photo by Zac Williams from Auburn University Cookbook by Missy Mercer. Reprinted with permission from Gibbs Smith.

1 cup butter

1 pound white chocolate, half chunked and half chopped

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pinch salt

2 cups flour

1⁄3 cup pecan pieces

8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line an 11 x 14-inch pan with parchment paper. In a medium bowl over a hot water bath, combine butter with chunks of white chocolate. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add chocolate mixture to egg mixture and stir in flour. When cooled slightly, add chopped white chocolate, pecans, and chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30–40 minutes or until skewer or toothpick comes out clean when tested.

BIG AL’S PEANUT BUTTER BARS from The University of Alabama Cookbook by Browne Mercer

Big Al's Peanut Butter Bars. Photo by Zac Williams from The University of Alabama Cookbook by Browne Mercer. Reprinted with permission from Gibbs Smith.

2 cups flour

1⁄2 cup brown sugar

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup peanut butter

1 egg

1 cup milk chocolate pieces

1 teaspoon butter

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, brown sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add 1⁄4 cup butter, peanut butter, and then egg to make a thick batter. Press 2⁄3 of mixture into bottom of greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Melt chocolate with 1 teaspoon butter and milk in a small saucepan. Pour over peanut butter mixture in the baking pan. Sprinkle the remaining peanut butter mixture over chocolate mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool before cutting into bars.

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Find both books in Alabama bookstores or through Gibbs Smith Publishing of Layton, Utah; 800-835-4993

For more about Missy & Browne’s bakery and two restaurants in Montgomery:

Louisa’s Bakery, 334-356-1212

Tomatinos Pizza & Bake Shop, 334-264-4241

Café Louisa, 334-264-4241

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Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post about Louisa’s Bakery

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Got a bakery-related story idea for the Bakery Boy Blog? Email a note to Bakery.Boy@att.net.

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Cherry Picking Time at Levering Orchard in Ararat, Virginia

It’s cherry-picking time in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, a great time to drop in at Levering Orchard. The baked goods you’ll make with the cherries you don’t eat during the drive home will be fantastic.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

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More than 150 tall wooden ladders let pickers reach cherries at Levering Orchard.

The first time I met Levering Orchard owner Frank Levering, he spoke eloquently about ladders.

“I love ladders,” he mused, a muddy boot perched on a low rung and a weathered hand gripping a little higher on one of the more than 150 tall wooden ladders he uses to reach fruit at his popular you-pick operation in western Virginia. “I guess any worker gets attached to the tools of his trade. I take good care of the ladders and they take good care of me. Ladders are like bridges between the ground and the sky. They’re physical links between me and the fruit.”

Frank has a special affinity for ladders.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that Frank, who grew up in this scenic orchard just off the Blue Ridge Parkway where his parents and grandparents before him also tended the fruit as far back as 1908, is a poet and writer as well. As a younger man he took screenplay-writing ambitions to Hollywood and met moderate success. Even now that he’s been back home for nearly three decades and is well ensconced as an orchardist, he sometimes writes plays during the winter off-season and in late summer produces shows at a little outdoor stage on the steeply sloped property.

I filled these buckets in about a half hour.

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National Cornbread Festival, South Pittsburg, TN

Cornbread is king in this Tennessee town known for producing cast-iron cookware that’s perfect for baking cornbread.

by Bakery Boy

My skillet, made by Lodge Cast Iron in the 1950s, still serves my needs just fine. Photo by Bakery Boy

Ah, cornbread. If ever there was a staple food with as many uses as there are cultures using it, it’s cornbread.

Maize-growing Native Americans ate versions of cornbread long before Europeans reached the hemisphere. All across the South it goes naturally with barbecue and chili. Cowboys in the West pair it with pinto beans and ham hocks. In the Southwest adding jalapeño peppers creates a hot Hispanic edge. It’s a cornerstone of African American “soul” food. Whether doused with butter or honey or molasses, specked with diced onions or bacon bits or cheese, thinned with whole-wheat flour or fluffed up with eggs, cornbread is a crowd-pleaser in all its many forms. It can be deep-fried into hushpuppies, stewed into a pudding popular in colder climes, boiled into Italian-accented polenta, or molded around hot dogs on sticks to become county-fair-standard corndogs.

But the absolute best way to make cornbread is to bake it in a cast-iron skillet. And one of the best ways to experience that is to attend the National Cornbread Festival held at the end of April in the only place in the United States that still produced cast iron cookware: South Pittsburg, Tennessee, the home of Lodge Cast Iron and its perfect-for-cornbread cast-iron pans.

ALL ABOUT CORNBREAD

Young Danny's cooking skills earned him a blue ribbon. Photo courtesy of the National Cornbread Festival.

On April 30th and May 1st somewhere around 50,000 people will pour into South Pittsburg, a population 3,300 town 25 miles west of Chattanooga, for the 15th annual National Cornbread Festival (admission: $5 per day). They’ll all have one thing on their minds—cornbread.

South Pittsburg, which also dubs itself the “Tidiest Town in Tennessee”—community volunteers do clean the place up really well after such events—overflows with cornbread-themed everything during the festival. Bakers and cooks compete in a National Cornbread Cook-off sponsored by Martha White, Lodge Cast Iron, and FiveStar Range (top prize: $5,000). Entries range from the most basic recipes to attention-getting innovations such as adding smoked Gouda, sundried tomatoes, strawberry yogurt, sliced apples, peanut butter, hot dog chunks, M&M candies, or other ingredients.

Wholesome entertainment highlights this small-town event. Photo courtesy of the National Cornbread Festival.

At a series of tables on a downtown lane renamed Cornbread Alley for the occasion, you can taste samples of nine cornbread recipes ranging from “pork puppies” and “chipotle cornbread” to “chicken–and-chive flaps” and “tutti fruity cornbread balls.” Your $2 ticket for the tasting supports the nine local non-profit groups doing the cooking.

Like at any good small-town festival there will be a carnival, a food court, music, artwork, crafts, the awarding of blue ribbons to cook-off winners, the crowning of a Miss National Cornbread Festival beauty queen, and more.

ALL ABOUT CAST IRON

Sturdy Dutch Ovens are great for baking and cooking over campfires. Photo courtesy of Lodge Cast Iron.

Lodge Manufacturing Company has been making cast-iron skillets, griddles, and Dutch ovens in South Pittsburg for 115 years, a line that has gradually expanded to include deep fryers, grills, kettles, woks, pizza pans, muffin pans, and more. Naturally the company has a lot to do with putting on the festival, and most of what gets baked or cooked for the occasion gets baked or cooked in cast-iron.

You can see first-hand how Lodge Cast Iron is made during half-hour tours through the foundry on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. during the festival. There’s also a well-produced 11-minute video about the process on the company’s website. Click the “How Lodge Is Made” button on the www.lodgemfg.com home page to see how raw pig iron and recycled scrap metal—moved around by giant magnetic cranes and heated to an impurities-removing molten state in a 2000-degree furnace—becomes some of the highest-quality cast-iron cookware in the world.

Even if you miss the Cornbread Festival, you can still find Lodge cookware anytime at Lodge Factory Stores located in…

• South Pittsburg, Tennessee (504 South Cedar Avenue; 423-837-5919)

• Sevierville, Tennessee (105 Knife Works Lane; 865-429-1713)

• Commerce, Georgia (165 Pottery Factory Drive; 706-335-4875)

• Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (100 Legends Drive; 843-236-7849)

SING IT WITH A TWANG

Tennessee is known for music, so Tennessee-based Lodge Cast Iron designed a guitar-shaped skillet good for making cornbread, biscuits, scones, and more. See other cast-iron options at the online catalog at http://www.lodgemfg.com.

A country music song, the kind that gets stuck in your  head, accompanies a slide show on the National Cornbread Festival website. Among lyrics about pinto beans, cornbread, clowns, car shows, fun-runs, concerts, and the cook-off—delivered with deadpan honesty by local baritone singer and songwriter Neil Bennett—is this refrain that’s been repeating in my mind for days now:

The last weekend in April / There’s just one place to be / The National Cornbread Festival in / South Pittsburg Tennessee

See you there!

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National Cornbread Festival

April 30–May 1, 2011

Festival details: www.nationalcornbread.com

Lodge Cast Iron details: www.lodgemfg.com

South Pittsburg details: www.southpittsburg.com

For more about traveling in Tennessee: www.tnvacation.com

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Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post with sample recipes from the National Cornbread Cook-off.

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BOOK REVIEW Scandinavian Classic Baking by Pat Sinclair

These Nordic recipes rooted in Scandinavia remind me of my own winters in Minnesota, where the author developed them.

reviewed by Bakery Boy

I’ve long had a warm place in my heart for Minnesota. It might have been my only warm part during the long cold winters I spent visiting my sister there and getting involved in Great Frozen North activities such as ice fishing, cross country skiing, sled dog racing, pond hockey, and trying to keep my car—a native Southerner like myself—in running condition.

Author Pat Sinclair

Those Nordic experiences are partly why I’m drawn to Pat Sinclair’s book, Scandinavian Classic Baking (from Pelican Publishing Company, $16.95). Based in Edina, Minnesota, this author, food consultant, and recipe developer’s baked goods remind me of coming indoors from arctic winter weather, being pleasantly surprised to find something delicious baking in the oven, and looking forward to that first still-steaming bite.

Given the Upper Midwest’s abundance of Scandinavian descendants—all of them more accustomed to extreme cold that I am—those goodies fresh from the oven usually reflected the cuisines of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. The aromas of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange peels dominate baking days, often accented by the yeasty smell of rising breads, by colorful tarts loaded with berries, and by pastries bristling with nuts.

Scandinavian Apricot Almond Bars. See the recipe in a separate post. Photo by Joel Butkowski.

At first the names of some of the recipes threw me. But under Pat’s guidance I soon learned that aebleskiver means pancake balls, fattigman is poor man’s cake, and pepparkakor translates to spicy cookies. Also, lefse is a sort of sweetened and fried potato crepe served with butter and sugar, toscakake involves a top layer of sliced almonds covered with buttery caramel, and sandbakkels are butter cookies whose dough gets pressed into fluted tins before being baked and are later filled with whipped cream, jam, lemon curd, or chocolate ganache.

Pat got my attention with 42 recipes ranging from coffee breads (especially the Danish Almond Tea Ring shown on the cover), cakes (the Norwegian Toscakake stands out), cookies (I tried the Scandinavian Apricot Almond Bars recipe first and it won’t be the last time I make them), tarts (from blueberry to rhubarb), and pastries (such as Swedish Kringle made from a paste similar to that used in making éclairs).

Photographer Joel Butkowski

Stunning food photography by a fellow Minnesotan Joel Butkowski, whose shots illustrate every recipe, kept me focused and occasionally salivating. (See Joel’s work at www.MinnesotaFoodPhotographer.com.)

An intriguing addition to the format is Pat’s sprinkling of sidebar-style vignettes that elaborate, like a travelogue, on Scandinavian culture, traditions, celebrations, foods, and popular destinations. One brief entry explains the importance of cardamom, a member of the ginger family, in Scandinavian baking and recommends splitting the pods and grinding the seeds with a mortar and pestle right before use in order to release fragrant oils for the most flavorful results. Another encapsulates 700 years of Viking shipbuilding and exploration starting in the 5th Century.

Finnish Browned Butter Teaspoon Cookies. See the recipe in a separate post. Photo by Joel Butkowski.

Still more of these side notes expound upon reindeer, the candle-filled Feast of St. Lucia, the joy of eating Shrove Tuesday Buns the day before the Lent starts, the Land of the Midnight Sun effect north of the Arctic Circle (lots of daylight in summer but long dark winters too), Norway’s fjords and 11th-century Stave Church construction, Denmark’s ornate Amalienborg Palace and famous Tivoli Gardens, Sweden’s ancient city streets and modern architecture, Finland’s saunas, and more.

So besides offering goodies to bake and eat, Scandinavian Classic Baking provides quick lessons in foreign culture too.

Once I tried baking a few of these recipes, the at-first strange terms quickly became familiar, joining the lexicon and the baking rotation at my house. Tonight, with spring coming on strong here in Alabama and with what most likely will be the last snowstorm of the season blowing across the northern tier states, I think I’ll bake Meringue with Peaches and Raspberries, the book’s most summery recipe. I remember bone-chilling Minnesota winters vividly, but a summer dessert like this seems just the thing to serve as a farewell to the cold and a harbinger of warmer days ahead.

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Find Scandinavian Classic Baking in bookstores or order it from Pelican Publishing Company of Gretna, LA; 504-368-1175 or www.pelicanpub.com.

See author, food consultant, and recipe developer Pat Sinclair’s blog at PatCooksandBakes.blogspot.com.

Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post with a recipe for Scandinavian Apricot Almond Bars from Pat Sinclair’s Scandinavian Classic Baking.

Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post with a recipe for Finnish Browned Butter Teaspoon Cookies from Pat Sinclair’s Scandinavian Classic Baking.

Click here to see a brief video of Pat Sinclair demonstrating her Finnish Brown Butter Teaspoon Cookies recipe during an appearance on Minneapolis-St. Paul television station KARE-11.

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Cupcake Cuties, Pasadena, CA

In cupcake couture, looks count. Theresa Deliberto finds winning looks with Cupcake Cuties, her themed kits for dressing up any cupcakes.

by Bakery Boy

There’s a cupcake under all that.

It started with turned heads, double takes, and comments like “Oh, how cute” and “They’re almost too pretty to eat.” As anyone who brings treats to share at parties will tell you, those are welcome reactions. Theresa Deliberto saw those kinds of positive responses to the cupcakes a friend dressed up with festive paper wrappers—to make them look like, say, red-striped movie popcorn boxes sprouting tiny marshmallows as faux popcorn—and was inspired to launch Cupcake Cuties.

Theresa Deliberto in her home kitchen.

The Pasadena, California, resident—herself a veteran of many cupcake-making sessions with her two children—oversees a growing line of Cupcake Cuties decorating kits (32 designs and counting). The business, at just over a year old, has expanded from her home to a nearby warehouse, introduced the kits at retail shops, and created buzz at trade shows in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago. All while garnering appreciative oohs and aahs for the attention-getting products.

OH, HOW CUTE

Each Cupcake Cuties kit comes with 24 self-adhesive paper sleeves to wrap around cupcakes, plus toppings appropriate to a chosen theme. Actual cupcakes and frosting are not included. Whether you bake your own, pick some up at a supermarket, or ask a cooperative neighborhood bakery to put cupcakes and a kit together for you, the end result is a visual treat. Either way, you don’t have to be an accomplished pastry chef to pull it off.

“The quirkier themes sell best,” Theresa says. “Cupcakes made to look like fireworks with a flag and streamers on top (great for the Fourth of July) or hamburgers (when you’re cooking out) or little boxes of movie popcorn (for movie-themed parties) are popular.”

Holiday themes sell well seasonally: Santa heads for Christmas, champagne bottles for New Year’s, hearts for Valentine’s, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter baskets for Easter, jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, and more. Others suit special interests such as baseball, football, and basketball, or evergreen subjects like weddings (topped by matching rings), birthdays (confetti and candles), baby showers (tiny strollers), a jungle theme (toy lions and gorillas), and sushi (I’m fairly sure those are gummy candies standing in for seafood and coconut flakes simulating rice).

“Part of the fun is finding materials to fit each theme,” Theresa says. “That’s shoe-string licorice for edible hair on the baby-face cupcakes. The ‘olives’ in the martini-glass theme are disguised chocolate-covered almonds.”

The kits sell for $16.95, $19.95, or $23.99 each, depending on how involved the decorations. A Cupcake Cutie of the Month Club promises regular deliveries.

SIMPLE & EASY

So far nobody has accidentally baked the decorative wrappers and toppings. “The instructions are very clear,” Theresa says. “You bake or buy the cupcakes first, then use these kits to decorate. Some people measure and tape the wrappers first and then plop a cupcake down into each. Others wrap the paper around the cupcakes and apply the tape. Either way works. Not much can go wrong.”

Cupcake Cuties isn’t Theresa’s first commercial venture. She was in the printing business for many years and helped launch and run a senior care services company known as Just Like Family Care. “In those businesses, I learned to surround myself with a good team and incredible friends,” she says. “That philosophy has worked well for Cupcake Cuties too.”

Inspiration for this enterprise is rooted in motherhood. “Making these with my son and daughter was a fun family project we could do together,” she says. “They’re teenagers now and help with every aspect—creating new designs, setting up photo shoots, helping with packaging and marketing, and doing whatever else needs to be done.”

Turns out plenty of busy people appreciate quick-and-easy Cupcake Cuties. “I’ve always been a working mom. With this I just connected the dots and found a niche to fill. These kits simplify the process and get a good reaction.”

CUTIES FOR THE CURE

Theresa supports the breast cancer fighting organization Susan G. Komen for the Cure by partnering with its Komen Los Angeles County affiliate for all kinds of events, including an annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. “Five percent of proceeds from the sale of Cuties for the Cure, a design we make plenty of, goes to the organization,” she says. “My mom is a breast cancer survivor, I lost a good friend to the disease, and I know at least 30 people battling it, so it was the first organization I thought to support with this new business.”

WHERE TO FIND

Cupcake Cuties are available via mail order from www.cupcakecuties.com. Early ventures into retail stores include:

A Store for Cooks, Laguna Niguel, CA (near Los Angeles), www.astoreforcooks.com

B. Candy, Costa Mesa, CA (near Los Angeles), www.bcandy.com

Carmody & Company, Pasadena, CA (near Los Angeles), www.carmodynco.com

Cookin Stuff, Torrance, CA (near Los Angeles), www.cookinstsuff.com

The Copper Pig, Dunwoody, GA (near Atlanta), www.thecopperpig.com

Gabby’s Gifts, Galena, IL (near Dubuque, Iowa), www.gotitatgabbys.com

Lets Get Cookin, Westlake Village, CA (near Los Angeles), www.letsgetcookin.com

Lulu’s on Main, Morton, IL (near Peoria), www.gottalovelulus.com

M2 Boutique, Chicago, IL, www.mboutiquechicago.com

My Sister Kate, Hinsdale, IL (near Chicago), www.mysisterkate.com

Pink Ribbon Shop, Porter, TX (near Houston), www.pinkribbonshop.com

Theresa recently showcased her creations at the Chicago Merchandise Mart (sharing display space with Patti White & Co.); the Dallas Market Center (sharing space with J. Brandes, Inc.); and the L.A. Mart Gift & Home Market in Los Angeles (sharing space with Kitchen Concepts. “We made a lot of new connections at those big shows and expect a lot more stores will be wanting to stock these kits soon,” Theresa says.

STILL FUN?

“People ask me all the time if I have fun doing this,” Theresa says. “Like any business, it’s hard work and sometimes you get overwhelmed by day-to-day details, but yes, I’m having a great time.”

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CUPCAKE CUTIES

North Hollywood, CA 91605

www.cupcakecuties.com / info@cupcakecuties.com

877-622-8843 or 626-793-6997 Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-5 p.m. PST

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Click here to see a video of Theresa Deliberto demonstrating her Cupcake Cuties on Good Day LA, the morning show on KTTV Fox 11

Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert

The down-home baker known simply as “Sister,” whose irresistible yeast rolls are legendary in the South, shares recipes and her inspiring story in her cookbook, Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters.

by Bakery Boy

I’ve been eating Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls for many years and for several reasons:

• Because they consistently taste terrific, from buttery to sweet to savory ends of the brown-and-serve spectrum.

• Because they’re as easy as picking up pans from the grocer’s freezer case and popping them in the oven for 20 minutes.

• Because Sister Schubert, a fine southern lady from the heart of Alabama, supports worthy charities through a foundation she created when her bread business grew from a home kitchen project into a nationwide juggernaut.

• And because I met her recently at a book signing and learned first-hand that she’s genuine “good people,” as we say down south without fretting the grammar.

THERE’S A BOOK? That there even was a book signing to attend, and thus a book, set off bells in my bakery-obsessed mind. I thought, if Sister Schubert has a cookbook out, I can make my own Parker House rolls, cinnamon rolls, buttermilk biscuits, orange rolls, and sausage wrap rolls, just like hers.

I got a copy of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters—Recipes for Success, Cooking & Living, and sure enough recipes for some if not all my favorite Sister rolls are included, plus many more unrelated to her frozen-rolls empire. I baked several items before going to meet her, glad to add new recipes and techniques to my personal arsenal.

Even with her book in hand, I will continue picking up store-bought Sister Schubert pans. Partly because making any kind of bread at home is very time consuming. Partly because it’s just too easy, at the supermarket, to grab those green-striped packages with Sister’s smiling face on them and know that at least that part of tonight’s dinner is taken care of.

Everlasting Rolls based on her grandmother's launched Sister Schubert's empire.

SHE’S GOOD PEOPLE Patricia Schubert Barnes of Andalusia, Alabama—dubbed “Sister” as a child by a sibling—ranks as a food celebrity in her home state. Locally the story is well known about how she started baking Parker House-style rolls the way her grandmother, known as “Gommey,” taught her, first for family, then for church fundraisers where they were an instant sensation, and soon for the world.

“I went from baking in my kitchen with a little Sunbeam mixer, to expanding onto my sun porch, to taking over 1,000 square feet in a furniture warehouse my father owned, to renting a 25,000-square-foot building, to moving into a 100,000-square-foot building in just a few short years,” Sister says of the business she launched in 1986.

“At first I took a few pans with stick-on labels to a little curb market in Troy and small grocery stores in south Alabama, asking them to sell my rolls. Now they’re sold all across the country and we’re making them by the millions every day at three locations. Two are close to home, in Luverne and Saraland, Alabama. The other is in Horse Cave, Kentucky, where we’re putting in what will be the fourth largest oven in America. That’ll make a lot more Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls!”

Most importantly, she adds: “Even though we’ve grown, we’ve stayed true to our roots. Our rolls have the same home-baked quality and taste as my grandmother’s. We use simple, wholesome ingredients like fresh milk, butter and whole eggs—never any preservatives. And every single roll is still placed in the pan by hand.”

Sister Schubert's Focaccia (see recipe elsewhere on the Bakery Boy Blog)

“BRAND AMBASSADOR” Sister sold her company to a larger entity, Lancaster Colony Corporation of Columbus, Ohio, but she and her husband, George, remain involved in running the Sister Schubert division.

“My title now is Founder and Brand Ambassador,” she told me during her book signing at Birmingham Bake & Cook Company. “I do speaking engagements, appear on TV food shows, autograph books at kitchen supply shops and bookstores, and talk about Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls at every opportunity.

“When I’m home I develop new products. We’re getting into sea salt now, taking the gluten out for people allergic to it, switching to unsalted butter from the lightly salted butter we’ve been using, and things like that. It’s exciting, and it’s all going to be delicious.”

THE BOOK Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters, a good holiday gift idea for bakers and cooks, shares some of Sister Schubert’s best recipes. Her grandmother’s basic Everlasting Rolls (the Parker House rolls that started it all) come first, followed by variations with cheddar cheese, sausage, orange, or cinnamon.

She veers into non-baked items such as with smoked salmon crepes, cheesy shrimp and grits, artichoke crab dip, and chicken and sausage gumbo. But she quickly returns to her popular takes on cornbread, muffins, biscuits, scones, focaccia, challah, hot cross buns, something called tipsy eggnog bread, three kinds of pound cake, and more.

Find two excellent recipes—for corn muffins and focaccia—at two related posts here on the Bakery Boy Blog.

Sister Schubert's Country Corn Muffins (see recipe elsewhere on the Bakery Boy Blog)

Besides recipes and beautiful pictures, the book also shares Sister’s outlook on life, faith, family, and community. Bible quotes appear, from a favorite psalm (“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer”) to a verse from Corinthians (“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”).

Even the book’s title has biblical roots in Ecclesiastes: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.”

THE FOUNDATION A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters goes to the Barnes Family Foundation, a charitable organization founded in 2001 by Sister and George. Its missions include:

• Feeding the hungry by funding food banks and shelters

• Sending college students to learn about other cultures through the Sister Schubert’s Annual Scholarship for Study Abroad operated by Auburn University School of Human Sciences

• Funding an orphanage called Sasha’s Home in the Ukraine (where the Barnes’s adopted their son Alexsey, or “Sasha” for short)

The foundation’s mission, Sister says, is “To show by what we do—that we are thankful for food in a hungry world, that we are thankful for friendship in a lonely world, but mostly, that we are thankful for the opportunity to help save and love all of God’s children in the world.”

Amen to that! And please pass the dinner rolls!

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Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls: 100 Crenshaw Parkway, P.O. Drawer 112, Luverne, AL 36049; www.sisterschuberts.com; 334-335-2232

To order a copy of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert (© 2009 CECA Enterprises LLC; $40), visit castyourbreaduponthewaters.com. Sister Schubert provided a copy for this review.

For more about the Barnes Family Foundation, to which a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters goes, visit www.barnesfamilyfoundation.org.

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Two recipes from Sister Schubert’s book appear on the Bakery Boy Blog.

Country Corn Muffins

Click here for the Country Corn Muffins recipe

Focaccia

Click here for the Focaccia recipe

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RECIPE Focaccia from Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert

Click here to see a separate post about Sister Schubert and her cookbook.

Sister Schubert, aka Patricia Schubert Barnes, wrote Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters—Recipes for Success, Cooking & Living to share her popular recipes and to tell her family’s story. Here is her recipe for making focaccia, a type of bread that dates back to ancient Roman times.

Sister Schubert's Focaccia

Sister says: “This venerable bread deserves an introduction: In ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flat bread baked in the ashes of the fireplace in the center of the home. It was then, and is now, a savory bread with many uses. Focaccia is a great snack, a versatile appetizer and a good companion to many meals. Say “foe-cah-cha” and stand by for the compliments!”

Focaccia

¾ cup war water (110°F)

1 tablespoon sugar

1½ teaspoon dry active yeast

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

Olive oil

Ideas for toppings: Coarse sea salt, fresh rosemary, freshly cracked black pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced red or yellow onion, sliced rip olives, grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Combine water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl; set aside for 10 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Combine 2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon sea salt in large bowl of mixer fitted with dough hook. Add yeast mixture and mix on medium-low speed for 5 minutes. Add remaining flour and continue mixing to form a very soft dough. Dough should hold together; if dough is too sticky, add a few tablespoons of flour and mix until consistency is correct.

Place dough in a well-oiled bowl; turn to coat top. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place (85°F), free from drafts, for 1½ hours or until doubled in bulk. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 10 x 15-inch rimmed baking pan. Transfer dough to the pan and gently stretch to cover the bottom of the pan. Dough may need to rest for a moment or two during this process. Try not to tear the dough.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cover dough loosely with a damp tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove towel and drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over surface of dough. Using your fingertips, indent the surface of the focaccia and add your choice of toppings, gently pressing them into the indentations.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until focaccia is golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Brush with additional olive oil if desired.

Yield: One 10 x 15-inch focaccia

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From Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert (© 2009 by CECA Enterprises LLC, $40). Excerpted with permission. Sister Schubert provided a copy for review.

For more about Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls or to order a copy of the book, contact Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls, 100 Crenshaw Parkway, P.O. Drawer 112, Luverne, AL 36049; www.sisterschuberts.com; 334-335-2232

Click here to see a separate post about Sister Schubert and her cookbook.

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RECIPE Country Corn Muffins from Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert

Click here to see a separate post about Sister Schubert and her cookbook.

Sister Schubert, aka Patricia Schubert Barnes, wrote Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters—Recipes for Success, Cooking & Living to share her popular recipes and to tell her family’s story. Here is her traditional Country Corn Muffin recipe, which will put your cast-iron muffin pan (or a regular pan if you don’t have cast-iron) to good use. Sister even includes helpful tidbits from her grandmother, known affectionately as Gommey.

Sister Schubert's Country Corn Muffins

Sister says: “Gommey called this type of cornbread ‘egg bread’ since the original corn cake was simply made of cornmeal and water, fried in a skillet. It would have been scandalous in many Southern kitchens to add flour to cornbread! Remember to fill any empty muffin cups half full of water before baking to distribute the heat evenly and prevent over-browning.”

Country Corn Muffins

1¼ cups plain cornmeal

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

¼ cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Grease a cast-iron muffin pan.*

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine eggs, milk, and oil; add to cornmeal mixture, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened.

If using a cast-iron muffin pan, place well-greased pan into the oven for 5 minutes or until grease sizzles. Spoon batter into hot pans, filling muffin cups two-thirds full.

* For regular muffin pans, spoon batter into greased pans, filling two-thirds full.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until muffins are golden brown. Remove from pans immediately.

Yield: 1 dozen

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From Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert (© 2009 by CECA Enterprises LLC, $40). Excerpted with permission. Sister Schubert provided a copy for review.

For more about Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls or to order a copy of the book, contact Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls, 100 Crenshaw Parkway, P.O. Drawer 112, Luverne, AL 36049; www.sisterschuberts.com; 334-335-2232.

Click here to see a separate post about Sister Schubert and her cookbook.

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