Archive for December, 2009

A Poem for You

December 14, 2009

It is late Sunday evening and has been snowing now for a few hours, sound is muffled by the enrobe-ment. I’ve put up a few Christmas lights and turned off the rest. I love this kind of darkness. Here’s that poem I wrote for you….


The Christmas Danish

Start with the dough, a croissant style dough

with the elongated ahhh and silent n and t.

The butter has been saved, frozen

last summer when the fat curds tumbled

out sweet and pale from July grasses

the soft-eyed Jersey crunched, on one

of her very best days.


And the flour, some whole grain pastry grown by

a farmer whose wife still uses the bread drawer

in their nineteenth century kitchen, and who

often mills his own just to let it run through his fingers,

the waft of Columbia River minerals rising, the taste

of an ancient craft licked off palm, eager to provide

the crisp, buttery firmament.


Almonds, wicked jewels of tongue, grown far away

from here, in a stillness just over the hills from

where Abraham came to his senses, prayerful

for reconciliation between intuition and grace.

Pounded, sugared, they become the perfume

that draws us close to the ovens heat.


And, long before those apricots were ever tenderly laid

in baskets, mashed and cooked to jam, to then be spread

thick over almonds and the rest, there was one day

in April when, standing on a tall ladder surrounded by

the heady sweetness and bees, pruning the branches

to let all the sunlight in, I gathered handfuls of fragrance

into a jar, so that today, in the kitchen my heart is open.

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The Last Croquembouche….Probably

December 13, 2009

The Croquembouche Project

December 12, 2009

Well this week has been thrilling in the Culinary Arts room, or perhaps it could be called the Croquembouche Factory. Yesterday all but 4 students of a total of 32 have finished their tower of chocolate drenched cream puffs, filled with whipped cream…..with variation on the traditional shape. We had some cream puff bowls filled with whipped cream, some bumps, some logs. The fondant project went from leaves and holly berries to sharks, skate boarding figures, huge roses, the grinch, penguins, bears, soccer balls, doves, and a purple snake.

This is a great project providing practice in very specific recipe following, speed, and creativity. Some parts of the plan I insist they follow, some parts I ask them to imagine their favorite animals, colors, something about their life that they might reveal to the world.

The speed part is always troublesome for me…..we only have 55 minutes each day. One for fondant work, or maybe a bit more the next day when we make the pate choux and squeeze the little puppies out. I usually finish up the baking….and who tell me, who teaches their children to finish dishes and dry them, put them away? None from what I can tell. Sorry guys but you are falling down on some simple skills. And who knows about scrubbing the sink out once in a while so that killer bacteria doesn’t crawl up the sides and attack an unsuspecting teenager in a really bad movie? OK, this is about creativity and the holiday spirit……I enjoy the thought of all these beautiful-in-their-own-way Croquembouches , puffs filled, assembled, decorated on the third day…..going out into the world to parents, if  they get that far, or eaten on the bus on the way home despite the no-eating rules set by the Transportation Manager.

All this from butter, eggs, flour, cream, and some sugar and chocolate. What could possibly be more thrilling than pastry work during the holidays I ask?

Christmas Cookies……The Sprinkles Overload Lesson

December 6, 2009

For the last couple of years I have been purchasing my sprinkles for cookies from Market Spice in the Pike Place Market. They have the large size and a wonderful range of colors. And the retail price is very good. I usually get about $80 worth for all the events we make cookies for. I like to buy things from India Tree but they have a big minimum price for shipping. I used their decorative beads, sugars and snow flakes, etc. when I owned my own bakery. I miss making the star cookies with pale blue icing and big white crystals….Or the angels with pale yellow and blue.

Last night was the Tree Lighting ceremony in LaConner. I couldn’t be there because of a prior commitment to read poems….but the cookies were a big hit with the kids. Here are some of them, just finished and waiting to dry for packing.

Somehow that little teddy bear cookie seems appropriate, slightly out of focus as though reeling from too much sugar, not sure what the decorator’s intent was with that last big button of red. We had fun and you can tell. And at this point in the semester we are looking for fun. Just wait for the Croquembouches coming next week. WoooHoooo!

Culinary Arts Cookie Decorating for the Community Tree Lighting December 5

December 4, 2009

Once again we are baking and decorating sugar cookies for the LaConner Community Tree Lighting on December 5, down at the waterfront park. We have also baked off some Seven Layer Bars, those walnut, coconut, chocolate, butterscotch, drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, gooooey, bars.

Did you know that a can of sweetened condensed milk….that little can, has about 1500 calories? I used to know some serious long distance and time kayakers who packed these in their boats and put it in their coffee and on graham crackers to keep up their energy on long trips.

My favorite place to purchase holiday sprinkles is the Market Spice store in the Pike Place Market. They have great big sprinkles in great colors. Of course, once there it is just a few steps to Delaurenti’s and the cheese counter…….oh for a slice of delice de Bourgoyne or a 3 year old pecorino.

So, perhaps later I will take some pictures of the cookies. Here are the fabulous, community-minded culinary artists at work…..