Thursday Sweets // 08.21.2014

I usually post links for Thursday Sweets to great articles and recipes from around the web. But I also have LOADS of pastries to share with you from the last week. What a week it was! I am so, so lucky to have the best clients there are. I love the creativity and open minds y'all have. Although I've been in this bizz for a really long time (read: 12 years), I've only recently, in the past year, been making a huge push with Goldenrod. I've been blown away by your support and, lemme say - we are definitely just getting started! The love that is being shared through sweets in Lincoln and Omaha is amazing and awesome - and let's keep it going!

To my friends who wonder if I've existed outside of social media lately, I think this post will explain where I've been. The following sweets are listed in no particular order, other than from sweetest and cutest, to sweetest and cutest. 

Below is one of two birthday cakes for a big birthday bash that was last weekend. What I absolutely love about my clients is that they are so good about recommending me to their friends. This was a great example of that. The top cake is vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. The cake below was the second for this party and was chocolate cake with espresso buttercream - with tiny Swiss chocolate bars on top. Of course!

This lemon dream was for a client's sweet grandmother's birthday party. The only requirement was that it be really lemon-y! When I was frosting this cake and lovingly putting on the lemons, I was just so excited. I had to wake up Russell to show it to him (I was working late into the night). I said, "It's for someone's grandma! Do you love it?!?" He can tell when I am pretty proud of myself and really excited and said, "You just love grandmas, don't you?" Literally, I do love grandmas. They are the best. I love my own and love other people's grandmas. Someone made a comment on Instagram about this photo: "Why do all grandmas LOVE lemon??" I think it's because they're so sweet, they need something tart to balance it out.

So, a good friend contacted me a few months ago about making cakes for her dad's retirement party. He had been teaching for 40+ years - technical work to teenagers. Is this guy a saint? She requested I make electrical transistors for the party. I truly don't understand the colors and what they mean, so I decided to make these really fun.

I worked with Candace Kalasky of Lovestru.ck Events on a wedding, too. Working with her is always a dream. The bride and groom wanted a late-night breakfast sweets bar, so we delivered. She had Delice cater croissants and muffins, but I was honored to provide pop-tarts, Liege waffles, and French toast cooked on site.

Below: Nutella pop-tarts with a bittersweet chocolate-almond glaze... and Belgian dark chocolate shavings. And sprinkles. That is all. 

Two of the three loaves of brioche for the French toast that was cooked on site. It is my Polish grandmother's recipe - lots of eggs, butter, milk, and loads of love. I always mix this by hand. I can't trust it with a mixer. You can see a blurry photo of the French toast set-up on Instagram.

Strawberry pop-tarts. Filled with strawberry preserves and fresh slices of strawberries. Topped with a sugary glaze, sprinkles of powdered strawberries. Simply the best. I love how these turned out.

LIEGE WAFFLES. This is not your average waffle. It is a yeasted dough, almost like brioche, that you make over the course of several days. It spends several hours at room temperature to develop a really yeasty, amazing flavor and aroma. You knead in cups and cups of chunky pearl sugar, to the dough's capacity, let it rise, and press the dough into a waffle iron. The sugar on the outside melts and caramelizes, leaving you with a chewy, crunchy, yeasty, sweet piece of heaven. Once people get a taste of these, they never stop craving them. 

My absolute new favorite sweet: vegan coconut cake with a ribbon of pistachio-cardamom streusel, and a coconut-strawberry-rose glaze on top. With salty roasted pistachios. The stuff dreams are made of. Heaven. Pictured along side my mom's amazing peach dumplings. We hosted a bunch of Brits who buy a ton of Nebraska beef (long story, but this has to do with my dad's work) for an annual BBQ last week. My mom made her famous red velvet cake and dumplings. I made vegan cake. For a beef BBQ. 

This cake was just for fun. It was for friends and for my husband. Chocolate cake with slices of banana, peanut butter buttercream, fresh strawberries, Nutella drizzle, and cashew praline. Once Sunday rolled around, NOT being in the kitchen was weird for me. This was a super fun one for me to make. Super relaxing and energizing.


Feeling Carby // Why I Stopped Following Fitstagram Pages

fit ladies.jpg

At some point in the past year, I found Fitstagram Queens on Instagram. At first, I loved being able to see new workouts that people were posting. It helped me switch up my routine at the gym when I was in a rut. There were also some great snack ideas that people posted. Somewhere along the way, though, once I started following more and more of these accounts, I realized that I was just getting ab and booty glamour shots. A lot of it was product-based and all of the posts had about, oh, fifteen hashtags that mostly didn't even relate to their post. But, because we're all desperate to look and feel our best, we find these pages one way or another, and we follow them because, well, we want to attain that "level", whatever it is. For some of us, it's a new diet. For others of us, it's our workout regime. For me, it was both. 

I started lifting weights about a year and a half ago. I saw really amazing results in the first year, but those have sort of petered out. I work A LOT and I really love to socialize and see my husband and family. Prioritizing my workouts is still high on my list of things to do, but getting there right after work, or sacrificing my early morning hours, just really isn't worth it to me right now. I do still work out about four times per week, but I'm not as invested in it as I was. Realizing that is a serious process of acceptance. Exercise is addictive and the results are even more addictive. You look good, you feel even better, and you basically always feel like you're high. IT'S AMAZING. Literally nothing can bring you down. Except not working out as much, that is. 

So, with my adjusted routine and priorities in the past several months, I've been scrolling through Instagram, seeing these babes who lift constantly popping up in my feed. The amount of glamour shots in workout clothes started to decrease, and I started seeing more in "normal/regular" clothes. There were head shots, laying-on-the-beach shots, and everything in between. I was putting myself down for not achieving the same results as the people on Instagram. Which, by the way, writing that sentence is really, really depressing. Can you believe we do this stuff? I realized one day that, you know, my main goals in life are not to be in figure competitions. I have a full-time job+, a family, dogs, friends, and my hobbies - so lifting weights can't really define me / did I ever really want that anyway?? 

I have spent a ton of time at my gym in the past year and a half. I lift a ton heavier than I did even six months ago. For example: a year ago, I was doing 7.5# shoulder presses and I now can use 22.5# dumbbells. That's a lot of weight. I went from having trouble squatting 40#, to doing 140# with little trouble, in about six months. HOWEVER, numbers aside, the visible results with my body are not extreme. I really like to eat cake. I probably eat cake every single day. Or I have an ice cream cone (I had two in one sitting on Monday). That stuff doesn't feel indulgent to me, it's just part of who I am. So, do I have a defined six-pack? HELL. NO. Do I want one? God, I don't know, I guess it would be nice? But giving up the things that make me who I am (read: cake, cookies, ice cream cones) just isn't worth it to me. It would severely reduce the quality of my life.

Our sweet Fitstagram Queens eat tuna, straight from the can, with a fork. I can't roll like that, y'all! Because of the education I've received from the trainers and nutritionists at my gym, I have changed my diet quite a bit. I have cut down on carbs, increased protein, included some pre-workout drinks, etc. I feel like my diet is in a great place. A place that makes me really proud.

Until it comes to the carbs. Reminder that I do not consider cake and ice cream cones as carbs - that's like thinking of shoes as an accessory. They stand alone. I'm talking about homemade bread, non-sprouted grain bread, flour tortillas, etc. I made brioche for a wedding last week for French toast and, man, diving into that stuff was heavenly. I made challah on Monday night and it's rocking my world! I've been enjoying it so much!

I started unfollowing these Fitstagram Queens last week. I think I still follow 3-5 because these few actually post great free workouts and, I feel, don't 100% subscribe to the nastiness I hate. I think my uptick in eating delicious homemade bread and the unfollowings happened about the same time. I feel great and I feel pretty free

Vegan Challah

You may have seen the challah I posted on Instagram (What do you call pastry ladies with Insta pages? Cakestagrams?), and maybe you didn't. It's a Post Punk Kitchen recipe that I altered, so it is vegan. I used mostly the same ingredients as the recipe calls for, but adapted it to be more like how my grandma makes bread.

  • Ditch the water, use all soymilk. It makes a richer dough. 
  • Combine all of the liquid at once. So, the 1-1/2 c soymilk from the first part of the recipe with the 1/3 c soymilk in the second part of the recipe. 
  • Heat all milk, the tumeric, sugar (both the 1/2 c and the 1 Tbsp) together until warm to the touch (a chef in school said "baby's got a fever" temp). Then add in the yeast and let it sit 'til it bubbles. Then add in the bananas, coconut oil, etc. and follow the recipe as it stands!
  • Knead the bread for about five minutes. The strands shouldn't tear apart like in the picture on the PPK site. You want these to be well-formed strands of gluten.
  • I added Maldon salt and sesame seeds to the top of the loaves (I made four with this recipe). 

Life And Business Lessons From My Pastry Kitchen

cherry pies 1

Check out this related article from NPR posted earlier this week.

There are all of the things I learned during my time in professional kitchens and studying at The International Culinary Center. Things that working in the basement of Jean Georges with amazing pastry chefs taught me. Things like: Why would you ever not pick up a tiny piece of trash if it's on the ground? Things like: Why wouldn't you have a pristine work space? Things like: Why would you lean any body weight against your work surface, even if you're exhausted? Things like: Why would you ever work for less than 18 hours at a time?

I abide by those rules, but they aren't what I'm talking about here.

I'm talking about real lessons that apply to every area of my life. I spend a lot of time alone, in my kitchen, working on orders - but last week when I was preparing 300+ lil' pies, I had a lot of time to think. I wasn't switching things up, by making lots of different things like cakes, fillings, buttercream, cookies, crumbles, etc., etc. - I was making a lot of the exact same thing. Pies. Over and over. Monotonous tasks like that can mean boredom, but this time it just really made me think. It made me think about my last 12 years (Is that all?/Twelve years already?) in professional baking.

all pies 1
  1. Plan ahead. Like the article NPR just released, if you are not prepared, then what is the point? If I haven't made lists over and over, both written and in my head, my baking will fail. I will fall behind schedule, which means I will be rushed, and then my customers will not end up with the highest quality product possible. Mise-en-place your life. How can I get my business in order from a higher level? How can I organize cleaning and organizing around the house in a more structured way? It can be completely obsessive once you start, but the calm it brings is outstanding.
  2. Keep your head down and work your ass off. I don't know, maybe I'm a little too crazy with this stuff, whatever. We have so much to learn from people who have been at "It" longer than we have. "It" can be baking, it can be computer programming, teaching, landscaping, or anything! Listen to people who have suffered the consequences of poor decisions. Hear their reasons for working in a certain way. Once you know the rules, you can break them. Once you've proven to yourself, and to others, that you can slog through the boring stuff - reward yourself with the fun stuff that is meaningful to your life!
  3. Minimal, temporary monotony is OK. This has a lot to do with number two above. When I was working as an intern at Jean Georges in NYC, I basically started as the lowest human being to ever exist. I was lucky to be there and I knew it. When i was cutting apples for pies this weekend, I remembered slicing boxes and boxes of apples for overnight confit apples at JG. I had a giant blister inside my forefinger and my lower back was just killing me. I sliced and I sliced and I sliced. When I was finished, I was so proud of myself - and I was the only one who was! Another night, we had to pipe macarons. Hundreds and hundreds of tiny macarons. The other interns said they didn't want to do it (THAT WAS AN OPTION??), but I hung around and piped those goddamn macarons until 1am. I think that was the night I earned the respect of my coworkers. Moral is: You want to be the best at something? Work hard from Day 1 and treat each step as an opportunity. 
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But practiced at its highest level, mise-en-place says that time is precious. Resources are precious. Space is precious. Your self-respect and the respect of others are precious. Use them wisely. Isn’t that a philosophy for our time?
— Dan Charnas, NPR, The Salt

At the end of the day, I think about the amazing, focused, disciplined chefs and cooks that have come before me, and I'm just overwhelmed. It's really emotional for me. Watching people who have dedicated their lives to passion, but have built an effective, defined lifestyle around it - that is amazing. I guess anyone can be passionate, but without discipline and extreme, almost psychotic motivation, what comes of it? 

This extreme discipline, I've realized recently, really dictates my life. I think it's something to watch and be mindful of, though, because it can be really annoying to the people closest to you. Freedom and spur-of-the-moment actions are wonderful - and those should never stop. I just think the greatest and most powerful thing for my work and my business, is to stay incredibly motivated and focused. 


Easy Vegan Chocolate Cakes With Apricots

I woke up one day last week and was truly just craving chocolate cake, lots of sugar, and fruit. I love the taste of sugary things and really dense, moist cake is the best. This cake is moist and dense on the inside, but the top and outsides get really crunchy. Is there a damn thing better than that?

It's been hectic around here, to say the least. In addition to baking and keeping up this awesome space, I work in marketing, too. It's a great balance and I love it all. For the marketing work I do, I'll be traveling this fall to a few different countries (#blessed). In between it all, I planned a surprise birthday trip (he already knows! yay!) for Russell to his former home, Portland, Oregon, to see his dream team: The Portland Timbers. We'll be at their last home game of the season! So, with lots of travel, lots of baking, and lots of lolzing - this fall is going to be one of the absolute best, I can just feel it already.

My brain is doing some shapeshifting and dreaming of snow up to my knees, dark nights, and lots of spiced tea. Are you ready for fall and, more importantly, winter??

Chocolate Cake Recipe

1-1/2 c all-purpose flour

3/4 c granulated sugar

4 Tbsp cocoa powder

2 tsp espresso powder (Use this kind)

 1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 c vegetable oil

1 c water

2-3 ripe apricots

Preheat your oven to 350F and line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Slice the apricots in half, removing the pits, and into nice chunks - about 5-6 per apricot.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso, baking soda, and salt. Add in the vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water. Whisk together to combine.

Portion the batter into the 12 cupcake holes. Put an apricot chunk on the top of each cake (skin side exposed), and sprinkle with raw/turbinado sugar. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.


Healthy Summer Road Trip Sweets And Snacks

As a follow-up to last Monday's post on summer travel, I thought it would be fun to put together a list of some great road trip (or plane trips, or maybe even bike trip) snacks. Every trip needs snacks. I get really, really bored while I'm traveling and it's hard for me to read or listen to too much music, so I usually just look around and eat. Because I can truly eat nonstop just to fill time, I try to take pretty healthy things, so a) I don't get full too fast, and b) I don't feel really sick from eating crap. One other thing I always plan for a road trip: a wet washcloth or paper towel in a Ziploc bag. Wanna know what sucks? Being stuck in a car with sticky fingers. I am not nutty about too many things in life, but I really hate sticky fingers on myself and on anyone else.

Without any further ado, my list of great, fairly-healthy summer road trip snacks.

  1. Sour cherry pie that's actually cake. Just imagine it in square chunks all wrapped up to pass around to people (or yourself) on your trip. (It's actually cake)
  2. Sweet potato buckwheat snack bars with cardamom. Essentially the best-lookin' granola bar ever.
  3. Raw tahini fudge. Truly. Madly. Deeply. Do.
  4. Avocado truffles because why wouldn't you turn an avocado into something even more decadent than it already is?
  5. Gluten-free cashew butter granola. Imagine just sitting back, watching the country roll by, eating this. Handful by handful.
  6. Curry roasted vegetable and avocado naanwich. A bit more advanced and would take some time, but would be worth it a million times over.
  7. Gluten-free swirly blackberry meringues. They're pretty. They'd get all over you when you eat them. But just take them. Seriously. Hostess/host gift?
  8. Coconut almond granola. All granola, all the time.
  9. Tile flatbreads for hummus, guacamole, salsa, cheese, meat... you will need these. And they won't make you feel terrible.
  10. Bagel brunch. I know you're just going on a lil' trip and not brunchin' - but why wouldn't you consider your trip equally as important. Now, it might be difficult to get these on a plane, but think about it for an epic road trip!
  11. Cucumber, feta, and sorghum salad. I would make this without the feta, and add some more veggies. Grab a spork and go!
  12. Iced chai tea - throw it all in bottles in a cooler and call it a day. You don't have to spend a million dollars at Starbucks along the way, and you don't have to give in to gas station sweetened tea, either. Make either this or this recipe with non-dairy milk and you are GOOD to go. (I won't be offended if you stop at Starbucks for Oprah Chai because I love them, too. A lot.)
  13. Flavored waters because you should be drinking a lot and water gets boring. Or just take a shit ton of La Croix because it's the best drink ever created. Although, here's a list of fifty great flavored waters.

 

Thursday Sweets // 08.07.2014

Farmers' Market find last weekend at the Old Cheney Farmers' Market, from Shadow Brook Farm.

Farmers' Market find last weekend at the Old Cheney Farmers' Market, from Shadow Brook Farm.

It's been a packed week in the Goldenrod world. Time is flying by in simply the best way. Our friends from the UK arrived last night and will be in Nebraska for the next 10 days. That means we will have several family dinners and a ton of laughs. I bought a disco ball over the weekend and my mom asked if I could hold off on hanging it so she can borrow it for a BBQ next week. Love it!

Starting at about noon today, I'll be working nonstop on 300 itty bitty pies for a wedding that is tomorrow afternoon. Then? I'll be having a really great weekend with my friends and family. And I basically just can't wait. 

Here are some useful bits and bobs from around the web that, I think, are just great.

Sour cherry pie that looks like a cake but it's someone's mom's recipe so I'm sure it's amazing.

Why wouldn't you make turnip-blueberry muffins? Good use of that CSA, y'all!

RAW. TAHINI. FUDGE. See ya.

The super rad MOFAD gives it to us real with this debate on GMOs.

Can we manifest our future based on our password choices?

Inspirational and powerful words from Gala Darling on admitting the effort required in life.

You know you want beetroot and hibiscus lipstain. Just leave some for me... 

A serving tray/styling piece meant for the gods. 

Omaha Welcomes Modern Love!

We have a lot to be proud of in Nebraska - but people on the outside don't always recognize or see it. We spend time convincing our friends on the coasts and abroad how great it is and "No, really, it's not boring! Seriously! Visit me!" Now we have one more item to tack on the list of why it's great here in the heart of America: Isa is opening Modern Love today!

When I woke up to the e-mail from Vegan Omaha two weeks ago, telling me there would be a pre-opening tasting at Modern Love, I would've been a damn fool not to do it! I grabbed two tickets, my friend Michele, and we went.

Photo Credit: Isa Moskowitz, Instagram

Photo Credit: Isa Moskowitz, Instagram

The space itself, I think, is pretty special. It's tucked away around 50th Street and Saddlecreek, and you really need to look for it... until you see the bright fuchsia mural on the side of the building!  It has the signature beet-cat logo and, just a guess, this mural might end up being the most Instagram'd pic in Omaha this year. Do we need a hashtag just for the mural? #modernlovebeetcat ? I'm open to suggestions. Anyway, you get inside and it's just so dang cozy. I know that can mean small, tight, cramped, etc. - but not at Modern Love. You feel like you're really part of something special. There definitely won't be a lack of people wanting to eat there, so I'll be interested to see how the little waiting area works out. It's right in line with the kitchen door, a.k.a. servers gotta walk there to do their job! 

bathroom modern love

The decor is adorable - really vibrant and simple. The time it took to do the wallpaper-like stenciling all over the walls? I can't even imagine. And also, who figured out how to fold napkins into hearts? You're a genius, congratulations. My favorite piece in the design was the embroidered sign in the bathroom. See pic above.

The food service started with a shot of corn milk with chili oil, lime, and cilantro flowers. Totally refreshing and, dare I say, my favorite part of the night. I appreciate the nod in this course to using the whole veggie - you get corn milk by basically juicing an ear of corn (do not try to put an ear of corn in your juicer) after you get out all of the kernels. I could have eaten a bowl of this stuff. Super bright and fresh. And, as you know, I love using flowers with food.

Corn milk shooter with chili oil, lime, and cilantro flowers

Corn milk shooter with chili oil, lime, and cilantro flowers

The seating for this tasting was communal. I can't get through this review without saying just the tiniest thing about one of our table mates: OH MY GOD, SHE WAS SO EXCITED. So excited to the point that I don't think she realized things she was doing and saying. She was so stoked to start eating each course, that I couldn't really get many great photos. Be sure to check Modern Love on Instagram for the best of the best. Click on the image below to see a slideshow of photos I could grab at the tasting.

Here's a run down of the rest of the courses:

  • Farmer's Hummus: Roasted garlic hummus with overnight tomatoes, roasted radishes, pickled onions (TO DIE FOR), rainbow carrots, cucumber, and olive oil flatbread (Did you guys make this? It was delicious!).
  • Jalapeño Corn Fritters: This is in second place for my favorite after the corn milk shooter. The flavors were super bright and fresh - and just the right amount of spice. There was a rich, fresh tomato jam under the fritters. I told my friend I could probably have eaten about ten, as just a really nice bar snack. Maybe mini-fritter bar snacks?!
  • Quinoa Caesar: Incidentally, I made Isa's recipe for this two nights before this dinner. Modern Love's was better. Tahini caesar dressing, quinoa, roasted pine nuts (my fave part of this salad - so fancy and classy, really heightens the dish), tempeh croutons, eggplant bacon... are you hungry yet?
  • Mac & 'Shews: So much more than meets the name on this one. Cashew cheese on the mac, pecan-crusted tofu (best crust I've had on just about anything), BBQ cauliflower, house made potato chips, and braised kale. P.S. It's gluten-free!
  • Seitan Marsala: I'm not a huge fan of seitan, but I loved this. Homemade seitan, root vegetable mash, and a rich marsala gravy. This is what I want to eat when we have 5 feet of snow on the ground. 
  • Peach Pie & Ginger Ice cream: Super delicious pie. Lots of vanilla bean throughout the filling, awesome coconut & olive oil crust, and creamy ginger ice cream, PLUS pieces of crystallized ginger. Delicious! My only comment on this course: The vanilla was really overpowered by the delicious peaches. I love the commitment to using the vanilla seeds, but the flavor could be used stronger elsewhere - maybe in the whipped cream on the chocolate tart?! 
  • Rosemary Lemonade: I was SO skeptical of this. But, you guys, it's really good and doesn't suck at all! Rosemary can be mega overwhelming, but this was so very pleasant. I savored it throughout four or five courses.

My only criticism: It was tough to share all of this food with our table mates. Not because I wanted it all for us, but because they were really trying to take it all as quickly as possible! We had to be quick! 

I am incredibly excited to try Modern Love again when it's fully open and I can have my plates of food to myself. No sharing next time! It seems like they have a focus on superior service, too, which is lacking around these parts sometimes and is my favorite thing. Literally, what is the dang point of going out for nice food if your service sucks? It ruins the night for me. Another big bonus for Modern Love: They gave me fresh flatware between courses. Literally, I hate having to keep my flatware on the table as courses are switched out. Just bring fresh! This, to me, is a mark of great service.

I have high, high hopes for the future of Modern Love. It's a fresh approach to dining that I think will reinvigorate dining in Omaha and Lincoln. We will have a high bar to set for all other venues. Bravo to you, Isa, your team of partners, and your dedicated staff! I'm so excited to see the future of your restaurant.