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For the Love of Baking...

30 days has September but November has Pie.

In September, I made my biennial trip to the land of baking knowledge, King Arthur Flour Baking School. I walked familiar halls and breathed in the atmosphere, mostly the aroma of freshly baked goods.

This year, one of my core classes was taught by a baker at the top of her field Gesine Bullock-Prado.

Gesine has written several cookbooks, has a teaching kitchen in Vermont, Sugar Glider Kitchen and now she has a show on the Food Network, Baked in Vermont. Gesine taught me how to make homemade candy corn, choux pastry, puff pastry and now flaky pie dough. She makes me smile…. Thank you Gesine!

I made flaky crust and created a delicious Pie…


Next was Wilhelm Wanders, Master Pastry Chef and Chocolitier. Wilhelm is an eighth-generation pastry chef and confectioner.

       I made truffles…

And I learned more about Chocolate… I had to taste every piece. It was tough…


And I got to spend time with my Sister…

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Nothing better than baking with family. Sharing the Love!

 

King Arthur Flour Baking School is located in Norwich, Vt.

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It Started With A Lemon Meringue Pie

The annual reminder was just around the corner, yes, August 7th would soon be here. Another year older, another year fatter and another year happier.

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I was asked what kind of cake do I want for my birthday, “better than last year,” I replied, since last year for my birthday I had my lingual tonsils removed — so no cake. But this year would have to be a special cake, I had to make up for last year’s absence of cakey goodness. So the search began…

As I sometimes do, I scrolled through Facebook looking for anything about baking when I saw a post about the Hungarian confectioner Jozsef C. Dobos and his Dobos torte. His five-layer pastry was introduced during an Exhibition in Budapest in 1885. The torte was made of sponge cake, buttercream and caramel. It quickly became popular because of it’s unique appearance and durability to hold up with limited cooling means (lack of refrigeration). Mr. Dobos torte was the inspiration for the Doberge Cake made famous in New Orleans by Beulah Ledner.

Beulah Ledner ?? … who is Beulah Ledner you ask? She is the lady who originated the Doberge Cake and it all started with a lemon meringue pie.

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I needed to find a copy of the original Doberge Cake recipe. In my research, I discovered Beulah’s daughter Maxine Wolchansky published a cookbook of Beulah’s recipes. The cookbook entitled, Let’s Bake with Beulah: A legendary New Orleans Lady, was printed in 1987. What luck, I thought – her original recipe. Now – just to get my hand on the book. The cookbook was out of print so I checked with our local and state library, hoping a copy was available. The State Library of Louisiana had access to a couple of copies so I made my request and waited and waited and waited. Finally…the day had come – the cookbook arrived at my local library.

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The story of Beulah’s success and how she came to create the Doberge cake is of one of survival during the depression. Beulah’s husband Charles Ledner, operated a furniture business that in 1931 faced declining sales. For years, Beulah friends enjoyed her baked goods especially Lemon Meringue Pies and it was at their urging Beulah opened the Mrs. Charles Ledner Superior Home Baking Company in 1931 to supplement the family income.

Word spread of Beulah’s extraordinary baking talents.

Beulah had an idea to change the original recipe of the Dobos Torte from thin layers of sponge cake to butter cake and from buttercream to custard filling. The changes in the recipe would make the cake more suitable for the French- New Orleans pallette. The change in recipe would require a change in name so the Hungarian Dobos Torte became the Doberge cake.

It was not unusual for Beulah to use a neighbor’s oven as well as her own to get out the increasing number of orders. As her business grew, so did the need for a larger location. In 1937, after the passing of her mother, Beulah relocated again. She operated in this new location on S. Clairborne Avenue until at age 52, when Beulah suffered a heart attack. Beulah was advised to close her business. She sold the bakery, name and recipes to Joe Gambino under the condition she could not reopen in Orleans Parish for 5 years.

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Beulah was miserable, as you know a baker’s gotta bake. In 1948 she opened Beulah Lender, Inc. in Jefferson Parish and stayed there until sadly her beloved Charles died in 1952. By this time Beulah was selling wholesale and had expanded to frozen cakes. Beulah’s son, now an Architect, suggested he design and build a place large enough  where she could mass produce cakes using her recipes. So in 1970, after nearly 40 years, Beulah Ledner, Inc had a true home.

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Beulah worked until her retirement on Mother’s Day in 1981 at the age of 87. She sold the business to a family who would continue the traditions she started  years ago. The new owners said they felt Beulah was still around, smiling, nodding her head and saying, Let’em eat cake.

I used Beulah’s recipe to make the Doberge Cake for my birthday.  It had 8 thin layers, chocolate custard, chocolate buttercream and finished with a pour-able chocolate fudge icing.  It was also was made with respect, patience and lots and lots of love. sectin and slice with fork

Witch Way to the Party?

Just look at the the photos below and you will see our Basic Cake Decorating Class – Buttercream 101 on August 15th was a great success.  Have you ever seen so many beautiful cakes? They learned; I can do this, just breathe, I did it and Share the Love!

September classes are now available for booking. The Basic Cake Decorating Class is scheduled for Sept 19th and a new class dedicated to the Halloween Season- “Witch Way to the Party?” is scheduled for Sept 28.

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Sharing the Love.

I love to bake and decorate cakes and what better way to share the Love than teaching.

Recently, I was asked why I enjoy teaching. It’s the excitement on a student’s face who has just learned to do something they have always wanted to do but didn’t think they could–it makes my heart smile.

At the start of each class, I tell my students the only requirement is to have fun and You CAN do this!

THEY DID IT!

 

Cake anyone?

 

Finishing Touches

 

She made a Rose!

Lending a Hand

The Kindness of Strangers

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As with Blanche DuBois, many of us have depended upon the kindness of strangers. But sometimes the kindness of strangers surpasses our expectations- sometimes we even surprise ourselves…

On May 15, 2017, our small community changed in the blink of an eye. A 7-year-old first grader brought a gun to school and when it fell out of his backpack, his class mate picked it up and the gun accidentally went off. The bullet struck their class mate, Gage. He was airlifted to a medical facility and so began his road to recovery. Meanwhile…

Prayer Warriors prayed for strength and healing, law enforcement urged firearm safety at home, schools provided counseling for their students and faculty. Our community slowed its pace, took in a deep breath and exhaled. Now it was ready…

After word of the accident got out on social media and to the local TV and radio stations, the question people were most asking was, “how is he and what can I do?”  Strangers wanting to help. If you know anything about the South, it’s that strangers are just friends that you haven’t met yet.  And so, it began…

An account was set up at a local bank along with other funding accounts to assist the family in paying medical and daily expenses. They had not left Gage’s side since arriving at the hospital.  Schools raised money by having blue jeans days, groups sold t-shirts, and this is where I come in…

I have a son who served in the Marine Corps for almost 8 years and was deployed nearly as many times. He was sent to far-a-way places that has camels and dust storms and red seas. He came back – unharmed – and for this I am thankful. On that day in May when I heard the news of the terrible accident my thoughts went to my son and to the mother of the boy who had been shot.

My heart said, “Do something” so I did. I changed my planned menu of baked good for the farmers market.  I baked cookies -lots of cookies.  On social media, I posted “Cookies and Lemonade for Sale – all proceeds going to Gage’s Road to Recovery Fund”. The word spread and people came. They bought cookies and lemonade or just to donate. I received the kindness of strangers that day and raised over $300 in just a few hours for Gage’s Road to Recovery Fund.

The kindness of strangers will make a difference in Gage’s life as he has in theirs and they have in mine.

 

June Classes

June Classes are available for booking on the Classes Page.

From Beautiful Buttercream Blooms to the Kids “King Craw-Daddy” Father’s Day Cupcake Class, there is sure to be a class for you. These are beginner decorating classes, so don’t sweat it! Book a class – it’s a great time to spend with family and friends. Make some memories. Sharing the Love!

Making Vanilla Extract

If you are interested in making Vanilla Extract but don’t know where to begin, here’s how I did it.

First: I purchased a Vanilla Extract kit from King Arthur Flour.  It was more cost effective to get the kit than to purchase the supplies separately and I trust King Arthur Flour to always provide quality products.

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Second: Read all of the instructions. I know it seems simple, but if didn’t know to “split the beans in half lengthwise, leaving 1/2″ at each end intact,”  your extract will be cloudy.

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Third: Use an inexpensive 40% (80-proof) alcohol and don’t add water.

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Fourth: Fill bottles to the top rim, covering the beans completely.

Fifth: After bottles are filled and had a good shake, add a “use after” date. I also included a “made on” date.

Last and most importantly… Patience. It takes about 2 months to make.

 

The Mantel of Pocking Champion

It’s the Saturday night before Easter. In homes across Louisiana, eggs are boiled and dyed for an Easter tradition. The tradition is Pocking.

If you are not of Cajun descent, you may not be familiar with pocking. I grew up in Southwest Louisiana but am not of Cajun descent. I learned about pocking from my husband and friends. Here’s what I learned…

Pocking requires two people. To pock, one person holds a boiled, dyed egg, while another person taps the tip of it with the tip of another egg. The winner is the person whose egg survives without cracking. The winner gets the cracked eggs. The rules are clear, if your egg cracks you lose it. The is no age requirement and no consideration is given for age.

Pocking was a custom brought to Southwest Louisiana by exiled French Acadians and passed down through families. In French, “Paques” transplanted is Easter and pronounced “Pock.”

In some families and communities, it is taken very seriously. Preparation begins months in advance and in the weeks before Easter, the breeds of chickens who the lay the hardest shell eggs are given calcium in the form of oyster shells to lay the toughest shells for the competition. The owner of the chicken laying the winning egg gets bragging rights and will most certainly be in demand for the next year’s competition.

There is a method for finding the hardest eggs. Lightly tap the eggs on your front teeth. If there is a light high pitch ping, the egg is hard. If you hear a dull, blunt sound the egg is soft.

The chosen eggs are carefully boiled. Eggs should be boiled point down so the air pocket is a the large part of the egg and not the small end. Some boil eggs in the carton, others say to pack their eggs close together so they can’t move around and crack and others put rags in the bottom of the pan as a cushion for the eggs while boiling.

Old timers boil their eggs in coffee grounds, they say it makes them harder.

My husband tells the story of his maternal grandmother, Grandma Ortego. Grandma Ortego boiled her eggs for pocking in coffee grounds. She put the small dark coffee colored eggs in a Easter Basket on the kitchen table ready for Sunday afternoon. Grandma Ortego spoke little English. She would just motion to the kids and hold up an egg. Most of the older kids would not pock with her as they knew she would win and take their eggs. The younger kids would pock and yes, they would lose their eggs. By the end of the afternoon, tears were shed and Grandma Ortego had a basketful of eggs. My husband doesn’t ever remember Grandma Ortego losing and she passed the tradition on.

This year the tradition was passed on the oldest granddaughter, Olivia Rose. My husband, better known as Pappa, told Olivia Rose the stories of pocking when he was a boy and of Grandma Ortego. Since I have known my husband he has never lost at pocking…until now.

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She picked her egg,  she learns the rules…she pocks

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And she gets the egg.

Amelia, the Maker of Hugs


Cupcakes…why is it just the thought or mention of them brings a smile? They are made using the same basic ingredients as standard-sized cakes: butter, sugar, eggs and flour – so what is it? Is it the individual portion size or the cup shape that fits perfectly in our hand? Could it be the beautifully sprinkled glorious frosting? Or the pleasure we get from peeling away the paper cup liner to reveal the moist deliciousness inside?
 I say yes to all of the above- but, who was the baking genius behind this celebrated bliss?

Her name is Amelia.

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Amelia Simmons wrote what is believed to be the first cookbook authored by an American published in the United States.  As an American, Amelia understood that existing cookbooks were British and lacked common, practical recipes for the American culture.  When Amelia first made “soft cakes in little pans, “she could not have imagined how much her “cup cakes” would become a part of American culture.

Amelia’s recipe (shown below) is believed to be the first ever cupcake recipe.  It was included in her book, American Cookery, written in 1796.

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 As with all things, there is an original and versions of…

After Amelia, came Miss Eliza Leslie in 1828 with her book, Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry Cakes, and Sweetmeats. Next in 1832, Mrs. Lydia Child published her version of “cup cakes” in The American Frugal Housewife. Mrs. Child dedicated her book to “Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy.” Lastly was Mrs. M.E. Porter’s version of the “cup cake” in her book, Mrs. Porter’s New Southern Cookery Book.  

So, what is it about cupcakes? Is it that cupcakes taste good? Lots of things taste good. Cupcakes don’t just taste good, they make us feel good on the inside – like a getting a hug.  

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Little is known of Amelia Simmons other than she was an orphan and a woman of modest means and the maker of hugs…

 

A Baker’s Husband

I am a Baker.  Well, not just a Baker – I am a very blessed Baker. Why so blessed you may ask… it’s because I have a Baker’s Husband. What’s a Baker’s husband, you ask? Well, he is no ordinary husband, he is really quite extraordinary. Let me explain.

A Baker’s Husband understands that his wife is different from most. She thinks, breathes and dreams in terms of baking. Butter, sugar, flour, eggs – always needs more butter. Vanilla bean paste, cocoa and espresso powder. And pans…round, square, tart, spring form and Bundt pans. You can never have too many Bundt pans! Then there are the cookbooks – old, new, hardback, paperback, spiral bound, broken binding and binder clipped. There are cake pictures torn from waiting room magazines and jotted notes and scribbled recipes from friends and family that are kept in safe places and can never be found when they are remembered.

A Baker’s Husband accepts it when vacations are spent at King Arthur Flour taking a baking class or shopping for baking supplies or both. In his mind, he has already rearranged the truck to accommodate the bags and boxes of the new baking necessities before they have even left the store.

A Baker’s Husband agrees that the new shiny red stand mixer should go a rolling cart in the utility room in the place of the freezer. After all she doesn’t want him to get a hernia every time he is asked to carry the heavy mixer from the cabinet to the counter…and the freezer will fit perfectly in the empty space in the garage.

A Baker’s Husband is a taste tester. This is not a job for the faint of heart. For better or worse, he willingly sacrifices to ensure the strawberries are sweet enough, the chocolate is rich enough and the buttercream is smooth enough. And on the rare occasion that the pie filling does not set or puff pastry does not puff, though he says it is delicious, a Baker’s Husband is ready with keys in hand to get more butter and eggs for the next batch will be perfect.

A Baker’s Husband is patient. He holds her purse while she sorts through crates of apples looking for just the right size to caramel. He drives her to small baking shops in out of the way places and he waits quietly as she admires bins filled with various baking gadgets for which he has no idea their use. And when her eyes glaze over at the site of a gleaming 6 shelf double stack oven that would never fit in her kitchen, a Baker’s Husband doesn’t shatter the dream, he admires it.

I have a Baker’s husband. Is he extraordinary because I am a Baker? No, he is extraordinary because God made him that way. And for that I am very blessed.