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Splish, splash, another dash, I am a liberal user of pure vanilla when I bake.  I do measure but tend to add in more for most of my baked goods. I was aghast when last shopping for supplies and eyeballed the price of vanilla.  My, oh my, bite the bullet and lessen the splashes!   Have you noticed the price has more than doubled, perusing the internet it seems to have tripled.  I will not in all good conscience switch to imitation vanilla, have no fear!  Little Neva’s goodies won’t be compromised!

The ever popular Little Neva’s Jammie derives most of it’s dynamic flavor from Pure Vanilla ( and my extra splashes! )

The article below gives a great background into the production of vanilla and the reasons for it’s skyrocketing prices.   The island country of Madagascar has more than 75 % world’s vanilla fields.  This equates to reaching into our pockets for other favorite products.   It is not just baked goods that may have price increases, add ice cream to the list as well as other products we consume regularly.

A shortage there has resulted in the increase the cost of vanilla beans from about $11 / pound in 2011 to $193 by the end of 2016.    The vanilla farming process is quite labor-intensive, of course, it is divine, not easy to find it’s way into the bottle in your cabinet! The beans grow on orchids and require each one to be hand pollinated.  Imagine, being the bee!

Add the cost of shipping to the price of beans and you can understand why Pure Vanilla demands a high price.   The higher quality beans are harder to find as the price rises. Many farmers harvest the beans before they fully mature, because of thievery due to the value of the dark brown bean.

Apparently, this year’s vanilla crop is in good shape so hopefully we will see prices decline.   In the meantime, resist the extra splashes!

Source: Vanilla bean shortage in Madagascar drives up prices in U.S. – CBS News

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The Perils of Baking

Yikes, disastrous events!  Power outage with cookies the oven, burned cookies, wacky dough mixtures, fallen cakes, double the amount of butter in a pound cake?  We’ve all experienced unexpected disasters while baking, I presume.  I’ve had my share.  Perhaps the most alarming was a customer ordered almond danish pastry sliding off the baking sheet as I took it from the oven.  Darn that parchment slips so quickly, I watched as the pastry savagely ripped apart, after smashing on the floor.   I ate some of the chunks of course but had to start all over so the danish could be shipped on time.

All perilous but what I am really referring to, are the physically painful ‘in the blink of an eye’ contact with HOT oven racks! Burns, to be exact.

I, as many of you also perhaps, have been frequently ‘branded’ while baking.   A hazard of using an oven or cook top.  My right hand and wrist have been zapped so many times, I am surprised I don’t have permanent scarring!   At times the burns are so ugly I hate to bare my arms in public, lest people wonder what the heck I have done to myself!

branded

I was recently branded by a tray, ( notice the delicate curve of the corner! ), on my inner forearm leaving a very neat but obvious mark which took quite a while to fade into a memory.  Looking at it now, I have to wonder how I did it.  It’s a heavy SS tray, must have bogged down over my arm during removal.  That was a painful encounter.

Precautions, safety equipment …. I choose to use pot holders over mitts, thus more of my skin is exposed to the lurking racks.   It’s fast, grab and go.   So many choices these days for protective gear …. silicon mitts, being the latest.   I don’t really like silicon, don’t use the sheets and considered trying the mitts but prefer to keep clean up quick & simple. Silicon tends to be sticky and attracts lint.  I designed a pot holder with a thumb protector but discarded it, finding it easier to slip my hand into a cloth mitt if I really desired ultimate coverage.

I guess there are dedicated mitt users or pot holders.  One or the other, or do bakers mix it up?  Do we toss the mitts & holders for kitchen towels?  Is this a topic friends engage in?   Who uses an apron in the kitchen?  Processor, hand mixer or stand?  Are you a gadget fanatic?

The mind boggles with what might go on in the kitchen.  I guess I like to take my chances in the bakery, live on the wild side, grab that basic pot holder and venture into the oven at my own risk.  My skin can take it.  It’s pretty tough these days!

Be safe, whatever protection you choose to use.   Until we eat, meet again. Mangia!

Our Etsy Team Facebook Page

Thought it was about time to introduce our local Etsy team Facebook page – where you’ll discover a treasure trove of unique handmade and vintage items.

My latest post reminds everyone that Valentine’s Day is around the corner and we have lots of sweet treats available to send out as gifts such as our Heart ‘n Arrow Jammies.

heart-arrow-jam

We have a talented group of artisans and sellers of one of a kind vintage finds, residing locally, who all have shops on the internet market place, ETSY.   We’re making ourselves known to the community with our team Facebook page.   If you have a spare moment check us out!   Support local businesses!

Till next time we eat, ah, meet; Mangia!

I searched for a recipe that had significance for the New Year and discovered the Orange Brandy Cake below, since it brings the consumer good luck, with a lucky coin hidden inside.   All I can think of when items are put into a cake, is a trip to the dentist!   I did just that favoring a broken molar, after consuming a lovely slice of pie of my making and biting down on a peach pit chunk.  Is that luck or what?!

 

I had the intention of making this cake but after reading it over I decided it resembled the always yummy Brandy Pound Cake offered in Little Neva’s Bakery.  The recipe below uses orange juice as well as zest.  My cake requires sour cream and I add in 4 pure extracts to exotically dance around the brandy.    Serve it with macerated fruit, whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce.  Eat it plain, but no matter your version, you will be so satisfied with every bite, down to the last morsel or crumb.  Yum!

close-pcall-pc-1

Moist, extremely flavorful, terrific shelf life and just darn good, this tried and true recipe has been in my possession for many years.  The original recipe called for Apricot Brandy but I have since used basic brandy or sometimes blending apricot with it.  It had been a favorite with the family and has been shipped around the world many times, arriving in spectacular shape, regardless of the destination.  Perfect as a gift, party, treat and made in Virginia, too!

If your curiosity has been peaked here is the link to our adored Brandy Pound Cake: https://www.etsy.com/listing/67054935/pound-cake-butter-rich-moist-embraced?ref=shop_home_active_3

Do give this one from Epicurious a peek, bake it, eat it, let me know what you think..  If you order Little Neva’s pound cake also please let me know what you think!   Love feedback!

 New Year’s Orange and Brandy Cake

( from Epicurious website)

Makes one 10–inch round cake

Ingredients

    • 4 large eggs, separated
    • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, or a combination of butter and margarine
    • 1 1/4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
    • 1/2 cup brandy
    • 4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • Grated zest of 1 orange
    • Grated zest of 1 lemon
    • Whole blanched almonds

Preparation

    1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 10-inch round cake pan.
    2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light yellow and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the butter or butter and margarine and beat for 1 minute more. Beat in the orange juice and brandy.
    3. Whisk together the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and the zests in another large bowl. Add to the yolk mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until incorporated.
    4. In a large clean bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into the pan and shake gently to even the top. Decorate the top with almonds.
    5. Bake the cake for about 1 hour, or until it is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack before removing from the pan and serving.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/new-years-orange-and-brandy-cake-236812

My ETSY Shop was chosen for a team promotion a while ago and I thought I’d share the presentation since I think it looks swell!   Why not toot my horn a little?

Etsy Team promo

Etsy Team promo

I’m hungry!  I might slip into the bakery and whip up something new.  I’ll keep you posted.

Until next time we eat.. meet …. Enjoy!

For quite a long period of time in the annals of family history, my cousin, who is more like a sister, would travel down from Pennsylvania with her 2 girls, and sometimes with her husband in tow.   We all had great fun, dying eggs, making delicious meals, hunting for eggs, playing dress up and filming plays ( the girls not the Moms)    and sometimes heading out for brunch if we were feeling flush!

If we stayed in, the table was loaded up with strata, sticky buns, fruit, slabs of bacon ( the preferable form of pork over ham), leftover pastries, continuously flowing brewed coffee and one can not leave out the candy from the Easter baskets.  Who says it has to be Thanksgiving to overindulge!  Phew.

Silly cookie time

Silly cookie time

We all loved to eat, so ample food was available including the occasional box(es) of Italian pastries procured from Philadelphia.  One year, discussed in the pre weekend planning conversation was the inclusion of a rich Cannoli Cake so naturally it made a one time only appearance followed by a hasty disappearance primarily due to the consumption by myself and my cousin.    Where did that cake go??

Thumbing through food magazines in advance of the holiday would inspire our creativity and the 2 most memorable cakes were the magnificent Baked Alaska and a Coconut Cake with sugar cookie flowers simulating a really snazzy edible basket. We did enjoy ourselves, sometimes too much, lingering at the table like beached whales, trading stories from our past.

Doing the Dye

Doing the Dye

Elegant Eggs

Elegant Eggs

Coconut Cookie Cake Basket

Coconut Cookie Cake Basket

Yummy Baked Alaska

Yummy Baked Alaska

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the kids have grown up and are doing their own thing in far flung locations.  The appetites and desires are still in tack but getting together is more difficult to do.  This year’s dessert was much simpler, less caloric and quickly assembled.  Presented to a smaller group of participants at the table we admired and inhaled it as we reminisced about the good ole days, food and former festivities.

DSCN3497

Our Ever in Demand Sticky Buns

 

Orange Sponge Cake adorned with whipped cream and strawberries

Orange Sponge Cake adorned with whipped cream and strawberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kinda makes you want to get out the old carousel slide projector, gather the family up and click through the pictures, the memories projected with a comfy rhythm on the screen, prompting chit chat and warm feelings throughout!

Till next time we eat, meet, enjoy family, food and baking.  Mangia!

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