I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet

SHOPPERS, PLEASE NOTE:

We will be closed Thursday, December 19th to Monday, January 6th. Orders placed during this time will be shipped upon our return.

We wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

Almond Rum Cake

This delicate Rum Almond Cake was conceived as a coffee cake  but it deserves to be elevated to a much higher status if for no other reason than it’s too boozy for a 10:00 am coffee break! As you can see from the photo, it was the ideal New Year’s Eve cake — moist, flavorful and rich enough that a small slice was sufficient.

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Dark Chocolate Truffles – Traditional or Vegan

 Chocolate Speaks: Who can resist Dark Chocolate Truffles? If you are new at candy making, truffles are one of the easiest candies to make. Even better, you can make traditional truffles using heavy cream and butter, or you can choose a healthier version by making them vegan. Follow the directions and I guarantee you’ll be a star. The trick is using the best ingredients.

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Buche de Noel

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Although the French name for this beautiful dessert means Christmas Log, the origins of the custom of bringing in a Yule log, building a blazing fire, then lighting candles from it are pagan in origin as is the Christmas tree and decorating with holly and other greens.  I like to think of these ancient traditions as a way to bring light and joy into the dark nights of winter for everyone, regardless of our ancestry or religion. And what could be prettier than a chocolate sponge cake filled with cream, frosted with chocolate ganache and dusted with snowy powdered sugar? Add some meringue mushrooms or sprigs of holly, and you have a lovely and meaningful completion of a holiday meal. 

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Russian Tea Cakes

Whenever I think about holiday baking, Russian Tea Cakes (aka Mexican Wedding Cookies) are at the forefront of my mind. What’s not to love about the buttery, crumbly deliciousness of these cookies. with their fragrant toasted nuts and powdered sugar spilling everywhere? Okay, the powdered sugar part can be annoying. What I do love about these cookies is that they’re pretty much popular worldwide with essentially the same ingredients though some come with a few special touches.

I recently found a unique version of these cookies in Sunset Magazine. Created by Yigit Pura of “Tout Sweet Patisserie,” they are noted for their extreme crispness and toasty-brown butter flavor. I also like that they’re made with vanilla bean paste. The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon cognac or brandy. Prefer a different alcohol or want to substitute a liqueur? Why not? And, if you don’t want alcohol, you can substitute milk.

Yigit suggests creating cookies 1-1/2 tablespoons each. I personally prefer these cookies smaller because the powdered sugar can be overwhelming with big cookies. Just like the alcohol used, you get to decide on the size you’d like to make the cookies. Just remember to adjust the bake time accordingly.

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Mulled Wine Cranberry Sauce

No Cranberry Sauce with the turkey? A few years ago there was a cranberry shortage and word spread quickly. Within a few weeks, there were no packages available in the markets. Fortunately, this year, we’re in far better shape. This is a good thing as everyone knows we need cranberry sauce with turkey! They’re both native to the Americas, along with Maple Syrup, allspice and vanilla!

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The Vanilla Queen’s Apple Crisp

Nothing says autumn like the crunch of a fresh apple, flavorful juices flooding your mouth, triggering thoughts of autumn and hardwoods blazing with color.  While I hate to let go of summer stone fruits, by September I’m ready for apple season to officially begin. Apple Crisp or a blended fruit crisp are a pleasurable way to celebrate. I found and adapted the following recipe years ago; the consensus of at least 100 people is that it’s the best Apple Crisp, bar none, that they’ve ever had. Obviously, I concur.

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A Baker’s Passport by Susie Norris

Susie Norris’s has recently self-published A Baker’s Passport, a compendium of recipes she collected over the years for her award-winning culinary travel blog, Food Market Gypsy. As those of you who have read my newsletters or followed us online for a long time know, I really enjoy supporting my friends and colleagues in their endeavors. I haven’t dedicated a full-blown blog to a cookbook for a while, so first reading, then writing about A Baker’s Passport, has been a lot of fun, especially as the book is filled with recipes from around the world, which Susie has collected over the years in her food-focused travels.

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Bakewell Pudding Tart

This recipe comes from, A Baker’s Passport, written by Susie Norris. Susie says, “Before the ‘British Bake-Off’ television show, a competition smoldered in Bakewell, Derbyshire in the United Kingdom. Much like Sacher Torte in Vienna, rivalries about the origins of the Bakewell Tart (also known as Bakewell Pudding or Bakewell Pudding Tart, depending on which shop in town you visit) are part of its allure.

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Vanilla Butter Cake with Chocolate Dulce de Leche

This luxurious cake from Susie Norris’s most recent book, A Baker’s Passport, is all about the Americas — in this case Mexico — as both chocolate and vanilla are native to tropical Mexico, Central and South America. The cake is filled with vanilla flavor and then soaked with the caramel notes of sweet milk (Dulce de Leche) along with a bit of  chocolate. If you are having a dinner party or event focused on Mexican food, the Vanilla Butter Cake with Chocolate Dulce de Leche would be culturally appropriate as well as a very popular dessert!

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Why Does Vanilla Extract Smell Like Alcohol?

We have been contacted by customers asking  about the strong smell of alcohol in our pure vanilla extracts. So we thought we’d address this question.

There are good reasons and a simple fix for this.

The Reasons

1.  The FDA requires alcohol in vanilla

The FDA Standard of Identity for pure vanilla extracts requires that there must be a minimum of 35% alcohol in pure vanilla extract. The alcohol may be made with grain alcohol or sugarcane alcohol. In the case of our vanilla extracts, we use sugarcane alcohol because it is both gluten- and gmo-free.

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What’s the best vanilla extract?

So many choices. So many prices.
Are they all the same? What is the best vanilla?

What's the best vanilla extract?Have you ever stared at the vanilla extracts on the store shelves and wondered which  is the best vanilla extract to buy? In some respects, choosing a vanilla extract is like selecting a fine wine. How do you know which one to buy?

Read on for an insider’s view of vanilla extract, how to choose what’s best for you and why high-quality vanilla makes a world of difference in flavor.

The best quality vanilla extracts come with a price

The simple answer for what is the best vanilla extract often boils down to price. Good vanilla is not cheap. And because it is so pricey (it’s the world’s most labor-intensive crop), customers are often put off by sticker-shock. 

Most supermarket vanilla extracts are mediocre

So stores try their best to buy the cheapest extracts they can find. That means most supermarket vanilla extracts — both brand name and store brands — while they may be pure vanilla, are usually of mediocre quality in comparison to the really fine quality extracts that are available elsewhere. This is also true in the big-box stores where bulk vanilla is fairly inexpensive.

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Pasta and Zoodles with Bacon and Saffron Cream Sauce

While pasta won’t cure all the world’s woes, it’s reliable comfort food on a rainy, bluesie, day or when you’ve been so busy all you can think of is something easy to make.  This recipe’s not all about carbs thanks to the zoodles (zucchini noodles for the uninitiated). But what about the bacon, you might ask? It’s turkey bacon — lean but full of flavor.  If you don’t do bacon, no problem. Feel free to use real bacon if you prefer. This dish more than holds its own thanks to the saffron cream sauce!

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European Plum Cake

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This delicate, delicious, absolutely-must-make cake recipe comes from Maria Reiz Springer. Now living in Maryland, Maria is from Austria and has an infinite number of amazing European dessert recipes, and usually a wonderful story that goes with the recipe. Maria has a home cooking school and is truly a master baker. The plum cake can be made with other stone fruits as well, but if you are lucky enough to have French plums, they are both the traditional plum used as well as divine in this cake.

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Fig and Berry Salad with Port-Balsamic-Vanilla Glaze

Although the first figs may come in sometime in June, late July heralds the second round of the US fig season. In Europe, most especially Italy, everyone who can, has a fig tree. Italian immigrants who came to the US in the late 19th and early 20th century, planted them in barrels in apartment courtyards and in cottage gardens, holding onto the memory of warm figs harvested from trees in sun-baked gardens and hillsides.

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Peach Delight Frozen Yogurt

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Homemade frozen yogurt has become one of my passions this summer. I’ve especially enjoyed using freestone peaches and strawberries. You can use berries, nectarines, mangoes, and even poached apples or pears with most of the juices drained. Simply follow the basic recipe and adjust sweetener (use sugar if you prefer) to taste. I add a little sugar to the fruits to get the juices running; you can skip that step if the fruit is already juicy.

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Asparagus and Sugar Snap Pea Salad

 

Is it even possible to have too many salad recipes? Possibly if you hate fruits and vegetables, but then you wouldn’t be reading this recipe, right? The options are limitless, especially if you’re willing to experiment. So when I read a recipe featuring only sugar snap peas, I paid attention. They grow well on the California Coast, so we eat them with dips, cut into chunks in salads, and of course a stir fry, but it never occurred to me to use them as a single ingredient salad.

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Strawberry Smoothie

 Smoothies are a perfect breakfast food, and they’re also a fabulous addendum to a book and a hammock or any other slow-food activity. Use whole or 1% milk if you prefer, soy milk or fruit juice, and choose your favorite fruits. The second best thing to being a healthy fast food is that they’re very adaptable. Here’s one version. Make up your own – just be sure to perk it up with vanilla!

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