Monday, June 18, 2012

Among Other Things, Picnic Attends A Food Swap

I've been super busy.  The bakery is becoming more of a reality with every day that passes.  I go from feeling excited to nervous to terrified and back again on an almost hourly basis.  Things have really been coming together over the last couple of weeks.  Here's the latest:

1.  I should formally announce that I will be setting up a storefront on Haight Street in the old Red Vic movie theater when the building reopens under its new name, Second Act.  Second Act, which will house several food-related businesses in addition to an event space, should be open by the year's end.

 2.  I have found a certified kitchen rental just around the corner from the future storefront from which I will be able to do my baking.  I can't even tell you how lucky this is!  It's the kind of luck that only happens in movies.  Or, apparently in movie theaters.

3.  I have a plan that involves nitrogen and pandas.  Yes, you read that right.  I've discovered nitrogen packaging and plan to try it out on my peppermint panda cookies.  If it works well, you will soon be able to purchase these cookies in San Francisco stores!  Fingers crossed- if it works REALLY well, I will also be able to ship them by mail!  Hello, east coast friends.  I'll let you know how it goes!  Nitrogen packaging is actually really great for packing bulk foods.  If you are the type to buy bulk dry foods, (oatmeal, beans, lentils, etc.)  you may want to start doing this at home.  It's inexpensive and helps you maintain freshness.   Here is a ridiculously boring and extremely useful video about how to do nitrogen packaging.  Do not watch it unless you are sincerely interested, because it's seriously reminiscent of high school shop class.

4.  I have a page up on my website.  It's not finished, but it is cute thanks to the design work of the lovely Laura Allen!

5.  I have spent hours working on the pricing for my baked goods, business expenses, and various other numbery sort of money things.  It has scrambled my brains and made my ears smoke.  I. hate. numbers.  Thankfully, my darling boyfriend has created a whole series of inter-connected spreadsheets that will do the math for me.  If I ever learn how to use it.  I will.  Tomorrow.

6.  If you haven't already done so, please go to Picnic's facebook page and "like" it.  I will be posting special offers, food-related information, and bakery news for my followers once the business is open.

7.  I went to a food swap with some of my peppermint pandas last week.  I forgot my camera at home, but thankfully Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan of The Beet Goes On took some good ones and was willing to share them with me.

Picnic Bakery's Peppermint Pandas

I arrived with several boxes of peppermint pandas and left with the following:

Aimee's Pickled Ginger Peaches
These were such a unique flavor!  Spicy clove and ginger, vinegar, and sweet peaches.  I think they'd be great over cinnamon-vanilla ice cream.  Okay, kitchen…here I come.

Kelly's Limoncello
This was made from the lemons on her family's property.  It was a great consolation prize for Ralph who couldn't join me for the swap.  And how cute is the recycled packaging!?

Melissa & Angela's Tea & Cookies
They have GF options!  I ate about half of these in one sitting.  My labrador, Poppy ate the rest of them and probably in one gulp.  I was very disappointed when I came home to find the empty bag!

Vanessa's Spring Tonic Concentrate
Made with citrus peel, rose petals, star anise, laurel, and spearmint.  I can't wait to mix some drinks with this lovely concoction!

Meredyth's Nutella Almond Cranberry Granola
YUM.  This has been my go-to snack all week!

It was such a great way to meet other foodies and try samples of their homemade specialties.  The event was hosted by the ladies of SF Swappers.  They hold these events fairly regularly, and I encourage my SF foodie friends to sign up for the next one.  As far as I know, they don't have anything scheduled right now, but you can follow them on facebook or twitter to stay informed.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pistachio Rosewater Coconut Ice Cream

vegan ice cream
Pistachio Rosewater Coconut Ice Cream

This is the first time I ever made ice cream.  And it is definitely not the last.

Oh how I love making ice cream!  I just can't get over how easy it is.  Move over blocks of frozen spinach, there's a new habit moving in.

I have been wanting to make something pistachio rosewater flavored for quite awhile and saw this experiment as a perfect opportunity.  The pistachio and rosewater are subtle flavors that blend well with the slightest hint of coconut.  Ralph said he couldn't even taste the coconut, which is good because you don't always want that flavor in your ice cream and if these light notes were able to mask the main ingredient, anything can.

I decided to sweeten this recipe using agave nectar which gives the ice cream a delicate honey flavor without making it overly sweet.  My understanding is that agave is a little bit easier for diabetics to process than regular sugar.  It still has sugar in it; so, be careful if making this for someone who is diabetic.  Always check to see if agave is safe for them, first.

I know I've talked about xanthan gum a few times, but I just want to sing its praises one more time.  Xanthan gum works really well at giving liquids a thicker, sometimes custard-like, sometimes jelly-like texture.  I use it in nearly everything.  This doesn't have to be confined to vegan baking, my friends.  You can use this anytime you need to make things custard-like; and, it makes a great lower fat alternative to eggs in those types of recipes.  Not only does it thicken liquids, it also helps to keep milks from getting icy in the freezer.  Even regular dairy ice cream usually has xanthan gum listed as an ingredient for this very reason.

Pistachio Rosewater Coconut Ice Cream
Recipe by Emily Haydel of Picnic Bakery

2 cans full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup (+ more to taste) agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup unsalted pistachios (shells removed)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
3 tablespoons rosewater

1.  Whisk together coconut milk, salt, and agave.  Sweeten to taste.
2.  Add xanthan gum and whisk well.
3.  Break up pistachios with a mortar & pestle, add to milk mixture
4.  Pour coconut/pistachio mixture into a medium saucepan
5.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
6.  Allow to cool slightly, then pour the ingredients into a bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour until chilled.
7.  Remove bowl from fridge, stir well, then pour into ice cream maker
8.  Once the ice cream is of a thick consistency, pour it into a freezer-safe container and freeze until ready to serve.

That's it!  Too easy.

This ice cream is great drizzled with a little extra agave nectar and a sprinkle of crunched up pistachios.

Pistachio Rosewater Coconut Ice Cream

Friday, June 1, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Danishes

This week, I've become obsessed with googling images of tarantulas.  If you know me at all, you understand why this is weird.  You see, I am convinced that if I were to ever see a tarantula in real life, I would drop dead from fright.  I couldn't just pass out, because then I would wake up on the ground next to a giant spider.  And it might crawl on me.  No, the only thing I could do is die.  People always laugh when I tell them this.  I don't think it's funny, because I'm pretty sure it's true.  I've mentally walked myself through the entire process of seeing a tarantula; and, in the end I stop breathing, my heart stops beating, and I drop dead.

So, why have I become obsessed with googling tarantulas?  Because I just found out THEY LIVE IN BERKELEY.  If you're not familiar with the San Francisco bay area, look it up on a map.  Then start planning my funeral.  People have found tarantulas in their living rooms in the east bay.  I can't.  It's too much.  So, I've decided I need to get over my fear before it kills me.  I know they always say you need to face your fears to get over them.  I theorize that facing this fear would only give me a strong desire to burn everything I own and move back to Maryland.  Instead, I scroll through pages of California tarantulas muttering, "no." at each one.  Ugh.  I can't even tell you.

This is about three hours south of here.   Apparently, they even hold tarantula races.  

My other recent obsession makes my tummy rumble and does not cause phantom spiders to crawl up my legs.  Rhubarb.  I'm in love with this wonderful sour stalk.  In my pink post from last week, I shared some of my favorite photos of pink rhubarb creations with the promise of making something of my own with the flavor of the season.

I was originally going to go with a classic strawberry rhubarb pie.  I thought it would give me a chance to talk about my mom's moment of baking glory when she was awarded a ribbon for her strawberry rhubarb pie at the county fair.  My mom is not big on making things from scratch.  Don't get me wrong, she's capable.  She's just more interested in doing other things with her time = not a foodie.  The year she made strawberry rhubarb pie, we had just moved to the country from a more suburban neighborhood.  We moved into a house at the end of a long drive and as far into the middle-of-nowhere as you can get.  The previous tenants had grown rhubarb in one corner of what may have once been a garden.  It was the only thing left standing and it grew into a big beautiful bush of green leaves every summer.  That August, my mom, who was feeling inspired by her new country life, decided to bake a pie with rhubarb stalks from our yard.  She used strawberries from a patch down the road.  The pie was entered in our county fair (where it competed against magnificent pies made by Amish country grandmothers).  She was so proud of her ribbon!  I remember when we returned home with the pie, she invited some friends over to celebrate.  I was probably eight years old and was so intrigued by the sweet red juices oozing from the crust once the pie was cut.  I'm not sure what possessed me to do it; but, I actually took the pie server and scooped juices from the bottom and poured them all over the top crust of her beautiful pie!  I'm sure there was a serious time-out involved.  Having made a few pies of my own, I am actually surprised I was ever forgiven.  Ooooh, my kid-karma is going to haunt me.

I changed my mind about making a pie when I discovered Joe Pastry's blog.  Oh wow.  If you're into baking at all, this is an incredible resource!  He has recipes and thorough how-tos complete with photos for every kind of pastry imaginable.  I spent almost two hours clicking through his recipes.  These are non-vegan recipes; but, I was able to successfully convert the one I used.

I decided to make danish pastries with homemade strawberry rhubarb jam:

Strawberry Rhubarb Danishes

Thanks to the strawberries, they were red instead of pink; but, they were the perfect combination of rich, flaky, buttery, sweet, and sour.  Let's just say, I had more than a bite.

For the jam, I chopped about a cup and a half of strawberries, and a cup and a half of rhubarb stalk.  I put them in a pan and cooked them over medium heat until they started to release juices.  Then I added about half a cup of sugar, stirred, then added another quarter cup of sugar.  Once everything had cooked down and the rhubarb was tender, I removed it from the heat and whisked in about 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum.  Then I poured the mixture into a glass dish and refrigerated it.

The danish pastry dough recipe I used was adapted from the one on Joe Pastry's blog.  To make it vegan, I used earth balance instead of butter, reduced the salt to 1/4 teaspoon, and used Ener-g egg replacer (mixed with the appropriate amount of water) instead of the egg.  Warning:  The process for making danish pastry dough is an all-day affair.  You will spend a lot of time waiting for the dough to chill and rise.  

Strawberry Rhubarb Danishes

I had extra dough, so I also made this danish coffee cake with strawberry rhubarb jam and vanilla bean cheesecake filling:

Strawberry Rhubarb and Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Filled Danish Coffeecake

And I made bourbon raisin snails with the remaining pastry dough:

danish pastry
Bourbon Raisin Snails

These were our favorite, by far.  Ralph recently told me that he loves rum raisins.  I told him if he wanted to make some, I'd bake something with them for him.  He proceeded to make both bourbon and rum raisins.  I tasted some rum raisins right from the jar and I do not recommend anyone else try doing that.  These snails were so good, though.  The bourbon raisins were plump and warm from the oven.  I rubbed cinnamon, sugar, and earth balance into the dough and sprinkled it with the raisins before rolling it up. Everything got very melty and sweet.  I drizzled vanilla icing over the tops for a little extra decadence.  Mmmm…

In other news, I'm pleased to say Picnic Bakery's blog was nominated for an award.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to register for the contest and I'm too busy working on getting this business going and keeping up with my blog writing to go through the process.  But, I would like to thank Nichole from dulce delicious for nominating me.   I encourage you to follow the link and check out her lovely blog.  It's full of great recipes!