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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘baking

Star Baker

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This week’s star baker on the Wintervale Baking Show is, Cyndie!

She nailed the technical challenge and remembered to proof the dough and chose a perfect combination of organic berry flavors for fillings.

The White Pine Berry Farm called again, this time with a request for full pies. Cyndie was more than happy to oblige and I was the beneficiary of testing tastes. Try as I might, I always fall ridiculously short of copying the expert critiquing commentary Paul Hollywood dishes out on The Great British Baking Show.

I think it’s my lack of that accent.

That, and I have a vested interest in preserving our marriage.

My beloved multitasked caring for her 13 [Hah! Baker’s dozen!] baby chicks in the brooder down at the barn throughout the day while also flinging flour, measuring butter, and exercising the oven door hinge back in the kitchen.

Oh, and throw in serving up parmesan chicken for dinner, during which we checked out the local PBS rebroadcast of the season 3 quarterfinals of the GBBS.

It sounds exhausting, but she is not the only one working hard around here. I had to drop everything I was doing after dinner last night just so I could join her in the kitchen to test samples of her lemon-blueberry, and the strawberry crumble pies.

“Take that!” mister precisely measured reduced-sugar diet guy.

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Written by johnwhays

July 23, 2020 at 6:00 am

Berry Farm

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On Saturday morning, I helped Cyndie deliver her baked contributions to White Pine Berry Farm for their Trifecta Weekend event. This is the time of year when their three main berries: Strawberries, Raspberries, and Blueberries are all available for picking on the same days.

Cyndie had everything bagged and labeled for individual sale.

Farmer Greg was thrilled over the arrival of the treats he had sampled days before. If he was around to pitch the product all weekend I don’t know how customers could resist.

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With the combination of organic berries from White Pine Berry Farm and Cyndie’s special baked delicacies made with oodles of love, I think we have the makings of a new superpower.

The berry farm started their venture just half a year before we arrived to create Wintervale. It has taken us years to find each other, and now fills us with excitement over unknown possibilities for future collaborations. They have space to host weddings and other events in addition to a new building under construction for future offerings.

We have quickly grown very fond of farmers Greg and Andy. It serves as inspiration for imagining greater possibilities of how we might be able to spread more love in the world through participation in their events.

At the very least, we might learn some valuable tips and tricks about growing better organic berries and produce at home.

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Written by johnwhays

July 13, 2020 at 6:00 am

New Project

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A new opportunity has unfolded for Cyndie to practice her skills as a baker from our own kitchen. A nearby organic berry farm where she shops for strawberries that she cans as jam was looking to expand their offerings and sell baked goods to their customers. Cyndie volunteered to drop off some samples the next day.

Her almond-cherry scones were an overwhelming hit and led to requests for additional varieties, to which she gladly complied.

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Strawberry hand-pies and chocolate-raspberry cookies soon arrived along with her masterpiece of lemon-blueberry scones. They want ’em all.

She is packaging the treasures for individual sale.

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I’m confident there will be some very happy berry shoppers after their visit to the farm today.

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Written by johnwhays

July 11, 2020 at 6:00 am

Bad Day

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This is the saga of Cyndie’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Really. It was the kind of day that no one deserves when they are already under the strain of grief from the recent death of their father and having just spent the prior day unexpectedly moving furniture and mopping basement floors after flooding rains.

It’s doubly frustrating when the trees outside keep toppling over from the abuses of wind and heavy rain.

We lost another oak tree near the backside of the house sometime in the last two days.

To soothe the pangs of angst banging around in Cyndie’s head, she opted for a craft project to occupy her time and talents, one that would create useful masks in benefit to others. Unfortunately, a problem developed with the bobbin and threading mechanism of her sewing machine which consumed hours, wasted yards of thread, and produced results opposite from soothing angst.

Next, she tried baking, also a love of hers which normally produces oodles of good feelings.

Walking the dog took too long for the tray of parmesan cheese toasts that were in the oven and the results were burned just enough that they couldn’t be salvaged. The delicious smell lingered long after the acrid tasting morsels had been discarded, providing an unwelcome reminder of what was lost.

Luckily, the two loaves of bread she followed up with came out perfect and tasted delicious. She offered a warm slice for me to test. Then, she took Delilah for a jaunt and I stepped outside to finish a chore. When I came back into the air-conditioned house, I found she had returned Delilah to the coolness indoors while she stayed outside to pick wild raspberries.

That is when I spotted the still-warm loaf she had just cut test slices from was now moved just to the very edge of the counter and there were delicate bites missing along the full length of one side.

Each attempt to get the better of her angst ended up providing nothing of the sort.

It had all the makings of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad type of day.

I’m thinking she might benefit from exorcising her demons by way of wielding a chainsaw toward a bunch of oak branches and cutting them to bits.

Take that you terrible, horrible, no good, eff of a day of failing sewing machines and baking disasters.

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Written by johnwhays

July 1, 2020 at 6:00 am

Cookie Weekend

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It’s that time again! Cyndie’s two-day holiday cookie bake-stravaganza commenced yesterday and continues through today. Two years ago Cyndie’s baking intensity triggered a high-level alert from the Wintervale Diet Observation Administration (WDOA).

Cooler heads are prevailing this year due to Cyndie’s smart inclusion of a number of assistants who willingly engage in the intense labor of mass production and, most importantly, take home a plate of the goods to distribute the calories across a wider stretch of midsections. (pardon the pun.)

Don’t worry about me. I will survive this storm of excessive irresistible sweetness using a number of avoidance techniques that have worked for me in the past. My primary difficulty is that I choose not to entirely abstain. I like to sample, so I strive to do so carefully. Small or misshapen specimens are a target of my attention. Convincing willing assistants to break cookies in half so I can have just a taste works well for bigger delicacies.

It may not be fair, but I also bring a platter to work, forcing innocent coworkers to share in the challenge of enjoying the sweet bliss of Cyndie’s incredible effort without overdosing on the amped-up calories per morsel.

Misery loves comfort, you know. Sweet holiday treats and the love and laughter baked into them are a misery I am willing to share.

Luckily this level of sumptuous indulgence only happens one time a year, resulting from Cyndie’s always impressive, “Cookie Weekend!”

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Written by johnwhays

December 8, 2019 at 10:57 am

Baking Adventure

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Both Cyndie and I have noticed how the lighter color of the new deck boards catches our eye with a false perception of snow covering the deck, especially at night. It happened to me last night, on a trip to the bathroom, except on the way back to bed, the view out the window revealed a white covering over everything.

This morning there is a light frosting on the landscape. Sure is nice to have the deck project completed.

We’ve adjusted by moving our adventures indoors. Cyndie’s favorite bakery in Hastings, Emily’s, prepares an almond danish coffeecake that has inspired Cyndie to try making one herself. My contribution was to build her a fire in the fireplace and standby to test taste.

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I am happy to report her first try of enacting a combination of old recipes uncovered online turned out delicious. Cyndie said one she found was posted by a very old-looking grandma who wrote the recipe had come from her grandmother.

It felt like olde-time baked goods. It tasted like historical goodness. Almost made me want to have coffee with it.

But I don’t like the taste of coffee. That would have been a real adventure for me.

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Written by johnwhays

November 2, 2019 at 9:47 am

Cookies Galore

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She’s done it again! Cyndie moves like magic in the kitchen when her weekend of Christmas cookie baking arrives. She made a noble dent in the project all by herself on Saturday to start, then, with the help of friends and family yesterday, achieved a record number of total recipes baked when the flour dust finally settled.

It was a sight to behold, but don’t take my word for it. See for yourselves. (Thank you to Melissa Williams for sharing pictures she took of the extravaganza!)

For the first time ever, Cyndie baked meringue cookies from her gramma’s recipe. They come with a memory of being told, as grandchildren, that they needed to be very calm and quiet while meringue cookies are baking in the oven or the cookies would be wrecked.

After her first try success, Cyndie is inclined to think the strict constraints placed on them back then could very likely have been a ruse by her grandmother, taking advantage of an easy opportunity to command good behavior.

More power to her, I say.

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Written by johnwhays

December 10, 2018 at 7:00 am

Kitchen Aromas

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Honestly, I don’t feel worthy of the aromas that greeted me from Cyndie’s kitchen when I walked in the door after work yesterday. She pulled me all the way into some of my fondest November memories with a robust batch of fresh Chex mix roasting in the oven.

Threw me back to Thanksgiving day parades, afternoon football games, and my dear ol’ mom.

I don’t know which came first. Did my love of cereal lead to an overwhelming attachment to Chex mix, or did my fondness for Chex mix lead to my mind-boggling passion for cereal?

No sooner does the mix come out of the oven and Cyndie puts in a pizza crust to pre-bake.

Not one to avoid a challenge, she was working her magic on an untested recipe for an adventurous fresh cranberry balsamic white pizza.

I can sincerely say that this did not bring back a single memory or aroma from my past. I can take, or leave, an arugula salad on my pizza, but ricotta cheese in place of a good salty tomato sauce left this experiment lacking.

It looked tantalizing, though.

Just needed more sauce and maybe a heaping crown of mozzarella cheese for my tastes. And bacon.

What?

That was Cyndie’s idea. We read somewhere that the most common ingredient in contest-winning recipes happens to be bacon flavor in some shape or form.

We both got a chuckle out of that.

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Written by johnwhays

November 14, 2018 at 7:00 am

First Ever

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This is the first time I ever tried to do this. In honor of Mother’s Day today, I have given Cyndie the day off and I have taken over the job of making her classic caramel rolls for the family brunch this morning.

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What an adventure. Just melt too much butter, a lot of Karo syrup, and way more brown sugar than can possibly be healthy, on the stove and then pour it in the pan(s). I lined one with nuts, first.

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Using a pre-made sweet dough cuts the job down to size, but what a challenge it was getting that sticky blob to roll flat and then stay formed for the cutting.

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Arranging the rolls in the pan is a guessing game of wondering how much the dough will rise before baking.

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With a little creative arranging, I got everything to fit.

I’ll be a nervous wreck in front of the oven, but the hard part is done.

Best wishes to all you mothers out there! I have great respect for all that you do.

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Written by johnwhays

May 13, 2018 at 6:00 am

April Fooling

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We get the joke. Today starts the fourth month of 2018, and despite the general trend of average warmth climbing around the globe, we woke to teeth-chattering cold. The clear sky overnight was wonderful for viewing the blue moon, but it also contributed to the drop in temperature.

We had a reading of 10°(F) before the sun came up. With the fresh coating of snow on the ground from Friday night’s storm, there is cold in the air, as well as radiating from the ground.

We’re not laughing.

It seems like the forest animals weren’t much interested in facing the cold, either. In a search for tracks around the full perimeter of our property, there were surprisingly few foot prints revealing activity. Based on the evidence we collected, a rabbit was the only critter moving around.

At least we know that it didn’t have any problems with dodging predators.

The cougar that growled near Cyndie and Delilah last week is likely long gone after its journey past our home. We did a search in the neighboring woods where the eery sounds came from last week, but did not find any hint of a foot print or disturbed snow where the drama played out.

In a long shot reaction, I mounted our trail camera to observe the trail closest to the area, but it only provided added evidence that nothing was moving around after the snow, except Delilah and me.

Yesterday, Cyndie unleashed a great weapon against cold and snow. She filled the house with the smells of fresh-baked buns and whipped together a couple of egg bakes for a family brunch today.

No foolin’.

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Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2018 at 9:27 am