Archive | Late Fall-Holidays 2012

LATE FALL-HOLIDAYS 2012

CONTENTS LATE FALL-HOLIDAYS 2012
DEPARTMENTS
2 GRIST FOR THE MILL
4 MOUNTAIN PEAKS
Love, Care and Local Harvest Produce Blake Hill Preserve
Chocolate: Mystery, Magic and Art
The Tangible Magic of Green Mountain Girls Farm
10 ENTERTAINING WITH VERMONT CHEESE
12 EDIBLE SEASON
Hunters’ Fall
16 SEASONAL COOKING
Pumpkin: It Ain’t Just for Pie Anymore
40 LAST BITE
Woodstock Farmers Market
FEATURES
20 CEDAR CIRCLE FARM
Sowing the Seeds of Knowledge
A Limited Palate: My Fall CSA
24 EYE ON THE PIE
32 OUR OWN LOCAL ITALY
Al Ducci’s of Manchester Roots Authentic Italian Cuisine in Southern Vermont
36 VERMONT SWITCHEL
Raising a Glass to Our Agrarian Heritage

ON THE COVER
Pear Frangipane Pithivier Photo by Brent Harrewyn

ON THIS PAGE
Dessert, Al Ducci style
Photo by Georgia LoPresti Meckes

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GRIST FOR THE MILL LATE FALL-HOLIDAYS 2012

sticky toffee pudding tart
Photo by Brent Harrewyn

It’s fall and we have just dug our sweet potatoes. They will be stored for now, their sweetness developing throughout the fall and winter. I’ve started thinking of some of my favorite ways to prepare them and have made a mental note to offer to bring sweet potatoes for the forthcoming holiday gatherings.

Every family has its own traditional holiday dishes on the table. Garlic balls, turkey, roasted sweet potatoes with maple syrup, pumpkin pie, butter cookies—these are a few of my family’s favorites. Annually each of my siblings at various points during the season still calls Mom or Dad to ask how to make_____________ (fill in the blank with a family favorite).

Our own families have grown into these large broods. When we gather together now, the host usually assigns a dish for each to bring. As we come together at the table, it’s fun to see the traditional Butternut squash dish or the apple pie, each with a style as unique as its preparer. I’ve noticed that even if you follow your mother’s recipe step by step it just seems different than hers. As our palates, dare I say, mature?

We add a little of this, a little of that, but we are also getting back to basics and enjoying simple creations. Our focus has shifted more toward eating what is in season and available locally. Pie can be the perfect ending—if you have a good crust. If you have considered yourself “piecrust challenged,” in this issue pastry chef and author Gesine Bullock-Prado offers a Quick Puff Pastry recipe that is dependable, versatile and ready for your desert pie or turkey potpie during this busy time of year.

With this third issue of Edible Green Mountains we wanted to include a few of the food traditions you would expect but also some with a new twist: Pumpkin Mushroom Pot Stickers! We’ve featured just a few of all the products and eateries available here in Vermont, and celebrate the people who grow, produce, develop and educate us on our community and its bounty.

During this season of giving, we invite you to find a new local favorite. Bring it to a celebration, give it as a gift or make it your own and share a little taste of Vermont.

Enjoy!

PS: In the photo above is Sticky Toffee Pudding Tart. It is as good as it looks! For this recipe and other seasonal recipes go to our website EdibleGreenMountains.com

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MOUNTAIN PEAKS

LOVE, CARE AND LOCAL HARVEST
PRODUCE BLAKE HILL PRESERVES

Blake Hill Preserves
Photo top left by Jeff Woodward, top right by Steve Redmond,
bottom by Vicky Allard

BY FREDERICA TEMPLETON

Standing in her spotless new commercial kitchen, Vicky Allard picks up a glass jar from among several dozen sitting on a stainless steel counter. The pale pink contents look intriguing. “It’s a marmalade made from watermelon, grapefruit and just a touch of mint,” she explains. “I was inspired by a cocktail I had enjoyed but was not sure I could find watermelons in Vermont.”

After speaking to some local farmers, she was able to secure some Vermont-grown watermelons and this newest addition to the Blake Hill Preserves family was ready for its labels.

The kitchen’s bright red tin roof sitting among the tall green trees is a striking introduction to the Grafton farm where Vicky and Joe Hanglin are producing by hand the most savory and surprising jams, marmalades and chutneys that are based in the local economy and tied to local farmers.

For them, it is a simple matter of doing what they are passionate about in a place they really wanted to be. They had left their native England in 1999 for good jobs in Connecticut and had fallen totally in love with Vermont. After spending vacations visiting around the state, they jumped at the chance in 2004 to buy an old farming property along the edge of Putnam State Forest just outside of Grafton, where they converted the farm’s original 1880s timber-frame barn into their home, and very soon found themselves deeply immersed in an adventure with fresh fruits, local farmers and a preserving business.

It all began with the blackberries. Above the restored barn Vicky found masses of blackberries. Collecting them gave her the idea to recreate a childhood memory of making jams. A friend took some of her preserves to the Grafton Village Store and they quickly sold out. Her desire to create the freshest tasting and most carefully made jams out of local fruits has led her to experiment with textures, tastes and engaging combinations.

Her Raspberry & Hibiscus Flower jam has become the most popular, closely followed by her Blueberry jam enhanced by the addition of just a few summer plums, and a new Strawberry and Rhubarb with a perfect blend of the sweet and tart.

“It is my personal art,” Vicky says, “my outlet for creativity, turning the local produce into a unique product.” To attain her goal, Vicky buys pounds of fruit from local farmers. “I go to the farms around us and let them know how much I need. I found that I can put 200 pounds right in my car.”

She uses only top-quality, perfectly ripe fruits that are quickly put into wide copper pots to very slowly cook at a low boil, which concentrates the flavor and allows the water to evaporate. The slow cooking in small batches allows her to forego the use of commercial pectin, artificial preservatives, colorings or other additives commonly used; all the Blake Hill products are completely natural. Once the composition has reached the right texture, she pours it into sterile glass jars that are vacuum sealed. It takes up to nine ounces of fresh fruit to fill every 10-ounce jar.

For the chutneys, 10 ounces of raw fruit and vegetables go into every 10-ounce jar. The Blake Hill chutneys bear no resemblance to those that are mass produced.

Joe grew up in Gibraltar and his childhood memories include the taste and smell of the pungent, warm spices in the Arabic-influenced foods from North Africa. Like alchemists, the couple blends textures and tastes slowly and carefully to produce a seamless deep fruit flavor.

Their method is to lay in the apples with an organic apple cider vinegar from Dwight Miller Farm in Dummerston, to slowly add the other ingredients such as tomatoes and peppers and finally to blend in the spices they instinctively feel are right. The apricot and fresh orange chutney is flavored with coriander, cinnamon and mustard seeds and the plum and prune chutney includes nuanced flavors of their own Moroccan tagine-inspired ras-el-hanout spice blend. As the weather changes, they introduce flavors that reflect the season, such as the roasted squash, garlic and chipotle pepper chutney for the fall. Making marmalade is a three-step process that requires vigilance and Vicky works hard to ensure that the taste, texture and visual experience combine to exceed the usual expectations for a toast topper.

The sugar content is kept intentionally low but other ingredients added, such as in her Top Shelf Orange and 10-Year Single Malt Whisky Marmalade and Lemon, Lime and Aged 100% Agave Tequila Marmalade, take the old-fashioned preserve to an entirely new level.

So popular have these proved to be that Blake Hill Preserves expanded the Top Shelf range to include a pineapple, lemon and rum marmalade and a cranberry, heirloom apple and French calvados chutney made from local heirloom-variety apples from Scott Farm in Dummerston.

Every one of Vicky’s preserves and chutneys would make a very welcome holiday gift—if you can keep from gobbling them up yourself.

Blake Hill Preserves are available at a number of stores in Vermont including the Brattleboro Co-Op, Grafton Village Cheese stores, the Plymouth Artisan Cheese Shop, Vermont Country Deli and at local farmers markets around Grafton. They can also be purchased through BlakeHillPreserves.com.

preserves
Photo by Vicky Allard

CHOCOLATE MYSTERY, MAGIC AND ART

chocolate moose

STORY AND PHOTO BY LYNN GRIEGER

How does a food with beginnings in the tropical forests of South America and a history that includes Mayan, Aztec and European royalty end up part of the locavore culture in Bennington County, Vermont?

Nick Monte, owner of the Village Peddler in East Arlington and the Village Chocolate Shoppe in Bennington, thrives on what he calls the mystery, magic and art of making chocolate. In fact, Monte compares the small farmers in South America who carefully nurture cacao trees and harvest the beans by hand to our local family farmers. The work ethic, love of the land and care for their crops flows across continents like, well, molten chocolate.

Chocolate is a second career for Monte, who combined a love of cooking and baking into making chocolate when he retired from running the Arlington Variety Store 25 years ago. Primarily self-taught, he and his wife, son and two daughters make chocolate confections in small, 10-pound batches.

Traditional chocolate favorites such as truffles, caramels, soft centers and buttercrunch join malted milk balls, peanut butter moosemallows and Moose Stuff (Monte’s version of what moose leave behind: pretzels, caramel, nuts and, of course, chocolate) on the shelves. Monte also creates Origine bars: chocolate bars made from cacao beans grown and processed exclusively in a specific country or area. Reading the exotic names of the Origine such as Arriba, Tanzanie, Venezuela, Java and Colombia conjures visions of dark, steamy hot forests.

While Monte loves making chocolate, it’s clear that he also thrives on talking about chocolate and dreaming up new chocolate creations such as Cocoa, a 100-pound hollow chocolate teddy bear in East Arlington that gets a fresh coat of chocolate every couple of years, or the husband-and-wife moose pair, Benny and … Read More

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ENTERTAINING WITH VERMONT CHEESE

cheese
Photo by Carole Topalian

BY WENDY LEVY

As a resident of Vermont, or even as a visitor, you must know it is considered an act of treason here to serve port wine cheese spread or a rolled-in-nuts cheese log at a holiday get-together. A selection of Vermont’s abundance of fresh, local cheeses is vastly more tempting—and almost as easy.

While summer offers the widest variety of Vermont cheeses—because sheep and goats are grazing and milking—it is not only possible but very easy to put together a fabulous array of Vermont cheeses when entertaining during the winter holidays.

Cheese is the easiest hors d’oeuvre, if quick and low-maintenance is your thing. Simply take a hunk of cheese, put it on a plate, wooden cutting board or clean slab of slate, and invite your guests to dig in. If you’re having a party and you don’t know what everyone likes, it’s a good idea to choose a cheese that’s not too strong. That doesn’t mean the cheese has to be bland. There are a great many fine Vermont cheeses that are flavorful without being challenging. For Vermont purists, Original Plymouth Cheese by Plymouth Artisan Cheese is a good bet. It’s an indigenous Vermont cheese, developed by Calvin Coolidge’s father back in 1890. Cheddar-like, it’s bold and fruity with a melting mouthfeel. Serve with pickles, mustard, apple butter and whole-grain bread for a Ploughman’s Lunch–style appetizer.

Another great “make everyone happy” Vermont cheese is Orb Weaver Farmhouse Cheese. Similar to Colby, it is buttery, rich and slightly tangy. It gets along well with dried fruit and a variety of preserves and chutneys.

If you’re willing to put in a little more effort, for a sit-down holiday meal it’s a nice treat to offer each guest a cheese plate. Choose between three and six cheeses, and figure on serving 2½–3 ounces of cheese, total, to each person. Plate the cheeses in order of strength of flavor, from the mildest to the strongest. Put a basket of sliced warm bread in the middle of the table along with small dishes of olives, fruit preserves or pastes, chutneys, toasted or glazed nuts, or pickled vegetables.

A fine “Vermont Holiday Cheese Sampler” might look like this, in order: Maplebrook Farm’s Burrata, Champlain Creamery’s Triple-Crème, Bonnieview Farm’s Ben Nevis, von Trapp Farmstead’s Oma (aged by Jasper Hill), and Jasper Hill Farm’s Bayley Hazen Blue. Of course you can substitute any number of Vermont cheeses for these, but this example will give you an idea of the order in which the cheeses should be served.

Cheese fondue is certainly worth the labor, and it’s easy to substitute any cheese from Switzerland with one from Vermont. Be careful, though: Your guests might get spoiled and expect this at every party. Choose two or three of the following and use them in the recipe listed in the sidebar: Blythedale Farm’s Green Mountain Gruyère, Cobb Hill’s Ascutney Mountain, Consider Bardwell’s Rupert, Crawford Family Farm’s Vermont Ayr, Green Mountain Blue’s Tomme Collins, Mt. Mansfield Creamery’s Hayride or Topnotch Tomme, Spring Brook’s Tarentaise, West River Creamery’s Glebe Mountain and Willow Hill’s Butternut. Did you know Vermont is the state with the most artisan cheesemakers per capita? So, not only can you offer your guests fine Vermont cheeses, but you can easily select cheeses made on actual farms, rather than in factories. And every time you buy cheese from a smaller producer, you are helping to support Vermont agriculture, so Vermont can keep looking like Vermont.

RECIPE

Wendy Levy’s Easy Fondue

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EDIBLE SEASON: HUNTER’S FALL

fall

BY LISA MASÉ

Autumn is harvest time. Some Vermonters collect pumpkins, chard and onions from their gardens, while others wait in the forest among the leaves of crimson and gold to hunt deer. Here, personal gardens and connection to food sources have never fallen out of fashion, both for the great availability of open space and for the appreciation of savoring dishes made from local ingredients with traditional recipes. Those who enjoy eating well can peacefully settle here because this state offers the opportunity to live in harmony with the cycles of the seasons.

Food access has grown global. Grapes from Chile and rice from Thailand reach our grocery stores. A “food mile” is the distance food travels from production site to purchase location. Trucking, flying and refrigeration all require fossil fuel, the combustion of which releases carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Ingredients travel an average of 1,200 miles to reach the dinner table, according to Environmental Health Perspectives (Vol. 110, #5, May 2002).

In contrast, Vermonters try to practice the “locavore” concept, which establishes community networks for growing and eating more local food. From the fossil fuel, wood, coal and natural gas that power our technology to the beans, grains, meats and vegetables that fuel our bodies, society needs to consume resources in order to produce more of them.

Yet the current food manufacturing system consumes more than it produces. As Michael Pollan argues in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, large-scale food production has grown beyond its capacity to sustain itself. With so many options, many people are left feeling confused about what to eat. As Pollan explains, “What’s at stake in our eating choices is not only our own and our children’s health, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth.”

People can become disconnected from cooking and traditional forms of nourishment when food comes from such a distance. We are what we eat, and nourishment requires alchemy. Selecting and cooking local foods invites us to establish connection with our surroundings. By recognizing ourselves in the context of what we eat, we gain a greater capacity to adapt to a situation and thrive. Vermonters appreciate their roots when preparing and savoring creative meals made with local ingredients. When we eat venison stew made from deer that have been free to run in the maple and pine forests, we can trust that the nourishment supports both our health and that of the environment.

In honor of the hunter’s moon of autumn, try these recipes and Vermont wines to warm your spirit and strengthen your body for the winter to come.

RECIPES

Duck Elderberry Dumplings

Venison and Roasted Pumpkin Stew

Braised Rabbit

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SEASONAL COOKING: PUMPKIN AIN’T JUST FOR PIE ANYMORE

pumpkin
Photo by Carole Topalian

BY KATHRYN VANDERMINDEN
CHEF/OWNER OF VILLAGE ROOTS CATERING

This time of year yields the most amazing varieties of pumpkins. I love the nontraditional ones that range in color and shape. However, I am rather sick of the pumpkin recipes that currently exist. It seems as if it is always the same old same old. I wrote the following recipes purposely trying to avoid pie, dessert, gnocchi or curry. I headed out with an open mind and heart to search for pumpkins at the farmers market. I picked ugly ones. I picked pretty ones. I cooked, roasted, mashed, steamed and puréed. I fed my family pumpkin every day for several weeks and finally came up with these four ideas. These recipes all work very well for the holidays or a party as they can be made ahead—something I appreciate because I have a catering company. I made all four of the recipes here with less than two pumpkins that were each half the size of a basketball. So run out to your local farm and grab a basket of pumpkins. They will keep just fine in a cool, dark area for weeks and weeks. In the end I used Cinderella and New England Pie Pumpkin varieties because that is what my friend was selling. Go local!

RECIPES

Pumpkin Mushroom Pot Stickers

Pumpkin Sushi

Cinderella Pumpkin Dip

Pork Pumpkin Stew

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CEDAR CIRCLE FARM

SOWING THE SEEDS OF KNOWLEDGE
AT CEDAR CIRCLE FARM
AND EDUCATION CENTER

Alison Baker
Alison Baker (© All rights reserved by Cedar Circle Farm &
Education Center. Farm photo at right is by Bob Eddy)

BY TRACEY MEDEIROS

In 2000, the Azadoutioun Foundation of Cambridge, Massachusetts, purchased the Cedar Circle Farm and Education Center in Vermont. Over the next three years, Cedar Circle Farm became certified organic and now serves as a community-supported example of sustainability. It is located in East Thetford on 40 acres of conserved land, which overlooks the Connecticut River.

The owners hired Will Allen and Kate Duesterberg as the farm’s principle managers. The two are responsible for the daily workings of the farm’s business and the development and implementation of its innovative educational programming. They strive to offer a variety of farm-centered educational opportunities to area schools, visitors and the community.

The farm grows an array of vegetables, small fruits, legumes, oil seed and grain crops, as well as annual and perennial flowers. These products are sold at their farm stand, farmers markets, wholesale accounts and through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) harvest subscription program. The goal is to have the agricultural center be a model of the best organic farming practices.

Every growing season people are hired to work in the fields, six greenhouses, five hoop houses, farm stand, bakery and kitchen. Crewmembers are part of the educational program, helping out with school tours and activities, as well as at festivals and “Dinners in the Field.” These hardworking people believe that good food should not be for a select few, but accessible to all.

Cedar Circle Farm is home to a licensed commercial kitchen, which is run by chef and manager Alison Baker. For her, food is something we all connect to—and good food is something we all deserve. It shouldn’t be a luxury. The chef often has the feeling that she is returning to people something vital and good that’s always been theirs, and so kindling in them a desire for more.

Baker prides herself on using great ingredients that need very little preparation. “Excellence is a few balanced, perfect flavors in combination with one another to bring out a single ingredient’s essence,” she says. For her, sometimes it’s finding those ingredients in an unexpected place, like a dessert, that makes you appreciate them while at the same time you feel like you’re meeting an old friend.

She also aims to keep nutrition in mind, never sacrificing the healthsupportive properties of a food through how she prepares it but instead trying to enhance them.

As a chef, she values diversity of flavor and appreciates that farms are bringing back the older varieties of heritage breeds, such as spelt. Baker approaches cooking respectful of the wisdom of tradition, but is also open to inspiration and reinvention. The kitchen uses the farm’s products whenever possible to create pickles, preserves and baked goods for their cozy Hello Café. They also use their events to bring local producers and chefs together.

Cedar Circle Farm’s field dinners and tastings feature fresh, seasonal fare inspired by the farm’s harvest and other local producers. Baker uses her culinary expertise to offer guests a variety of locally grown delights, which are served outdoors, on the banks of the beautiful Connecticut River. Tables are elegantly set with linens, china and silverware. If the weather is rainy, the festivities are celebrated under a protective tent. This is a very popular event and usually sells out well in advance.

Twice a year the farm hosts large community festivals, a strawberry feast on the last Sunday in June and a pumpkin festival on the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend. The festivals are green events: If visitors arrive on foot or by bicycle, admission is free.

The farm’s annual Tomato Tasting by the River showcases beautiful heirloom tomatoes. Guests are able to sample a colorful rainbow of freshly picked tomatoes in the raw while the farm kitchen creatively prepares an assortment of tomato dishes. Each year the menu varies. The farm’s educational component offers tours of Cedar Circle’s buildings and fields to students from all over the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire. Students have the opportunity to participate in many activities, including an Insect Safari, visiting the greenhouses and fields to see plants in all stages of development, or planting a seed and learning how to care for it before taking their seedling home.

At the local Thetford Elementary School, the students and staff are involved with a farm-to-school program organized by Cat Buxton, Cedar Circle’s education program director. Classrooms are matched with farmers by grade level and interest. The students and farmers become pen pals and correspond during the winter and spring, which offers the children a realistic picture of the life and work on the farm.

With help from the crew at Cedar Circle, the elementary school has started a community garden. In 2011, seven additional raised beds were added and maintained by members of the school. Some of the produce that is harvested from the garden is incorporated into the school’s healthy menu offerings. During the summer students, parents and volunteers from the community work side by side to keep the garden productive. The Thetford School’s farm friends have also helped them with an onsite composting facility, which gives the students hands-on involvement in the food cycle: seed to lunch to soil. These educational initiatives are offered to other community schools as well.

Education is the focal point of Cedar Circle Farm. Therefore, it is no surprise that they offer classes in cooking and gardening as well as bread baking. There is also a course in gluten-free baking, for those who so choose. Staff is available to teach interested participants how to turn fresh fruits and veggies into jams and sauces as well as pesto and pickles. The farm’s mission is to provide high-quality educational programming that raises public awareness about the important benefits of local organic agriculture, while educating nextgeneration farmers about sustainable organic growing methods. These collaborative efforts will help to increase access to high-quality organic food for everyone.

farm stand

Those who are interested in being part of Cedar Circle’s CSA program can split a share with a friend or neighbor. There are also subsidized CSA shares for Vermonters who meet the financial eligibility guidelines. These shares are sold at half the cost for those who qualify. The farm also offers a fall CSA because its root-storage area allows for keeping crops in marketable condition throughout January. Cedar Circle Farm values its CSA program because it supports local farmers, strengthens the health of the community, allows children to explore new foods and encourages healthy eating habits while enabling participants to get to know the person who grows their food.

Cedar Circle Farm also offers “Bouquet Shares,” where its members can go to the farm once a week, for eight weeks, and cut their own bouquets from the cut-flower garden. The participants are able to choose from a lovely selection of flowers all summer long.

Currently, the farm is exploring alternative energy models with a focus on both energy production and conservation. They have 24 solar panels and are experimenting with a clean-burn furnace in … Read More

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EYE ON THE PIE

With the right guidance,
a perfect crust isn’t out of reach

pie

BY EMILY MCKENNA
PHOTOS BY BRENT HARREWYN

Every year, I try a new piecrust recipe. There was last year’s classic all-butter variation and, the year before that, its half shortening, half butter cousin that my aunt swears by. There was the recipe that called for a slurp of vodka (first attempted in 2007); the recipe that called for a food processor and a very delicate hand (too many pulses will make the dough tough); the recipe that called for working butter into flour with forks, or with my fingers; and the one that swore by freezing the flour, butter and bowl.

I have tried them all, many times over, and have often ended up with the same disappointing results: crusts that are dry and crumbly, impossible to roll out, too wet, too tough or that shrink in the oven. I end up frustrated—sometimes in tears—and inevitably hand off crustmaking duties to my mother or sister while I have a drink and ask myself why I did not just buy the pre-made crust at the supermarket. It is not easy for me to make this confession. I have worked in a fancy Manhattan restaurant, as a private chef and in the test kitchens for three popular food publications. I’m also a well-fed Italian girl from New Jersey who grew up eating from the hands of my grandmother and her three sisters. I can cook—and cook well—I swear!

And yet, I continue to be stumped by piecrust. Impatient and unwilling to go through another Thanksgiving or Christmas (the Oscars for pie!) as a novice, I decided to find a piecrust coach, an expert baker, who could show me the way to piecrust perfection. I found this expert in Gesine Bullock-Prado, whose recently published second cookbook, Pie It Forward, includes these telling sentences: “Crust is queen in the pie world. If you can’t muster together a beautiful crust, your creation isn’t worth shoving into anyone’s piehole, no matter how delicious the filling might be.”

I knew I’d found someone who took piecrust as seriously as I did. Anyone who would write these words would not give up after a few flops. I wouldn’t either. I called her up and set a date for a lesson. Gesine lives with her husband, film director and illustrator Ray Prado, on six acres near Woodstock, in central Vermont. As if her white Colonial-style house was not full enough already—with two Catahoulas, a Boston terrier and a small farm’s worth of chickens, geese, ducks and sheep, plus maple trees for sugaring, apple trees for cider and bees for honey—she plans to build a bread oven on the property. Her spacious production kitchen, where she tests and develops the recipes for her cookbooks, is housed in a 250-yearold carriage house off the back of her home. She was wrapping up production on her third cookbook, Bake It Like You Mean It, a book about cakes, when I visited. Her kitchen is the kind of space that home cooks dream of: an entire small room dedicated to pantry staples and equipment, lots of wire racks for storage, double convection ovens, an industrial-sized sink and two large stainless steel tables for working, plus tins, pans and tools wherever you turn.

Quick Puff—Gesine’s proposed solution to my piecrust woes— was on the agenda for the day. “I like Quick Puff because it is very straightforward,” Gesine said, as she gathered the flour, butter, salt and ice water for the recipe. “It is also easily transferrable to almost any pie or tart recipe, including apple, pecan and pumpkin.”

She began making the dough by pouring two pounds of all-purpose flour (she uses King Arthur All-Purpose), a pinch of salt and two pounds of unsalted butter (Cabot) cut into tablespoon-size pieces into a large metal bowl. She pinched the butter pieces into the flour with her fingers and explained that the key is working the butter into the flour mixture thoroughly, while leaving the chunks of butter pretty intact, about the size of a dime when done.

“This is a great go-to recipe to have under your belt because it is so easy to remember—two pounds each of flour and butter, plus the right ratio of water. So, when you find yourself in a family member’s kitchen over Thanksgiving or Christmas, it’s an easy one to retrieve. I make it in large batches and store it in the freezer, where it will keep for up to a month. It’s also great for those post-holiday meals— for turkey potpie, pulled turkey turnovers, quiche.” She worked confidently and quickly.

Since Quick Puff is done entirely by hand, and in a relatively short period of time (about 15 minutes hands-on), the ingredients need to be cold, though not necessarily frozen. Gesine added the water—1¼ cups—to the flour and butter and mixed everything together with a wooden spoon that she quickly ditched in favor of her hands. By using her hands, she could feel any uneven wet or dry clumps.

When she had sufficiently worked the water into the dough, she kneaded the whole thing gently a few times in the bowl—a sight that caused alarm bells to ring in my head. Almost every piecrust recipe I have tried screams out against kneading. Why? It works the gluten (a protein in flour) in the dough, which leads to the dreaded tough, non-flaky crust—and holiday pie embarrassment.

Gesine assured me that she was not kneading the dough enough to activate the gluten. She was just bringing the whole mess together. She knows when this stage of the dough making is done when she can turn the bowl upside down and the dough stays put. This was looking like my kind of dough. I thought to myself: No sweat or worry here! I could definitely do this.

In 2004, Gesine opened Gesine Confectionary on a quiet stretch of Elm Street in Montpelier. At the time, she did not realize that keeping the grueling 3:30am-to-7pm schedule required to run the bakery would prevent her from writing every day. And while Gesine does not miss this particular part of running the business, she does miss feeding Montpelier.

“It was such a fun time for me,” she says. “The town was small enough that I got to know all of my customers. Even if I could not remember a person’s name, I knew their order.”

geese

coop

It was actually this community of devotees of Gesine’s French-style macarons, croissants and moist, almond-rich opera cake (and of her husband’s strong, spot-on coffee drinks) that led her to write her first book, My Life From Scratch, a memoir with recipes. “Many of my customers were writers,” she says. “I bribed them with baked goods into forming a writing group. This forced me to make time to write, whether I had the time or not. I basically wrote the book with them at my side.”

Puff-style pastries are so delicious because they are made up of hundreds of delicate flaky, buttery layers of pastry. One way to achieve this stratification is by lamination, the meticulous process of folding a large, flat block of butter into the dough. … Read More

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WENDY LEVY’S EASY FONDUE

It’s best to have an actual fondue pot, but you could always use a regular saucepan and have everyone stand around the stove… No. Maybe a fondue pot is a crucial ingredient. Keep your eyes open when you’re in thrift stores. Not everyone has caught on to the fondue renaissance, and some people may actually want to get rid of their fondue pots!

  • 1 garlic clove, cut in half horizontally
  • 1½ cups dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kirsch or lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 pound total (approximately 4 cups) of coarsely grated Alpinestyle cheeses, such as Emmentaler, Gruyère, Appenzeller, Fontina Val d’Aosta, Comté, etc.
  • Good-quality bread cut into 1-inch cubes
  1. Rub interior of a heavy 4-quart saucepan with the cut sides of garlic. Discard garlic.
  2. Pour wine into saucepan and bring just to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Stir cornstarch into kirsch (or lemon juice) in a cup. Set it aside.
  4. Add cheese to saucepan in ¼-pound increments, melting as you go along. Stir constantly in a zigzag pattern (not a circular pattern, to prevent cheese from clumping together) until cheese is just melted. Do not allow the cheese to come to a boil.
  5. Stir the cornstarch mixture again and stir it into the fondue. Bring fondue to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until fondue begins to thicken, about 6 minutes.
  6. Transfer contents of saucepan to a fondue pot set over a flame.

Serve with bread.

Please note: Conventional wisdom precludes serving cheese fondue with chilled water. Apparently this causes the cheese to solidify in your stomach. While we have no scientific evidence to back that up, and it does sound suspect, it’s best to serve fondue with white wine, juice or hot tea.

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DUCK ELDERBERRY DUMPLINGS

elderberries

If you can find them, use local duck breasts to make these tender, flavorful dumplings. I get mine from Tangletown Farm in Middlesex. I suggest serving these dumplings with a local red wine, such as the Frontenac or Coach Barn Red from Shelburne Vineyards.

Serves 4

For the dumpling dough

  • 4 cups whole-wheat bread flour (such as Gleason Grains or King Arthur)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 2 cups hot water

For the filling

  • Vegetable oil, for the pan
  • 2 boneless duck breasts, locally sourced if possible
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups minced kale
  • ½ teaspoon each coriander, cumin,
  • cloves and salt

For the sauce

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen elderberries
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup sunflower or vegetable oil (such as Rainville or Butterworks brands)
  • ¼ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
  • ½ teaspoon each coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and salt
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  1. Prepare the dumpling dough: Combine the dough ingredients in a large bowl and mix until the dough begins to form a single mass. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest for half an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Heat a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid over high heat and coat with thin layer of vegetable oil. Add the duck breasts skin side down and cook for 5 minutes, until the skin is well browned. Carefully flip the breasts over and continue to cook for 5 minutes more. Add the orange juice, water, kale and spices. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, adding an additional ½ cup of water if necessary to prevent the pan from getting too dry. Turn off the heat.
  3. Remove from cooked breasts from the pan, rinse with cold water and finely shred the meat by cutting it repeatedly with 2 knives. Return the shredded meat to the pan, mix with the sauce and set aside.
  4. Prepare the sauce: Combine the elderberries with 2 cups of water in a small saucepot over high heat; boil for 10 minutes (this removes any toxins in the berries). Drain the berries and rinse well. Set aside. Add the toasted walnuts, ½ cup water, the spices, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and cooked berries to the pot and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce begins to thicken. Keep warm.
  5. Assemble the dumplings: Roll out the rested dough between two pieces of parchment paper to a ¼-inch thickness. Cut the dough into about 8 circles using the top of a widemouthed Mason jar.
  6. Put a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each dough circle. Wet the outside edge of each circle with water; fold the circle in half so that the filling remains in the center of the dumpling. Pinch the edges of the dumpling together with your fingers to seal.
  7. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with a thin layer of vegetable oil. Add the dumplings so that they are touching but not overlapping. Cook for about 6 minutes, or until they start to brown on the bottom.
  8. Reduce the heat to low and remove the skillet from the burner. Wait a moment to let dumplings cool and to avoid splattering hot oil. Add enough water to cover the dumplings halfway. Cover the skillet and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes until all water has evaporated from the skillet.

To serve, garnish the dumplings with the sauce.

Healing Properties:

Elderberries have anti-viral and antiinflammatory properties that strengthen the body’s immune system and help it heal. Their astringent qualities stimulate appetite and improve stomach function. In the tradition of Lewis Hill, a well-known elderberry cultivator and propagator who lived the Northeast Kingdom, many Vermonters still use this healing plant to prepare natural remedies. Photo at left by Carole Topalian, above from iStock.com

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