Category Archives: General

Dolce Delizioso — Loacker Wafer Cookies

Loacker's Classic Chocolate.

Loacker’s Classic Chocolate.

 

It’s not often that I eat mass-produced, grocery-store cookies, preferring instead to visit an honest-go-goodness neighborhood bakery for just-baked treats. But I do make exceptions for Australian Tim Tams, and French La Mere Poulard butter cookies.

I don’t know what it is about foreign packaged cookies, but they are pretty irresistible.

Now comes Loacker wafer cookies.

First created by the Loacker family in the Italian Alps, and now manufactured in Austria, these multi-layered cookies are now more readily available in the United States. They have been made for more than 90 years, and are already sold in more than 80 countries.

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Behind the Scenes At Manresa Bread

Portioning levain dough at the Manresa Bread production site.

Portioning levain dough at the Manresa Bread production site.

 

Spoiler Alert: That flaky, golden croissant you can’t wait to dig into at Manresa Bread consists of 1 part dough to 3 parts butter.

Yeah, baby.

Maybe more than I wanted to know, too.

But at least I’ll own up to the fact that it still won’t stop me from nibbling on them any chance I get.

Which is exactly why I didn’t turn down an invitation to be part of a small group of media to visit Manresa Bread’s 3,400 square-foot production kitchen in Los Gatos last week.

The facility bakes the goods for both Manresa Bread retail locations in Los Gatos and Los Altos, as well as for Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos, The Bywater restaurant in Los Gatos, and its stands at the Campbell and Palo Alto California Avenue farmers markets.

Rhubarb kouign-amanns.

Rhubarb kouign-amanns.

You smell the unmistakable aroma of yeast the moment you walk through the doors of the production kitchen. At a large wooden table, two bakers weigh and portion dough for the bakery’s crusty levain loaves.

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Paula Wolfert’s “Unforgettable” Duck You Can Eat With A Spoon

With crisp skin and flesh so tender you can cut it with a spoon, this duck by Paula Wolfert is a masterpiece.

With crisp skin and flesh so tender you can cut it with a spoon, this duck by Paula Wolfert is a masterpiece.

 

She is not a star of the Food Network. She doesn’t own a four-star restaurant that has a three-month wait for reservations. And she doesn’t write pithy food articles laced with expletives and bro-talk that everyone feels the need to read, dissect, and re-post again and again.

But Paula Wolfert should be as revered and renowned as any of those folks. More so, even.

She is one of the most influential cooks of our time — a woman who has dived deep into authentic Mediterranean cuisine long before most of us ever knew what a cassoulet or tagine was.

Over the years, she published eight seminal cookbooks. But when her friend, Emily Kaiser Thelin, a former editor of Food & Wine magazine, pitched the idea of writing a biography of Wolfert, no publisher would give it the green light.

So in a modern-day version of a barn-raising, Thelin rallied her friends and colleagues to the mission, recruiting photographer Eric Wolfinger, designer Toni Tajima, and cookbook author Andrea Nguyen to do editing duties. They mounted a Kickstarter campaign, which more than 1,100 folks supported, including yours truly.

UnforgettableCookbook

The result is “Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life” (M&P) by Thelin.

The title has dual meanings — and hints at why Thelin and her team were so driven to put Wolfert’s life and recipes down in perpetuity. Wolfert was diagnosed with dementia in 2013. The woman who once prided herself on studying up on almost a dozen languages in order to converse with cooks around the world, now finds most of those once familiar foreign phrases elusive. Even reading in English now and retaining its contents is difficult for her.

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California’s Olive Queen Olive Oil

You might just feel like a queen when you taste the Olive Queen's extra virgin olive oils.

You might just feel like a queen when you taste the Olive Queen’s extra virgin olive oils.

 

California produces 3.5 million gallons of extra virgin olive oil annually from more than 400 growers/producers, according to the California Olive Oil Council.

Rob Akins and Mark Berry of Olive Queen Olive Oil in Forestville are among the smaller growers. But they make up for that in quality. The oils they produce are exceptional, as I found out when they sent me some samples to try.

Akins and Berry moved from Southern California to Sonoma County to buy an old, forlorn apple orchard, which they replanted with olive trees.

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Greet the Day with A Smile — With Balsamic Strawberry Muffins

A splash of balsamic vinegar hides in these strawberry muffins.

A splash of balsamic vinegar hides in these strawberry muffins.

 

The title of this cookbook represents two of my favorite food groups: “Muffins and Biscuits.”

So how could I not fall for this Chronicle Books cookbook, of which I received a review copy?

It’s by Heidi Gibson, chef and co-owner of The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in San Francisco.

You might think, what does a grilled cheese sandwich maker know about biscuits and muffins? Plenty, it turns out. After all, in addition to those ooey-gooey sandwiches, the restaurant also sells fresh-baked muffins, biscuits and other baked goods.

MuffinsBiscuitsBook

Muffins and biscuits are among the easiest things to make. The trick is to use a gentle hand. You don’t want to overmix or overwork either of them, lest they will wind up tough.

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