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Monday, February 10, 2014

Sweet Pea Bakery, the physical location

Hi everybody!
Sorry I've been away so long, but I have a very good reason. I've been getting my shop ready.

That's right, I have a physical location now. It is right next to Brian Collins' new restaurant Ember (which, by the way, has only been open a week, and I've eaten there three times. It is that amazing). I serve brewed coffee, tea, and cookies.

I am open;
Tuesdays: 8am-5pm
Wed-Fri: 8am-1pm
Saturdays: 8am-5pm

Special Orders or Reserves can be arranged for pick up after hours by either talking to me face to face or by phone at (805) 4403456.

My menu will be composed of cookies, cakes, biscotti, pies, tarts, morning buns, croissants, puddings, brownies, and bars.

Thanks so much!
Hope to see you soon!
1200 E. Grand Ave, ste 102
at the corner of Grand Ave. and Brisco Rd.
Arroyo Grande, Ca 93420

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rustic Apple Tart

I have received many questions as to whether or not I make pie. The simple answer is: yes.
The more complex answer is: it doesn't always take the traditional pie shape.

Traditionally, what constitutes a pie is fruit encased in a crust, which is so delicate that it requires the support of a tin. There is the traditional circular pie, with an upper crust and a bottom crust (i.e. apple pie), and then there is the traditional single crust pie (i.e. pumpkin).
Then there are the rustics. A rustic pie and a rustic tart are interchangeable terms to me. The biggest difference (if you wish to become a technical know it all like me) is the type of crust. A tart crust typically is more of a shortbread type of pastry. It is called pâté sucrée, or "sweet pastry," and because of the high sugar content which makes it sweet, it is sturdier and doesn't need a tin to hold it up. In fact I use a pâté sucrée aux noix (sweet nut pastry) for my Bleeding Heart cookies.

A rustic pie, also called galette, crostata, or free form pie, uses traditional pie crust (buttery, flakey and all) to make the pie. The difference is that the filling is not piled on a mile high, instead it is arranged in a fashion which is pleasing to the eye, and pleasing to the fork. Because there is no top crust you get the perfect ratio of crust to filling. You also avoid the big air gap which can occur in traditional bottom and top pies as the fruit cooks down. And also because the top is open, the steam which is released from the fruit during cooking does not get trapped  by the top crust and create the dreaded SOGGY BOTTOM. You can tell I'm slightly biased towards this type of pie, but, I do love a good slice of a well made traditional pie.

Other forms of what I might constitute as pie, are really other fruit desserts: cobblers, brown betties, slab pies, crumbles, crisps and pandowdies. But let's save those for another post, shall we?

My rustic apple tart (or, if you prefer, rustic apple pie)

uses a traditional pie crust, and is folded around sliced and spiced granny smith apples. Once the crust is brushed with an egg wash and turbinado sugar graces it's frame, it is baked until the juices are bubbling and overflowing and the crust is a beautiful golden tan. Apricot jam is brushed over the grannies to enhance their appleness.

It has a delightfully crisp bottom and a not too sweet, as to miss out on a scoop of vanilla ice cream, filling. It serves two people. As long as apples are in season and available, I will be making these Rustic fruit desserts/breakfast/snack/enter your preferred designation.

 I can always make one in a larger size, if you'd prefer. Just let me know by email, this blog, or my phone number (805) 440-3456

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Caramel Cashew Cookies

I have been dreaming of creating  something with caramel and cashews
 for quite a while.   Recently, lightening struck in the form of a vintage 
recipe I came across while browsing the web.   The original cookie
from 1976 was called the Dutch Caramel Cashew Cookie.  This   
 cookie, with shards of homemade praline, was just the right base
 to get me started on my quest.  With some updates and Sweet Pea
 Bakery enhancements, it  became just the cookie I was looking for:
 sweet, salty and chewy.

The cashew praline is made and left to cool and harden.
(Thank you Silpat!)

The nutty dough is topped with chunks of praline

And here it is just out of the oven a buttery chewy cookie
with little pockets of caramel and nuts-Delightful!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Morning Buns

By now many of you are familiar with Morning Buns--somewhat incorrectly named because this baker tends to enjoy them with her cup of afternoon tea or even for supper.
Morning Buns getting their sugar coating

What are they? you ask. In generalities they are cinnamon rolls made with croissant dough and a touch of orange zest added to the filling. Sounding good yet? They are not your average Cinnabun, although those are delicious in their own right. They are flakey and slightly crispy and the filling cooks down into an orange-cinnamon-sugar syrup which coats the bottom of the bun and caramelizes.

For this creation I have two sources to thank: Tartine and Julia Child. I first tried a morning bun at Tartine in San Francisco, and thought to myself "I need to learn how to make these." I found Tartine's recipe which called for croissant dough, butter and the filling. After several batches, I came up with a variation of their ratios which suited my taste (I believe I have told many of you that I make that which I crave). I still had to figure out croissant dough though.

This is where Julia Child came to the rescue. Page 100 in volume 1 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking details the first recipe I tried. For a novice bread maker, looking at a recipe which takes 12 hours to make seemed a little daunting, but I don't think my first attempt was too bad if you were just expecting a dinner roll. The basic  steps are as follows:
        1)Make dough.
        2)Let it rise, and punch down, let chill
        3)Perform the beurrage (butter layering technique involving a heavy rolling pin and REALLY cold butter)
        4)Fold the dough like an envelope, and roll it out again and chill, Repeat 3-5 times
        5)Ready for use as croissants, pigs in a blanket or Morning buns

The Folding of the dough is what makes it so special. In essence what is happening is that you are tripling the number of layers of butter for every fold you make. Each time the layers between the butter and dough are getting smaller and more wafer thin like. After so many folds you have a dough which will make delicate layers.

Because of Julia's guidance I have created the recipe I use today

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pumpkin Chai Macarons

Welcome to Fall!!!

The days and nights are finally getting cooler here on the central coast. This makes one feel more in the appropriate holiday spirit, as Thanksgiving is just around the corner. In honor of the season of cold noses being tickled by mugs of steamy chai lattes (or hot cocoas), I decided to play around with the combination of pumpkin and chai. 

As I hadn't played with macarons in a stretch, I thought, what better way to dive back in to experiments (which might be successful*).

The shell is where the chai flavor is coming from, and then the filling is the silky, mild pumpkin spiced buttercream.

I hope you can try it while it is the season!

The colors in these apples, pomegranates, Turks Turbans, and grape leaves capture so much of what I think of fall! Go jump in a pile of leaves. It's okay, I give you permission. :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sweet Pea's Vacation and Gluten Free Bread

This week is the harvest festival here in Arroyo Grande. On Saturday what seems like the entire town, turns out to see the parade of autumnal cheer. My mother, in particular, is very excited about driving a tractor in the parade. I hope to see you all there in a festive mood!

Not only is this week harvest festival, but it also lends host to my paternal grandmother's 80th birthday, my sister-in-law's 27th birthday, and last (and least) my vacation.

So what have I been doing on the first couple of my days off? Well, Sunday I kidnapped my mother and we drove 315.5 miles up to Elk Grove to visit my aunt (Sweet Pea Senior, side note, in the family I'm Sweet Pea Junior). Then yesterday we whirlwinded around town, going to Restaurant Depot, and The Nugget (one of my new favorite places). At the Depot we were searching for King Arthur Flours, and chocolates and quality ingredients in bulk. I'm guessing that they don't get much call for many of those items and so do not keep them in stock.

At The Nugget, I fell in love (don't tell my boyfriend). Think of it as a cross between New Frontiers and Whole Foods, and I believe that I don't have to describe it any more than that. Being so far up north, they carry different products than those stores I frequent down here. Of course, I stopped by the bakery department where I purchased two items. One was this gorgeous chocolate tulip cup filled with chocolate cake, chocolate ganache and raspberry jam. Then whipped cream piled on top, with chocolate batons and fresh raspberries. It was a showstopper, but as fond as I am of raspberries, I would have preferred more raspberry. The second pastry was a magic bar, which might be the inspiration for a new bar. Think of a seven layer bar, based on a brownie. Have I attracted your attention?

After leaving the Nugget (we spent 2 hours roaming the aisles), Mom and I departed for home, where we snuggled up into our own routines and wished for sweet dreams

Then some fun experimenting occurred!

If I didn't know that this bread was gluten free, I would probably assume that it was a type of quick bread. In fact, it tastes almost exactly like beer bread, it is just not as sweet, and instead of baking soda, I used yeast. Next time I would let it "ferment" in the fridge overnight.

Hmmm, I'm finishing up this post the day after the bread was baked, and it became dry very quickly. It tasted amazing straight out of the oven, but it definitely only has a few hours for a shelf life. I'm thinking it is the nature of the beast, but keep experimenting I shall. 

If any of you are interested in the recipe for this bread, please leave me a comment, and I will post it for you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Season of Pie, part 1

We are coming into the fall season, even though the temperatures outside seem steadily in the "high" area of the thermometer. Children are back at school. Apples are growing ripe, and riper. Cinnamon fills the air, at least where I'm baking.

The start of a new school year always beckons me to pie, especially those made of the autumnal nectar from childhood: apples and pumpkins. That, combined with more and more questions on whether or not I make new vegan items, or gluten free items, or low/no sugar items, yielded my usual routine to some experimenting, or some playing around. As with whenever I experiment, a success gives me an "on top of the world" feeling, while a failure gives me an Anne Shirley moment where I crash into the depths of despair.

Right now, as I type, I am blind baking an Oat-Nut crust which happens to be gluten free and vegan. The ingredients are rather simple: Gluten free rolled oats, toasted almonds, toasted pecans, cinnamon, salt, agave nectar, tapioca starch, coconut oil, and real vanilla.

Depending on how I like the crust, I will either tweak, keep or throw away entirely and start afresh.

If I keep, I plan on filling with pumpkin pie (made with pumpkin, almond milk, and agave) and an apple version, filled with Granny Smith apples.

Wish me luck!!!