Photo courtesy of Lune Chocolat
Seventy percent of the millions of pounds of candy purchased for Easter is chocolate, according to a recent survey.
Do your homemade cookies fly off the plate? Could they -- or your spicy pickled peppers -- be made commercially, without sacrificing quality?
Summer is coming. Eventually. It's gotta be. We're looking forward to warm days on the veranda and in the yard.
Classic Cherry Mini Cheesecakes; photo courtesy of 83 & Company, Syracuse
Unless you've been hibernating or living under a rock the last few weeks and months, you've probably heard that The Cheesecake Factory, a chain based in Calabasas Hills, CA, is opening a restaurant at Destiny USA in Syracuse.
If you've had the good fortune to visit Paris, you've seen macarons -- and maybe even come home with a small box or two of them in your carry-on. They're hard to resist, decked out in a spectrum of colors and piled on plates, calling out from bakery windows.
In Syracuse, at places like the Central New York Regional Market, Cafe Kubal, LoFo in Armory Square and the Syracuse Real Food Co-Op, some lovely, locally made macarons have no doubt caught your eye. They are the signature product of The Sweet Praxis, an artisan bakery launched several years ago Natalie Hansen and Jennifer Walls.
Sweet Praxis macarONS are not to be confused with chunky, chewy American macarOONS, which are made with coconut. Macarons are delicate confections, made with egg whites, sugar and almond flour. You could call them a cookie -- a light-as-a feather cookie -- sandwiched together with jam, icing or ganache filling.
The beauty of macarons is that they can be made in every flavor imaginable. Hansen and Walls take full advantage of that, offering macarons in flavors like hot chocolate, salted chocolate, almond, raspberry, lemon, orange cardamom, toasted coconut, pistachio -- the possibilities are endless.
The friends also make mini cupcakes and whoopie pies and sell frosting shots at their stand at the Regional Market (in season). All of their products are made with locally sourced organic ingredients whenever possible and with no artificial colors and flavors.
Hansen and Walls are gearing up for Valentine's Day. If you're looking for something out of the ordinary, as a gift to a loved one (or yourself!), consider a gift box of heart-shaped macarons by The Sweet Praxis. And don't wait until the last minute!
For Valentine's Day, Walls and Hansen are taking special orders for heart-shaped macarons in gift boxes ( 6 for $11 or 12 for $20). Each gift box will contain an assortment of almond, rose, lemon, salted chocolate, lavender and orange cardamom macarons. They are also offering chocolate raspberry mini cupcakes in gift boxes (two for $5 or six for $10).
Orders must be emailed to [email protected] no later than 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10. Pick-ups are available from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 13. Delivery is available in Syracuse for $10.
How cold is it? Cold enough that the water line to Roy Osborne’s food truck froze this week – adding a kink to his opening week plans at Pioneer Business Park, in East Syracuse.
Even if that hadn’t happened, subzero is too cold to be working in a food truck – and too cold for people to want to come out. Temperatures in the twenties will seem positively balmy compared to this frigid snap. Besides, the extra time allows Osborne to think about the special events he’ll drag his trailer to in the months ahead – when the weather is warm -- even hot.
Osborne, of Clay, owns and operates the Ossie’s StrEATery food truck, which made its debut last fall at the Connective Corridor Food Truck Rodeo in Syracuse. His breakfast and lunch menus offer breakfast sandwiches and burritos, a pulled pork sandwich, chicken Riggies and a soup of the week.
But the specialty of the house is Osborne’s handmade, “cake’’ donuts – or fried cakes, as they are sometimes called. They’re made on the truck and available in plain, cinnamon sugar and apple cinnamon - $1 for a single, $5 for a half-dozen and $10 for a dozen.
“They smell great, they taste great and people will wait in line for them,’’ Osborne says. He’s serving Cafe Kubal coffee, because “donuts and coffee just go together.’’
Osborne, 52, spent 15 years as baking director for Penn Traffic, which operated P&C stores in Central New York before declaring bankruptcy. So he knows donuts. He’s made yeast donuts, he’s made cake donuts – thousands, if not millions of them. He prefers cake donuts, especially for the food truck. “They’re not fluffy, yeast-raised donuts.’’ The dough doesn’t need to rise.
The 8-by-12-foot trailer contains a 20-quart mixer and a commercial fryer that lets him cook 24 donuts in two minutes. It also contains a grill, where he cooks the meat for breakfast sandwiches and wraps and lunch sandwiches. He’s serving Taylor ham (also called pork roll), which he says is New Jersey’s favorite breakfast meat, and a twist on “Michigans,’’ hotdogs topped with meat sauce that are a staple of the North Country. For those, he’s using Hofmann franks.
“It’s different. It’s fun and and it’s challenging. It’s mobile,’’ Osborne says of his food truck.
Ossie’s StrEATery is parked at the Pioneer Business Park, on Campuswood Drive (off New Venture Gear Drive) in East Syracuse. When the weather allows, it will be open 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Credit cards aren’t accepted, so be sure to bring cash. The food truck is also available for catering and private parties. For information, call 315-575-0998.
There’s a new Taste NY storefront inside the plaza. You might not know it, because there is no signage to announce its presence as you approach the Chittenango Travel Plaza (a k a rest area), between Exits 34 and 34A, driving west on I-90 towards Syracuse.
The Taste NY program was launched by Gov. Cuomo to spotlight the state’s food industry, grow the marketplace and promote tourism. The display is towards the rear of the plaza, next to Sbarro and occupying part of the gift shop.
A news release from the governor’s office said travelers would find local/regional cheeses and yogurts, but those weren’t available when I visited – maybe they were sold out after a busy weekend.
You CAN get a bottle of all-natural, 100 percent fruit juice from Red Jacket Orchards, Geneva, to go with your Starbucks or slice from Sbarro. I also spotted maple syrup and maple candy from Merle Maple, Attica, and other producers; local honey; Erie Canal jams and jellies (Nelson Farms); Roadkill Slather Sauce (made at Morrisville State College); Joe’s Jerky (Sherrill); and Kozy Shack rice pudding (Hicksville).
Four more Taste NY storefronts are at the Seneca and Scottsville travel plazas (near Rochester) and Clarence and Pembroke plazas, near Buffalo. Other stores have opened at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, McArthur Airport in Islip and at Buffalo-Niagara International Airport.
The stores are merely an introduction to the array of food products made in New York. For a more extensive selection near Syracuse, venture off the Thruway and visit to the Nelson Farms Country Store in Nelson (Madison County).
Nelson Farms, a partnership with Morrisville State College, is an agri-business incubator designed to help specialty food producers, farmers and growers get their products in the marketplace.
The Country Store features candy, coffee and snacks; meats and cheeses; dressings, sauces, mustards and marinades; pancake mixes; and more. The store is open 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to Saturday.
It wouldn't be Christmas without taking a new cookie for a test drive.
We love cookies that call for a lot of butter (the more, the merrier!), are thin, crispy and crunchy, go well with coffee and tea -- and Champagne or Prosecco -- and look pretty on a cookie plate.
This recipe qualifies on all counts. I adapted the recipe, which was originally conceived as a "drop cookie,'' to make it a "refrigerator cookie.'' You can make the dough in advance and slice and bake the cookies the next day or several days later.
The dough freezes well and is best sliced cold or even slightly frozen, straight from the refrigerator. The recipe makes a righteous batch of cookies -- about 5 dozen, or enough to meet cookie exchange quota and have leftovers for gifting.
Using cornmeal in a cookie might sound strange, but it's nothing to fear. It gives the cookies a faint yellow color and adds interesting texture, as do the dried cranberries.
Have you baked a new-to-you cookie this holiday season? Leave a comment below -- I'd love to hear about it. One can never have enough Christmas cookie recipes!
Cornmeal Cranberry Cookies
(Adapted from a recipe by Diane E. Appleton, on Epicurious.com)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon citrus zest (orange or a combination of orange and lemon)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups dried cranberries tossed in a little orange juice or orange liqueur
In a bowl whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy and beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add zest and stir well. Add flour mixture and vanilla and stir until combined well. Stir in cranberries.