Monday, May 21, 2007

Bad week at the farmers' market...

After my paltry showing at the inaugural farmers' market of the season last week, I redoubled my efforts and even got Cyd in on the fun (taught her how to make pound cakes and pie crusts!). By Saturday morning, we had a very respectable load of baked goods and preserves to take to town. And the weather, which threatened to be dismal, actually gave us a reprieve and was decent. Even though it seemed to start out slow, the people finally started to come, just an hour later that they normally do. Still, all the vendors reported the same thing at the end of the day: lots of lookers, very few buyers. BOO HISS! It was truly depressing. Last year, I sold pies before I could get them all unloaded from my car, and they were definitely gone within the first hour at the most. But I actually had pies left over this week! And because the various loaves and quick breads sold so well last week, I made extra this time, and ended up bringing most of those home, too. Ridiculous! Ah well, I guess that means less baking we'll have to do for this coming weekend. But I sure hope the sales pick up. Here's what I made for this past week:

4 vanilla pound cakes
4 chocolate pound cakes
2 banana nut breads (selling well...will try making 4 for next time)
2 blueberry-lemon loaves (recipe below)
2 cranberry-orange-walnut breads
2 raspberry-lemon loaves (DIVINE...the batter was yummy and the cakes smelled like summer as they baked, recipe to follow)
1 lemon poppy seed cake
2 maple-cinnamon swirl loaves (recipe below)
2 sour cherry almond crumble pies
2 jumbleberry-peach pies
2 blackberry crumble pies (made with the last of the wild blackberries from last summer, recipe below)
2 strawberry-rhubarb pies (made with my own hand-picked rhubarb! recipe below)
2 browned butter toasted pecan pies (world's best)
2 pans of amazing, practically flourless brownies (next time, I'll provide samples--the people just don't know! recipe follows)
6 bags of Anna's toffee stuff (no problem selling out on this stuff)
4 dozen "rainbow" eggs
And of course, lots of jams and preserves (pepper jelly is still my perennial bestseller)

Blueberry Muffins
(Source: The Best Recipe Cookbook)

3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/4 stick), softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon flour (if using defrosted frozen berries)

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle-lower part of the oven. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together, beating until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each one. Beat in the grated lemon peel.
4. Beat in one half of the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Beat in one third of the yogurt. Beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients. Beat in a second third of the yogurt. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients and then the remaining yogurt. Again be careful to beat until just incorporated. Do not over beat. Fold in the berries. If you are using frozen berries, defrost them first, drain the excess liquid, and then coat them in a light dusting of flour.
5. Use a standard 12-muffin muffin pan. Coat each muffin cup lightly with olive oil or grapeseed oil using a pastry brush, or with a little butter. Or use one of those convenient vegetable oil sprays. Distribute the muffin dough equally among the cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a long toothpick (we use a thin bamboo skewer) to make sure the center of the muffins are done. Set on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the tin and serve slightly warm.

*I baked the batter into one large loaf instead of muffins, but it was SO big, that I think I'll scale the recipe back to two-thirds next time.

Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins

(Source:, adapted from Bon Appetit July 2006)

Yield: 14 large or 56 miniature muffins or one large loaf*

1 1/8 cups sugar, divided
4 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel (from two large lemons)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 1/2-pint containers (about) fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 14 standard muffin cups (or 56 minis) with paper liners. Mash 1/8 cup sugar and lemon peel in small bowl until sugar is slightly moist. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat remaining 1 cup sugar and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in egg. Beat in buttermilk, then vanilla and lemon sugar. Beat in flour mixture.

Divide batter among muffin cups (the 2/3-3/4 level worked well for minis). Top each large muffin with 4 raspberries (or mini muffins with one each). Bake muffins until lightly browned on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes (baking time was on the shy side of 20 minutes for mini muffins).

*Instead of making muffins out of the batter (which I will do in the future, because they are SO cute, especially the minis!), I gently folded the berries into the batter and baked it into a large loaf which had to bake longer of course, but came out beautifully! However, I don't think I'll make this for market again, as the fresh fruit makes for a very small profit margin. but if you're going to make it for yourself or people you love, it's darn well worth it!

Maple Cinnamon Swirl Loaves
(Source: Adapted from Taste of Home Magazine)

1/3 cup shortening
1-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided (for the two additional tablespoons, I used maple sugar)
3 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and 1-1/2 cups sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Spread half of the batter in two greased and floured 8-in. x 4-in. x 2-in. loaf pans. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar (or maple sugar); sprinkle half over batter. Spread with the remaining batter; sprinkle with remaining cinnamon-sugar. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Yield: 2 loaves.

Blackberry Crumble Pie

(Source: adapted from two different Ken Haedrich recipes in Pie)

1 recipe for a single pie crust (your favorite)

4 1/2 cups blackberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (I added an extra tablespoon of tapioca flour, too)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

Cinnamon-Crumb Topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup rolled oats

Stir together the berries, sugar, thickener(s), lemon juice, and salt. Set aside to juice for 10 minutes, then scrape the filling into a chilled pie shell and smooth the top. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter pieces in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times until the butter is cut in and the mixture looks like coarse meal. Empty into a bowl, and mix in the oats by hand. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Remove the pie from the oven and reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Carefully dump the crumbs in the center of the pie and spread them evenly over the top (a fork helps). Return the pie to the oven and bake until the juices bubble thickly around the edges, another 30-40 minutes. (If necessary, cover with foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning.)

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least two hours before serving.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
For this pie, the amount of sugar and tapioca you use is relative, depending on the fruit’s quality and your taste. If you prefer a less sweet pie or if the fruit is especially sweet, use the lower sugar amount. If you like your pie juices fairly thick, or if the fruit is really juicy, then opt for the higher amount of tapioca. If you are using frozen fruit, measure it frozen, but let it thaw before filling the pie. If not, you run the risk of partially cooked fruit and undissolved tapioca. If you are short on time, you could use a refrigerated pie crust.
Makes one 9-inch pie, serving 6 to 8

One recipe for double-crust pie (your favorite)

Strawberry-Rhubarb Filling:
3 cups fresh strawberries , hulled and sliced
3 cups fresh rhubarb , trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 -4 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca (I prefer tapioca flour)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into small pieces

Remove dough from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature to soften slightly, about 10 minutes. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss fruit with sugar, lemon juice and orange zest, vanilla extract, and tapioca; let stand for 15 minutes.

Roll larger dough disk on lightly floured surface into 12-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer and fit dough into 9-inch Pyrex pie pan, leaving dough that overhangs the lip in place. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into pie shell. Scatter butter pieces over fruit. Refrigerate until ready to top with remaining dough.

Roll smaller disk on lightly floured surface into 10-inch circle. Lay over fruit. Trim top and bottom dough edges to 1/2-inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute dough in your own fashion, or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits at right angles on dough top to allow steam to escape (or fashion a lattice crust instead, as I did). If pie dough is very soft, place in freezer for 10 minutes before baking.

Place pie on baking sheet; bake until top crust is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; let cool to almost room temperature so juices have time to thicken, from 1 to 2 hours.

San Francisco Fudge Foggies
(Source: Barbara Feldman of San Francisco, winner of Best Overall Recipe in Chocolatier Magazine's Great Chocolate Challenge, 1986)
Makes 16 foggies

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/3 cup strong brewed coffee
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 ounces (about 2 cups) walnut halves, coarsely chopped

Position a rack in the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a double thickness of aluminum foil so foil extends 2 inches beyond sides of pan. Butter bottom and sides of foil-lined pan.

In top of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering water, melt chocolate, butter and dissolved coffee, stirring frequently, until smooth. Remove pan from the heat. Cool mixture, stirring it occasionally for 10 minutes.

In large bowl, using a hand-held mixer set at high speed, beat eggs 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat 2 minutes, or until mixture is light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually beat in chocolate mixture until just blended. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour. Stir in walnuts. Do not over-beat. Transfer batter to pan. Bake 28 to 30 minutes, or until Foggies are just set around the edges. They will remain moist in the center.

Cool the Foggies in a pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight, or at least 6 hours. Remove top foil and run a sharp knife around edge of Foggies. Using two ends of foil as handles, lift Foggies onto a plate and peel off foil. Invert them again onto a smooth surface and cut into 16 rectangles.


Anonymous said...

Your post about the dismal showing at the farmer's market reminded me: I have been a frequenter of our local farmer's markets here in the Bay of Quinte region in Ontario, and have noticed a disturbing trend in the past 3-4 years, coinciding exactly with the increasing year-round availability of much produce that before that was considered to be only seasonal. That trend is fewer shoppers, fewer shoppers under the age of 40, and fewer vendors. As recently as 3 years ago, the final weekend in May would have seen our market filled with about two dozen local vendors, all flogging the same general line of local produce (including maple syrup and locally baked goods); additionally, it was difficult to move on a Saturday morning due to the crowds of all ages who were indeed shopping, not just perambulating. This year (yesterday in fact) I arrived about 9 am, to find 7 vendors of fresh produce (4 of whom were still or just setting up), 1 vendor of baked goods, and 3 vendors of "crafts" (usually I spell that word "crap"). Atop that, there were probably about a dozen of we hardy souls (customers)(median age about 55). My observations were corroborated by two of the regular vendors with whom I deal: they, too, noted that there are fewer people in total by a huge factor. My usual supplier hit the nail on the head, though, with this observation: not more than a few years ago, fresh asparagus was rarely available out of local season, for any price (maybe some imports in late March-April at $4-5 per pound). In the past 2-3 winters, it has become available year round (for the same ridiculous prices as above), so what's the novelty of having local asparagus? The matter is further complicated in that when it is in season (as it has been locally for the past 10 days more or less), it sells for about $4 a pound at the market, but is "on special" at the local supermarkets for $2-3 a pound, so why pay more at the farmers' market? If only people would try the stuff from the market, they'd see in an instant why the market offerings are superior. I could go on with numerous other examples, but would be interested to hear from you and others if this market malaise is something local, or if it is epidemic.
I lament the scaling-down of our market due to whatever is causing it, as last night's supper fare included some of the aforementioned fresh asparagus, simply tossed in EV olive oil and grilled for about 5-8 minutes (depending upon thickness). Even with a fairly strong oil, and the presence of just the right amount of caramelization, the flavor of the asparagus came through loud and clear -- contrasted to some bought by a neighbour at the local A&P ("...but I only paid HALF of what you paid, [sucker].") which tasted of olive oil and nothing else.
I shall continue to patronize my local market, prices notwithstanding, for the best produce I can get, and content myself with the uniqueness and flavor of the varieties we see come and go throughout the season.

Joy Bugaloo said...

Oh, wow, Liam! THANKS for that post. It had me shouting "Amen!" and "Preach it!" as I was reading it. Thanks for articulating my position better than I could have! And the description of your spring asparagus saute' made my mouth water, too. ;-)

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Keep 'em coming! --Gina