Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cakes of Cheese & Rolls of Chocolate

Can you taste Christmas yet?  Does the sting of gingerbread awaken memories from childhood?

My Mom's family's Christmas tasted of beef tenderloin, creamed pearl onions, and a chocolate roll (aka Yule Log/Bûche de Noël) for dessert.  My Dad's family's Christmas tasted of shrimp creole and myriad cookies.

This Christmas, I'm going back to the traditional desserts of my Mom's family and Tom's (my step-dad) family; chocolate roll and cheesecake respectively.  I continue to use my grandma L.B.'s chocolate roll recipe, written on an envelope with the cooking time omitted.  Sparing no caloric expense, my grandma filled her chocolate roll with sweet, whipped cream and covered it in 1-inch of mocha buttercream frosting.  The cheesecake is made based on a recipe used by Tom's Mom, a woman who lived to 100 years of age, thus causing me to think that cheesecake may just be the trick to longevity. 

Tom's Mom's cheesecake recipe is virginal in its purity.  I am a cheesecake purist, believing you should know how to make a perfectly tall, sour-cream-topped, cheesecake before ever adding such flair as chocolate, or fruit, or bits or pieces of anything other than cheese.  We need to learn how to kiss with our mouths closed before we add the decorative slip of a tongue, and the same goes for cheesecake.  It should be nude in all its creamy glory.  I believe these three tips make a perfect cheesecake.

Stiff froth in a sea of white
  • Whip your locally sourced egg whites until they are static, but smooth, in their stiffness.  
  • Fold the whipped egg whites into the cheese mixture with the same determined delicacy that you would brush a lover's hair.
  • Have a thermometer on hand to slide into the center of the cake until a temperature of 150 degrees, no more and no less, is registered on the dial.
Photos are not food-porn worthy, but this cake was "dense, but light, and complex but balanced," per Elisabeth

    My grandma's chocolate roll, like the cheesecake, is true in its flavor. . .no cognac or grand marnier, no fruit jams or flavored creams; just chocolate sponge cake and whipped cream.  The origin of the Yule Log is debated, some histories having to do with Napoleon and some with the Celts. . . either way the cake is constructed to look like a branched log - a symbol of light and warmth for the coming year.  I like the idea of consuming the hot exhale of a snowy forest.  Here are three tips for a superb chocolate roll.

    • Again with the eggs. . . .get those whites stiff!  Whip with confidence.
    • Blend the yolks and sugar until a pale, yellow ribbon dances from the tip of the spatula - imagine wrapping a gift or a neck with just such a silky adornment.  
    • Roll evenly and don't fear a cake that cracks or droops - that's why we frost it. . .plus, while logs are designed by Nature, they can be as rough to the eye as they are to a finger.

      This former-vegan-bird was reminded of the joy of baking vegan while whipping eggs and folding whites. . . working with eggs in the baking process requires an accurate and discerning eye, while flax seed need not be whipped or folded, just mixed.  Ah the ease of baking without eggs.

      Christmas is slowed and we have no snow, but the cheesecake was a success and the chocolate roll (with two-too many cups of whipped cream) was devoured.  Happy Holidays

      What does Christmas taste like to you?

      Sunday, December 19, 2010

      Officially Sanitary

      This past autumn, these Two Birds enrolled in a sanitation class which would teach us and test us on the basics of working within the food industry. This class is offered through Metro Community College's Culinary Arts Institute. We took the class to gain more knowledge about the protocol and processes that are encouraged by the FDA. Oh! There is much to know. A passing grade on our exam would certify us as safe food-handlers on a national level. And I should also say that not only have we come to know the material well, we also implement what we have learned everyday.

      For example, please note that Trilety and I are sporting hair restraints (bandannas) as well as aprons while in the kitchen. We also cook/bake all products to their required minimum internal temperatures, we purchase all ingredients from reputable suppliers, we store our ingredients according to the First In First Out (FIFO) system, and we are in the process of developing our Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HASSP) plan. Doesn't that sound amazing?! Maybe not exciting, but it's really pretty cool and gives us a better understanding of the food industry. Knowledge is power!


      Sunday, December 12, 2010

      Boxes & Babes

      November 18th was the day our first order was picked up, by a dedicated driver for the Nebraska Food Co-operative, and delivered to customers in the eastern third of the State of Nebraska.  Meg and I nestled the muffins in their boxes and sent them on their way.

      All Boxed Up & Ready to Go!
      Baking for customers, rather than baking exclusively for loved ones, warrants a different sort of packaging.  Most of my friends know that cookies from me come in one of two packages: 1) an empty shoe box, or 2) an empty spelt flour bag (5lbs).   But our customers' baked goods are delivered in eco-friendly boxes from Big River Packaging.  While shiny pink or glossy white boxes may be a treat to the eye, our boxes are a boon to the environment:  These boxes are uncoated and no chemicals are used to change their natural organic appearance, but the 'natural' is more than skin deep.  This Natural Brown paperboard uses around 25-30% less fiber than other box materials. Compared to other virgin fiber products, that's 25-30% fewer trees to produce the same amount of boxes. Against bleached paperboard, it is better for the environment because strong solvents are not used to bleach the pulp. Also, the fiber for these brown/brown boxes comes from SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) lumber - lumber collected and reforested utilizing environmentally friendly practices. (from brpboxshop website)
      Early Grey & Ginger Blue Muffins

      The best bakers know that the box is as important as the muffin! 

      Packaging isn't just about the box or the bag, sometimes it's about the decorative vehicle that bakers use on their baked goods.  While in Seattle last week, my best friend was excited to learn about a well-yelped home bakery supply store in the Maple Leaf neighborhood.  Far from our Central District home, we traveled north to check out Home Cake Decorating Supply Company at 9514 Roosevelt Way NE.  Walking into this place took me back to my childhood days of cake decorating. . . the smell of chocolate discs, an array of strange decorating books, and myriad boxes of plastic cake decorations.  After circling the tiny story a couple of times, I happened upon what could be my forever favorite baked good decoration; a stash of confidently semi-nude men and women figurines.

      The male topper is seemingly, and maybe painfully, out of proportion, though he fights through the discomfort of unmatched appendages by reclining in painted-on briefs and enjoying the potential squish of sweet frosting.  And the ladies, with their barely-there nighties rigidly relaxed just above the belly-button, give us a peek at pinks and perks.  On what kind of cakes are these toppers found?  And do you think I will be able to convince Meg into letting us purchase a few?  Maybe, like shoeboxes and flour bags, these naughty finds will be reserved for the cakes we bake for our loved ones.  And what sort of cake will it be?  Without a cake for these gals and guys, I feel I have a hat and no head!  

      What flavor of cake can you suggest to compliment these toppers?

      - Trilety

      Sunday, December 5, 2010

      Cookie Delight

      Trilety's Old School Chocolate Chip
      It's the season of giving and these Two Birds are getting into the spirit of things. We're offering our cookies for sale through the Nebraska Food Co-op starting this month for the first time. At our Two Birds' producer page you'll find our creations. In keeping true to our mantra, we've considered and created a nice range of flavors that include old favorites and new special twists. I'll let you know that I have a personal favorite and that is our Peanut Butter Dimples. Ohhh my goodness they are superb!!!

      In our classic-made cookies, local eggs are used and local butter is used whenever available. Exciting!!! And you may wonder, where in the world do those birds get local butter? This is where I'd like to introduce Clear Creek Organic Farm which is based out of Spalding, NE. They offer butter occasionally, and also offer a variety of yummy cheeses and meats. They don't have a website that I am aware of, but here is the  Clear Creek Farm producer page with the Co-op as well as a little write-up on a local website.

      Chai Love You Cookie
      Cool! So, the December ordering cycle is now open, y'all! You can order our tasty-fab cookies and muffins from now until Saturday, December 11th. Pick-up day will be Thursday, December 16th.

      Merry Merry!


      Sunday, November 28, 2010

      Ever Wonder?

      This little bird flew to Seattle for the Thanksgiving holiday.  This city by the Sound fills my senses during every visit.  Planes over the Central District give a roaring background to the click and spark of cables on the busses.  Red neon is a blink of constructed sunset when my eyes aren't turned toward the Olympics or Cascades.  Buttery almonds, liquored apricot, and sweet cream tempt my tongue during walks by bakeries, and there are so many bakeries in this town.

      Seattle is generous, giving me a bounty of both the expected and unexpected every day.  The image of the expected comes in the neon Public Market sign that hangs static above the winter agitation of the water.  Tourists, shoppers, and workers are welcomed to Pike Place Market by the slow glow of red gas - and the Holidays finds the sign competing with brightly colored trees and holiday lights.  (Photo taken by Elisabeth Percival during our walk to the Market to visit her beau).

      The unexpected comes in a similar red neon sign that hovers heavy over an apartment building a few blocks away from the room where I wake up on my visits.  The Wonder Bread sign, recently reconstructed, sat atop the bread factory in Seattle's Central District neighborhood for 55 years.  This bakery beacon is a navigational tool when my sense of direction is lost in the distraction of my wandering. 

      But what's unexpected about white bread, especially that of the Wonder variety, these days?  We know it's white and enriched.  We know it was the first bread to be commercially sliced.  Some of us may not be aware that slicing was ceased during the 1940's because slicing blades weren't available due to the limited metals.  But the unexpected of Wonder Bread came with their advertising campaign of the 1960's.  In an attempt to draw in a crowd of younger folks, Wonder Bread did away with their wholesome persona and started to tempt young men with the visages of young ladies offering up towering sandwiches of meat and cheese, all slipped between the pillowy softness of chewy white bread.   Wonder wasn't sexist though, as they offered up a blonde and willing boy for the likes of the hungry girls too.

      I'm in the center of my Seattle trip, and I'm hoping for more days full of the unexpected.  These two birds  want to bring you the unexpected in all our breads and cookies.  We want you to unbundle our muffins and find inside the secrets revealed only in cheeks.  Our baked goods may not catch you a mate, but if you share, they may just snag you a new friend.

      What do you think is the greatest thing since sliced bread?

      - Trilety

      Sunday, November 21, 2010


      A busy week indeed! Tuesday evening we baked about five dozen muffins to fill our first orders through the Nebraska Food Co-op. Two here and two there. A half dozen here and another half dozen there. It was rather exciting to bake our own products for patrons, as we are quite used to baking for friends and family. And, as is true for all first times, there were unknowns and I was a little nervous. Tee-hee! But in the end, we found that we had prepared well for the launch. And after we had packed up the goods and slapped the freshly-printed labels onto our (recycled and biodegradable) boxes and bags, we sent them on their way, waving proudly as we saw them off to their new homes.

      And we are launched! Officially out there in the world. I know that this all might sound melodramatic, but I get to be that way sometimes. Ha! Especially since this baking business has been in the back of my mind for some time now. And this is the right time to do it. This is all so happy and fortunate, and yet at the same time, it is super crazy surreal. Trilety and I keep saying that this all still feels like a big school project because we've been going along, doing research, taking steps; no big deal. And now, six months later, BOOM! Like, what does it feel like to own a business? Is this a business? This is a business! Small business and a huge accomplishment- and I am forever thankful for the foundation of love and support and intention that it's all built on.

      Cheers to big, big baby steps!


      Saturday, November 13, 2010

      Biscuits & Astronauts

      I wasn’t a kid enamored by astronauts or rockets, and Space Camp didn’t interest me. I think it all seemed too obvious - a vehicle that takes to you space, so what?  Now, if a celestial tongue descended from the sky and licked us up to galaxies without gravity, then I might have paid attention.  But now I am ever curious at the heady thrill of the naïve aplomb of space travel.  I can’t resist thinking of astronauts returning to Earth as miniature versions of themselves because of the loss of bone suffered in space Bone Loss in Space

      I found myself quickly un-slouched when astronauts were referenced in the Sanitation Class that Meg and I are taking at the local Institute for the Culinary Arts. 

      In the 1950’s, NASA was confronted with two food issues in their space program: crumbs and food-borne illnesses caused by bacteria and toxins.  Crumbs float in zero gravity, and they float right into sensitive equipment and, I believe, possibly into an astronaut’s eye causing a painful cornea scratch.  Pillsbury solved this problem by producing bite-sized foods coated with a crumb-preventing material.  (a beneficial invention for those who date, or eat in the company of others)

      Pillsbury had one more problem to solve.  Bacteria and toxins in food can cause illnesses that are characterized by vomiting, nausea, etc.  While zero gravity sex is a fantasy of many, zero-gravity vomiting is not.  The solution to food borne illness in space was found in Pillsbury’s formulation of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP pronounced hass-ip) system.  HACCP “is based on identifying significant biological, chemical, or physical hazards at specific points within a product’s flow through an operation.  Once identified, the hazards can be prevented, eliminated, or reduced to safe levels.”  Basically, any potential point of contamination is identified and then critical limits, monitoring procedures, and corrective actions are established.  The HACCP system was the protective action under which the food for the Apollo spacecraft was prepared. 

      Thanks to Pillsbury, we wear hair-nets (or until then, bandanas).  We bake for you like Pillsbury baked for the astronauts.   These two birds bake muffins, but if you’d like to bake some Astronaut Cupcakes at home this weekend then check out the recipe in this blog post: Astronaut Cupcakes

      - Trilety

      Saturday, November 6, 2010

      Here We Are

      So life has gotten interesting and quite busy in the past five months, since we made the decision to embark on this journey, the baking project. Sounds epic, right?

      I've been working as a baker for almost 5 years now, off and on. I had always had felt drawn to the process and the idea of this profession and I love working with my hands. The idea that I am creating a finished product that people will enjoy makes me happy. It also feeds my hunger for a little nostalgia. I think about my mother and grandmothers in the kitchen with windows open. I think of holidays gone by. Love. Happiness. Sharing. All of that.

      I've had the extreme pleasure of meeting my friend and now business partner, Trilety, two years ago. Owning a bakery together was our little pipe dream for awhile. Recently we made the decision to step forward and start this project. We are keeping busy and learning and growing exponentially. It feels wonderful so far and I'm looking forward to whatever comes next.


      It's fall now, and the slow drop of leaves is a constant reminder of gravity.  It was just this past spring when Meg called and asked if I was interested in pursuing our love of baking, and doing so as partners.  My immediate answer was an excited "yes," and that excitement has remained through today.  Our baking adventure, to date, has been more about learning the ins and outs of business than about the sensory saturation of baking.  Memories are built in the nose and mouth, as much as in the mind.  Baked goods not only bring a linger of ginger or the contradiction of semi-sweet chocolate to your lips, but they also break down the boundaries of time and give you back to your mother's table or your grandmother's front porch.  Let us build you a time machine.

      Welcome to our journey!  We encourage you to stop by our blog for weekly updates and posts about our story, our education, our recipes, our menu, and whatever other topics we think will taste as good to your brains as our baked goods do to your mouths.