Baking with Carmie

I have been reminded during this holiday season when the kitchen is running on overdrive and the coconut flour is flying out the door faster than I can bring it in, to remember and be anchored by my roots. Remember the connection I have to my work, why my work has meaning, and why I am the person to bring it to the world. As I reflect, I think all my baking started with Carmie.

I may have written about her before as she is the one who taught me to bake.  She is my grandmother. I never would have actually called her Carmie, never to her face and never behind her back.  She was grandma… or more likely gramma. Carmie is what Pop called her and what her friends called her.

Carolyn Ruth Nagel Dailey was the best baker I knew.  She knew everything. How much a pinch was. How to brown butter. How to tell when things were done baking.  She and I would pick out recipes of items we wanted to try and then host tea parties with my friends and she would make all the food, with her little helper. She loved coconut, and would laugh when I told her repeatedly that it was worse than eating paper. (I have since changed my mind.) She made me viennese coffee balls when I learned to love coffee and and Pop and I would eat them all ourselves, since we were the only ones that liked coffee.

I only have a few of her favorite recipes these days, but she did give me her Joy of Cooking cookbook from the 1950s that I love to look through. Things were explained so differently back then and I feel closer to her when I read it.  But most of her recipes were snipped from magazines. My mom, my sister and I inherited her love of magazines. She would ALWAYS have a few stacks of the latest country magazines on her coffee table.  They were full of not only recipes, but gardening tips, country home decorating, and the best places to by Amish goods (all things she loved).

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I have been thinking about Carmie a lot recently. My Pop and last living grandparent passed away on November 15th with me by his side.  Pop was definitely overshadowed by grandma.  I come from a line of strong women and Carmie was strong. I felt very early on after her death that Pop was a new man.  He never stopped talking about her and how he loved her and couldn’t wait to meet her again in heaven, but for the first time in my life he was talking.  About everything. I remember picking him up from the airport after Christmas in Iowa the year grandma died and he talked non-stop the whole 45 minute ride back to his house.  Once we dropped him off, I looked over at Nick and asked him, “Who was that man and what did he do with Pop?” But I loved finally getting to know Pop these last two years.

The one thing I could never understand about Pop was his dislike of chocolate.  If there was one thing I definitely inherited from my father, it was the necessity of having chocolate on any item claiming to impersonate a dessert. And while Carmie was alive, Pop never set foot in the kitchen, at her request, except maybe to make himself some coffee or deliver meat from the grill. But after she passed, Pop and I found ourselves comparing recipes for crockpot meals and side dishes. He was even baking his favorites, zucchini bread and  bread pudding.

For better or worse, my family has often defined our time together with food.  It has shaped who I am (at one point it shaped my waistline.) The love and care my grandmother put into food was always evident. My mother is the same way when she entertains.  I try to be that way as well. When I think about this holiday and how much time I have and will spend in the kitchen baking for my family and for my customers… I am happy now to think about the love I put into what I make and how desperately I want you all to feel the love when you eat my food. I also want to educate about food and how it can be healing (and not shape your waistline).  That is the next phase of where I want to take my passion and Baked True North as a company.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for my family, what they have taught me, and the love they have given.  I am also thankful for my customers and how you all have allowed me to be a part of your special times.  I pray your homes are filled with healthy food and love this holiday season!

As always… Have a cookie,

Lauren

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Oktoberfest at Baked True North

I am reading this great book right now called “Bread and Wine” by Shauna Niequist. My fiend Kim lent it to me and I have been TEARING through it.  Nick is thoroughly surprised as I usually do not read through book suggestions this quickly… or through any books at all! I have this wonderful habit of reading a book 1/2 to 3/4 through and then starting another book and forgetting about it.  I actually did this twice consecutively this summer leading up to this book.  But it won’t happen this time as I can hardly put it down and will definitely have it finished within the 2 week mark.

Shauna’s simple and honest chapters have drawn me in and I have connected with them.  They seem to be teaching me a few things.  One, to experiment more with food and test and grow my boundaries. Two, she has rekindled my love for entertaining and instilled in me a desire to throw fantastically normal get-togethers at our house.  What I mean by normal… is just, the reminder that things don’t have to be perfect, they will never go how you planned, but people, love, and community are the important parts to make central to the event.

I got to practice this “let go and host” mentality for an Oktoberfest event for our small group.  I was only asked to provide dessert and open my doors and everyone else would bring the rest.  I invited a few last minute guests as well to test my welcoming spirit and 2 out 3 invites came and made the party so much better!

The recipe I chose for Oktoberfest challenged me as a baker to make something pretty, not just good tasting.  Most of the things I make are not difficult or detailed in presentation and I am not a detailed person so I do not often try complicated recipes. “The Best German Chocolate Cake in All the Land” was the base for my cake. I made a few adjustments based on need and preference, but just about followed this recipe from Yammie’s Noshery.

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This picture describes the massive, messy, chocolaty German cake we had.

The alterations I made to the recipe (linked above) was as follows:

  • Cake:
    • Midnight Cocoa (high in protein) instead of dark cocoa
    • Canned coconut milk instead of cow’s milk
    • 2 cups sugar + 1/2 cup Stevia instead of 3 cups sugar
    • All-purpose gluten-free flour instead of rice flour
  • German frosting:
    • Unsweetened shredded coconut instead of sweetened
    • Pecans only for the top layer, not throughout
  • Milk Chocolate Frosting:
    • 4 cups powdered sugar instead of 5 cups
    • Leftover evaporated milk instead of cow’s milk

So, a few of those things I changed out of necessity and might not have otherwise… like the pecans.  I didn’t have any and by the time Nick got home with them the cake was done, so I sprinkled them on top. I do try to replace some sugar with Stevia when I can, and there is SOOO much sugar in this recipe that you will NOT notice a difference in taste. I also almost never put as much powdered sugar into frosting recipes as they call for, just on general principle that I am appalled at how much sugar it takes to make frosting!

Although I am not adding it to the Baked True North menu, it has inspired a few new recipes that I will be experimenting with and you may see those on the menu in the next month (German chocolate cookies…?)!

Overall I had a blast making this recipe and everyone loved how rich it was, even though they couldn’t eat more than a small piece.

HAPPY OKTOBERFEST!!!!!!!!!!!!

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