Archive for September, 2011

The Matching Half Gob, or “Congratulations, Ryan And Devon!”

September 24, 2011

I’d been selling gobs in San Francisco for about three months in the middle of 2009 when I received an email from a woman named Devon asking me if there was any way at all I could bake and deliver my product to her boyfriend, Ryan. She went onto explain that he worked at Twitter, had eaten the confections I’d delivered to his office and that ever since he “couldn’t stop talking about them.” Ryan’s birthday was fast approaching, Devon said, and she was hoping that she might be able to order a dozen or so as a surprise for him.

I wanted to help her out, I really did. But I was swamped. I had recently started selling Gobba Gobba Hey gobs at the Ferry Building’s Thursday Farmer’s Market and I was also baking for my first mega food event, the inaugural Eat Real Festival in Oakland. I was in over my head. I had only recently started scaling my recipes – taking the formulas that I’d written and beefing them up so that they could go from the home made batch that made about three dozen to doubling and tripling the output without losing the flavors that people loved.

I had no choice but to write back to Devon with my apologies. I explained my situation. I told her I already had more business than I was capable of handling and that as much as I wanted to help her out, I was already operating at my maximum capacity.

She wrote back to thank me for even considering her request, adding that she figured it was a long shot, but that she “just had to try.”

I read and re-read that email several times. You probably know where this is going, especially if you arrived at this web site because you ate one of my confections at Ryan’s and Devon’s wedding this weekend. There was something about Devon’s email that kept drawing me back to her request. And I found myself unable to say no.

Even though I’d never met Devon or Ryan, it was obvious to me that they were very much in love. I admired the way Devon searched me out based on what little information she had gleaned from Ryan. I was a very small baking enterprise with an oddly-named product and a confusing name. Even though my business and reputation were both growing, I was still far from being easily accessible. Yet she found me. Anyone who went to this much trouble for their significant other obviously cared very deeply for them. I had to find a way to make this delivery happen.

I delivered gobs to Ryan the following week, and when I did, I let him know that I could truly get a sense for how strong his and Devon’s relationship was just from her messages, not to mention her efforts to find me.

It was about two months later that I finally met Devon in person when she and Ryan attended an event at which I was selling gobs. Within a few seconds of watching them interact with one another, I could tell they were more than just boyfriend and girlfriend. They were best friends. They were each other’s matching half.

So when they asked a few months ago if I would bake for their wedding, which just so happened to again fall on what would be the busiest weekend for my business of the year, I couldn’t say no.

They requested a flavor that joined foods from their respective home states, Maine and Michigan, into one new creation. Devon wanted blueberries, and Ryan requested cherries. The recipe follows.

I hope you enjoy this flavor. You can make it as many times as you like, but I will never bake it for anyone else again. Ryan and Devon, this is for you. I thank you for your support, and I hope you have many happy, healthy and prosperous years together!

For the batter

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

2 cups cane sugar

1 stick, 8 oz butter, room temperature, cubed

2 eggs, separated, room temperature

1 cup buttermilk

2 TBS sour cream

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 TBS baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 TBS lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. (If your oven runs cool, you can go as high as 335.) Separate the egg yolks from whites and let both come to room temperature. Cream butter in standing mixer (or with beaters.) Sift sugar then add to butter and mix until fluffy. Add vanilla extract and mix on medium high for one minute. Add the egg yolks to butter, mix on medium high til sugar and butter mixture turns the color of the yolks. Add egg whites and beat on medium high almost until peaks form.

2. While butter and eggs are creaming measure out all dry ingredients, then sift together. Turn mixer to low. Add one third of flour mixture to butter and eggs, then mix on medium til incorporated. Add half cup of butter milk, and mix on medium high. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with spatula to scoop up any butter that might be sticking to bottom. Add second third of flour mixture to batter, mix on medium til incorporated. Add remaining buttermilk and sour cream. Mix on medium high. Slow mixer speed to low, add lemon zest, then mix on medium high for one minute.

3. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, and using a tablespoon as a dispenser, scoop out one TBS of batter at a time onto sheets leaving about two inches between each round of batter. When sheet is full, slide into heated oven and bake four minutes. After four minutes, remove tray, and turn front to back. Bake for another four minutes. Gobs should be raised like small domes with just a hint of golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Work in batches until batter is gone. Makes approximately 30 to 36 gobs (depending on how much you actually scoop.)

For the frosting

8 oz of butter, softened and cubed

12 oz of cream cheese, softened and cubed

2 cups confectioners sugar, measured then sifted

1/2 TBS  almond extract

4 – 5 TBS cherry-blueberry syrup (recipe follows)

1-2 TBS fresh lemon juice

1. In a mixer cream butter with almond extract. Add cubes of cream cheese one or two at a time to butter, on medium speed, to fully incorporate.

2. Turn mixer off. Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula to make sure the almond extract, butter and cream cheese are melding together. Set mixer back on low speed and slowly begin to add 1 TBS lemon juice, followed by 3 TBS cherry-blueberry syrup. Turn mixer up to medium, allow to run for about a minute, then turn up to medium high for the same length of time.

3. Turn mixer back to low. Begin adding the confectioner’s sugar 1/4 cup at a time, mixing on medium speed after each addition. When all sugar has been added, check the consistency of your frosting. A spoon or fork inserted should pull a peak out of the batch with it when extracted. The frosting should be almost the consistency of whipped cream. You can add another TBS or two of the syrup if you like, and another TBS of the lemon juice. Add only 1 TBS at a time, and mix well. Check consistency of your frosting. Just be careful not to over-beat the mixture as it will turn soupy. When frosting is of desired thickness, and flavor, set mixing bowl in fridge for about 20 minutes.

4. As frosting cools in fridge, take the gob domes that have also cooled and begin flipping them over onto their backs, flat side up. Match like-sized domes so that you have two halves side by side. Pair up remained of the batch in this manner. Take frosting out of the fridge and begin scooping preferably 1 TBS, but up to 2 TBS of frosting onto one of the flipped-over gob domes. Set its matching half on top of the frosting, and press down giving a small turn to create what will look like a cake sandwich. Congratulations! You’ve made your first gob. Do this with the remaining domes until each pair has been frosted. Put tray of completed gobs in the fridge, covered tightly with a sheet of plastic wrap. Allow to sit at least an hour so that the flavors from the frosting can start to permeate and moisten the cake halves. Serve either at room temperature of chilled, according to your tastes!

For the Cherry Blueberry Syrup

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted, preferably from Michigan

1 cup fresh blueberries, preferably from Maine

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, slit open so caviar inside can easily cook out

2 TBS fresh lemon juice

1. Wash berries and cherries, removing stems (and pits from cherries.) Coarsely chop the cherries. Place everything but the lemon juice in a small saucepan begin to bring to a boil over medium high heat. Press down on the berries and cherries to release their juices. Stir often. When the mixture comes to a boil, lower heat and allow to cook and thicken over a low flame for about 20 minutes. If it’s bubbling gently along the sides of the pan that’s fine. Stir frequently. Turn off the heat, stir in the lemon juice to mix thoroughly and remove from the stove. Set aside to cool.

2. When the syrup mixture has cooled, strain to remove pulp, vanilla bean and any lemon seeds from the pot. Keep syrup in the fridge until ready to use for frosting.

3. Use any remaining syrup in your favorite vodka or bourbon cocktail with a squeeze of lime juice. Just to remember to toast Devon and Ryan each time you raise your glass!

“Under The Bernal Sun,” Or, How To Read “Gobba Gobba Hey: A Gob Cook Book.”

September 16, 2011

Introduce yourself. Make friends. Be polite. And let your new home introduce itself to you. That sentiment, as expressed and experienced by Frances Mayes’ character in Under The Tuscan Sun, became a manifesto of sorts for me back in late 2008 and early 2009 as I settled into a new home and a new life. Whereas Mayes ended one chapter of her life in San Francisco, I was beginning a new one in that city. And while her relationship in the tale had ended, mine was still very much intact. But make no mistake. I was starting over in practically every other way. I didn’t have to go any further than my own kitchen to be reminded just how different my life now was. A fixer-upper, which we’ve often referred to as a tearer-downer, our new house presented unique challenges daily. Heavy or quick footsteps across the sagging kitchen floor were capable of disrupting contact points in the refrigerator’s wiring triggering a flash of blue sparks and the occasional white wisp of smoke. Light fixtures had been held in place with scotch tape, the removal of which left greasy, ghostly silhouettes on the wall and ceiling. And of course there was the cheese, or rather the smell of it, that came from the cabinet under the sink. My new home was introducing itself to me, alright. And I was finding it increasingly difficult to be polite.

Of course the sinking economy was likewise tugging down my mood. I’d spent the better half of 2008 promoting my bookThe Warmest Room in the House – a social history of the kitchen’s role in the American home – and when I finished, I found that it was a much different world for a freelance writer. Outlets and opportunities were disappearing rapidly as newspapers and magazines were folding. I was scrambling to find topics to pitch to a dwindling number of editors just as an ever-increasing number of out-of-work writers and journalists were doing the same thing.

Jobs were scarce, but I had plenty of work in front of me. I confronted it each morning as I shuffled into the kitchen to make my first cup of coffee for the day. Without much of a budget to transform the room at the time, I rolled up my sleeves and made the room as welcoming as possible.

As our kitchen became more hospitable, I started using it more. The homesickness I felt, missing my family and lifelong friends on the other side of the country, was abated by cooking the meals and foods I’d shared with them over the years. But I also started adding new foods to my cupboards, tweaking old recipes with these ingredients. I’d walk to the weekly farmer’s market and return home with a whole new world awaiting me in the herbs and greens and seasonal produce I’d stuffed into my bags.

It was during this process of remake/ remodel that the recipes in Gobba Gobba Hey: A Gob Cook Book were written. Baking gobs was something that helped me feel a connection to my past, and the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients allowed me to discover one of the many wonderful offerings of my new home town.

Each recipe in the book, from the first revisiting of Chocolate with Vanilla Frosting to the Matcha Green Tea with Lemongrass Ginger Filling all the way to the final notes on the Gingerbread Gob, tells part of my story of relocation and, dare I say, reinvention as an old family favorite helped me establish a new sense of home.

I encourage you to read the entire book first before digging into the recipes. Take in each recipe header as if it were its own individual chapter, and the accompanying recipe the snapshot of that moment in time.

Approached in this way, the book will introduce itself to you, politely. And while it may be irreverent at times, I think you will find that it remembers its manners when they matter most.

High Speed Gobbing!

September 9, 2011

How do you condense three hours of gobbing into four minutes of taping? Very carefully. This morning I was in the home kitchen of Henry Tennenbaum, the host of KRON’s Saturday morning show giving him a lesson in high speed baking. It was a great way to start the day. You can see Henry getting schooled in the making of the Carrot Cake Gob recipe from the Gobba Gobba Hey Cook Book, as well as in the proper pronunciation of the word “gob,” Pittsburgh-style. Air time is Saturday, September 10, at 8 AM here in the Bay Area on KRON 4.

And don’t forget I’ll be reading from my new book at Omnivore Books Saturday, September 10 at 3 PM and again at The Booksmith in the Haight, on Tuesday, September 13th at 7:30 PM.

Lastly, many thanks to the kind folks at Bonny Doon Vineyards for co-sponsoring these events with Viognier Port!

Hope to see you there!

Whole Gobba Love: Warm Words About My New Book

September 1, 2011

Here’s a quick round up of some early ink, cyber and otherwise, that Gobba Gobba Hey: A Cook Book has received in the past few days! Thanks for all of your emails, DMs, tweets, and facebook posts!

Fellow “yinzer” Mr. Bob Batz, Jr of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette talks to me about gobs and the mysteries of Pittsburgh! http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11237/1169530-34.stm 

According to the swells over at Modern Tonic, my new book is “gay-approved! http://www.moderntonic.com/2011/08/24/yo-gobba-gobba/ 

When Sean Timberlake isn’t minding the shop over at his own popular site, he keeps browsers at Foodzie up to date as they peruse the cyber store’s aisles.  http://foodzie.com/blog/2011/09/gobs-macked/

Jun Belen, the lensman whose camera and talent always make my gobs look great, bakes Coconut Ube Gobs for his own blog, and no surprise here, they look FANTASTIC!   http://blog.junbelen.com/2011/08/31/how-to-make-gobba-gobba-hey-coconut-gobs-with-ube-filling/ 

Where do I turn for a high when I don’t want to break into my own sugar supply? Tamara Palmer asked me to round up some of my favorites sweets in San Francisco.

http://www.thefeast.com/sanfrancisco/restaurants/lists/gobba-gobba-hey-bakerauthors-favorite-sweets_li5405.html 

If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of Gobba Gobba Hey: A Cook Book to call your very own, click here.

Until next time, thanks for the continued support. Happy Gobbing!