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Entries in washington (29)

Sunday
Jul102011

Sweet Find: Johnson Candy Company, Tacoma WA

Not long ago when I took a little road trip to Tacoma to try and find the site of one of the original Mars factories (nerdy but true), my friend Reina (also one of the owners of Hello, Cupcake) introduced me to a gem of a candy shop: Johnson Candy Company.

Now, I was absolutely thrilled with this old-fashioned candy shop. It was old-school, but not in a put-on, contrived nostalgia sort of way: more like because they've been doing this candy thing the same way for, like, ever.

Of course, being so-old school, they don't even have a website. But I was able to learn a bit of their backstory from South Sound Magazine:

This long-time Tacoma favorite has been creating candy for local sugar seekers since 1925. The business was started by Russell Johnson, who ran a soda fountain lunch spot in the Hilltop neighborhood and bought some candy items. Well, the candy was popular so he decided he’d learn how to make it. Eventually he ditched the lunch gig and started making candy full time when he opened Johnson Candy Company, according to his son, Ron. During WWII, the elder Johnson hired another candy maker who brought with him more recipes. Ron purchased the business in the 1970s and now his son, Bill, is the third-generation lead candy maker turning out favorites such as caramel pecan turtles and homemade caramel dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with salt. “People keep coming back for more of those,” Ron said. Sweet, salty and addicting. Don’t miss out on their boxes of Valentine’s Day chocolates. 

...and if you're seeking classic confections such as cordials, homemade candies, or even bubblegum balls decorated like zoo animals (pictured top), they're a great spot, but honestly it's worth a visit alone just to walk in and absorb what feels like a very sweet history of candy-making.

Johnson Candy Company, 924 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.272.8504

Wednesday
Jun292011

CakeSpy Undercover: San Francisco Street Bakery, Olympia WA

You want to know how I find all of the best bakeries? Here's my secret.

Here's the thing. People love telling me about their favorite bakeries.

And I love hearing about people's favorite bakeries. And when they tell me about them, if I find myself in a geographically convenient place, I will seek them out.

So when Alithea suggested the San Francisco Street Bakery in Olympia, WA (which, interestingly, turns out to be located on San Francisco Avenue, not Street), I made a mental note, and when I was passing through on my way to Portland for Crafty Wonderland, I made sure to stop there.

This is the type of bakery I adore. Slightly off the beaten path, you can tell that this is a place beloved by locals—it is a daily place, the type of spot that locals would drop in every day for years, where the staff would know what they wanted before they even ordered.

But on my visit, as a newbie, I had to take it all in. Bread's big here, with all sorts of challah, hippie-Northwest loaves, and traditional breads—but my eyes were fixed on the baked goods. Cookies, cakes, pies, and cream puffs and french pastry—they had it all. But what called to me was one of the simple treats: a spiral chocolate and vanilla butter cookie. 

Buttery, with a perfect crumb that didn't crumble as much as yield, this cookie was redolent of butter, and the chocolate swirl added the perfect slightly bitter and rich dimension to the cookie to make it more interesting than a mere butter cookie, but still simple, sweet, and delicious. The pleasure of a cookie like this is simple, but sweet and delicious—and this is a place where it can be savored. Though I didn't try it, trusted sources say that they have “the best brioche ever” and “amazing macaroons”.

And for extra Northwest hippie points, they have their own garden in the back.

San Francisco Street Bakery, 1350 San Francisco Ave NE, Olympia, WA; online here.

San Francisco Street Bakery on Urbanspoon

Wednesday
Jun222011

Pastry Profiles: Fisher Fair Scones of the Pacific Northwest

Recently, Fisher Flouring Mills celebrated their 100th anniversary. Why is this of interest, exactly?

Because, for anyone who has ever attended the epic Puyallup Fair in the Seattle area, you may know them as the makers of the famous Fisher Fair Scones. Let's take a few minutes to learn a bit of the backstory behind this company and their signature product, shall we? I'd like to thank Nick at Team Soapbox who was so helpful with getting me much of this information.

The Fisher Flour Mills opening invite, from 1911First off, why the Pacific Northwest? This company, which initially focused mainly on flour, settled in Seattle in 1911 because it was “the most promising city on the coast.”

The Fisher booth in 1923How did they start making scones as a fair food? William H. Paulhamus, president and general manager of the Puyallup Fair (Western Washington State Fair) pitched the scones idea to Fisher and said he’d donate jam made from his raspberry farm in Oregon. The scones debuted at the fair as a chance to showcase and promote the company's flour flour. They were a success, going for just a few pennies each. Today, they are still a Northwest favorite and a tradition of Washington fairs.

Current CEO Mike Maher has a long history with the company, too:

“My connection to the fair goes back three decades. As a teenager, I started working in fair operations for Fisher, driving the trailers to each venue, training staff and making scones for customers myself. I learned quickly about the magnetic appeal of a fresh-baked scone slathered with whipped butter and raspberry jam. It didn’t take long before I became hooked on the idea of delivering smiles to our customers, one fresh-baked bite at a time.”

Michael Maher began with the company in 1978 (then Fair Scones, Inc.) and has risen up the ranks as the company has grown over the past 30-some years.  

Current CEO MikeHow did current CEO Mike rise to floury fame? Mike’s career began as a high school student in Portland, OR when he was hired by Fair Scones, Inc. to work its concession booth at the Rose Festival.  From 1979 to 1984, he worked summers as a concession manager, operating various events in Oregon,Washington, and British Columbia.  After graduating from the University of Oregon in 1985, he came on board full time as the general manager, overseeing all festival operations.  In 1995 Mike became vice president—operations and directed the company’s expansion into retail scone products and wholesale baking to the airlines.  In the late 1990s Mike led three specialty food company acquisitions and expansion into private label products.  He was named president and COO in 1999.  He joined the Board of Directors in 2003, and was later promoted to his current post as president and CEO.

Old Fisher Flouring Mills truckHow did the scones gain such popularity? What started as a promotional tool eventually expanded to became a signature food item at 39 fairs and festivals throughout the Northwest, but the company is still family-owned (and even the Fisher family still has a stake in the company) committed to local community. Today, Fisher owns the raspberry farm in Oregon and still uses the same simple jam recipe (berries, sugar & pectin) to accompany the scones. The scone recipe has remained largely unchanged, except for a few tweaks to the salt and sugar amounts to accommodate modern tastes.

The scones represent the company’s commitment to a tradition of local, Northwest deliciousness by utilizing local ingredients and tastes—showcased at local fairs. This commitment has now come full circle in a world where people are thinking and shopping local.

Some more little tidbits of interest, sent along by Nick of Team Soapbox:

  • Fisher Scones debuted at the 1915 Puyallup Fair, in the very same corner booth under the grandstand where they are still sold today.
  • The scones originally were free or just a few pennies, promoting Fisher Flours.
  • Today, Fisher serves up more than 40 tons of raspberry jam each summer to top the scones.
  • 1.5 million scones are sold each year
  • This fall, Fisher will serve its 100,000,000th (yes, one hundred millionth!) scone at the Puyallup Fair. 
  • Mike Maher, Fisher’s CEO started out by making scones at the fair himself. Mike’s been with the company three decades. Nobody's sure how many scones he’s eaten.
  • Fisher supports Northwest farmers through a partnership with Shepherd’s Grain, a cooperative of 33 local farmers who use sustainable agriculture farming methods. They’re also connected with the Food Alliance of Oregon, which provides the most comprehensive third-party certification for social and environmental responsibility in agriculture and the food industry in North America.
  • For almost 100 years, Fisher Scones have been a tradition at fairs and festivals throughout the Northwestern United States. These triangular shaped biscuits, baked fresh and smothered in honey-whipped butter and tart raspberry jam, have created unparalleled loyalty.
  • Scones can be yours year round, at home. Fisher brand scones are available by a home mix line; on the mix subject, this year, the company plans on introducing new packaging for the scones (and new all-natural Pancake & Baking Mix, Biscuit Mix, and Cornbread Mix).

Want to continue getting sconed? Check out their website here, and find them on Facebook here.

Wednesday
Jun082011

Via Delicious: Via Dolce Gelato, Leavenworth, WA

Dear Twitter: I love you. Because when I say "I am going to this town, what bakeries should I visit?" I get many many great suggestions. I believe this is what they call "crowd sourcing". And when it comes to seeking out sugary sweets to eat, it rules.

And this is how I came to discover Via Dolce Gelato in Leavenworth, WA (thanks, Dalipardon). Now, one might not think that a traditional Italian treat would be the thing to seek out in a Bavarian village, but One Would Be Wrong.

Via Dolce is passionate about their art, with a website which will not only educate you, but will make you very hungry. But not as hungry as looking at their lovely chilled case, which contains a rainbow of possibilities. I kept it pretty beige, with a scoop of Toasted Almond and a second of Stracciatella.

What both scoops had in common was that they were both highly delicious, creamy and dreamy and yet somehow still light--they didn't linger thickly but rather kept you coming back for more (and made me wonder why gelato is served by the scoop rather than by the vat).

But the real standout was the Stracciatella (don't ask me to pronounce it, I tried to when ordering and then was corrected, and had been so wrong that I blushed). What does Stracciatella taste like, you ask? Well, it's kind of like meeting chocolate chip ice cream's relative from the Old Country, who does everything the old (and better) way. Made up of creamy vanilla speckled with shreds, rather than chips, of chocolate, and it is clearly the way to go--they melt as you go and don't have a distracting texture like chips. You can find a recipe for it here.

Via Dolce Gelato, Leavenworth, WA; online at viadolcegelato.com.

Tuesday
Jun072011

Pass the Torchetti: Torchetti Cookies from Cle Elum Bakery, WA

The other day, I found myself in a magical land called Cle Elum.

Now, don't ask me how to pronounce the name of the town--but do ask me what I ate there, because I did find a magical place called Cle Elum Bakery.

I ate something called Torchetti, that's what. This is a traditional Italian cookie which I learned more frequently goes by Torcetti, which means "little twist"--which, you know, describes them pretty well. Physically they resemble Berlinerkranser or Calabrian Love Knots, but texture and taste-wise they are different; where aforementioned cookies are crumbly and buttery, these biscuits are more hearty and sturdier in texture with the addition of yeast, more like lightly sweet biscuits than butter cookies.

As I learned from this segment,

The recipe itself is very old, indicated by the use of yeast, not baking powder, for leavening.  These cookies are from the Piedmont region of northern Italy.  Turin, Piedmont's capital, was also Italy's first capital.  The city preserves remarkable architectural and cultural treasures.

They're a very nice snacking cookie, no matter what you want to call them or how you want to spell it.

Of course, if you can't make it up (or over?) to Cle Elum, you can try this recipe (adapted from Taste of Home):

Torchetti (or Torcetti)

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (110° to 115°)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • Additional confectioners' sugar

Procedure

  1. Place flour in a large bowl; cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla and 2 cups of the crumb mixture; beat until well blended. Gradually beat in remaining crumb mixture.
  2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead for 3-4 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  3. Punch dough down; divide into six portions. Shape each portion into twelve 6-in. ropes, about 1/4-in. thick; roll in confectioners' sugar. Shape each rope into a loop. Holding both ends of loop, twist together three times.
  4. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Roll warm cookies in additional confectioners' sugar. Cool on wire racks. 

 

 

 

Saturday
Jun042011

Batter Chatter: Interview With Jennifer Morin of Cupcake D'Lish

Problem: you are near, but not in, Seattle, and want a cupcake. STAT! Well, instead of driving all the way to Seattle like a jerk, you can now pick up a dozen cupcakes right on your home turf via Cupcake D'Lish, a new custom-order cupcakery. But since everything tastes better with a backstory, let's have a little interviewsy with the baker who makes the magic, Jennifer Morin:

Cupcake D'Lish. Tell me baby, what's your story? It all just came to me one day out of the blue that I really needed to find a useful outlet to vent my artistic talent through! I tried different things and baking just seemed to stick! Honestly I was excited about baking because I would be able to decorate. The cake part would come with time.

Cake or Pie? Definitely cake.

Pants or Skirt? Skirt (steak) that is!

Yes or No? Always yes. I only use no on my kiddos!

Vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry? Vanilla……it just goes with everything! Don’t let my husband read that.

Tell me about how you and your husband are working together on this business: what do both of you (respectively) bring to the table? My husband and I work very differently towards Cupcake D’ Lish. I am the artist and baker; he is my #1 taster.

What is the last delicious thing you ate? The last delicious thing I ate was my organic vanilla stuffed vanilla cookie.

Any plans to open a retail location? We plan to open a retail cupcakery in the near future. Definitely on the Eastside.

Please, tell us something I might not know about or expect of you. Surprise us. I don’t like chocolate. (CS Note: But kindly, she will make it for the rest of us.)

What is next for you and your business? Our business has been growing by leaps and bounds with larger catering requests and the addition of another Farmer’s Market in North Bend. We are working our way towards opening a retail location.

Find Cupcake D'Lish online here and on Facebook here.

Wednesday
Jun012011

Where I Want To Live: Taffy Town, Salt Lake City, Utah

Taffy Town, Population: YOU.

Or at least it could be. Because friends, this place actually exists. It is a candy factory, located in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Now, this company is magical in more ways than one. First of all, it opened my eyes to the fact that Saltwater Taffy, which I knew from growing up by the Jersey Shore, exists outside of the tri-state area. True, many accounts point to it being invented there (NJ pride!), but there are pockets of Taffy Territory elsewhere in the US: notably by the Oregon Coast, and also--news to me--in Salt Lake City.

I learned of this company in a roundabout way--while visiting a Bavarian Village in Central Washington. It's true. While visiting a Das Sweet Shoppe, a candy shop in Leavenworth, WA, I was impressed with the vast array of taffies in flavors from Buttered Popcorn to caramel to Cinnamon Bun (!) to Apple Pie to Huckleberry, and asked "are these made on premises?". 

No, the kind employee informed me, almost apologetically, the candies came from a company in Salt Lake City. 

Say what?

It's true, she said: these taffies were made by a company called Taffy Town, which had the best taffy she'd ever tasted--worth shipping, undoubtedly--made using salt from THE Salt Lake.

Well, that was interesting enough to get me to buy a half pound of the sweet stuff (one of which had a heart--no, really! I checked the site, and they don't usually), and to (with mouth full of taffy, which was, as hoped, salty-sweet-smooth and delicious) check out their website.

It's true, this company is like...Taffy City. Or at least Taffy Town, which makes their company name apropos. Apparently, after many years in the candy biz, they decided Taffy was their...ah, sweet spot:

For over 79 years we were known as Glade Candy Company offering individuals the finest in Gourmet Taffy.  In 1995, our name was changed to "Taffy Town"  to reflect our total dedication to taffy excellence.  We then expanded to serve a World Wide market.  Using a whipped process that produces a soft texture taffy that simply melts in your mouth, we then add the finest in domestic and imported flavors to obtain perfection in confection.

In case you didn't catch it, my favorite bit: "total dedication to taffy excellence."

While they make it VERY CLEAR IN ALL CAPS THAT THEY DO NOT GIVE TOURS OF THEIR PRODUCTION FACILITY, you can get the following from a visit:

Come in today and see over 60 different flavors of our rich tasting taffy to delight every palate.  In addition to our taffy, we offer you our NEW fresh creamy smooth fudge, and other gourmet candy creations.  We have all sorts of GIFT IDEAS:  including a Taffy Town Gift Certificate!  Also, we have a video playing on our big screen showing how we make the taffy.

Of course, if this alone doesn't seem worth a visit to Utah, here's a link to their retailers. Check out the Taffy Town website here.

Tuesday
May312011

Triple Sweet: Triple Berry Oat Bar from Sultan Bakery, WA

If you've read this site more than, oh, once, you probably know that I have a deep distrust of fruit in my dessert (it really does kind of dip a toe into "health food" territory). 

But in the case of the Triple Berry Bar from Sultan Bakery (the most beautiful sight along Highway 2 in Washington), the berries make for a triple threat of awesome.

Tart, sweet, but definitely berry-like, the suspiciously healthy fruit filling (which is also sort of a lie, because I suspect the "triple berry" was made up of marionberry, blueberry, and rhubarb--which I don't think is a berry) is not dumbed down by sugar but allowed to shine in the middle--but don't despair, because there is plenty of sugar on both the top and bottom to cancel out the lack of (added) sugar in the middle. A buttery cookie base acts as the anchor for this sweet treat, and the top contains a brownsugaroatbutter topping--spaces deleted because I want you to know how it tasted--and when it all comes together, it makes for some sort of "tastes like early summer" sort of magic. The middle is natural, but the top and bottom of the bar, baked with the natural bounty, make it...well, supernatural.

Buy some of this bliss for yourself at Sultan Bakery (also the home of delicious doughnuts), 711 W. Stevens Ave., Sultan; it's also fairly similar to the Mazurka Bar, the odyssey to the root of which and a recipe for which you can read about here.

Sultan Bakery on Urbanspoon

Thursday
May122011

Sweet and Salty: the Chocolate Hazelnut Pretzel Stick from Ralf's in Bellingham

What happens when you cross baguette, pretzel, and chocolate ganache?

A triple threat of awesome, that's right: the sweet, salty, and carbohydratey masterpiece which is simply called the "Chocolate Pretzel Stick" at Ralf's Bavarian Bakery in Bellingham.

This small retail bakery specializes in pretzels of the Bavarian persuasion, some of which are twisted traditionally, some of which are served as "sticks" (more like demi-baguettes), many of which are served with classic pretzel complements: salami, mustard, cheese...and, on the sweet end of the spectrum, a specimen with a rich, beautiful heaping of chocolate hazelnut ganache (sounds like Nutella to me).

This is probably the most pleasurable dessert-sandwich I've enjoyed in some time, with a perfect pretzel: with a little bit of resistance on the chewy exterior giving way to a soft, yeasty interior which was perfectly matched by the contrasting chocolate-nut filling, which worked beautifully with the salty, carbohydratey mass. Oh, and yes, that is a burger wallet in the background. That would be mine.

So awesome. So delicious. Drive to Bellingham right now.

Ralf's Bavarian Bakery, Bellingham, WA; online here.

Sunday
Apr172011

Sweet Love: Sweet Art in Bellingham, WA

It's official: I am in love with Sweet Art in Bellingham, WA.

Why? Let me count the ways.

Let me start by sharing with you their self-description, as written by co-owner Jerry:

A small mom-pop type retail candy store and art gallery where my wife is the artist and I'm the candyman. She paints oils of flowers & landscapes and I dip chocolates and make candy.

That's right: an artist wife and confectioner husband who have teamed up to open the sweetest little spot--one that makes you feel as if you've entered Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole when you walk in.

Curios and art line the shelves (there's even a little diorama to peek in from the outside), and in the candy cases, row after row of confections:

Fudge, English toffee, Czech Toffee(!?), chocolate dipped strawberries, turtles and so, so much more.

...yes indeed, this is a special place to discover. But even better? The chocolates are delicious. It was after much debate that I finally settled on the fat little mint truffle, known as the "Bombay Mint Truffle", featured at the top of the post. 

If I've ever tasted chocolate-coated bliss, this was it. Rich, buttery, minty ganache that coats the mouth in the most delightful, flavorful way, this is one of those "I think I will close my eyes for a moment now" types of treats. In fact, I solemnly vow to make this a destination for every Bellingham trip, from now until eternity.

Sweet Art, 1335 Railroad, BellinghamWA.

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