Sep 10, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose in Woody's Place
It has been almost a year since Woody made the move to nearby Pennsylvania. In addition to working with me on the upcoming Baking Bible, a near full time job, and organizing the office and new baking kitchen resulting from my move to New Jersey, he has also followed one of his other great passions: music. He began by donating to the local public radio station WNTI which resulted in his being invited to be a guest DJ on a show.
In the late summer, WNTI public radio holds a three day music festival, "WNTI Stage," along the Delaware River in northwestern New Jersey. The music fest is their major fund-raiser and to showcase various local and regional musical artists. I volunteered this summer to be on their "Street Team" to help promote the station and assist at various events. Melanie "Dawnbird" Thiel, the station's morning DJ and WNTI's Management/Development Director informed me that along with helping at the event, it would be great if I could bring some cakes for the backstage tent. Last June, I was able to be a guest DJ on her morning show, for which I also brought several treats from The Baking Bible. Food and beverages are provided by some of the vendors and volunteers at the music fest, but desserts are generally lacking.
On the night before the first day of the fest, there was a meeting of the volunteers and WNTI staff to go over details and to enjoy some delicious pulled pork, roasted corn on the cob, and my offering--The Golden Lemon Almond Cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes.
My assignment was to be on the parking lot attendant crew, on which I volunteered to help out for two days. Friday's headliner was the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, a folk rock band that is a favorite of WNTI listeners. I was able to hear them from my parking lot post with my flashlight and flag in hands to direct cars. I made another favorite especially for them and the rest of the backstage seekers: The Deep Chocolate Passion frosted with Chocolate Ganache, also from Rose's Heavenly Cakes.
Jul 26, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose in Woody's Place
Woody is making himself very much at home in his new location. From working with me, to working at local farmers' markets, he has even made his debut as a DJ. I wonder what comes next!
When I left Minnesota in October, I also left a great public radio music station: "The Current." Fortunately, I came across WNTI public radio broadcasting from Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ one morning on my beautiful daily commute through the Delaware Water Gap to Rose's place. Like "The Current," WNTI "Where Great Music Lives" plays an eclectic blend of current alternative music, classic rock, oldies, local artists, jazz, Frank Sinatra, and just about everything else.
When WNTI had its semi-annual pledge drive, I made a pledge amount, which included being a guest DJ for two hours with the DJ of your choice. I also became a volunteer for their Street Team to assist at station-sponsored events.
Rose and I baked up an assortment of goodies for me to bring to the studio for Melanie and other station staff. So, with a box filled with molasses cookies from our new book, fudgy pudgy brownies, two yellow cakes as we were testing a cake enhancer, a bialy with onions and poppy seeds, my playlist, CDs, and vinyl records, I was welcomed by Melanie and her daughter Vicky at the studio. (They were going to Coney Island in New York City after the show.) Melanie Thiel's show (6 to 9) is called "Mornings with Melanie Dawnbird." Her sparkling and enthusiastic personality makes her show so much fun to listen to each day, she has a wide following. Sitting on a stool opposite her and the control board, I announced my playlist as she spun my selections.
While the songs were playing, she tasted everything I brought and was able to discern the differences between the two yellow cakes with the same observations that Rose and I had concluded. My tunes followed my music preferences over the years, from "The Beatles" and other classic rock selections to women artists like Tori Amos, Enya, and Emmy Lou Harris, to alternative and current bands like Radiohead and My Morning Jacket. Rose and Elliott tuned in to hear my guest DJ debut, even though they were unfamiliar with nearly everything I selected. Rose is a huge opera fan and Elliott likes jazz. However, Rose does like Enya, as her new age music has many songs with operatic tones. And Melanie is a huge Enya fan as well. The two hours went surprisingly fast as we played tunes, conversed about them, and had a visitor towards the end.
The owner of Firehouse Bagels, north of Newton, NJ, came in with a bag of his wonderful bagels. He told me that prior to his bagel business, he had another business where he made some of his cakes from "The Cake Bible."
I will be seeing Melanie again as guest DJing was so much fun, plus I had only played a third of my original playlist. WNTI can be listened to as they stream their broadcast. Here is their website link.
Apr 27, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose in Epicurious
Woody Wolston, with whom those of you who have been reading the blog are very familiar, has now been working with me for eight harmonious years. In his first email to me, Woody told me that his fellow T'ai Chi practitioners and broomball players were my best fans. I had never before heard of either T'ai Chi or broomball but since that time I have learned much about the two activities.
The cake that Woody made the most often was "The Chocolate Oblivion" from The Cake Bible. Woody has come a very long way since those days.
Here in Woody's words is a report of his baking for the recent T'ai Chi Chinese New Year's banquet.
Every year, my T'ai Chi studio, "Twin Cities T'ai Chi Chaun," celebrates the Chinese New Years with a demonstration at its studio followed by a dinner at a Chinese restaurant. For the last several years, I have made recipes for the dinner from the upcoming book, The Baking Bible. (The T'ai Chi students have taste tested virtually every recipe for both Rose's Heavenly Cakes and The Baking Bible. Their comments have been helpful for fine-tuning several of the recipes.
This year, I decided to make three recipes as we had some baking concerns resulting from comments from our wonderful "Beta Bakers" testing over thirty recipes from the upcoming book. One test explored the best temperature for making a plain caramel for flavor without the risk of turning it into black jack. Another involved prebaking pie shells. The last one was a variation for a recipe in Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Using scales, mixers, food processors, and Rose's evaluating eyes via our computers' live video streaming, the cakes and pies were made with great results.
Just before the demonstration, I transported the three angel food cakes, a sheet cake, and two pies to the Peking Gardens restaurant, with adornments prepped for final assembly during dinner. At the studio, some 200 students, family members, and friends were all waiting for the demonstration to begin to ring in the Year of the Snake Chinese New Year.
One of my fellow students, Todd Nesser, a gifted graphics designer, every year for the past twelve years has designed colorful posters with the Chinese character for the year's animal, with accompanying photos and language, to be the back drop for the demonstration. Grand Master Mark, 85 years old, thoroughly enjoyed the demonstration. He was still actively teaching his art, Praying Mantis, at the age of 84, a testimonial to the health promoting benefits from some of the Chinese martial arts.
The demonstration began with most of the students demonstrating the T'ai Chi solo form, a series of 150 postures, which is the foundation of the T'ai Chi system. Many of the crowd commented on the peaceful and mesmerizing energy generated by the graceful in unison movement of the students.
Jun 15, 2011 | From the kitchen of Rose in Special Stories
When we started testing cakes for Rose's Heavenly Cakes, about seven years ago, Woody's broomball teammates were the happy recipients of many of the cakes. This team, which Woody started 35 years ago, meets at a wooded resort for one weekend every June, to relax, fish, play golf, cards, and cook up a storm. Of course everyone is expecting Woody to continue the cake tradition by bringing an assortment of baked goods. Here's what he brought this year and his description of the event:
Over the past few years, food at our weekend retreat has become more and more sophisticated, with teammates vying to add their special gourmet touch. This year was no exception, with smoked ribs, crab legs, steak, Turkish coffee with cardamom, and my latest desserts.
My friends are all too willing to give me jabs if they do not agree with the flavor and or texture of a new recipe. The desserts shown above, on the first hole's green, just 100 feet from our cabin, included: Blueberry and Walnut Coffee Cake for breakfast (but never made it to breakfast as it was eagerly devoured the night before over late night cards); Honey Cake, nicely spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, accented with coffee and Canadian whiskey; Marble Cheesecake with a biscuit roulade crust; Blueberry and Rhubarb Pie, encased in Flakey Cream Cheese Pie Crust (to buffer my teammate's jabs: "You need to expand to pies!"); Beer Bread to accompany our ribs night; and Quintessential Corn Bread Muffins not pictured as the muffin slated for the blog shot got eaten prematurely.
As a result of this year's retreat, I have been challenged to make a pie for each week of next winter's outdoor broomball season, which will work nicely as we transition from cakes to pies in testing for the next book. It took Rose several years to pry me away from cakes into bread baking so she will be delighted that I'm now embracing pies and tarts.
May 14, 2011 | From the kitchen of Rose in Woody's Place
It's been three years since Woody assisted me on a demo and he has now graduated to teaching his first class entirely on his own! As we both adore the drama and deliciousness of the Deep Chocolate Passion from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, this was one of the two cakes he chose to demonstrate.
Apr 28, 2011 | From the kitchen of Rose in Announcements
Photo by Glen Stubbe
Toques off to Woody Wolston!!!
Dec 13, 2010 | From the kitchen of Rose in Special Stories
My starter, which I named Billow, was born 10 years ago on New Year's Day when it exploded into life right through the plastic wrap which covered its container. I have made sour dough bread with it as the only yeast, and also used some of the old excess starter saved from feeding it as a 'dough improver'. I have kept Billow alive all this time by feeding it once a week and refrigerating it between feedings. A starter is meant to be shared as well as used so I gave a piece to Woody who continued the tradition of feeding it once a week but never used it to bake bread. Finally, after much teasing, he chose this month to take the leap. And here is his story beginning with a Haiku:
two years just starters,
beer bread born,
Back in August of 2008, I travelled to New York to assist Rose with the arduous, weeklong task of copy editing Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Along with some baking supplies, Rose entrusted me with a portion of her sour dough starter, the idea was that with our book virtually done, I finally should bake some bread. Up to now, my baking forte has been cakes, writing about cakes, an occasional pie, more cakes, and assisting with some blog replies on cakes. I have never even baked a chocolate chip cookie.
To help assure that Billow's offspring would survive in the hands of a beginner, Rose instructed me to feed Rosewood once a week and freeze the excess starter. As a further precaution, I divided Rosewood into two starters. Within weeks, I had an ample supply of frozen starter discs. Over the past couple of years, Marie Wolf, a true bread baker at heart, has even graciously been nurse maid to my starters on occasions when I have travelled with Rose. Each time, when I have returned to pick up the kids, she has asked when I will finally make a loaf, especially considering the fact that I have watched Rose make bread on a couple of occasions. I kept rationalizing that bread making was alchemy that would not turn out for me.
Finally, Rose gave me an excuse for making a loaf of bread, with a somewhat free weekend, a need to feed my starters, and her suggestion to make the beer bread recipe which has old starter as an ingredient. I frankly spent more time reading the recipe's instructions and cross-referencing The Bread Bible than it took my physical effort to make the bread.
In less than 15 minutes of my involvement of easy mixing, shaping, cooling and unmolding, with letting the yeast do the hard work, within a few hours I had a wonderful loaf of bread. Then I sliced it still warm for a delicious sandwich.
Timidity~~past, as in my last line of my Haiku. A brioche has just been baked to be cubed for the Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes; and now no need to go to the store for bread. So to all who also have rationalized not making bread, please do try it. Skip the two plus years of bread starter feeding resulting in hundreds of discs taking up lots of freezer space and crying out to be dignified into bread.
Dec 05, 2010 | From the kitchen of Rose in Special Stories
Today marks a special anniversary. It was on December 5, 2003 that Woody first e-mailed me, which was the start of our special association. In these seven years, whenever summer rolled around, Woody talked about his desire to enter the Minnesota State Fair. Finally, this year, he was able to enter. Here, in his own words, is the description of his happy experience.
The Minnesota State Fair is the second largest state fair in the country and receives thousands of entries in the baking competition for Creative Activities: homemade items from quilts to pickles to rocking chairs. For the last several years I have wanted to enter. However entry drop off day was always when I was away for my T'ai Chi studios annual retreat. This year the date of the retreat changed, eliminating the conflict. I had ambitious intentions for my rookie swings (as in baseball for the uninitiated) for the ribbons, about which I will elaborate below along with rules for future endeavors.
I decided to do a spread pattern of six cakes (five from our Rose's Heavenly Cakes) covering six categories: from our angel food for angel foods to an unusual cheesecake to a chocolate layer cake with chocolate ganache and our lacquer glaze--my jewel of the collection.
The judging breakdown is 25% for appearance, 35% for taste and smell, and the balance for texture and other facets. I ambitiously decided to go for the freshest taste by baking everything on Saturday, with the intention of dropping them all off the following Sunday morning.
With all ingredients in place, the ganache made first so it could thicken during the day and lacquer glaze already made and in the refrigerator, I began baking the angel food at 8:00 am. Anticipating that there would be some set backs, I planned on being done by midnight. Well~~that did not happen.
May 02, 2009 | From the kitchen of Rose in Special Stories
This posting is the first one from Woody who has been working with me for the past five years.
Woody's Cake for Grand Master Choi 70th Birthday Surprise Party
Real gold does not fear the fire and neither did Grand Master Choi when I presented him with his birthday cake topped with seventy lit candles that blazed like a bon-fire. With one short powerful breath he blew them out in a second.
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