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When I travelled to New Zealand in August of 2006, I came across the amazing dessert Pavlova. It was everywhere I went. Curiously, it is New Zealand’s national dessert, and can be found at all manner of cultural events, in bakeries, and in many homes. And it’s no wonder why; it’s a very light, slightly sweet dessert that takes full advantage of seasonal fruits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year on my birthday, I make a Pavlova as my “birthday cake”. The recipe is simple and easy to follow, and doesn’t take much time. The flavours remind me of every amazing experience I had in New Zealand: the bungee jumps, the skydiving, the beaches, the glaciers, and especially, my first foray into kayaking.

To this day, my trip to New Zealand is consistently my favourite experience. It was a great country to visit, I met so many fascinating and fun people, and had the best time of my life. I miss it everyday, and find myself fantasising about the countryside constantly. So it’s no wonder that I try my best to remember all these good times through my sense of taste!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The basic recipe is a meringue base, with whipped cream and fruit on top. I’ve altered the whipped cream to make a White Chocolate Orange Chantilly Cream, using orange flavoured white chocolate. The best (and most affordable) orange flavoured white chocolate is only available around Christmas time. It is Terry’s White Chocolate Orange.

Pavlova

4 egg whites

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sliced strawberries

2 kiwis

2 passion fruits

1 cup whipped cream

6 oz orange flavoured white chocolate

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle the cream of tartar over the egg whites and beat until stiff. Whisk together the cornstarch and powdered sugar. Add the mixture to the egg whites a tablesppon at a time, while beating on medium speed, until all is combined. The meringue should be shiny, white, and stiff. Fold in the vanilla extract.

Reduce the oven to 200 F, and mound the meringue on the pan so it is between 6-8″ in diameter. Bake for one hour. Turn off the oven, and leave the meringue to cool overnight.

Whip the cream until soft peaks. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, and pour into the whipped cream while beating on medium speed. Add the whipped cream on top of the meringue, then arrange the fruit (either artistically, or haphazardly, as I have done).

Now on to the photography:

I had some considerable difficulty with lighting. It was a cloudy day (on my birthday!), so I couldn’t get the best shots. I don’t know what the little blue flowers are, but I enjoy the contrast they bring. Any thoughts or suggestions?! I welcome your feedback! =)

Here’s a completely random post of real, healthy food. I know, this is a bakery blog (specifically, my bakery), but… this food was phenomenal, so, it deserves some mention. This fine lunch we had at the Asheville Bier Garden. Heaps of beers on tap (and bottled), and some seriously good food!

Here’s a Chicken and Apple Sausage sandwich. Tasty. The sweet potato fries were interesting. They were generously sprinkled with cinnamon, and sugar. This didn’t quite work for me, because when I want fries, I want SALT! Not sugar…. but, whatever. It was an experience.

And here is the best Caesar Salad I’ve ever had. Why? Because it was coated in a lemon/oil mixture, and then GRILLED. Seriously. YUM. All things taste better when licked by flames. It’s true. Look it up. There was the perfect amount of creamy Caesar dressing, some grated parmesan, and, the best part: roasted cashews. MY GOD! What a great, creamy, lemony, grilled combo. I loved it. And surprisingly, it’s something easy to make at home. I’m sure you can all figure it out. Or just experiment and see what you get! But it will never be as good as this:

 

The buttery foccacia bread was coated in crushed pecans and herbs, then baked. Really good.

Patsy’s Bakery and Deli has apparently been around for YEARS. Long time. Seriously. Supposedly, both Patsy and her sister have been rockin’ the joint for a long time. So long that a friend of mine (who is SOOOOO OLD she’s thirty), apparently went to high school with Patsy’s sister. Or so the rumour goes.

After an “intense” workout (ha!) in the Church Hill, TN community gym, it was time for some sweets at Patsy’s. Bought me some doughnut holes, and a slice of good ol’ Southern Red Velvet Cake.

BEST. DOUGHNUT. HOLES. EVER. Seriously. Look at all that sugary-goodness dripping off. The golden sheen from the frying. Oh man. And best of all?! Totally dirt cheap. Seriously, I think it was like $2 for a dozen. YUM!

This is the red velvet cake from Patsy’s. Umm… I know the photo is bad, but really, I did all I could to make this look good. It was covered in a thick layer of plastic wrap, which messed up the frosting something fierce. A lot of frosting ended up on the plastic, and that’s a good thing! It was not good frosting. I don’t even know what it was. It wasn’t cream cheese, it wasn’t butter roux, it wasn’t buttercream… it wasn’t even Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker. It was this sloppy, sugary, oily…. thing. And the cake? Well… it was red. So, they got that part right. I think they may have forgotten the cocoa. At least the cake was moist, but that’s what happens when you encase something in a sarcophagus of plastic wrap.

If, for whatever arbitrary reason, you find yourself in Church Hill, TN, you should hit up Patsy’s Bakery, but only for their doughnut holes. Maybe some of the other stuff in the case… maybe….

Contact Patsy’s Bakery and Deli at 423-357-8119.

My final post on Knoxville-based bakeries and cupcake shops is because of The Cupcakery.

The Cupcakery is great in many ways. First, the cupcakes are slightly larger than normal. That’s pretty awesome. For real. =)

Also, the flavours are JAM-PACKED! Not necessarily packed with jam, I’m just saying they are very flavourful. For instance, get a gander at these beauties:

Your eyes are now feasting on the mocha cupcake, and the peanut butter cupcake. Clearly, my photograph only gives you the great look of these cupcakes, not the flavour. Both cupcakes were made with a dense, rich, moist, and beautiful chocolate cake. The mocha was topped with (duh), coffee flavoured buttercream that was silky, bright, and had a very fresh and clean coffee taste. And the coffee bean added just a bit of crunch (I could have gone for more coffee beans, but one will do!). The peanut butter buttercream was rich and decadent, slightly gooey in that perfect peanut buttery way, and again, the chocolate chunk on top added for a bit of texture change.

Man… these are some phenomenal cupcakes. Go get some. NOW! Well, ok, get to Knoxville first, if you’re not already there….

Continuing in the vein of Knoxville, TN-based bakeries, I proudly present Magpies:

I visited Magpies when I was in Knoxville of the holiday break. It was an easy-to-find location, and apparently is a new location for the bakery that has been around for a number of years. I actually expected to see more than cupcakes on display. I’d heard of Magpies before, but thought it was more of a traditional bakery. When I arrived expecting some great pastry action for breakfast, I’ll admit that I was mildly disappointed. Cupcakes are great, but not exactly what I want for breakfast (I know some people’s opinions differ on the matter, but… my blog).

After chatting with the owner about the bakery, the new location, and her love of Salt Lake City (WHOO!), she hooked me up with some free carrot cupcakes! YES! Sometimes I really love a good carrot cake. And magpies is goooooooooood! =) See for yourself:

Carrot cake

Carrot cake

I would like to point out the nearly flawless cream cheese frosting, which completely covers the cupcake. I’m a big fan of that. And the walnut pieces just hanging in the balance really finishes off the whole effect. And the cupcake was dense, the cream cheese frosting lightly tangy…. yum!

I bought a sampler package; an assortment of mini-cupcakes. The total cost was around $10, which isn’t too bad, but isn’t too great, either. What can I say? I’m cheap…

From top left to right, going down:

Vanilla – pretty classic, and pretty good.

Mango – not for me. Too weird and fake tasting. But, I don’t really like mango anyways.

Chocolate – tasty. Rich. Good times! But, nothing spectacularly out of this world, either.

Strawberry – very sweet. Definitely not “real”. Again, not for me, even though I like strawberries.

Mocha – the same chocolate cake as before, but with EXCELLENT coffee flavoured buttercream. Unfortunately, the “coffee bean” on top was not a coffee bean at all, more of a chocolate nib. A bit disappointing, really!

Red velvet – beautiful, but mine are better!

So, Magpies is pretty great, I’m not gonna lie. Some flavours weren’t for me, and that’s just the simple fact of that. Some people wouldn’t dig the mocha, or the red velvet (though I don’t know why).

Still, have a look at their website, and if you’re ever in Knoxville, get up there! Maybe you’ll even get a few freebies like me!

The following glorious post features Cities Cupcake:

Yes, I’m still posting things from my trip to the South. Deal with it.

Cities Cupcake is in Knoxville, TN. While there, I met with someone I presumed to be the owner, Linda Hurst. She was very friendly and fun to be around. The baking staff was trying out a recipe for a squash cake, for a potential cupcake in the future. The cake was sweet (but not too bad), and very, very moist. A few suggestions for the name were bandied about (I suggested Plymouth Rock, since, ya know, the pilgrims must have eaten squash). A big debate was what the frosting should be (I suggested a simple meringue- light and fluffy, and preferrably lightly toasted… Linda and the other staff thought that could be a lot of fun, but there would need to be a training session for how to use the torch effectively and safely).

Anyways, the whole concept of Cities Cupcakes is rather unique. Each cupcake has the name of a city, and each cupcake is supposed to be representative of the city it is named after. The Santa Fe is the perfect example: a jalapeno cornbread cupcake, covered in cream cheese frosting. YUM!

While there, I had the good fortune to try the Charleston (which I believed was the Savannah, for some reason). The Charleston is a coconut cake with cream cheese frosting and topped with shredded coconut. Whew… how was it? Well, the coconut flavour was GREAT, but the cake was very dry. So dry it crumbled and I had to pick up little pieces. Overall, it needs some work.

I also tried the new Half Moon Bay. I’ve never heard of Half Moon Bay, but apparently it’s in California, and holds a gigantic pumpkin festival. I like pumpkin. I don’t know how I never heard of this… anyways, the cupcake was very delicious. Pumpkin cake, with cream cheese frosting, and a bit of orange marmalade thrown on top for good measure. This cupcake  was slightly dry, but had some explosive, intermingling flavours that I really enjoyed. I’d have it again, for sure!

I also tried the Knoxville Mocha; an espresso drink with rich chocolate syrup, orange flavouring, whipped cream, and orange sanding sugar on top. Overall, it was WAY too sweet, but the combination could have been life-changing. When I ordered it, Linda was very excited to make the drink, and I think it may have been one of the first times they used their espresso machine. If the proportions of flavours are altered, this could be a winning drink, but until then, be forewarned!

Here’s some photos:

Half Moon Bay on the left, Charleston on the right

Half Moon Bay on the left, Charleston on the rightKnoxville Mocha

Knoxville Mocha

Knoxville Mocha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each cupcake is $3 (so, a bit pricey, I think). I forget how much the mocha is, but it’s safe to say it is around $3.50 (a pretty average price, I’d say).

Go to Cities Cupcake, and tell me what you think!!

A friend in Tennessee recommended Cafe 4 in Knoxville for a quick bite to eat. It had recently opened, and will hopefully do well. Not only is it a restaurant, but also a cafe/coffee shop (with baked goods!), but it’s also a music venue! What a good, smart use of space. I wish SLC had something like this… Anyways, here’s a few photos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I really dig the interior of this place. The espresso was pretty choice, but the baked goods: YUM! I thoroughly enjoyed the coffee cake pictures below. No idea if they bake it in-house or not, but it really doesn’t matter to me, because it was GOOD! =)

Yea, seriously! Look at all those nuts, that brown sugar crumble! TASTY! The cake was a bit dry, but that’s how I think coffee cake should be. I wish I could remember the price, but I have no idea. I’m sure it was reasonable. I also tried some raspberry…. er… thing, but I don’t remember what it was, or how much it was. And obviously, I didn’t even remember to photograph it. Oh well… it was good. Go to Cafe 4!

While in Asheville, North Carolina, I stumbled upon RiverSculpture at Reynolds Mountain. Well, let’s just say I stumbled upon a posting at the Visitor’s Center in downtown Asheville. Actually finding the location of RiverSculpture was a bit more daunting, partly because there was utility work happening at the intersection where I was supposed to turn, and that completely threw me off, and I ended up driving 40 minutes in the wrong direction. Whoops…

Anyways, RiverSculpture took place at a construction site for the future downtown of  Woodfin. The dates were from September 27th to January 5th, so the exhibit is likely closed down now. At any rate, it was a cool experience to wander a construction site and stumble upon sculpture after sculpture after sculpture. Here are some photos, but certainly I didn’t photograph *all* of the submissions from the 44 artists. That would have entailed a lot of wandering, and the sun was starting to set when I finally left the exhibit. Still, I love outdoor sculpture exhibits… such a cool, exhilirating way to display someone’s work. Don’t you agree?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were all over the place, and said different things. I found their simplicity to be very inspiring, and I really like the creative placement of the footprints:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HA! I like this one….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more RiverSculpture information, go to www.riversculpture.com

Enjoy!

As promised, I now present the Grand Champion winner of the 2008 National Gingerbread Competition at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. TADA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Ok, so I’m a big fat liar. That’s something I made out of graham crackers, twizzlers, and other random assorted candies. C’mon, it’s pretty freakin’ cool! How many times do you get to see a Gingerbread RV/Rover/Jeep thing?! Yea, that’s right… the accolades should go to me…. not this thing:

Ok, you may have figured it out…. this is the REAL Grand Champion of the contest. And do you know why? Get a load of the detail:

Still… wouldn’t you agree that this exquisitely detailed, artfully crafted carousel doesn’t hold a candle to the structural integrity of my RV/Rover/Jeep thing?!

Help me demand a recount of the votes!! I’m sure Nicholas Lodge, Colette Peters, and the other judges would agree!

So, while on vacation, I had the great fortune of seeing some (not all!) of the entries to the 2008 National Gingerbread Competition at the in Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina.

A fair warning: this post is image intensive. It has to be! There were a lot of entries to photograph and learn from! So, without further adieu:

 

 

I really dig the use of Chex cereal for the roof on the house in the lower left corner. Clever!

 

Some of these houses have been standing since mid-November, when the competition officially took place. As a result, some of the poor houses are falling apart. I feel bad for the house in the above photo… an entire wall has fallen off! Those poor gingerbread people. I hope they had insurance! =)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My personal favourite:

 

Ok, here’s my other favourite (and yes, I’m allowed to have two favourites… it’s my blog!):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I dig the clocktower, but I’m not sure what the colourful mass next to it is supposed to be…. regardless, did you get a look at those candy cane columns? Ionic? Doric? I don’t know…. here’s a closer look:

 

 

I believe a fourth grade class concocted the following creation… not bad!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These creations won something, but… I can’t remember. Maybe if you try you can read the ribbons…. I don’t even know what division they were in, but I’d say teen. Let’s go with that. Teen division.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are two nearly identical photos of the first place winner for the teen/young adult division:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So…. you might be asking yourself 

“Where is the grand champion?”

Well…. you’ll just have to wait until the next post… duh. I’ve got to keep some suspense going! 

=)