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A few weeks ago I met two ladies at an event I was attending, Randi and Rena, and they were serving the most delicious gluten free treats I have tasted!   The texture was excellent; flavors popped and were not overly sweet. It was a well-balanced nibble.

Now mind you – this bakery, It’s In the Mix, has only been opened for 4 months. I was very surprised by this information because the quality and taste of their desserts are better than some of the best bakeries I have been to in NYC.

What makes this bakery amazing is that it’s fresh baked, uses quality, locally sourced ingredients and there are no preservatives in their desserts.

Seriously, who doesn't love a bite size cupcake.  (My favorite is the carrot cake!!)

Seriously, who doesn’t love a bite size cupcake. (My favorite is the carrot cake!!)

And of course being the bakery geek that I am, I was curious about these two…so  we sat down  had a little chat about baking and small businesses.

Some fun facts about Rena & Randi ….

- Rena’s brother, Bill and daughter Jennifer both have problems with gluten as does Randi’s grandson, Andre.

-Their first professional baking class was taken at Butter Lane Cupcakes here in NYC.  They did a cupcake decorating class and then went back and followed up with their baking class.

- They also went to Institute of Culinary Education here in New York City to further their baking education.

- Rena and Randi are the bakers of their respective families and come by cooking honestly – Rena learned baking from her Mom and Randi learned her way around the kitchen from her Mom learning how to make her fantastic Chicken Parm.

-Rena is in her 28th year as a professor at FIT teaching Textile Design and Fabric Styling.

- Randi is a retired entrepreneur who had her own children’s wear line for 20 years.  She is currently spoiling her grandchildren, helping to take care of her parents and volunteers at the Carter Burden Center for the Aging.

Lemon Squares, these are  my favorite dessert that these ladies make.

Lemon Squares, these are my favorite dessert that these ladies make.

The orange biscotti had a nice texture and bites of dark chocolate and coconut.

The orange biscotti had a nice texture and bites of dark chocolate and coconut.

Some fun facts about their new business…

- It took weeks of researching rental kitchens in New York City to find the right “home”.  Out of the 41 rental kitchens they found online – only 1 of them was a gluten free kitchen and they are currently baking away in Long Island City.

- It took many months of trial and error baking with different kinds of homemade gluten free flours until they were able to develop their own mix.

- Their bakery started with just cupcakes and has since expanded their delicious treat menu to 19 items.

- Their first big break in the gluten free market was creating baked goods for chef Anthony of Bistango on the Upper Eastside. (It’s an all gluten free restaurant!!!!)

Raspberry Square

I had the reap berry square with a cup of tea for breakfast, yep – that was a good idea….

Carrot Cake Cupcake

I am a big fan of carrot cake and these ladies deliver, its not overly sweet an the cupcake is very moist.

These ladies are now in the throws of starting a small business in NYC, not an easy thing to do and does provide it’s challenges.  They are learning about general liability insurance, rental spaces, social media, marketing, packaging and still exploring recipes with the science of gluten free baking.  I want to wish them the best of luck in their new endeavor!

cupcakes

If in New York City, you can purchase some of their fresh baked yummy treats at the following locations:

Agata & Valentina- 64 University Place, NYC

1505 First Avenue, NYC

GiGi Cafe- 307 7th Avenue, NYC

958 Third Avenue, NYC

Todaro Brothers 555 Second Avenue, NYC

 

Visit their Facebook page for delicious updates!

For almost a year, my dear friend Eric has been telling me about these amazing handmade pots he has for his plants. He had read about Guy Wolff’s work in Martha Stewart Living and went up in November last year to check out his studio.

So on Saturday we took our own little field trip up to Woodville, Connecticut located on 202, a beautiful rural, scenic highway. Guy’s studio and shop is in a beautiful red barn and you are greeted with beautiful pots outside. Guy himself greeted us at the door and started chatting with us right away with stories and explains his approach to making his pots.

outside


From early on in life, Guy was surrounded by creativity and art, his own father, Robert Jay Wolff, was an abstract expressionist painter. His uncle was the modernist architect Marcel Bauer.  He began his pottery studies up in a small art school in New Hampshire, a discipline he never thought he would get into.  And now his own work has been featured at the Met Museum, celebrating the anniversary of the Cloisters and the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

From early on in life, Guy was surrounded by creativity and art, his own father, Robert Jay Wolff, was an abstract expressionist painter. His uncle was the modernist architect Marcel Bauer. He began his pottery studies up in a small art school in New Hampshire, a discipline he never thought he would get into. Since opening his own pottery shop in 1971,  his own work has been featured at the Met Museum, celebrating the anniversary of the Cloisters in New York City and the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

There are many different markings and designs on plates that denote their historical significance.  Guy is influenced a lot by history whether it’s an 18th century English pot or a centuries old Asian vase; he finds his inspiration in their design and function.

There are many different markings and designs on plates that denote their historical significance. Guy is influenced a lot by history, whether it’s an 18th century English pot or a centuries old Asian vase; he finds his inspiration in their design and function.  Here he is showing Eric how some of those markings are made.

He couldn’t really chat with us in his shop, he was actually working that day, so invited us into his studio to chat with him.  He was working on some plates for a customer in town.

He couldn’t really chat with us in his shop, he was actually working that day, so invited us into his studio to watch as he was working on some plates for a customer in town.  Here Guy is adding a darker colored glaze to the plate to complete his design before it gets fired in the kiln.

This is one of 3 kilns that Guy has in his studio to fire his work.

This is one of 3 kilns that Guy has in his studio to fire his work.

Guy has a very distinct way of signing his own work.  The stamp (or coggle) G. Wolff, the year and a number means the pot was made by his own hands on his own wheel.  There is also a signature on the bottom of the pot. The number on the pot is the weight.

Guy has a very distinct way of signing his own work. The stamp (or coggle) G. Wolff, the year and a number means the pot was made by his own hands on his own wheel. There is also a signature on the bottom of the pot. The number on the pot is the weight.

Not only is Guy a Master Potter, but he also loves music.  He is an accomplished banjo player and has a love for traditional Appalachian Music.  You can read more about his love for music here. http://www.guywolff.com/music.html

Not only is Guy a Master Potter, but he also loves music. He is an accomplished banjo player and has a love for traditional Appalachian Music. You can read more about his love for music here.

Each pot has it’s own personality and is handmade individually.  So while they look all the same, when you get close up, you start to see their differences.  This is the pot I chose for my plant at home.  I love the shape and the stamping at the top.

Each pot has it’s own personality and is handmade individually. So while they look all the same, when you get close up, you start to see their differences. This is the pot I chose for my plant at home. I love the shape and the stamping at the top.

It really was a treat to chat with Guy and watch him work.  He is very generous with his time, stories and art.  If you ever find yourself on 202 in Connecticut, it is worth the drive to see this body of work in person.  Guy Wolff is truly a master of his craft and it’s worth the detour experience this bit of Americana.

It really was a treat to chat with Guy and watch him work. He is very generous with his time, stories and art. If you ever find yourself on 202 in Connecticut, take the drive to see this body of work in person. Guy Wolff is truly a master of his craft and it’s worth the detour to experience this bit of Americana.

For more information on Guy Wolff and his work, please visit his website.

RWT:

For all of my baker friends out there, I know you have cake scraps. When I worked for Ron, we found a creative way to make use them….

Originally posted on NYC Cake Girl:

So we have already talked about our scrap bowl (http://nyccakegirl.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/what-is-the-scrap-bowl/). Our staff likes to snack from it, really who wouldn’t.  But there are other uses for cake scraps as well.  Here is my step by step on how to make “cake loaf”.  Sounds kind of gross right?  It’s delicious!  Just not as “pretty” as one of our regular cakes, still tastes the same though. :)

Today’s loaf will be made with red velvet cake (recipe courtesy of our friend Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes) and our delicious cream cheese swiss meringue buttercream.

The scrap bowl...

Step 1: Line a plastic container with plastic wrap.

Step 2: Take scraps from the bowl and pack firmly in the container.

Taking a break from filling my cake loaf so I can smile at Ron who decided to pick up my camera and start taking pictures.

Robin couldn't help but jump in and start eating scraps from the bowl.

So the last step is packing it all the scraps in, nice and tight. Cover the top with the plastic wrap, put on the lid and put it in the fridge. To serve, take out of the fridge, unwrap the plastic, put it on a plate, let the loaf get to room temperature (about 1.5 hours) cut and serve. It looks a bit like marble cake....but much, much better!

View original

Redesigning me…

For the past 6 weeks I took a little  journey.  A redesign if you will….of myself.  I am the kind of person that puts everyone in front of herself, making sure everyone’s needs were met before my own.  I have always been that way, and I always will be.  But for once, I put me first.

For the past few years’ things have been catching up to me, age, physical ability to do things, trying to keep up with my nephew, lack of strength.  I am not getting any younger and these things were becoming excuses in my life.   I think the final straw was when I was having trouble tying my shoes because my nephew wanted to go outside and play.  That small simple task all of sudden became hard.  And I said, “ENOUGH.”

I am not one to click on Facebook ads, however this one caught my eye, “Transform yourself in 6 Weeks”.  So I signed up for their open house to find out about the program.

I showed up with 20 other women.  We all went around the room and shared with each other why we were there.  Some of the other ladies were not far off from my own reasons to join.  Half way through the talk, I knew that I was committing to do this.

The gym rules that we read after every boot camp workout.

The gym rules that we read after every boot camp workout.

On June 16, I started my 6-week challenge with New Body Boot Camp in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  My morning began with my weightlifting coach Tasha and right off it was a positive experience.   We jumped in and started training.   The first week was the hardest.  You hear “Boot Camp” and think Uh Oh.  Exactly.  I was very sore and each day and I had to talk myself into going to class.  Week 2 was a little easier (not from the exercises themselves, but the routine of it all). By week three I started to notice little changes.  By weeks 4, 5 and 6 I noticed a lot of changes.  Sometimes noticing new things when you first wake up in the morning.  There was weight loss success as well as NSV’s (No Scale Victories), my clothes fit better and I now notice definition in some of my muscles.

That's right - we worked out with tires and I can do crazy things with them now.

That’s right – we worked out with tires and I can do crazy things with them now.

Working out has never been fun for me, it’s always just been hard or lonely or both.  (Let’s face it – most people feel this way!)  I finally found a little “gym” that I can call home.   Class sizes are small, my instructors care about my form as to not prevent injury, while our workouts are HARD, they make them enjoyable.  And because I enjoyed going to class almost everyday, I learned that this could actually be a life-changing thing for me.  After 6 weeks, I am STRONG.  I can do a plank for 60 seconds, I can do pushups, I can do burpees and all sorts of other crazy things they threw my way.  Was it hard at first?  OF COURSE IT WAS.  Is it still hard now? Yep!  It’s really the first time I have ever challenged myself and wanted to feel victory.  Every time I go to class, I walk out feeling stronger, happier and more confident in me and I am really proud of that.

For every workout, it was written on the board for all participants to see.  Sometimes, I didn't look at the board just to keep it interesting.

Each workout was written on the board for all participants to see. Sometimes, I didn’t look at the board just to keep it interesting.

kettle bells

I am no longer afraid of kettle bells. I even go for the heavier ones now because the lighter ones no longer do anything for my workout.

This was only one part of our challenge, the other part was food.  When I first started, I was trying to figure out how my eating habits were going to fit into this new exercise regime.  Food used to be something to eat of when I was hungry, bored or stressed out.  Now I look at food as a way to fuel my body.  Are my choices still tasty?  Absolutely.  Because I have drastically increased my activity level, I was hungry ALL THE TIME.  And now I eat little meals throughout the day to satisfy my cravings by making smart choices of what I put in my mouth.

breakfast

My favorite breakfast(and sometimes dinner) that I made for myself throughout my 6 weeks. Poached eggs over grilled asparagus with dijon vinaigrette.

I want to personally thank the four people at boot camp who worked with me and helped me discover that these are things that I can do – Aja, Irvin, Naliaka and Tasha.  Thanks for continuing to make working out fun!

My journey is far from over.   I learned that “I got this”, I can make this a part of my life and that I have to put myself (health) before others and it’s one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The "redesigned" me!  I still have a ways to go, but I am really proud of myself!

The new “redesigned” me with one of my instructors Naliaka. I still have a ways to go, but I am really proud of myself!

In 42 days (6 weeks):
I went to 37 boot camp classes
I walked 838,690 steps which is 237.89 miles
I lost 17 pounds
I lost 4.7% body fat

I was going through my external hard drive and realized I had a few more cake treats up my sleeve!   When I was working for Ron he was commissioned to do how-to stories for Pastry & Baking Magazine. So I am going to share a few more with you.

Summer is right around the corner and we have many reasons to celebrate!  Here is an adorable cake that is great for any occasion. Also – don’t forget to visit my favorite baker, Ron Ben-Israel at his Facebook page he has lots of fun things happening right now and you should check them out!

(This story was photographed by Rebecca Woodman Taylor for Ron Ben-Israel Cakes and Pastry & Baking Magazine.)

Here is your equipment list: Satin Ice Fondant, Satin Ice Sugar Paste, Pizza cutter/pastry wheel, Smooth rolling pin, Textured rolling pins, Metal ruler, Paintbrush(s), Pencil, drinking straws, wooden spoon etc…Drying foam, Piping tips and Water.

 A Fun Celebration Cake

Begin with a two-tier cake covered with Satin Ice Fondant.  Measure the circumference of each tier.

Begin with a two-tier cake covered with Satin Ice Fondant. Measure the circumference of each tier.

Roll out bright colored Satin Ice gum paste using a plastic rolling pin.

Roll out bright colored Satin Ice gum paste using a plastic rolling pin.

Using a textured rolling pin and even pressure, carefully roll out a raised design.

Using a textured rolling pin and even pressure, carefully roll out a raised design.

Cut strips to desired width.

Cut strips to desired width.

Apply bands to cake using water to moisten.  Play with colors, textures and angles to achieve the effect of festive streamers.

Apply bands to cake using water to moisten. Play with colors, textures and angles to achieve the effect of festive streamers.

To make curly-cues, cut bright strips of colored paste in varying widths and lengths.  Wrap around any round objects, such as: pencils, drinking straws, wooden spoon handles, or paint brushes.

To make curly-cues, cut bright strips of colored paste in varying widths and lengths. Wrap around any round objects, such as: pencils, drinking straws, wooden spoon handles, or paint brushes.

Tip:  Allow to dry a few minutes before removing strips and arranging them in half-moon shapes.  Let dry completely for a few hours.

To make confetti, roll out sugar paste and cut out circles using piping tips.  Allow to dry.

To make confetti, roll out sugar paste and cut out circles using piping tips. Allow to dry.

Attach curly-cues and confetti to cake with a dab of water.

Attach curly-cues and confetti to cake with a dab of water.

Beauty shot!

Beauty shot!

 

I posted this a few years back, but since it’s wedding season, I thought it might be fun to repost again.

Today’s posting is how to decorate a sweet, romantic cake.  This “how to” was featured in Pastry & Baking North America. (If interested in a subscription, click here: http://www.pastryna.com/pastryna_subscribe.htm) Ron came up with the concept and my former co-worker Sarah worked out the steps and I photographed the story.

Have fun and enjoy!  If any of you out there do make this cake, please send us your photos, we would love to see your versions.

 

 

1. Stack three round cake tiers, iced in butter cream and a thin layer of Ivory Satin Ice fondant. (We used 10” + 7” + 5” cakes on a 13” board.)

2. Roll thin strips of Ivory Satin Ice fondant on a textured board to achieve quilted pattern. (Ron uses a Lucite florescent lighting cover.)

3. Measure the circumference of the top and bottom tiers, and trim strips along the diagonal line.

4. Lightly brush the back of each fondant strip with water and apply to the bottom and top tiers.

5. Line up the diagonal seams to meet each other.

6. Roll out white Satin Ice Gum Paste and cut out flowers using a small blossom cutter.

7. Cup flowers with a ball tool against a piece of soft foam. Set flowers aside to dry.

8. Roll small balls of Blue Satin Ice fondant and attach to the center of each flowers with a bit of water.

9. Using the quilted pattern as a guide, apply the blossoms in a Swiss dot pattern.

10. Roll Blue Satin Ice fondant and cut into strips. Moisten the edges with water, place a wire or a skewer, fold the ends and fasten while cinching into a loop. Let loops dry sideways.

11. Prepare two tails & a small strip for the knot. Those will be applied to the cake while still flexible.

12. Apply a band of Satin Ice Blue fondant around the middle tier. Then attach bows, tails and the knot by inserting wires and moistening backs of the decorations to secure.

13.Mix powdered shimmer colors with clear alcohol and paint all decorations to a satiny finish.

14. A sweet and romantic blue and ivory cake!

Well this is exciting…Ron just told me that he was teaching a 3 day sugar flowers class in New York City at the amazing kitchens of the International Culinary Center (founded as the French Culinary Institute).    There are still spots available to participate in this class by my amazing friend and baker Ron.

Students will learn and practice Ron’s systems of producing Hyacinth, Freesia, Anemone, Sweet-pea, & Candy tulip, as well as decorating a small display cake with their own flowers. (Making the flowers as well as learning how to apply them to the cake from Ron himself???? Yeah….you should signup for his class….)

As a BONUS (and this is a bonus!) each student will be able to take home all of the specialized cutters and silicone molds that were made exclusively for this class.

Click the link to sign up:

 http://www.internationalculinarycenter.com/courses/sugar-paste-flowers-ron-ben-israel/

 

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Ron is a great teacher, you will learn a lot from him. Take his class!!!!

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