Do you know Quarantine Cakes?

I didn’t know either – believe me! That is until my colleague Janay McCullough of Avocado Catering explained it to me.

With the announcement of the “shelter-in-place” mandate, all catering businesses were suddenly facing an unprecedented situation. They all began offering meal delivery as a way to salvage what business they could, and Janay was no exception.

She knew she had to set herself apart to survive. When Butter& bakery posted a photo on Instagram of their PSA cakes, Janay knew what to do. As a pastry chef by training, she is always ready to solve the world’s problems with dessert! She got the blessing from Butter& and set to work.

A laser engraver made the stencils for the cakes – “don’t touch your face” and “wash your hands” and Janay’s own sayings such as “channel your inner introvert” and “you can’t spell quarantine with U-R-A-Q-T” (the latter being particularly popular with couples who are unable to see each other at the moment).

Even in these trying times, people are craving connection and closeness, and that is more important now than ever before. The majority of people are not purchasing Janay’s cakes for themselves, they’re sending them to friends and loved ones that they cannot physically be present with. Through Quarantine Cakes, Janay’s Avocado Company is able to fulfill a need that reaches so much further than a text or Facebook post.

Do you want to order your own Quarantine Cake? Here you go:

Guitar Music by and with Eric Symons

“Eric Symons Presents” is a household name in the SF Bay Area events scene – need a band? Contact Eric Symons! But what probably most of you do NOT know is that Eric is a distinguished musician himself; a classically trained guitarist and composer who has performed and recorded with the Romero family – true “classical guitar royalty!”

As a special treat to our local wedding vendor community, he is sharing with us a recent performance of his beautifully soothing and comforting “Ballata.” Be consoled and inspired as Eric is playing for us!

Laura plays Telemann for us

Many of you will know the Mersonacta Quartet from their performances at Bay Area weddings. Today you can enjoy your very private performance: Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo plays Telemann for you!

For those of you who are not so familiar with the composer… here is a little information (courtesy of wikipedia):

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 – 1767) was a German Baroque composer and multi-instrumentalist. Almost completely self-taught in music, he became a composer against his family’s wishes and  worked in Hamburg, Germany, as a musical director of that city’s five main churches.

Telemann is one of the most prolific composers in history and was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the leading German composers of the time, compared favorably both to his friend Johann Sebastian Bach, and to George Frideric Handel, whom Telemann also knew personally. Telemann’s music stands as an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles.

I am sure that will lift your spirits. Enjoy – and let Laura know how you liked it!

No Yeast? No Problem! (Try Our Soda Bread)

Like most of us, you’ve probably always thought that bread needs some type of yeast. If you are an advanced baker, you were maybe even thinking of sourdough starters. Bread without yeast? Not really… But currently yeast is impossible to come by! During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of commodities have simply disappeared from the market. Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, to start with; followed by toilet paper, kitchen paper towels – and yeast. So what to do?

I’ll tell you. Replace yeast as a leavening agent with a combination of bicarbonate of soda and acid. In plain English: baking soda and the leftover liquid from our yoghurt project! (As you can see, nothing goes to waste in my kitchen…)

Here is what you need to make one bread – 45 min from start to finish!!

Preheat oven to 425 F. Mix 500 g flour (50/50 all-purpose and whole wheat), 1 tsp of baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt with scant 2 cups of the whey from yoghurt-making (alternatively the same amount of buttermilk OR regular milk mixed with 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice or white wine vinegar). Stir just to bring the dough together.

It will look shaggy and be a little sticky. Turn out on a slightly floured work surface. Knead just enough to achieve a smooth consistency. Shape into a ball.

Transfer the dough ball to a nonstick cookie sheet. Cut crosswise nearly all the way through.

Bake for roughly 30 min until a golden crust has formed and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

And here is your delicious bread – ready to eat! Should you (miraculously) have any leftovers, just rewarm in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes; tastes like fresh-baked. Enjoy!

Polynesian Dance with Myrtle Ventura

Here comes a true highlight of our “inspiration” series, starring members of our SF Bay Area wedding vendor community with all their talents!

My longtime assistant Myrtle Ventura is performing with the acclaimed, award-winning Polynesian dance troupe Te Pura O Te Rahura’a (“Spark of Creation”). Be amazed by this incredible performance:

And here is how the dancers are practicing these days, sheltering at home.

Bravo to Myrtle and all dancers of Te Pura O Te Rahura’a!

Shelter at Home – Week 3: Making Yoghurt!

Like everyone else, I am sheltering at home – and like many colleagues in the wedding industry, all my projects are on hold. Never one to sit still and twiddle my thumbs, I had to come up with something to do: something constructive. Stranded without my regular work and without any crafts supplies, I found my creative outlet in my kitchen!

One of my motivations – the shortage of our fresh grocery supply, something we used to take for granted… Now suddenly it’s NOT a given to get everything I want in the one grocery trip I’m doing every two weeks. Yoghurt, for example. Here’s our favorite:

Comes in pretty little glass jars, too – and I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away anyways, darn cute as they are. So I now have a whole collection of them… why not refill them with my own concoction?!

So, bear with me. Half a gallon milk and two tablespoons of probiotic yoghurt as a starter, and six hours (of Instantpot incubation) later…

… my milk had thickened – but not enough yet. Still too runny. Next step: drain through a cheesecloth for a good 2 hours!

That worked! The result was very much like creamy yoghurt – which I enriched with a little heavy cream. However… the yield was only about half my original volume. The rest was just liquid.

Time to fill my little glass pots. Bottom layer: two heaping teaspoons of our favorite jams (Bonne Maman Black Cherry and Smucker’s Sweet Orange), topped with my precious yoghurt.

That’s all I got from half a gallon of milk to start with – so that better be good… off to the fridge, and after chilling overnight, we’ll have the “moment of truth” tomorrow morning. (This is my third time – it IS good!!)

Oh, BTW: if you try it yourself, don’t discard the yoghurt liquid. It’s perfect for my Irish Soda Bread recipe which I’ll share in a day or two. Put your whey liquid in the fridge until then!