Archive | October, 2011

And Things That Go Bump in the Night

26 Oct

Let me just start by saying I’m not a fan of scary things. I don’t like horror movies, fake blood or the darker side of magic.  Just like Scooby Do, “I
don’t go anywhere with ‘spooky,’ ‘haunted,’ or ‘forbidden’ in the title.”

So while you won’t find me at haunted houses or corn mazes this Halloween, I do like to have fun.

My children and grandchildren, and now great grandchildren, ask me what Halloween was like when I was a girl.  The answer is simple, we did not have Halloween.  The celebration of Halloween as we know it today here in the U.S. — dressing in costumes, trick-or-treating and children’s parties – didn’t start in earnest until the late 1940’s and early ‘50s.  Much before that sugar wasn’t available because it was rationed as the result of World War II.  And we all know how important sugar is to Halloween.

By the time my children, Judy and Bill and Roxie, were school aged Halloween was a full-blown institution and a very big deal in our home.  Our kids took it very seriously.  It wasn’t unusual for them to change costume ideas four or five times right up to the big night.  Then Judy would change her mind once more.  I guess it is a woman’s prerogative.

Judy would drag Bill, who was quite small at the time, up and down Main Street; she didn’t want to miss a thing.  Tiny and I would take turns handing out treats, oohing and aahing over the children’s costumes and trying to guess their names.  Back then we knew all the kids in the neighborhood.  We always decorated the house – I still do.  And our poor dog would bark all night long – every time someone yelled “Trick-or-Treat” or rang the bell.

At the end of the night poor Bill would come home sweaty and exhausted, but with a bag full of candy.  The cousins would come to our house last on their route, and we’d all visit.

The custom of trick-or-treating was very different back then.  Homemade costumes and homemade treats were commonplace. One of our neighbors made delicious fudge for the children.  I handed out little bags of store-bought candy and included popcorn balls that I made in my kitchen.  My popcorn balls were very simple:  a little corn syrup, some margarine, a few cups of popped popcorn and voila – they were done. Today I’ve seen all types of gourmet popcorn  balls – made with caramel, fruit-flavored gelatin, small candies, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, peanut butter, nuts and even pretzels.  Ours weren’t fancy, but they were good.

Now most of my celebrating is done at the restaurant.  We host a lovely party for the community and our team members on Oct. 27th .    That way children can still trick-or-treat in their own neighborhoods and adults can pass out candy on Halloween night.  About 300 people typically join us, most dressed in costumes.  We have a parade and games for the children, and we also hand out treats.  It is so nice for us to have an opportunity to meet our team members’ families. Every year we have a very special time.

Even though much of my family is fully grown, I still like to make a few sweets from scratch for Halloween.  There are several recipes in my book, “Come Cook With Me” for tasty treats – especially cookies and bars.

Try Grandma’s Apple-Nut Squares.  My mother baked them in the fall when Northern Spy apples were in season.  My kids liked Salted Peanut Chews made with Rice Krispies and salted peanuts.

Even though I no longer hand out homemade goodies on Halloween, I have special people in my life I like to spoil.  And it helps to conjure those great Halloween memories I had with Tiny and the kids.

Auf Wiedersehen – until I see you next week!

Michigan, My Michigan!

19 Oct

This week’s blog is all about Pure Michigan; my home state.  Fall is my absolute favorite season in Michigan.  I love everything about it:  the crisp weather, changing colors, mums and most of all harvest time.

Agriculture is the state’s second-largest industry.  Buying Michigan-made products really helps our state’s economy.

Bavarian Inn purchases many Michigan products because everything produced in our state is on par or superior to what you’ll find around the world.

Recently, we held a “Pure Michigan Dinner” at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant in Frankenmuth.  We featured farms, fisheries, wineries and breweries from more than a dozen Michigan cities and waterways and everyone had just a ball.  It’s not unusual for us to highlight the state’s premier food and beverage artisans.  In fact, Bavarian Inn uses more “Pure  Michigan” products than any one restaurant in the country, including the items we manufacture and sells in our shops and online.

My son Bill searches the state to find the best of the best – produce, wine and beer, cheese, meat and dry goods.  He believes one needn’t travel far for an extraordinary culinary experience. We have capable farmers and food growers all
through our state.

Many of the foods harvested this  month and next are associated with the holidays and conjure great childhood  memories.  On the farm where I grew up,  our fall kitchen and cellar was overflowing with zucchini, greens, root
vegetables and — of course — apples.  There was plenty of good food and plenty of hard work when the crops came in.  Mother taught us how to preserve the harvest through canning and freezing – even drying.  And every home back then had a root cellar for cool storage.  A cellar is an invaluable addition to the kitchen, extending the life of produce for months in northern climates like Michigan.  I hear they’re even making a come-back.

Nearly all produce holds up well to a variety of storage techniques.  Try pickling and making chutneys and salsas.  There are hundreds of blogs dedicated to canning and preserving food.  Younger people are coming up with all types of new relishes and sauces using only Michigan produce – including herbs.  Life in the kitchen these days is much more exciting than just strawberry jam and apple butter.

I have several recipes in “Come Cook with Me” dedicated to Pure Michigan products that are harvested in the fall.  Blue Hubbard squash arrives at the restaurant during the third week of September and we serve it through December.  Then it’s off the menu in January.  I have a number of really good squash recipes in my book.

Applesauce and Creamy Cucumber salads – two of our most popular items at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant – are also  seasonal.  Buying locally means serving items only at their height of freshness.

Food bought locally can translate into some terrific dishes, economic prosperity and wonderful lasting memories for your families.

Auf Wiedersehen – until I see you next week!

Baking: I Love Mondays

14 Oct

Welcome back to my blog; I hope you enjoyed my post on Michigan apples and that you tried some special dishes for your family.  All of my favorite recipes can be found in my book, “Come Cook With Me,” available at the Bavarian Inn Bakery and online through the Bavarian Inn website (www.bavarianinn.com).

This week I want to  talk about baking.  Those who know me  know I’m passionate about baking.  Even  in my home, you’ll likely find me in the kitchen preparing dough for  something.  Mondays are my one day off a  week and I like to make it special by spending the time baking with my children  and grandchildren (and now, even great-grandchildren).  After we’re done baking we share our goodies  with the rest of the family.

By  mid-afternoon on a Monday, we’re delivering doughnuts or cookies or cakes to wild applause.  Who wouldn’t welcome a pan of orange rolls or Baby Ruth bars as a special pick-me-up?  This has become quite a tradition in our family, so much so that when our baking day gets cancelled, I receive calls asking if my oven is broken.

Everyone has special memories of their Mondays with me.  It’s when I can really spend time focusing on each child – away from the restaurant.  If there’s one thing I stress about being a parent, it’s setting aside quality time for the children.  At the same time, I taught my family how to bake.  It is a skill we’ve handed down; we now have four generations of bakers in the kitchen.

I believe baking is  becoming a lost art.  Buying delicious  breads and pastries is very easy now – even seven days a week.  As a girl we didn’t have superstores open  around the clock with in-house bakers and cake makers.  All of our baked items – rolls, cookies and birthday  cakes – came right out of mom’s oven.  Store-bought bread is a nice convenience for busy families, as are frozen  or refrigerated items like pie crust and cookie dough.  Even good box mixes for cakes and brownies  are helpful timesavers.  But I believe nothing compares to items made from scratch.

I love using yeast and  watching it work.  You needn’t be intimidated by yeast, though I know a lot of people are.  It is not mysterious or complicated.  Consider yeast among your best friends.  It is merely a leavening agent that causes  dough to rise.  Potatoes, eggs and sugar  accelerate its growth.  Only two things can kill yeast, salt and heat; be mindful of the temperature of your water and other ingredients or adding too much salt.  And make sure that there’s a bit of sugar in the bowl before adding the flour for the yeast to feed on.

Knead dough just long enough for it to be cohesive and elastic, about 10 minutes.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap in an oiled or buttered bowl to prevent a skin from forming.  It will generally take one to two hours for it to double in bulk.  To check for readiness, poke it gently with a finger; if the impression remains in the dough is good to go.  I don’t punch my dough — that way air stays in and the second raising doesn’t take so long. When your dough is swollen and has a spongy feel, you’re ready to put it in a preheated open.  Toothpick tests don’t work for breads.  To check for doneness, tap the tops of loaves with a wooden spoon or your finger. A hollow sound means the bread is done; a dull thud means that the bread is moist inside and requires more baking.

Cool your loaf on a rack out of the pan.  And while it is hard to resist, let the bread rest before cutting with a sharp serrated knife.

Baking takes practice, practice, practice.  Try experimenting with everything:  pans, parchment, temperatures, times, techniques, shortenings, fillings, flavors, freezing, mixers, utensils – even humidity and altitude. Soon, you’ll be an expert with your own secrets to pass to the next
generation of bakers in your family.

Auf Wiedersehen – until I see you next week!

October is Apple-palooza at Bavarian Inn Restaurant

7 Oct

Welcome to my  blog.  Every week, I’ll share some of my  favorite stories and recipes from my life at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant.  This week is all about apples.

I love apples!  Here at the Bavarian Inn we use 1,500 bushels  a year – all grown in the state of Michigan.  And why not, we have the best apples in the world.  That’s why I use them in all  types of recipes – main dishes and side dishes, breakfast items, salads and of  course, desserts.

Growing up on the farm I don’t remember too many meals without apples.  I guess I believe the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  Maybe that’s why I’ll be  celebrating my 90th birthday in December, and still working in the  restaurant 60-hours a week.  That should be a strong testimonial to the benefit of apples for sure.

Good apples are  available throughout the year, not just in the fall, especially if you freeze  them or make preserves.  But you can’t  deny the special experience of visiting one of the state’s apple orchards this  month and next.  Fresh-pressed cider and cinnamon donuts are to autumn what pumpkin pie is to Thanksgiving.  We are blessed to live in an agricultural  area so rich with exceptional produce.  There are some 900 apple farms occupying 37,000 acres of orchards in Michigan – you simply can’t go too far without bumping into one on your travels.

I use a variety of  apples in my dishes.  Each one offers a  unique flavor and texture – some more sweet, some best for pies, and a mixture for apple sauce.  Even apple juices and ciders vary in taste and consistency.  I encourage you to experiment with a wide range of types and find the ones you like best.

To me, the Northern Spy apple is the best.  While they’re not as prevalent as they used to be, they are worth the search.  The Spy is a very old-fashioned American variety that is picked in late October, used through the winter months and keeps in cold storage well into spring.  It is an overall perfect apple – good for cooking, juicing, and eating straight off the tree.

The Northern Spy – sometimes called the Northern Pie or Pie Apple because of its popularity in apple pies – has a green skin, flushed with red stripes. The white flesh is juicy and harder than most varieties and its flavor is more tart than many.  If Northern Spy apples aren’t available in your area, I recommend McIntosh, Granny Smith or Jonathan.

When shopping for apples, I look for a fruit that’s firm for its variety, without bruises and with a shiny skin.  Since apples quickly lose their crispness at room temperature, I suggest refrigerating apples before use.  To keep apples from turning brown during slicing, I recommend dunking each peeled slice in a mixture of three-parts water, one-part lemon juice.  Here’s one of my secrets:  I put the apple slices in lemon-lime soda (Sierra Mist/Slice) if I’m out of fresh lemons.  Finally, use a combination of sweet and tart apples in recipes to find the best, balanced flavor.

A story on apples wouldn’t be complete without a word about pie crust.  The apples make the pie delicious, but the crust is what makes it memorable.   We’re lucky in Frankenmuth to have the best flour available locally from Star of the West Milling Company.  I use their Nightingale Pastry Flour; it’s low gluten pastry and pie flour from winter wheat and is also available in the Bavarian Inn’s Castle Shops.

Like everything else at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, our pie crust is made from scratch.  I’ve even convinced my children and grandchildren that home-made crust is worth it.  It takes only one-half hour to make pie crust:  I recommend making in bulk and freezing.  Use a light hand, don’t overmix and don’t use  bread flour.  And do use lard.  Remember, I’ve been eating these pies my  whole life and I’ll be 90 in two months.

A recipe for the perfect pie crust and other delicious apple recipes can be found in my book, “Come Cook With Me,” available at the Bavarian Inn Bakery and online through the Bavarian Inn website (www.bavarianinn.com).

Auf Wiedersehen – until I see you next week!

Willkommen!

7 Oct

Dorothy Zehnder is the matriarch of all things Bavarian Inn – restaurant, lodge, shops and a line of specialty products.

Later this year Dorothy will turn 90 and mark her 63rd year with the institution.  While many nonagenarians are suffering the limitations of old age, Dorothy is in the kitchen of Bavarian Inn 10 hours a day, six days a week, with no plans to retire.

Through the years, Dorothy – a top chef and keen businesswoman – has developed a reputation as a teacher, a role model, a philanthropist and a mom.  Her stories about cooking, Michigan, family and entertaining appear weekly at her blog.  Please share your favorite Dorothy memory, a favorite recipe or a birthday greeting below.