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Tips for Using Bacon in Desserts, with Cake Crumbs Bakery

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Last week we introduced you to Denon Moore of Cake Crumbs Bakery and the Denver Cupcake Truck. Moore shared her expert advice with us for moist red velvet cupcakes (click here to read that post). Today she offers her perspective on a hot culinary trend: bacon desserts. Moore is the perfect person to explain the tricks of the trade, since Cake Crumbs’ maple bacon cupcakes are a sweet and savory sensation in Denver. If you have tried bacon candy or cookies with less than desirable results or you have flirted with the idea of bringing this trend to your holiday table, read on for some easy and unexpected tips.

Keep It Together

It may be tempting to select the savory and sweet elements for your bacon desserts by simply using your favorite products in each category. But buying your favorite bacon and your best tasting milk chocolate might ruin the outcome of your dessert. Moore explains, “What we get into trouble with is tasting things separately. You really need the salty and the sweet.” When selecting the ingredients for Cake Crumbs’ maple bacon cupcake, Moore and her team paired numerous products until they landed on the perfect combination. A similar process at home might lead you to more satisfying ingredients.

Go Easy On Sugar

Bacon pairs beautifully with maple. It’s true for both breakfast and dessert. But Moore warns that adding maple syrup to a dessert like cupcakes is a sure way to ruin them. “If you add the syrup it gets really sticky. You can overdo it on the sugar, so we add maple extract.” Moore has another useful tip on this front: only use pure, high quality maple extract, instead of artificial, since this enhances the flavor (Cake Crumbs uses Colorado-based Savory Spice Shop extract).

Watch the Fat Content

Bakers know that balancing the sugars and fats in desserts is a fine science and most recipes have careful ratios of these ingredients already in place. So, if you dice up some bacon and toss it into your vanilla cupcakes, it will upset this delicate harmony. “We cook our bacon before we make the cupcakes. We bake it twice and drain it because we don’t want to contribute any extra fat or oil,” Moore claims.

IMG_8197Use Uncured Bacon

Although the magical combo of salty and sweet is the thing that makes bacon desserts special, you can have too much of a good thing. “You have to figure out how to make the saltiness balance. We have had to do research on bacon. We actually use uncured rather than cured bacon because it is less salty.”

Don’t Forget the Frosting

Moore says that the flavor and texture of frosting in bacon desserts can also be undermined by sweet ingredients like maple syrup. She uses maple extract in cream cheese frosting for her bacon cupcakes for the same reasons that she uses extract in the cakes themselves.

Keep It Simple

Part of the beauty of dessert lies in its simplicity. When we opt for unusual flavor profiles like bacon and chocolate or bacon and maple, Moore claims that keeping it simple is a key to good results. “Don’t use anything too strong.” So if you are tempted to add some rosemary to your bacon cupcakes or coffee, caramel, and black pepper to bacon cookies, try scaling it back a little.

Click here for more information on Cake Crumbs Bakery!

Click here to read Moore’s advice for red velvet cupcakes!

All photos by Margarita Mosina

Monday Inspiration to Spark Your Creativity

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“A man’s work is nothing but his slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”

 

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Colorado Art Education Association conference in gorgeous Breckenridge, CO for some volunteer work I am doing with the organization. I met so many amazing educators and left feeling energized about the future of art in our schools. I wanted to share an image from a short hike on my way home (at 9,500 feet). I would also like to stir your imagination and get you thinking through the quotation above by Albert Camus. Legendary Colorado artist Charles Parson shared it in his keynote address at the conference. What simple images first opened your heart?

Sharing the Love: Happy Friday!

I’m sharing some helpful links from around the web to get you inspired for the weekend!

Gorgeous, enormous floral paintings. You have to see these to believe them. 

A dip made from winter squash that makes a warm, seasonal sub for hummus. 

Affordable DIY table runners for your Thanksgiving feast.

Christmas will be here before you know it. An impressive ornament wreath from Martha Stewart.

Chic, modern Christmas decor for the whole home (including a pink tree!). 

Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making With Your Morning Coffee, featuring Kaladi Coffee Roasters

mark 2 bwMark Overly, owner of Denver’s Kaladi Coffee Roasters, is like the Alton Brown of coffee. He delivers flavor by understanding the complex science of coffee roasting and brewing. He is also quite the historian on the evolution of coffee in the United States. At Kaladi, Overly uses a nontraditional method of air roasting high quality beans to achieve maximum flavors. He also leads regular cupping classes for coffee enthusiasts and runs The Coffee Heretic blog. He shares his views with us today on ways to improve our morning coffee by exploring common brewing mistakes and some simple fixes to make it all better. Read Overly’s list below:

1. Buying Ground Coffee

“If you take the thousand plus identifiable compounds that make up a flavor of coffee, 80 percent of those are aromatic volatiles. It’s the aroma of coffee that gives it its own unique personality. That’s what makes one coffee different from another. They are aromatic volatiles because they are created by the application of heat during roasting. They do not exist in the green bean; they are brought out through temperature. It’s why we use temperature to brew coffee. We don’t use cold water to brew coffee–we use hot water. We are talking about releasing those aromatic volatiles. At room temperature, coffee beans will lose 85 percent of those aromatic volatiles over the course of five days. Ground coffee, 30 minutes. So if  if you’re buying your coffee pre-ground you are already missing out on over 80 percent of the flavor of coffee.”

 2. Grinding It Too Fine

“The next biggest mistake that people make is that they over-grind the coffee. The grinder is probably the most overlooked device for making coffee. It has as much control over the coffee quality as the brewer does. In industry terms it’s particle distribution. What we want is even particle distribution. With many grinders, no matter what you do you always have powder at the bottom, chunks up top, and something in the middle. When you have powder you’re going to get over-brewed, bitter coffee. The big chunks are going to allow too much water through. It’s invariably going to make a bad cup of coffee.

“The investment into a great coffee grinder is critical. What you are looking for are good grinder burrs–a conical burr grinder. You want to spin it at a low rpm so it doesn’t mash the coffee. It should slice the coffee. You will end up with a very even distribution of particles that have been sliced.”

3. Using the Wrong Brewing Apparatus

“The brewing apparatus itself can also be a problem. Good coffee is a function of two things: dwell time and brew rate. Dwell time is all of that time that the coffee grounds and the water are together. Brew rate is the entire process.

“Essentially you want everything done in four minutes. That’s if you are making a half-gallon, a gallon, or whatever. That function doesn’t change. The dwell time and brew rate doesn’t change. We have to change our filter baskets and delivery to meet that. The problem with home coffee makers is they don’t have giant water heaters in them. They have tiny water heaters that heat a little water up then send it through, then repeat. So, there’s no dwell time. The water is going to pass through the path of least resistance so it’s going to pass through the same grounds over and over again. You’re not infusing all of the coffee grounds, so you end up with a weak, acidic kind of coffee.

“What we recommend is a manual coffee brewer rather than an electric coffee brewer, and the one I recommend is a Chemex.”

3. Using Too Much Coffee

“The correct amount is 2 tablespoons per 5 ounces of liquid. According to the coffee industry, a cup is 5 ounces. For me I like to add one tablespoon for the pot itself. It’s a personal thing for me because I like a slightly stronger cup of coffee.”

4. Drinking It Too Hot

“You use heat during brewing to release the flavors, but coffee’s best flavor comes at body temperature. That’s when it’s most enjoyable. Honestly, I think we drink coffee too hot.”

Overly’s Advice on Bitter Coffee:

“The traditional approach has been to grind it too finely and to use too much coffee. Nine times out of ten whenever somebody says my coffee is too bitter, it’s because they have ground it too finely or used too much coffee or both. Often it is both.

“Whenever your coffee is bitter, it’s because the water has not passed through properly and it’s created that bitter edge to the coffee. Ground too fine has a real biting kind of bitterness to it. Too much coffee has a range of acid sweetness at the end that’s also bitter. Unfortunately, a lot of people have been doing it for so long that they have come to associate this with the flavor of coffee.”

Click here for more information on Kaladi Coffee Roasters!

All photos by Deborah Walden Ossi

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Nature-Inspired Lesson Plans: Beatrix Potter

Incorporating art into our many school subjects is one of my passions–art works well in classrooms and at-home learning for any age group. Next week I will post an interview with the Denver Botanic Garden on teaching kids through nature. As a teaser for that story, I would like to share a wonderful lesson plan resource I came across earlier this year. I found it on Thinkfinity, a free online resource for all educators sponsored by the Verizon Foundation. You can find tons of resources on their website, but this one on Beatrix Potter is especially lovely. It features a lesson plan (complete with downloadable worksheets) from EDSITEment aimed at grades 3-5, which combines themes on nature, art, and literature.

Potter had a fascinating life and is enjoying a renaissance in popularity as a nineteenth-century female artist. We all know her from her Peter Rabbit tales, but Potter’s art spans a wide range of subjects, including the beautiful botanical study at the top of the post.

Click here to visit Thinkinity’s Beatrix Potter lesson plan page!

Whether or not you are an educator or parent, you will find many enjoyable links to other Beatrix Potter resources at the bottom of the lesson plan page. You can explore a collection of Potter’s charming, imaginative picture letters, a comprehensive resource on her work by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and links to in-depth articles on the artist.

Potter left quite a legacy in art, literature, and science, making her work a treasure trove for any educator or lifelong lover of learning. It’s well worth your time to take a look at her interesting life, and this lesson plan is a good place to start.

Do you have a favorite Beatrix Potter story or resource? Share them in the comments below!

Tips for Moist Red Velvet Cupcakes, with Cake Crumbs Bakery

Photo by Margarita Mosina

Cake Crumbs Bakery and their popular food truck, The Denver Cupcake Truck, serve up  happiness in the form of from-scratch sweets, which has made them a favorite among locals. Today, we introduce a two-part series with owner Denon Moore that features life-saving advice for those of us who love a good cupcake (Check back next week for Part Two). Moore, who grew up cooking with her German grandmother, approaches baking as an art and a science: she plays up the whimsy and fun of desserts, but each recipe is the result of rigorous testing. She shares some of the wisdom she has gained from all of those hours in the kitchen with advice for perfectly moist red velvet cupcakes.

IMG_8264It’s What’s Inside That Counts

Those of us who have enjoyed mouthwatering red velvet cupcakes at Cake Crumbs know that something special is at work there. These cupcakes are dense yet springy, perfectly red, with a fluffy, tart cream cheese icing. Moore claims that the look and feel of the perfect red velvet cupcake is a product of good ingredients. “Use really fresh buttermilk,” she advises. As buttermilk sits in your fridge, it loses some the tanginess that makes for exceptional cupcakes. Opting for fresh is a simple way to boost flavor.

Moore says that butter is often a go-to fat for other cupcakes…but not red velvet. Keeping your recipe oil-based will help you achieve a moist texture. “It’s the traditional way to make red velvet. You have to use oil,” she claims.

Moore also asserts that food coloring is often overlooked as a component of the flavor and texture in the perfect red velvet cupcake. She warns, “You don’t want to skip out on the food coloring. It will change the taste.”

Time in the Oven Is KeyIMG_8246

Many of us labor over the ingredients for our cupcakes, adding milk, oil, and anything else that will help keep them moist. We don’t often look to our oven as the culprit when our desserts come out dry. Moore claims that making sure your cupcakes don’t overcook is one of the most important factors in keeping them moist. Not paying attention to the oven, she says, is one of the biggest pitfalls in cupcake making. “No brown on the bottom” is a rule for Moore’s red velvet cupcakes. “You want them red, with just a little brown on the top.” She cautions that the size of the cupcake plays an important role in whether or not your end product will retain its moisture. “The size matters, especially with the mini ones.” If you are making mini red velvets, keep an eye on your oven window.

Ensuring even heating is another important factor for cupcakes. “Midway through, gently open the oven door and rotate everything.”

Avoid Moisture Loss

Moore has learned that part of the secret of keeping cupcakes moist is in protecting them from dry air. This is especially true for Colorado bakers, since our climate is so dry. “What we have learned is that cupcakes need to be wrapped right away when warm. Put them in the fridge if you are not going to serve them immediately.” Moore wraps all of her baked goods in plastic wrap when warm (not hot) to seal in their moisture.

A Tip for Better Cream Cheese Frosting

When frosting red velvet cupcakes, Moore claims a 1 to 3 ratio for frosting to cupcake yields the most satisfying results. “I don’t like it to be like an ice cream cone,” she says. Moore also has a secret weapon for delicious cream cheese frosting: lemon juice. It’s a natural pairing–we often enjoy the tartness of lemon juice in cheesecakes. That same flavor profile amplifies the creamy goodness of frosting.

For Colorado Bakers

As a longtime Denver baker, Moore has great advice for cupcake lovers in Colorado. “My number one tip for anyone doing Colorado baking is to start with the original recipe. When you’re baking at altitude, don’t adjust your recipe until you have tried it.”

Click here for more information on Cake Crumbs Bakery! 

All photos by Margarita Mosina.

Sharing the Love: Links for Relaxation

This week I’m including links to help you rest up! Holiday stresses begin in earnest this month, so these tips will come in handy as we enter November. Treat yourself to some some indulgent relaxation this weekend!

Yoga poses for better sleep!

Relaxation tips you can use all week. 

A recipe for a relaxing herbal bath tea. 

How being kind to yourself can help you achieve more. 

 

Share your favorite tips for relaxing in the comments below!

Adorable, Adoptable Black Cats (And Halloween Tips for Pet Owners)

In honor of Halloween, I would like you to meet five black cats who are currently up for adoption through the Dumb Friends League in Denver. Because of the number of cats currently in need of shelter, the organization is offering a fee waiver for all cats over one years old through the end of October (that’s today), and each of these lovable cats qualifies for this incentive. If you are interested in adoption, please contact the Dumb Friends League at (303) 751-5772 or visit their website or one of their shelter locations. If you’re not able to adopt, there are still many ways to help. And next time you’re picking up peanut butter, soap, or baby food, grab extra for our furry friends. You can see a full wish list of items you can donate to homeless pets at the Dumb Friends League here.

Check out the bottom of this post for a list of Halloween tips for pet owners.

Abby_A0284661_CatAbby (A0284661)
An 11-year-old spayed, domestic short hair cat located at the Quebec Street shelter.

I can’t decide which I prefer: snuggling on your lap or purring when you pet me! Perhaps we can combine all my favorite activities into one. That’s something we can work out when you get me home. I should also tell you that I’ve been described by a previous owner as “very sweet” and I do love cat treats. It takes me a bit of time to warm up, but once I do I’m all yours. Let’s meet today!

Mardi_A0315332_catMardi (A0315332)
An 11-year-old neutered, domestic medium hair cat located in a foster home. For more information, please call the Quebec Street shelter at (303) 751-5772.

It might take me a little while to warm up to new people, but I enjoy chin scratches and being petted once I feel comfortable. My favorite past times include using my scratching post and looking out the window. If you would like to learn more about me, please stop by for a visit!

Valerie_A0429413_catValerie (A0429413)
A 6-year-old spayed, domestic short hair cat located at the Quebec Street shelter.

If you would ask me how I envision my “perfect world”,  I would say in a loving home where I would be the only pet and with no children under the age of 10. I just want to be the star of the show and have all the attention for myself! So, if you are a devoted cat lover, please come visit me today–I’ll be waiting. Click here to see an adorable video of Valerie!

Gloria_A0650268_CatGloria (A0650268)
An 11-year-old spayed, domestic short hair cat located in a foster home. For more information, please call the Quebec Street shelter at (303) 751-5772.

Greetings! My name is Gloria. My fur is a beautiful deep black. On top of that, I have beautiful alluring eyes that are searching for you. I’m an independent girl you can pet me but don’t expect me to sit on your lap, that’s just not my style. I’m not that fond of dogs I’ve lived with them before but when they want to play I’ll swat them with my paw. You know you are out there, so jump in the car and come down and visit with me. Click here to see an adorable video of Gloria!

Nicky_A0495290_catNicky (A0495290)
A 7-year-old neutered, domestic medium hair cat located at the Quebec Street shelter.

Handsome guy looking for a loving forever home! It might take me some time to get used to new people, but I like attention once I feel comfortable. My favorite past times include sitting in laps and relaxing. If you would like to meet, please stop by for a visit!

Tips for Pet Owners on Halloween, from The Dumb Friends League:

  • Protect your pets on Halloween by keeping them indoors. Pets that are out at night with trick-or-treaters might get spooked by noises and costumes, which could cause them to run away.
  • Cats should be kept indoors at all times, and if you have a black or white cat, you should be especially careful about keeping it indoors on Halloween. Some people are superstitious about cats and may try to scare or harm them.
  • Keep pets confined and away from the door while you’re greeting trick-or-treaters to prevent them from darting outside.
  • Your dog may feel that his territory is being invaded by the constant onslaught of visitors. Keep your dog in a secluded area of the house to help him stay calm and prevent him from growling or possibly biting visiting ghouls and goblins.
  • Keep Halloween candy out of your pet’s reach because it can make your pet sick. In fact, chocolate and raisins can be fatal to dogs.

Tips for Pets Wearing Costumes:

  • Don’t restrict your pet’s ability to walk and sit down comfortably. If your dog looks miserable, he probably is.
  • Don’t make your pet wear a mask that covers his eyes, ears or nose.
  • Don’t put your pet in a costume that makes it difficult to breathe. This is especially important for flat-nosed dogs such as bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers and Pekingese.
  • Always supervise your dog while in costume so he doesn’t chew or eat any costume parts.

If you have pictures of your pet on Halloween or photos of a beloved rescue animal, share them with us on Facebook here!

Making the Old New Again, with The Barn Antiques and Specialty Shops

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Today I introduce you to The Barn Antiques and Specialty Shops in beautiful Castle Rock Colorado for some advice on vintage decor. The Barn is a rustic, open space that was once home to a lumber company. The structure was built almost one hundred years ago, making it a charming setting for a sprawling array of old and new today. I spoke to manager Amy Smith, who offers a unique perspective on antique items and the many ways we can incorporate them into our lives.

Antiques Aren’t Just for Your Home

We often think of antiques as elaborately carved furniture or precious heirlooms in glass cases. Smith asserts, though, that shopping for antiques these days puts you in touch with some of the hottest design trends–and not just for home decor, but for weddings and parties as well. “A really popular thing right now is the rustic, romantic look. That’s also a huge trend for weddings. If you go on Pinterest you will notice that.” So, for brides who have spotted mismatched colored glass, vintage lace, burlap, jars, or worn wooden elements on Pinterest, an antique shop should be one of your first stops for inspiration.

Smith also reminds us that antique elements can be blended into many types of decor for upcoming holiday festivities. Adding a special vintage platter to a Thanksgiving table might be a great conversation piece for the family dinner. “I always love the unexpected. I recently took a bin from an old scale and put lace, velvet, and pumpkins inside,” she says.

DSC_0023What’s Hot

I asked Smith about the strongest trends in the antiques market today, and I was pretty surprised at the answer. For some reason, I often associate gold-gilt furnishings and tapestries with antiques, but Smith points out the many ways that vintage items often show up in contemporary design. “Right now I think the trend is almost like a shabby chic meets industrial look. Anything that is primitive or farmhouse is huge right now.  Also recycled farm house–with lots of old barn wood. But incorporating  that into traditional decor as well, so it’s not all antique–just part of it. Today, it’s always old primitive furniture. Not so much stuffy and formal, like Chippendale furniture.”

Smith also reminds us that the shabby chic, industrial look is family friendly. If you are worried your little one might destroy antiques of the heirloom variety, then worn, distressed pieces might be a great fix.

How to Mix Old and NewDSC_0059

Many of us have Pinterest boards brimming with vintage fabrics and furnishing, and in the real world we have no idea how to mix that with our existing furniture. Smith claims that the answer to that problem is easier than it seems, if you approach it from a designer’s perspective. “I think what I would suggest is go through magazines. Tear out anything you love. Use Pinterest. That way you can see how the mix would go together.You have to have a plan. You have to ask yourself questions–like it’s beautiful, but is it functional too, which is important, especially depending on the size of your space.” She advocates adding pops of feminine decor to blend antique and new items, suggesting that Amy Butler fabrics can help marry the two styles.

Smith advises readers to always think outside the box when it comes to vintage items and to listen to your heart. “I’ve always thought that you should buy what you love and it works.”

DIY Advice

For those of us who have dreams of  grand refinishing projects, Smith (who has years of experience in this arena) has a few tips for success. “I’m a painter, so I don’t really strip furniture. I used to do that years ago–sanding, stripping, sealing. Today, though, if you want to paint something, chalk paint is amazing. It’s a little more expensive than traditional paint, but you also use less and it’s an easier process.  We sell a product here called van Gogh. There is also Annie Sloan and CeCe Caldwell’s. If you go on YouTube, you can watch tutorials on how to do it.”

Chips, scuffs, and wear are not bad things when it comes to vintage items, since they often highlight the age, charm, and history of an object. “You want to use the integrity of that piece,” Smith claims. For those who are a little hesitant to take on a refinishing project, Smith speaks from experience: “You have to be passionate about the whole project, otherwise it’s probably better to have someone else do it for you. But if you are really interested in refinishing an item, start small. Otherwise it can be pretty daunting. That way you can see if it’s something you are truly interested in doing.”

All photos by Deborah Walden Ossi and Eddie Ossi