We will be holding our 15th Annual Gingerbread Decorating Workshop on December 6, 2014 from 10:30 am to 6:00 pm. Each kit is $65 and comes with everything you need to make your house your own. We have families who have come year after year and made this one of their Christmas Traditions. We also have Hannukah house kits for those celebrating Hannukah. Please call the bakery at 805-688-4939 to make a reservation or email Maili Halme email@example.com to make your reservation.
Gratitude Wreaths from The Solvang Bakery
“In everything, give thanks.” –St. Paul
During this month of giving thanks I try to write down three things I’m thankful for each day. There are a number of ways to do this: some people prefer to keep a gratitude journal while others make a family “gratitude jar” and each family members writes something they are grateful for each day and puts it in the jar. Others just keep a running mental note each day of what they are thankful for.
I know the holidays can become overwhelming, frantic and busy. I challenge each of you to pause for a moment to find three things that you are grateful for. I found my first thing in the stars and the moon this morning. And now I find myself looking forward to the day instead of dreading my “to do” list because I know somewhere in this day are two more things to discover that I will be grateful for. Blessings and JOY to all of you. Maili
Throughout the Santa Ynez Valley there’s a strong sense of harvest during the month of October. Our local apple orchards host hundreds of school children who pile out of their yellow busses to snag a juicy gem straight from the tree. Exhausted vintners can be spied around town, marked by their crimson stained hands and tired eyes. A drive along Alamo Pintado Road is accented by flaming orange pumpkins set against rich green corn stalks. If you venture into town, you’ll be greeted by creative scarecrows guarding local shops. Solvang and Los Olivos feature a Scarecrow building contests and proprietors fiercely compete for the blue ribbon. It’s a glorious time to visit. The days are warm, and nights are crisp and cool.
Halloween is the Santa Ynez Valley is likely strikingly similar to when you were a child. Little ghouls, Luke Skywalkers, princesses, and firefighters stream through neighborhoods squeaking out, “Trick-or-treat!” Most of our neighborhoods are still small and friendly. Parents are often invited in for a quick respite…a respite that might include a quaff of one of our lovely local wines. Invariably, someone hosts a family Halloween party…and thank goodness…we’re able to get a bowl of chili into a costumed tummy before the onslaught of sugary goodies start pouring in.
Halloween decorating is always fun…boundless thematic options allow creativity to run wild…
We love to assemble our Halloween Haunted Gingerbread Houses. They’re colorful and kooky; adorned with pumpkins and bug-eyed bats, and ghosts, and crooked windows. Our greatest challenge is to stop. It’s too much fun to keep playing with them!
Another fun family activity is decorating cookies with the kids. We’ve put together a Halloween Cookie Decorating Kit that’s perfect for shipping to faraway grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or for school or at-home Halloween parties.
We found a fabulous little cookie cutter for making GingerDEAD Men. It cuts out a conventional gingerbread man shape, but the back side is for imprinting a skeleton onto the dough. Whip up some royal icing, and voila, a GingerDead man is born (…not sure a dead man is born…). We are selling and shipping these devilish little guys, but we’re also selling the cookie cutter for your own Do-It-Yourself (DIY) fun. Find GingerDead Cookie Cutters here.
Of course you can always just use your own traditional gingerbread man cookie cutter at home and create your own anatomy. Susan shows you how to do both in our video How to Decorate Halloween GingerDead Men – click here. You can find this cookie cutter and others on Amazon (click on the photo).
Oh, and here’s our recipe for gingerbread cookies in case you need one. Chef Maili (Melissa’s sister and Susan’s daughter, wrote this up…you can find the original post and lots of other great recipes and cooking tips here.) Remember, you’ll need to roll your dough a little extra thick if you’re using the GingerDead Cookie Cutter (it’s deep), and you’ll want to set the temperature a little lower so that you can cook them a little longer.
The Solvang Bakery Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
Use royal icing to decorate them. We have a simple video on how to make and use royal icing – click here. You can buy powdered egg whites if you are concerned with using raw egg whites. Be aware that royal icing will harden when exposed to air so be sure to keep it in piping bags in plastic or in some kind of airtight container until you use it.
Have you read Dan Brown’s latest book, Inferno? Famed symbologist Professor Robert Langdon (Da Vinci Code) is at it again, only this time the intrigue is centered in Florence, Italy and the topic is Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy.
What does this have to do with baking? Not a lot. Although it is difficult to imagine drinking in all of those fabulous aromas wafting through the ancient portions of Florence without settling down for an espresso and perhaps a Florentine.
It’s the symbology and history that triggered our inspiration. If you’ve ever visited Solvang (or Denmark), you may have noticed a pretzel-shaped object hanging outside the doors of the many Danish bakeries that decorate our little town. It’s called a Kringle (pronounced kring-leh), and is the ancient symbol of the bakers’ guild in Denmark.
If the thought of pretzels causes you to scratch your head, not unlike Professor Langdon in his amnesia-infused haze, and wonder why visions of beer steins and buxom German frauleins come to mind rather than Danes, you’re not alone. And even better, you’re not off-track.
Danish pastries were greatly influenced by none other than Germany’s cousins, the Austrians. The story goes that when the Confectioners, Bakers and Chocolate Makers Association of Denmark went on strike back in 1850, the Danes maintained a stiff Scandinavian lip and imported Viennese bakers to do the baking. And with the Viennese, came Austria’s rich culinary history, which, in turn, was borrowed from previous cultures.
Ancient Persians are thought to have been the first to create puff pastry. The Turks took repetitive folding of the dough to new heights, which was eventually adopted by their mortal enemies, the Austrians, and later the French (think croissant). The striking Danish bakers eventually co-mingled with the Viennese bakers, borrowing the Austrian dough-making techniques, and adding sugar and jams to them … and Danish pastries were born. To this day, what Americans think of as ‘Danish pastries’ are called ‘wienerbrod’ in Denmark. Translation? ‘Viennese bread.’
Our Almond Kringles are created with Danish pastry dough layered with rich marzipan and custard filling. We wrap it into the traditional pretzel shape, sprinkle it with almond slivers, and coarse sugar, et voila: a yummy, flaky pastry perfect for family gatherings or celebrations.
But what about our pretzel symbol? It certainly appears it was borrowed from our Austrian mentors, but where did they come up with it? We think even Professor Langdon might find its provenance difficult to pin down. One of the favorite possibilities is that an Italian monk used doughy pretzels to reward well-behaved children for saying their prayers in the 6th century. The crossing portion of the pretzel represents the folded arms, while the three circles represent the Trinity.
Whatever its origin, we shall continue with the tradition of proudly displaying the Kringle above our door, and perhaps if you’re good (and maybe even if you’re naughty), you can one day sample our Almond Kringles!
Arthur L. Meyer. Danish Cooking and Baking Traditions. New York, NY: Hippocrene Books, Inc., 2011. Pg 164
Patricia Bunning Stevens. Rare Bits: Unusual Origins of Popular Recipes. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1998. Pg 188-189
The Chefs of Le Cordon Bleu. Patisserie & Baking Foundations, Classic Recipes. Le Cordon Bleu International, 2012.
“Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades…?”
We’ve been baking our Almond Butter Ring pastry for over 30 years. Three decades may seem like a long time, but the Danes have been making it for over three centuries! The more traditional name for this gooey pastry is Seven Sisters Cake or Sosterkage.
Sandwiched between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, Denmark ‘s geographic location meant that the Danish people couldn’t help but be seafarers. Danish Vikings roamed the northern seas and beyond. With no modern gadgets like GPS devices available, steering by the stars was the only means of navigation available.
So what does this have to do with our delicious Almond Butter Rings? An open star cluster known as the Pleiades or Seven Sisters, lies in the Taurus constellation, and is particularly prominent during winter in the northern hemisphere. In fact, it the month of November, it shines from sunset to sunrise. Because it is one of the closest star clusters to Earth, is can easily be viewed with the naked eye.
Legend has it that the Seven Sisters’ Cake takes its name from the Pleiades. According to Greek Mythology, the seven sisters were the companions of Artemis, goddess of hunting and the moon. The hunter Orion (a nearby constellation) pursued the sisters. Eventually through the predictable antics of the Olympians, both the sisters and Orion were placed in the night sky. We like to imagine the Seven Sisters guiding Danish sailors of yore safely home.
Our Seven Sisters are safely nestled in a ring of six rolls circling one center roll (one of the seven stars disappeared during biblical times…a fact supported both historically and astronomically). Made from pastry dough and layered with almond paste and custard filling, we top it off with a vanilla icing. We like to think that any sailor returning from the northern seas in the last three centuries would be delighted to sit down to a slice of our Almond Butter Ring and a hot cup of coffee.
Earthsky.org: Pleiades Star Cluster: Famous Seven Sisters, April 2, 2012, Bruce McClure
Danish Cooking and Baking Traditions, Arthur L. Meyer, 2011 Hippocrene Books, Inc. NY, NY, Page 175.
Pleiade.org: The Pleiades in Mythology, http://www.pleiade.org/pleiades_02.html
Bible, King James Version: Job 38:31: “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades…?”
Gratitude Wreaths from The Solvang Bakery
“In everything, give thanks.” –St. Paul
I know the holidays can become overwhelming, frantic and busy. I challenge each of you to pause for a moment to find three things that you are grateful for. I found my first thing in the stars and the moon this morning. And now I find myself looking forward to the day instead of dreading my “to do” list because I know somewhere in this day are two more things to discover that I will be grateful for.
Blessings and JOY to all of you. Maili
Creating wedding cakes and specialty cakes is a complicated, multi-step process.
It requires a large helping of patience…
many cupfuls of creativity…
and several tablespoons of experience come in handy too. Barbara Brugge, one of our expert cake designers pictured here, was trained at the prestigious California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.
But all the hard work is worth the pleasure of that first full view of the finished product, and the smile of delight on our clients’ faces!
Okay we admit it. It really is fun to sit down with a freshly minted bride-to-be and share in her enthusiasm for her impending nuptials. The process usually starts with a phone call or an email, followed by the onsite cake tasting with the bride, her mother or a best friend, and perhaps the groom. Sometimes we even have the future mother-in-law, and a dad or two. After a couple of decades of marriage, these exuberant meetings serve as great reminders of the tremendous joy to be found in finding one’s soulmate.
Each wedding season, tastes and styles shift to adapt to current trends. In terms of flavors, we’re seeing a lot of lemon with fresh raspberry and lemon parfait filling with either cream cheese or buttercream icing. Also vying for number one is our white butter cake with fresh strawberry and Bavarian creme filling with either buttercream or fondant icing. For our chocolate lovers, the choice tends to be our Triple Chocolate Fudge…one layer of which is brownie.
We’ve had more and more inquiries for gluten-free cakes, but usually not for the whole cake. The bride and groom will typically order a handful of gluten-free cupcakes, or a smaller additional gluten-free cake to accompany the main wedding cake.
Couples are increasingly enamored with individual cakes and dessert bars, dessert stations, and/or candy tables. A colorful tower of elegant French macarons make a lovely addition to any dessert table. We all know that weddings are expensive, and the scattered dessert-stations strategy serves the dual purpose of providing colorful and thematic decoration, as well as the beloved dessert.
We see about 30% of our couples ordering Groom’s Cakes. They tend to be shaped to match the favorite sports or hobbies of the groom, ranging from college and professional sports teams to guitar shaped cakes to hunting themes.
Color palettes range from grays and yellows to all shades of turquoise or coral. White on white is popular, along with champagne and pale pinks mixed with whites.
Fresh flowers of all types continue to be requested frequently. Peonies, garden/heirloom roses, succulents, wild flowers, and lavender round out the typical choices. Living in Santa Barbara wine country, we service ample weddings held at wineries or vineyards in lovely, rustic settings – the wedding cakes tend to reflect this simplicity.
Two newer trends are oddly older in nature. Wedding pies, consisting of mini-pies and/or 9″ pies marry (pun intended) nicely with barn/ranch rustic chic venues. The second trend is steeped in southern tradition. It’s a cake pull which is held at the bridesmaid luncheon. Each bridesmaid pulls a ribbon from the bottom of the cake, and gets a charm that has a special meaning for her future.
The most important thing to remember when designing and ordering your wedding cake or dessert stations, is to make it reflect you and your groom. Ideally, they will simply be an extension of who you two are together…playful, elegant, expressive, fanciful, reserved, contemporary, or modern…it’s always perfect if your friends and family see you shining through.
We always love hearing new ideas – please share in the comments below!
For our family, spring really is a time of renewal. It takes a couple of fortnights for us to recover from the crazy Christmas gingerbread season, when we work well into the wee morning hours for weeks on end. Easter Sunday is a time when the whole family gathers – usually at Susan’s house or her mother’s house (Melissa’s grandma) for a sumptuous brunch following church. Sadly, Grandma recently began celebrating Easter in heaven, so Easter is now always at Susan’s house.
She sets a beautiful festive table with a special candy or personalized treat at each place setting – and an Easter Gingerbread House or two. After a rousing Easter egg hunt for the grandchildren, brunch is served. It’s usually egg-based; either quiches or made-to-order eggs whipped-up by sister Maili (Chef Maili). Together mother and daughter cook sausages and bacon for a savory feast. And yes, the table is laden with bakery items: almond butter rings, apple strudel, iced Easter cookies, and wonderful hot cross buns.
Easter, of course, is a celebration of spring and for Christians, the resurrection of Christ. Like so many Christian holidays, Easter incorporates many pagan rituals…the clever way in which Christians eased (and we use that term lightly) pagans into the fold. For Catholics, the season of Lent – the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, was a time of strict dietary restrictions except on Sundays. It seems the Puritans were pretty skeptical and associated Easter with popery…so they weren’t too eager to jump on board the Easter rituals ship.
But folk traditions (as opposed to religious traditions) abound. The word Easter derives from North Umbrian Old English ‘Eostre’ – a fertility goddess from German and Anglo-Saxon paganism who is the focal point for spring feasts in the month of April. Her symbol? A rabbit. We can thank the Pennsylvania Dutch for the Easter Bunny (the Easter Hare) who delivered colored eggs to good children and rabbit pellets to bad children…that would be an unwelcome surprise in the old Easter basket!
It seems there is not a single authentic Easter dinner like those we find at Christmas or Thanksgiving. Ham and lamb are popular – and eggs and the shape of baked goods tend to play important roles. Eggs symbolize birth, and yeast-enriched breads are often shaped with a feminine theme – as round buns (think round belly of a pregnant woman) or in loaves shaped into rings…with a hole in middle…these breads or sweet breads are often embedded with eggs. The Greeks have their tsoureki, the Corsicans their caccavelli, and the Venetians their focaccia pasquale. The ancient Romans took their symbolism to more blatant heights, and produced baked goods that probably wouldn’t go over well in a family bakery.
So on a more Puritanical note, we’ll underscore our love for hot cross buns – a favorite in Britain, and a favorite at The Solvang Bakery. For centuries, poor British children and the elderly would sell hot cross buns for the local bakeries on Good Friday. It was such a popular tradition that it generated the well known nursery rhyme,
Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha’ penny,
Two ha’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns!
It was thought that even a crumb of bread baked on Good Friday would cure any ailment, so people would dry a bun and save it to ward off future maladies.
Our hot cross buns are made from a yeast-based sweet roll dough with added spices, currants, and candied citron pieces. The cross, signifying a crucifix, is made from vanilla icing.
What are your family’s traditions? We’d love to hear in the comments below.
Whatever they are, we hope it involves delicious food and the warmth of loved ones.
The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, Edited by Andrew F. Smith
Sweet Invention, A History of Dessert, by Michael Krondl
Rare Bits, Unusual Origins of Popular Recipes, by Patricia Bunning Stevens
Spring is knocking on our door in the Santa Ynez Valley. The lilacs are blooming, the roses are budding, and gangly grape vines are bursting with budbreak in acre upon acre of vineyards. Following a week of much needed rain, our charred hills are finally turning a bright verdant green.
In the spirit of following nature’s signals of renewal, we’ve decided to update our Spring Gingerbread House. The deep brown roof that’s so warm and comforting in the dead of winter, is not particularly bursting with the enthusiasm of spring. So we’ve swapped it out for a bright and cheery yellow roof made from sturdy short-dough. It’s seated in a bed of light green royal icing ‘grass’, then trimmed with your choice of pink, green, yellow, or blue royal icing.
Nature’s baby creatures welcome you at both the front and back door, and colorful edible flowers and bulbs are blooming in the garden. The roofline is adorned with eggs, with side featuring the hand-iced names of family or friends. We’ll also hand-inscribe a greeting for you such as, “Happy Easter”, “Happy Spring”, or “Welcome Friends.”
Just as with our Gingerbread Houses for Christmas and Hanukkah, our Spring Gingerbread Houses make unique holiday gifts for Easter – order them online and we’ll ship them to your door or to family and friends across the country.
We also have beautifully decorated egg-shaped Easter cookies, abundant Easter baskets, and our steadfast offerings of pastries (including hot cross buns) that are perfect for Easter brunches and breakfasts.
We hope your spring is filled with new exciting new adventures for you and your family, and trust that your Easter or Passover holidays are filled with the pleasure of family and friends.
(PS – apologies to our friends on the East Coast who are still enduring winter weather – sending you warm thoughts!)
Away with the joint-stools, remove the court-cupboard, look to the plate. Good thou, save me a piece of marchpane, and, as thou loves me…
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 5
The origin of Kransekage and/or marzipan for that matter, is challenging to hunt down. Most sources attribute the origin of marzipan (almond paste) to either the Persians or the Spaniards, but the Germans and the Italians also lay claim to its creation.
Even the etymology of the word marzipan is opaque. The pan portion likely refers to bread, but the marzi / march/ marza portion is a source of considerable debate. It’s attributed to such disparate origins as March (as in March bread), to Marcus (the patron saint of an Italian town), to Marcip (the last name of a German chef), to Marz (meaning border or boundary in Persia).
Whatever the case, we do know that the Danish people love kransekage, which translates to wreath cake or doughnut cake. Evidently, it was originally called overflødighedshorn (try saying that three times fast), which translates to horn of plenty or cornucopia. It was essentially like today’s kransekage wedding cakes, but it laid on its side, with chocolates and other yummy treats spilling out of it. Kransekage wedding cakes today are formed by stacking ring upon ring of this marzipan (or marchpane) based delicacy atop each other.
Kransekage is made from marzipan, which is created from ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites (so it’s gluten free). We form it into rings, which are then baked. The result is an outer crust that is hard to the touch, but soft to the bite. Inside is a delicious soft almondy paste. The final touch is decorating the baked marzipan with a royal icing drizzle. Because the rings are sturdy, they’re relatively easy to stack into a cake tower, which is often adorned with Danish (and sometimes American) flags.
People often ask us for kransekage pieces or cookies. We offer them by the half-dozen or dozen so that you can get your marzipan fix without the fanfare of a whole kransekage cake…or if you’re up for a game of edible Jenga! They’re also a great means for augmenting the traditional cake if your wedding party or New Year’s Party list has grown.
What about you; are you a marzipan fan?
We certainly think so.
Our little Santa Ynez Valley has become either home, training ground, or both to some serious cyclists. In addition to being the periodic stage host to the Amgen Tour of California, we’ve had the likes of Lance Armstrong, Tejay Van Garderen, and Taylor Phinney grind up our hills and breeze down our slopes. Luxury cycling tour companies like Trek Travel conduct multiple excursions here every year, as does former Olympian Chris Carmichael with his training camps. And it’s a pretty serious past time for many valley residents as well.
So we are a proud sponsor of this year’s SCOR Solvang Century, Metric, and 1/2 Century. SCOR stands for Specialized Coronary Outpatient Rehabilitation. The organization donates to three children’s congenital heart disease summer camps designed to give children a medically supervised camping experience that they would not normally have access to due to the severity of their illness and multiple heart surgeries.
Some weekend highlights:
Friday, March 7
- Coffee, sandwiches, and goodies will be available during check-in
- Open ’til 10:00 pm at our 438 Alisal Road location.
- Enjoy 10% off your in-store and online purchases – just show us your virtual goodie bag coupon code*
- Cookies and snacks available at the SAG stops
- Open ’til 8:00 pm at our 438 Alisal Road location.
- Enjoy 10% off your in-store and online purchases – just show us your virtual goodie bag coupon code*
Sunday, March 9
- Come see us at our 438 Alisal Road location and take advantage of that 10% off (just show us your virtual goodie bag coupon code)! Take some yummy pastries and cookies home for the rest of the family…or those nice folks who helped you train for the big day!
* – 10% off coupon not valid on gingerbread houses, specialty cakes, or wedding cakes.
Valentine’s Day is a treasured holiday at The Solvang Bakery – it makes us take pause and reflect on how fortunate we are to be in sustained relationships. Susan and Paul have been married for 49 years and Melissa and Billy have been married for 20 years. We thought we’d poke around to better understand the history of this paramour’s holiday.
It seems the origins of Valentine’s Day are nearly as inconclusive as who shot Kennedy. There appears to have been several St. Valentines…at least one of them was allegedly beheaded on February 14 in the north of Rome. He may have been a priest who secretly presided over wedding ceremonies for soldiers so that they wouldn’t have to go to war…thereby inviting the wrath of Emperor Claudius. Or he may have been a priest who helped Christians escape prison in Pagan Rome. Falling in love with his jailor’s daughter, he signed a note to her, ‘From your Valentine.’
Valentine’s cards have been around for centuries. The first written valentine on record was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, whilst he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415.
Modern American Valentine’s cards were the brainchild of Esther A. Howland, a Mount Holyoke College graduate, who in the late 1840’s whipped up a dozen sample cards made with imported lace and paper from England. Thinking she might get $200 worth of orders, she received an astounding $5,000. Eventually, she grossed $100,000 year and is now known as the Mother of the American Valentine…and interestingly, Esther never married…she does look rather stern.
One thing we do know for sure is that long-term marriages take care and feeding. Did we say feeding?
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but we’re pretty sure that tasty morsels will make a child’s heart glow as well.
As we looked into the origins of Valentine’s Day and the giving of Valentine’s, we came across a number of phrases associated with love and lovers. Perhaps one of the most commonly misused phrases at this time of year is sweets for the sweet. It’s a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet – the Queen is placing funeral flowers (the sweets) on the grave of Hamlet’s now deceased lover, Ophelia (the sweet). The whole scene is rather disturbing for a number of reasons…and it certainly has nothing to do with a lover handing a delicious treat to his betrothed!
So, in sharp contrast to Shakespeare, our Valentine’s Day offerings are truly edible sweets that someone whom you find sweet will swoon over. You’ll find our edible Valentine’s gifts on our Valentine’s Holiday page at a variety of price points.
We’ve updated our Valentine’s Gingerbread Love Shack to include options for gingerbread sweethearts or gumball/candy sweethearts. We also thought the Gingerbread Man could use a girlfriend…the bakery gets lonely at night…so we have a pair of sweethearts that will keep your own paramours and little sweeties content over the three-day weekend.
Our Valentine’s Gingerbread Love Shack Kit will bring some lovable moments with your children…or between a boyfriend and girlfriend. It might even be fun to hide a ring in one of the candy containers…just sayin’.
However you decide to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and whatever its authentic origins, make sure you let those you love know you love them!