My Story

I've always loved being in the kitchen. Isn't that the gathering place at parties and get togethers! That's where the action is, where delicious smells come from, and where I go to create some really great stuff! My Grandma was my inspiration. She lived her life in Baltimore and she was ALWAYS in the kitchen (or down at the VFW for a crab feast and beer) but Alice created so many wonderful meals for our family. I remember there was always soup before the meal, usually a steaming bowl of crab soup with a rich tomato broth and lots of vegetables. Her crab cakes were incredible, a recipe I use today, and undeniably the best. I would challenge ANY other crab cake recipe to match my Grandma Alice's. The first meal I made for my mom was macaroni and cheese from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook back when I was about 7 years old. I was very proud of it, and it was really good..a creamy white sauce combined with good old cheddar and shells sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs..yum. So off I went through life, cooking and baking, and came to realize that baking was the shizzy. I loved finding a great recipe and making it even better. Funny my kids didn't like sweets much, so I showered friends and neighbors with treats. Later down the road, when some real decisions needed to be made, I decided to attend the baking and pastry arts program at The California Culinary Academy. I was 47 years old and had no idea what I was in for (another blog). So I mastered the art of baking thanks to a dedicated and talented team of instructors. I did a gig in the basement of well known pastry kitchens and had a wonderful time working for a small caterer cooking with a great bunch of gals. But here I am now, still cooking, still baking and loving it, in my own kitchen where I can share my love of this sport with the world. I take all my own photos (another passion) and I hope you will have patience and stay with me in this newest adventure. So thank you Grandma Alice for all those delicious memories, stories and inspiration. Stay tuned..

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bakery of Dreams

Aria fig walnut scone

For many years, I've had a vision of owning a little bakery in a small town.  I never imagined anything fussy or too big, but a place where the locals would drop in and have a chat, a coffee and a tasty scone, muffin or toasted sourdough with jam and butter. My little bakery's interior would be rustic, a couple old wood tables and chairs, and high something old, familiar and friendly.  Along with my photographs, I'd have photos of family spread out around me, images that remind me of the road we've all traveled together.  Right out front there'd be an old, weathered bench...the kind that has been worn smooth by time.  I'd serve up a hearty and delicious soup of the day, (I'm well known for my belly warming soups) and there it would sit, a big simmering pot of veggies, stock and herbs, the aroma of all good things spreading the news of lunch time soon to come. There would be a daily bread (one of my favorite sections in cooking school) along with the standard sourdoughs and levain's.  I've got all these images here in my memory bank, in fact, I've drawn a picture of my bakery, and most importantly, there I am standing there in front of my little place...smiling.

In my travels, I have found that bakery in Murphys, Ca.  Aria by far is my favorite artisan style bakery (French bakery~ Miette in San Francisco is tops).  This bakery/cafe is amazingly similar to "My Bakery"... a sketch I drew five years ago.  Undoubtedly one of the reasons I was drawn to this gem and why I love this bakery dearly.  Besides that, they have really delicious baked goods, breads and desserts (they also serve up tasty sandwiches, salads and soups).

Jim and I always stop here before we head up the hill to our cabin.  For a girl, who at 5 years old, stood and cried when asked what kind of ice cream she wanted at 31 flavors, ( Jim often has to come check on me to see what's taking me so long to get our goods),  I tend to look over each offering, appreciating what goes in to each lovely treat. Crafted with care, knowledge and quality ingredients, the gals at Aria have created a well~loved bakery that has locals and visitors coming back again and again. 

On our last stop at Aria, I picked up a bear claw for Jim (I did sneak a bite), and I chose a fig and walnut scone.  Both finger lickin' good.  The scone was so good, full of figs and walnuts, texture and flavor,  it inspired me to make up a batch at home.  Once again, using ingredients I had at hand, I settled on pear and walnut, and put together a recipe that is reminiscent of a traditional English cream scone.  It's a winner (Jim told me so)...tender, soft and delicately fragranced by the pear, which also provides sweetness.  The walnuts add crunch, texture and flavor to this perfect afternoon accompaniment to a lovely cup a' tea.  Cheers!

Pear Walnut Cream Scones

  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons european style butter, cut in 1 inch chunks, very cold
  • 2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • handful toasted walnuts, chopped 
  • 1 pear, large dice
  • egg wash
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment.  I use my Kitchenaide to mix the first 4 ingredients, but go ahead and use what ever you have...pastry cutter, knives or food processor.  Add the butter and mix slowly until the butter's the size of peas.  Mix the eggs, cream and vanilla together and add to the flour/butter mix.  Slowly mix until just blended.  At this point, add the walnuts, mix in, then gently fold in the pears.  The mixture will be slightly wet and lumpy.  Pour it all out onto a well floured board, counter or marble.  Keep moving the dough so it doesn't stick.  Pat or roll it into a 1 inch thick oval.  Cut 3 inch rounds with a cutter or knife and place on baking sheet.  Brush with egg wash (egg and a bit of water) and sprinkle generously with sugar.  Bake for 15~20 min. until the tops are browned and scones have risen.  Sprinkle them with more sugar and let them sit for 10 minutes or so before devouring. Makes about 6 scones.  These freeze well~ prepare up until egg wash and sugar, pop them in the freezer, then when you're ready to bake, pull them out, give them an egg wash and sugar, and bake 20~25 min or until brown.


Aria Bakery on Urbanspoon


  1. This sounds sooooo great. Thanks for the recipe. I have a white fig tree and do nothing with them. You have such great photos and recipes. Are you hanging out in the kitchen more now that the weather is changing?

  2. Hi,

    I noticed you put an Urbanspoon "spoonback" (spoon icon) on your blog. Thank you for linking to us!

    However, in order for the spoonback system to work properly and automatically detect your reviews, you need to put the spoonback for the specific restaurant only in the blog post about that restaurant. You do have a spoonback in the blog post, but you also have one in the navigation column on the right-hand side of your blog.

    So if you could please remove the spoonback from the navigation column, then we will be able to get your post linked on Urbanspoon. If you have any questions, please let me know.


    greg @ urbanspoon dot com

  3. Here is the scone recipe!!!
    This looks very dangerous for me.
    But will make it for someone in near future.
    You don't need to dig it up, I got it.
    I miss your cooking blogging...