Infusing a taste of spring into your baking with a few innovative discoveries I made in San Francisco.
By Jane Dummer
Spring is a time to refresh, renew and rejuvenate. I love celebrating my birthday at the end of March with a fresh, light, moist lemon poppy seed cake. It is one of my favourites to indulge and kick-off the springtime baking season.
From hot cross buns and challah bread to light sponge cakes and delicious ingredients like rhubarb, strawberries and carrots, I like to keep spring eating simple with wholesome ingredients and fresh flavours. Let’s say hello to spring with baking ideas from two companies I discovered when I attended January’s Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.
At the show, I met Karin Campion, president and founder of Sonoma Syrup Co. Handcrafted in small batches, these simple syrups and extracts reflect the flavours of the California region and work very well with baking. Originally, Karin created the syrups to provide a “healthy” soda alternative for her children. Karin quickly realized her simple syrups and candied citrus peels were perfect for baking.
Campion recommends using their Meyer lemon simple syrup for infusing a burst of citrus into a lemon almond torte or lemon bars for a perfect springtime treat. If gluten-free is desired, Campion suggests replacing all the flour in the torte with almond flour. “The white ginger simple syrup adds a refreshing, yet spicy note to carrot cake and the lavender syrup is soft and floral which blends well with recipes that include blood oranges. Our mint infused syrup enhances seasonal fruits including strawberries and rhubarb for a simple compote or light crumble.”
Champion’s top recommendation for small artisan bakeries getting started using syrups and extracts is their Vanilla Bean Extract Crush. “It’s a blend of Tahitian and Madagascar premium vanilla beans and the crushed seeds of the vanilla bean. This extract is good for many spring desserts as you can easily add it to icing, whipped cream, a lemon or lavender crème brûlée, vanilla bean almond torte, vanilla bean ice cream, and strawberry sorbet. You achieve the vanilla flecks in your baked goods without having to scrape the vanilla bean, therefore saving time and labour while creating unique signature baked goods that are sensational and unrivaled.”
During my culinary adventure in San Francisco, I was invited to a delicious interactive event hosted by artisan oil company La Tourangelle. La Tourangelle is one of the few remaining oil mills in Saumur, France and has had a location in Woodland, Calif., since 2002. It is a family-owned company whose mastery of oil productions is the fruit of passion, integrity and pride.
President and CEO Matthieu Kohlmeyer says, “The deep flavour of La Tourangelle’s artisan oils add a nice complexity to baking. These artisan oils will also keep your baked goods moist and light. Naturally extracted from roasted nuts, both walnut and almond oil add simple sophistication with a rich, nutty flavour that is retained throughout the baking process. The complex flavour and character of each oil only becomes more pronounced after baking, and if anything, draws out the other flavours when paired in the right combination.”
Kohlmeyer gives his own personal recommendations: “I like to use our signature walnut oil when making a traditional carrot cake and find that it deepens the flavour of the carrots with its nutty notes. Our delicious plum torte recipe can be easily adapted to feature spring fruits like rhubarb or strawberries. The light texture of the torte is perfect for springtime and the tartness of the rhubarb really brings out the sweetness of our almond oil.”
If you desire dairy-free and vegan, Kohlmeyer says La Tourangelle has options. “Our AvoCoco Oil — a rich blend of avocado and coconut oils — is a perfect option for bakers who are looking for dairy-free and vegan alternatives. It makes an ideal one-to-one substitution for butter baking, keeping your spring recipes light and moist.” Also, the artisan oils are versatile and can be used as a flavourful drizzle over crumbles, crisps and tarts.
Whether you want to add a seasonal cake or flavourful squares to your repertoire, these simple syrups and oils are ideal for baking refreshing springtime treats.
Happy spring baking!
Jane Dummer, RD, known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant, collaborates and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America.