Saturday, January 2, 2016

Happy New Year from the bakery! Villa Fortuna is on the bookshelves but we still have many desserts on the bakery shelves! Of course we won't close because my addictive sweet tooth cares very little for New Year's resolutions and friends love to sit down with a strong cup of coffee and sweet.   

This little recipe featured in the novel, comes from my mother's side of the family.  It is TO DIE for.  It's sort of like creamy, almond ice cream - but only better, and if I can make it, anyone can. It's that easy. 

I just finished the last one, but unfortunately DH and I fought over it and I had to split it with him.
3 egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cup heavy cream
¾ tsp. vanilla
¼ cup blanched almonds
1 ¾ tsp. almond extract
6 maraschino cherries

Let egg whites stand at room temperature for one hour. Mix ¾ cups sugar with ¼ cup of water, bring to boil. Continue boiling to thick syrup consistency.
Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form. Pour hot syrup in thin stream into egg whites as you continue to beat until very stiff. Cover and refrigerate for half hour. (Even if it doesn't stiffen, continue beating the recipe will still come out great.)

Toast blanched almonds then chop fine. Place in small bowl and add 1½ tsp. almond extract. Whip cream with vanilla and remaining ½ tsp. almond extract until stiff. Fold into egg white mixture. Spoon into aluminum foil cups, top with almonds and ½ cherry on top. Cover and freeze. 

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fort Knox Shipping

Baker, Debbie, tells us about her baking buddies, impressive Fort Knox packing job!  Pearls of wisdom if you intend on shipping baked goods over the holidays. Thank you Debbie and Gail!

I came home after working 11 hours to a treat. Gail's Biscotti had arrived.

She warned me that it would be packed tightly. She reused biodegradable packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and saran wrap.
Gail warned me that presentation isn't her strong-suit, but I disagree. Look at the beautiful Italian patterned tea towel she wrapped it in!

Gail also enclosed a beautiful card with a note and the recipes enclosed.

​Gail warned me that it was wrapped very well that her saran wrap box was giving her 'the eye'.  

​At one point I became a tad impatient...
​The biggest concern was whether the biscotti would arrive in one piece and so Gail packed them very diligently. They had to travel from California to New York. 

​They looked delicious, but I waited until this morning to finish unwrapping and taste them.

​These are in one piece (beautiful packing job, Gail) and absolutely delicious!

Sunday, November 29, 2015


One of our bakers shared with Villa Fortuna Bakery the stories behind the recipes she chose for her buddies, Colleen and Debbie.  Rich in history and tradition and filled with her love, Gail seemed to have stepped from the pages of Villa Fortuna herself.  Baking for the book's heroine, Lizzy, is part of her upbringing. With her hands she finds solace and subconscious connection to the past, and its traditions, she has long denied.  But not for Gail! Thank you sweet girl!

Crumb Cake = for Colleen

Mitzi was my Grandmother. She was known in the family as a great baker, but by the time I was old enough to pay attention, she had stopped baking. She was an excellent cook and that is how I knew her and only as a baker through family stories (including hers). I didn't really get into baking until late high school and early college - what we did not know at the time was also near the end of her lifetime. My Mom often tells me that I must have inherited my baking skills from her because I didn't get them from my Mom. This project has been great because it brought a new recipe of my Grandmother's to my attention. My co-workers and kiddos are already asking for it again, so that is a good sign, right?

Mandel bread/Biscotti = for Debbie

I signed up for two partners thinking “No problem, I’ll just make two of the same thing.” Then in my lovely messages with Debbie, I learned that her son has an anaphylaxis reaction to milk protein. I looked at all of the recipes that I was going to do and they all had either sour cream or buttermilk. She was super sweet and said that if I needed to do that, it would be fine. But the public health worker and allergy girl in me completely vetoed her gracious gesture and the stubborn headstrong girl in me decided that this was a sign that each partner deserved her own recipe.

This is a recipe that I’ve been trying to get for well over 15 years. Cele and my Mom grew up together and have been friends since Junior High and also moved out together on their own right after High School.

Mandel bread and biscotti are the same thing. One is the Jewish name and the other is the Italian/Italian-American name. Cele is Jewish like my family and married to an Italian-American man, so the recipe is perfect for her. Cele is famous for her mandel bread/biscotti. Every year, she makes around 100 batches…if not more. She is starting to slow down now, but she still makes it frequently.

She gave me the “recipe” in 2000 after I begged her for it many times. I say “recipe” because it was a total bait-and-switch. I’d never made anything completely inedible until I tried that “recipe.” I still get nightmares about it. I vowed then that I would never make mandel bread until I could make Cele’s. Fifteen years later, my Mom wheedled it out of her and when I saw that it was milk-protein free and looked through it to see that it looked plausible, I knew that I had to make it for Debbie and her family.

Mine is not quite as good as Cele’s, but it is definitely the right recipe. I’ll have to make it often in order to figure out if there are any baker’s tricks that aren’t in the recipe. It’s still very good, though.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dancing & Baking Toward December!

Command Central in the Gardiner Kitchen

Music Mom & I baked to:

Getting Ready to Ship to Cat's Peeps

Friday, November 20, 2015

Shipping Baked Goods

I found a great blog: Divas Can Cook.  This is an excellent article they posted in 2010 that may be of assistance this holiday season and during our bake swap. 

Mailing Baked Goods: Tips For A Smooth Delivery

“Mailing baked goods doesn’t have to be complicated”

Mailing baked goods can be a heart warming gift, provided they are shipped promptly and correctly. Nobody wants to receive stale, melted chocolate chips cookies or  a box of dry crumbs that should have been a pound cake.  Here are a few tips and tricks for mailing  baked goods to ensure they arrive fresh and intact!
Mailing Baked Goods: What Baked Goods Ships The Best:
Although you may desire to send fancy glazed or frosted goodies, save yourself the risk and just say no, or at least say no to shipping them in the warmer months. (If your creations just must have frosting, try shipping it in a separate container so that the recipient can add the frosting when it arrives.) Most frosting need to be kept cool to prevent melting or becoming sticky. Frosting and glazes can also make cakes or cookies soggy while in transit if not kept at adequate temperature. Below are a few baked good that ships wonderfully without such a high risk of being ruin. When mailing baked goods,  try to focus on items that are hearty and sturdy as opposed to ones that are extremely delicate and complex.
When To Bake & Ship:
Bake and ship your goodies the same day that you make them. Allow them to cool completely before packaging. When mailing baked goods, Priority Mail is usually sufficient. Priority mails generally takes 2-3 days if mailed in the U.S. Use next day delivery for optimum freshness. Although this delivery option will be more expensive it can give you piece of mind of knowing that your baked goods will arrive tasting fresh.
How To Package Baked Goods For Shipping
Always pack your goodies in airtight containers or airtight bags. When packing your baked goods never pack several types of treats in the same container. Every type of cookie, cake, or candy should be packed with it’s own kind and wrapped individually. For example, if you are packing pound cake, oatmeal cookies, and brownies. You will need to wrap each slice of pound cake individually and place into a sturdy container that will consist of only pound cake . Do the same for each oatmeal cookie and brownies.  Do not package soft cookies with crisp cookies.
  • Wrapping cookies- Cookies can be placed back to back and wrapped securely in plastic wrap. Place a piece of wax paper in between the cookies to prevent sticking. Place each cookie pair in a separate plastic bag.  Nestle the cookies securely in a container, ensuring they can not move around if shook. If the cookies are decorated wrap them individually.
  • Wrapping bars and candy- Bars and candy are best shipped in containers, used wax paper to separate the layers. A decorative tin container works well and will keep them protected.
  • Wrapping quick breads and cake- Wrap each slice in plastic wrap and place into a container. Make sure that they can not shift around if moved.
Completely cushion the bottom, sides and top of the box with bubble wrap, newspaper or packing peanuts. Fill in any gaps between the containers as well. Everything should be pack tightly and securely. You should not be able to hear or feel the items shifting around in the box when you shake it.

When Mailing Baked Goods Make Sure That:

  1. The package is clearly marked that it is “PERISHABLE.  Normally your courier will ask if your package contains perishable goods and place a sticker on it if it does.
  2. Make sure that the recipient knows that you are sending perishable goods and that they will be home to accept the delivery.
  3. Double check that the recipient’s address and your address is written correctly and is affixed securely to the package. The package should be taped very securely as well.

Mailing Baked Goods & Enhancing The Presentation:

Just because food gifts have to be carefully packaged doesn’t mean they can’t look festive.
  • Try placing your wrapped and packaged baked goods in a decorative tins, themed gift bags or wrapping in shimmering cellophane.  Use curling ribbon and stickers to enhance the packing bags and containers
  • A baking cookbook can make a great gift to compliment a box full of goodies or even just attaching a recipe card to each item so that the recipient can make them themselves.
  • Placing fun, themed stickers all over the outside of the box is sure to bring a smile on the recipients face before they even open the package.
Wanna give a dose of homemade comfort to the ones you love from afar? It could be as easy as mailing baked goods.
Visit their site for more excellent ideas and recipes. Read More:

Domino Sugar also has some ideas here: Here

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Our Bakers

VF's buddy duo baking teams!

- Zoe & Claudine

- Cat & Elizabeth

- Gail & Colleen

- Joy & Pamela

- Debbie & Gail

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Counting Down to Bake Swap

Cat Says: Benvenute Sweet Friends!

If you found your way here, you're one of two things: excited to get wrists deep in flour or just plain curious - and hungry!

Keeping with author, Cat Gardiner's tradition of "blogging with books," she's created a special treat for her readers. Inspired by dear friends on Facebook and her own character, Elizabeth Clemente Fairchild in the upcoming novel Villa Fortuna, a bake swap is rising!

Here's how it will work:
  • Most important: Security for our swapping participants. Participants must and I repeat must, be either a friend of Cat's or Vanity & Pride Press Facebook or P&P Goodreads Groups. Follower of her author blog or a member of Or an established (known) member of the JAFF community.
  • Sign up for participation - Name, Country or USA State of Residence and email address. Provide to Cat any photo you would like to use to represent yourself (true, avatar, comic, etc.) and a little note about you and why you love to bake.
  • You will be matched with another participant close in proximity, provided an email address to contact your baking buddy, introduce yourself, talk JAFF or whatever, and exchange addresses.
  • Bake your favorite, preferably something from your country that could be shipped easily to your baking buddy with recipe.
  • Don't forget to take a snapshot of your finished delectable sweet and send it to Cat with the recipe.  It will be posted here for all our readers to experiment with and enjoy.
  • Check back to your post because you never know who has questions about the recipe, any tricks to make it as yummy as it looks.
  • And most importantly, stop by your baking buddy's recipe post and send them your love and gratitude for adding some sweetness into your life!
  • If you don't want to swap, that's okay, too.  Just email me your name, country of recipe's origin, and with the recipe a piccie of your finished dolcini.
  • But what if you DO want to swap and can't bake for beans? Let me know and I'll match you with someone of the same mind. You can send specialty store bought. :) 
  • And that's it.  Sound fun?  Want to participate? Entries will be taken the first and second weeks of November so that that the bake off can commence and wrap up by Villa Fortuna's book launch on December 1st!


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