I promise not to turn this into the dreaded slide show of my winter vacation, but the bakery is closed for a week and I am in San Jose, California visiting Mom & Dad, plus the extended family (2 brothers, a sister-in-law, three nephews). California is so different from Alabama. Within 5 minutes of my parents' house there is a Whole Foods, Cosentino's and a Trader Joe's. Heck, even the regular grocery stores carry stuff you'd never see in Alabama. They all have nice in-store bakeries and I got some great ideas, like putting a streusel topping on our cinnamon bread.
I was really on the prowl for sugar substitutes and ideas for possible sugar-free or low-sugar items we can carry in the bakery. Just a few. I picked up three sugar substitutes, two sugar alcohols: Erythritol and Xylitol, and Splenda Brown Sugar Blend. Besides doing some on-line research, I'm going to spend part of this afternoon in my brother and sister-in-laws newly renovated kitchen. They all love to cook, and their big spluge was a steam-injection oven for bread (plus a regular one for day-to-day stuff). They have a million cookbooks and I'm sure we'll come up with something.
I also found some really cool flaked coconut. I'm thinking 4-inch coconut cakes for two. It's something Martha Stewart would use and I remember seeing a large stacked wedding cake covered with coconut shavings in one of her books. Or maybe banana chips dipped in dark chocolate with coconut on top. We'll put these in the category of "moderation" instead of fat free or healthy.
Then we went to Santa Cruz. We were on our way to dinner at my parents' favorite restaurant in Capitola, Shadowbrook, but made a stop on the way at Donnelly Chocolates, makers of fine handmade French and Belgian couvertures in Santa Cruz since 1988. The use mostly Valhrona Chocolates and temper on a marble table. No shortcut tempering machine for these two brothers. One was an engineer, the other a former stockbroker (he said his mother hasn't called him a SOB in years...). I bought some truffles to take back to the shop and try. Flavors included Tahitian vanilla, cardamom, chai, fresh ginger, rose, chipolte, rum raisin, tequila, framboise, limoncello. I spent $40, which got me about 15-20 pieces. Purely research, I assure you.
It was a long day, but enjoyable. Nice way to end the year.