Friday, September 1, 2017

Bear Claw Hunt #4: Beckmann's Bakery and the Farmers' Market

Beckmann's Bakery - visited August 12, 2017

The 4th recommendation from my Next Door post asking where I can find bear claws was for Beckmann’s Bakery. Someone mentioned they have a booth at the farmers’ market which was enough for me to go searching for the closest one where they might be. Fortunately, there was one only several miles from me and even more fortunately, that particular farmers’ market operated on Saturdays rather than Sundays. It’s more difficult for me to go on Sundays since I have church in the morning and by the time I can get to a farmers market in the afternoon, a lot of the good stuff is gone.
I’m a believer in supporting farmers’ markets whenever possible. They’re typically made up of small business owners, the produce is often far superior to what you can get at the large chain grocery stores and I’d rather my consumer dollars stay in my local community as much as possible. One of my friends once commented how expensive things are at her local farmers’ market and the prices put them out of her budget. Everyone’s circumstances are different and how we choose to spend our dollars is up to each individual; no judgment here. I feel fortunate that I’m only buying for me so I have the luxury of buying in small enough quantities that I can pay a little more for quality produce without breaking the bank. And, let’s be honest, I’m not enough of a veggie eater to really go crazy with all that fresh produce.

My local farmers’ market was close enough at just over 3 miles away that I set off on foot early on a Saturday morning to make the trek. I like getting to farmers’ markets right when they open so you can pick and choose from their best offerings. Walking there also guaranteed I wouldn’t go wild since I could only buy enough that would fit into my backpack and I could schlep it home, pack-mule style. The farmers’ market opened at 9 am and I arrived there a few minutes after it opened.
Most of the vendors were already set up and there weren’t too many people there yet. Other than the bear claw, I didn’t have a pre-set list of what I was going to buy. I had been hoping to buy Japanese sweet potatoes since they’re almost in season and I was still focused on using my new spiralizer but the vendors I talked to who were selling potatoes didn’t have any.

But in poking around at the various stalls, I did score ears of fresh corn (I boiled them later and they were amazing, so much better than the almost tasteless ones I last bought at the grocery store), raw peanuts for boiling (I love me some boiled peanuts), cilantro (needed for a recipe, stay tuned for future post), an onion and a bunch of green onions. Plus a few pounds of the sweetest green grapes I’ve eaten in months.

But my go-to purchase at any farmers’ market is always kettle corn. I know, I should be going there for the freshest produce ever but c’mon, it’s kettle corn. The life-changing product that made me permanently give up caramel corn as being too sweet and had me switching my movie-watching allegiance to the theater chains that served it (Century) instead of just regular popcorn (AMC). Yes, I decide where I’m going to watch a movie based on, not the movie showtimes, not the location, but which theater sells kettle corn.
It was still early and not many people (or none of them) were lined up at the stall for a 9 am kettle corn fix. The kettle corn guy was just getting started with popping the kernels and mixing that sweet-salty combination I love but they did have enough made for a small bag which his tween-aged son handed me when I came around. Younger children were playing nearby to amuse themselves while their dad and big brother worked the stand (love that family aspect of farmers’ markets). The bag was still warm from the kernels but I managed to resist diving in then and there. Don’t ask me how.

I was enjoying checking out all the different stalls that I almost forgot that I came for a bear claw. Almost but not quite. I found the Beckmann’s Bakery stall easily since it was well stocked with baked goods near one end of the market. The big banner proclaiming their name was also pretty pointed. There was a tempting array of bread loaves and other pastries laid out on the tables. I had to remind myself I only had a backpack that I had to truck more than 3 miles home strapped to my back and it was already full of ears of corn, peanuts, grapes, an onion, cilantro, green onions and kettle corn. Good thing I couldn’t find Japanese sweet potatoes after all or I might not have been able to fit everything in.

I perused all the baked goods on offer but the closest things I saw that might’ve been bear claws didn’t quite look like bear claws so I had to ask the guy if that’s what they were. He confirmed so I bought one. If you look at the picture, you might see why I was confused. It looks like a bear claw pressed back to back. Or as my coworker Eileen later called it when I showed her the pictures, it was “a hoof instead of a claw”. The top was so covered in sliced almonds and powdered sugar that I had to turn it over to confirm the cutouts that marked the “claws”.

BUT, I will give Beckmann’s major points that it really was a honest-to-goodness bear claw of my expectations. Meaning brioche dough, meaning almond paste filling, not brown sugar filling – eureka, I finally found a real bear claw. In terms of flavor, the pastry itself wasn’t as flaky as the one from Copenhagen Crown Bakery and I would’ve preferred glaze instead of the messiness of powdered sugar (there is no eating anything covered in powdered sugar with any semblance of neatness) but overall it was a good bear claw. I’m not a big fan of almond paste which is why bear claws are not my pastry of choice. But still, I was just happy to find a “real” bear claw. Kudos to Beckmann’s Bakery for sticking to the traditional rendition of a bear claw, albeit in hoof form than claw form. 4th attempt was the charm.

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