Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Baked in the USA

Last night, my blog passed a milestone.  After 4 years, 2 months and 6 days, I finally hit and passed half a million page views.  If you're reading this post or have read any of the others in the past, THANK YOU for helping me get to this point. I literally couldn't have done it without you, especially since I don't have blogger track my own page views so I can't add to the count, lol.  I know that might be paltry compared to more popular blogs but I prefer to compare myself to myself and it's pretty exciting to me, probably because this is something I only work on during nights and weekends, the odd vacation day and afternoon off here and there.  Even if it was 4+ years in the making, I made it. Although I go back and read some of my old posts and I cringe now and then at how inexperienced I was at blogging then but hopefully I've made some improvements since the beginning.

To commemorate the milestone, here's a slightly different post than I normally write. It's that time of year again with lots of holiday baking on the horizon so I wanted to squeeze another gift-giving for bakers type of post but with a made in the USA bent.

In the past, I've written up what to get for bakers on your holiday gift giving list, preparing baking gifts, sending care packages for the holidays, tips on marathon baking sessions, and hosting a dessert party.  This year's theme is Baked in the USA.  (Advance warning that this post is very US-centric.) I've been more conscious about supporting my local businesses, particularly the small business owners, and buying made in the USA products. I don't want to get political about it, just that I believe in supporting my local area and my home country as much as possible.  My bedroom set and my home office furniture are made by a furniture maker in Oregon; the daybed in my guest room, my dining set and my bookshelves are from various furniture makers (makers, not factories) in North Carolina.  I've even cut back drastically on my beloved Hallmark ornament collection, partly because they're made in China and, in recent years, not made very well in China either. Not everything I buy is made in the USA, largely because sometimes it simply isn't made here and there's no other alternative but I do what I can to stay local. Readers in other parts of the world probably feel the same way about supporting their country. 

With that stay-local mindset, my gift giving has leaned towards baked goods and service-oriented gifts like gift certificates to the local nail salon for a mani-pedi or restaurant gift cards, preferably to non-national-chain restaurants. Other similar-minded friends and acquaintances have also given me good ideas about gifts like auto-detailing from a local auto shop, pet care services from local pet care providers, fresh fruit arrangements, perfumed soaps and lotions made in the USA, and so on.  For more common types of gifts, if you've ever shopped at a typical department store like a Target, Kohls, K-Mart, Sears, JC Penney, and Wal-mart, you know how hard it is to find anything made in the USA (it's virtually impossible if you want to buy electronics). But here are some recent finds I wanted to share for any bakers on your gift list, mostly from amazon so you can also avoid shopping in overcrowded malls this holiday season:

Baking pans
I needed a new 9 x 13 pan recently and found this USA pan from amazon. It's made in Pittsburgh, PA and is pretty good quality.  I've been using it for over a month and it works just as well as my more expensive, made-in-China Calphalon pan. USA pans come in a variety of shapes and sizes so as I replenish my bakeware, I'm definitely buying their products from now on. King Arthur Flour also sells a line of R.A.F. pans that are made in the USA which look remarkably similar to the USA pans so I don't know if they're from the same company and just a different brand.
9 x 13 baking pan from USA pans

Now if you're in the US, you'd think most ingredients are local or US-made anyway and many of them are but not all of them.  My beloved Pernigotti cocoa is made in Italy and my Costco Kirkland brand parchment paper is made in France. But I did discover a new brand of vanilla extract I can wholeheartedly recommend and that's J.R. Watkins Vanilla Extract whose company headquarters are in Minnesota. One whiff of their extract and you're immediately seduced by vanilla goodness.

Nielsen-Massey is also another good choice for vanilla extract and they're headquartered in Waukegan, Illinois.
Buttermilk powder - I finally got tired of rushing to use up buttermilk every time I bought a pint or throwing out unused buttermilk when the expiration date arrived so I switched to using buttermilk powder. I found this one from Hoosier Hill Farms, headquartered in Indiana. For every cup of buttermilk you need, you add 4 tablespoons of buttermilk powder to 1 cup of water.  It's not as thick or creamy as fresh buttermilk but I haven't found any difference in the final output of whatever I bake it in.

Not pictured but dairy products are also easy to find from local farms. While giving milk or heavy cream is a too-weird gift, even for me, you can gift local cheeses and wines.  Easy for me since Napa Valley is a drive away or, more conveniently, their products are easily available in my local shops and we also have Harley Goat Farm within driving distance as well as cow dairy farms. Jars of locally made honey also make a nice gift (er, except for me since I don't like honey but you get my point). You don't have to live where I do to have access to locally made and produced goods.  A simple yelp search or trip to your local farmers' markets would probably yield some good results.

And if you do want to give baked goods as a gift but don't want to bake it yourself and/or your recipients are far away, here are just a few places you can order online that I've personally sampled and can recommend - all made in the USA. (Disclaimer: as with every other product in this post, I'm not affiliated with any of these businesses and I don't get paid for endorsing them.  I just like them.)

  • Annie the Baker - wonderful, tasty cookies, especially for those who lean towards cookie dough as much as cookies
  • Crumbs Bake Shop - I've had their cupcakes and they're delicious
  • Baked NYC - awesome brownies and I love their baking books. You can also find their brownie and cake mixes at Williams Sonoma
  • Gambino's Bakery - located in New Orleans, they're a little pricey to ship but their red velvet cake is delicious
There are many others out there and if anyone has any particular favorites, I'd love to hear about them.  I'm always looking for new, small businesses to order from online who ship.


  1. In my own little way of extending my gratitude and recognition to your work on baking the pastry in a beautiful manner in USA, thanks
    Joseph Levinson