Like many of you, I took a step back from sharing posts on Instagram over the past several weeks. There are much more important things in life than glossy food images. Important human life-lessons are unfolding before our eyes right now in the global discussion on systemic racism. We’re soaking it all in and listening to Black voices that have been ignored and overlooked for far too long. One of the intentions of this listening is to learn about the various ways racism permeates the lives of Black and other non-white people and to recognize our own part to play and act on changing the structure of our country’s systems. It appears the world is attempting to listen. Will things change? I hope so with every fiber of my being. Most importantly, will those listening act?
To help in my own small way, I joined the call of Bakers Against Racism. The virtual worldwide bake sale, created by James Beard Award finalist Chef Paola Velez, Chef Willa Pelini, and Chef Rob Rubba, that’s aimed at raising money for organizations that support Black equality and justice. When I first saw the initial posting on Instagram I knew that it was something that I wanted to do, but how? How could one person make enough of an impact? After sharing my thoughts with a friend, it occurred to me that it really wasn’t about how big of an impact one person could make. It was about taking action. It was an opportunity to use what resources were available to me and simply trying to contribute.
I spoke with a couple of industry friends about joining me to create a box of pastries and also put out a request on Instagram for Kansas City bakers to join. My hope was that two people would request to help create pastries for this fundraising treat box. We’d have five people and that would be great. Well, that’s not what happened. I immediately received a request to join and what started as a few bakers quickly turned into 22 bakers!
What began as a hope to sell 20 pastry boxes grew into 144 pastry boxes sold (over 1,700 pastries). Kansas City businesses joined to contribute their food and resources, such as Brown Sugar Chicken & Donuts, Dolce Bakery, Big Momma’s KC, Ibis Bakery, Ruby Jean’s Juicery, Messenger Coffee, Heirloom Bakery, and my friends at Valrhona donated their fine chocolate for creating pastries. Ça Va opened their doors to the Bakers Against Racism Kansas City bake sale on June 20 and $5,439.95 was raised in donations. An additional $3,292 was raised through Normal Human t-shirts sales, who contributed Pro-Cookie Anti-Racism t-shirts designed for the group and made them available for purchase on their website. Overall, $8,731.95 was raised and has been donated to the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. A 100 year old organization that enables African Americans and other disadvantaged persons to secure economic self-reliance, equity, power and advocates for civil rights. This is what the bake sale was all about. Supporting Black lives and taking a stand against racism and oppression in all its forms.
I cannot thank the Kansas City businesses and pastry professionals who donated their pastries, supplies, and time enough. There was an entire group of talented pastry professionals who worked tirelessly to make this fundraising bake sale event run smoothly. Without them none of this would have been possible on this scale and this story serves as a reminder that when we come together for the good of all there’s hope for change. Keep taking action, keep learning, and keeping trying.
For now, I leave you with a sweet offering from July’s issue of my Sugar Rush column with Feast Magazine: Lemon Beignets with Lemon Cream and Blackberries. Crisp and light, these lemon beignets are the perfect pairing for summer’s sweet blackberries. Rolled in a cinnamon-cardamom spiced sugar, they’re served while still warm with an ethereal lemon cream and blackberry compote. Tangy, sweet, tart, and creamy; this dessert comes in bite-sized portions, but delivers an incredible amount of flavor.
Lemon Beignets with Lemon Cream & Blackberries
Makes 14 beignets
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a medium saucepan, bring 1-inch of water to a simmer. Set out an airtight container with a fine-mesh sieve placed on top.
In a small heatproof bowl, whisk together lemon zest, juice, sugar, egg, yolk, and salt. Set the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water, whisking constantly, and cook until the mixture is thick enough to leave a trail across the surface without sinking in, 4-5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and strain the lemon curd through the sieve into the container. Let cool for a few minutes, then whisk in the butter until combined and smooth.
Cover the curd with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and cover the container. Place in the refrigerator to chill completely and set firm. In a bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold the lemon curd into the whipped cream. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
1 cup (6 oz / 170g) fresh blackberries, divided
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of blackberries, 1 tablespoon of water, sugar, and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until blackberries begin to breakdown, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining blackberries.
1 cup cake flour
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch kosher salt
Vegetable or Canola Oil, for frying
In a bowl, whisk together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and butter. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix together, using a rubber spatula, until just combined. Stir in the lemon juice. The dough will be very soft and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in the freezer to chill for 1 hour.
Prepare a heavy saucepan, or deep-fryer, with 2 ½-inches of vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set a cooling rack on top of the baking sheet. In a bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and pinch of salt. Set aside until ready to use.
Remove the beignet dough from the freezer and portion out into 1 tablespoon sized pieces. With floured hands, roll each piece into a ball and set on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet into the freezer to keep the uncooked beignet dough balls chilled during frying. Fry the beignets in batches of four, turning them over as they golden, for 3 minutes. Transfer them with a slotted spoon to the cooling rack to drain for 1 minute, then roll the beignets in the sugar mixture. Serve while still warm with lemon cream and blackberry compote.
Share your summer creations of this dessert with me by tagging @now_forager on Instagram. I love seeing your beautiful variations of my recipes!