If anyone needs an excuse – and this writer doesn’t – to contemplate sweets and consume treats, May, in its salute Mom, is the perfect one. Use it to taste-test your way through a glass-fronted case of chocolates or lick fingers messy from tearing at a sticky bun. Either way, one’s dedication will assure that the mom who first put a cookie in your own little paw receives the best gift for the holiday.
Now, that we’ve established the blissful task, a tasty place to begin is with goodies crafted by the pastry chef at Forest Highlands Canyon Club. Katrin Biemann had a European start – born in Germany and raised partially in England – and her baking reflects that. Her Euro-style is subtly sweet, allowing other fine elements, like hazelnuts and cardamom, to shine. A Continental flair is also evident in her patisserie macaroons, pretzel bread and truffles. About the latter, Biemann said, “Our goal is to use the best ingredients with no preservatives, keeping our products all natural. The chocolate is Swiss and tempered. Everything is handmade and of the best quality.”
It shows. Recently, Hops on Birch asked Biemann to use a pale ale in creating a truffle. The dark chocolate, dusted with pink sparkles held a blonde buttercream with an aromatic finish. Biemann makes many flavors, but her black and white bonbon is a bite of summer with tart raspberry buttercream covered by dark, and then, white chocolate. Take a chocolate class from Biemann at Seasoned Kitchen and gather expertise.
Biemann’s pedigree – her mother’s capable knee, pastry instruction at Cordon Bleu with an externship in Italy, sweet time served at Osteria Mozza under Mario Batali and Nancy Silverman, Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro, plus a pastry event with Wolfgang Puck – has kept her hand in the cookie jar. “Dessert is my passion.” And it’s a passion with an adult angle, incorporating liquor, marzipan and ganache into decadent delicacies.
Consider Forest Highlands’ signature cake, dressed up and highly sought after as a moist, moussey indulgence. Chocolate sponge cake is soaked in rum, filled with chocolate mousse, and Biemann said, “I only use the yolks, so it’s super creamy.” The luscious tower is topped with chocolate ganache. This is the perfect way to say thank you to mom.
Biemann’s creations are sold at places in town such as New Frontiers Natural Marketplace – where her displays of shortbread cookies and all-natural caramel-nut popcorn and brittles are sure to entice any shopper – and downtown hotspots like Vino Loco, where people to gaga over the truffles. The coffee shop, Kickstand Café, has been known to carry her sticky buns and coffee cakes. Forest Highlands, also caters to anyone, and each year, it hosts Taste of Forest Highlands, a charity event of palatable proportions, which is open to the public.
The running list of treats that Biemann creates is astounding. It further includes a variety of flavored macaroons – raspberry, coconut, coffee, and chocolate to name a few. Unlike their Old World counterparts, these are airier, chubbier meringues held together with a swipe of matching buttercream. Biemann’s buttercream isn’t simply beaten powdered sugar and butter which yields a sweet, grainy filling. It’s the best, made by heating sugar and mixing the cooled syrup with whole eggs and whipping in the butter before adding natural flavors.
There are American standards from which to choose as well, such as caramel popcorn and peanut brittle. Still, these get an upgrade. Unlike Cracker Jack, Biemann’s caramel popcorn is less sweet from cooking the sugar to a darker, robust stage. “It has a mature edge,” she said. Her planks of peanut brittle get the same attention and twists. “Sometimes, I add pepitas, pistachios or other nuts to batches for a healthy angle.” The shards of butterscotch melt on the tongue.
Shortbread is the simplest cookie and always a winner. These thick, crisp, buttery bites hold up to dunking and demand seconds. So, whether it’s a sweet treat for Mom or a confectionery craving that needs satisfying, shop local and experience Europe. NAMLM Gail G. Collins