Annie (the) Baker & the Ultimate Cookie-Dough Cookie

As a self-proclaimed cookie connoisseur, I am always on the lookout for the perfect cookie. One bite of local Napa extraordinaire Annie (the) Baker’s SugaRainbow and another of her Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunk (my personal favorites) and I felt my quest was over.

Annie grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At a young age, Annie was inspired by the teachings of her grandmother, and the not-so-successful attempts at baking by her mother. Annie explained, “My whole life I have always been trying to make the perfect cookies. I eat the dough and don’t want the cookie, so what is happening? Why do I not want the baked product? I used to sit there and make a bowl of cookie dough when my mom was at work. I would eat the whole thing and she would come home, see eggs and Nestle wrappers in the trash, look around the kitchen and go, ‘Where are the cookies?’ My mother likes to take credit [for my success], because our whole life she burned the cookies, I mean she BURNED them. I finally said, ‘Mom, you’re done – you are not allowed in the kitchen anymore.’” At the age of 8, she officially took over baking duties from her mother, and set out on a journey to perfect the most delicious sweet treat; little did she know that cookies would eventually become her claim to fame.

Fresh out of college, Annie worked as an accountant in Chicago for 10 years. She was working 70 to 80 hour weeks and used baking as her “yoga”; a way to wind down. Come Monday morning when she would unload all of her baked goods in the office, co-workers would flock and clear them out in a matter of minutes. This was one of the many factors that made Annie finally decide to pursue her true passion. She moved West to attend the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in St. Helena.

Following culinary school, and 5 and a half years as the Pastry Chef at Mustard’s Grill in Napa, Annie spent 6 months as a “mad scientist” trying to perfect her cookie recipe. The goal: to get a cookie dough cookie that was not cakey or dry, but baked enough to meet the food safety standards that were drilled into her head while at the CIA.  After months of experimentation in doubling ingredients, then halving ingredients, starting all over again, writing pages upon pages of notes, and the help of many of her Pastry Chef friends in the Valley, she was in business.

Despite her success, this hard-working woman continues to be extremely hands-on in every aspect of her business and always wants this to be the case. Three days a week she is in her commercial kitchen at 5:30am blaring Rick Astley, busting out cookies like a champion before heading out in the afternoon for deliveries up and down the Valley, then spending her evenings working on paperwork and scheduling. The rest of her work week is spent at local Napa and American Canyon Farmer’s Markets, where you can count on finding Annie’s smiling face under her Pittsburgh Steelers tent, chatting with locals and dispelling their theories that freezing the dough or underbaking is her secret. She laughed as she said, “Everybody says that to me, ‘Oh, you just underbake them…’ and I always respond to them, ‘Would i have spent 6 months of my life doing research just to underbake them?’”  While freezing and aging her dough (“like a fine wine”) are both part of her process, the rest remains a mystery. To this day the only person that knows Annie’s secret is Annie – not even her husband can tell you her methods!

All I know is, when it comes to cookie perfection, Annie (the) Baker has it nailed.

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Favorite cookie of Annie’s? “Hands down it’s the peanut butter. Hands down. I don’t even have to think twice about it. Peeeaaanut Butter. And it’s Peanut Butter Extreme! because it has little baby peanut butter cups in it.” Her top sellers are Semisweet Chocolate Chunk, Toffee Milk Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Extreme and SugaRainbow if you are either a male or 12 and under! She laughs as she exclaims “Men love that cookie, I don’t know what it is!”

Locally Annie’s cookies can be purchased Napa Farmer’s Markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and at American Canyon Farmer’s Market on Sundays. They are also available at her many wholesale accounts throughout the valley, including some of our Chef’s Catalog favorites: Cameo Cinema, Ritual Coffee in Oxbow, Sunshine Market, Oakville Grocery and Dean and Deluca. Nationally, purchases can be made and shipped directly to you via her website www.anniethebaker.com.

Diane Lane | End-of-Summer Cocktail

Diane Lane Cocktail Recipe

Diane Lane
Makes 1 cocktail
5 minutes total time
5 minutes active time
Easy

Rosemary Simple Syrup
Makes roughly 10 cocktails
45 minutes total time
10 minutes active time
Easy

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Even though we are quickly approaching the first day of fall, I am having a hard time letting go of summer and all of its bounty. One of my favorite summer activities is concocting a refreshing mixed drink using whatever is available around the house and/or in the garden to beat the summer heat. There have been many successes and failures, but the one cocktail that I always go back to is a drink that I named the Diane Lane. Think rosemary and blood orange, Tuscany, and the star of the 2003 chick flick “Under the Tuscan Sun”. I even took this recipe with me during a stint as bartender at Angele Restaurant in Napa where, amongst other amazing cocktails, you can still find a variation of the Diane Lane on their menu today.

This is easy drinking and sure to help you through the remaining days of summer. 

Ingredients
Diane Lane
1 ½ ounces of Vodka
½ ounce of Rosemary simple syrup (see recipe below)
¾ ounce of fresh lime juice
2 sprigs of fresh Rosemary
Blood Orange Soda
Ice

Rosemary Simple Syrup
1 cup of water
1 cup of white sugar
¼ cup of Rosemary leaves

Directions
To Make the Diane Lane
Combine Vodka, Rosemary simple syrup, lime juice, 1 sprig of Rosemary and ice in your cocktail shaker. Strain it into a collins or highball glass filled with ice.

Top with Blood Orange Soda to the top then garnish with a fresh sprig of Rosemary and a lime wheel or wedge.

To Make the Rosemary Simple Syrup
Combine water, sugar, and rosemary leaves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let syrup steep, about 30 minutes.

Pour syrup into a sterilized glass jar through a mesh strainer to remove rosemary leaves; let cool.

Equipment Needed:
Jigger
Cocktail Shaker
Cocktail Strainer
Mesh Strainer
Small Saucepan
Glass Jar
Collins or Highball Glass

Cheers!

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Cooking Up Something Special from Napa, California

HEY! Guess What?? CHEFS Catalog is coming back this Fall!

We all know you heard the depressing news that Target closed CHEFS Catalog in early 2016… but what you didn’t know was that gave us a chance to bring it back with a bit more flavor and spice.

If you haven’t heard much about CHEFS Catalog, let us tell you a little bit about it and what we are planning to serve up!

CHEFS Catalog has been selling upscale, high-quality cookware, bakeware and kitchen tools since 1979. Marshall Marcovitz founded CHEFS Catalog in Chicago. Originally a mail-order only catalog, the slogan was: “Professional Restaurant Equipment for the Home Chef.” Julia Child became one of Marshall’s early supporters. The CHEFS Catalog was the only commercial catalog she agreed to appear in and you can see her on the front cover of an early catalog.’

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After a few large corporations (noted in the timeline above) owned CHEFS Catalog over the years, in 2016 David Sabin and Eric Salus got acquisition of CHEFS in conjunction with a well established group of individuals and large equity funds. David and Eric are two seasoned executives with over 80 years of experience in this industry.

The combination of David’s vast experience on the Vendor side and Eric’s on the Retail side, along with a dedicated professional team, will enable CHEFS Catalog to build extremely strong relationships with vendors and customers alike.

We are in the process of building out a new website for our relaunch in fall 2017. We plan to be the number one online destination for every CHEF of all skill levels. CHEFS Catalog will introduce and differentiate with a wide range of the best products for the home chefs – enhanced by experts in the field in new and exciting categories such as wine, food, coffee. CHEFS will be the ultimate, and full circle cooking experience – from the purchase of products, to seeking the tastiest recipe, to preparing your meal with help from friends or family, to serving it to you loved ones, and then over and over again.

CHEFS Catalog will reach out to a loyal base of over 11 million customers who have purchased from the catalogue in the past. Ensure you are on our list! Don’t miss out on any updates, latest recipes, teasers into what products will be in the line, what Chefs will be in our kitchen — Sign up for our newsletter by going to CHEFScatalog.com.

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