Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Red Brick Coffee House

Pizzelles, an Italian waffle cookie made using a special machine, are one of the defining treats of Italy while kolaches, sweet dough wrapped around a fruit or nut filling and then sprinkled with powdered sugar, are traditional Polish cookies with variations found throughout Eastern Europe. Trifles, layers of fruit, lady fingers and pudding, are commonly served in Great Britain for dessert.

But those visiting the Red Brick Coffee Shop in Lawrence, Michigan will find these sweet culinary treasures and more.

A one stoplight town, Lawrence doesn’t have a grocery store and just recently acquired a bank after their only bank closed down several years ago. Many of the fine old brick buildings on the four corners where Red Arrow Highway and Paw Paw Avenue intersect (let’s call it Lawrence’s downtown) are empty, their palladium style windows blank and their painted signs fading with time and wear. But when Claudine Damaske, a pharmacist who was raised in Lawrence wanted to add coffee shop owner to her resume, she decided to do so in her home town.

“I figured we needed some place to sit and have a conversation,” says Damaske. “And so I decided to give it a go.”

Damaske bought the bottom floor of an old co-op building that dates back to 1902, which sits on the northwest corner of Red Arrow and Paw Paw.  Upstairs from her is a Mason’s Lodge with elaborately decorated ceilings and next door to her is an extravagantly painted shop that sells beads and clothing. For her coffee shop, Damaske polished up wood floors added tables, comfy chairs and couches, free Wi-Fi  as well as counters and display cases which quickly became filled with the goodies made by Sue Blum, a veteran baker, who runs a business out of the Red Brick called Blum ‘n Good Cake & Pastries.

And so the coffee shop, besides offering lattes and cappuccinos, house made soups and sandwiches also features Blum’s goodies such as milk, dark and white chocolate turtles and cherries, cannoli -- a Sicilian pastry dessert stuffed with cream, cakes, tiramisu (another Italian delicacy, this one dipped in coffee, layered with cake, a whipped mixture of yolks and mascarpone), pies, brownies, tarts, cupcakes, granola bars and fudge.
“I’m game to try baking anything someone might want,” says Blum noting that she first started making pizzelles after a customer, who had recently moved to Lawrence from Chicago, requested them. “He even lent me his pizzelle machine until I learned how to do them and decided to get my own. Then I started making cannoli because you use the same machine as the pizzelles.”

Blum, who grew up in Grand Rapids and took her first baking class in 1983, has worked in several bakeries since then. She and her husband moved to Lawrence, his home town, to live in the house that he grew up in.

Here are several of her recipes:

Coconut Cream Pie Filling

¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 cups milk
4 beaten egg yolks
1 tablespoon butter
1 ½  teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coconut
2/3 cup toasted coconut

In a Teflon type saucepan combine sugar and cornstarch. Add milk. Cook while stirring over medium heat until mixture is bubbling and thickens. Cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Remove from heat. Slowly add 1 cup hot mixture to eggs (it’s called tempering), then add this mixture back to saucepan. Bring mixture back to bubbling. Cook 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, vanilla, and coconut. Cool pudding completely before pouring into a backed pie crust. Top with homemade whipped cream. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. 

Whipped cream

2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a chilled mixing bowl combine cream, sugar, and vanilla. Beat with chilled beaters ( low speed at first ,gradually raising speed till on high speed). Beat till peaks form. Do not over beat or you may have butter.

 Raspberry “Zingers”

White or yellow cake mix
18 ounce jar raspberry preserves
4 cup vanilla frosting tinted pink
2 cup coconut

Bake cake in a 9 x 13 “ pan and partially freeze so cake is easy to handle. Split cake lengthwise. Remove top of cake and set aside. Fill cake with raspberry preserves.  Replace top of cake. Cut cake into 32 squares. Refreeze. Each frozen square is iced frozen on all sides with small spatula ( not bottoms) while holding in the palm of your hand. This may seem awkward at first , but it gets easier with practice and these goodies are worth it! Pat coconut into sides and top of squares. Place finished squares on cupcake papers and serve. May be done ahead of time.

Sidebar: Ma’s Pie Crust

A quarter of a century ago, Sue Blum’s mother-in-law passed down a family recipe for pie crust, one made with milk and an egg yolk.

“Most pie crusts get dry when you roll them out,” says Blum who uses it for her cream pies and tarts. “But this one stays moist because of the ingredients. It’s perfect for making lattice topped pies as it cuts very easily and doesn’t fall apart.”

Faye Blum’s Pie Crust

3 cups flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
¾ cup milk

Cut in shortening to flour till small crumbs form.  Mix egg and milk separately.  Add salt.  Fold into flour mixture.  Hand knead until soft.

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