Eats: Sweet homemade treats

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No one is laughing now though, especially when Katie presents one of her “epic” cakes at a family gathering, enters local contests, brings plates of cookies to bake sales, or takes muffins and doughnuts to school breakfasts.

When the community of Bowdoinham is in need of sweet treats of any kind, she often volunteers. “Whenever there’s an opportunity to bake, that’s what I choose to do. We love sweets and by baking myself, I can control the ingredients. I know there aren’t any preservatives or additives in them. I can modify the amount of sugar, too,” she laughs, remembering when she left it out entirely.

The energetic baker, who incorporates organic, local ingredients whenever possible, uses eggs from her eclectic flock of chickens, as well as milk, cream, maple syrup and honey supplied by her dad, David Bingham, who lives in nearby Bowdoin.

When she buys from local sources, Katie asks questions about their farming practices and how they treat their animals. She also keeps organic cocoa, raw sugar and unbleached flour on hand. “Paying more for these ingredients is worth it because we eat so many baked goods. If you think about it, even for a family of five, it’s cheaper than buying packages of cookies and quarts of ice cream, and it’s so much better for everyone.”

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Addison, age 9, Anna, 8, and Jack, 6 are schooled on the importance of using healthy ingredients for their treats. Shopping for supplies and working in the kitchen are very much a part of their everyday lives. They all love to help out, with the favorite activity being the manning of the KitchenAid mixer. “We’ve even made homemade graham crackers and marshmallows for our s’mores,” Katie says.

Baking at least twice a week is par for the course. When the holidays come around Katie ramps things up considerably, spending whole days in the kitchen concocting homemade cookies and candies for family, friends and neighbors, and school bake sales.

She says she gets her inspiration from local haunts such as Wild Oats Bakery in Brunswick and Rocky Ridge Farm in Bowdoin, but she also spends time watching The Food Network and checking in with Pinterest, an online content sharing site. “When there are no sweet treats in the house, my husband, Frank wants to know what in the world is going on!”

Katie developed the following cake made with blackberries found around the perimeter of the family property on the Cathance River. A berry-picker since she was 7 years old, it’s not surprising she would share a recipe that includes an abundance of these deep purple gems. Daughter Anna has been picking (and eating) berries since before she could walk.

Some varieties of berries are in season through early fall so go picking and enjoy this treat warm from the oven with maple whipped cream.

Berry-Buttermilk Cake

Serves 6-8

1 c. flour

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

½ c. buttermilk*

1 c. sugar

1 egg

½ stick softened salted butter

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. berries or other seasonal fruit

*1/2 c. milk plus 1 ½ tsp. lemon juice or white vinegar can be substituted. Let stand 5-10 minutes until it looks curdled.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9” pie or cake pan. Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Incorporate buttermilk and dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Spoon into baking pan. Sprinkle fruit on top of batter, gently pressing them in with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle 1 T. sugar over fruit. Bake about 35 minutes.

Maple Whipped Cream

This is delicious on EVERYTHING!

2 c. heavy or whipping cream

4 T. maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

Whip cream until stiff peaks are formed. Add syrup and vanilla and whip 1 more minute.

Granola

The Smith family cereal, eaten with plain yogurt and fruit, or milk

Preheat oven to 225 degrees

Makes 8 cups

8 c. thick-cut organic oats

1 c. honey

2 T. water

1 T. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

Dash salt

¼. tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla

Nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, raisins, dried fruit, etc. (optional)

Put oats in a large bowl and set aside. Combine honey, water, and spices in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Take off heat. Add vanilla, baking soda and salt. This will bubble a bit. Pour over oats to coat evenly. Divide mixture between 2 large baking sheets covered with wax paper, making a thin layer. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Let cool completely then add optional ingredients if desired. Store in airtight container.

Ice cream (use your imagination with added flavorings)

Makes 1 quart

2 c. heavy cream

1 c. whole milk

2/3c. sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

2 c. puréed fruit combined with 4 T. sugar (optional, this works best if combined the night before)

Combine ingredients and put in ice cream maker. When it’s the consistency of soft-serve, add fruit. Freeze until desired consistency.

Editor’s note: Katie Bingham Smith is freelance writer Karen Schneider’s daughter.

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