Culinary and Pastry Arts: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

The Gift of Food!

Bûche de Noël from Bread Euphoria in Haydenville, MA. [Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield]

Tis the season to pay special attention to spreading kindness to those around us! Families can spread kindness by sharing homemade foods with neighbors, and can expand this activity to include studies of world cultures by baking foods enjoyed internationally!

We explored food preservation earlier this month – now it’s time to put those skills to use!  Pumpkin or apple butter make great holiday gifts and are something the recipient can enjoy for the entire season! Jams and jellies are also a nice gift idea! Want to help the gift recipient get ready for sugaring season in the late winter?  How about preparing a ready to go pancake mix in a jar? Finally, freshly baked cookies and pies are always a great gift idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Gingerbread Houses: Edible Architecture Brings Families Together

Gingerbread Build: Designers and Dreamers Create Edible Homes

Building a gingerbread house is a fantastic way to include creative folks of all ages in creating a delicious, well-engineered work of art, along with skills in architectural design, engineering, communication, and collaboration.

Is there anything better than the sound of children happily discussing whether gumdrops or gummy bears make for better foliage in a confectionery garden? Grown-up architects debating the merits of Lifesavers vs. melted lollipops to convey gothic stained glass? The hum of conversation and laughter as designers of all ages bring their inspiration and creativity to bear on gingerbread walls and roofing material and piles of buttercream mortar?

It’s time again for one of the best-loved holiday traditions ‘round these parts: Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity’s Gingerbread Build!  This year it takes place on Saturday, December 5th, 2015, from 1-4 pm at the Eastworks building in Easthampton, MA. Read the rest of this entry »

Seasonal Baking Contests Highlight Creativity and Family Culture

Seasonal Baking Contests Highlight Creativity and Family Culture

Food and culinary arts provide a vehicle through which families can examine world cultures, history, science, math, and even creative arts – and as the holiday season approaches, opportunities to engage in such learning abound! During this time of year, seasonal opportunities to engage in baking-centric community-based learning intersect with ongoing opportunities to explore the culinary arts – making for a deliciously fascinating learning landscape.

The food that we make tells a story, and nothing illustrates this better than family recipes. Whether handed down for generations, carefully honed over the course of a few years, or recently chosen as a family favorite, family recipes stand as a glimpse into the unique culture of the family from which they emerge. Historic Deerfield offers families a chance to showcase their own family recipes this month – the third annual King Arthur Flour Heritage Recipe Cookie Baking Contest calls for families to enter cookie recipes paired with stories that illustrate why their recipe is special to them. The deadline for entries is today (Monday, November 2nd), and fifteen finalists will be chosen to bring a batch of their special cookies to Historic Deerfield on Saturday, December 5th, 2015.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Magic of Gingerbread: A Call for Gingerbread House Designs

The Magic of Gingerbread Competition

The Springfield Museums are pleased to announce The Magic of Gingerbread, this year’s annual gingerbread house exhibition and competition. They are inviting families and schools to submit design plans for imaginative gingerbread houses up until November 15, 2013. (Houses must be delivered by November 25.)

What does your fantasy fairy tale castle look like?  Are there turrets?  A moat?  Maybe a drawbridge?  Now, what if it was made not out of stone, but of gingerbread, icing & candy? – Gingerbread houses are a great way to engage in creative-free play with your family, and the Springfield Museums is inviting community members of all ages to be a part of their holiday exhibit, “Gingerbread Fairy Tales.” All entries will be displayed in the museum alongside fairy tale backdrops and holiday trees beginning in mid-November. 

The Springfield Museums are inviting bakeries, schools, individual bakers and young people to submit design plans to create gingerbread houses that will be on view at the Springfield Science Museum as part of the holiday exhibit, “The Magic of Gingerbread.” Entries (due by November 9th) can be created by school classes, businesses, youth groups, etc. – or your family can create one of their own! Participation in the gingerbread contest offers youth a fun and creative way to experiment with architecture and design, as well as kitchen skills & creative-free play! Families with kids of all ages can design an entry together – using careful planning to perfect designs for each wall, window, and courtyard – and can easily incorporate math, problem solving, food science, etc.  It’s also an excellent opportunity to discover and talk about the archetypes present in fairy tales…

Read the rest of this entry »

Pioneer Valley Bread House Welcomes Autumn with Community Baking

Pioneer Valley Bread House Connects Community

Bread House gatherings are centered around, but not limited to bread-making. While the bread rises and bakes, bread-makers enjoy conversations, story-telling, and other creative activities. One of the goals of the PVBH is to stimulate community engagement with issues vital to our towns – issues of food, health, local resources, sustainability, and intercultural dialogue.

The Pioneer Valley Bread House brings the transformative experience of communal bread-baking to Northampton, MA. On Tuesday, September 24th, from 4-6pm, bread-lovers of all ages are invited to make and share bread with others at the generously donated kitchen space of the B’nai Israel Temple (253 Prospect Street in Northampton). The event is free and open to everyone. Gluten free breads are also made.  Then on Monday, October 14th from 4-6pm, the PVBH will celebrating World Bread Day, also at the B’nai Israel Kitchens in Northampton.

The Pioneer Valley Bread House (PVBH) organizes bread-making events as fun and creative community activities. “We need joy and we knead joy,” says Nadezhda Savova, founder of the global Bread Houses Network, in a recent interview for National Geographic.

“The Breadhouse can be a vital connecting point for all members of our community. We all have something to contribute: a recipe, a story, a song, a smile, and knowledge of how to better use our local resources. You don’t have to be a baker or a talented artist. Just show up and enjoy the company of others and the creation of bread,” says Dr. Leda Cooks who is one of the co- founders of the PVBH and a University of Massachusetts Professor of Communication…

Read the rest of this entry »

Edible Books: Creative Free Play in the Kitchen Meets Literature

What Happens When Creative Free Play in the Kitchen Meets Literature? EDIBLE BOOKS!

If you devour books, does that make you a bookworm?  Does your family sometimes seem to subsist on the sustenance of words alone, rather than actual food?  Creative book lovers rejoice, for the ultimate opportunity to show your love for books has arrived!

The Forbes and Lilly Libraries in Northampton & Florence are again holding The Edible Book, an annual fundraiser for the libraries that requests that rather than turn books into food (for brain cells!), library patrons turn food into books!  Just imagine – a pile of phyllo dough pages filled with grape jelly renderings of Harold and his purple crayon, or a caterpillar (who is very hungry) made out of lime peels munching his way through an array of snacks.  The possibilities are endless… and also delicious!

Check out this Edible Books Pinterest Board with images of edible books, and this video shot by Northampton TV from last year’s event and get inspired!

Edible Book is not unique to the Pioneer Valley – it celebrates the birthday of Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, author of The Physiology of Taste, an early 19th century meditation on food and taste.  In the style of Brillat-Savarin, spend some time meditating on food as a family in order to find creative ways to use it to represent your favorite reads!

This year’s Edible Book event will take place on Saturday, April 21st, 2013 at the Florence Community Center on Pine Street.  Between 2 and 4pm, entrants and spectators can view the many submissions.  Families who don’t create an edible book can stop by to see what others have created – they will be beautiful, wacky, and displays of creative free play in the kitchen!  Prizes will be awarded in many original categories (“sugar overload,” for example), and fun will be had by all!

 For more information, visit, or contact Bonnie Burnham (413-584-7482,

Pie Contest at Hancock Shaker Village

Youth Invited to Participate in Hancock Shaker Village’s Annual Pie Contest
Deliver to Village on Sept 28th.

Hancock Shaker Village’s 15th annual Country Fair on Saturday and Sunday, Sept 29th-30th from 10am-5pm promises fun for the whole family with Shaker-inspired games in the Kids Tent, a farmers’ market with samples of heirloom vegetables to taste, vendors and demonstrations of handmade crafts, wagon and pony rides, antique engines and tractors, a pie contest, and a juried quilt exhibition.

Hancock Shaker Village’s annual Country Fair takes place on September 29th and 30th! The festival celebrates the fall harvest and all of the many food-related activities and traditions that the season brings. Especially exciting is the festival’s annual pie contest, which features an amateur division for young baker-extraordinaires! Entries in the contest must be baked at home from scratch, and delivered to the village between 3-5pm on Friday, September 28th. Bakers may use the crust recipe of their choice, and can choose their own filling or use one of the provided recipes from The Best of Shaker Cooking. By participating in the contest, kids can learn shaker history, practice chemistry and math skills in the kitchen, and begin to develop culinary independence and creativity! For more information on the fair, visit or call 413-443-0188.

Looking for pie baking books to inspire you or the youth baker in your home?  Here are some suggestions you might find at your local library:

[Photo credit: (ccl) Julie Falk]

%d bloggers like this: