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Pumpkin Season is Upon Us

Pumpkin Season is Upon UsIt used to be that we’d buy a pumpkin for Halloween and have pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. That would be the extent of our annual pumpkin tasting.

From the beginning of October until the end of November, it’s likely you’ll see pumpkin or pumpkin spice as an ingredient in almost everything, from cereal to pasta sauces and even beer. As you shop through the aisles, it’s incredible to see some of the pumpkin-inspired ideas purveyors have created.

FRESH is happy to jump on the pumpkin wagon because it kicks off our favorite season of eating with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner. There will be a large selection of pumpkins on the patio next to produce. FRESH has big ones, little ones, heirloom pumpkins, Cinderella pumpkins and a vast assortment of pumpkin centerpieces and floral arrangements crafted in our own floral department.
While shopping, you have to get a pumpkin spice latte, or try the pumpkin gelato.

In the bakery, pumpkin rolls, pumpkin loaf, pumpkin cheesecake and crème brûlée will be offered as delicious seasonal treats. Don’t forget the traditional pumpkin pie.

Also, check the calendar for information about the kids’ Halloween Costume Contest on October 28, along with other pumpkin-related events and specials.

Brown Sugar-Pumpkin Pound Cake with Pecan Glaze


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (plus more for greasing pan)
3 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting pan)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbs bourbon (optional)
2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
4 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbs (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease Bundt pan with butter; sprinkle with flour. In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt.

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter, both sugars, vanilla and bourbon together at medium speed until fluffy. Blend in pumpkin. Add the eggs, one at a time. Set mixer speed to low; add flour mixture in 3 batches. Combine until just blended. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, add batter to prepared pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out fairly clean. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Invert cake onto rack; remove it from the pan.

Place all glaze ingredients in saucepan over low heat; stir until melted. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. After cake has completely cooled, spoon glaze over the top of the cake.

View this recipe to print or add items to your shopping list.

Mangia Bene at FRESH

There’s a famous Italian quote, “Mangia Bene, Ridi Spesso, Ama Molto.” It means “Eat well, laugh often, love much.” It sums up the Italian lifestyle of long, multi-course feasts filled with laughter, friends and family. It’s also a good reason why Italian cuisine is so loved in America.

At FRESH, there are plenty of ways to eat well, especially when it comes to authentic Italian food. From October 9 – 15, the store will be celebrating a Taste of Italy. In every department, products will be featured that highlight the essence of Italian cuisine and are perfect for creating your own multi-course feast with friends and family.

The ingredients in many Italian recipes are really quite basic. They highlight the wonderful natural flavors of things like quality extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, handmade pasta, artisanal cheese, slow-baked bread and plump juicy San Marzano tomatoes.

Here are a few of my favorites that I think you will enjoy from various departments throughout the store:
Cheese: Housemade Fresh Mozzarella, Gorgonzola Bleu Cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano and Asiago.

Charcuterie: Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella, Speck, Molinari & Sons Italian Salami and Pancetta, and Columbus Italian Salami.

Fresh Pasta: Also found in the cheese department is fresh pasta. Made daily, you’ll find Fettucine, Pappardelle, Alfredo Sauce, Marinara and Bolognese.

Pizza di Napoli: Enjoy an authentic Neapolitan-style pizza cooked in our new pizza oven. Made with handmade dough, San Marzano tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. An assortment of toppings and flavors are available that are truly Italian.

Chef-Prepared: Spaghetti & Meatballs, Lasagna Rolls, Eggplant Parmesan and more.

Bakery: All bread is baked in the store. Look for Rustic Italian Bread, Focaccia Bread and Ciabatta.

Wine: There is a wide assortment of Italian wines to enjoy from throughout the country and at every price point. From an inexpensive Chianti Classico to the prized Barolo. Two of my favorites are from Southern Italy.

Asmodeus Nero d’Avola from Sicily is a dark red wine that has a rich earthy flavor, but it is also balanced with red fruit, spice and high tannins. Also, Lacryma Christi Bianco Feudi di San Gregorio from the Naples area is a bright and golden white wine that has floral notes and flavors of white fruits. Lacryma Christi means “Tears of Christ” and the legend claims that as Christ ascended into heaven, he wept over the beauty of the area and brought life to the vines that were growing on Mt. Vesuvius.

Italian Products: Some of the essential Italian pantry ingredients can be found in the aisles. Look for Extra Virgin Olive Oil made in Italy and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. San Marzano whole canned tomatoes are available in a variety of brands, along with sun-dried tomatoes, basil pesto, olive tapenade and a variety of pasta sauces. Of course, you need some pasta to go with all of these wonderful ingredients, and FRESH carries Montebello dried pasta that is made in Italy. Available in a variety of shapes, Montebello is handmade using Old World techniques.

FRESH and Festive: Stollen

A German Christmas tradition, this sweet yeast bread is packed with raisins, currants, citrus and tart cherries. Usually eaten during the Christmas season, this scrumptious treat may also contain almonds and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon.  Stollen was designed to symbolize the infant Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and is very similar to Italian pannetone.

The original Stollen of the 1400s was not the delicious masterpiece that you will now find.   Because it was traditionally baked during the Christian Advent season, a season of fasting, it only contained flour, yeast, water and oil.  Butter and spices were banned from the bakery due to church restrictions.  Luckily, in the 1650s, a hero by the name of Prince Ernst von Sachsen successfully petitioned Pope Urban VIII to lift the restrictions on the use of butter during Advent. The restrictions were lifted only in Dresden, at the request of the bakers, and thus began a baking tradition that continues to this day.

Rum, fruit, citrus, nuts, spices and butter all mingle together to create a flavorful Christmas bread that has been lovingly prepared for centuries. It may be topped with powdered sugar icing, marzipan, or cinnamon and sugar coating.

Come and try FRESH Stollen this season.

Freshie Faves: New to FRESH – French Batard

A popular favorite from France, the French Batard Bread is now being offer at FRESH. With a crispy, crunchy crust and a slightly chewy center, the French Batard is a delicious and versatile bread.

As you know, FRESH uses only the finest ingredients in all of our bakery items. Our authentic German deck ovens are specifically designed to bake all of our artisian selections.

The French Batard can be sliced vertically and toasted with various toppings such as compound butters, the most popular being garlic butter. It can also be sliced horizontally for sandwiches, big or small. Day old French bread can be used in recipes such as croutons and bread puddings. Made fresh DAILY, the French Batard is sure to be hit for your family and friends. Here are a few of my suggestions:

  • Croutons – Either slices (great for soups) or cubes. If you want to season them, heat up some olive oil (which you can cut with a neutral oil, like grapeseed or safflower and add some sliced garlic cloves. After they turn gold, remove from heat, remove the garlic and toss in herbs of your choice (dried or fresh). Brush or toss the bread with the flavored oil and place on a baking sheet in a preheated 350° F oven until they start to brown. Let cool completely before use.
  • Bread pudding – Tear batard into bite sized chunks and use in your favorite bread pudding recipe.
  • Fondue – Cube batard and serve with one of our packaged fondues or make your own from our huge selection of cheeses from all over the world!
  • Panzanella – This is a great summertime salad and is so easy to make! Cube the batard, toss with diced fresh tomatoes, herbs of your choice, 1 chopped clove of garlic & some extra virgin olive oil. You can also add other favorite veggies like cucumber, olives, bell pepper or even summer squash.
  • French bread pizza – Hollow out the inside part of the Batard and fill with tomato sauce, cheese and toppings.
  • Open faced meatball sandwich – Slice the bread and spread on some garlic butter and tomato sauce. Cut some FRESH meatballs in half and lay over the sauce. Top with more sauce and some sliced FRESH mozzarella. Sprinkle with grated parmesan. Bake at 375° F for 15 minutes.
  • Pain Perdu (aka French toast) – Slice your bread into thick slices. Dip into egg and milk mixture (I add a little sugar and cinnamon and orange or lemon rind). Pan fry in butter until golden brown. Keep warm in oven until all the slices are finished. Serve warm with raspberry or strawberry jam, or just sprinkled with sugar.

From Our Backyard: Heavenly Honeybuns Cakes

Last summer, at an Independence Day family gathering, Jacqueline and John Samples noticed that people couldn’t get enough of the homestyle honeybun cake baked by John’s mother, Mary Samples. So many people went back for seconds, and maybe thirds, that Mary Samples had to bake another cake that day to keep peace in the family.

“People just went crazy over these cakes,” Jacqueline Samples says. “It was mayhem.”

And in that moment, the Samples knew they had the basis for a new business. Late last year, Jacqueline, John and Mary Samples opened Heavenly Honeybun Cakes in Tyler. The bakery specializes in honeybun cakes, a traditional Southern delicacy that actually tastes like a rich, homemade honeybun.

Now available at FRESH in a refrigerated case just opposite the pastry counter, the Samples’ honeybun cakes are sweet, moist, and practically impossible to stop eating. (Don’t ask me how I know that. Except, well, I did end up hiding the last pieces so nobody else could eat them before I could get to them.)

The Samples’ stroke of genius was deciding to change the cake from a standard sheet cake to a Bundt-type cake, baked in a pan that resembles a rose. Frosted with their signature cream cheese icing, the cake really does look like a giant, domed honeybun or cinnamon roll.

John and Jacqueline had been thinking of starting some sort of business ever since moving from Atlanta to Tyler in 2005. (John, a manufacturing manager, grew up in Tyler, and his parents are retired educators.) They both have an entrepreneurial bent; they’ve long owned rental properties, and Jacqueline, a computer programmer, has had her own consulting business in the past.

But with Heavenly Honeybun Cakes, they see a chance to create a legacy business for their three sons, and to give back something more to the community. They already donate to such local charities as the East Texas Food Bank, Women in Tyler, the Salvation Army and local schools.

At  FRESH, you can choose from three cake varieties, baked fresh at the Samples’ bakery: sweethearts, little treats about the size of a cupcake;  whoopee pies, two little cake tops, sandwiched together with cream cheese frosting; and the original large honeybun cakes, big enough to feed a crowd. Assuming, of course, you’re willing to share.

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A FRESH Point of View: All about our bread

It all starts with the starter.

That’s the base that we use to make all our artisan breads here at FRESH. And that’s a big part of what gives our breads their unique flavor, texture and crust, and makes them stand out from the mass-produced bread you may have grown up eating.

There are actually three kinds of starters we use to make all of the 60+ artisan breads you’ll find in our bakery:

Poolish: This is a simple mixture of flour, water and yeast. It’s used in our airy, crusty breads like ciabatta, country Italian, and traditional French baguettes.

Sourdough: This starter gives the classic tangy “bite” to our 15 sourdough varieties, including multigrain sourdough and the prosciutto-black pepper loaf.

Rye: The name says it all. It’s used for all our rye breads, including pumpernickel and seeded rye.

Of course, there is a lot more that makes these breads special. Like our flour. It’s untreated, unbleached and unbromated, so it produces an all-natural, fresher loaf.

And our water. We filter all our water, so it has no residue of things like chlorine, which can kill yeast and starter, resulting in bread that’s too dense or flat.

Finally, our flavors. If we can dream it up, we’ll make it into bread. (That’s how we came up with flavors like three-chile cheese bread, and cranberry-orange breakfast bread.) So check back often to see what our bakers have in store for you.