On Pleasureful Pastry

Chef Linda's Confection Commentary

On the Topic of Eccentricities

Yesterday, the word “eccentricities” found its way into a conversation among a group of very dear and insightful women. We marveled at how mature relationships have a profoundly different resonance than those early experiments of our youth.

One person’s perceived eccentricities are another person’s charm or brilliance – her je ne sais quoi – elusive qualities that are not easily named.

Pleasing, somewhat undefinable qualities not only endear us to others; they enhance our lives when we sample things of unexpected quality. Several years ago, I tasted a product new to the Portland food market. The company, Cocacao, blends cacao, coconut nectar and coconut oil into a silky treat that is further enhanced with nuts, spices and fruit. It was a revelation that lingers in my memory.

Essential Confection empowers our customers to gift that special ‘eccentricity’ – that unexpected quality – to their recipients.


Of cacao’s munificence,

a brush stroke of coconut

paints ecstasy into being.

Oh, sweet virtue!


 Whose eccentric qualities enliven your life?




The True Cost of Cheap Food

Ruminating on the extraordinary bounty and accessibility of food in this country, I reflected on how locked-down consumers’ buying habits might bring about significant – and needed – change in the American food system.

Consumers’ increasing practice of buying local fresh fruit and vegetables – supporting local farmers – is leading governments to increase localization of their food supplies to decrease dependence on global food chains. It needs to be a sustainable transition – and sustainability is a big subject.

The flip side of the food equation is that many agri-businesses’ overuse of the land benefits their bottom lines but damages local air, water and soil systems. Sustainable practices to restore and perpetuate these systems are critical.

As a confection company owner, I’ve made commitments to purchase key staples from regional suppliers:

We have the luxury of accessibility and opportunity; that is, the wealth of high-quality regional products and the resources to purchase them. I have the added benefit of using these quality staples in our home kitchen at ~60% of the cost of grocery store retail.

Purchasing regionally strengthens local economies and reduces transportation cost – food miles – so companies, consumers and the environment benefit. In all honesty, these are easy choices.

Ruminating again on the luxury of accessibility and the true cost of cheap food…


The ear of Nature

listens to what is asked of it.

It must be the same act of intense and unfettered listening

as when one discloses her deepest secret.

Is holding the health of the land naïve?


This is a conversation about quality. We each have the power to create profound and large-scale change in our food systems by supporting regional companies whose commitment is already to us.

The quality of Essential Confection products reflects these choices. Mini Essential Butter Cake, showcasing local European-style butter, is a perfect finish or gift for the upcoming spring holiday season. Order here:

Mini Essential Butter Cake – 2 Mini Cakes Per Order

How has your commitment to sourcing food changed? What action will you take to promote the best products and growing practices you know about?

Remember That Brownie?

I love the fine features of baked products.

Early food experience dictates preferences. As a young teenager, I loved the glorious scent of chocolate wafting through our family kitchen as box-mix brownies were baking. As an adult, the rich scent of chocolate baking in the oven takes me back to that moment in the 1960s. Do you have one of those memories?

Food psychologists know that smell, not taste, produces memory – that smell is a learned affect that transports us to specific moments in time – and that it controls a significant number of our food behaviors.

What I discovered over time was that specific features of baked products were as attractive to me as the scent and even the taste of the finished product. A crisp ginger snap. The luxuriously fine crumb of a butter cake. The exquisite resistance of paper-thin layers of buttery laminated dough in a croissant.

A year ago, I set out to make the very best chocolate cookie I could create. Intense dark chocolate flavor was foundational. Almond pairs wonderfully with chocolate and supports its flavor as a background component. Flaked salt as a garnish before baking not only contrasts but enhances the power of the chocolate. The most important quality of our new chocolate cookie, though, had to be the juxtaposition of a thin, floating crust on top of a delicate, chewy center, with bits of liquid chocolate as little bonuses – ala, the brownie of my youth.

The cookie also had to fulfill one of my two primary interests in baking: single flavor development.

The formula for that cookie, the Essential Chocolate-Almond Cookie, is now in the hands of the Oregon State University Food Innovation Center for consultation, critique and packaging input. Our goal is to offer the cookie in dough form for our guests to bake and luxuriate in at home beginning in Q2-2021.

What better way to express love or appreciation to family and friends than to reacquaint them with a childhood delight?

Every Essential Confection product supports our mission of helping tlve food insecurity. You are our partners in this effort. We intend to broaden our reach with the Essential Chocolate-Almond Cookie by distributing widely.

Another way for us all to spread caring and support for those we appreciate most.



Celebrating Others’ Lives

In reflecting on what future imprints this time of cautious isolation will have, I recognize like many that the relationships I value have deepened. Unfeigned, sincere conversations, a greater willingness to reach out and more demonstrative appreciation for family, friends, co-workers and contemporaries.

Small, altruistic gestures of confidence or support leave an indelible impression that may benefit how others see themselves in the world. What about commemorating others’ successes?

The best kind of appreciation is spontaneous, unsolicited. An unexpected gift – a donation of time, a personal note, publicly supporting another’s cause, small visible gifts – at an unexpected time.

What action will I take to further deepen the relationships I value? What action have I taken today that moves another toward who he or she would like to become?

Calendared events are easy reminders. The now-common shared virtual event! Families prepping portions of a large meal to be consumed together – virtually. A full-size Essential Crème Fraiche Cheesecake – 12 servings – or the Essential Flourless Chocolate Torte – 16 glorious servings, both gluten-free. Easy to share.

Valentine’s Day. Partners or family members who may, in the moment, be unable to celebrate together. The glitz and glam of the Academy Awards! Gifts of individually sized Essential Chocolate-Amaretto Cheesecake or Essential Crème Fraiche Cheesecake. Luxurious. Sans gluten, of course.

The Super Bowl! Fabulous pickups – succulent, savory Essential Rosemary Shortbread or the now-in-development Essential Salted Chocolate-Almond Cookie [the very best chocolate cookie] – in cookie dough form to bake at home!

How will I celebrate the events of those in my life? How will you?





Partnering to Solve Food Insecurity

Emblematic of a community that honors resource preservation as one of its priorities are the book boxes found in Portland neighborhoods. Take one; leave one. I read a story recently of an Australian community that took the concept to the next level, building similar boxes where shelf-stable food and personal care items can be donated and obtained. A small way communities care for their own residents.

The greatest opportunity, and most egregious failure, of the American food system is the disconnect between the super-abundance of largely low-cost food and the food insecurity of millions of people. Aligned with solving food insecurity is repurposing the enormous food waste that is generated by consumers and food service businesses alike.

Essential Confection, as an organization, wishes to contribute to solving food insecurity. We want to enter into conversation with others who are similarly committed.

Current and future product development – future sales – and the donation of our time will be the foundation of our support of this commitment. Know that your support of Essential Confection will aid in this effort.

Who do you know (people, orgs) who has the resources, the capability and the commitment to work with us in this endeavor? What other ideas do you have to ease food insecurity in our local communities, nationally and globally? If were partnering, where do you think we should start?

Please reach out for conversation and connection. We are eager to work together.


We are grateful for your support.






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