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June 2013

Cook with the Best in the Northwest

With Love and Butter
by Holly Bower with Sarah Eppenbach

Reviewed by Mary Rose

Cook with the Best in the Northwest archive


Lopez Island, nestled serenely among the San Juan Islands off the Washington coast, has been home to Holly B's Bakery since 1978. Island residents and visitors swarm in during the April–November season to devour almond butterhorns and ham-and-Gruyère croissants.

If you can't get to the island, you don't have to miss out on Holly's popular baked goods. You can make them in your own kitchen using her cookbook, With Love and Butter. It won't be the same as cycling to the bakery or driving away with a warm cinnamon roll to enjoy while whale watching, but with the book you get Holly's family stories, island history, and a glimpse of bakery life, along with all the recipes, so perhaps it evens out a bit.


With Love and Butter, by Holly Bower


With Love and Butter, a three-year collaboration between Holly Bower and Sarah Eppenbach, was first published in 2001.

Sarah, who had already published Baked Alaska, featuring desserts from that state, walked into the bakery one day and asked if Holly would like to write a cookbook.

"The book would not have happened without her," Holly said. "It would not have been a book of any quality without Sarah. Because although I supplied the facts, she created the flow."

Thus began research into stories of Lopez Island, selection of the right format, and coordination of the testing process, which was "very intense." Family and friends made sure each recipe works well in home kitchens.

Sarah provided expert editing, assisted by several proofreaders, and, together with one of those proofreaders, Dorothy Conway, created the helpful index. To tie everything together, "we were blessed with an absolutely marvelous book designer," Bob Lanphear.

Holly and Sarah formed Hummel Lake Press to self-publish the book, using a printer in the Midwest to churn out small batches of the four printings the book has been through since 2001.

Holly's mother, Diana Luhn Bower, created the exquisite linoleum-block prints that illustrate the book. Unlike many cookbooks, there are no color photos of each dish. Instead, the black-and-white block prints flow between the text like the waves around Lopez Island.

I like to spend time with cookbooks, but it is usually a matter of flipping through photos to settle occasionally on a recipe that catches my eye. With Love and Butter is as much a book to read as to bake with. I have often taken it off the shelf to be soothed by the illustrations and relax with a story. The book is such a lovely creation that it almost seems as if the recipes are a secondary consideration.

But the recipes are definitely worth buying the book for. Over the years, I've made many of them. I remember starting with Cream Puff Coffee Cake and being awed by the unique texture. Then I made Lemon Curd, Cowgirl Cookies, Bakery Granola . . .


Holly's Basic Bread is an adaptable recipe.
Here the filling for Cinnamon Rolls is rolled into a nice loaf.


I love Holly's Basic Bread, soft and versatile, with lots of wholesome flavor and which can be adapted to become Oat Bread or Orange Bread per instructions in the book. The puréed orange added to the Orange Bread gives a bright flavor that can't be produced with extract or even zest. You can use the orange-flavored dough to make honey-sweetened Orange Swirls. They are strong competitors of the Cinnamon Rolls, another treat that uses the Basic Bread dough as a foundation.

Holly explained, "The underlying impetus for this book came at that point I had been running the bakery for at least twenty years and I was feeling good about what we were offering people. I have always felt that recipes are to be shared and not kept secret. And I wanted to be sure that these recipes that gave people a lot of happiness were out there to be used and enjoyed."

So with Holly's permission, here are instructions for a coffee cake that recently got raves from tasters in my town. And if you really like rhubarb, be sure to also try the Rhubarb Bette when you buy the cookbook.



Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake

8 servings

8-inch square glass baking dish at least 2 inches deep

1 1/8 cups sliced rhubarb, in 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups whole* strawberries, fresh or frozen and thawed
2 1/4 teaspoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons sugar
3 3/4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

* Holly says whole berries will break down during the cooking process, saving you the trouble of cutting them. My berries were stubborn, and I ended up mashing them.

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup (1/2 cube) cold butter, sliced
3 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick or instant)

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 cube) cold butter, sliced
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

First make the filling: Combine the rhubarb and strawberries in a saucepan and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. Sprinkle with the lemon juice. Stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and nutmeg. Distribute over the fruit, stir, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often to prevent sticking, until the rhubarb is tender and the liquid has thickened. Set aside. The filling can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. (Makes fabulous ice-cream sauce!)

Now make the streusel topping. Place the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and butter (everything except the oats) in a food processor fitted with the steel knife blade. Pulse to cut in the butter and make a nice sandy-textured topping. Don't over-process or your topping will be clumpy and unspreadable. Stir in the oats by hand and set the streusel aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 F with the rack in the center position. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.

Place the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and butter for the cake layer in the food processor bowl. Pulse until the butter is reduced to BB-sized bits and the mixture is dry and crumbly. Scrape into a bowl. Whisk the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla in a small bowl or whir in the food processor (don't wash first!) and add to the dry mix. Stir just until a dough forms.

Spread the batter evenly in the pan and cover with the strawberry-rhubarb filling. Or use any combination of fresh or thawed, drained fruits; no need to cook them first. Distribute the streusel topping over the fruit.

Bake the coffee cake for 55 minutes to 1 hour until no gooey batter shows when you probe into the cake. Cool the cake for an hour before serving.

[Note: I don't have a food processor and combined everything by hand. This was labor intensive but still yielded delicious results.]


With Love and Butter celebrates the community that allows Holly B's Bakery to flourish. During the winter, Holly and her husband live in the Cascade mountains, teaching skiing and eating freshly baked Sourdough Rye. But the warmth of the bakery draws them back to the island each spring.

The bakery is literally a family affair, with Holly's sons having grown up there. Ty, now 32, helps to bake and to manage. Twins Rom and Galen, age 30, "jump right in" when they are on the island and help sell and clean.

This allows Holly to adopt a slower pace. Rather than getting up daily at 3 a.m. as she did when the bakery first opened, she now only occasionally gets her hands in the dough or decorates a cake. But as the owner, "there's plenty to feel responsible about."

Like the collaboration on the cookbook, Holly B's Bakery is run by teamwork. There is pride in Holly's voice as she states, "We are so thankful for the amazing support we get from the islanders who have worked with us for years. We really have a bakery family."

Holly hopes everyone can find joy in sharing home-cooked food with others. "Cooking for people you love or cooking with people you love is just one of the most wonderful things I think that we can do in our lives, and so I just wish everybody good baking and good eating and lots of love and butter."

You can purchase With Love and Butter at Holly B's Bakery, at shops throughout the San Juan Islands, or from the bakery website at hollybsbakery.com.


Oat bread


Mary Rose lives high in the mountains of Montana. She enjoys traveling to farmers markets in summer and making snowballs during the long winter. She is happy to find many locally produced foods, including lentils, cheese, and stroopwafels.


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