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On the Cookbook Shelf: New ‘Confections from the Coffee Shed’ sold as Leverett dam fundraiser

  • A recipe for cherry almond scones is one of 40 that was submitted to “Confections from the Coffee Shed,” a new cookbook created based on the baked goods sold on weekends at the coffee shed at the Leverett Transfer Station. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • The “Confections from the Coffee Shed” recipe book includes recipes for cherry almond scones and other baked goods. The book is being sold to help fund repairs to the Leverett Pond dam. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • Chocolate Tiffin is one of the no-bake recipes Leverett resident Claire Hopley contributed to “Confections from the Coffee Shed,” a new cookbook that’s being sold by the Friends of Leverett Pond to raise money to rebuild the dam. Contributed photo/Claire Hopley

  • Inspired by their work selling coffee and baked goods at the Leverett Coffee Shed, residents submitted to a recipe book, which is sold to help fund repairs to the Leverett Pond dam. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • Friends of the Leverett Pond, spend weekends at the Transfer Station selling coffee and baked goods at the Leverett Coffee Shed to help fund repairs to the Leverett Pond dam. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • Friends of the Leverett Pond spend time on the weekends at the Transfer Station, selling baked goods, coffee and their new recipe book. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau



For the Recorder
Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Weekends at the Leverett Transfer Station routinely find residents sipping coffee and munching on treats around the coffee shed run by the Friends of Leverett Pond.

For the last year, the shed has served as a fundraiser for the upkeep of the pond and the restoration of the dam at its north end. Last month, the Friends published a recipe booklet, “Confections from the Coffee Shed,” based on recipes from treats sold at the shed. Revenue from cookbook sales will support work on the pond, particularly the rebuilding of the dam.

Leverett resident Claire Hopley, who compiled, edited and contributed to the book, was the ideal person for the job. She is the author of five cookbooks, including “New England Cooking: Seasons and Celebrations” and “Valley Vegetables,” and also writes food columns for the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Plus, Hopley lives on Leverett Pond and has a passion for its scenery and wildlife.

“Don’t think of it like the Quabbin or something,” she said of Leverett Pond’s dam. “This is really a very small dam. You can step over it. Very few people will actually have seen it. It’s actually a little bit inaccessible.”

She explained that the pond has had a dam since the late 18th century. The original structure was put in place “to make Leverett Pond useful for commercial reasons.” Sawmills and a tannery, now long defunct, took advantage of the dammed water’s power.

The original dam also increased the size of the pond, making it a source of ice that was buried in sawdust each winter and used in warmer months.

The current dam was constructed after the hurricane of 1938. It has now deteriorated severely. Should it fail, Hopley warned, the pond would be severely diminished, shrinking from its current 100 acres to about 20. The change would affect wildlife, water use and the scenery that local residents prize.

Repairs are estimated at about $300,000, Hopley noted. The Friends of Leverett Pond are working hard to raise that money. Happily, the state has ponied up $100,000.

Recent fundraising efforts have included an art auction at Leverett Crafts and Arts, a white elephant sale, a wine tasting, a “pond regatta,” and, of course, the coffee shed.

Hopley noted that the shed serves not merely to raise money but also to raise awareness of the dam’s peril.

“It really kind of needs explaining because the dam is inaccessible so people are not alert to what it is,” she said. She added that the coffee-shed project has also helped create and maintain community.

As a food writer, Hopley considered putting together a group of recipes from the coffee shed almost from the project’s inception.

“People were bringing in all these great recipes. It was kind of an obvious jump for a food writer,” she confessed.

In October, she decided she wanted the book to be available for Christmas. She quickly contacted people who had contributed to the shed for recipes and put the book together.

Although the job of compiling the book was rapid, it was done thoroughly. “Confections from the Coffee Shed” is charming, and its recipes are varied and appealing. Some are traditional and historical, including a formula for Mary Field’s ginger snaps submitted by her son Jim Field.

Others are more contemporary. Hopley herself contributed a recipe for aquafaba macaroons. Aquafaba is the liquid in canned chickpeas. Because of its unique blend of moisture and protein, it works as a convenient (and vegan) substitute for egg whites in cooking, she explains in the recipe notes.

I can’t wait to try these recipes, as well as those for broccoli muffins, sauerkraut cake (contributor Tom Hankinson swears that the sauerkraut adds moisture, but not flavor), and many more.

The book even features a couple of recipes for something I always try to make in summer: no-bake cookies. These particular recipes were a necessity rather than a choice, Hopley explained; her oven broke while she was putting the book together!

“Confections from the Coffee Shed” costs $12, with proceeds going to the Leverett Pond Preservation Fund. It is available at the Leverett Transfer Station at 5 Cemetery Road, and at the town library at 75 Montague Road. It may also be ordered from Claire Hopley herself. Her email address is claireannhopley@gmail.com.

Chocolate Tiffin

This is one of the no-bake recipes Hopley contributed to the book. “Once you’ve got the concept, you can do just about anything” with these cookies, she said. Golden syrup, she informs the reader in her recipe notes, is “a thick English sugar syrup available in some local specialty food stores.”

Cookie ingredients:

12 to 14 plain cookies such as Lorna Doone, Pecan Sandies or Chessmen

½ stick (4 T) butter

3 T golden syrup, thick honey or dark Karo syrup

3 T light brown sugar

⅓ cup chocolate chips

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup (or more to taste) crispy rice cereal, muesli or granola

Topping ingredients:

cup chocolate chips

2 T colored cake sprinkles or toasted flaked almonds

Line an 8-inch-square cake pan with parchment and grease the sides. Put the cookies in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin or can of food so that they break into a mix of pea- and bean-sized pieces. You should have about a cup, but quantities don’t have to be exact.

In a large saucepan over moderate heat, melt the butter; then stir in the syrup, sugar, chocolate chips and vanilla extract. When the mixture bubbles, remove it from the heat and stir in the cereal plus the crushed cookies to make a thick, stiff mass. Add more cookies or cereal if necessary to achieve this.

Quickly spread the mixture in the prepared pan, leaving one corner empty. (This makes it easier to cut and remove the cookies later.) For the topping, melt the chocolate and spread it over the surface. While it is still melted, shower it with the sprinkles or almonds.

Leave the cookies to cool. Cut into squares or bars. Makes 12 to 15 pieces.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.