I spent this past Sunday afternoon trading homemade treats at the Chicago Food Swap, a place where passionate home cooks go to exchange their home made or home grown items with others. Many thanks to Vanessa and Emily, who founded the swap in December of 2011. I loved being around so many talented home cooks who were trading everything from baby kale to homemade baked good to freshly canned jams, jellies and syrups. The creativity on display is inspiring. I love to bake but I don't know anything about canning and I really enjoyed stocking my pantry with unusual, high quality items that I don't make.
The February Swap was hosted by Katherine Anne Confections in Logan Square. My daughter and I arrived just before the store officially closed, and were able to enjoy a quick snack of flaky croissants (spinach and feta for me; plain for my girl). This store sells beautiful homemade caramels, truffles and marshmallows. They were all tempting, but a package of chocolate marshmallows spiked with cayenne seemed like the perfect choice for a snowy afternoon. Once the swap started, Katherine Anne’s passed around tiny cups of ginger blood orange drinking chocolate with cranberry marshmallows. Warming and delicious. If you are lucky enough to live in the Sauganash area, you can purchase these wonderful candies and the drinking chocolate at Local Goods Chicago on Devon Avenue.
Now onto the swap…
Early last week, I recreated the macarons with chocolate raspberry ganache I'd learned to make last summer at the French Pastry School. Making macarons is a long process, but I finished them on Saturday afternoon. I was still looking for another item to swap amd found the idea Saturday morning as I listened to several moms rave about bacon chocolate chip cookies that someone had brought to the ballet class demonstration party. With a few tips from the baker, I modified my chocolate chip cookie recipe to include applewood smoked bacon. These cookies were more popular at the swap than the macarons. Next time, I’ll add more bacon and, at the suggestion of the owner of Katherine Anne’s, use chunks of dark chocolate rather than chips.
When all of the swappers had displayed their items, we wandered around for about thirty minutes bidding on one another's offerings. Once swapping starts, it moves quickly. Here is what I brought home: six farm fresh eggs in gorgeous colors, cranberry curd, epiphany jam made with fruit and brandy, white bean hummus, two chocolate stout cupcakes, mini cherry pie, homemade granola, honey comb challah, caramel corn with hazelnuts and chocolate caramel corn, olive oil focaccia. I was lucky to get any savory items - my daughter was focused on cupcakes, pie filling and any other sweet treat she could find.
My fellow swappers are an impressive crew. Their food is delicious and the packaging is creative. If you are interested in future swaps (the next one will be on April 7th), you can "like" the Chicago Food Swap Facebook Page so that you'll find out when registration opens. Fair warning - be ready to register as soon as you see the post. This popular event fills up quickly!