From politics to baking: Claire Mack is always there | Local news

DOING SOMETHING SPECIAL: CLAIRE MACK MIXES HOMEMADE CAKES THAT TURN ANY DAY INTO A HOLIDAY. Former San Mateo mayor and now busy professional baker Claire Mack of Claire’s Crunch Cakes shares cooking memories, gives her thoughts on good food, and tells how her family’s favorite holiday dessert became her own specialty at demand of her.

DJ: Who taught you how to bake?

CM: My mother, Eva Garrett Cullen. My mother was an excellent cook. One of my duties was to churn the butter and sugar for her. That was quite a task for a 9 or 10 year old.

DJ: Where do you do your baking?

CM: I bake at home in a lovely kitchen, I had no idea that I would use this kitchen for this purpose. One of my daughters, Lesli, is a professional chef and when we remodeled, I’m sure we had her in mind. I used to love throwing fancy parties so our kitchen was redone with the idea that we would be partying for the rest of our lives but who knows where life will take you so now my kitchen is mostly used for baking of all kinds. During the holidays we make a peach shoe rack.

DJ: Why did you decide to focus on crispy pie?

CM: The crispy pie was a family favorite. I don’t remember the years when San Mateo was graced with a Blum’s, that fine pastry that included crispy cakes. By all standards, the cake was an expensive commodity, but we always bought one during the holidays. Our families’ favorite was the lemon crisp cake for Easter Sunday, but the store didn’t always have that cake. So we settled for the crunchy mocha or coffee cake. I zeroed in on the crispy pie because it was so tasty and no one was making it on the Peninsula that I knew of. I found a need and filled it!

DJ: What do you bake most often for your own family?

CM: I think the pineapple upside down cake is the most popular among my family, although the strawberry shortcake is closely related. Blum’s didn’t make a strawberry crunch cake. I came up with that on my own. I also make a vanilla crispbread, a tropical crispbread, with kiwi, tangerines and strawberries, a banana, and a chocolate crispbread. I also made a Peanut Butter Apple Crisp Pie, but those were one-off orders.

DJ: What are your favorite ingredients and flavors?

CM: I love food and I don’t have favorite ingredients or flavors. Good food is good food and I feel lucky and blessed to grow up in a part of the country that is so rich in diverse cuisines. I was saying that in the city of San Mateo you can eat from all over the world. We are a bit short, or just short of good German and Central European restaurants, but we still have a plethora of good restaurants on the peninsula. One of my favorite restaurants from the past was La Cigogne, a French restaurant run by the Wagner brothers, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Shadows. The Shadows offered German cuisine and made the best soups this side of heaven. It was one of the first restaurants in San Mateo to allow people of color to dine inside. Blum didn’t! Blum had a bakery counter and of course we bought our cakes to go!

DJ: What is your favorite dessert to order when you go out to eat?

CM: A good apple pie. Pies without butter crusts. Dairy and I don’t get along. Yeah, I don’t eat crispy pastries or even dairy-soaked upside-down pineapple! Lactose intolerance has me on one side and diabetes on the other. Fooey! But I’m glad to be alive at a time when we can meet people’s dietary needs. I make egg free, gluten free and sometimes sugar free cakes at additional cost. I know how it feels to not be able to eat exactly what you want. Dairy free for me for sure.

DJ: Do you watch baking shows?

CM: Yes, I watch some baking shows. But when the TV is on, I’m mostly a news junkie. I have to know what is happening in the world. This last choice was comforting in many ways. I am proud of American women!

DJ: What would be your advice to someone who wants to learn how to bake?

CM: My advice is to find a person in the neighborhood like me, ask if you can come in and do the dishes or something. Practical experience is very important. And YouTube is my encyclopedia! Go to YouTube – you can find epicurean treasures at the click of a button.

DJ: Do you have any Christmas recipes you’d like to share?

CM: Yes, although it’s not a cake recipe. My aunt Ozie Stewart made a crab salad that I am going to make and share with a lot of people.

Aunt Ozie’s Crab Salad

• Fresh or canned crab (from Costco)

• bay shrimp

• celery

• onions

• Mayonnaise

• lemon juice

• garlic salt

Finely chop the celery and onion

dump crab and shrimp

add mayonnaise

Sprinkle lemon juice and seasonings to taste.

To garnish the salad, cover the top with large prawns



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