Julie Corbier de Lara, one of the pastry chefs at Beth’s Little Bake Shop, began baking treats for her brother at a young age with her Easy Bake oven. As she got older, she said she further understood the roles that food and cooking play in her life.
“It’s part of the fabric of my family,” she said. “There is a deep and abiding love to feed people.”
Corbier de Lara is Sicilian, meaning that her childhood was filled with baking, cooking and sharing food, she explained. When she had her sons, Michael and Daniel, she passed down the tradition of the Easy Bake oven and cooked with them as she had done with her mother, grandmother and aunts.
Since 1993, Corbier de Lara has been working in commercial restaurants and pastry shops. She joined Beth’s Little Bake Shop at 1814 Central St. as a pastry chef four years ago. Beyond baking, she also has a love of fine arts. She received her degree in painting and drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Corbier de Lara then combined her two interests and began to make preserves. Her very first batch was apricot.
“There is something really lovely about taking all these fruits and transforming them into something different, like transforming a lump of clay into a beautiful form. When I make preserves I am considering the visual interest as well as the flavor and texture,” she said.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to ravage the country, Corbier de Lara was doing what many Americans did in the first few months – decluttering. She cleaned out her preserve inventory and asked her friends if they wanted any before she made new batches. She quickly ran out and kept the idea of starting her own business in the back of her head until last month, when she launched One Last Bite.
Corbier de Lara still works at Beth’s, but now also provides the Evanston community with fresh batches of homemade preserves right out of her kitchen.
One Last Bite will stick to a production schedule, but in addition to preserves, Corbier de Lara is also offering biscotti that can be made at any time – quaresimali (Lenten almond biscuits) and cranberry pistachio. The current selection of preserves is Sorrento lemon, mandarin/cranberry, pear and blood orange.
Sorrento lemon is made with Santa Teresa lemons, which lack bitterness. This preserve pairs well with herbs, and Corbier de Lara suggests stirring in dried blue lavender, fresh tarragon or chervil once the jar is open. Indulge with whole milk ricotta on toast topped with the preserve, or sandwich them between shortbread cookies.
Mandarin cranberry is more tart with whole cranberries and a chewy, tender tangerine peel. It can be paired with cheese such as Brie or cheddar. Corbier de Lara uses Bartlett pears in her preserves. Her favorite way to eat them is with Greek yogurt and roasted almonds or walnuts.
Corbier de Lara uses the most flavorful, darkest red blood oranges for the blood orange preserve and adds white currants, which are high in pectin and acid. The result is a blend of sweet, sour and a touch of bitterness. Corbier de Lara says her mother likes to serve it alongside flourless chocolate cake and whipped cream.
While One Last Bite is just launching in Evanston, Corbier de Lara says that she is already enjoying sharing her love of preserves.
“I love what I do, and I think part of it is when you are an artist you want to have your work out in the world and have people enjoy it and put it into the hands of other people so they can love it the way you do,” she said. “It’s fascinating to meet more people in the community by handing them a jar of preserves and talking for five minutes.”
Corbier de Lara’s website is not taking online payments at this time, but she does accept payment through PayPal, Zelle or cash. All orders can be picked up in northwest Evanston.