Monday, June 27, 2016

Visiting Cake

When you have a really, really good cookbook, like any wonderful work of art you return to it over and over throughout the years and discover new things. For me Dorie Greenspan's 2006 Baking: From My Home To Yours is such a cookbook. Well written, flawless recipes, beautiful photographs, and the 'Playing Around' feature with suggestions for how to give the recipe a new twist are all so appealing. Best of all these are baked goods that you just want to eat!

This past weekend we went visiting and stayed overnight at Natashya's home  near Sacramento. Saturday morning I woke up early and baked a Swedish Visiting Cake from Dorie's book. I baked it in a pie pan and, truthfully, it almost didn't make the trip because it smelled so wonderful that Sweetie and I wanted to eat it as soon as it came out of the oven!

This is a simple cake, one layer and not a tall layer either. The top is golden with a darker crispy edge and a scattering of sliced almonds and sprinkle of sugar to dress it as much as it's dressed. It's the combined fragrance of lemon, vanilla and almond that make it so irresistible. We had some with tea and coffee in the afternoon and it was enjoyed by all.

You can make this cake pretty quickly. By the time your oven has preheated, you can have warmed the eggs in a bowl of water, melted the butter (or margarine in my case) in the microwave, zested the lemon and mixed it with the sugar, whisked the batter ingredients together and folded in the flour and butter. It only takes about 20-25 minutes to bake and is ready 5 minutes later. Remember this one when you get a hankering for a quick cake that tastes divine. Remember it, too, when you are going visiting. I can assure you that it would be a hard hearted hostess who could turn this cake away.

Swedish Visiting Cake
from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
Serves 8 - 10

1 cup sugar, plus a little more (1-2 teaspoons) for sprinkling
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (8 tablespoons, 4 oz.) margarine, melted and cooled
About 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a seasoned 9-inch cast-iron skillet or other heavy ovenproof skillet, a 9-inch round cake pan or pie pan.

Pour the sugar into a  medium bowl. Add the lemon zest and blend the zest into the sugar with our fingers until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Whisk in the salt, vanilla and almond extracts.

Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the flour. Then fold in the melted butter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula. Scatter the top with the sliced almonds and the extra sugar. I also used about a 1/2 teaspoon of sparkling sugar for extra crunch.

Bake the cake for 20 - 30 minutes, or until it is golden and a little crisp on the edges. The inside will remain moist, even slightly damp. That is OK.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool for 5 minutes. It will be a fairly flat cake. After the five minutes have passed, run a thin knife around the side and bottom of the cake to loosen it. I used a small offset spatula to loosen the bottom since I was transporting the cake in the pan.

You can serve the cake warm or cooled, directly from the pan or turned out onto a serving plate.

Well wrapped, this cake will keep for about 5 days at room temperature or for up to 2 months in the freezer. Good luck on getting it to last that long. Hard not to eat the whole thing at one go after the first 5 minutes of smells that good.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Garden In Late June

Today when we got home from an overnight visit to Wilton, near Sacramento, the squash plants had produced another 7 very large zucchini squash.

The garden is looking so great right now. I also harvested another handful of snow peas and noticed that some of the pumpkins are getting bigger. The photo above is of both pumpkin and zucchini plants plus the very energetic morning glories I planted from seed I gathered last year.

The pumpkin plants by the climbing rose and lemon tree will probably need to come out because they are taking over the area and spilling well on to the sidewalk to the barn. I'm going to see if a neighbor wants them. I think some of them might transplant OK even though they are getting big.

The poppies are giving lots of color to the bed by the front porch. I love seeing what blooms each morning.

Just wanted to share some of the photos I took on Saturday morning. Quite a change from a month ago. back by the red rose are the snow pea plants. We'll be getting beans in a week or so from plants just to the left of the snow peas, and the cucumbers are finally growing strongly, so maybe mid-July for the first cukes from the garden.

Happy Summer!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Gilded With Oreos

Perhaps you have heard the phrase, 'gild the lily' which seems to me to mean taking something beautiful and either making it more beautiful or trying to. This month the Cake Slice Bakers had our usual four cakes to choose from and I chose one that seemed to be a case of gilding the lily.

When I saw the choices for the June cake for the Cake Slice Bakers I was pretty sure that I would go with the Oreo Cookie Cake. Once I knew that there would be at least three of us to eat it for Father's Day, it was just what I want to make and to eat. Best laid plans and all that. I made it but didn't eat any because I completely had a brain fart and made it with unsalted butter, instead of the dairy-free margarine I had planned on. This was not easy to do since the two sticks of butter had to sit out on the counter for a while to soften. Not sure why I thought about it after I had beaten the batter together, but at least that kept me from trying the batter out as I often do before putting it in the pan. It smelled so good as it finished baking that I almost gave in and had some anyway...but didn't.

The good news is that since we had so much and one less person to eat it, we persuaded our friends from the farm to help us out. Such a difficult task helping us consume some of this rich, sour cream pound cake laced with chunks of Oreo cookies! To doll it up I made some ganache with a touch of bourbon added and used it as a topping and to hold halved Oreo cookies for garnish. Then we added some whipped cream as slices were served, since Sweetie said it was a little dry (and because as long as you are gilding the lily, might as well go all-out!) Everyone finished every crumb, so you know this is a keeper recipe. Next time I'll make it with margarine!

 Thanks dear friends from Spoiled Rotten Farm for helping us with the cake, and glad to hear that it is even better with morning coffee! I knew that giving you some to take home was the right thing to do.

Happy day after Father's Day , a day late, to all you Dads who enjoy cake!

Oreo Cookie Cake
from Maida Heatter's Cakes
Serves 16

14-15 Oreo sandwich cookies
2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
Optional - ganache and more Oreo cookies, cut in half, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a tube pan and dust all over with fine, dry breadcrumbs. A fancy tube pan or Bundt pan with a pattern, which holds 10 to 12 cups is best. Invert pan over paper and tap out excess crumbs. Set pan aside.

Place the cookies on a cutting board and carefully cut them into quarters with a sharp knife. Some will crumble. That's OK. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the vanilla and the almond extracts and the granulated sugar and beat to mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure that each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Scrape bowl and beaters as needed now and throughout the batter making process.

On low speed add the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the sour cream in two additions. Beat only until incorporated after each addition.

Place about 1 1/2 cups of the mixture by heaping teaspoonfuls in the bottom of the prepared pan. Smooth with the bottom of a teaspoon. Using the same spoon bottom, form a trench in the batter.

Add the cut up Oreo cookies to the batter remaining in the mixing bowl. Fold them in very gently, folding as little as possible just until mixed with the batter.

Place heaping spoonfuls of the Oreo batter into the pan over the plain batter. Smooth the top and smooth some of the batter up the sides of the pan.

Bake for 1 hour, until a cake tester inserted gently into the cake comes out clean and dry. Don't worry about any cracks in the top of the cake. It's OK.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then cover the pan with a cooling rack and turn the cake over. Remove the pan and let cake cool on the rack.

Serve as is, with a dusting of confectioners' sugar, or drizzle with a nice ganache (see recipe below). Decorate with more Oreo cookies cut in half.

4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 ounces heavy cream

1 tablespoon bourbon

Set the chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl.

Pour on the cream and mix well.

At half power in the microwave, heat the mixture for a minute. Stir well. Repeat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the bourbon. Let the ganache stand and firm up to thick pouring consistency before using.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Babes Bodacious Bran Bread

Yes, the 16th of the month has rolled around sure seems to go fast...and today our kitchen of the month, Lien of Notitie van Lien has gathered us around the kitchen table and encouraged the Babes to bake a loaf or two with quite a bit of bran in it.

I used wheat bran and whole wheat flour, as well as unbleached bread flour. Not only did I add golden raisins, but I put in chopped walnuts. If the bread has a pink tinge, you can blame the walnuts. There is some chemical reaction that causes it. It doesn't affect the taste any, but the first time I baked yeast bread that included walnuts I was pretty surprised to cut into it and find that pinky-purple tint.

The amount of water in this recipe is pretty variable. I used 100 grams to soak the bran and another 100 in the first part of the dough, plus some more for proofing the yeast. It was too much, so I ended up adding quite a bit of bread flour while doing the kneading. It was still a pretty slack dough, so I decided to make one large round loaf instead of two regular loaves. It worked out fine except for the fact that the weather heated up at a rapid rate and I didn't realize it. I was at the computer in my bedroom, which is on the north side of the house and stays cooler. When I went to check on the dough in the pan at the correct time, it had overproofed. I put it into the preheated oven right away and it was still a wonderful, moist, tasty loaf, but it didn't have any oven spring and had a flat top, so not as pretty as some. Sweetie really enjoyed this one and it stayed fresh tasting for a week! With just the two of us to enjoy this bodacious bran bread, it take a while to eat it. I enjoyed it toasted the most and Sweetie really like the French Toast I made using it.

Please consider baking this great bread and becoming a Buddy by e-mailing Lien with a photo and a short description of your baking experience with this recipe. She will send you a Buddy badge and include you in the round-up.

Be sure to check out the other Bread Baking Babes, too, with links below. You will see loaves much nicer looking than mine and more inspiration for becoming a Buddy.
A Messy Kitchen - Kelly
Bake My Day - Karen
Blog From Our Kitchen - Elizabeth
Bread Experience - Cathy
Judy's Gross Eats - Judy
Karen's Kitchen Stories - Karen
My Kitchen in Half Cups - Tanna
Notitie van Lien - Lien

Bran Bread
(makes 2 small loaves or 1 large)

500 g whole wheat flour (I used half whole wheat and half unbleached bread flour)
300-380 g water
50-100 g (organic) wheat bran (1 used 75 g)
+ Extra water for the bran (± 2 g water per 1 g bran)
7 g instant dry yeast
1 TBsp honey
30 g margarine (or butter)
1.5 tsp fine salt
50 g water
100 g walnuts (or other nuts), coarsely chopped
100 g golden raisins

Mix the yeast with 3/4 of the water,  honey, margarine, additional 50 g water. Let sit 10 minutes. Mix the bran with the additional water in a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Let mixture sit until cool. Take the cooled bran and put into the bowl of a stand mixer, add some of the WW flour, salt and start mixing it adding the rest of the WW flour and if needed the rest of the water. Don't put everything in at once, you can always put more in later when the dough is almost ready. The dough has to be moist and sticky

As the bran in the flour and the added bran take time to absorb the water, leave the mixture to rest for about 10 minutes. Now check the consistency and decide if there is more water needed. Start kneading the dough, the dough should not be very sticky after a minute or 6 Add additional flour if necessary

Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and leave to rise for about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising: Soak the raisins for about 20 minutes in lukewarm water, pat dry with a kitchen towel and leave them on a dry tea towel to dry a little further. If you use nuts you can do the same, the soaking time will be longer about 40 minutes.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and press or roll it out flat in a big oval. (Mine was so sticky that I used floured hands to flatten it and a dough scraper to mix in the nuts and raisins as they were added. Divide 1/2 of the nuts and/or raisins over the dough, fold the dough in two, press or roll out again and sprinkle on the remaining nuts/raisins. Roll the dough (jelly roll style) and divide in two. Or make one whole mass of dough as I did.

Take one half and place it on the counter and press the escaped nuts/raisins back in the dough, press it down a little and shape it to a round, without working the dough, but by rolling it between your cupped hands on the surface. Repeat with the second half of the dough and place the dough balls on parchment paper. You can also shape the dough into a log and place it in a greased baking tin. My dough was so slack that I patted it down with floured hands to help the gas escape, then used a dough scraper to mound it and two dough scrapers to transfer the mass of dough to a greased round 9"x3" cake pan.

Now cover with lightly greased plastic plastic. Let it rise for about 45 minutes in a warm and draft free spot. Check if it's ready to bake by pressing a floured finger in the dough, it the dent springs back, leave it to rise longer, if the dent doesn't disappear, it's ready to bake.

Preheat your oven (preferably with an oven stone and a metal tin on the bottom of the oven) to 200ºC (400ºF).
Make slashes in the dough and put them in the oven (on the stone if you have it), pour some water in the metal tin to create steam and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 30-40 minutes. Check the temperature of the bread (95ºC/200ºF) to be sure it is cooked.If the top gets too dark before the bread is done, cover with tin foil. Take the loaves out and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Big Berries That Come In First

Every year the berries down the driveway, near the road, are the first to flower and the first to bear ripe fruit. They are also the biggest berries of the season.

 Since they were here when we moved in I really don't know the variety, but I suspect that they are boysenberries. What I do know is that they are juice and sweet and have an intoxicating fragrance. This year since we had enough rain over the fall and winter they are also prolific. I have already picked a half dozen pints and have barely made a tiny dent in the number available right now, ripe and soft and full of juice. There are also many hundreds that have just begun to get red, and some still green. I may even make jelly this year there are so many!

One of the easiest ways to bake with these berries is to make a cobbler. The fruit gets mixed with a bit of sugar, if needed, and some lemon zest or orange zest and then cooked in the oven until hot. A cobbler mixture, which is just biscuit dough and sugar with a little extra milk or water, is spooned over the hot berries, then the whole thing is baked until the topping is golden brown and the berries' juices are bubbly. If you like you can sprinkle on some sparkling sugar for a bit of shine and crunch on the topping. Be sure to let the whole pan cool down just a bit before serving because those juices can burn your tongue! Been there and done that.

I like to serve my cobbler with a scoop of ice cream. This time I used a nice soy based, non-dairy vanilla from Double Rainbow. The cold ice cream makes a nice contrast to the hot cobbler.

Boysenberry Cobbler
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 to 2 pints boysenberries, washed and drained (or you can use blackberries)
sugar to taste
1/2 teaspoon lemon or orange zest
Your favorite biscuit recipe, with 2 tablespoons brown sugar added and an extra 2 tablespoons milk
(I used soy creamer instead of milk)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a small baking pan. (I use a ceramic one that holds 4 cups)
Place the berries in the prepared pan and sprinkle with the sugar (if needed). Cover pan with foil and bake 10-15 minutes. Fruit should be hot and have release some of the juices.

While fruit is baking, mix together your biscuit recipe, adding the brown sugar to the dry ingredients and the extra milk to the we ingredients. The end result should be drop biscuits with dough that falls off a spoon.

Remove fruit from oven and uncover. Drop mounds of the dough evenly over the hot fruit, leaving some space where the fruit peeks through. If desired sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons sparkling sugar over the dough. Uncovered, return the baking pan to the oven and bake about 20 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the juices are bubbly.

Let cool 5 minutes, then serve. Garnish with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Last, but not least, here is a photo of an intense red poppy in my garden:

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Apricots and Berries

We have reached one of the great times of year for a baker. The first of the stone fruits are coming into the markets. Ripe, fragrant apricots, tender and juicy white nectarines, regular nectarines, peaches - both regular and white, are all ready to be turned into pies, crisps, buckles, muffins, and tarts, to name a few. Cherries are ripe, too. Here is a photo from our local farm stand. Don't they make your mouth water?

We are also beginning to have wonderful berries. Our local strawberries started late this year and my boysenberry shrubs are just now producing ripe king berries.

The garden has been growing like crazy. The only produce we have harvested is the zucchini, but today we found all three kinds ready to pick...dark green, light green and yellow. Will probably have them grilled tonight! My lovely poppies have started to bloom, too. At the top of the post are two that just opened yesterday. Aren't they lovely?

Recently I surprised Sweetie with an apricot and strawberry gallette, which is a free form pie. I used store-bought pie crust and just rolled the round out a little more so that some of the dough could be folded up over the fruit filling. At the bottom I sprinkled a layer of ground almonds and sprinkled that with about a tablespoon of flour. I knew that the strawberries in particular would produce a lot of juice and hoped that the nuts and flour would soak them up some. Well, good plan, but I needed more because the juice broke through cracks in the dough and created a pool to either side of the gallette. Not a problem. I put the gallette on parchment so we just scraped up the cooked juice when we served up our portions.

This was really tasty and, perhaps, the essence of late spring.

Apricot Strawberry Gallette
Serves 4-6

1 pie crust round, either home made or store-bought
about 1/3 cup ground almonds (or whirl some almonds in the food processor with 1 tablespoon sugar until finely ground. The sugar keeps it from turning to paste.)
1-2 tablespoons flour
4 ripe apricots, washed, dried, seed removed and cut into 1/8ths
1/2 pint strawberries, washed, dried, hulled and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
a few drops almond extract
Sparkling sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the pie crust 2-3 inches wider than needed for a 9" pie. Transfer dough to parchment paper on baking sheet. Draping dough over rolling pin works well for moving it to the baking sheet. Put an even layer of the ground almonds in the center of the dough, leaving about three inches around the edges with no almonds. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the almonds. Set aside.

In a medium bowl mix the prepared apricots and strawberries, the sugar and the almond extract. Pour this mixture into the middle of the prepared dough disk. Make sure that fruit goes over all the ground almonds, but not into the plain dough. Mound fruit in center. Gently pull plain dough up over the fruit, pleating as needed as you go around the disc. Use water on your fingertip to seal the pleats if necessary. Use a little more water (or some milk) brushed over the top of the gallette to help it brown and to hold a sprinkling of sparkling sugar, if desired.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until pastry top is golden brown and juices are bubbly.
Serve after cooling 5 minutes or cool completely, then serve.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Scenes from the Garden

Along with all the other fun in life, working in the garden has taken up time and has been a joy these past few weeks. We ate the first decent sized zucchini today (had a tiny one grilled last week...just a baby) and it was so good.

The new garden next to the steps up to the front door and deck is looking really great! The morning glories produce varied colors to welcome each day, the bright orange nasturtium flowers look wonderful next to the brilliant blue of the lobelia.

 In the main garden, near the barn, the peas and beans are up, along with tiny basil and nasturtium seedlings.

Sweet peas should be blooming soon and so should some lovely poppies. The transplanted lemon tree, rose and daphne shrubs are doing well and sending out new leaves. Here is the daphne, along with a beautiful pink geranium and bocopa.

 I think I'm going to have a bumper crop of pumpkins with seedlings that have sprung up from the pumpkins I put in the spent beds to compost. Should be fun to see what they turn out to look like! It's a treat each day to see the growth that spring brings! Look at how much they have grown since May 5th. I just thinned them out a bit, so they should really grow now. They share the barrel with seedlings for morning glories and zinnia.

 One of the biggest changes has been to the main planter near the walk

 Here is a wide view of what I see from the kitchen window.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Aunt Leah's Raspberry Squares

The Cake Slice Bakers are still baking from Maida Heatter's Cakes and this is another keeper recipe. Our choices this month included a tunnel-of-fudge cake called Big Daddy's Cake, a chocolate sponge cake rolled around a whipped cream filling, a light honey infused Marmalade Gingerbread and this wonderful raspberry recipe. It was hard to choose and I dithered (to use Sweetie's phrase) from Big Daddy to Gingerbread to Raspberry Squares. The cake roll was out because I couldn't figure out a way to do it without dairy and still keep to the spirit of the recipe.

I finally chose this recipe because I love Raspberries and I was curious to see if the yeast made any difference in the recipe. Any recipe with so much fat severely reduces the ability of the yeasts to thrive. As it turned out the yeast made it just a nice bit puffier than a regular pastry and added just the right amount of yeast flavor to enhance the buttery pastry flavor and to offset the sweetness of the raspberry filling.

As usual I made a few changes. The first one was involuntary. I was starting the dough and had proofed the yeast when I discovered that I had a tiny amount of flour in my canister and I needed sugar, too. My solution was to add 1/2 cup flour to the water and yeast and let that sit overnight in the fridge, covered. In the morning I went shopping, then made the dough using a food processor and well chilled margarine instead of butter. I used soy creamer, unflavored, instead of the milk. I let the dough sit, covered, on the counter at room temperature for about an hour, then put it into the fridge for 8 hours. In the evening I followed most of the rest of the recipe and baked it.

The only other change was the filling. Because I don't like raspberry seeds in a fine pastry like this, I sprang for the more expensive seedless jam. Because I had three limes but no lemons on hand, I grated lime zest over the bottom of the pastry, spread on the loosened jam, then, because I couldn't find my blanched almonds (one of the perils of baking at night when my brain is not as sharp as one might wish) I scattered 1/2 cup sliced almonds over the jam.

 I also reduced the number and spacing of pastry strips for the top layer...getting tired...but I made sure to keep a viable pattern of pastry.

The result was wonderful! Tender golden pastry encased the jam filling. The pastry is not sweet but it is delicious. Sweetie ate what was left raw and liked that, too. The jam is so sweet that I left off any confectioners' sugar decoration. A lovely dessert for a Friday evening! You should try it!

Aunt Leah's Raspberry Squares
from Maida Heatter's Cakes

1/4 cup barely warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter (I used dairy-free margarine)
1 egg
1/2 cup evaporated milk (I used unflavored soy creamer)
Confectioners' sugar for decor (I skipped this)

1 pound (1 1/2 cups) thick raspberry preserves
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon (or use a lime as I did)
2 1/2 oz. (1/2 cup) blanched almonds, chopped into medium size pieces (or use sliced almonds as I did)

For the Pastry:
In a small bowl add the warm water and yeast. Stir with a fork. Set aside.

Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. With a pastry blender cut in the butter until the particles are fine and the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Beat the egg and the milk just to mix, and add, along with the yeast, to the dry ingredients. Stir thoroughly to mix.

(The above steps from mixing the dry ingredients to mixing in the liquids and yeast, may all be done in a food processor as I did.)

Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover airtight, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil or butter a 10 x 15 x 1-inch jelly-roll pan. It should not be a non-stick pan.

Flour a work surface and rolling pin. Turn the dough out onto the work surface, form it into a ball, and cut it in half. Set aside one of the pieces. I put it back into the bowl.

Shape the other piece into a rectangle, flouring the dough, work surface and your hands/rolling pin as you go as necessary. Roll the dough out to measure 12 x 17 inches. keeping the corners as square as you can and the sides as straight as you can. Loosely drape the rolled out dough over the rolling pin and transfer it to the buttered jelly-roll pan. With a small, sharp knife, trim the sides of the dough even with the top of the pan.

Sprinkle the citrus zest over the dough in the pan. Loosen the raspberry preserves with a fork and then spread that over the dough. Go all the way to the all the edges. I used a small offset spatula and that really worked well. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds. Set aside.

Flour the remaining dough and work surface and rolling pin and form it into a rectangle, rolled out to 10 x 15 inches. No need to be as perfect about straight sides or corners with this one.

With a zigzag or plain pastry wheel or pizza cutter, slice this rolled out dough into lengthwise strips 1/2 inch wide. Place half the strips on a diagonal about 1/2-inch apart over the filling, pinching them off level with the rim of the pan. Place the rest of the strips crisscrossing in the opposite direction, forming a lattice or diamond design, pinching off the ends here, too.

With your fingers, fold over the dough around the edges. Fold it in toward the center to form a border about 1/2 inch wide all around. With a fork, press down on it lightly to seal.

Without waiting for the dough to rise, place the pan in the oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until nicely colored.

Cool in the pan.

With a sharp, small knife cut the cake into squares and transfer them to wax paper with a wide metal flexible spatula. Sprinkle confectioners' sugar through a fine strainer to decorate, if desired.

These may be frozen.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Babes Bread of Spring

Things are sprouting and shooting up in the garden and around the property. Flowers are blooming and birds are singing. Spring. It's one of my favorite times of year. Our Kitchen of the Month, Cathy of Bread Experience has asked the Bread Baking Babes to make a spring flatbread/focaccia topped with thin lemon slices and our choice of herbs and spring greens. As you can see from the photo, it makes a very visually appealing dish.

The bread itself is fairly easy. I saved half the dough, in two pieces, in oiled ziploc bags in the fridge and baked them almost a week later. The flavor was even deeper than the original bread, so consider retarding your dough longer than the recipe indicates if you like a full flavored bread.

I made this lovely recipe over a week ago and the bread was just devoured when served! I picked some miner's lettuce, tiny dandelion greens and fresh herbs from my garden, then added super thin bits of asparagus, too. With the thin slices of Meyer lemon, it just sang Spring! A wonderful May recipe! 

For the refrigerated dough I made half with fresh rosemary, sea salt and olive oil on top and the other with those and a sprinkle of mixed seeds. I think I liked the simplest one the best, although the lemon slices really added to the bread, so it would be hard to choose. I'll be making this again!

Choose to make this bread and become a Buddy. Let us know how you topped yours and how it was making the bread, then send that along with a photo to Cathy. Check her blog, Bread Experience  for more details. Get it to her by May 29th to be included in the roundup.  If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to email Cathy at Bread Experience to say that your post is up.

Be sure to check out what the other Babes have done this month, too.
The active Bread Baking Babes are:

Thin Crispy Spring Focaccia
Adapted from: The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking by The French Culinary Institute
Makes: Four ~400-gram Focaccias

40 grams (100 %) Bread Flour
44 grams (125%) water, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon/ 4 grams (10%) instant yeast

Final Dough
668 grams (80%) Bread Flour
167 grams (20%) whole wheat, or bread flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
625 grams (75%) - 725 grams (87%) water *
84 grams (All) Poolish
17 grams Olive Oil
25 grams water (3%), to mix with the salt
17 grams Coarse Sea Salt

Topping Suggestions:
Olive Oil
Coarse Sea Salt, for sprinkling if desired
Fennel Seeds, to taste
Dried Thyme, to taste
Lemon slices, thinly sliced
Spring Mix Greens, or other greens as desired
Alfalfa Sprouts
Tiny blanched asparagus
Fresh rosemary

In a medium bowl, whisk together the bread flour and yeast. Pour in the room temperature water and combine using a wooden spoon. Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a spatula or dough scraper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest on the counter at room temperature (75 degrees F. /25 degrees C.) for 12 to 14 hours.

Final Dough:
The next day, or when ready to mix the final dough, whisk together the flours and yeast in a large bowl. Pour the water and oil over the poolish and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk to break up the poolish. Add the water gradually, reserving the 25 grams to mix with the salt.  I started with about 650 grams (78%), then gradually added more water until the dough reached the consistency I was looking for 725 grams (87%).  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a dough scraper, cover and let it rest (autolyze) for 20 minutes.

Uncover and sprinkle the salt over the top of the dough. Pour the remaining 25 grams of water over the salt to dissolve it.  Using wet hands, thoroughly incorporate the salt into the dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle water on a work surface. Uncover the dough and transfer it to the wet surface. Using wet hands, fold the dough from all sides.  Then gently tuck the seams under and place the dough back in the bowl.  Using water on the counter and your hands, alleviates the need to oil the bowl or the work surface. Cover the bowl again with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set the dough aside for the third time to ferment for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle water on the work surface again and fold the dough one last time. Tuck the seams under and place it back in the bowl. Cover and set it aside to ferment for 2 hours. (I let mine ferment overnight in the fridge.)

An hour before you plan to bake the focaccia, place a baking stone or tiles in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees F. (260 degrees C.) If you plan to use a pan for steam, place it in the oven at this time.

Sprinkle your work surface with water. Transfer the dough to the work surface and divide it into four equal pieces. Depending on the type of flour you use and the hydration, each piece will be approximately 400 grams.  Mine were about 410 grams each. Shape each piece into a round and cover with plastic. Let them bench rest for 15 minutes.

At this point, I wrapped two of the dough balls in oiled plastic, placed them in a plastic bag and put them in the refrigerator to use another day. Feel free to make them all at once if you prefer.

Lightly oil two half sheets of parchment paper. Place one dough ball on each sheet. Gently press on the dough to degas it and then shape each piece into a flattish round.  Cover the rounds with plastic wrap and let them proof for 45 minutes.

Uncover the dough, drizzle olive oil over the top and gently stretch each piece into an oval disk the length of the parchment paper, or to the desired size.  Sprinkle the top with fennel seeds, thyme and sea salt (optional) and place thinly sliced lemons, as desired.   

Using a baker’s peel or unrimmed baking sheet, transfer the focaccia (on the parchment) to the preheated baking stone.  If using steam, add ice cubes to the steam pan.  I used my new baking steel with no added steam.  

Bake the focaccia for 10 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and crisp around the edges. Remove the parchment paper partway through baking to allow the bottom to firm up.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Add a handful of the spring mix greens and sprouted alfalfa and tear apart pieces or slice it if you prefer. 

Repeat with the remaining focaccias.

I recommend using lots of lemon slices, sliced very makes the bread special! Use the toppings of your choice.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Raspberry Overnight Waffles

As long as your waffle iron works (and that you actually have a waffle iron), there is nothing as wonderfully crisp and delicious in the waffle world as Overnight Waffles. Thank you Mollie Katzen! The batter is started the night before and in the morning you add melted butter and eggs and are ready to go in no time. Because these are yeast waffles, the steam that emanates from the waffle iron as they bake smells just like freshly baked bread. In my house that means that the waffles just can't bake fast enough. On a recent morning, the waffle iron seemed to be having trouble getting up to baking temperature, so the wait seemed even more interminable.

For this venture into waffle land I decided to add fresh raspberries to the waffles before they baked. They were pretty large raspberries, so I sliced each one in half. The addition of those sweet red berries really was a great idea because they tasted wonderful, looked better than plain waffles and we had the addition of warm raspberry scent added to the warm bread fragrance. Lucious!

You can get creative and use another berry or diced fruit instead of the raspberries. Chopped nuts are also a nice addition. Topping with more berries is even better!

Be sure to have a well greased iron and one that gets as hot as possible since that makes for a lovely crispy waffle and golden crust. Serve right away with your favorite toppings. Berries, jam drizzle, yogurt and/or whipped cream. Maple syrup is classic but imagine these with an apricot syrup. If your mouth isn't watering by now, perhaps you should move on to another blog.

Amazing Overnight Waffles with Raspberries
adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe' Cookbook

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk (I used a mixture of soy creamer and rice milk)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I melted some non-dairy margarine)
1 large egg (or  ¼ cup egg substitute)
Nonstick spray
Butter for the waffle iron
1 cup fresh raspberries, rinsed, blotted with a towel, then carefully sliced in halves
Pure maple syrup – hard to resist on waffles

Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl Add the milk (or rice/soy milk mixture) and whisk until blended. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature (or put in the fridge if room temp. is over 70 degrees F.)

The next morning, preheat the waffle iron. Melt the 6 tablespoons butter (or non-dairy margarine) and let cool a bit. Beat the egg is a small bowl (unnecessary if using egg substitute) then beat it into the batter along with the melted butter. The batter may be a bit thin.

Lightly spray the hot waffle iron with non stick spray, top and bottom plates, and then butter a piece of bread and use that to rub some butter on top and bottom plates.

Add just enough batter to cover the cooking surface…this varies by waffle iron…about 2/3 cup. Scatter about 12-14 raspberry halves over the batter. Lower the top and cook until golden brown. That is usually when the bread fragranced steam almost stops coming from the waffle’s OK to check now and then. It takes about 2-3 minutes, but cook longer if you prefer. I like them golden brown, but not dark brown.

Serve hot, right away, with strawberries and maple syrup, or toppings of your choice.

Note; If you have too many waffles for the number of people you are feeding, bake the leftover batter a little less than the ones you are eating, let cool on a baking rack, then freeze and store in the freezer tightly wrapped. Re-heat in the toaster.

One of the things that often keeps me from making anything more complicated for breakfast than a bowl of oatmeal  or some fruit and toast is the time it takes to put together a batter (pancake, waffle, muffin, coffee cake) and then cook/bake it and then clean up from it.

The advantage of this waffle recipe is that you start the batter the night before and only need to add the egg and melted butter in the morning. Now, it's true, there is still some cleaning up to do (although half can be done the night before) and waffles do take a while to bake in the waffle iron, but the amazing ease of finishing off the batter, plus the fact that they taste great, makes it worthwhile. An added bonus is that the house smells like freshly baked bread...hard to beat on a chilly spring morning. Add some fresh raspberries and you have a decadent way to start the day.

The ingredients for this are so simple that most people will have them handy in the pantry. That makes it so easy to whisk the first part together one evening, cover it, let the little yeasties do their thing overnight, then finish it off and enjoy the next morning. These freeze well and can be easily reheated in a toaster or toaster oven...if any are left.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Using Up Roasted Turkey

This should probably be a post for November, but the truth is that I love turkey and eat it year 'round. With the easy availability now of turkey parts at my local market, it's easy to pick up a pack of turkey thighs and cook them in the toaster oven until roasted. Since my toaster oven is located in my studio, away from the house, this works well when the temperature is in the upper 80s as it was earlier in the week.

Once the initial dinner of roast, sliced turkey, mashed potatoes and peas passed, I still had plenty of turkey to use and it was more easily cut into chunks than sliced. Perfect for putting into a pasta sauce. In the past I've made a cream based pasta sauce with herbs and mushrooms, so I decided to try that but to use rice milk and soy creamer instead of milk, creating my own recipe as I went along.

It worked really well and since I included fresh rosemary along with dried thyme and sage, plus a large amount of green garlic (a gift from a neighbor), it was pungent in fragrance as well as delightful in flavor. Because this kind of sauce can be a bit staid, even with all of those ingredients, I used two strips of local bacon for added depth of flavor. I cooked the bacon first and used the drippings (after removing the bacon itself) to saute the mushrooms, celery and green garlic.

This made a wonderful pasta sauce and went well with a fresh green salad embellished with orange segments, avocado and a balsamic dressing. Although I did use gluten free pasta, I used regular flour for the sauce. I've figured out that I need to keep my gluten down to a low level but don't have to eliminate it altogether. If you do, just substitute a GF flour mix in the sauce and cut back the milk by a couple of tablespoons. Then, once the liquid has thickened, add more if needed to make the sauce the consistency you like.

Turkey Mushroom Pasta Sauce with Green Garlic

2 strips of bacon, cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
1/2 cup finely chopped tender green garlic bulb (no roots or skin or tough parts)
(if green garlic not available, used 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, plus 2-3 minced garlic cloves)
2 cups diced (bite sized) cooked turkey
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 tespoon dried sage
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rice milk or other non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons soy creamer, unsweetened and unflavored
salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy bottomed pot cook the bacon over medium-low heat until browned and fat rendered. Remove bacon from pot with a slotted spoon to a piece of paper towel to drain.

Increase heat to medium-high and add the celery. Stir to coat with oil. Cook, uncovered 1 minute, stirring as needed. Add the mushrooms, stir to combine with the celery, cover, and cook 3 minutes. Remove cover, stir well, cover and cook 1 more minute. Uncover, stir in the green garlic, cover, lower heat to medium-low and cook 2 minutes. Uncover and stir in the turkey, thyme, sage and rosemary. Cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from burning or sticking.

In a large measuring cup, whisk the milk into the flour slowly to avoid clumping. Uncover the pot, raise heat to medium, and pour the milk mixture in all at once. Immediately stir vigorously to combine all the ingredients in the pot with the milk mixture and continue stirring until the liquid thickens. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover, reduce heat to lowest setting and cook 1 minute to combine flavors. Uncover, add the soy creamer if needed to make the sauce the consistency you like.

Serve over cooked pasta or rice. Sprinkle each serving with chopped Italian parsley if desired.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Garden At The Moment

I confess, I have not been spending much time being creative in the kitchen. I have made the May bread for the Bread Baking Babes, but that won't be posted until May 16th. There has been the usual cooking for dinners for the two of us, but that is almost always something easy, tried, and true...and already posted on this blog.

The reason for less time in the kitchen has been that I've been spending more time in the garden. When the usual time (in this area) for weeding and garden prep came around in February and March I wasn't feeling well and had no energy.

Fortunately for me Mother Nature decided to ignore the calendar and give us rain in April quite a few times. That loosened up the soil enough for me to do April weeding and some planting, too. Sweetie dug some holes for putting gopher baskets and plants into the ground..a rose bush, a Meyer lemon bush and a daphne bush.

Those pesky gophers are not to be trusted, so almost anything that goes into the ground has to be encased in a wire basket to discourage the gophers from munching on the roots or even the whole plant. I lost 10 rose bushes the first year we lived here since I didn't know better and planted the roses right in the ground. I think those creatures are still showing up every year hoping I'll be that foolish again!

With May underway the containers that keep the plants happy and out of the ground are being filled with potting soil and I've gotten a few seedlings planted and a number of seeds, too. Rain is expected sometime during the next three days, so everything will get a welcome soaking.

Last, but not least, I've hauled quite a few bags worth of mulch to spread and keep weeds at bay. Since my strength is still not full force, I usually scoop about a third of the bag into a smaller container, spread that, scoop the next third, spread that, then haul the bag itself to be tipped and spread. It takes longer, but works just as well as trying to tip the whole bag out all at once.

Most years I plant a lot of tomato and squash seeds into little cells in February and start them in our sunspace indoors. Now that I have to restrict my consumption of tomatoes, that seemed like a lot of work for no reason, so I only did some squash plants that way

and purchased two tomato seedlings so that Sweetie would have tomatoes for his salads. These are all planted and doing well. Next I'm going to address the plants (and weeds) closer to the house. Don't expect too many posts, OK? The garden siren song is calling again.