Saturday, February 16, 2019

Bread Baking Babes Go Hollywood - Paul, that is

Having obsessed over the Great British Baking Show for took me months to watch all the many episodes and then all the Master Class episodes I could find on Netflix (or was it Amazon Prime??)... it was wonderful to find that our Kitchen of the Month maven, Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups, chose a recipe from Paul Hollywood from one of those episodes for our monthly bake and for our Anniversary month. I didn't make too many changes to the dough, but changed the filling quite a bit.

This one was originally themed for Christmas, with Chelsea buns shaped into a Christmas Tree shape and then decorated, once baked, with swags of icing and candied fruit and pistachios for color. Since it was Valentine's day when I baked mine, I went with a free-form heart, but you really have to use your imagination to see the heart shape - see photo above. For a filling I combined diced Granny Smith apple with chopped dates, dried cranberries, and chopped walnuts, plus non-dairy margarine and some brown sugar. The filling also had some apple-pear juice, some cinnamon, and some orange peel. Once baked, I glazed the buns with melted marmalade. They were much less showy than the Christmas tree, but delicious and just right for dessert on Valentine's day after our very healthy and veggie rich dinner. My Sweetie managed to consume three of the buns, so I know they were appreciated.

So you might be saying, "What are Chelsea Buns?" Really they are rolled buns like traditional cinnamon buns. This dough doesn't have sugar, but you could add some if you like. The filling I made didn't have sugar either, but the fruits are sweet-tart and the brown sugar I scattered over the fruits once they were spread on the rolled out dough did the rest of the sweetening. Even the marmalade was a low sugar type, because that's what I had. The dough is rich with eggs and 'butter' and I used some white whole wheat flour for part of the flour, too.

Do try these. They are fun to make and fun to eat. Your kitchen will also smell wonderful!

Be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes to see their versions.

If you would like to be a Buddy, make your version of the buns, take a photo, and e-mail Tanna with a short description of your baking experience, the photo, and a link to your own post. Do it by Feb. 28th and she will e-mail you our Buddy Badge to post, too.

Chelsea Bun Heart

Based on recipe By:

Serving Size: 15



800 g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting (I used 400 g bread flour and 200 g white whole wheat flour)
1 tablespoon salt
15 g sachet fast-acting yeast (about two packets of American dry yeast)
400 ml milk (I used same amount of soy creamer)
60 g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing (I used same amount of non-dairy margarine)
2 free-range eggs

For the filling
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled , cored, and finely diced
100 g pitted dried dates, chopped
50 g dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
200 ml apple-pear juice
85 g  walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
40 g non-dairy margarine, softened
120 g brown sugar

To finish
3 tablespoons orange low-sugar marmalade


1. Place the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other side. 

2. Warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter is melted and the mixture is lukewarm. 

3. Pour into the flour mixture, add the eggs and stir thoroughly until the contents of the bowl come together as a soft dough. The dough will be sticky. 

4. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead well for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively this can be done in a stand mixer using a dough hook. 

5. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and leave to rise, covered with a damp tea towel, for one hour or until doubled in size. 

6. For the filling, mix the diced apple, dates, dried cranberries, orange zest, 
 cinnamon, apple-pear juice, and walnuts in a small saucepan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until filling is cooked and most of juice has evaporated. Let cool.

7. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out dough into a rectangle about 20 in x 14 in. 

8. Tack down the long side of the dough rectangle nearest to you by pressing it down onto the work surface with your thumb. Use a small offset spatula to make a thin layer all over with the non-dairy 'butter', leaving a 1" uncovered edge along the long edge. When you roll up the dough, roll from the opposite long edge. Then spread the cooled filling mixture over the dough leaving a 1" border. Roll the opposite long side of the dough towards you quite tightly, until the roll is complete and tight. Trim the ends to neaten. 

9. With a sharp knife, or crossed dental floss, cut into 15 thick rounds - about 1.5in. 

10. Line a very large baking tray (or use the grill tray from your oven) with baking parchment. 

11. Arrange rolls on the prepared tray, cut side up, in heart shape: You want them to be close enough so that when they rise further and then bake; they will bake with their sides touching. They can then be pulled apart and you get a lovely soft edge. (I used the cut off ends at the top outside of the heart for fun. Not much filling, but still tasty.)

12. Cover loosely and let rise for 30 - 45 minutes. 

13. Preheat oven to 350 F. 

14. When the buns are ready, put them in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden-brown. 

15. Check after 15 minutes or so and cover the buns with foil if they are getting too brown. 

16. Remove the buns from the oven and let them cool slightly before transferring them from the tin to a cooling rack. 

17. Melt the marmalade in a small saucepan with a splash of water until melted. Brush the jam over the buns to glaze and allow to cool. It's OK if some pieced of candied peel are on the buns, too. Serve warm or cooled.


Note: This recipe contains U.K. measurements and may require conversions to U.S. measurements. 
For best results, use a kitchen scale with a TARE feature to weigh your ingredients. The recipe has also not been professionally tested. 

HAHA! see that last note ... sort of makes you feel free doesn't it. Mess with it, create your own filling....go wild!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Perfect Party

I am a most fortunate woman! My loving and lovely daughter just planned and pulled off a magnificent birthday party for me at a local restaurant with 21 guests, a delicious lunch with choices of entree and side dish and salad, a champagne toast, coffee service and a beautiful themed decor. She did have help from Sweetie, of course, and a little help from me with ironing the linens (labeled cotton but clearly poly!), but most of it was her doing. A surprise guest, NoHandle, was the best part of all, especially because he is doing well after some major health issues.

My part in the event, other than compiling a guest list and showing up ready to party, was to create a two tiered birthday cake. Truly, I did try to find one that I could purchase, but most places don't do fully dairy-free cakes that taste good and the one I did find wanted $100. It helps that I love baking and took it as a challenge to create a major-event worthy cake with no dairy.

First I baked a 'practice' 9" cake because I had combined a few recipes to make the chocolate cake and I wanted to make sure that it would work. The cake needed to be firm enough that I could put two layers on top but still moist and delicious. For the filling I wanted to use raspberry jam and vanilla 'buttercream' because I love chocolate and raspberry together and the vanilla 'buttercream' would be a nice contrast to the intense chocolate. I use the marks around 'buttercream' because no actual butter was used. Instead I used a non-dairy margarine.

For the frosting I used a ganache that was nothing more than high-quality semi-sweet chocolate and Silk brand soy creamer. The key thing with ganache is to make it many hours ahead of using it because you want it to cool. Once it's cool it is spreadable and doesn't run off the cake. Too warm and it just blobs or runs, as I found out the hard way.

The practice cake was a big hit, probably because I split both 9" layers and so there were three ribbons of jam and vanilla 'buttercream' instead of one. The later, larger cake would have been better that way, too, but cutting and moving thin layers of split 12' diameter cake was more than I could manage. Remember, I've never made a 12" cake before, much less a tiered cake!

I baked all the cake layers the day before the party. Then I tried to make the 'buttercream'. It failed. It never was anything more solid than soup. Discouraging. Then I made the ganache so that it could cool overnight.

The next morning I tried again with the 'buttercream' and this time it worked! Everything went together really well, but by the time I had finished frosting the top tier, I was out of buttercream and ganache. I tried making a small batch of ganache to see if I could use it for decorating the area where the two tiers join, but it never thickened up enough. I added confectioners sugar and it seemed to be O.K., but when I piped some on, it started to run. We had some gorgeous magenta roses, still closed in buds, to use as cake toppers, so I used them to hide the blobby ganache instead. It looked like I had meant to do that...really made the cake look spectacular!

At the top is the photo of the decorated table, with the finished cake as the centerpiece. It did taste great and there was plenty left over to give to our local firemen, neighbors and family after the party.

Although it was a bit stressful here and there, I'm glad I made the cake and now know that I can create a tiered cake that is delicious, pretty, and dairy-free so that I can eat it. Give this a try yourself if you want a challenge and a great cake at the end of it!

Thank you Sweetie and Kate! Well done.

Special Chocolate Party Cake - Non-Dairy
my recipe
14 servings (For 42 servings [or more] if you make this amount as two 9" cakes and then make the recipe twice to fill a 12" diameter cake pan twice, then tier it. Will go into making it tiered this way at the end.)

Please use a kitchen scale for the chocolate and cocoa powder
1 oz. unsweetened or semisweet chocolate, chopped finely
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
2.2 oz. unsweetened (alkalized) cocoa powder - I used Hershey's
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cake flour
1 1/4 cup bleached all-purpose flour (bleached gives more stability to the structure if making tiered cake, but you can use unbleached if only making the 9" cake)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 oz - 1/4 cup - soy milk or almond milk yogurt
2 large egg
2 egg yolks from large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter at room temperature (70 degrees F)

Prepare two 9" x 2" cake pans: grease the bottom and sides with shortening, then line bottom with parchment paper and grease the bottom again. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk the chocolate, espresso and cocoa powder. Add the boiling water and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature. (About 1 hour.)

When chocolate mixture is cool, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, yolks, yogurt and vanilla until just combined. Set aside.

In a stand mixer bowl use a flat beater to cake flour, bleached all-purpose flour, sugars, salt, baking powder and baking soda of low speed 30 seconds.

Add the butter, cut into roughly one-tablespoon pieces. Mix on low until dry ingredients are crumbly.

Add egg mixture and beat on medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes until light and well incorporated. Scrape the bowl and beater.

On low speed gradually add the cool chocolate mixture. Scrape any left in chocolate bowl into batter. Mix a few seconds, then scrape bowl and beater well. Beat at medium speed for 30 seconds. Batter will be slightly fluffy.

Divide batter between the pans. Smooth the top. Pans will be about half full.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 - 30 minutes. Toothpick inserted in center will come out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in the pans on a wire rack, then run a thin knife around the sides of the pans and turn each cake out and cool on wire racks sprayed with cooking spray (which will help cakes release from the wire racks). In general, cool with bottoms up. Remove parchment paper if it sticks to the bottoms. Once cool, trim tops, if necessary, using a serrated knife longer than the width of the cake. Layered cakes do best if the top and bottom both are flat. If you used cake strips on the outsides of the pans you may already have tops that are flat enough.

If only making a 9" layer cake, split each layer in half using that serrated knife. Place the first layer over a dab of icing/ganache/buttercream that you have put on the cake plate or cake cardboard. This little dab hold it in place. Use a fork to stir appropriate jam to break it up. Apply thin layer of raspberry, strawberry, or apricot jam, if desired, then a layer of buttercream. (I piped mine, then spread it together using a small offset spatula.) Place cut side down of next layer and repeat jam and buttercream. Place bottom of next layer, more jam and buttercream, then cut side down of final layer. Frost sides and top with buttercream or ganache. Decorate as desired. Chill at least an hour before serving. If chilled longer than an hour, let sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

For a two tiered cake, make the 9" layers as described above. If you like, skip the splitting of the cakes, just doing the jam and buttercream between the two 9" cakes, then frosting them with buttercream or ganache. Then prepare a 12" pan with the shortening, parchment paper and shortening over the bottom as described for the 9" pan. Set aside. Have another parchment circle ready for the final layer.

Make a full batch of the batter used for the 9" cake. That is just the right amount for one 12" layer. If at all possible, use cake strips around the outside of the 12" helps the outer part from becoming dry and helps the top be mostly level. Bake for 45-55 minutes in 350 degree F preheated oven. Use same test for doneness as above.

While the first 12" pan is baking, prepare the batter for the second 12" layer, but wait to mix the egg mixture and chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients until you remove the first 12" layer from the oven. Once the cake has cooled 20 minutes, carefully remove it from the pan to a wire rack coated with cooking spray and remove the used parchment paper from the bottom.

Clean the 12" pan, dry, and prepare it as you did the first time. Now continue with the batter, adding the egg mixture, scraping, adding the chocolate mixture, scraping, and incorporating the scraped portions for the final batter. Place in 12" pan, (make sure cake strips are moist and attached) and smooth top. Bake for 45-55 minutes and treat baked second layer as you did the first layer.

Place the bottom of one 12" layer on a dab of frosting or ganache on a cake cardboard. Apply jam and buttercream (recipe below) to the top (trimming to make the top of the layer flat first if necessary) then put on the second layer, top side down (again trimming first if top isn't flat). Frost with buttercream or ganache (ganache recipe below - if using buttercream, you will need to make more than one batch of the recipe below).

Use the 9" cake pan to use a toothpick to draw a thin circle in the frosting or ganache where the outside edges of the 9" layer will be placed on top of the 12" layer.

Get 9 plastic straws. Push one down in the middle of that circle and mark where the top of the cake is on the straw. Remove the straw and trim it to that mark, then use that as a template to mark the other 8 straws. Replace the center straw, then space the other eight roughly equally far apart around the drawn circle, but in about an inch. This will be the way the top layer is stabilized.

With your hand under the edges of the cake cardboard holding the 9" layer, carefully place the layer and cardboard on the 12" cake where the circle is drawn. Use extra buttercream or ganache to pipe stars all around where the cardboard meets the lower layer (or use any other decorative piping you choose as long as it covers any cardboard showing.

Decorate cake as desired.

Cake can sit at cool room temperature up to 24 hours. Once it is cut, refrigerate any leftovers.

Vanilla Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm (I used the same amount of non-dairy margarine)
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a large bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together!  Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.


8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped fine (which you can do easily in a food processor, breaking into chunks before putting the chocolate into the processor)
8 oz. (1 cup) soy creamer (not soy milk - the creamer is thicker) plus 1 tablespoon

Put the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the soy creamer in a small pot until almost to a boil...there will be tiny bubbles just at the sides of the pot. Remove from the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute. Stir gently with a silicone spatula until smooth. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the chocolate mixture and then let sit until cool, about 4-5 hours. If necessary, use the spatula to stir the ganache a bit just before using it to frost the cakes. 

You will need a double recipe of this to do the two tiered cake. Do each recipe by itself and then let cool. Use one recipe for the bottom, one for the top and decorations.

Special thanks to Rose Levy Bernanbaum, author of Rose's Heavenly Cakes and the Cake Bible which were both helpful in this enterprise, and to Dorie Greenspan, author of Baking:from my home to yours which was also helpful.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Almonds and Lemon and Raspberries

My daughter has a new food processor. It was a birthday present and will help her with her new eating regimen but it can be fun, too. It comes with an attachment to make fresh zoodles - veggie noodles - something that she eats a lot, but it can also do smoothies and sauces and she can made ground almonds for the little snack balls that help her stick to the program. She looks awesome so I think it's working.

Since she hadn't tried it out when I arrived last week, we decided to start with grinding almonds to a fine flour. Once we had that done it was a short hop to making dacquoise, a meringue with ground nuts folded in that you make into discs and bake. They are used instead of cake to make a layered dessert.

Fortunately she had an electric mixer with beaters...not a stand mixer, which would have been easier, but for someone who has been trying to simplify her life, it's better that way except for when her baking fool of a Mom shows up. It took a while to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, but eventually they were beaten and the sugar was added and beaten in gradually. Then she carefully folded in the ground almonds and spread the mixture onto parchment paper. Once baked they cooled on the parchment since we didn't have cooling racks, so I think they stayed a bit floppier than if they had air dried, so to speak.

For the filling, I made my favorite lemon curd (see, still on a lemon jag) and put it in the fridge to chill, which helps thicken it up. Could have used a bit more cooling time, but we were expected for dinner. Each layer got some lemon curd and a sprinkle of fresh raspberries, with the top layer having the berries in a decorative ring and centered. The birthday girl even got a slice with a lit candle so that she can wish for her heart's desire for this year.

We tried to make whipped coconut cream to offset the tartness of the lemon curd, but it didn't whip up at all...probably poor technique and being rushed. Still, this is a fun, fairly simple dessert if you enjoy lemon and raspberries and almonds.

Dacquoise Layers

8 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole almonds, unsalted

Prepare sheets of parchment paper - trace 8" circles onto each sheet. This will make 8 circles.

In a stand mixer, whisk the egg white until moist peaks form. Add the almond extract. Slowly add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, about 5-6 minutes for all the beating.

Place flour and almonds in a food processor. Pulse until ground into fine crumbs, almost a flour. Gently fold this mixture into the beaten egg whites, keeping as much air as possible in the meringue mixture you are forming.

Using a one cup measure, transfer a cup of the mixture to each circle. Spread out with the back of a spoon to the edges of each circle you drew on the parchment, creating a thin and even layer. (see photo above)

Transfer the parchments to large, flat baking sheets. Bake them, one pan at a time in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes. Layers will be light golden brown and slightly darker at the edges.

Cool the layers for a few minutes, then peel off the parchment and cool completely on a wire rack.

Use the layers to make a dessert. We used six of the layers for our dessert and froze the other two for later use.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Best Brussel Sprouts and Ribs and Zoodles and Applesauce...

Sometimes you find friends at unexpected times and in places that are unusual. Think about it. Most of your friends are probably ones you met at school or work, through your hobbies or children, or they are neighbors or friends of friends. Still, most of us have at least one friend that we made friends with outside of the usual because we recognized something in them that spoke to us of friendship, even beyond the ordinary busyness of our lives.

One such occasion for me happened serendipitously last fall when I rented a B&B and was lucky enough to befriend the owner and his partner. They live a short distance from my daughter so when I visited her last week, they invited us over to their gorgeous house (not the B&B although the B&B is also beautiful) for a wonderful dinner.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don't share a kitchen very well when I'm cooking. Randy wanted us to all cook together and we did. To my surprise and delight I really enjoyed knocking around the kitchen together as we each made a part of the feast. My part was applesauce and my daughter made some amazing brussel sprouts (even more amazing when you consider that she didn't have the actual seasoning mix she usually used, but figured it out using the spice components). Nathan made delicious zoodles from two kinds of zucchini and Randy made the highlight of the dinner, ribs that were started in the oven but finished outside over a large wood fire (see first photo). Awesome to see it done and even more awesome to eat it! It felt like being with family and the food was good enough to think of as a family feast!

I'll have to get the recipe for the zoodles and the ribs, but I can tell you what went into the sprouts and applesauce.

Kate's Tsardusted Sprouts

For the brussel sprouts, cut each in half and remove any outer leaves that are tough. There should be enough to cover a sheet pan in one layer. Put into a covered container or gallon ziploc bag, then add olive oil (2-3 tablespoons), salt and pepper to taste and Penzey's Tsardust Memories seasoning - start with 1/4 teaspoon and then next time adjust up or down to your taste. Shake to get an even coating on all the sprouts, then spread in a single layer on a sheet pan. (I like to cover the pan with heavy duty foil first for easy clean up.)  Roast in a very hot oven (425 degrees F) , turning once, until tender, about 20 minutes total. Serve while hot.

For the applesauce, peel and dice your favorite apple. Randy loves Honeycrisp, so that's what we used. My daughter peeled them before I got involved, but I leave mine unpeeled...great both ways. Place in a heavy bottomed pot and add cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg to taste, plus about 3 tablespoons water. If your apples are tart (or you prefer your applesauce sweet as Randy does), add some sugar, too, to taste. Cover and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes. When apples are very tender, stir and crush with a wooden spoon to desired chunkiness. Serve warm or cold.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Roast Chicken with Lemon

Looks like I'm on a lemon kick. A great time of year to do that, too. Lemons are in season in the northern hemisphere where they grow, so take advantage of their freshness for some cooking fun!

Things have been hectic but fun since I last posted. Sweetie's back is so much better and he is now doing PT. One of my sisters is having surgery today for a condition that manifested in August, so at last she will be able to heal. A brother-in-law avoided surgery this week and another one is healing his heart through diet and a few meds. A good friend is in rehab after open heart surgery...lots of health issues, including a trip over a curb myself that seems OK but I did hit my head on a wall...

On the fun side, I visited my daughter in LA and had a blast with movie watching, great food, dinners with friends, walks on the beach and at a botanical garden and lots and lots of sunshine...hardly seemed like January! Here are the awesome women who dined together on Saturday.

A over a week ago (before I took the trip to LA) I made an awesome roast whole chicken with lemon. It is relatively quick, it is easy and the results are truly mouthwatering. There really are only a few ingredients, too: chicken, olive oil, fresh thyme, garlic cloves and salt and pepper, plus three lemons.

I happen to have a nice oval cast iron baker with lid that works perfectly for this recipe, but a heavy pot with oven-safe lid or even a lid made from doubled heavy duty aluminum foil would work. I was inspired by a recipe that I'd seen in a Dorie Greenspan cookbook with a technique for sealing in the juices when you roast chicken, so I made a paste of flour and water and used it to seal the lid to the pan until 15 minutes before the chicken was done when I removed both 'bread' sealer and lid so that the chicken could brown during the last 15 minutes.

This chicken cooks at a fairly high temperature, but sealing in all the moisture meant that the chicken was very moist and that there was a fair amount of pan juices to enjoy with the chicken once it was served. Be sure to have some good bread handy to sop up the juices. We had it with a nice green salad. That and some bread is all you need for a satisfying meal.

The recipe is from Williams-Sonoma and it's worth bookmarking.

Simple Roast Chicken with Lemons
Serves 4

1 whole chicken, about 4 1/2 lbs (2.25 kg)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3 lemons, halved
1 large fresh thyme sprig (I used lemon thyme from our garden)

Preheat the over to 425 degrees F (220 C)

Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry. Rub the chicken all over with the olive oil, and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper.

Put the garlic, 2 lemon halves and the thyme sprig in the cavity. Tuck the wing tips behind the back. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Put the chicken, breast side up, in a 4 1/2 quart (4.5 l) deep baker. Insert a smart thermometer into the chicken breast according to manufacturer's instructions (I skipped that). Place the remaining lemon halves around the chicken. (If wanting to seal as I did, make a paste of flour and water and put a rope of it all around the top of the baker where the lid will go, then cover the baker with the lid to seal.) Cover  the baker with the lid.

Transfer to the oven and roast the chicken until the thermometer registers 160 degrees F (71 C), 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, removing the lid during the last 10 to 15 minutes of roasting to brown the skin. (I removed the lid permanently and then used an instant read thermometer to check temperature at one hour and then checked it again a short while later.)

Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes. Pour the pan juices into a gravy boat. Carve the chicken and serve the juices alongside. Serves 4

Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Madeira Cake with the Cake Slice Bakers

It's a new month and a new year, so we are now baking from a new book, The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk. If you can bake with butter and mascarpone cheese and cream cheese then you will be in heaven with this book. There are fairly simple cakes and cakes with nuts, cakes with fresh fruit, fancy get the idea. Unfortunately I didn't have any idea that out of 65 recipes there are only 14 that I think I can bake...and some of those 14 use cream cheese which I might be able to find a very expensive non-dairy version I am left feeling sad knowing that I might have a month when none of the choices (we have four a month) are ones I can bake. This is particularly humorous because I was one of the bakers who advocated for this book choice!

The good news is that this month there was one recipe that I could make and it is a delightful, delicious madeira cake with lemon. It is a bit of a drizzle cake, too, since the syrup used to cook the candied lemon slices or peel is also used to drizzle over the cake to give it extra moisture and flavor. The texture of this cake is very tender, delicate and moist with a very tight crumb, similar to a pound cake. The addition of lemon zest and lemon juice, plus the candied lemon ensures that there is a good, bright lemon flavor.

The recipe called for two eight-inch layers, the drizzle, a glaze, and the candied lemon slices. Since I knew that I wanted to give away most of the cake (Sweetie continues to lose weight and I'm still doing OK, too, although at a much slower pace), I decided to bake the batter in small Bundt pans. I still used the drizzle, just 1/3 the amount, and I candied some lemon peel using a method of removing the peels that I saw on a Great British Baking Show masterclass. The lemon peel went on the top of the cakes, using the moist glaze (also about 1/3 the amount in the recipe) to 'glue the pieces' to the cake.

This is sure to be a recipe I bake often, especially at this time of year when lemons are fresh and wonderful. Next time I'll try it with Meyer lemons since they are in season now. Do consider baking this yourself. It makes a great after dinner dessert or tea time treat. The first give-away has already happened since I gave one of the small cakes to a friend yesterday afternoon. She was delighted. You'll be delighted if you try this recipe yourself!

Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through.  This year it is The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk.  We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes!

Follow our FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the thumbnail pictures below to take you to each of our cakes, or visit our blog where the links are updated each month. If you are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details.

This month our choices included Bird's Milk Torte, Chocolate St. Honore' Cake, Madeira Cake and Torte Birne' Helene.

Madeira Cake
from The European Cake Cookbook

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (I used non-dairy margarine)
1 cup sugar
zest from 1 lemon
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon lemon oil
1 cup sour cream (I used plain yogurt)
1 3/4 cups (219 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (48 g) almond flour
4 teaspoons baking powder (I used 3 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 335 degrees F (168 degrees C). Line two 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pans with parchment paper and grease the sides. (I used four small Bundt pans, spray oil that includes flour.)

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter. In a small bowl rub the sugar and lemon zest together (this is not how the recipe was written, but it works well). Add sugar mixture to the butter and cream until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the lemon oil and the sour cream. Mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt. (This works well with a scale that has a tare feature so that you can return to zero. Each ingredient just gets put in when zeroed.) Whisk together. Add to the butter batter and mix until just combined. Use a rubber or silicone spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bow and the beaters and then use the spatula to combine everything with a few more strokes.

Divide the batter between the pans. Level the tops and rap pan on counter a couple of times to get rid of air bubbles. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes (less for the small Bundt pans...about 25-30 minutes), until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the layers completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile prepare the candied lemon peel (or slices in the regular recipe - just increase sugar and water by 2/3, add thinly sliced lemons and cook 7-8 minutes. Remove and cool). Peel the lemon skin into thin strips. In a saucepan place 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons water. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then add the peel and cook over low heat 7-8 minutes. Peel will be limp. Remove peel to a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper and immediately sprinkle with granulated sugar. Let dry for 1/2 hour, then roll peel in the sugar to coat and set aside on a clean piece of paper to dry. Add the juice of 1 lemon to the sugar water. Keep the sugar water for drizzling over the cake.

While the cake cools and the peel dries, measure 2 cups confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Juice a lemon - you should have 1/4 cup, so juice another if needed.

When the cakes are cool, make sure the syrup is thin and sugar is dissolved. (If not, heat it again to dissolve sugar). Drizzle half syrup over each layer. For Bundt cakes drizzle 1/4 syrup over each small cake.

Put layer on serving plate. Mix some of the lemon juice into the confectioners' sugar and stir vigorously. Add juice, a very small amount at a time, mixing well after each addition, until glaze is desired thinness. Pour half over first layer, add second layer and pour rest over it, then arrange candied slices around the edge of cake. For Bundt cakes, drizzle glaze over each small cake, then decorate with small pieces of the candied peel.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Bread Baking Babes Play with Garnet Yams and Onions

The delightful bread that our Kitchen of the Month, Elizabeth of blog from OUR kitchen, is an unusual combination of cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (garnet yams in my case) with that wonderful golden color, and caramelized onions. It has the fascinating name of Elbow-lick Sandwich Bread because the author made a juicy tomato sandwich with it and the tomato juices ran down her arm all the way to her elbow.

The bread is on the slack side, so I ended up with a flattish donut shape. The crumb is moist and the flavor is strong but good. This one took a lot of kneading and I even added an extra half cup of whole wheat flour towards the end of kneading so that it would hold it's shape enough to be shaped into a round with a hole in the middle. It rose a bit in the oven but was still pretty flat. You can really taste the onions in this bread, so be sure that you like onions in your bread (or just skip putting them should still be a great bread).

I used active dry yeast since my sourdough starter bit the dust a while ago. Using commercial yeast (a bit more that what was called for since this bread has a lot of veggie mass to lift) worked well and meant I didn't need to do the float test. I did some kneading in the mixer and some on a board.

Be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes blogs to see what they did with this bread. If they followed the directions (I didn't...are you surprised??), there should be loaves with the marks from having the dough rise in bannetons. Some will have holes, some not, but I bet they will all be great breads.

If you want to be a Buddy, contact Elizabeth after you have baked the bread and taken a photo or two of it, and send her an email with a short description of your experience baking the bread and attach the photo(s). Deadline is January 29th.

Wishing you a Happy New Year of bread baking!

Elbow Lick Sandwich Bread
based on the recipe for Sweet Potato Onion Bread in "Deep Run Roots" by Vivian Howard for 1 loaf  


·                     spoonful (10ml or so) active natural wheat starter at 100% hydration (OR 0.5gm (1/8 tsp) active dry yeast)
·                     60gm (60ml) water, body temperature
·                     60gm (118ml) 100% whole wheat flour
Sweet Potato 

·                     1 five-inch-long orange sweet potato (about)
Caramelized Onions 

·                     375gm (2.5 large) onions, diced
·                     7gm (1.5 tsp) sunflower oil
·                     3gm Kosher salt (0.5 tsp table salt)

·                     232gm (400ml) bread flour, OR 225gm unbleached all-purpose + 7gm vital wheat gluten
·                     5gm (10ml) wheat germ
·                     200gm (200ml) water at body temperature, divided (hold back about 18gm for mixing in the salt)
·                     All of the Starter from above
·                     7gm (5 ml) honey
·                     9gm Kosher salt (1.5 tsp table salt) + 18 gm (18ml) from above  
·                     120 ml (~100gm) roasted sweet potato puree
·                     All of the caramelized onions from above
1.             leavener IN THE EVENING OF THE DAY BEFORE MAKING THE BREAD: Put the starter (or active dry yeast, if you're using that) and water into a smallish bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon. Use the wooden spoon to stir the flour in well. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside overnight in the oven with only the light turned on.
2.             sweet potato IN THE EVENING OF THE DAY BEFORE MAKING THE BREAD: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the ends off of the sweet potato and place it whole on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until tender. This should take about 45 minutes. Vivian Howard wrote the following:
Once you start to smell them, probably after about 45 minutes, give the potatoes a look. My mom always looked for a little of their juice to have leached out and caramelized, but that is more romantic than necessary. When the potatoes are done, their skins should have separated slightly from their flesh and they should pierce easily with a knife or fork.
Slice the baked sweet potato in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh out into a bowl. Mash well. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside in a cool place until the next morning. 
3.             onions IN THE EVENING OF THE DAY BEFORE MAKING THE BREAD: Heat oil for onions in a cast iron pan. Add the onions and salt and caramelize the onions over medium heat until they are golden brown. Vivian Howard says this will take 30-40 minutes. Set aside in a cool place until the next morning.
4.             mix the dough IN THE MORNING OF THE DAY YOU WILL BE MAKING THE BREAD: When a small forkful of the leavener floats in a small bowl of room temperature water, you can go ahead and mix the dough. If the leavener does not float, stir in a little more whole wheat flour and water - even amounts by weight - cover with a plate and leave for about 30 minutes more. Chances are that it will now float. (If you have used active dry yeast, you can safely skip the floating test.) Put flour, wheat germ, all but 18ml water, leavener, honey, sweet potato puree into a large mixing bowl. Use a wooden spoon or dough whisk to mix these ingredients to make a rough dough. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter for about 40 minutes.
5.             adding the salt: In a small bowl, whisk the salt into the final 18gm (18 ml) water. Pour the salt mixture over the dough.
  1. kneading: Use one of your hands to squoosh the salt and water into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl - this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy and seem like it's coming apart. Persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough than a horrible separated glop. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 20 minutes.
  2. stretching and folding the dough and adding the onions: Put a quarter of onions on top of the dough and turn it by folding the dough into the center. Let sit 20 minutes. Repeat at 20 minute intervals until all the onions are in the dough. You'll notice that after each time, the dough will feel significantly smoother. Cover with a plate and leave on the counter (or if the kitchen is cool like ours in winter and early spring, into the oven with only the light turned on). Once all the onions are added, leave the covered bowl in the oven - with only the light turned on - for a couple of hours to allow the dough to double. (A good way to tell if the dough is reading to shape is to run your index finger under water, then poke a hole in the center of the dough. If the hole disappears immediately, the dough still need to rise. If there is a slight whooshing sound and the hole remains in place, the dough has probably over-risen. If the hole very very gradually begins to close, the dough is ready to shape.
  3. prepare the brot-form: Put rice flour into a brotform and distribute it as evenly as possible. (If you don't have a brot-form, you can line a bowl, basket or sieve with parchment paper. You can also use a liberally rice floured tea towel (but then you have to deal with a floured tea towel once the bread is baked). If you do not have rice flour, you can use any other kind of flour. Note that higher gluten level make it significantly more difficult for the bread to be released from the basket....
  4. pre-shaping: Scatter a dusting of wheat flour on the board and gently place the dough on the flour. Using wet hands, stretch the dough into a longish rectangle, then fold it like a letter, gently patting off any extra flour that might be there. Continue folding until the dough is shaped in a ball. Cover with a clean tea towel and let the ball rest for about 20 minutes.
  5. shaping: Without breaking the skin, tighten the ball further. Place it seam side UP in the well floured (rice) brot-form. Sprinkle the reserved bran evenly over the top of the bread. Loosely wrap the shaped loaf with a clean tea towel and enclose the whole thing inside a plastic bag and leave it in the oven with only the light turned on for 3 or 4 hours (until it has about doubled and there are bubbles). Please note that Vivian Howard shapes her bread into rounds with holes in the center:
    Shape [the dough] into a round. Let [it] rest for 10 minutes. [...]Line [a baking sheet] with parchment and dust with flour. Stick your finger through the center of [the dough ball]. [...] Stretch it slightly to form a little hole. Transfer that dough round to the baking sheet and continue to carefully stretch the center into a 3-inch hole. Your bread round at this point will look like a giant flat doughnut." 
    - Vivian Howard, Deep Run Roots, Chapter 14: Sweet Potato | Sweet Potato Onion Bread
  6. baking: To know when it's time to bake, run your index finger under water and gently but firmly press it on the side of the bread. If the dough springs back immediately, recover the bread with the plastic bag and leave it in the oven with only the light turned on. If the dough gradually returns back after being pressed, for the round loaf, put combo cooker (or a cast-iron frying pan and stainless steel bowl) into the oven and preheat all to 400F.
  7. When the oven is preheated about fifteen minutes later, put a square of parchment paper on the counter (the paper should be large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the frying pan). Overturn the shaped bread onto the parchment paper (the bran covered part will now be on the bottom). Using a lame (or scissors, or serrated knife), score the bread. Take the pan and bowl out of the oven (wear oven mitts!!) and place the frying pan on the stove (to prevent burning your countertop...). Transfer the bread to the middle of the frying pan and immediately put the lid of the combo-cooker (or stainless steel bowl) overtop like a hat. Put everything into the oven on the middle rack and immediately turn the oven down to 375F. Bake for 40-50 minutes in all, removing the hat half-way through baking. Turn the oven down to 350F when you remove the hat. The bread is done when the crust is a deep golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  8. cooling: When the bread has finished baking, remove it from the pan and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating; the bread is still cooking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.

:: why hand mixing? These instructions, as usual, do not mention using an electric mixer: I don't have one; I don't know how to use one. But of course, if you want to use your electric mixer for mixing and kneading, you should do so.  
:: brotform: If you do not have a brotform, you can use Jim Lahey's method for proofing the shaped loaf: he coats a parchment covered cookie sheet with bran, than shapes his loaf into a ball and places it seam side down onto the bran. He scatters a little more bran on top before covering the shaped loaf loosely with a clean tea towel. He lets it sit at room temperature that way until it has almost doubled in size. Or, you can use Vivian Howard's idea to place the bread on a flour covered parchment papered cookie sheet....  
:: cooking container: If you're lucky enough to have Le Creuset or a cast-iron combo cooker, of course, you should use that. But if you don't, do use your cast-iron pan and cover the bread with an overturned stainless steel mixing bowl for the first half of baking. The dome creates a steam chamber that encourages oven spring.  
:: oven temperature and baking times: Howard suggests preheating the oven to 450F and baking for a total of about 30 minutes at 450F. Because of the presence of honey and sweet potato, and fear of scorching, I lowered the oven temperature.