Thursday, July 19, 2018

Screwing Around

Time can be a destroyer or a healer...strange that it works both ways.

This month we are focused on the destroyer aspect as Sweetie and I have begun to rebuild the back deck that we first built together over 25 years ago. Many rainstorms and lots of sun have aged the wood and in some cases weakened it. It's sort of like a jigsaw puzzle. We take some of the old apart and figure out what can stay and what needs replacing and if anything can be improved on in the process. So far we have added a couple of posts for additional handrails,  a bow to our advancing age...the deck isn't the only thing that has been affected by time. We've also decided to try leaving off a railing on the lower level and to leave off a step connecting the middle level with the lower level. There are still steps to each, but we were often a bit anxious about it when we had folks seated at tables on the middle easy to scoot a chair too far back and have it go lower unexpectedly. Now there will be railing around much of the middle level which will actually feel nicer.

Twenty five or so years ago the quality of redwood available for decks was far superior to what is around today. We checked out a number of suppliers and none of them had anything as clear or with few small knots like there was then. It's too bad, but I suspect that with the major fires last October, there has been a run on materials and it's hard to keep up with demand.

We have discovered that we can also only work about 4-5 hours a day on the deck instead of 7-9 when we were so much younger. Being retired means that it really doesn't matter. Pi doggie really enjoys having us there since hanging out on the upper back deck has been his preference for many months now. He is keeping an eye on us and making sure we do good work.

I do hope to post a lovely cake in the next day or two since the 20th of the month is reveal day for the Cake Slice Bakers. Probably won't have a ton of other posts on food since the project takes precedence over baking and most cooking, too.

The healing aspect of time has been in evidence lately, too. On Tuesday we remembered our son Max, lost 19 years ago on July 17th in an auto accident. The loss is still great and sometimes overwhelming, but the years have taught us how to deal with it and healing has happened, too. Come August 12th, his birthday, we will celebrate all that he meant to us and to others while he was alive. In the meantime, we miss you Max, every day.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Singing Hinnies with the Bread Baking Babes

This has been a hot summer for us. Lots of days in the high 80s, the 90s, even a couple triple digits ones. As you might note if you look at other recent posts, not a lot of baking is going on. When it was time for me to select a recipe for July as the Bread Baking Babes Kitchen of the Month, I decided to go with something that didn't require an oven. I'm not the only one of us contending with high temperatures!

One of the oddly named recipes that I have been meaning to try for a while is Singing Hinnies. So for July we will be making Singing Hinnies. What on earth are those you might wonder. Well, they are a scone-like griddled bread from Northumberland in Northern England.

"There are many thoughts about the derivation of the name but I’m sure it is the noise they make as they cook.  Apparently a mother explained to her daughter that they would soon be ready as she could hear them singing.  She then referred to her daughter as ‘hinnie’ – a Northumbrian term of endearment, hence the ‘singin’ hinnie’." Thus wrote Laura Fitzpatrick of the blog Hello Eco Living

I mainly used her recipe, with a few variations, plus there are suggestions below for making your own changes. If you are going to be a Bread Baking Buddy, and I hope that you do that, the only requirement is that they are scone-like and contain a fruit like currants or raisins and that they are cooked by griddling.

They are the perfect breakfast  or tea time treat and come together in less than 30 minutes using pantry staples. You can use all butter or margarine, or use part butter and part lard if you have a good supplier of lard. You can use a food processor to pulse the cold fat into the flour mixture before adding the currants and mixing the rest by hand in a bowl, or use the traditional method of rubbing the fat in by hand or cutting it in using a pastry cutter or two knives...your choice.

Another choice is to add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to the flour mixture and then add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the milk before adding it to the flour mixture after the fat is cut in. This will probably produce a slightly higher singing hinnie, but it might take longer to cook. A key element here is a cast iron skillet or a griddle or similar cooking surface that is heated on a low heat. Mine was at the perfect temperature when, as I flipped the hinnies to the second side, they 'sang' from the fat particles hitting the hot griddle. That will happen if it is too hot, also, but not if the heat is too low (which is what I had at first...that's how I know).

Do handle the dough lightly and minimally as you would a scone or biscuit mixture to keep them from being tough. Cut straight down with your round cutter and don't twist so that they will rise well. I found that I needed a full 9 tablespoons of milk to wet the dry ingredients so that they would hold together to be rolled out. I rolled them to a half inch thickness. They do puff up a bit when they cook and thicker might make it harder to griddle them fully without burning the outsides.

These are delightful, rather like a rich but thinner scone. The griddled part gets a nice browned butter flavor and the currants give a bit of sweetness. I used a small fork to split a couple of them and added more butter, but decided that I preferred them unsplit, just as they are when they come off the griddle. They are very tender on the inside and just a bit crisp on the outside. Do eat them while still warm! Jam and butter are optional. Tea goes really well with these.

Be sure to check out the other Bread Baking Babes for their take on this rich little goodie. If you go to Web View of this blog, the links to their blogs are on the right, down a little way.

If you'd like to become a Buddy and get one the beautiful badges that Elizabeth created (similar to the one above), just email me at plachman at sonic dot net with a photo and the URL of your post, plus a brief description of your experience making these. The deadline is July 29th. I'll try to post the roundup on August 1.

Singing Hinnies

225grams (8ozs) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
100 grams (4ozs) butter (or margarine)
50 grams (2ozs) currants
Milk to mix to a dough (about 6-9 tablespoons)

Sift the flour and baking powder (and baking soda if using) into a bowl.  Rub in the fat (or cut in with pastry blender or two knives) and stir in the currants.  Add enough milk to make a dough.  Roll out onto a floured tray or board and cut with scone or biscuit cutter into rounds of chosen size, usually about 3 inches wide.
Heat pan (griddle or cast iron skillet work well) and lightly grease.  Place scones onto griddle on a very low heat so that the scones can cook very slowly.  Turn once and cook on other side.  To check that they are cooked remove one of the scones and tap it gently – it should sound hollow. The top and bottom should be browned but not burnt.
Serve warm, either split and buttered, or not. Strawberry jam should be great with these.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Finished Painting

Just realized that I never posted the finished sea painting that I did for K.  She was here just after the 4th of July for a visit, but taking it home on the plane (the plan) wasn't feasible once we factored in Uber for the ride home from the airport. Too many large items to juggle. The painting about three feet high and 54 inches wide, in three panels. One day soon Sweetie and I will attach the hanging wired to each of the three panels, snug it up in bubble wrap, secure it in a cardboard box and mail it UPS, with fingers crossed.

I'm really pleased with the way it turned out, especially since I struggled for so long to figure out how to make it a painting I could love.

Monday, July 09, 2018

English Muffins

Usually I give gifts to folks having a birthday...or at least a card...but I rarely receive a gift from the birthday boy or girl. I guess that just goes to show you that I know have the best friend ever. We met for coffee and tea for her birthday and she arrived with a charming packet, wrapped in a checked cloth, which was a gift for Sweetie and me. Of course I had a card and gift for her, but this was unexpected to also get a gift and it was such a great gift...homemade English Muffins.

K was home, so we enjoyed them for breakfast with a nice fruit salad and some tea and coffee and peach preserves. Delicious!

Since I didn't make them I don't have the recipe. Michele did a wonderful job. They had no dairy and were perfect after their time in the toaster after being split in half.

The sun was shining and we ate outside and enjoyed the summer garden with all the colors of the flowers. Thank you Michele!

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Blueberry Muffins - #TheCakeSliceBakers extra

Since the late fall The Cake Slice Bakers have been baking from The Perfect Cake and posting on or after the 20th of the month. Often we have also had another cake cookbook to choose a recipe from with the rule being that it has to be posted by the 19th of the month. Something has always gotten in the way of my baking that extra recipe, but this month, July, I did!  Happy 4th of July!

I love to bake with seasonal fruits. July is the season for blueberries and our market had them on sale, too. Lovely, purple-blue fat juicy blueberries seemed perfect for blueberry muffins. Our 'extra' cookbook, Maida Heatter's Cakes has a great recipe for blueberry muffins. Muffins are, essentially, small cakes. I made that even more apparent by baking them in giant muffin tins. The muffins came out of the pan looking like little cakes bursting with cooked blueberries and their juices, with a nice browned top and tender interior.

As I often do, I made a few changes. Besides the size of the pans, I also substituted 1/2 cup almond flour (finely ground blanched almonds) for the same amount of flour. Instead of adding the lemon zest with the wet ingredients, I rubbed the zest into the sugar before adding the sugar/zest to the dry ingredients. Since dairy is a no-no for me, I used soy milk instead of regular milk and non-dairy margarine, melted, instead of the melted butter. Finally, I sprinkled some sanding sugar over the tops of the unbaked muffins right before they went into the oven.

When I was younger and could burn off the calories more quickly, I would have blueberry muffins quite a few times in the summer when they are in season. Now I'll probably only have them this one time... a much appreciated seasonal treat. We'll still enjoy them with our morning yogurt or cereal of course and in a fruit mixture with other delicious summer fruits. But blueberry muffins this good should be baked often, so, dear reader, it's up to you. They do freeze well after all. Just remember, when mixing the wet into the dry ingredients, mix as little as possible and gently for the most tender, delicious blueberry muffins!

Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 regular or about 5 super sized

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour (finely ground blanched almonds)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons (half stick, 1/4 cup) butter or margarine, melted and cooled a bit
1/2 cup milk or soy milk or almond milk
about 1 tablespoon sanding sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Oven rack should be in center of oven. Use paper liners if you desire, or butter the muffins cups, even if pans are nonstick.

In a very large mixing bowl, combine the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the granulated sugar in a mound over this combination and add the grated lemon zest on top of the sugar. Using clean fingers, rub the zest into the sugar. You will smell the lemon oils being released into the sugar and will see the sugar become moist. Once zest is rubbed in, whisk all the dry ingredients together until fully combined. Add the dry blueberries and use your finger to lightly mix them with the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a small bowl place the lightly beaten egg. Add the butter and milk and use a fork to combine thoroughly. Gently make a well in the dry ingredients center and pour in the wet ingredient combination. Using the fork, gently and quickly combine the wet and dry using as few strokes as possible until just mixed.

Use a small measuring cup or disher to fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full with the batter. If desired, lightly sprinkle the tops with sanding sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Test for doneness. Pressing lightly on the tops in the center will cause them to spring back after pressing when done. If needed bake another 2-5 minutes.

Place baked muffins, in tin(s), on a cooling rack for ten minutes. Use a table knife or small offset spatula to carefully remove the muffins from the tin and set them right side up. Muffins in paper cups will be easy to remove, but you may need to use the knife if they have stuck to the tin.

Serve warm or cooled. Usually no additional butter is necessary.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Rice Shaped Pasta in a Salad

We had a neighborhood BBQ a week ago Saturday and the following Tuesday I was wondering what I was going to do with the big package of mulit-colored bell peppers that I had purchased at Costco. I'd been planning on roasting them and having that as a side dish, but I ran out of time (bet that has never happened to you!) so there they were in the fridge taking up space and getting older.

I decided to roast them anyway and use them in a side dish for Tuesday dinner. A nice onion was still in the pantry, so I peeled that and added it, plus there were some mini carrots and some sugar snap peas from the veggie tray to add. Since I had some freshly picked garden zucchini, a couple of those went in, too.

 My favorite way to roast veggies is to remove all necessary seeds and cores and ends (for zucchini for example), cut them into bite sized pieces and shake them all together in a plastic bag with olive oil, salt and pepper. This time I used my counter top oven since it was a hot day and heating up the whole oven to roasting temperature would be insane. That meant that the roasted veggies went into two foil lined shallow pans to roast at 475 degrees F. I cooked them for 15 minutes, then switched pans top and bottom and rotated them, too. After another five minutes I used a pancake turner to turn the veggies over. Then it was just a matter of keeping an eye on them and removing them once they had browned on the edges and were soft.

So what did I do with them once they were cooled? Half went into a storage container for a later meal.

The other half went into a pasta salad made with cooked orzo (rice shaped pasta) with a citrus based dressing. I also added a diced Roma tomato and some chopped cucumber for crunch. It was delicious! The recipe was loosely based on one by The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. I included the basil, but left out the feta and changed the veggies some. Delicious and a great way to include veggies in your meal!

I've been spending quite a bit of time in the garden and also in my art studio. The painting that I've been working on...a almost done!  Maybe I'll get back to baking soon. No time for it at the moment.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Pancakes and Berries

The big, fat olallieberries are almost finished and with the heat starting up today by tomorrow or Sunday they will all be overripe or dried up.

That was certainly an incentive to pick a few baskets of them to take to the trainers at the gym and a few more baskets to use here at home. I even froze a basket full on a cookie sheet, then transferred them after they were frozen to a storage freezer bag for later use.

One of the great things about them is that they are ready to use after being picked...just a quick rinse is needed. We also have strawberries from our garden (a few) and from the roadside stand on Hwy. 12 (a lot) so on Monday morning I made pancakes from the Joy of Cooking cookbook, changing it a bit to make it dairy free and to use some whole wheat flour. About a half pint of the olallieberries went into a pot with an equal amount of sliced strawberries and some brown sugar and water to make a sauce. It simmered away while I made the pancake batter and chopped some walnuts.

Because I was a little short of the needed amount of soy milk, I added some yogurt (yes, I know it is dairy but for some reason I can tolerate yogurt), so I also added some baking soda to the dry ingredients. That made for tender, delicious pancakes that became nice and puffy as they cooked. Each pancake had about a half dozen fresh olallieberries plunked on after I put the pool of batter in the pan. When the pancake was turned to cook the other side, those berries were cooked, too.

So to serve there were two good sized pancake with berries embedded in them, a topping of more fresh olallieberries and strawberries, a good dollop of the berry syrup, including cooked berries, and a nice sprinkle of chopped walnuts. It was amazing! Nothing else was needed. The pancakes soaked up the sweet-tart berry juices and the walnuts gave it all a little crunch. You could also use blueberries or raspberries or any combination that pleases you...peaches and blueberries anyone? Summer fruits really get the creative juices flowing.

Happy summer! Don't these look delicious? The syrup really added another dimension.

Wheat Pancakes with Berries
based on recipe in Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
1 cup milk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 pint fresh olallieberries, rinsed and drained
1 pint fresh strawberries, rinsed, drained and hulled, then sliced
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
Berry Compote (recipe follows)

In a large bowl combine the flour, whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
In a small bowl rub the lemon zest into the sugar until the sugar looks damp like sand at the beach. Combine this sugar with the dry ingredients.

In another medium bowl combine the eggs, melted and cooled butter or margarine, milk, and yogurt.

Combine the wet mixture with the dry mixture, stirring only long enough to dampen all the dry ingredients. This short mixing will make the pancakes more tender.

Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle or heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat and grease lightly with butter or margarine. When a water drop sizzles, use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to ladle batter onto the cooking surface, spreading it with the cup if needed to make a pancake about 4-5 inches in diameter. Place 5-6 olallieberries on each pancake circle. When the small bubbled begin to burst around the edges of the pancakes, use a spatula to look under the pancake at the edge. If it looks golden brown or browner, flip over with the spatula quickly so that the berries stay with the batter.
Cook on the second side for a few minutes until a peek under shows that the pancake is browned on both sides.

Serve at once with the berry compote, fresh berries and a sprinkle of chopped walnuts.

Berry Compote
In a small saucepan combine 1 cup olallieberries (or blackberries or blueberries), 1 cup sliced strawberries, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1/4 cup water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove cover and simmer until syrupy. Watch once cover is removed and stir as needed to keep fruit from scorching. Serve with pancakes, waffles or over ice cream or yogurt.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Haven't been posting of late because I've been doing some art work...acrylic painting to be exact. It has been a long time since I've painted with acrylics (except for murals, but they also used wall paint) and I have been struggling trying to adjust to this different medium. Prior I was mostly painting with watercolors, where you go from light to dark. With acrylics it is the opposite...dark to light. There is also the issue of how the paints spread...or don't. In watercolor painting you add more water...easy. With acrylics apparently adding more water can make the paint tacky which is the opposite of what I was trying for. I took a class on Sunday at Riley Street and found out that there is a product which is used to thin the paint and make it easier to work. The Sennielier brand (and the class was taught with that brand - thank you Camille!) it's called 'binder' which is a strange term for something that helps loosen, but it works!

For quite a while I have been trying different things on a seascape that I'm painting for K. It's pretty large, with three canvas panels joined together for the painting, although they will be hung with a little space between them as far as I know. 

Nothing was working, which is unusual for me. I tried going to visit other artists (ArtTrails) which helped some. I tried viewing YouTube videos, which helped some. The class on Sunday was the best help. I'm truly grateful to other artist who share their expertise.

Below are some thumbnails size photos of the painting as it has been progressing since Sunday. Having fun now! I think I'm about half done. Will be posting some delicious food soon. I have made the food and have photos, but the paint is calling....

Friday, June 22, 2018

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie A Different Way

I love Strawberry Rhubarb pie. There is something magical about the combination of the sweet, sweet strawberries and the very tart rhubarb. I've made this pie many times, usually with a top and bottom crust.

This time I decided to only have a bottom crust and to do a streusel topping. I used the streusel recipe from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham. It was early last week when a good friend gave me freshly cut rhubarb from her garden and when we purchased three pints of local, just picked strawberries at the farm stand. In the early evening I started cutting up the berries and rhubarb and realized that Sweetie, who had had gum surgery that afternoon, wouldn't be able to enjoy the pie (he healed well and is doing just fine).

Since Sweetie really loves pie I decided to figure out a way to make the pie later in the week. The problem was that I had already prepped the fruit and it would likely spoil if I waited. Normally I put the unbaked crust in the pie pan, put in the uncooked filling, top it with the second crust, seal the edges and flute it, cut a few vents in the top and bake the pie. This time I would need to make the pie a different way. A search of the Internet gave me the solution: cook the filling and use it later. That worked really well. I am indebted to the blogger on Bewitchin Kitchen for this cooked pie filling. You can find her post here.

We had guests on Friday from Hawaii and on Saturday I was getting ready for guests from Australia, but on Sunday morning after the local fire station pancake breakfast I was finally able to make the pie. I only made one error...I used a pie pan for a deep dish pie and only had filling for a standard depth pie. I had already blind baked the crust in the deep dish pie pan before I realized that. The solution I came up with was to put in the filling, top it with already baked streusel, bake it at 350 degrees F just long enough to finish cooking the crust and to heat up the filling, then use a sharp knife to cut the crust on the side, using the nice crisp edges to edge the pie at filling level. It looked a little bit weird, but it tasted just fine, so no one seemed to mind. When you make it, remember to do the pie shell in a shallow pie pan (unless you have doubled the filling recipe).

No only does this pie taste incredible, but the filling is really pretty. Expect raves. Use the freshest berries and rhubarb available. Because there is still some tartness to the filling, you could put a puff of freshly whipped cream on the side of each slice to tone it down...and that looks pretty, too. Alternately you could increase the sugar in the filling recipe. This is a full flavored filling. If you don't care for the flavor of rhubarb (I know some folks don't), just use more strawberries!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling 
Makes enough for one shallow 8-inch pie

3 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
 2 3/4 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped or sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot.
Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly so that it doesn't scorch on the bottom of the pot.
Simmer for another 5-10 minutes until rhubarb is soft and filling has thickened.
Cool and use right away, or put into a covered container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Bring slowly to room temperature before using in the pie.

Blind Baked Pie Crust

Use your favorite recipe for a single crust pie, or do as I do and use a single crust from a refrigerated pie crust. I like Pillsbury ReadyCrust.

On a floured surface roll the pie out (if needed) to fit an 8-inch pie tin. Transfer the crust to the tin by draping it over your rolling pin. Fit the crust into the pie tin and crimp the edges, trimming excess crust as needed. Cut a piece of parchment paper or foil to fit the inside of the pie tin and place it loosely over the prepared crust. Fill with pie weights, or do as I do and fill it with dried lentils. Save the lentils to use the next time you need pie weights. They are very inexpensive and sit close enough to each other to do a great job of keeping the crust from getting over bubbly. Bake in a preheated 435 degree F oven for 8-10 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the lentils cool before removing them carefully and either discarding them or saving them for next time. If the crust still seems a bit raw, put it back in the oven for another minute, then cool crust in pie tin on a wire rack.

1/4 pound, 1 stick, 4 oz, 8 tablespoons butter or margarine, very cold
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup old fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment,

In a large bowl mix together the flour and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until mixture forms clumps.

Put streusel on the baking sheet and break up the clumps a bit so none are bigger than bite sized. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Streusel should be medium to dark brown but not burnt. Remove baking sheet to a wire rack and let streusel cool .

Making the Pie

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Put the pie filling, at room temperature, in the blind baked, cooled, pie shell. Level with an offset spatula. Liberally sprinkle the streusel over the filling. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Serve at room temperature or cold. Store leftovers, if any, at room temperature or in the fridge.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake #TheCakeSliceBakers

Chocolate cake with chocolate icing has always been my favorite cake flavor combination. Imagine how excited I was when I found out that an Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake was one of the choices for the Cake Slice Bakers for June. A grand chocolate layer cake! What could be better?

There were a few new techniques which took it out of the old-fashioned category in my mind, but the trick of making a sort of pudding for the chocolate part of the cake, by cooking the cocoa, chocolate and water together, then cooling it before adding it to the batter, was one I will use again. It seemed to make for a very moist cake with a tender but firm crumb. Buy or borrow the book and check out this cool technique!

The second non-old-fashioned thing was making the frosting in a food processor. Since mine was unavailable when I made the frosting, I used the exact same ingredients called for, but put them together in a different manner. I creamed two sticks of butter in the bowl of my stand mixer, added the cocoa and slowly beat it to make a paste, very slowly added the salt and confectioners sugar keeping the stand mixer on low speed, then added the vanilla and corn syrup and mixed them in. Once the chocolate mixture was cool enough I added it with the mixer on low and once that was incorporated I added the remaining butter, a tablespoon at a time. Once all the butter was incorporated, I turned up the speed for about a minute to completely mix the frosting. Of course there was a lot of scraping the sides of the bowl and the beaters throughout the process.

The frosting was creamy but didn't seem to get to filled with air and it was easy to work with when I applied it to the cake layers. I used the back of the spoon method to put swirls on the top of the cake, then used a pastry bag and tip to use some more frosting to decorate the bottom with flowers, with one in the middle of the top.

The resulting layer cake was lovely to look at and delicious, but I found it overly rich. (I write 'butter' but really used non-dairy margarine since I can't tolerate butter. Maybe real butter would have been less rich, but I doubt it.) Fortunately we were able to share this delightful cake with neighbors (who proclaimed it perfect for breakfast!), and with my sister and her family. Thin slices worked out well.

I decorated the final slice with strawberries from our garden. Celebrating summer!

 Next time I would do a ganache icing or the really old fashioned one with cocoa, hot milk and confectioners sugar, both of which would probably be less rich than the Test Kitchen chocolate frosting. I wouldn't change a thing about the cake itself. I baked the layers two full days before I frosted and served it and the cake layers stayed moist just wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature. This is a wonderful cake, but it is expensive to make if you use (as you should) high quality chocolate and cocoa. Use a chocolate that you enjoy eating since you will really taste it. I used Scharfenberger and was glad I did.

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 Perfect Cake from America's Test Kitchen #atkcake.  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.

The choices this month were Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake, Rhubarb Ribbon Cake, Lavender Tea Cakes with Vanilla Glaze, and Summer Peach Cake.

The Cake Slice Bakers are baking from a new book "The Perfect Cake" from America's Test Kitchen.

Our choices this month are...

June 2018
  1. Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake
  2. Rhubarb Ribbon Cake
  3. Lavender Tea Cakes with Vanilla Glaze
  4. Summer Peach Cake

Visit our bakers too see what choice they baked up!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Bread Baking Babes June Bread

Our Kitchen of the Month, Cathy from Bread Experience, gave us a challenge to bake Pain au Levain with at least 30% whole wheat flour and to include some citrus flavoring and some seeds or herbs or both.

I didn't have any sourdough starter, so I made an overnight poolish and added a little more yeast to the dough. It made two nice sized (large) loaves. Really delicious and with a nice crumb. My crust wasn't as thick as I had hoped, but I couldn't find my spray bottle, so the only steam was from ice cubes which apparently wasn't enough. Still, I liked the thinner crust and this is a bread recipe that I will use in the future, probably a lot.  I found the process of pinching in the salt and water after the autolyse period to be fun and different.

I used Irish wholemeal wheat flour and also lemon zest for zing and a combination of seeds because I love seedy bread.

Pain au Levain formula
Makes 1 Very Large Loaf or 2 Medium Loaves

Adapted from From the Wood-Fired Oven by Richard Miscovich

Levain: *
227 grams | 1 1/2 cups + 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
227 grams | scant 1 cup + 2 Tbsp  water
45 grams | 3 Tbsp liquid sourdough starter
499 total grams  **

* If you don't have or don't want to use a sourdough starter, you can make an overnight poolish.  In that case, you will need to add a bit of yeast (about 2%) to the final dough.

** The total weight of the levain is 499.  You are supposed to remove 45 grams of sourdough to keep as your starter for future use which would leave 454 grams of levain.  If you choose to use all of the levain, just adjust the final dough accordingly.

Final Dough:
415 grams all-purpose flour
275 grams whole wheat flour - I used Irish wholemeal whole wheat flour
375-500 grams water + 25-50 grams (to mix with salt)***
14 grams fine sea salt  (I reduced the salt from 17 to 14 grams)
1 Tbsp lemon zest
150 grams mixed seeds including poppy seed, sesame seed, flax seed and sunflower seed

*** Adjust the hydration according to the type/blend of flour used.  The addition of whole wheat flour makes the dough thirsty and the coarser the blend, the more water it soaks up.

Day 1: Evening - Mix the Levain or Poolish
Mix the water and starter together in a large bowl. Add in the flour and mix until completely hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 8 - 10 hours.

Day 2: Mix the Final Dough/Shape Loaves:
Pour the water over the levain and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or whisk to disperse.

Whisk the flours together and add on top of the water/levain mixture. Hold the salt until after the autolyse.
Mix thoroughly using a Danish dough whisk or wooden spoon to begin developing the gluten.

Add the citrus zest, seeds and/or herbs. Mix thoroughly using your hands. Cover and let rest (autolyse) for 20 - 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the top and dissolve it with the 25 grams of water. Use your fingers to pinch the dough to incorporate the salt evenly throughout.

Cover and let the dough bulk ferment for 120 minutes. Stretch twice, every 40 minutes.

Divide the dough, pre-shape, and then it rest (covered) for 20 minutes before final shaping to allow the dough structure to relax.

Shape the dough into an oval or round shape and place it seam-side up in a heavily floured, lined banneton basket or seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Proof for about 30 minutes at room temperature.  Cover the loaves and place in the refrigerator to cold ferment overnight, 8 - 10 hours.

Day 3: Bake the Loaves
Place a baking stone or steel on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. for at least 45 minutes. If you plan to use steam, place a steam pan on the top shelf.

If you shape the loaf round, you could bake this in a bread cloche, a Dutch oven or a Dutch oven combo baker instead of using a baking stone.

When the oven is sufficiently preheated, remove the loaves from the refrigerator. Carefully invert the loaves from the banneton proofing baskets (if used) onto parchment paper or a heavily dusted peel.  I've found that using a lined basket aids with this process.  You just carefully peel it off after flipping it over onto the parchment.

Score the loaves in the pattern of your choice. Slide them onto the preheated baking stone or steel and bake for 35 - 45 minutes. A larger loaf will take longer.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Be sure to visit the other Babes and to see what they baked this month.

Also, if you would like to be a Bread Baking Buddy, just email Cathy and let her know the url of your post and how the bake went for you. Include a photo, too. She will send you a Buddy Badge for your blog. Deadline is June 29th, so get baking!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Big Blackberries in a Cobbler

Summer is in full swing! The strawberries from the farm stand on Hwy. 12 are their usual amazing flavor bombs, there is ripe rhubarb in my friend's garden (and now in my crisper...thanks Water Woman!), the zucchini are finally large enough to harvest and were grilled for our dinner last night, and, perhaps best of all, the ollaliberries (a cousin of regular blackberries) along the road are ripe and juicy and bursting with flavor.

Like fresh apricots, their period of ripeness is fairly short, about a week and a half or two weeks, so when there are enough of them to gather and eat it is always a celebration. The regular blackberries last longer and will be ripe in about three weeks, just as the ollaliberries ar finishing. Most of those I picked a few days ago were the 'king' berry, the on in the middle that blooms first, so is ripe first. Because we had a rainy spring, the berries are full of juices, too.

I decided to bake a nice cobbler to showcase them. Our Australian friends who are visiting enjoyed the cobbler a lot. To make the cobbler, the berries are rinsed, then mixed with a combination of sugar and cornstarch. I also added a touch of sea salt and some lemon zest for zing.

For the cobbler part I used a recipe from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham for streusel topping for pie. I varied it (what a surprise!) by adding a bit of old fashioned oats since I like the added crunch The streusel is basically butter, flour, brown sugar and, in this case, oats, with the butter being very cold and being cut into the flour/sugar/oat mixture with a pastry cutter or two knives. You can also rub the butter in, which I did at the end since I wanted and almost cookie dough like texture.

I used half the streusel for another recipe, which I'll post about soon, and half I sprinkled over the berry mixture before baking it. My whole house smelled like summer once the berries warmed up and released their juices. Wonderful! Even with the corn starch this is a juicy dessert, as you can see in the photo at the top. Bowls work well for serving. I served portions with a small scoop of vanilla soy milk ice cream. A grand summer dessert and pretty easy, too.

Olallieberry Cobbler
Serves 6-8

1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (depending on how tart the berries are)
1/4 - 1/2 cup corn starch (depending on how juicy the berries are)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2-3 pints olallieberries, rinsed and drained
1/4 pound, 1 stick, 4 oz, 8 tablespoons butter or margarine, very cold
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup old fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 9-inch square pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix together the sugar, corn starch, salt and lemon zest. Add the berries and toss to coat. Pour berries into the prepared pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix together the flour and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until mixture forms clumps.
Divide streusel in half and save half for another use. Sprinkle remaining clumps of streusel evenly over the berries. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until streusel in golden brown and berries are bubbly along the sides of the pan.

Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with ice cream, custard, or cream if desired.