Saturday, October 19, 2019

Warm Spices in a Crinkle Cookie


Now that the weather has finally taken a turn towards cooler temperatures, I find myself thinking about using the warm spices of fall and winter - cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper, allspice - and so I was thrilled to find a recipe in a magazine I took out of the library recently that uses a lot of those. The magazine is the Martha Stewart Living magazine from December 2018 and the cookies are Gingerbread-Espresso Crinkle Cookies. I think that it was the addition of the espresso that caught my attention. I'd never thought of adding it, but it seems right and did, indeed, add a rich deep note to these gingery cookies. The second reason I decided to make them was that Sweetie loves anything with molasses and these cookies have both brown sugar and liquid molasses in them.


These are crinkle cookies, meaning that you roll the dough in balls and roll the balls in sugar, as shown above. When baked the cookies have grown a bit, so the sugar gets sort of cracked and there are lovely fissures of cookies and areas covered with sugar between. For this recipe you roll the dough in both granulated sugar and confectioners' sugar. Just remember that confectioners' sugar is the glitter of the culinary world...it seems to go everywhere while you are working with it! The cookies aren't too sweet, even with all that sugar coating and the texture is crisp on the outside and slightly chewy in the center. I gave some to my neighbor and she enjoyed them in the morning with coffee.

You do need to start theses cookies at least four hours before you plan to bake them, but the dough can also sit in the fridge for three days, or you can freeze it for up to a month, making them a nice thing to have on hand for when a yen for cookies hits. They're not refrigerator cookies exactly, but the time in the fridge lets the flavors meld. You can shape and sugar a tray of cookie in about the time it takes to preheat your oven and then shape the next cookie sheet worth while the first one cooks, or you can bake two sheets at once, but be sure to turn the sheets around and switch the rack they are on about half way through baking.

These are pretty enough for a tea party, but simple enough for everyday eating...ready to bake?


Gingerbread-Espresso Crinkle Cookies
Martha Stewart Living Magazine, Dec 2018
Makes about 30 cookies

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger (from a 1-inch piece)
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses (not blackstrap)
1 large egg
granulated sugar (about 1/2 cup) and confectioner's sugar (about 1 cup) for rolling

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder and salt.

In a mixer bowl beat the butter with the grated ginger and brown sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the molasses; beat until combined. Add egg and beat until combined. Scrape bowl and beaters and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating only until combined with no dry flour remaining.

Transfer the dough to plastic wrap, pat into a disk, wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 3 days (or freeze up to 1 month; thaw in the refrigerator before using).

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, with racks in upper and lower thirds if baking two sheets at a time.

Place granulated sugar in one shallow bowl and confectioners' sugar in another.

Using a 1-oz scoop or a tablespoon measure, scoop rounded spoons of dough, roll into balls and put into the bowl of granulated sugar. Roll around to coat, then transfer to the bowl of confectioners' sugar. Turn dough balls to fully coat. Balls should be heavily coated; don't shake off excess. If dough becomes sticky as it warms, dust your hands with confectioners' sugar and continue to make balls of dough. Once each dough ball is heavily coated with confectioners' sugar, place it on the prepared sheet, leaving 2 inches between balls.

Bake, rotating sheets and rack positions once halfway through, until cookies spread and surfaces appear cracked, 15 - 17 minutes (I found that closer to 12 minutes was sufficient). Let cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, between sheets of parchment, up to 5 days.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Babes Bake Apple Bread


I missed making the Bread Baking Babes bread last month, but this month I finished the loaf yesterday, just in time to post today. Not only that, but it's also World Bread Day so there is likely to be lots of great bread around the blogosphere today.

Our Kitchen of the Month Kelly of A Messy Kitchen gave us a wonderful recipe for October; Apple Bread. You start with a poolish and the next day make the dough, let it rise, work the sauteed apples into the dough and shape it and then bake it at a pretty high temperature to begin with, then at a lower temperature to finish. The result is an absolutely delicious bread, flavored with apple, faintly sweet and perfect for eating plain, toasted, or as a sandwich bread.

In making this, I followed the poolish part exactly, altered the dough part by using Irish whole meal wheat flour instead of the rye flour. I also worked the sauteed and cooled diced apples into the dough before the first rise because I needed to go to bed, then let it all rise slowly in the cool night air in the sunspace overnight, then shaped it, let it rise and baked it today. Sweetie was quite taken with this bread so I know I'll make it again. I used Gravenstein apples from our trees for the apple part and brandy instead of Calvados. See the little apple pieces in the bread?



Do give this one a try...you'll be glad you did. To be a Buddy, bake the bread, take a photo and email Kelly with a brief description of your bake and be sure to include the photo and she will send you a Buddy badge and include you in the roundup.

Check out the apple breads that the other Babes have made, too. Sure to be inventive!

I used this recipe which makes 1 good sized loaf.


Apple Bread with Cider and Calvados
makes 1 loaf
This is from  Artisan Breads: Practical Recipes and Detailed Instructions for Baking the World's Finest Loaves, by Jan Hedh.


Poolish:
150 g strong white flour (bread flour), preferably stoneground (I used all purpose)
0.7 g (¼ tsp) instant yeast
150 g dry cider (I used apple juice)

Add the flour and yeast to a bowl and mix thoroughly.  Whisk the cider into the flour/yeast mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave at cool room temperature overnight, 12-16 hours.  Poolish will be bubbly and should have risen and fallen slightly in the center when ready.
Final dough:
300 g strong white flour (bread flour), preferably stoneground
50 g whole meal (dark) rye flour, preferably stoneground (I used 50g Irish wholemeal wheat flour)
0.9 g (¼+ tsp) instant yeast
150 g water (I added an additional 10g water because it seemed dry)
9 g (1½ tsp) sea salt

Mix the yeast and flours thoroughly in the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Heat the water to lukewarm (approximately 35°C/95°F).  Add the water and poolish to the flour/yeast mixture and knead on low for 13 minutes.  Add the sea salt and knead for 7 more minutes at med/low speed.

Cover with plastic wrap or a shower cap and leave in a warm place (ideally at 24ºC, 75ºF) for about 90 minutes, until doubled in size. Meanwhile, prepare the apple mixture to give the apples time to cool before you need to use them.

Filling and baking:

Apple Mixture:
5 g (1 tsp) unsalted butter
150 g cored, peeled and diced eating apple
5 g (1 tsp) soft dark brown sugar
25 g calvados (I used brandy)
Heat up the butter in a pan, add the diced apple and then sprinkle over the sugar.  Saute until golden brown, stirring occasionally.  Pour over the calvados and continue cooking until the pan is dry.  Set aside to cool.

Tip the dough on to a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly. Add the cooled diced apple and fold it into the dough.  Do this in stages to ensure that the apple is mixed in as evenly as possible.  Shape the dough into an oblong loaf round and place it in a lightly floured lined proving basket or floured cloth.  Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for 75-90 minutes until doubled in size.

Add a baking stone to an oven and preheat to 250ºC (475ºF) for at least 30 minutes.  Cut up a thin apple slice for the top of the bread.  Gently turn the loaf onto a parchment lined baking sheet or peel and gently press the apple slice in the middle.  Slide the loaf onto the baking stone.  Heavily spritz your oven with a water spray or cover the loaf with an inverted roasting pan sprayed with water. (I skipped the spritz and the covering, although I did bake on a baking stone.) Bake for 15 minutes, turning down the temperature to 200ºC (400ºF) after 5 minutes.  Remove roasting pan and continue to bake for another 25-30 minutes until the bread is golden and hollow sounding when thumped on the bottom and has reached an internal temperature of about 205ºF.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

It's Finally Pumpkin Time


I know we still have a bit more daylight savings time to go before it really gets dark early in the day and early in the evening, but you can tell the days are getting shorter, the leaves are turning colors, and fall has finally arrived. We are looking at high temperatures in the low to mid-70s for the next week and it's supposed to be in the 30s tonight! Love the chill.

Pumpkin spice this and that has become very popular the last few years, but I still like good old fashioned pumpkin pie. I made one a few days ago and we had slices for dinner dessert and then slices for breakfast in the morning...decadent!

This recipe might be even better, because these treats are cut in bars and are very portable and shareable. They are baked in a 9" x 13" pan, so there are plenty to take to a pot luck and still have a few for the morning in the fridge. Be careful to watch toward the end of baking because they burn easily. I let mine bake a minute or two too long, but they still were delicious with a buttery shortbread crust and true pumpkin and spice filling, plus crunchy pecans on top.


Pumpkin Pie Bars
from Very Best Baking
12 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned or instant oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (I had a little extra pumpkin since I was using up leftovers from a larger can, so if you have more, add it. I added an extra 5 oz.)
1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
2 large eggs

2 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice OR 1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cloves and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

COMBINE flour, oats, brown sugar and butter in small mixer bowl. Beat at low speed for 1 to 2 minutes or until crumbly. Press on bottom of ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

BAKE for 15 minutes.

COMBINE granulated sugar, pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs and pumpkin pie spice in large mixer bowl. Beat at medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes; pour over crust.

BAKE for 20 minutes. Combine pecans and brown sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle pecan topping over filling. Continue baking for 15 to 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Favorites



We are coming up on the 13th anniversary of the beginning of this blog.Other than enjoying my marriage, being a Mom,and cooking and baking, that's probably the longest I've done one particular thing that gives me great pleasure.  One of the great things about blogging, especially blogging mainly about food, is that things are constantly changing, so it never gets boring.

You may have noticed that I post less than I used to. Part of that is that everything, I mean everything, takes longer as you get older. Writing, putting together the recipe, adding the photo, making it personal...all of these things are essential to good blogging and they all take longer. The other thing is that I've already posted so many of the things that I cook and bake day in and day out. I'm using the blog as a sort of recipe box, so I want the posts to be about new things that I've made.

Recently I was talking with my older sister and younger brother during a call made to celebrate his birthday. We were talking about the possibility of a new Family Cookbook with contemporary recipes. One or the other of them suggested that I should do a cookbook using recipes from this blog. Since there are well over 1,200 recipes by now, figuring out which ones to include is a tall order!

So, dear reader, in honor of the upcoming 13th blog birthday, do you have a recipe that you find you make often or at least more than once, or that you've only made once but really enjoyed? Next Sister Down like the Delicata and Butternut Squash with Olive Oil and Maple From September 2017 (photo at top of post), although I think she made another version with Moroccan spices. I often make the Creamy Coleslaw Dressing during the summer.


We're almost to the time of year for me to make Quince Jelly, another favorite, especially for gift giving. Now you get the idea...find a favorite recipe and tell me in the comments what it is. If you like you can also tell me why you like it; that would be wonderful!

Do reply if you can...it will be very meaningful to me to see what you like. The month and year where you found it in the blog is helpful if you know that, but if you don't just comment anyway.

In case you were figuring that I've been lying in bed, recovering from surgery and eating bon bons, that time is over...thank heavens. This week I've been working on painting the bedroom walls in the farmhouse as part of getting ready for the holidays. One more wall to paint and then the trim work to do. After that the floors need a good cleaning and then we can add some furniture and bedding. Sweetie is working on replacing a broken window in the little room off the front room (which may eventually be a walk-in closet or perhaps an office) so eventually I'll have trim to paint, inside and out, for that window. Since I love painting I'm a happy camper right now.

I'd appreciate your healing thoughts for my older brother and my brother-in-law who are both caught up in the medical whirlwind right now. Thanks!

Hoping to hear from you...be bold...commenting is fun and you may discover a new recipe to try if enough people comment with their favorite recipe from the blog.

XO, Elle

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Roasted For Fall


Now that cooler weather has finally arrived...at least for a little while...I'm so happy to be making dishes like chili and roasted vegetables. I finally have some energy for cooking, too. Hope to be posting more in the future.

I don't often shop at Whole Foods because we have local markets that have wonderful foods that aren't so expensive, but I did shop there recently and found that they carried a tortellini pasta stuffed with almond milk ricotta by Kite Hill. I've enjoyed the Kite Hill ricotta so I had to try the tortellini. I decided to serve them with veggies that had been roasted with what I think of as 'Scarboro Fair' herbs of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I topped the pasta and veggies with toasted pine nuts for a delicious vegetarian meal.

If this pasta isn't available in your area and if you can consume cheese, you can make the same sort of recipe with any cheese stuffed tortellini. The key thing here is to use a lot of water for cooking the tortellini, salt the water, and pay attention so that the pasta is just cooked al dente. Have the vegetable mixture cooked and hot and ready to eat when the pasta is done, and the pine nuts can be toasted while the pasta cooks since both only take a few minutes.

Use your favorite mixture of vegetables. Cut them so that they are all about the same size, and that should be bite sized or a bit smaller. Unfortunately I didn't measure the amounts of herbs that I used, so this is really a recipe for confident cooks who know their flavors. The same is true of the olive oil, salt, pepper, and amount of pine nuts...not measured. Sorry. So this isn't really a recipe but more a suggestion of a combination that worked and will work for you if you have some experience.

My sister suggested that this would also work with vegetables that you don't roast, for example peas and jarred roasted red peppers which you would heat up and season as desired (maybe with caramelized onions?). If I were doing those two, I'd probably make a non-dairy 'cream' sauce, toss the drained pasta in that sauce and then add the peas and peppers and onions on top then sprinkle on toasted pine nuts.

For those who are interested, our daughter is settling in nicely in her new home.


Roasted Vegetables Over Stuffed Tortellini With Pine Nuts
Serves 4

6-7 cups mixed vegetables, peeled and ends cut off as needed and cut into bite sized pieces. I used mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, green beans, butternut squash (seeds removed too), red onion.
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
about 2 tablespoons minced parsley
about 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
about 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
about 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
9 oz. fresh ricotta stuffed tortellini pasta
salted water
about 3-4 tablespoons pine nuts
1-2 teaspoons olive oil or butter or margarine

Preheat the oven to 580 degrees F. Prepare a shallow baking pan with a rim by lining it with heavy duty foil. Set aside.

In a large plastic bag, shake the vegetables with the oil, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme and salt and pepper to taste (I didn't use any salt, but was generous with the pepper).

Pour the seasoned vegetable mixture into the prepared pan and roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Stir the mixture, then reduce temperature to 325 degrees F. and roast for another 20 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking at the reduced temperature, bring a large pot of water to boil, then add about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return to the boil, then add the tortellini and simmer until the pasta is al dente.

while the pasta is cooking, dry toast the pine nuts in a non-stick skillet, stirring often, until light brown in places. Set aside.

When pasta is cooked enough, use a slotted spoon to remove the pasta from the water and place in the center of a large platter or wide, shallow serving bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then pour off the rest of the water. Return the pasta to the pot and add 1 teaspoon of the oil or butter or margarine. Add some pepper and stir over low heat. If pasta looks too dry, add some of the pasta water or additional oil. Only cook in dry pot for 1 minute, then return pasta to serving platter or bowl.

Top pasta with the roasted veggies and top those with the toasted pine nuts.

Serve at once. If desired, pass a bowl of grated Parmesan cheese on the side.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Chocolate and Zucchini


This is the time of year in our area where the zucchini plants are producing so many squash that we desperately search for recipes to help us use up this prolific vegetable. I have a great recipe for chocolate zucchini bread, but I wanted brownies this time. I found a great sounding recipe at Spend with Pennies blog and it also had a dynamite recipe for easy chocolate frosting. Turned out the the brownie was more like a cake, but it's a moist, delicious cake and the frosting takes it up a notch!

As usual I substituted soy creamer and non-dairy margarine for the milk and butter in the frosting. The cake called for veggie oil, so I used a very light olive oil. It worked well.

The zucchini was grated on a fairly fine grater, so it melted right into the cake. It's really important that you use the zucchini just as it is after grating...don't squeeze out any of the juices. They are needed to make the cake batter moist. The cake comes out with a deep, dark chocolate flavor and you can't tell that there is zucchini in it at all.

I love the frosting recipe, but found that adding all the chips at once meant that it took a ton of stirring to get smooth. I eventually used my stick blender to finish the job. I think that adding half the chips and melting them some before adding the rest might work better. The mixture will still be pretty warm when you put it on the cake. It hardens a bit as it cools and is really, really good.

Brought this dessert to a potluck and it went over quite well. Still finding that I need more rest and naps than usual, but otherwise doing well. Slept three hours after getting home from the lunch potluck! Doesn't this frosting look great?


Easy Zucchini Cake/Brownies with 1 Minute Fudge Frosting
from spendwithpennies.com blog
Makes about 28

Cake/Brownie
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used a very light olive oil)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (don't peel or squeeze our juice..just wash and grate after removing ends) 1-2 zucchini depending on size

Combine the oil, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl.
In another bowl combine the flour, salt, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Add to the sugar mixture and stir well to combine. Mixture will look sort of dry. Stir in the wet zucchini and stir very well to combine. Mixture now looks like a batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in the preheated 350 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes. When done the cake/brownie will be springy to the touch and will have pulled slightly away from the sides. Cool completely on a wire rack in the pan, then frost.

1 Minute Fudge Frosting
1/3 cup milk (I used soy creamer)
1/3 cup butter (I used non-dairy margarine)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

In a small saucepan combine the milk, butter and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring well. Once boiling, boil for 30 seconds, stirring all the time to prevent scorching, then remove from heat and immediately stir in half of the chips, stirring until melted, then add the rest of the chips and keep stirring until smooth. Immediately frost the cake/brownies, using an offset spatula to smooth it over the top. Add swirls if you like before it cools. Once frosting is cool you can cut the dessert and remove from the pan, or serve in the pan.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Is It A Cookie Or A Tart?


Recently our local newspaper, the Press Democrat, has a delicious sounding recipe in the Food Section. It was for a Crostata with jam. A crostata is sort of a cross between a cookie and a tart. It's baked in a tart pan, but uses a dough for the base which is cookie-like and fluffier than a usual tart dough. The filling is usually jam. I used a combination of good quality apricot jam and fresh, cooked peaches, lightly mashed and scented and flavored with almond extract. It made for a delightful dessert which I served for afternoon tea yesterday. With a topping of pieces of some of the tart dough and a sprinkle of sliced almonds, it looks very pretty and tastes divine.

My health improves day by day, which is very encouraging. It's nice to finally have enough energy to try a new recipe. Sweetie is happy because I'm also cooking again. Mostly simple things like steamed corn on the cob and salads, but now and again a little more complicated like last night when I marinated some portabella mushrooms for sandwiches. Sweetie did the grilling. I'll try and post the recipe soon.

Back to the crostata. When you are putting the dough into the bottom of the pan, keep flouring your hands as they get sticky for the most even crust. Don't forget to set aside the 1/2 cup of dough for the top. You can chill it while you work on the tart. Do plan on enough time to also chill the dough-filled tart pan for at least 20 minutes.



If you are using some or all pre-made jam (as I did), be sure to taste it and add some lemon juice, as needed, to make it a bit tart. If you are making your own jam, you can taste it and add sugar if needed as you make it. You can also make the jam ahead of time, up to 1 week before making the crostata.

You'll only need small pieces of this crostata. Try it with a nice cup of hot tea and take a few moments to relax. If you used fresh, seasonal fruit, you can think of the wonders of harvest time, too.


Jam Crostata
based on a recipe originally in the New York Times, by Melissa Clark
Makes 8 servings

For the jam - use at least 12 oz. good quality pre-made jam, or make your own as follows:
3 cups blackberries
1 cup blueberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons minced fresh lemon verbena (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
topping:
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

In a medium saucepan, stir together the blackberries, blueberries, sugar and lemon verbena (if using). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally at first, then more frequently as the mixture starts to bubble and reduce. When the mixture has reduced and looks syrupy (about 30 minutes), stir in lemon juice and zest. Taste and add sugar if necessary. This depends on how sweet your berries were to begin with.
Cook for 3 minutes longer, stirring frequently to prevent burning. When the jam is thickened and shiny but still slightly runnier than you expect jam to be, take it off the heat; it will continue to thicken as it cools.
Scrape jam into a bowl or heatproof container, stir in vanilla and let cool to room temperature.
Taste and stir in a little more lemon juice if jam is very sweet. At this point, the cooled jam can be chilled for up to 1 week.
Note: I used 10 oz. pre-made apricot jam and then used the instructions (but not the quantities) above to make a peach jam to combine with the apricot jam to make my crostata filling. I used a tiny bit of almond extract instead of vanilla and no extra sugar since my peach was quite ripe and sweet.

For the crust - allow time to chill
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
12 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours; set aside. In a second bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, lemon zest, vanilla, salt, and almond extract until combined, then beat in flour, only beating until flour is incorporated.
Scoop 1/2 cup of the dough into a covered container and chill. Transfer remaining dough into a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and use floured finders to press the dough into an even layer in the bottom of the tart pan and up the sides. Chill for at least 20 minutes
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread cooled jam evenly into the crust the, using your fingers, crumble reserved chilled 1/2 cup dough over the jam. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and Demerara sugar (if using).
Bake until golden, 35 to 48 minutes. Let cool completely to room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Pleasures of Peaches and Raptures of Raspberries


The scent is what I first notice about a ripe peach...then how soft it is when the blossom end is lightly pressed. The colors are lovely, too. This morning I peeled some ripe white peaches and enjoyed both the fragrance and the softness while peeling. Once the pit was removed the delight was in the ivory flesh with a ruby tint where the pit had been.

For raspberries I admit the color and shape are what I first notice, followed by the delightful raspberry scent. There were just enough raspberries this morning to join with the peaches in a delicious and fragrant compote to top waffles from the freezer...no not Eggos, but waffles that I had baked a few weeks ago, then frozen the leftovers for just such a morning. The toasted waffle quarters were crispy outside and moist inside and went so well with the fruit mixture. Rapturous and pleasing!

Raspberry Peach Compote
serves 1 but can be expanded

1 perfectly ripe peach, any variety, peeled, pitted, and sliced into wedges
1/2 cup raspberries, rinsed and dried with a paper towel (or leave wet...that's OK too)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
2 tablespoons water
(because fruit is ripe, no sugar needed)

In a small saucepan, combine the compote ingredients. Place over low heat and cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until raspberries have broken down. Uncover and raise heat. Cook until desired thickness is reached, stirring often. I like the sauce pretty thin, but if you cook the mixture longer, it will become thicker as the moisture boils off. Let cool at least 5 minutes so you don't burn your tongue. Serve over pancakes, waffles, ice cream, pudding, pound cake...you get the idea. Can also be eaten by itself, but it's kinda sweet for that.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Welcome September


It's Gravenstein apple time here in Sebastopol. The trees seem to be loaded this year, which is surprising since we had rain when the blossoms were heaviest in the spring. No complaints about the quantity, although I doubt that I will be able to use them all this year.

Just had some homemade Gravenstein apple sauce that I made yesterday. It only takes a short while to peel four apples, cut out the core and stem, and cut into wedges. Into a heavy bottomed pot they go along with cinnamon, a bit of vanilla sugar, some allspice and some nutmeg. Since they are ripe, they didn't need any added sugar. I only used the vanilla sugar for the flavor. You could sub vanilla extract...but just use a few drops. I added some water and lime juice for liquids and cooked them over slow heat, covered.

Gravenstein apples break down really easily, so you barely have to mash the finished product, especially if you like lumpy applesauce as I do. I'll make some applesauce with more readily available apples like Granny Smith later. This recipe works best with the slow food darling, the real Gravenstein.

It's fall, y'all!

Gravenstein Apple Sauce
two servings

4 medium to large ripe Gravenstein apples, peeled, cored & stem removed, sliced into wedges
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon vanilla sugar
dash allspice
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lime juice

Place the apple slices and the rest of the ingredients into a heavy bottom saucepan with a lid. Stir to coat the slices with the spices and liquids, then cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Check every 15 minutes to make sure there is still some liquid and stir to keep apples from sticking.

When cooked and soft, mash with a potato masher or a fork until desired consistency. Cool to eating temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Summer's First Tomato and a Dragonfly


For many years I planted at least a dozen tomato plants, most grown from seed. Last year it was just two - a cherry tomato and a Black Krim. This year it was just the Black Krim, which is my favorite. It has old fashioned tomato flavor and is nice and big, too.

Last weekend (not the one that just passed, but the previous one) the first Black Krim finally ripened and we enjoyed it with dinner. I sliced it, added pepper, minced fresh basil, a bit of good balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of excellent olive oil. A few flakes of sea salt went on top when I served it. Soooo good.


The same weekend I purchased a beautiful slumped glass dragonfly for my garden. The artist is Valerie Adams of Modern Fused Glass in Santa Rosa. She is an Art Trails and Art at the Source artist and I love her work! This gorgeous dragonfly has dichondric glass on the wings which makes it almost sparkle when the sun hits it. She attaches a brass fixture and includes a brass rod to go in the fixture so that the dragonfly can be affixed in your garden wherever you can poke in the rod. Mine is hovering over the lantana in a big pot and looks so pretty there.


Of course the morning glories continue to bring great pleasure each morning. Sweetie is watering the garden for me while I recover from the surgery, but I still go out and admire the flowers and help pick the ever producing zucchini and yellow squash. As we head into fall the annuals are starting to taper off and the green beans have finished, so squash and tomatoes are the harvest for now and to come.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Post-Surgery


Had gallbladder removed on Tuesday. Everything went well and I'm at home and healing, but this is the first time that I've sat down at the computer since Monday. Sleeping lots. Sweetie is doing all the cooking...and he is doing a great job.

Wishing you, dear reader, good times and a happy August! XO, Elle

Friday, August 16, 2019

Sunshine for the Babes


It's summer, so lots of sunshine, especially for the Bread Baking Babes. This month our delightful Kitchen of the Month, Cathy of Bread Experience has challenged us with a shaped bread that look like a sun. It uses sourdough starter and I changed things up by using freshly milled barley flour instead of the rye called for. The dough was easy to work with and shaping was fun. The bread was delicious, with both a nice crumb and great crust. I used bread flour, whole wheat flour and the barley flour and then kneaded in a mixture of seeds instead of using caraway. Caraway works well with rye, but since I wasn't doing rye, I went with mixed seeds. Delicious!



Be sure to visit the other Babes to see what they have done with this recipe. It's an easy on to make changes to, so I'll bet there will be variety!


If you would like to be a Bread Baking Babes Buddy...of course you would!...bake the bread, take a photo and email Cathy, including the photo and your experience and a URL if you have one. Deadline is August 29. She will do a round-up early in September.

In a few days I'll be having gallbladder removal surgery, so it may be awhile before I post again. I have a very good doc and lots of support, so I expect things will go well. Sweetie will be doing the cooking for most of a week. Maybe he'll want to guest post?

Be good to yourself until we 'meet' again...and wear sunscreen if you are going to be out in that summer sunshine!


Here is what we started with from Cathy:
Here is the formula for the Sourdough Sunshine Loaf:

Adapted from: BREAD: the breads of the world and how to bake them at home by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter. 

Makes: 1 Large Loaf or 2 Smaller Loaves
The directions below are for shaping one large loaf. Adjust accordingly to shape 2 smaller loaves.

Starter:
15 grams / 1 scant Tbsp. active sourdough (100% hydration)
60 grams / 4 Tbsp milk, lukewarm
55 grams / 4 Tbsp water, lukewarm
125 grams / 1 cup all-purpose flour

Dough:
250 grams / 2 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour (I used stone-ground bread flour)
440 grams / 4 cups rye flour (I used freshly milled whole grain rye flour)
480 - 550 grams / 2 cups + water, divided (I started with 2 cups (480 grams) water and gradually added more as I was mixing the dough. The whole grain rye soaked it up.
16-18 grams / 1 Tbsp. salt
Caraway seeds, or the seeds of your choice, for sprinkling
Milk or water for glazing

Day 1Prepare the Starter
Mix the starter ingredients together in a medium bowl and stir thoroughly until there are no dry bits of flour. Cover and let rest on the counter at room temperature overnight until it is well risen, bubbly and starting to collapse; about 8 to 12 hours.  I mixed the starter at 10pm and let it rest at room temperature until noon the next day (14 hours) and it worked fine.  If your kitchen is hot, it may take less time to fully activate.

Day 2: Final Dough
The next day, when the starter is ready, add about half (1 cup / 240 grams) of the water to the starter and stir to break it up. 

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour the starter over the dry ingredients and stir to incorporate.  Add in the remaining 240 grams of water and mix thoroughly to incorporate. 

Add in more water (or flour) gradually, if necessary, to achieve a workable dough. It is sticky dough so it’s best to use wet hands. I started the mixing process using a Danish dough whisk, and then switched to using wet hands and a bowl scraper.

Cover and let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes.  Stretch and fold the dough in the bowl using wet hands.  I added in a little more water at this point because the dough was tearing.

Cover again and let the dough rest at warm room temperature for 6 hours.  Perform stretch and folds every 45 minutes to an hour (using wet hands) for the first 4 ½ hours. Then let the dough rest undisturbed for the final hour or two. 

Continue with shaping the loaf or place it in the refrigerator overnight to cold ferment for 8-12 hours.  The cold ferment may not be necessary, but it worked better with my schedule.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces.  I had 1435 grams of dough so each piece was 287 grams.

Roll one piece into a 20-inch log. Then roll it into a spiral shape.  See notes on shaping middle spiral.

Divide the remaining pieces of dough in half (~143 grams each) and roll each piece into an 8-inch rope.

Place the ropes in a circle on a large baking sheet (See notes on using a greased baking sheet), spaced evenly apart. They should look like rays of sun. Curl the ends around, leaving a slight gap in the middle for the center spiral.

Place the center spiral on top.  Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, bees wrap, or a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place, for 30 minutes.

While the loaf is proofing, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Brush the loaf with milk, or water, and sprinkle with caraway seeds. Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  I brushed my loaf with melted butter after placing it on the wire rack. See notes about brushing with milk.

Notes:

I used 4 cups of rye, and it was really sticky.  So I plan to reduce the amount of rye the next time.  I liked the flavor of the rye, but I think 3 cups of whole grain rye and 3 cups of white flour will be easier to work with.  If you use a lighter rye, that will probably help as well.

This is a really big loaf.  I had a hard time figuring out how to fit it on the baking sheet which is why I rolled the rays tighter than the picture. Unless you have a larger baking sheet, I think 2 smaller loaves will be easier to shape. 

Shape it on a greased baking sheet. I tried shaping the loaf on parchment paper, but the dough stuck to it, and the rectangular shape of the parchment didn’t lend itself to the shape of the loaf.  It wasn’t wide enough for the rays to fit on.  I used a greased baking sheet instead and it worked much better. 

Work fast when shaping the loaf. I shaped the pieces straight from the refrigerator and had to work really fast so the pieces didn’t proof too much before I got the loaf put together.  I probably shaped and reshaped it 3 times before I got it right and onto the baking sheet.  

*Shaping the middle spiral. The directions said to shape the middle section first, but I ended up having to reshape it when I transferred it to the baking sheet because it had been proofing the whole time I was shaping the other pieces.  This piece goes on last so I would wait to shape this piece until after shaping the other pieces.

I didn’t like the look of the milk-brushed loaf. I brushed the loaf with milk and sprinkled it with caraway seeds before baking, as the recipe suggested, but it looked pale once I removed it from the oven. So to give it some color, I brushed the warm loaf with melted butter. It looked much better and didn’t affect the flavor.   I used almond milk so perhaps regular milk would work better, but I’ll probably just use water next time.