Monday, February 29, 2016

Leaping Ahead

Somehow my mind keeps combining leap year and the soon to arrive day when we spring ahead an hour to meet daylight savings time. It might be because I've been re-experiencing the colitis that troubled me for much of last year. That always wears me out, leaving me feeling a bit like a wet rag.

It might also be due to the unseasonable weather. We have been having spring or even summer weather lately and the iris in the photo above gives you an example of the outcome. Iris usually bloom here in another month or so. This one was found today, Leap Day, at the Luther Burbank Gardens.

There are also plenty of plum trees blooming, calla lilies, rosemary flowers and daffodils blooming. Love the flowers, but I'm troubled by the changes in weather.

Hope to have something baked to post soon.   XO, Elle

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Marvelous Marmalade Cake

Right at the start I have to say that my photos for this post are not the best. They were taken after dark and I hadn't thought to take any, so not much thought went into them. That said, I hope they convey the convivial nature of the evening and a little bit of how wonderful this marmalade cake was. If the cake weren't so delicious, with the perfect moist crumb and just the right tang of orange, you never would have been subjected to my poor photos.

The star of all this is the baker, a warm and delightful, multi-talented woman who makes amazing food but understands that the food comes in second to the fun. She is a beautiful flower in the garden of eastern LA. I was lucky to not only be included for this birthday party of Mr. Let's Get This Justice Thing Right, but the nephews drove me to and fro on the LA freeways to make it happen. I am most grateful! The drives also gave me a chance to catch up with them.

Included in the fun was Ms. Designer, currently designing the most beautiful baby girl no doubt. Always a delight to visit with her. The youngster in the photo had a sunny smile the whole afternoon and evening. Heard about art from his brother and about favorite books from his cousins; always a great topic. All in all I'm so lucky to have shared the afternoon and evening with them all!

This cake is a plain one but one that goes perfectly with a dollop of whipped cream ... and champagne if you are lucky! It has a moist, crumbly texture, a delightful orange flavor with hints of almond and comes from Orangette's blog, one that I've been reading a long time. There were birthday candles, but I missed taking that photo.

Marmalade Cake just sounds good and she made it in February, 2010, so you know it's seasonal. It has marmalade, almonds and olive oil and is perfect for someone like me who is dairy intolerant. Here is what Orangette said about it, "As birthday cakes go, it was unassuming, even rustic: a single layer, pale gold and coarse-crumbed... But its flavor was something else: big, gutsy, rich with toasted nuts, and saturated, absolutely saturated, with the perfume of citrus." Check out the recipe by clicking on the link and let me know if you make it. I'm sure going to bake it now that I'm home and see if mine is anywhere near as good as the birthday cake from last weekend. Thank you Mimi!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sorta Tropical

Even though we've not been having the winter we wanted...chilly and rainy every other day for months, there was enough chill and rain in January that a few sunny days are a treat. Recently it's been almost warm enough to put on a swimsuit and pretend you are in the islands. Maybe that's why the February Cake Slice Bakers recipe I chose was the Pineapple Upside Down Cake. It's sorta tropical, right?

A tender yellow cake layer with no oil or butter is served with what had been at the bottom of the pan now serving as the topping. In this case some pineapple juice was worked into the cake and that topping was sweetened by brown sugar, pecans and fresh raspberries as well as that delicious pineapple.

February is a busy month for me, especially the first few weeks of it, so I managed to rush my grocery shopping and purchase pineapple chunks instead of pineapple slices. No prob, I just make a design with the chunks and filled in the gaps with the pecans and raspberries. It looked like a jeweled mosaic and tasted great.

For such a pretty cake, this is also an easy and fairly quick one. Do allow a little time after you bake it for the topping to cool. Too hot brown sugar can really burn your tongue You can dress it up with different nuts and candied cherries are more typical in this recipe than raspberries, but imagine it with blueberries...that could be pretty delicious, too.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
adapted from Maida Heatter's Cakes)
You will need a large cake pan approx 10" (not loose bottomed), 12-inch pie plate
or a 10" in diameter cast iron skillet, which is what I used

  • 2 1/3 oz (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup soft light brown sugar
  • One 20-oz. can of pineapple in natural juice - slices or chunks
  • 6-8 glace cherries or 10-12 fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup sifted plain flour
  • 1/3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons of pineapple juice from the canned pineapple
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Melt the butter in a small pan and pour into the base of your pan, plate or cast iron skillet. I used margarine and it worked very well.
  • Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the melted butter or margarine.
  • Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice.
  • Arrange the pineapple rings (or chunks in my case) in the pan on top of the brown sugar making a pretty design. You may not need all the slices. Fill in the gaps with nuts and cherries (or raspberries, blueberries, etc.).
  • Now prepare the cake batter by sifting together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Using an electric beater whisk the eggs together in a clean bowl until thick and creamy and then gradually add the sugar, still whisking until the mixture becomes thick and pale.
  • Add the vanilla and pineapple juice and whisk until just smooth.
  • On a low speed whisk in the sifted dry ingredients until just combined.
  • Pour the batter over the fruit and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. 
  • Remove from the oven and immediately invert the pan, plate or skillet onto a clean plate. Wait for a minute or two to allow the topping to settle and then remove the pan. If you wish you can brush with melted apricot gaze but this didn't seem necessary. (Melt 3-4 tablespoons of smooth apricot jam to make the glaze.)
  • Serve warm or at room temperature, plain as I did, or with whipped cream!
The other recipes this month to choose from included a poppy seed cake, a decadent chocolate cake and a coffee and cream sponge cake. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Break

Taking a short break from blogging...just for a week, or maybe a little less. Sweetie and Pi will keep the home fires burning while I wend my way to the LA area for a little sisterhood and scholar selection. The scholarships support women, especially those doing graduate work, so that's worth spending some time on.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Well Done

This month the Bread Baking Babes celebrate another anniversary...the 8th. Our Kitchen of the Month, Tanna of My Kitchen in HalfCups, challenged us with a bread that requires some time, some buckwheat flour, and some delicious caramelized onions!

 It comes from the book Bien Cuit, which is French for well done. They are referring to the nice dark brown baked edges of the slashes made into the bread, but I also think that Tanna deserves a resounding "Well done!" for not only choosing a wonderful recipe, but for shepherding our group through ups and downs in membership these past 8 years. She makes us feel welcome when we are new, keeps the creativity and curiosity going by her example, and makes sure that the back bench is there when needed, well stocked. Although we are pretty much a group without rules, Tanna provides the gentle nudge this way or that, but only when needed. She also shows us that you can spend a lot of time visiting around the country and world and still find time to bake bread! Although I didn't start out with the original Babes, I think I've baked over 60 breads with the Babes, learning a lot about breads and shaping breads and what not to do while making breads along the way. Tanna has been there all along the way with encouragement, information and friendship!

At first I thought that I would be able to follow this recipe to the letter, and had every intention of doing so, but tripped up right at the start when I discovered that I didn't have white rye flour for the starter. Not to be discouraged from starting, I used plain unbleached bread flour, which worked fine.

After reading through the recipe I also decided to mix the starter in a large bowl then continue on with the recipe in that same bowl. I mixed up the flour and buckwheat flour, then removed about a sixth to a small bowl, then added in the yeast and salt to the larger amount of flour. This larger amount was stirred in, a half cup at a time (in honor of Tanna's blog's name, but also because it's a good amount to stir in at one time) after I had stirred the water into the starter in the bowl. No honey was used - I forgot to add it.

I ended up doing a sort of roll and tuck with a plastic scraper that had a long handle. My dough was still pretty wet, so this was better than using my hands. While I was doing this I added much of the reserved flour mixture, but not all of it. This is the reason that I put the yeast and salt into the flour that I knew would be added. I no longer had to worry that part of the yeast or salt would stay in the reserved bowl. Have been there and done that and had to add a bit more salt later in the process, which never works out as well.

I put a shower cap over the bowl and did the first 45 minute wait. For the stretch and folding I kept the dough in the bowl and used that spatula again. It still allowed me to stretch the dough and I did so going all around the bowl. Back on with the shower cap and another 45 minute wait.

I repeated this twice more before finally using the remaining flour mix in the small bowl to dust my kneading board. Guess I used it all anyway.

I degassed the dough, pushed it into a rectangle of sorts, then spread half the onions in a thin layer over it, then rolled it up and folded in the ends. Turned the dough over, pushed it into a rectangle of sorts, spread the other half of the onions (and I used twice as much as called for) over the dough and rolled it up again, folding in the ends. Then I kneaded the dough for about 10 turns to work the onions in more evenly.

At this point I formed the dough into a ball, pulling the dough to the back again and again to form a sort of skin. I laid it on the lightly floured board, skin side up, and put an overturned large bowl over it, then let it sit for 20 minutes.

This was when I decided I wanted to bake the bread and not wait until the next day. I placed the ball of dough on a piece of parchment only slightly wider in diameter than the ball. Although the original recipe called for two loaves, I decided to make one large one. I preheated the oven to 500 degrees F and put in a covered enameled cast iron casserole large enough to hold the dough, with room to expand. When the oven was hot enough, I put the parchment/dough ball on a bread peel, dusted it liberally with flour, scored the loaf deeply with a small chef's knife, removed the casserole carefully from the oven, removed the lid, slid the parchment and dough into the casserole and put the lid on again. The casserole went into the hot oven. I baked it for 25 minutes, then removed the lid. I slid the loaf out of the casserole and checked for doneness by tapping the bottom. It sounded hollow and the edges of the scores were a nice dark brown! I let it cool, but Sweetie wasn't about to wait 8 hours, so it was cut while still warm. He liked it that way. I enjoyed it more the next morning when it had cooled.

This bread is wonderful! The onions do make it world class, so try to make it with the onions. If you have more patience than I do you can follow the recipe as written on Tanna's page and you might get a better bread and you are sure to get the bakers cred for doing the full on recipe. We are going easy on bread eating around here, so I gave 1/4 of the loaf to Grandma L and another quarter to some neighbors and cut up a quarter to freeze. Since I only made one loaf, it was a big boule, so sharing was easy.

Don't forget to visit the other Babe's sites to see their versions. In web view of this blog there is a sidebar with links to their blogs. Consider making it yourself by Feb. 28th to become a Buddy. Just send Tanna a photo and description of your baking experience and she'll send you a Buddy Badge. Be sure to thank Tanna for choosing this marvelous artisan bread!


Recipe a variation of one by: Bien Cuit
Yield: 1 large boule


125 grams (3/4 c + 21/2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
0.3 gram (generous pinch) instant yeast
125 grams (1/2 c + 1 tsp) water at about 60°F (15°C)
425 grams (3 c + 21/2 tsp) white flour, plus additional as needed for working with the dough
75 grams (1/2 c + 11/2 tsp) buckwheat flour
15 grams (21/2 tsp) fine sea salt
1 gram (generous 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
350 grams (11/4 c + 31/2 tbsp) water at about 60°F (15°C)

50 grams (1/4 c) Caramelized Onions (1 medium onion, chopped, cooked slowly with 2 tablespoons olive oil until caramelized)

1. Put the flour in a extra-large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast into the water, stir to mix, and pour over the flour. Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed. Cover the bowl (I used a shower cap) and let sit at room temperature for 10 to 14 hours. The starter will be at its peak at around 12 hours.

Stir together the white and buckwheat flours in a medium bowl. Remove 1/6th of it to a small bowl. Add 
 salt, and yeast to the medium bowl and whisk to combine. Set both aside.

Pour about one-third of the water around the edges of the starter in the extra-large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to break up the starter. Add the remaining water and stir. 

Add the flour mixture from the medium bowl, one half cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Continue to mix with the spoon until most of the dry ingredients have been combined with the starter mixture. Switch to a plastic bowl scraper and continue to mix some of the flour from the small bowl until incorporated. At this point the dough will be sticky to the touch.

Push the dough to one side of the bowl. Use a stiff spatula or a wooden spoon and lift and fold the dough, lifting and folding all around the diameter of the bowl, adding the reserved flour mixture and a small amount of additional flour to the bowl and your hands as needed. Continue lifting and folding until the dough feels stronger and begins to resist any further lifting. Then, with cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. If dough is still somewhat wet it will not be a clean ball. Cover the bowl with a shower cap or tea towel and let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.

3.Repeat the lift and fold in the bowl twice more. Cover bowl and let rest 45 minutes after each session.

4. Now lightly dust a clean work surface or board with flour and take the dough out of the bowl and put it on the board. Degas by pushing down all over the ball. Then push the dough into a rectangular shape and spread half the caramelized onions in a thin layer over the dough. Roll up like a jelly roll, then bring up the ends. Turn the dough over and push it out into a rectangle again. You may have to let it sit for 10 minutes if it resists being pushed out. Spread the remaining onions thinly over the dough, roll up like a jelly roll, then bring up the ends. Turn dough over and knead about 10 times to distribute the onion throughout the dough.

5. Shape the dough into a large ball, pulling the dough to the back of the ball over and over until a thin skin forms. Place the dough, skin side up, on a floured board and cover with an overturned large bowl. Let sit 20 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F and place a large, enameled cast iron casserole or Dutch oven into the oven, including the cover. Make sure that the cover has a handle that can go into the oven.

7. When the oven is hot enough, cut a piece of parchment into a circle the size of the bottom of the casserole. Place it on a baking peel and place the dough ball onto the parchment. Dust heavily with flour and score deeply the loaf with a lame or small chef's knife.

8. Working quickly but carefully, take the casserole from the oven, remove the lid, slide the loaf into the hot casserole, return the lid to the pot, put the casserole back in the oven and bake abput 25 minutes. When done the loaf will sound hollow when the back is tapped and the edges of the scores will be dark brown (bien cuit).

9. To test, remove the casserole from the oven, remove the lid and tip the baked loaf out onto a cooling rack. Turn over and tap.  If bread doesn't sound hollow, return to the stone and bake for 5 minutes longer.

Let the bread cool completely before slicing and eating, at least 4 hours but preferably 8 to 24 hours.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Another Birthday Cake

One of the cool things about being a baker is that you can make just what you want for your own birthday. I did just that and was able to really enjoy a moist, fragrant chocolate Bundt cake that had a hint of bourbon. I made it with a combination of margarine and shortening so that the 'no dairy' fairy wouldn't rain on my parade, but otherwise mostly made it as described in this post.

For decoration I sifted some powdered sugar over the high points of the Bundt design and then my darling daughter added some bronze highlights to the sides using a food safe bronzing powder she brought from London. She sent me those roses, too. I'm a lucky woman.

Pretty and delicious and I used some duck eggs from our neighbors, so a little different that way, too. Didn't get a photo of it decorated with candles, but it was even prettier.

Trust me, if you ever need a cake for a chocolate lover, make this one!!

It really was the perfect ending to a great day...a private winery tour of White Rock Winery in Napa, the beautiful drive through green hills dotted with yellow mustard flowers to and from the winery, a down home supper  of Smokehouse BBQ, my slaw, and the cake for dessert. All four of us fit in Straight Shooter's vehicle so he took care of the driving and we were able to enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mixed Muffins

It's been a long time since I made muffins. Hard to believe that I used to make muffins as a business when I was young and foolish. Of course those muffins were rich with butter and milk and no one even knew about gluten intolerance then, except for a few doctors. The muffins a made yesterday were made with my current restrictions in mind, but they were decadent anyway. Instead of all one kind, I decided to make two kinds...but then found that I didn't have very many raspberries left. Still, I was able to make a couple of raspberry ones since I had gotten the yen for those. The rest were apple date pecan muffins. A nice mix of flavors all around.

These were delicious when warm, but also good once they cooled off. The crumb was open but delicate and moist. I really enjoyed the dates when they were warm and I could taste the apple more when they had cooled. The raspberry muffin was eaten while still a little warm and it was outstanding! The muffin itself doesn't have much sugar, so the berry flavor really dominated.

I used yogurt instead of sour cream. Yogurt seems to be the only dairy my bod likes. For additional liquid I used almond milk and a little olive oil. Although I'll bet these could have been made just with gluten free flour mix, I decided to use half GF (Bob's Red Mill) and half all-purpose. The best part was creating the mix-ins. I used diced apple, chopped dates, and chopped pecans for 10 muffins and some fresh raspberries for two. Sounds difficult? Not if you put the raspberries in the bottom of the greased muffin tins, then add the batter 3/4 of the way up the pan. The apple/date/nut mixture was then quickly blended into the batter and the rest of the tin filled up with that.

If you need to make these gluten free, just use your favorite gluten free flour mixture for all the flour and add a teaspoon of xanthan gum for stability. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea, and you have a great mid-morning or afternoon snack.

Mixed Muffins
a variation on Sour Cream Muffins in Joy of Cooking

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup GF flour mix - Bob's Red Mill & 3/4 cup all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup almond milk (add a little more if yogurt isn't wet enough)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 medium to large apple, chopped
1/4 cup dates, chopped
1/4 cup pecans, chopped or broken up
optional- fresh raspberries for some of the muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.

In a medium bowl whisk together the egg, yogurt, almond milk and vanilla. Gently and quickly, with as few strokes as possible, mix the wet mixture into the dry mixture. At this point, if you are doing both apple and raspberry muffins, place about 5 raspberries in the bottom of a couple of muffin cups, then add batter to fill cup 3/4 of the way to the top.

With remaining batter, fold in gently and quickly, with as few strokes as possible the apple, dates and pecans. Put batter in prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 of the way to the top.

Immediately put the muffin pan into the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Check at 15 minutes and turn pan around 180 degrees if needed for even baking. Muffin is done when a light poke in the middle springs back.

Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes on a rack. Remove from the muffin cups and serve or serve at room temperature.

Makes 1 dozen large muffins.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Fun Fingerlings

I know that a lot of posts lately have been savory and with no sign of dessert or bread baking, but that is kind of how life is going, too. Sweetie is shedding pounds and asks that I avoid too much baking, but I think he didn't mind for today's dish.

Our generous and delightful neighbors across the road gave us a bag of mixed fingerling potatoes from their garden. They are wonderful to look at with the soil still coating them and little knobs sticking out here and there. This is actually something I made last Sunday, but life has been super busy, so baked crispy fingerlings is finally showing up here. We also were given some non-fingerlings, so I chunked them up and boiled them, too.

To make this, clean your potatoes, but don't remove the skin. Cut into chunks, about 1.5 - 2 inches wide. Cook the potato chunks in boiling water in a good sized pot until tender, then drain.Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F while the potatoes cook.

Now comes the fun part. Spread the cooked potato chunks on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Make sure there is a little room between the chunks. Then use a large fork (I use one from our carving set that has three tines) or a potato masher to mash each chunk. You want the chunk to hold together but have some bits sticking up. Those will get crispy in the oven.

Drizzle some olive oil over the chunks and sprinkle with salt and/or pepper and any herbs you like with potatoes. Minced fresh rosemary goes well in this recipe.

Put the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Check how brown the potatoes are and turn pan around front to back and keep baking until chunks have golden to dark brown places. Since the potatoes are already cooked, how dark they are is personal preference.

Serve at once. Be sure to scoop up those delicious browned bits while serving. These make a great side dish for almost any fish, meat, our poultry entree you can think of. They're also gluten and dairy free.

For a vegetarian feast, top the potatoes with freshly made aoili and fill your plate up with steamed fresh veggies of all kinds. I like green beans, peas, broccoli, carrots, spinach or kale, parsnips, and beets, but use what ever is seasonal and fresh. Vegenaise can be used instead of aoili for a vegan version, but you might need to thin it with a bit of soy milk.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Oh Baby!

Last time I was at the library they had three new cookbooks displayed that looked good to me. To start with I chose two recipes from Eating Up the West Coast, by Sunset magazine folks and combined them. The first was from the far northern California section, and it was for pancakes made with almond milk and almond flour and just a little all-purpose flour. There was no oil and they looked delicious. The second recipe was from the Washington state section, Port Townsend, Owl Spirit Cafe and it was for a blueberry Dutch baby topped with lemon curd.

Since Sweetie has been very successful with his recent diet, I decided that tempting him with lemon curd would be cruel, but that a low-cal Dutch baby with fresh raspberries would be just fine.

I decreased the almond flour from the pancake recipe because I wanted to make sure that the baby rose in the pan and I used the three eggs from the baby recipe, plus the tablespoon of sugar. I added a grating of lemon zest because I think that citrus zing brings out the best in raspberries (and no lemon curd :( ). The pancake rose up beautifully and the berries cooked and released a little juice. The texture was puffy and the flavor was extraordinary!

 It takes a bit of pre-planning to make this Dutch Baby because you need to make the batter ahead and let it sit an hour, plus the oven needs to be preheated to 450 degrees, which can take a bit of time in a cool kitchen like mine is in the morning.

To serve I went with a locally produced raspberry syrup...just a small puddle...and we didn't really need anything else.

Raspberry Baby

3 eggs
3/4 cup almond milk (I used vanilla flavored, but plain would work)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour (finely ground almonds)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon neutral flavored oil or melted butter
1 cup raspberries, rinsed and drained on paper towel

Whisk together the eggs, almond milk, vanilla and sugar.

In a large bowl or pitcher sift together the flour, almond flour and salt. Add the zest and whisk briefly to mix. Whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients until smooth. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

About 20 minutes before the end of the batter resting hour, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Once the oven has reached 450, put a 9" or 10"cast iron skillet into the oven to heat for 10 minutes.

At the end of the 10 minutes, carefully, with oven mitts on, remove the skillet from the oven. Add the oil to the skillet and swirl to coat the bottom and up the sides a bit. Then pour in the batter and scatter the raspberries over the batter. Carefully return the hot skillet to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Batter will puff up and the top at the edges will be golden brown when done.

Carefully remove the pan from the oven and cut into servings. Serve at once with a sprinkle of confectioners sugar, your favorite syrup, or (decadent!) lemon curd.