Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One Fab Buddy

I'm going to blame it on summer heat, because I know that the Babes who made Beignets this month liked them a lot. Only one brave baker made the August recipe, although she used a brioche dough.

Congratulations to our sole Buddy for August, Shirley of Flourish.en Test Kitchen who made beignets with a lemon glaze and dusted with maple walnuts. She used an olive oil based brioche dough. She went a step further and created Brionuts, a cross between brioche dough and a donut.

"I shaped the remaining brioche dough in a donut shape. Let them rest for a short while, then deep frying them in the 375°F safflower oil. Voila, I just made my own version of "brionut," a brioche and donut hybrid."

So much better than a Cronut, plus no lines to stand in.

Thank you for baking with the Bread Baking Babes Shirley!

And a big thank you to Lien who makes our beautiful badges every month!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Sweet Peach and Strawberry Pudding

One day last week I have a couple of ripe peaches and a few fresh strawberries that were ready to play with. At first I thought I would do a galette or maybe a cobbler or crisp, but what I ended up making was more like the French clafouti. I sort of made it up as I went along, which sometimes is disastrous, but this time worked out really well.

Fresh peaches are peeled, pitted and sliced, cut into chunks and placed in a small baking dish. Strawberries are hulled and cut into chunks and those are scattered over the peaches. My peaches were so ripe that I knew they would be extra juicy, so I crumbled a almost-stale scone and sprinkled those crumbs over the greased baking dish before I added the fruit. If your fruit isn't super juicy you can skip that step. Juicy but no scone? Dry bread crumbs would work fine.

Over the fruit I poured a mixture of soy creamer (but you could sub in half and half, milk, or cream), brown sugar, nutmeg and an egg. A dash of vanilla or almond extract would be delicious, too, but I really like nutmeg, so I wanted that to shine in the dish.

This gets baked in a medium oven. The top will brown and the edges will brown, but the center should still be a bit wobbly. An overcooked custard is terrible!

This sort of pudding can be eaten for dessert or even for breakfast. The custard is the background flavor so the peaches and strawberries...and nutmeg...are the star flavors here. The texture is soft in the interior and a bit chewy at the edges. If you love peaches and strawberries, here is a new way to enjoy them that I know you will appreciate.

Small Peach and Strawberry Pudding
My own recipe
Serves 3-4

2-3 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced, then cut into large chunks
6-8 fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into chunks
If needed...1 scone crumbled, or 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
butter or grease for the pan
1 cup soy creamer or milk, or 1/2 & 1/2, or cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/8 teaspoons salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or grease a small baking dish. An 8 x 8-inch pan should work. If fruit is very juicy, sprinkle with crumbled scone or dry bread crumbs, distributing as evenly over the bottom as possible.

Place the peaches, then the strawberries into the pan, distributing as evenly over the bottom as possible. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy creamer, brown sugar, egg, nutmeg and salt. (Add 1/8 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract, optional, if using.)

Pour egg mixture over the fruit, place pan on a larger baking sheet, and bake for 20-30 minutes. Top will be brown and edges will be brown, but center will still be just a bit soft.

Cool on a wire rack for 10-20 minutes, then serve while still warm. Some folks like a scoop of vanilla ice cream with this. Others like some fresh strawberries with it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Garden Update

Harvest time has arrived. We've been getting about 3-4 good sized zucchini every day all summer. That's still going on, but now the grape (teardrop?) tomatoes have really gotten ripe...and there are lots of them...

and the Gravenstein apples are very ripe, too.

Getting nice cucumbers every few days and the second production of green beans is starting to come in, too. One lonely golf ball sized tomato (maybe a black krim...not sure) has ripened, but more are coming.

There is lots of Swiss chard, although not many takers. The basil continues to produce by the front steps.

 At last count we have 22 pumpkins of various sizes turning from green to orange.

The pears and plums were early and sparse this year and are done. Soon there will be walnuts, too. We feel blessed.

Of course I always plant flowers for their loveliness. There is a nice pot of zinnias by the front porch,

along with pots of magenta cosmos, yellow verbena, blue lobelia, orange snapdragons, red poppies (flower at top of post), golden California poppies and more.

The sweet peas astound me as they continue to bloom despite heat spells and the occasional neglect when I forget to water them. As you can probably see, I've also not been good at weeding this year and I usually try to avoid using pesticides, so there are signs of that, too.

 The morning glories keep coming

and so do the roses. I only have four rose shrubs now, which is enough really. The white climber, which is between blooms, the red single,

the aromatic Scentimental, and the yellow floribunda, also between blooms.

One daylily plant is still blooming, too. I planted a pot to sit on the tree stump by the upper entry into our driveway. It has shade tolerant red and white flowers and they are a nice greeting.

I used some of the same plants for a planter on the steps up to the front door, plus, one step up, another planter with a blue convulvus, a member of the morning glory tribe. I love the intense blue color!

Each day is a revelation and an opportunity to appreciate beauty. More recipes soon, I promise.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cake Slice Tie Dye Fun

When I first joined the Cake Slice Bakers a few years ago I was sure that I would be baking lots of layer cakes, but it turned out that I kept choosing to bake other kinds of cake more frequently than layer cakes.

The same seems to have been true this time around, but I decided that this month I would bake that layer cake since one of our choices was American Chocolate Layer cake, which is actually yellow cake and chocolate icing. Because I was baking this cake for a dinner party where there would be little boys, I decided to surprise them with a tie-dye interior instead of plain yellow cake. I had done this using a cake mix and figured that I could use gel food colors that I had in my cupboard and use the same technique. I chose to use turquoise, magenta and orange which made for a lively colored cake. 

When we arrived for dinner there was general excitement about the cake. It looked festive with the multi-colored heart sprinkles. The boys had been told ahead of time that there was a surprise in the cake and seemed thrilled with the multi-colored swirls when we cut into it. I thought that the cake itself was a bit dry. It may be that I over baked the layers.

To make a tie-dye type cake, you divide the dough into three bowls once it is finished and you add gel food color to the batter, making three colors. Into the prepared pans you scoop one color right in the middle of the pan, top it with a second color (which caused the first color to spread out) then top that with the third color and continue until the batter spreads out to the edges. I complicated it by doing two circles of color in one pan, then filling in the space between the two with the last of each color. Turned out great and it was fun to do! You can use any color combination you choose, but three colors or one plain batter and two colors are the minimal amount to go with. I made half the recipe because we only needed to feed 8, not 20! Two layers were just fine.

America Chocolate Layer Cake 
by Maida Heatter found in Maida Heatter's Cakes
20 or more portions

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter (I used non-dairy margarine)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
3/4 cup milk (I used soy milk)

Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter four 9-inch round layer cake pans, line them with parchment or wax paper cut to fit, butter the paper, dust the pans all over with fine, dry breadcrumbs, tile the pans from side to side to coat them evenly, and then turn them upside down over paper and tap them to shake out looks crumbs. Set the pans aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and then the sugar, and beat to mix. Add the eggs one or two at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Add the sifted dry ingredients with the mixer on low speed, adding them in three additions alternating with the milk in two additions.

You will have a generous 8 cups of batter. If making the tie dye cake, divide batter into three bowls, tint as desired with gel food color and layer in the pans. Into the prepared pans you scoop one color right in the middle of the pan, top it with a second color (which caused the first color to spread out) then top that with the third color and continue until the batter spreads out to the edges. You will do this for each of the four pans.

Place two of the pans on each oven rack, staggering them so the pans on the lower rack are not directly below those above. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, but check a little sooner. Do not overbake (as I did) or cake will be dry. Cake should barely spring back when gently pressed with a fingertip.

Once your remove the pans from the oven, turn each cake out on a rack and remove the paper, then use another rack to turn layer right side up. Repeat with all the layers. Let cool.

Ice with your favorite chocolate icing. Decorate as desired.

(I used a childhood favorite for icing: confectioner's sugar, melted unsweetened chocolate, hot soy milk and a tablespoon of Greek yogurt to keep the icing from hardening so quickly.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Babes Let The Good Times Roll

I'm currently reading some mystery novels set in New Orleans and it seems like at least once in each book that the heroine makes it to Cafe du Monde for some chicory coffee and beignets. Every time she does, I think of the beignets because I know how delicious they can be, freshly made and shaken with powdered sugar or cinnamon and sugar.

I know it's summer and a long time away from Mardi Gras, but the traditional saying  which is the title for this post is appropriate for the August BBB recipe. In July the Bread Baking Babes explored the almost extinct bialy and for August I'm asking you to gather around my kitchen counter as we make something that is also not an easily found bread and, bonus!, doesn't require turning on the oven! Of course you will need to heat up some oil to make traditional Beignets, the powdered sugar coated bread treats of New Orleans and that part of the South.

Wikipedia has this to say," Beignet (English pronunciation: /bɛnˈjeɪ/; French: [bɛɲɛ], literally bump),[1]synonymous with the English "fritter", is the French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux pastry.[2] Beignets can also be made from other types of dough, including yeast dough.
Beignets are commonly known in New Orleans as a breakfast served with powdered sugar on top.[2] They are traditionally prepared right before consumption to be eaten fresh and hot. Variations of fried dough can be found across cuisines internationally; however, the origin of the term beignet is specifically French. In the United States, beignets have been popular within New Orleans Creole cuisine and are customarily served as a dessert or in some sweet variation. They were brought to New Orleans in the 18th century by French colonists,[3] from "the old mother country",[4] and became a large part of home-style Creole cooking, variations often including banana or plantain – popular fruits in the port city.[5][6] Today, Café du Monde is a popular New Orleans food destination specializing in beignets with powdered sugar, coffee with chicory, and café au lait.[7] Beignets were declared the official state doughnut of Louisiana in 1986.[8]"

This recipe is from Martha Stewart's blog, but I tested it ahead of time, having had a woeful experience with a Martha recipe years ago. Not sure that she always does sufficient testing on her recipes.

Anyhoo, this one makes light, airy sweet squares (bumps) that go well with coffee and tea. I suspect that if you wanted to that you could cut the dough into squares and put those squares on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze them. That way you could deep fry the frozen squares (or thawed ones) whenever you got a hankering for a New Orleans snack.

The challenge here is to get the oil hot enough to fry them up without either having them greasy or over browned. It could also be fun to flavor them in different ways...banana slices would be traditional, but consider bits of dried fruit (cherry beignets anyone?), finely chopped nuts, sunflower seeds, ground ginger and candied ginger...all possibilities. Different flours would change the flavor, too. Just don't let them get heavy. Beignets are so light they almost float away....

Do be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes to see what they have done with their beignets.

If you'd like to be a Buddy, I'm the Kitchen of the Month, so you can email (plachman at sonic dot net) me a photo and a short description of your experience making the beignets, plus your blog URL so that I can include you in the round-up. Just get them to me by August 29th.

from Martha Stewart's blog
Makes 16

1 (1/4 oz.) envelope active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm, not hot, water, about 110 degrees F
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk
1 large egg
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping and for the baking sheet
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups safflower oil, for bowl and for frying
1 lb confectioner' sugar for coating (might not take this much, but close)

The wet ingredients will go into the stand mixer bowl. The dry ingredients will get mixed together and added to the wet.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, warm water and sugar. Stir. Let stand 5 minutes until foamy. Add the soft butter and stir. In another bowl, use a fork to stir together the milk and egg. Add to the yeast mixture and stir. Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer.

In another bowl combine the flour, salt and nutmeg.

Gradually, with the mixer running on lowest speed, add 1 1/2 cups of the flour mixture. When incorporated, add another 1 3/4 cups of the flour mixture. When incorporated, turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in another 1/4 cup flour mixture and knead until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. Form dough into a ball. Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat whole dough ball. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a shower cap and place in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about an hour.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch down. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough to a 12-inch square. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut dough into 3-inch squares. Transfer squares to a floured baking sheet and cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 30 minutes.

While squares are rising, heat oil in a medium pot or deep-fryer until it registers 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in batches, add a few squares to the oil and fry, rolling them around constantly with a slotted spoon or spider, until golden brown all over, 1-2 minutes. Transfer beignets to a paper-towel lined baking sheet to drain. Coat immediately with confectioners' sugar while warm. Repeat process with remaining dough and more confectioners' sugar. Serve at once while still warm.

I've heard that these can be microwaved (the next morning) successfully, too.

BTW, I used soy creamer instead of the milk, non-dairy margarine instead of the butter. To make it vegan, substitute egg replacer for the egg and you have it made.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Scones For The Mostly Dairy Free Folks

When I first learned to make scones I loved using cold butter and rich cream to make wonderful, light but rich and flaky delights. When I planned a tea party for this month my sister challenged me to make a scone that was equally delightful, but with none of the usual dairy. After all, when my guests were going 'mmmm good' as they ate their scones, I wanted to be right in there with them. No lemon curd or clotted cream for me, but raspberry jam goes really well with the perfect scone.

These may not have been the perfect scone, but they were delicious and had the right texture, too. I used very cold margarine instead of the butter, used a light hand with the cutting in of the margarine, used a mixture of soy milk creamer and Greek yogurt (the only dairy I can tolerate) for the liquid and I added a touch of almond extract, too. Sweetie had one shortly after I took them from the oven and he was a convert. I enjoyed mine, too and so did my guests. If you are eating vegan, just skip the Greek yogurt and use a full cup of the soy creamer. I used Silk brand original plain soy creamer. I've found that it works well as a milk/cream replacement and tastes good, too.

Here are half the scones before make two discs like this.

Simple Only Yogurt Scones
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease two cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup non-dairy margarine, well chilled
¾ cup soy creamer
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Glaze: 2 tablespoons soy creamer
2 tablespoons sugar (I used white sanding sugar)

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. With pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine to medium crumbs. In a large measuring cup whisk together the soy creamer and the Greek yogurt. (Alternately, just use 1 cup soy creamer instead of that mixture.)

Pour soy milk mixture over crumb mixture. Stir together with fork just until mixture comes together. Use a light hand. Gather dough gently into a ball; knead 4 or 5 times. Cut dough in half and transfer pieces to prepared cookie sheets. Shape each piece into a 6 inch x 1/4 inch thick circle. Using floured knife or bench scraper, cut each circle into 8 wedges. Put wedges on the prepared cookie sheets.

For glaze, brush tops with soy creamer and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 20 – 25 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 16 scones.

If you are going to freeze these to re-heat later, bake them just short of golden brown and re-heat, thawed, for 5 minutes at 425 degrees F.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Pickled Beans

I'm not a big fan of dill, with one exception. I really love dill pickles. Recently I bought a book on pickling foods and decided to try the Dilly Beans since I have enough string beans to do some canning. I hope that I enjoy them as much as regular dill pickles.I planted regular green, yellow and purple beans this year and planted two plantings about 10 days apart. They have done well, especially the purple ones, and we have enjoyed them steamed and in salads. The pickles will be my way of taking care of the full flush of production. They are starting to reduce the number of beans produced, so this is the optimal time.

I also planted cucumbers but so far the production is one here and then another one a few days later, etc. so it is unlikely that there will be enough to pickle them. If that changes, I'll let you know.

The pickled beans are fairly easy to make, but canning is one of those activities where keeping everything clean is essential. I washed the jars and lids in hot soapy water, rinsed them, then put them into boiling water, too, before filling the jars with the trimmed beans, dill, garlic cloves, whole peppercorns and whole mustard seeds. The vinegar solution was boiling so I used a metal cup measure to fill the jars with that mixture, then dipped the lids in the boiling water before putting them on top of the jars. Then they went into a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Here I'm using a canning tongs tool to take them out of the hot water so that they can cool. As the jars cool, the lids become concave...that lets you know that they have sealed properly.

 I wasn't really surprised that the vivid green and purple and light yellow of the beans (photo at top of post) turned to a muted green when the jars had finished processing in the water bath. That usually happens when I cook them, too. There is still a difference of light and dark, but not the great colors.

Here's hoping that they will be yummy when I finally crack open a jar to sample these dilly beans!

For those of you who keep up with what Sweetie is doing, here is a photo taken today at the Registrar of Voters office. He is filing for another term (his 5th!) on the fire board. Here his is swearing to uphold the Constitution. Very proud of him and his service to the community.

Dilly Beans
from Tart and Sweet by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler

4 cups white vinegar
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
4 pounds green beans, trimmed to fit into jars

Per Jar: 
3 dill sprigs or 1 dill head
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
(recipe also called for 1/4 teaspoon brown mustard seeds, but I left them out)

Bring the vinegars, water and salt to a boil in a medium nonreactive pot. Stir to dissolve the salt.

Place dill, garlic, mustard seeds, and peppercorns in each hot jar. (I dipped each clean jar into the boiling water & then drained it right before filling it.) Pack the beans in tightly. Make sure there is a half inch headroom and trim the beans so that they will be covered with the brining solution.

Pour boiling brine over the beans. Check for air bubbles, wipe the rims, and seal with the screw bands.

Lower carefully into the super large pot of boiling water which covers the jars completely. There should be enough room around the jars to easily lift them in and out of the water. Process for 10 minutes. Water should be at a full boil when you start timing.

After the 10 minutes are up, turn off the heat and let the water stop bubbling before removing the jars. Place the jars on a cooling rack or a heat-absorbent surface, such as a towel or cutting board, allowing space around them. Leave them undisturbed until they;re cool to the touch.

After the jars have cooled completely (up to 8 hours or so), eyeball the lids. If the lid is concave (curved downward) the jar has sealed. TO check, press your finger into the center of the lid. If there's no give ( lid doesn't pop up upon release of your finger) it's airtight and ready to be labeled and stored. Stash in a cool, dark place.

Yield: 4 pints