Friday, April 20, 2018

Italian Almond Cake #TheCakeSliceBakers



We had a really nice group of cakes to choose from this month as the Cake Slice Bakers continue to bake from The Perfect Cake by America's Test Kitchen. #atkcake


There was the creamy sweetness of the Tres Leches Cake, the tang of lemon in the Lemon Pudding Cakes, wonderful almond flavor in the Italian Almond Cake and fun and pretty Confetti Cake.



I chose the Italian Almond Cake because I wanted a tea cake that I could enjoy over a few days and one that wasn't too complicated since my energy levels continue to be lower than usual.


In the photo that is with the recipe in the book you can see that with the Italian Almond Cake there is a nice crunchy crust with sliced almonds, and lemon sugar. The photo doesn't really show much of the interior of the cake, but mine had a lovely dense crumb, similar to a pound cake and it was really moist. There is plenty of almond flavor in this cake but it has a nice brightness from the lemon zest, too. I did use melted non-dairy margarine instead of butter, but otherwise I baked it exactly as written in the cookbook.



I'm not going to include the recipe since, if you like to bake cakes, this book is worth purchasing. It has all the classics, plus some new and different ones. Each recipe is well written and the Test Kitchen folks  have clearly tested and tested to come up with recipes that work and are delicious. I expect this to be a book I go to again and again over the years.

Be sure to check out the other Cake Slice Bakers posts, too.

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 Facebook, Instagram, 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 Tres Leches Cake, Lemon Pudding Cake, Italian Almond Cake, and Confetti Cake.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Bread Madness


There is a certain kind of madness that sometimes takes over when a true baker discovers wild yeast and the whole art of sourdough. There is this feeling of 'so many breads to bake and so little time', so it is difficult to choose which one to bake first. Fermented flour, water and wild yeasts work together to create a starter that can be used to lift up and flavor entire loaves of delicious fresh bread. The best ones have a subtle tang that is a lovely counterpoint to the mellow wheat or rye flavors of the flour used in the bread. Bread Baking Babes are up for almost any bread baking, so here we go.


This month our wonderful, enthusiastic Kitchen of the Month Elizabeth of Blog from OUR Kitchen, has chosen a deep brown loaf that features sourdough starter, wheat and bran, a Lariano-style bread. This is a lovely choice! The methods used to create it are similar to the Polenta loaf we baked in January found HERE, so again be sure to allow plenty of time for the wild yeasties to do their magic. This kind of bread baking can be a method to use to de-stress, using the rhythms of feeding, kneading and folding and waiting for the next fold as a way to slow down and become in sync with a simpler way of living. The bonus is amazing bread that you didn't have to pay $10 for.       
 

That said, we had a rainy day recently and I had a yen for freshly baked bread, so I decided to see if I could bake this bread...well, my version of it...in less than a day. I used some dried active yeast and flour and water to make a starter...not sour and not wild yeast, but still full of active yeasties. I mixed the first small starter with the Leavener ingredients called for in the recipe and let that sit and ferment until the float test worked. Then I used my stand mixer to mix the dough and I let it rise in my rising container, shaped it and let the round rise on a bran dusted sheet of parchment, pre-heated the cast iron dutch oven as the recipe directs and baked it in that with the lid on. The dutch oven had been placed on a baking stone, so when I took the lid off, I took the loaf out and placed it directly on the hot baking stone. This meant that my loaf had a very nice dark brown bottom crust. Not the same as a gorgeous dark brown top crust, but my oven really has a problem with getting top crusts really browned, so we had to go with the bottom one being dark brown.

This is a delicious bread with a full wheat flavor. My crumb is not as open as it would have been if I had taken the long way home, so to speak, but it was good bread and done before I went to bed...although not in time for dinner. In the morning I had some toasted to go with my one egg...it was spectacular. This makes great toast!

Thanks Elizabeth for a lovely recipe. When I have more patience I'll make it the slow way and I'm sure it will be even better.

To be a Buddy, make the bread (recipe follows), email Elizabeth with your URL and a photo and she will send you a cool Buddy Badge. Here is what Elizabeth wrote on her blog about being a Buddy:
"Lariano-style bread is delicious! And we know you'll want to make it! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make Lariano-style bread - remember that it only takes 5 days to create a starter - in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it - what you didn't like or what you liked) before April 29th. Please type "BBB April 2018 Bread" in the subject heading of your email.

Please not that it is not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Due to the ephemeral nature of Facebook's posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please email if you want to be included. Even if you don't have a blog, email Elizabeth to be included in the round up.

Be sure to check out the other Bread Baking Babes to see the great breads that they baked this month!


Lariano-style Bread
based on the recipe for Truccio Sare' in The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook by Jim Lahey

Leavener
35 gm room temperature water
5 gm 100% hydration starter from fridge (or mix 1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast with 1/4 cup tepid water and let sit for 10 minutes, then mix in 1/4 cup flour and let sit at least an hour)
50 gem 100% whole wheat flour

Bread
20 gm leavener (the rest goes back into a jar in the fridge for another baking session)
275 gm room temperature water
100 gm whole wheat flour, sifted after weighing
4 gm wheat germ
10 gm flax seed, finely ground
290 gm unbleached all-purpose flour
25 gm room temperature water
8 gm salt

1) Leavener: On the evening before baking the bread, put the leavener ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. Using your dough whisk or a wooden spoon, mix the leavener ingredients until all the flour is incorporated. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave overnight in the oven with only the light turned on - until it becomes bubbly and frothy like mousse.

2) Dough: On the morning of the day you will be baking the bread: When a small forkful of the leavener floats in a small bowl of room temperature water, you can go ahead and mix the dough. If the leavener doesn't float, stir in a little more flour and water...even amounts by weight...cover with a plate and leave for about 30 minutes more. Changes are that it will now float.

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Set the bran aside for after shaping. Add wheat germ and ground flaxseed to the flour. Pour 275 gm (275 ml) room temperature water into the bowl. Add all the leavener. Use a wooden spoon or dough whisk to mix these ingredients to make a rough dough. Cover the dough with a plate and leave on the counter for about 40 minutes. This resting period allows the protein and starch in the flour to absorb the water, swell, and then relax into a cohesive mass.

3) Salt: In a small bowl whisk the salt into the final 25 gm (25 ml) room temperature water. Pour the salt mixture over the dough.

4) Kneading: Use one of your hands to squoosh the salt and water into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl. This way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy and seem like it's coming apart. Persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

5) Stretching and folding: After 30 minutes after adding the salt, run your dough-working hand under water. Reach down along the side of the bowl and lift and stretch the dough straight up and almost out of the bowl. Fold it over itself to the other side of the bowl. Turn the bowl and repeat until it's a little difficult to stretch the dough any more. You'll notice that the dough feels significantly smoother. Cover with a plate and leave on the counter for 30 minutes.

6) More Folding: Repeat the stretch and folding step 2 or 3 more times, leaving it to sit 30 minutes between folding sessions. Notice the dough starts to get billowy, soft and aerated with gas. Turn the dough more gently to avoid pressing gas out of the dough as you get near the end. A well-developed dough releases from the sides of the bowl when you do the turns. Volume will have increased by 20 to 30 percent. More air bubbles will form along the sides of the bowl. These are all signs that the dough is ready to be shaped.

At this point Elizabeth directs how to prepare a brot-form and how to shape using that. For those directions, please go to her blog.

7) Shaping: If you don't have a brotform, coat a parchment covered cookie sheet with bran. Shape the dough into a ball and place it seam side down onto the bran. Scatter a little more bran on top before covering the shaped loaf loosely with a clean tea towel. Let sit at room temperature until it has almost doubled in size.

8) Baking: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put either a covered cast-iron dutch oven or a cast-iron frying pan and stainless steel bowl that fits it into the oven when you start to preheat it. The bread will bake in the dutch oven or skillet and the lid of the dutch oven  or the stainless steel bowl on top of the skillet will create a min-oven that will trap moisture and help the loaf rise. It usually takes about 15 minutes at a minimum to preheat the oven.

When oven is fully preheated, place the parchment paper and loaf into the dutch oven or skillet and quickly use a lame, scissors, or a serrated knife to score the bread with a single line in the center. Use pot holders/oven mitts as the lid and pan will be very hot. Return covered pan to the oven and reduce heat to 400 degrees F. Bake 60-80 minutes, removing the lid or bowl half-way through baking. The bread is done when the crust is a deep golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. If desired, you can remove the bread when you remove the lid and let the bread cook on the oven rack or a baking stone.

9) Cooling: When the bread has finished baking, remove it from the pan and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating; the bread is still cooking internally when first removed from the oven, so let it cool. After it has cooled completely, turn the oven to 400 degrees F for 5 minutes, then turn it off. Put the bread in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Garicky Feast



Don't you love garlic? I guess not everyone does, but most of the people that I share food with do. I love it roasted with chicken, I love it minced and put into guacamole, I love it in all my favorite soups and stews and braises. I love it in mayonnaise, especially when it is fresh garlic mayo or aioli. This is a really easy sauce to make if you have a bender or food processor, but you can also purchase jarred aioli. My favorite is Stonewall Farms and I love their roasted garlic aioli.

I used that for an aioli feast a few nights ago. I first made aioli from scratch using a recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen many moons ago in the dark ages when it first was published. The recipe was included as part of a feast and I really loved having a large platter covered with steamed and fresh veggies, some fish or chicken, and lots of lovely garlicky aioli to spread liberally over it all. She wrote,"The traditional aioli supper consists of the central dish - garlic mayonnaise - surrounding cluster of freshly-steamed vegetables to dip."


For this version I steamed green beans, sugar snap peas, chunks of zucchini, and chunks of multi-colored carrots. I also reheated some roasted chicken. Then I used my small cast iron skillet to reheat some mashed potatoes, so they became a potato cake with browned crust. All of this went on a large platter with a bowl of aioli in the middle and we helped ourselves to some of each. I dipped the green beans into the aioli like you would dip French fries into ketchup or mayo. Sooo good.



Other additions that I've used in the past are quartered hard cooked, peeled eggs, cherry tomatoes, steamed asparagus spears, and red pepper strips. You may have other favorites like sardines or firm white fish, steamed brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, or baby artichokes. What ever you use, be sure that it is the best quality you can find and only cook it enough to bring out the flavor and color...it should still have plenty of chew and character to it. Instead of the potato cake a great choice is steamed small red potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes.

I recommend that you limit the feast to about 7 or 8 items or fewer. With more choices the flavors can become muddled as you eat your way through the various choices.

This is a great meal to share with friends...just increase the amounts of each veggie and fish or chicken and be sure to have plenty of that wonderful aioli!



"This recipe makes enough for an aioli supper for 4 people. It will amply cover four servings of fish...and there should be some extra for dipping potatoes or whatever your're serving with the fish. This only takes about 10 minutes to prepare." ~ Mollie Katzen in Moosewood Cookbook



Aioli

1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon tamari
3 medium cloves crushed garlic
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups oil (use all or part olive oil)

Combine the lemon juice, salt, tamari, garlic, egg and egg yolks in a blender and blend well at high speed.

Reduce speed to medium. Gradually drizzle in the oil. Don't just dump it in all at once. Keep the blender running at medium until all the oil is in. The mixture should be thick. Once it's thick, turn the blender off. If you beat it too long it will get thin again, which is not what you want.

Place finished garlic mayonnaise in a dish and on a platter and surround with steamed veggies of your choice and/or baked fish.


Saturday, April 07, 2018

Spanish Style Chicken and Rice



This was one of my favorite meals when I was growing up. This is another braised dish, this time with chicken, onions and garlic, tomatoes, peppers, rice, sherry, saffron, cloves and peas. It is very aromatic and quite delicious. The rice soaks up the flavors of the veggies, sherry, saffron and cloves and the topping of hot peas and some pimento or roasted red peppers is colorful and finishes off this one pot meal. It's perfect for a chilly spring evening. It didn't take long to clean the plate.



My mother used to make this with a whole chicken, usually at least 2 and a half pounds of chicken. Since Sweetie and I are not a large family with eight children, I cut the recipe in half. I also used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which worked well. The thighs take well to braising and by being boned and skinless, the flavors penetrated the chicken really well. They may cook a little faster, too.



Arroz con Pollo (Spanish Chicken and Rice)

1 frying chicken (about 2½ lbs. ) cut up
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium green pepper, chopped (I used yellow bell pepper)
1 can peeled tomatoes (19 oz.)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
1 cup water
1-2 bay leaves
1/3 cup dry sherry
1 pinch Spanish saffron
2 whole cloves
1 cup long grain white rice, uncooked
1 cup peas, cooked and hot
1 pimento, cut up

Dry chicken pieces. If desired, season chicken with salt. Brown in hot oil. Add onion, garlic, and green pepper; brown 5 minutes longer. Add remaining ingredients, except for rice, peas, and pimento.

Cover and simmer 15 minutes. 

Add rice. Bring to a boil, stir; cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Garnish with peas and pimento. 

Serves 6 - 8.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Yam and Pork and Veggie Hash


Sweetie made a slow cooked pork roast on the BBQ a few days ago using a pork shoulder. It was a big one, so there was a lot left. Last night I made a kind of a hash using some of it. I didn't really have a recipe, but I've been looking at this kind of recipe for a while, so figured it couldn't be too difficult.

First I cooked some chopped onions over slow heat in a little olive oil. Later I added some diced celery, diced yellow pepper, and a sliced zucchini, cut into quarters and sliced. Once all the veggie were nicely cooked, I removed them from the pan and used the same frying pan to brown some diced pork roast. While all these were cooking, a nice fat yam was steaming to doneness. That, once cooked, was peeled and cut into a small dice. I put the dice on top of the pork and added seasonings: pepper, thyme, sage and garlic. Those cooked together a minute, then I flipped the mixture so the yam was on the bottom, then put the cooked veggie mixture over the top. With the pan covered, that cooked for a couple of minutes, then I flipped it all again and cooked it another minute. That was it...Pork and Yam Hash. Had it with a salad for a nice meal, then the leftovers (heated up) as the bed for a fried egg this morning for breakfast.



This one take some time with all the chopping and slow cooking, but it is worth it. The pork gets some crispy bits, the veggies are soft and delicious and, if you add the egg, it is almost comfort food.

I'm not going to give an actual recipe, but I used about 1 1/2 - 2 cups diced pork, 1/2 a yellow onion, 1 small zucchini, 1 stalk celery, about the same amount diced yellow pepper, 1 large yam...and an egg.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cake From Brittany - Gateau Breton - #TheCakeSliceBakers


Best laid plans and all that. This month I really wanted to be part of baking from The Perfect Cake cookbook and the choices sounded great...well except for the Crepe Cake...I'm forever scarred by making a Martha Stewart crepe cake with the Daring Bakers years ago. What I hadn't counted on was the one-two punch of an auto accident followed by the flu in short order. When the flu got me I had already gotten out the blender to start the recipe and had lemon juice squeezed...and then it all sat on the counter for a week until today. The lemon juice had spoiled of course, so I just squeezed more and then set about making the Gateau Breton, which is a delightful French butter cake with an apricot filling. It is rather like a pound cake in texture, but still moist and tender. The filling has a lovely apricot flavor and the cake has some rum, some vanilla, and (my addition) a touch of almond extract since it brings out the apricot flavor so well.




This is a fairly easy cake to make but you have to be patient. First the apricot filling is cooked, then cooled. The cake batter is divided in half, with the first half being set in the pan in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm it up for the addition of the filling. Then the filling is frozen the same amount of time and the second half of the batter is spread on top. I love creating the pattern with an egg yolk wash and fork tines. I used a farm egg from our neighbors, so the yolk was really, really orange!




I very much like this cake. It's not too rich or too sweet. Since the area of Brittany in France uses salt in their butter it was strange to use unsalted, but I used fleur de sel from France instead of table salt for the salt in the recipe, which worked well...every once in a while a bite would have a nice nugget of saltiness.

Unfortunately I missed the deadline to post as part of the Cake Slice Bakers so the inserted text below isn't true...there are no linked sites with the other bakers. Turns out that this month the two favorites were this Gateau Breton and the Wellesley Fudge Cake. Hope to be on time next month! Have not typed this recipe up yet and probably won't now that the mail has come.

My copy of the book just arrived today, after I had baked the cake...it is an amazing compendium of almost any cake you might want to bake. I was honored to have been able to bake some of the recipes before the book came out. This book is clearly a keeper...and I have dozens and dozens of recipes to try from it yet & cn still say that. It looks like the kind of cookbook that you would choose if you knew you could only have one cake baking book on your deserted island. Of course that island would need a stove, lots of baking supplies and tools, so how deserted would it be anyway?




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 Wellesley Fudge Cake, Tahini-Banana Snack Cake, Hazelnut-Chocolate Crepe Cake, and Gateau Breton.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Just Past the Ides of March


All you Shakespeare lovers know that the Ides of March (March 15) was when Julius Caesar was killed. A couple days later is Sweetie's birthday. This year that included Sweetie being stricken by a particularly virulent dose of the flu. Even being born on St. Patrick's Day couldn't save him! Fortunately I was feeling better so I was able to care for him...until...I was stricken as well three days later. Fortunately he was a little better by then, so he took care of me during the first three days, which are the bad ones. Didn't even turn on the computer for the better part of five days...some sort of a record for me! If you have noticed that this blog went silent and Facebook, too, well that is the explanation. Today the fever broke, so I'm on the mend and feeling more human than I was. Not sure what sort of creature I was the first couple of days, but hardly human. Thanks for all the Facebook good wishes. I managed to use my cell phone some and they make it easy to post photos to Facebook.

Hope to have some food posts up soon. While I was less than human we had a new lamb born in our pasture. Finally walked out to see it this afternoon...tiny and curly black coated and so cute! Of course the short walk did me in so I took a nap.

Hope that you, dear reader, have been having a better time of it than I. Stay safe, well, and as happy as you can manage.

XO, Elle

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Update


Spring rains have come, along with the beautiful spring flowers, both brilliant bulbs near the front of the house and soft plum blossoms down the hill. As I come and go to chiropractic visits and trips to the gym, I enjoy the feelings of hope that they convey.

The accident was a week ago. I finally woke up this morning with no headache, the first time all week. I still am sore, especially my neck and shoulders, but the most debilitating part is that I tire very easily. I've had to cancel a number of social events because there was no way to enjoy the time and because what I really needed was another nap. Had hoped that by now that wouldn't be the case, but older bodies require more time I guess.

Maybe I'll be able to bake in time for the Cake Slice Bakers, but probably not for Bread Baking Babes day after tomorrow.

Sending you mid-week greeting on Pi Day! Had hoped to bake Sweetie a pie for Pi Day, but guess that won't happen. Soon I tell myself, soon.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Jerk Pork Braise



Keeping with the braised meats theme, another recent dinner was for a pork shoulder roast braised with jerk seasonings for a long time at low oven temperature. Not only does it taste wonderful, but your kitchen will smell great because first you rub the roast with the jerk seasonings and then you brown it. During the browning there is a lot of fragrant smoke. While it cooks more of those great smells drift out, making it hard to wait until the meat is truly cooked to falling apart.

I don't own stock in either King Arthur Flour or Penzey's spices, but maybe I should. They are my go-to sources for specialty flours (King Arthur) and the best spices around (Penzey's). I'm lucky that there is a Penzey's retail store in Santa Rosa, so not too far away, which means that I can buy a spice or herb the day I need to use it. They often have an additional small jar of spice that they give for free when you purchase some, which is a great way to find out about more of their products. The same is true for online purchases, so check them out if you prize excellence in herbs and spices.

When I visited our daughter in the LA area in mid-February, she wanted to invite the neighbors over and so we cooked this recipe in her InstaPot using the pressure cooker feature and the Penzey's Jerk Pork spice. I decided to try cooking the same recipe in a slow oven since I don't have an InstaPot and I do have wonderful cast iron dutch ovens. At her house we browned the beast of a roast (something like 8 pounds!) in her 10-inch cast iron skillet because it was too large to brown in the appliance. At home I was able to easily brown the much smaller (about 4 pounds) roast in my dutch oven on top of the stove, then add some broth and put on the lid. Easier clean up.

Do be patient and give the meat proper cooking time.As you can see from the photo, it is suppose to fall apart and be very tender. I served ours with coleslaw and baguette for sopping up the juices, but you can also serve it with rice or mashed potatoes or with rolls...just know that you are going to want to enjoy the juices along with the meat.

Jerk Pork
Serves 4-6

4 lb pork shoulder roast (if bone-in try for 5 lbs)
3-4 tablespoons jerk pork seasoning - I used Penzey's
1 cup broth - either beef, chicken, or vegetable - I used chicken
olive oil for browning

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Rinse and dry the pork shoulder roast. If there is a netting holding the roast together, remove the netting and discard it. Rub the roast all over generously with the jerk pork seasoning.

In a large dutch oven or other heavy oven-proof pot with tight lid, heat about a tablespoon olive oil until almost smoking hot. Brown the roast all over. Take care to keep the smoke away from you, especially your eyes and breathing since the browning spices are pungent. I used my over stove fan at the highest setting it would go.

Remove pot from the heat and add the broth. Cover and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours, checking halfway through (and as often as needed after that) to make sure that there is still enough broth in the bottom to keep it from burning. Add more broth as needed.

When meat is tender, remove from oven. Let sit 5 minutes. Remove from pot and either slice or shred. Serve at once with any juices still in the pot.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Lamb Shanks Savory Delight


I've had lamb shanks at restaurants, the last time being in Avignon in France, but have never made them myself...at least not that I can remember. Turns out that they are an easy braise and a savory delight. The key things are to brown the shanks very well before braising, and to start the dish early enough that you can allow it a nice, slow braise in the oven for tender meat.

So, what is braising, you may ask? It is slow cooking of something with additional liquid added. Pot roast is a well known example.

Sweetie and I provide pasture for lambs for our neighbors each year. As a thank you they usually give us some lamb. I was going through the freezer a week or so ago and noticed that they had given us a beautiful lamb shank, almost two pounds in size. This is the perfect size for a dinner for two. Although you can probably get lamb shanks that are boned by the butcher, for this braise a shank with the bone is best.

A quick review of online recipes revealed that you brown the shank, brown aromatics like onion, garlic, carrot and celery, then cook all of those with a liquid, often wine, and with aromatic herbs like rosemary and thyme. I also added a pinch of dried orange peel, a trick from Julia Child.

This was a most delicious meal. I served the shanks in low, wide soup bowls with cooked yukon gold potatoes, smashed, and with cooked peas. I sprinkled gremolata on top to add a bring note and spooned on some of the delicious broth and vegetables. It was the perfect dish for a chilly winter evening. Try it yourself and see!

For those who are keeping track of what I am up to beyond food, a couple of days ago I was rear ended shortly before noon. The good news is that, other than some muscle soreness on my right side, I am fine. I was pretty shaken up and very sore yesterday, but rest and fluids, some movement and stretching, and chiropractic and ice and some ibuprofen have helped. The poor car will take some time to repair but in the meantime I scored a nice rental SUV. Thanks to everyone who expressed their concern. Although sometimes injury doesn't show up right away, as far as I can tell I'll be fine.
Sweetie was, as always, a rock and I'm sure I would have fallen to pieces without him. I'm a blessed and lucky woman!


Lamb Shanks with Red Wine and Herbs
Serves 2

2 one pound lamb shanks or one two pound shank
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups red wine
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 15oz. can diced tomatoes and juice
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon dried, crushed orange peel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Rinse lamb shank(s) and dry thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in heavy oven-proof covered dutch oven or similar large pot. Brown lamb on all sides. Remove to plate. Saute carrot, celery, onion and garlic in same pot, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add wine to the pot and stir to deglaze pan. Return the lamb to the pot, add the chicken broth, tomatoes and juice, herbs and orange peel. Cover pot and place in preheated oven. Cook for one and a half (1 1/2) hours, then turn pot 180 degrees and cook in oven at same temperature another one to one and a half hours, until meat is tender and falling off the bone.

Serve at once, with generous portions of the juices and vegetables in the broth. If desired, top with gremolata.

Gremolata
1 clove garlic, minced fine
lemon zest from one lemon
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Combine all ingredients. Sprinkle over cooked meats, poultry or veggies that need a flavor lift.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Best Oatmeal Cookies


I have a very thoughtful daughter. She knows that I love to bake. For my birthday she gave me the Zingerman's Bakehouse Cookbook and it is a treasure. The book combines great recipes, both sweet and savory, excellent baking tips and instructions, and an overview of their company both the people and the philosophy.

Finally had some time today to try a recipe from the cookbook. I chose to start with their oatmeal cookies, which they call the Big O Cookies. I'm past the time when a big-o should mean anything other than the best oatmeal cookie ever...and these really are. They are a generous size (although I was baking mine in my countertop oven, so I made them smaller than the recipe called for. They have chewy old-fashioned oats, a nice mixture of brown sugar and maple for sweetness, plus lots of raisins. There is just enough cinnamon and nutmeg and they are almost the right thickness.

I made half the recipe and couldn't figure out a way to halve an egg, so I added a little more flour...about 2 tablespoons...to make up for the added liquid. Turns out I should have only added 1 tablespoon or maybe none since they were slightly more cakey that I had been expecting. However, even with that they were the best oatmeal cookies that Sweetie has ever had (according to him) and I just loved them, too. I did stray from the recipe a tiny bit...I used a bit more cinnamon and used golden raisins instead of flame variety, plus I used less raisins. Of course also I used non-dairy margarine instead of butter.

Thank you K for this great book and thank you to my dear sister G and niece T for letting me know about Zingerman's...an Ann Arbor, MI institution.



Big O Cookies
From Zingerman's Bakehouse Cookbook, slightly revised by me

Notes: There are both cup measures and weights here. I used the weights as much as possible because bakers find that this works better. If you have a scale, please use the weights...you will be glad. Smaller amounts don't have weights. Brown sugar is always packed if measured.

margarine, room temperature          1 cup + 2 tablespoons        250 g
brown sugar                                     3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons     154 g
maple syrup                                     1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon       172 g
large egg                                           1
vanilla extract                                  1 teaspoon
all-purpose flour                              1 3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon  255 g
baking soda                                      1 1/8 teaspoon
sea salt                                              1 1/8 teaspoon
ground cinnamon                             1 1/8 teaspoon
ground nutmeg                                 1/4 teaspoon
old-fashioned rolled oats                  3 cups                                 300 g
flame raisins (I used golden)            2 3/4 cups                           390 g

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180C).

Prepare a couple of cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl use a wooden spoon or stand mixer on medium speed to cream the margarine (or use unsalted butter which will be even better) and sugar until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup in thirds to keep batter from curdling permanently. Add maple syrup slowly to blend it in easily.

Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg...I used a whisk to mix it all together. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixer. Stir with wooden spoon or with electric mixer on low speed until evenly combined. Add the oats and raisins and mix to distribute evenly.

Scoop about 3 tablespoons of dough, or use a 1 1/2 oz.(48 ml) scoop (disher) onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing far apart to allow for spreading. Press down so that dough rounds are about 1/2-inch thick.

Bake cookies for 15 -17 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and just set in the middle. Cool on a rack to room temperature.

Tip: Dough can be refrigerated uncooked and kept a week. Bake cookies right from the fridge. Expect to bake for and additional 2-3 minutes since they are cold.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

A Different Take On Onion Tart


For the tea party last week I baked a version of my favorite onion tart. Usually I use puff pastry as the base, but the puff pastry I had in the freezer turned out to be spoiled, so I had to improvise.

Fortunately...since time was an issue...I had some already made pie crust dough. The tart shell was a long, thin, rectangle and the dough was a circle, but I just sliced off a little of the side dough and added it to the ends. Because I wanted the sides to be thicker than a single layer of crust, I also added an extra layer of the dough to the sides, then pressed the dough into the indents in the sides, rolled a rolling pin over the tart pan top to cut off the dough, and put the whole thing in the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up. Then I pricked the dough lightly all over and baked it briefly. No need to fully bake it since it would bake the rest of the way when the tart was filled.

The filling stayed the same as the previous recipe except that I used drained plain yogurt for the base instead of creme fraiche. Don't use Greek yogurt...it's difficult to drain. Don't use vanilla yogurt either...too much sugar and this is a savory tart. Do use a mellow honey, a dry white wine and freshly grated nutmeg.



It turned out really well. The crust sides were strong enough to hold up to cutting into portions and the filling was delicious. It made such a nice part of our savories for our Afternoon Tea.


Honey-Roasted Onion Tartbased on February 2011 Bon Appetit magazine recipe


1 single pie crust (I used Pillsbury ReadyCrust)

3 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dry white wine
2-3 large sweet yellow onions (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup drained plain yogurt (I used Russian low fat yogurt, drained briefly in a fine mesh strainer)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Few sprigs fresh thyme leaves

Using lightly floured rolling pin, roll out pastry on lightly flour surface. Cut sides and piece at either end to make a  rectangle to fit your tart pan, plus extra for the sides.I used a X by X-inch tart pan with removable bottom. You could also use an 8-inch round tart pan and roll the pie crust dough to fit, with enough to fold the dough back down the sides all around. Press doubled sides against the tart pan sides firmly. Roll a rolling pin over the top edges of the tart to trim off excess dough. Chill crust in freezer at least 20 minutes.

Cook bacon in small skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp. Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F while bacon is cooking. Transfer crisp bacon to paper towels to drain. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon drippings from skillet.

Whisk honey, wine and reserved 1 tablespoon bacon drippings in large bowl. Add onions; toss to coat. Coat another large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Spread onion mixture in even layer on sheet. Roast 30 minutes. Turn onions over, allowing rings to separate. Roast until onions are caramelized, turning often for even browning, 30 to 45 minutes. (I cooked them until the least colored ones were pale gold, which meant that some edges were charred, but mostly the mass of onions was medium gold, not darker because they will still be browning while tart cooks later.) cool onions slightly. (At this point, and without leaving the oven on, you can refrigerate the onion mixture, then bring it back to room temperature the next day for the baking part if you prefer to do it in two parts.)

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Remove tart pan from freezer and use a fork to lightly prick the crust all over. Bake for 8 minutes, then remove from oven and cool ten minutes.

Mix drained yogurt, sea salt,nutmeg and dried thyme in small bowl. Using offset spatula, spread yogurt mixture mixture over crust  to the edge. Arrange onions atop yogurt layer. Sprinkle with bacon. Bake tart until crust is light golden brown and topping is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Check at 15 minutes to make sure that crust isn't over browning. If it is, put strips of aluminum foil over the crust sides to shield until topping is done. Onions will have some very dark brown strands. Sprinkle with fresh thyme and serve.

Makes about 6 appetizer servings.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Boston Cream Cupcakes #TheCakeSliceBakers


You've probably heard the name Boston Cream Pie at some point in your life. The immediate visual that comes to mind if you have never had this dessert is a creamy pie in a nice crust with maybe some maple syrup for flavoring or something. In fact, a Boston Cream Pie is a cake. Vanilla cake is sandwiched with a vanilla pastry cream and then topped with a rich chocolate ganache. It's a great combination of flavors and textures and a classic for a reason.


This month the Cake Slice Bakers are baking again from The Perfect Cake from America's Test Kitchen, #atkcake, and our choices included Boston Cream Cupcakes. Being an iconoclast and not a lover of working with lots of pieces, I changed it to a small Boston Cream Pie cake, made using a 6-inch in diameter springform pan with tall sides, plus three smaller cakes made using mega-muffin pans- pretty close to Boston Cream Cupcakes. Two of those small ones were tall enough to split and fill, but the smallest on worked well for the original instructions for cupcakes, so I cut out a divot in the top, sliced off a bit of the point to make room for the pastry cream, then filled the depression with a tablespoon or so of the cream, topped it with the cake hat, then poured the chocolate glaze over it all. Here is what that one looked like:



I made this treat for Valentine's Day. Two of the little cakes went to a neighbor couple and the other went to another neighbor. Sweetie and I enjoyed ample portions of the large cake. It was delicious. This cake is not as fine crumbed as a pound cake, but still has a fairly tight crumb. It rose well and had a nice, mild vanilla flavor. The pastry cream, which I made with soy non-dairy creamer and non-dairy margarine, was wonderful...very smooth and creamy and strongly vanilla. I chilled it so that it would make a sturdy filling, which is especially important when you are cutting the cake. A too soft filling just squishes out as you cut.



The genius part of the ganache topping is the plain corn syrup. It really makes it easy to work with. Since I did use bittersweet chocolate as called for, the topping was a nice deep chocolate contrast to the vanilla in the cake and pastry cream.


I decorated the iced cakes with tiny sprinkles in heart shapes. It made a really pretty Valentine's Day gift for Sweetie, who loves Boston Cream Pie!

Because the book that this recipe comes from isn't in print yet, I'm not including the recipe. It should be published next month. You are probably going to want to buy this if you make a lot of cakes, or just want recipes for cake that are tested and perfect! Sometimes the instructions seem different, like cutting the fat into the flour for a cake like this. It's a technique often used for pie and biscuits, but not that often for cake. I'm sure it helped this cake rise so nicely and probably contributed to the tenderness, too.


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 Chocolate-Espresso Dacquoise, Blitz Torte, Bananas Foster Cake, and Boston Cream Cupcakes.


Friday, February 16, 2018

The Big Ten And A Crown


Ten years ago, a small group of beautiful, brave babes baked bread together and thus was born the Bread Baking Babes. To celebrate all of those years of friendship, fun, and baking all kinds and shapes of bread together, with some Babes taking a break and some new ones being invited to join in, this month we baked one of the earliest breads, the Royal Crown Tortano. Happy Anniversary to us!

This lovely artisan bread includes the humble potato. If you have never baked a yeasted, kneaded bread with potato in it, you may not know that often the potato leads to a sticky dough...at times it almost seems liquid and like it has a mind of its own. It also helps to make a flavorful, moist bread and one that seems to keep a bit longer, too.

Our Kitchen of the Month is Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups blog, one of the original Babes. The badge is by Lien of Notitie van Lien, another one of the original Babes. If you ask them, they might explain about the bottle on the back bench...or not.


I enjoyed making this bread and noticed that when I mixed in the potato, honey and salt that the fairly stiff dough became very loose, which was a pretty amazing transformation. I did get decent if not spectacular oven spring and also, because I baked it on parchment, but with a perforated pizza sheet below the parchment, the bread had a really nice lower crust. I put the pizza pan there because I was worried about some of the dough taking off and dripping over the side of the parchment. The dough, parchment, pizza pan sandwich was also laid directly on a preheated baking stone. That helps with a good bottom crust, too.  As usual my skills in scoring need improvement. You can barely see where I scored the cross. I did use the potato water and I did weight the ingredients, using grams. A good scale with a tare feature is your friend if you like to bake.

Look at this bottom crust!



Delicious bread; a keeper. Makes a great base for avocado toast, among other things.



Be sure to check out the other Babes to see what their Crown looks like and to congratulate them on this round number anniversary!

To be a Buddy, bake the bread, take a photo, post about it and send Tanna an email with the URL, photo, etc. by Feb.28.

Now bake this bread, please! It is worth every moment.



Royal Crown Tortano - revisited

(based on Karen's (Bake My Day) 2008 take on Maggie Glezer's recipe 

Recipe Synopsis

The Evening Before Baking: Make the starter and if you like the mashed potato.

The Next Morning: Mix the dough and let it ferment for about 4 hours. Shape it, proof it for about 1 1/2 hours, and then bake the bread for about 45 minutes.

The Evening Before Baking: Making the Pre-Ferment:

Pre-Ferment Ingredients 
1 gm (1/4 tsp) instant yeast
240gm (1 cup) water 105 - 115 degrees F
100gm (2/3 cup) unbleached bread flour
85gm (1 small) potato

Stir the yeast into the water in a glass measure and let it stand for 5 - 10 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of this yeasted water (discard the rest) to the flour and beat this very sticky starter until it is well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment until it is full of huge bubbles and sharp tasting, about 12 hours. If your kitchen is very warm and the pre-ferment is fermenting very quickly, place it in the refrigerator after 3 hours of fermenting. In the morning, remove it and allow it to come to room temperature 30 minutes to an hour before beginning the final dough

Preparing the Potato: For efficiency, you may want to prepare the potato the night before. Quarter it, then boil it in water to cover until it can be easily pierced with a knife tip, about 20 minutes. Drain; if desired, reserve the water for the dough. Press the potato through a ricer or sieve to puree it and remove the skin. Store it in a covered container in the refrigerator. You will need only 1/4 cup puree.

Bake Day: Mixing the Dough

Dough Ingredients 
575gm  (3+3/4 cups) unbleached bread flour
420gm (1+3/4 cups plus 3 Tbsp) Water, including the potato water if desired, lukewarm
all of the pre-ferment
11gm (2 tsp) honey
60gm (1/4 cup packed) Potato puree
16gm (scant 1 Tbsp) salt

By Hand: Use your hands to mix the flour and water into a rough, very wet dough in a large bowl. Cover the dough and let rest (autolyse) for 10 - 20 minutes. 

Add the pre-ferment, honey, potato, and salt, and knead the dough until it is smooth, 5 - 10 minutes. It will start off feeling rubbery, then break down into goo; if you persist, eventually it will come together into a smooth, shiny dough. If you do not have the skill or time to knead it to smoothness, the bread will not suffer. This is a tremendously wet and sticky dough, so use a dough scraper to help you but do not add more flour, for it will ruin the texture of the bread.

By Stand Mixer: With your hands or a wooden spoon, mix the flour and water into a rough, very wet dough in the work bowl of your mixer. Cover the dough and let it rest (autolyse) for 10 - 20 minutes.

Fit the mixer with the dough hook. Add the pre-ferment, honey, potato and salt and the mix the dough on medium speed for 15 - 20 minutes, or until very silky and wraps around the hook and cleans the bowl before splaterring back around the bowl. This dough is almost pourably wet.


Fermenting and Turning the Dough: 

Shape the dough into a ball and roll it in flour. Place it in a container at least 3 times its size and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it ferment until doubled in bulk and filled with large air bubbles, about 4 hours. Using plenty of dusting flour, turn the dough 4 times in 20 minute intervals, that is, after 20, 40, 60, and 80 minutes of fermenting, the leave the dough undisturbed for the remaining time. Do not allow this dough to over ferment or forment to the point of collapse, for the flavor and structure of your bread will suffer.

Shaping and Proofing the Dough:

Turn the fermented dough out onto a well floured work surface, round it and let it rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle a couche or wooden board generously with flour. Slip a baking sheet under the couche if you are using one for support.

Sprinkle a generous amount of flour over the center of the ball. Push your fingers into the center to make a hole, the rotate your hand around the hole to widen it, making a large 4 inch opening. The bread should have about 12 inch diameter.

Place the dough smooth side down on the floured couche or board and dust the surface with more flour. Drape it with plastic wrap and let it proof until it is light and slowly springs back when lightly pressed, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheating the Oven:

Immediately after shaping the bread, arrange a rack on the oven's second to top shelf and place a baking stone on it. Clear away all the racks above the one being used. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (230 C)

Baking the Bread:

Unwrap the bread and flip it onto a floured peel or a sheet of parchment paper. Do not worry about damaging the bread as you handle it; it will recover in the oven as long as it is not overproofed. Slash it with 4 radial cuts in the shape of a cross. Slide the loaf onto the hot baking stone and bake until it is very dark brown, 40 -50 minutes, rotating it halfway into the bake. Let the bread cool on a rack.

Baker's Percentages
100% unbleached bread flour
74
% Water, including the potato water 
0.15% yeast 
2% honey
10% potato puree
2.4% salt