Sunday, February 23, 2020

A Better Index!

"CLICK" Now all the Feeding My Enthusiasms recipes are a mouse click or two away! Just click on the link right below the photo on this post.

Until today, the link to my recipe index took you that other page and recipe links were in a loooooong column on the right. I'm not even sure that you can find it if you are looking on a cell phone or tablet. You need to use the WEB VERSION. Those recipe links will be worked into the new index over time.  Look for the set table photo, similar to the photo above, but slightly different, with the rust colored tablecloth to the right (use Web Version if you don't see it). You click right on the photo and it will also take you to my index page.

Today I updated the index page. Now the old recipe links are still in the column, but recipes from the last 9 years or so, including the most recent, are in the body of the page. The links are the date that the post was published. The only, perhaps, odd thing is that I have put three "Focused Indexes" at the bottom...for Breads, Cakes and Cookies, with links in the appropriate alpha letter to take you there...look for 'Bread Index...HERE', for example, in the B section where bread should be.

The reason for those focused indexes is that I have so many recipes in those categories that you would have to scroll down and down and down to get to foods that start with 'W' otherwise!

I hope that this helps you find the recipe and post you might be looking for. It also allows for some fun wandering to see what I've posted over the years. There are hundreds of recipes!

When you click on the date (in the new indexes), it will take you to the post that contains that recipe. Don't be fooled by the photo...sometimes the photo and the food don't go together, but scroll down and you will, indeed, find the recipe for the linked item in the index.

Friday, February 21, 2020

A Most Luscious Lemon Cake

As you know if you have been reading this blog much, I love birthdays. You might also know that I belong to a women's scholarship group, P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) and our chapter has been around a long time. In fact we just celebrated our 108th birthday and I made a cake for the occasion. A little less than a year ago I purchased some cake pans from a bakery that was going out of business and those pans are flower shaped. I've been waiting for the chapter birthday to come around so that I could use them since our flower is a daisy and the pan makes a cake that looks enough like a daisy for it to work.

For the cake I made a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Rose's Heavenly Cakes book. It's part of a set of recipes that allow the intrepid baker to make a Golden Dream wedding cake. I used the part that makes two twelve-inch diameter layers because I needed enough cake for more than 30 people. Of course that's a lot of batter, so I had to divide that recipe in two to fit into my mixer bowls. Each half went into one of the 12-inch diameter flower pans. If you were making a smaller cake for family, I would just use the half recipe and bake it in two 8-inch or 9-inch diameter pans.

This cake is sublime. It has lots of lemon zest and juice in the cake, plus some lemon oil, and then you have a lemon syrup (more fresh lemons needed) that you brush over the warm cake still in the pans. The cake absorbs the syrup and so you get a lovely, moist cake and great lemon flavor. The second half of the syrup is applied after you turn the layers out of their pans. I only did that to the bottom layer because I was worried that it might make the top layer too delicate to handle and I was glad I did. The most challenging part of making the cake was getting the top layer settled over the raspberry jam and bottom layer without breaking it and with it lined up so the petals of the flowers matched.

I thought about using buttercream, which is what the recipe calls for, but decided to make it easy on myself and just put a thin layer of raspberry jam between the layers and then frost the cake with fluffy 7-minute type frosting. I have a great recipe for it where you start the mixture on the stove and finish it with a stand mixer. Much better than the recipe from my childhood where we stood for 7 minutes with an electric hand mixer beating the mixture over simmering water on the stove. Here the time at the stove with a hand whisk (no trailing electric wires!) is just a few minutes...the stand mixer does all the work. You can get that recipe HERE and it should be just the right amount to fill and frost a 9-inch layer cake, or enough to frost the outside only of a 12-inch diameter cake.

A key thing to remember is that they recommend making the cake the day before so that it has 24 hours to firm up and for the flavors to develop. I'm sure you could serve it the same day, but be sure to save a piece for the next day.

This cake is one of the best I ever made. It does take a bit of time and effort, but is well worth it, especially for a special occasion. I adapted the recipe for my dietary needs, but I'll type it up with the original ingredients. I used almond flour instead of blanched sliced almonds. Saved a step and almond flour is readily available now in stores. You will need to weigh it. I substituted non-dairy margarine for the butter, full fat plain yogurt for the sour cream and plain granulated sugar for the turbinado sugar (because that's what I had on hand). I'm also giving weights often because you will get better results weighing your ingredients. If you need have by volume, send me an email at plachman *at*sonic*dot*net and I'll send them to you.

Lemon Celebration Cake
adapted from Golden dream Wedding Cake in Rose Levy Beranbaum's Rose's Heavenly Cakes book

Batter for two 12 x 2-inch pans. I'm giving the half recipe, which you make twice, but if you have a 6-quart mixer you can double the ingredients and make it all at one time. Either way you have batter for two pans...a half recipe for each pan.

A Half Recipe - fills one 12-inch diameter cake pan

224 grams eggs (4, plus about a half egg)
3/4 cup grams sour cream (probably 300 grams, but I used a measuring cup for this)
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon oil (Boyajian makes a good one)
90 grams almond flour
374 grams turbinado sugar
374 grams all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons double acting baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest, loosely packed (18 grams)
340 grams (12 oz, 3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature (65-75 degrees F, 19-23 degrees C)

You will need: 2 12-inch diameter pans, bottoms coated with shortening, lined with parchment paper, and then coated with baking spray with flour.

20 minutes or more before baking, set the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/175 C.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sour cream and whisk to combine. Whisk in the vanilla and lemon oil. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater, mix the almond flour, sugar, flour, baking soda and baking powder, salt and lemon zest on low speed for 30 seconds. Cut up the butter in chunks about 2 tablespoons each. Add gradually to the dry mixture and once almost combines, add the sour cream. Mix on low speed until everything is moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beater blades.

Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in three or four parts, beating on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Use a spatula and scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surfaces with a small offset spatula. Each pan should be about half full. Each half recipe given above is for one pan. Amount of batter in apn will be about 1,708 grams.

Bake in preheated oven for about 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean and an instant-read thermometer at center registers 200-205 degrees F/93-96 degrees C. The cake should just begin to come away from the sides of the pan. (Elle's note: I switched the top pan to the bottom rack and the bottom pan to the top rack about 2/3 of the way through the time and rotated the pans 180 degrees while switching.)

While the cakes are baking, prepare the wire racks for cooling and the clean surfaces for unmolding.
(I used two large wire racks to hold the cakes once they came out of the oven and covered two large non-flexing rounds (about 16" in diameter) with foil to hold the turned out cakes. Lightly coat the foil for the top layer with non-stick coating spray and you will have an easier time than I did transferring the top layer to the bottom layer.)

Shortly before the cakes are finished baking, make the lemon syrup. (You use half for each layer and those amounts are applied in half doses, so you can divide the finished syrup into quarters and you'll be all ready.)

 Lemon Syrup
Makes 1 1/2 cups/12 fluid oz/480 grams

300 grams turbinado sugar
192 grams freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a 2-cup or larger microwavable measure (or in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often), heat the sugar and lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved.

Do not allow it to boil. Cover to prevent evaporation.

After Baking:
As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, place each pan on a wire rack, poke the cakes all over the top with a thin skewer,and brush each cake with one quarter of the above 1 1/2 cups mixture. Apply slowly and apply more toward the edges and less toward the center. A pastry brush works well for this. Cakes are still in their pan. Allow cakes to cool 20 minutes before unmolding from pans.

Once cakes have cooled, run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pans and the cakes. Working with one layer at a time, set the prepared supportive surface, foil side down, over the pans and invert the cake onto it. Repeat for the other layer on the other supportive surface. Then poke the bottom cake as before with a skewer and apply another quarter of the lemon syrup. If desired, repeat with the top layer. Again, apply more toward the edges and less toward the center. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

Lightly coat plastic wrap with nonstick cooking spray and wrap the layers well with it. Let sit 24 hours at room temperature, or up to 3 days, for 1 week refrigerated, and up to 3 months frozen.

When ready to finish the cake, unwrap layers and lightly coat the bottom layer with about 1/2 cup raspberry jam. Carefully transfer the top layer from the non flexing surface to the bottom, jam-covered layer, matching edges. You may disturb the jam at this point, but it won't matter in the end.

Make the Fluffy White Frosting, if using, or this Vanilla Buttercream for a more traditional cake HERE, and frost the sides and then the top of the cake. Decorate as desired. Cake can sit at room temperature for a day or two, or you can refrigerate it. If refrigerated, be sure to remove from fridge in enough time before serving to allow the cake to warm up.

ENJOY! You deserve it!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

A French Regional Bread with the Babes

Books are an amazing thing. Each one has a whole world within. They can capture your interest and take you places you never imagined. This is particularly true of fiction, but even non-fiction can surprise you. Recently I came across a book in a bookstore, saw the photo above in it, and that renewed my interest in bread baking.

Now if you have been reading this blog for a while you probably think, "What do you mean renew your interest in bread always seem to have an interest in it?" Well, it looks that way but in truth I had even considered no longer baking bread. Sweetie has no resistance to freshly baked bread and it adds pounds he is not interested in. I don't need those calories either. How many more new breads are there, anyway? The book answered that last question...and surprised me with a whole lot more new breads and new techniques and shaping methods. For my birthday my thoughtful daughter and her Sweetie gifted me with an amazing book that must weigh ten pounds and that will undoubtedly inspire me further (plus I learn new things about bread each time I open it!) More on that in another post. Let's look at today's bread.

So the bookstore book is called French Regional Breads by Mouette Barboff and, since I am Kitchen of the Month, I chose the corkscrew bread for the Babes to bake this month. It's official French name is Pain Tordu and there are two versions in the book, one that is traditionally baked in the region of Ger and another baked in and around Lot-et-Garonne.

The romantic in me likes the idea of a February bread that looks like two lovers twisted around each other. The bread baker loves the idea of a bread that has a lot of crust!

Le Tordu Du Gers et De Gascogne is a twisted bread, likely from the old provinces of Gascony and Guyenne, now in the Lot-et-Garonne. It owes its name to the fact that it is twisted into a corkscrew shape. To obtain this shape, the bread baker uses a wooden rolling pin (or their arm! for really large loaves) to depress the shaped dough down the center, creating two parallel long rolls of dough linked by a thin film of dough that aids the twisting process. You twist it by holding the dough at both ends, and twist, as though wringing out a wet towel. The tordu is described as having two, three or four grignes (little lips of raised crust) according to the number of twists it's given before being set to rise. The crumb is a creamy color, very honeycombed and elastic (although my bread ended up without honeycombs to speak of). The bread is made with a sourdough starter and has a good wheaty flavor.

Because the dough is fermented, the loaf keeps for a long time. "The five-pound pain tordu was what people on farms used to eat after the war; there were a lot of large families and people ate a lot of bread, In the morning we used to cut it into small pieces and dip it in the vegetable soup.
At 10 o'clock we would eat it as a snack in the fields; and we would eat it with our midday meal and again in the evening. At tea time, my friends and I used to love it rubbed with garlic, sprinkled with salt and dipped in groundnut oil, since in our region olive oil didn't exist."

Pain tordu has more crust than other shapes of loaf. Not only is it dipped in the morning soup, but it's taken into the fields for the mid-morning snack with cold meat, sausage or ham. Big slices are cut and spread with butter for the children at tea time. It is eaten with poultry, with duck, including with roast duck and duck confit, and with goose confit.

All of the information about this bread and the recipe come from the book French Regional Bread by Mouette Barboff. The book is published with support of four independent flour mills to champion the values of craftsmanship, of craft baking, of localism, and of the preservation and transmission of traditional skills and expertise, and is a salute to the rich and fascinating history of the crafts of bread baking and flour milling.

The challenge here, beyond the twisting of the dough, is taking a recipe meant for commercial production and making it work for home baking. Elizabeth of blog from OUR kitchen kindly re-sized the quantities. I used the smaller of her amounts and it made about a 1 kg loaf that was about 15" long. I used a supported couche to proof it and laid in on a piece of parchment, crosswise, on a rectangular baking stone to bake it. Crushed ice went into a preheated pan on the rack right under the stone for steam.

You'll surely want to be a Buddy this month, these long, twisty breads are so delicious! Just make the  loaves (see above for your two choices for the loaves, and instructions), then email your link ( or email your photo and bit about your experience if you don't have a blog) to plachman *at*sonic*dot*net and please add as your subject 'BBBuddy'. I will send you a Buddy badge. Deadline? March 1.

Also, be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes blogs to see which variation they chose (or perhaps they have another variation!).

A Messy Kitchen - Amazing Crusts and shaping. HERE
blog from OUR kitchen - Humorous and detailed write up and interesting shape. HERE
Bread Experience - Shaping Photos and a proofing conundrum. HERE
Judy's Gross Eats - Four variations! HERE
Karen's Kitchen Stories - Great oven spring and crust from using a bright red baker. HERE
My Kitchen in Half Cups - Three variations on this corkscrew bread, with rye. HERE

Mine had a nice shape, although the twists had merged together during the final rise (which was an hour, not 10!). It also had a nice crust. The end was so hard that Sweetie cracked a tooth! Not the best thing to say about a bread, but be warned. The rest of the crust wasn't nearly as hard. I used some of this loaf for grilled turkey sandwiches and they were superb.

Le Pain Tordu as made in the Lot-et-Garonne
(for 2 large Corkscrew breads)

1000 grams strong white bread flour (Type 55)
600 milliliters (approximately) water
6 grams yeast [I'm guessing this is dry yeast]
20 grams salt
250 grams levain (sourdough starter) [25% of the amount of flour]

Le Pain Tordu as made in the Lot-et-Garonne
(for 1 large Corkscrew breads)

500 grams strong white bread flour (Type 55)
300 milliliters (approximately) water
3 grams yeast [I'm guessing this is dry yeast]
10 grams salt
125 grams levain (sourdough starter) [25% of the amount of flour]

This bread is white, has a long fermentation and contains very little yeast. The quantity of flour is always the same, but the amount of water depends on the absorption of the flour.

Mix the flour, water and yeast for 5 minutes on low speed; this helps to obtain the right texture 'when you need more flour you add a little. This is called contre-frasage, or 'counter-mixing'.

Knead for 15 minutes: Add the levain and once incorporated knead for another 10 minutes at medium speed, adding the salt 5 minutes before the end. The dough should be at 23 degrees C.

Leave to rise for 45 minutes to an hour: The dough is always left to rise in the mixing bowl. The time varies according to the temperature in the room.

Divide the dough into pieces weighing 1 kg, 1.3 kg, and 1.5 kg. (Elle's note - I think you choose which size you want and make all the balls the same size and those are your three choices, but not sure. I chose 1 kg.)

Roll the pieces of dough into balls.

Leave to rest for 30 minutes.

                                                      photos on shaping from the book

Once the dough has rested, you shape it. You take a round ball and fold it over to make it a long shape; you flour it, and with a wooden rolling pin you separate it into tow long rolls. You turn it over, flour it again, and press down with the rolling pin to separate the two rolls well. Then you turn the dough on the diagonal, passing one roll over the other and you make the corkscrew shape by letting the twist by itself. There are tordus with one turn and tordus with two turns. The rolling pin is quite slender, like a broom handle, and 70 cm long. The tordu is 80 cm long. (I used my long French rolling pin and it worked pretty well, but the connecting dough was still pretty thick, so the twists don't have the same definition as in the photo at the top, from the book.)

The two rolls coiled round each other are now put back into a wooden panneton known as a baquet, you put a thin layer of jute inside before putting the loaf in. This is unique to the Lot-et-Garonne and the Gers regions. You don't need to flour either the couche or the loaf, as the dough is very dry. (Note from Elle - I used a lightly floured linen couche, not a panneton, because even dry dough tends to stick for me and this wasn't as dry as I should have made it.)

Leave the dough to prove for 10 hours. (I suspect this is for cold proving, I proved mine at room temperature for about an hour and it was ready to bake...lost a lot of it's shape by then and was plenty puffed up.) This bread needs to prove on average for hours in order to bring out its full flavor and character. (By the way, this bread was almost always produced by bakeries, not by home cooks, and sold around the countryside.)

The baker turns the baquets upside down on the peel, removes the couche and puts the loaves in the oven. (There is no oven temperature given since these were baked in commercial bread ovens but I used 325 degrees F.)

A 5-pound loaf will need 1 hour 30 minutes in the oven, a 1 kg loaf will need 45 minutes to an hour. The bread should be well baked.

Because the French Regional Breads book as a second recipe, from Gers, for Pain Tordu, I thought it might be useful to put that up, too, for those who would prefer to do the one with malt and rye flour. I divided the recipe by 4 to bring it down to home baker proportions! Should have done that with the original, but Elizabeth did a lovely job of making it more reasonable for our ovens. Other than dividing by four, this is exactly what is written in the book. The items in quotes are from the baker in Gers who bakes this all the time. The only thing I might suggest is two 500 g or so loaves instead of one 800 g loaf.

Pain Tordu de Gers
(for two large corkscrew loaves)

1 kg strong white bread flour (Type 55)
100 g medium rye flour (Type 130)
20 g table salt (2% per kg)
15 g yeast (1.5% per kg)
3/4 l water at 12 degrees C
5 g malt (0.5% per kg)
30% fermented dough

Place all the ingredients in the mixer bowl, except the fermented dough, and mix for 3 minutes on low speed. "I make a pain de campagne dough because it has a better consistency. The sourdough starter is from the previous day's batch. The malt helps the dough to rise and give the crust color; since sourdough contains little sugar, the malt enriches the dough a little."

When the dough is well mixed, add the fermented dough and knead for 4 minutes at medium speed. The dough temperature should be 23 o4 24 C. "What we have now is a pate batard (standard bread dough). To make shaped breads like this is is better to have a dough that's a bit firm, that holds it's shape, otherwise it doesn't look as good."

The dough is left to rise for 30 minutes.

The baker divides the dough into pieces weighing 800g.

The dough is left to rise for 15 minutes in the fermentation cupboard "to prevent a crust from forming".

To shape the baker folds each piece of dough twice across its width, first from one side then from the other; he slaps it with his hands and presses down the wooden rolling pin in the center to make tow rolls of dough, one on each side.
Then he turns the dough upside down, sprinkles it with a mixture of wheat and rye flours, and pressed the rolling pin down the middle again to separate the two rolls. Holding the roll further away from him with both hands, he lifts the dough and passes the roll over the other one, then sets it on its side. The two rolls are now side by side. He rolls them together, making two twists, using both hands to hold it tight as he lifts the dough up and places it on a couche.

The dough is left to prove for 1 hour or 1 hour 15 minutes.

The bread is baked in a hot oven, 230 degrees C, with steam.

Bake 25 minutes for tordus weighing 800g.

Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups made this version.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Puppies and Pumpkin

On Saturday I had fun with puppies...six week old golden labradoodles in fact. A friend will be getting one later in the year and the breeder had an open house, so there were puppies but also grown dogs who had once been puppies there. I sat on the ground and was swarmed by about 7  of the cute little doggies. One tried to eat my shoe...and I had specifically not worn shoes with laces to avoid that.

One began chewing on a long green squeaky snake, another tried to climb my leg and other played with each other or rolled on their backs for a rub. Eventually I sat in one of the chairs and cuddled a little guy who promptly fell asleep on my lap. And, no, I'm not going to get a puppy. When we next need a new dog I'll get a rescue. No matter how cute the puppies are, the rescues need a's not optional. Our current sweet dog, Pit, is a rescue and he might just be the best dog we ever had.

A few days before the puppy time I was cleaning out the fridge and discovered a small container that had some pumpkin puree in it. It was the perfect amount for Pumpkin Soda Bread, a recipe in a book I recently purchased, The Harvest Baker by Ken Haedrich. The days are getting longer, so the time for winter spiced treats is waning. This may be the last pumpkin recipe for a while.

The makes a wonderful soda bread. Because of the yogurt it's moister than usual and keeps well. I love the golden color.  As usual I made a few changes, including doubling the amount of butter (although I used margarine), substituting soy creamer soured with apple cider vinegar for the buttermilk, and using a whole egg instead of a yolk. I also added some cinnamon to the flour mixture.

Do try this delicious bread! Do remember to handle it as little as possible once you add the liquid, which is a good idea for any quick bread. There is no yeast in this bread and you don't need a bread pan. It goes together quickly and is perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.

Pumpkin Soda Bread
from The Harvest Baker by Ken Haedrich
makes 2 loaves

Parchment paper or oiled foil for lining the baking sheet
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch slices (I used 8 T margarine)
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 2/3 cups buttermilk (I used soy creamer soured with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar)
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg yolk (I used a small whole egg from a local chicken)
Milk for glaze (soy creamer)
Sanding sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or oiled foil.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix well with a large whisk. Add the butter and toss it with the dry ingredients. Rub the butter and dry ingredients together thoroughly, until the fat essentially disappears into the mix. Add the raisins and nuts and mix in by hand.

Whisk the buttermilk, pumpkin, and egg in a bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredient mixture and add the liquid mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon just until the ingredients form a cohesive dough. Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and divide it in half. Using floured hands, gently shape each half into a ball, kneading in the last dry bits gently if needed.

Place the dough balls on the baking sheet, leaving 5-6 inches between them. Brush each loaf sparingly with milk. If desired sprinkle the tops with sanding sugar. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut a 1/2-inch deep cross into the top of each loaf.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until good and crusty. When done, the bottoms of the loaves will sound hollow when tapped with a fingertip.

Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and cool well before slicing. Leftover will keep well in the fridge, wrapped in foil and a plastic bag. These breads freeze well, too.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Almost Mary Berry Bakewell Delight

There is something about the combination of flavors and textures of a Bakewell Tart that I just love. There is the custardy almond filling juxtaposed with the raspberry jam and a nice crust, too. It smells heavenly of raspberry and almond, too.

The Bakewell Tart is a British favorite. Recently I borrowed a Mary Berry book from the library. She was the female of the two judges on the first six episodes or so of the Great British Baking Show and she has a nice, easy way with recipes. The Bakewell Tart was in her Fast Cakes - Everyday Cakes  book.

As I do, I messed with the recipe right off the bat. I had a nice round sheet of ready made pie pastry in the fridge which I wanted to use up, so instead of the given tart crust, I used that. I also put it into a deep dish pie plate instead of into a fluted tart pan. Because of my dairy allergy, I used room temperature non-dairy butter for the filling.You'll notice that if you use weights for your ingredients that the butter, sugar and almond flour are all very similar weights...4 oz... and the jam is half that. Proportions are such an important of baking!

 Beyond swapping out the pastry for the tart dough and using margarine instead of real butter, I pretty much stuck to the recipe until right before I put it into the oven, when I folded over the excess pastry from the sides of the pan, folding it over the almond filling as you would a crostata. I also topped the filling, just inside that folded pastry, with halved fresh raspberries...just a few for decoration, really.

This pastry is sublime, especially if you like raspberry jam, which I do. The pastry is flaky and golden, the filling is soft and delectable, and the jam ties the almond flavors to the fruit flavor. Do try it!

For those who follow this blog to know a bit about what is happening in our life, Sweetie is in the midst of another project. This time it is a door replacement on the farmhouse. As usual he is doing a super job. This will be a fairly utilitarian door, so I probably won't even post photos. It allow safety access from the bedrooms to the east side of the property in case of fire or another disaster. It's entirely possible that it will be used rarely, but it's still good to know that, once ready to use, I can stop worrying about people getting stuck in a bedroom in a disaster.

On the creative front, I'm making some more tea cups on painted table legs for going in the garden. They are meant for decoration, but do also hold water or seed for birds. I'll post some photos once they are finished.

Almond Bakewell Pastry
based on a recipe by Mary Berry
Serves 8

1 round ReadyCrust pie pastry or pie dough for 1 crust
1/2 cup (4 oz, 114g, 1 stick) butter, softened (I used non-dairy margarine)
1/2 cup (4 oz, 100g) sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 oz, 100g) almond flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) raspberry jam
a few sliced or slivered almonds (or raspberries in my case)

Line a 9" pie plate with the pie crust dough, rolled out thinly. Prick the bottom all over and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/Convection 350 degrees F (I used 375 degrees F) and put a baking sheet in the oven on the shelf just above the center. (Putting the filled pie tin on this preheated metal sheet helps crisp up the bottom crust.)

For the filling, put the butter and sugar into a mixer or food processor and mix until fluffy and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix again until thoroughly incorporated. Add the almond flour and the almond extract and mix one last time until thoroughly mixed.

Spread the base of the pie dough with the jam evenly, then pour the filling over the top. Fold down any pastry dough that is above the filling, overlapping as necessary, and then scatter almonds or place halved fresh raspberries over the filling randomly or in a nice pattern.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes (because I used a higher heat, mine took a little less than 20 minutes with Convection), or until the pastry is pale golden brown at the edges and the filling is set.

Leave to cool in the pie plate. Serve cut into wedges.

Friday, January 24, 2020

A Tart With Meyer Lemon and Olive Oil

Cook's Illustrated magazine for March/April of 2019 has a wonderful recipe for a lemon tart using olive oil instead of butter.

Of course what you'll get here isn't their recipe since I rarely do a recipe as written, even the first time. This tart looks like sunshine, mostly because there are lots of egg yolks in the filling. It tastes like springtime because of the lemon. Although the original recipe uses an olive oil crust, I just used a sheet of pie pastry from the fridge, folding the excess pastry down along the sides inside the tart. I blind baked it at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes and then removed the lentils I used for the blind baking (and the parchment) and let it sit another 5 minutes in the hot oven. Not sure if it still qualifies as a tart or becomes a pie, but I did use a tart pan with removable bottom and wavy sides, so I think it is still a tart.

The rest of the recipe follows the one given pretty closely. I did skip the straining of the filling through a fine-mesh strainer because I like having the lemon zest in the filling for texture and the residual flavor. If you prefer a silky smooth filling, then strain the filling into a bowl after the olive oil has been incorporated and then put the filling into the tart shell for the short bake required to firm up the filling.

Do allow the full two hours for the tart to cool at room temperature. It firms up as it cools and you'll get nice slices if you wait the full time. If you don't have access to Meyer lemons, the ones you find at the market are just fine for this recipe.

Lemon-Olive Oil Tart - "An Easy and Modern Lemon Tart"
From Cook's Illustrated magazine, March-April 2019

Crust   (I used a Pillsbury ReadyCrust round sheet of pie pastry instead and baked at 400 degrees F)
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons (2 1/4 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water

Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whish flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl. Add oil and water and stir until uniform dough forms.
Using your hands, crumble three-quarters of dough over bottom of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough to even the thickness in bottom of pan. Crumble remaining dough and scatter evenly around edge of pan. Press crumbled dough into fluted sided of pan. Press dough to even thickness. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is deep golden brown and firm to touch, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.

1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks (save whites for another use)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (3 lemons) (I used two Meyer lemons and one Eureka lemon)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Have all the ingredients ready and at room temperature. About 5 minutes before crust is finished baking, whisk sugar, flour, and salt in medium saucepan until combined. Whisk in eggs and egg yolks until no streaks of egg remain. Whisk in lemon zest and juice. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly and scraping corners of saucepan, until mixture thickens slightly and registers 160 degrees F, in 5-8 minutes.
Off heat, whisk in oil slowly, until incorporated. Strain curd through fine-mesh strainer set over bowl. Pour curd into warm tart shell.
Bake at 350 degrees F until filling is set and barely jiggles when pan is shaken, 8 - 12 minutes.
Let tart cool completely on wire rack, at least 2 hours.
Remove metal outer rim of tart pan. Slide thin metal spatula between tart and pan bottom to release the tart, then carefully slide tart onto serving platter.
Cut tart into wedges, wiping knife clean between cuts if necessary, and serve.
Leftover can be wrapped loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


In Napa County, CA there is a State Park which includes a working grist mill. They have refurbished the old building that has been there since the 1850s and served as the community mill then. The waterwheel turns, although the flume that used to bring water to it no longer works (water is piped in), the grinding stones turn when engaged, and the grain is milled. When they put in dried corn, the output is coarse polenta. It is a whole grain, so there are flecks of tan along with the beautiful corn yellow. It's packaging is a brown paper sack and, because the state hygiene standards for food prep are so stringent in California, it says its not for human consumption. There is no way to have an authentic mill with a grinding stone to grind the grain and meet those standards, but I assure you, we have consumed the products of the milling and have in no way been harmed.

If you get to Napa, do check out the Bale Grist Mill. It's near Calistoga. They often have events. Here is one that sounds like fun:
Napa Valley’s historic Bale Grist Mill is one of the last mills that still grinds grain on the old pair of stones brought here by ship from “the old country”. At Old Mill Days people can visit the mill and experience the shared hard work and resulting sense of community that bound our forefathers together when they try some traditional farm chores: corn husking and shelling, wheat threshing, butter making, apple pressing, hand sewing, bean seed shelling or rope making.
The next one is in October of 2020 which is still far enough away to plan a trip!

One of my favorite things to do with this lovely polenta is to cook it up into soft cooked polenta. I found a very simple recipe in The Vineyard Kitchen by Maria Helms Sinskey. It really helps to use high quality polenta meal because the only ingredients are the polenta meal, milk (I used soy milk), butter (I used cashew based vegan 'butter') and salt, plus water, and with a little pepper at the finish. You do have to stir for quite a while, but maybe you will be sharing the dish with someone who will take a turn stirring?

Polenta makes a great base for a vegetable stew or roasted veggies (which is what I used), for Italian flavored ragu sauce, for sauteed mushrooms and onions, for a meat stew with greens braised with the meat (pork works really well), and many other winter toppings. You can also serve it as it, or with some butter or cheese on top to melt into the soft hot goodness.

If you let the polenta cool overnight in the fridge, you can cut it into slices or sticks and pan fry for a tasty addition to breakfast.

I was sure that I had taken a photo of this delicious dish, but can't find the photo, so I'm posting one I found on the internet. Next time... Doesn't Jennifer Davick's photo make the polenta look delicious?

Photo by Jennifer Davick

Simple Soft Polenta
Serves 8
(recipe is easily divided in half for 4 servings, which is what I did)
From The Vineyard Kitchen by Maria Helms Sinskey

3 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup coarse polenta
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring the milk, 2 cups water, and the butter to a boil in a large pot; season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the polenta slowly. Place the pan back over low heat and stir the polenta with a wooden spoon until it is smooth, tender, and creamy, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and cover until ready to serve.
Reheat if necessary; add a little water to thin if the polenta has stiffened.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Bread With Chickpea Flour

When I was doing gluten free baking I made some bread with chickpea flour, but there was also rice flour, tapioca flour, and another flour, probably almond, so I didn't really get a chickpea flavor.

The Bread Baking Babes are baking Artekena, a loaf with chickpea flour both in the dough and in the sourdough starter. We could have made the starter with only chickpea flour, but I already has a wheat based starter in the fridge, so I just added some chickpea flour to the third feeding. I needed to do that many feedings because it had been a couple of months since I had used the starter and it needed to get those yeasties back in action.

Our Kitchen of the Month is Elizabeth and I think she picked a winner. I enjoyed the process, which is extensive, and the product. Do go to Elizabeth's blog, blog from OUR kitchen, to read her process and many interesting notes. That's one of the great things about baking with the Babes...I learn a lot!

Fortunately the Babes are not wedded to rules. Not only did I use my wheat starter as the base for the chickpea starter, but I also didn't do the folds version of kneading. I kneaded the risen leavener dough into the measured flours and waters of the dough with my stand mixer in the morning the day before I baked, turned it off to sit for 40 minutes, kneaded the salted water into that dough with the mixer, then turned it off to sit for a couple of hours. Once I was back home, I kneaded it with the mixer again until a soft, smooth dough formed. I left it in the mixer bowl, sprayed with a thin film of olive oil and capped with a clean shower cap, overnight in a cool place. The thing to remember is that it was sitting in a pretty cool place, temperature-wise, the whole time.

In the morning it had risen some and was cold. I turned it out on a lightly floured board and kneaded in some poppy seeds (fennel is a flavor I don't care for), then pre-shaped it as the recipe required and let it sit as instructed. It never really rose and it spread quite a bit.

I tried to create a good skin before I put in the center hole, but the dough was really slack, so the hold filled in and the circle spread while rising while the oven heated up. It rose a bit while baking, but not a lot. The crumb was a bit dry but there were nice air holes here and there, it was chewy, and the flavor was lovely. I really liked the crust and sesame seeds on the outside. "If you like bread with a hefty crust, chewy crumb and intense flavour, this one is for you. It is like french Country Bread gone rustic. It is amazing what a difference the addition of chickpea flour can make to a bread.", Andrew Whitley, 'Arkatena Bread', Bread Matters, p. 190

I think the next time I make this that I'll add more flour to make a slightly stiffer dough. Other than that I think the chickpea/wheat starter experiment was successful. Thanks for the adventure Elizabeth!

To be a Buddy, bake the bread and email Elizabeth with a photo, URL of your post and a few words about your bake.

Do check out the Babes who baked this month. Fun to see what each has done with chickpea flour!

For the recipe, go to Elizabeth's blog, blog from OUR kitchen.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Past Is Never Really Gone - Maybe Not Pumpkin Spice Either

In January we always talk about fresh starts and new ways. There is truth there since each moment provides a place/time for change and really everything is changing all the time. Still, the past never really goes away either. What we each do or don't do, the experiences we have, the love we give...all that has led us to today, to now. I've been thinking a lot about this since my older brother died in December. How did I become who I am? Have I been a good person, wife, mother, friend? What experiences have led me to be who I am? Which ones do I value?

This blog is, for me, a gateway to the cooking and baking experiences that have led me to this point in time. They are something that I value. I can look back and see how and where I developed skills in the kitchen. 2011 was a year where bread was a big influence (enough so that I created a post with links to all the breads I baked that year) and in the fall of 2008 I tried my first sourdough starter from grape skins, which was huge; I became a much better bread baker since I had a starter 'toss off' to use every week! I've now been blogging more than 13 years and baking with sourdough starter for over 11 years.

The Daring Bakers began with a handful of bakers who wanted to make the same recipe, together. It started in the beginning of 2007. I joined in March of 2007 when there were only 16 bakers, but it grew quite quickly as a baking group and later as a cooking and baking group. I only started blogging in the fall of 2006, so this was the first group I joined. We had a monthly challenge. Without the Daring Bakers I would never have learned to make choux paste (for things like eclairs and profiteroles), to make French macarons, to make a mirror cake, and much, much more. I also made good virtual friends through that group...I bake with some of them as a Bread Baking Babe. Later I joined the Cake Slice Bakers for a monthly challenge. These kinds of groups can be lots of fun as well as stretching me in the skills department.

I was looking at past posts on this blog last night. Somehow I settled on 2013 and looked at the heading for just about every post that year, and often at the post itself. There were 92 posts that year, so I had a real treasure trove of recipes to look at and, of course, some I'd forgotten about and some I wanted to make right away, like last night! Since I've discovered that as my brain gets older I don't cook or bake as well at night, I ignored those impulses. Still, I hope to soon make some of those recipes, starting with this one: Spicy Pumpkin Muffins with Creamy Filling. Of course I'll have to sub plant-based cream cheese and ricotta, but that should make it more interesting. I guess that is one of the major changes - no dairy - which makes baking more of a challenge. Of course, I've always loved a challenge! Will add photos of the actual bake here once it's done.

Look on the blog in 4 days for the latest Bread Baking Babes post, too. Still baking with the Babes since July, 2010!

Spicy Pumpkin Muffins with Creamy Filling
started with basic muffins in Joy of Cooking, then went wild

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs ( or ½ cup egg substitute)
1 cup canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup sour cream or plain yogurt (Almond milk yogurt can be found now)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 oz. softened cream cheese (cashew based cream cheese is delicious)
4 oz. ricotta cheese (Kite Hill almond milk ricotta is wonderful!)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Sparkling sugar (sanding sugar) for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease and flour (or use baking spray) one 12- cup muffin tin. Set aside.

In a large bowl or on a large sheet of waxed paper, measure out all of the dry ingredients and spices: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, nutmeg. Mix together with a fork. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, pumpkin, oil, applesauce, brown sugar, molasses, yogurt and vanilla.

Put the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture bowl. With as few strokes as possible, combine the wet and dry ingredients. Do not over mix

In a small bowl, stir the cream cheese, ricotta cheese and sugar together until thoroughly mixed.
Fill the muffin cups about one third full with the batter, then, dollop on about a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half of the filling, then top the filling with more batter, dividing evenly among the cups. Sprinkle the tops with sparkling sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven 20 – 25 minutes, or until muffins spring back when the center is gently pressed. Filling may peek through. That's O.K.

Makes 12.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Fruit Salad and Funerals

This past week I've been with family in the Denver area laying my oldest brother to rest. He's the second sibling to go, but since he is the oldest I'm now closer to the 'top' of the sibling group. It gives one pause. How many more years do I have on this earth? What will I leave behind?

Jim was very involved in a group called SHARE and he has been an organizer and presenter over the years. They have large conferences twice a year and I learned at Jim's wake that one of his legacies is that he created the system that they use for organizing everything about the conferences and that they will likely use that system for many years to come. I had no idea. It's meaningful to know that something he cared about will continue on.

Of course his most wonderful legacy, in my opinion, is his family. His wife is a treasure and his three sons are good and kind men and a credit to their parents. He was very proud of them and of his grandchildren who are grown, three independent, smart and beautiful women. The youngest grandchild still has some growing to do before we can see how he will turn out, but he is a delightful little boy. It was good to spend time with Jim's family.

It was also really good to spend quality time with all my living siblings and with many of their children. We shared stories about the past and learned more about the lives at present of these people who are dear to my heart. Along with the grieving there was laughter and adult beverages...a typical Irish wake.

Jim was my guest blogger, called NoHandle, and you can see his posts here for curry, and here for Banofee Pie, and here for corned beef, and here for chocolate chip cookie comparisons. One of my favorite is here for Pfeffernuesse cookies. Then there is the post for a lazy baker's pizza here. The one that his SHARE compatriots mentioned at the wake is for racing cherries here. Apparently there were numerous experiments to see what fruit had the specific gravity to work. Well NoHandle, you have left a nice food legacy, too.

For the lunch after his burial, I took care of getting everything set up, plus I made a veggie tray and a bowl of fruit. Lots of other foods were served, but many were from Costco or otherwise pre-made. I enjoy making fruit salad. This one had watermelon, apples, mandarins, raspberries, and bananas. The watermelon took the most prep time, followed by the mandarins, but it's a pretty fast collection of fruit and a nice thing to have when many of the other offerings are fatty, salty or processed (or all three in the case of Kettle chips!).

Fruit Salad for Jim

1 small seedless watermelon
3-4 apples
6-8 mandarin oranges
1 pint fresh raspberries
3-4 bananas

Slice the watermelon into rings about two inches thick. Remove the rind and cut the flesh into bite sized chunks. Put into a large bowl.
Cut the apple off the core, leaving the stem and blossom end with the core. Cut into bite sized pieces. Toss in a mixture of citrus juice and water to keep them from browning (I used the juice from a couple pieces of mandarin and some water, mixed). Drain and add to the watermelon.
Peel the mandarin oranges and separate into segments. Add to the watermelon and other fruit.
Rinse and dry the raspberries and add to the watermelon and other fruit.
Peel the bananas and slice. Toss in a mixture of citrus juice and water to keep them from browning (I used the juice from a couple pieces of mandarin and some water, mixed). Drain and add to the watermelon mixture.
Gently toss the fruit together to distribute fairly evenly, then chill until ready to eat.

You can, of course, add other fruits like grapes, blueberries, pineapple, etc.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Bread Baking Babes Year in Bread

2019 was a good year for baking bread with the Bread Baking Babes, although I had the challenge of baking while Sweetie was dieting and asking me not to bake bread!

Here, for your pleasure, are breads baked and links to the recipes, usually on my blog but sometimes on the blog of the Kitchen of the Month.

January started things off with Elizabeth's whimsically named Elbow-lick Sandwich Bread. This delicious bread had sweet potatoes and cooked onions in it. Great for sandwiches and with soup.

February was inspired by the Great British Baking Show and Chelsea buns. Mine were shaped into a heart shape...for Valentine's Day, natch.

For March our challenge bread was a Moroccan flatbread Ksra. Mine was a bit off course from the recipe, but very tasty with some pasta.

April brought a lovely Easter bread. "The Ciambella Mandorlata is an Italian Easter bread that originated in Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region. It is typically baked in the shape of a ring which is supposed to represent the unity of the family." It is basically a brioche type bread with lots of butter and eggs. Most of the sweetness comes from the topping and even that isn't very sweet, so this is a primarily breakfast bread but I think that that you can eat anytime of day with enjoyment. It had some fun shaping, too.

May brought a Multigrain Sourdough Sandwich Loaf, which was a challenge for me because I had to make new sourdough starter (having let my previous starter go when Sweetie started his weight loss) Be sure to allow a few days to create your starter before beginning the bread. If you do, you'll have starter for lots more sourdough breads over time.

June let me use the sourdough starter again.  This fantastic bread was Rosemary Raisin Sourdough. This was an easy bread to work with.  I think the part I like best is the combination of the sweet golden raisins and the zingy fresh rosemary.

July was more free form than usual with no Kitchen of the Month. We could choose a past July bread to bake, so I chose Panmarino. With a huge rosemary shrub on the property, it's easy to enjoy recipes using fresh rosemary and this bread is a winner.

August always has sunshine around here and we baked a bread shaped like the sun.  The Sourdough Sunshine Loaf takes a little more time than a simple bread but it is worth it.

September's bread was a pull apart loaf with garlic and cheese. I passed because can't do cheese and post-surgery digestion didn't welcome garlic. The Babes who baked the bread liked it alot!

October brought apples, as October often does. In this case it was Apple Bread with Cider and Calvados. A keeper!

November's  Danish Crown could be savory with hearty onions or it could be sweet and ready for the holidays with dried fruit, which is the way I did it. Sweetie liked this the best of most of the breads I baked this year. It looks dramatic, but is pretty easy to do.

December I was Kitchen of the Month and I chose the perfect pastry for Christmas morning, a Kringle, American version. I give two versions; King Arthur Flour's Butter Pecan version with caramel sauce and the one I love, a Raspberry and Marzipan version. Either one is a great way to end the year.

It's been a good year with the Bread Baking Babes. If you like these, follow the link and give them a try. Each month we bake and post on the 16th. If you bake that month's bread by the 29th and contact the Kitchen of the Month, you will receive a Buddy Badge and a place in the round-up. Happy Baking!