Friday, August 07, 2020

Super Cinnamon Crumble-Topped Apple Pie

The Gravenstein apples are ripe and Sweetie and Raine picked a bucketful yesterday. Pie was promised. There is nothing quite like a Gravenstein apple pie. The apples cook down and become soft and moist and so delicious. They are the perfect balance of sweet and tart. We decided to use a crumble topping instead of a top crust.

This is really Raine's pie. I did peel and slice some apples and assist with advice, but Raine did all the work, including picking most of the apples, peeling and slicing the rest of the apples, rolling out the pie crust, measuring and mixing up the filling...including lots of cinnamon!...and measuring and putting the topping ingredients together, plus assembling the pie. Since we both really, really like cinnamon, we agreed that he could put extra into the filling and the topping, so it's a super cinnamon pie.

For the filling we used my Mom's apple pie recipe in the Classic Comfort Food cookbook, with a bit of brown sugar added, but not too much. She would usually do a two crust pie and would usually make her own pie dough, but this time our attention was on the crumble topping. For the bottom crust we used Pillsbury Ready Crust and we based the topping on a recipe we found online from Bon Appetit. We made enough changes that I'm calling this Raine's Apple Pie.

The crust is buttery, the apples sweet-tart and soft with some cinnamon and the topping is crunchy and rich and full of cinnamon flavor. A slice with some vanilla ice cream and you'll be glad that the Gravensteins have arrived.

No Gravenstein apples where you live? Substitute another favorite apple. Some good ones, although the texture will be different, are Granny Smith, Jonagold, and Honeycrisp.

Raine's Apple Pie

1 - Ready Crust pre-rolled dough for 1 crust (or your favorite pie dough for 1 crust)

6-7 cups (about 3 1/2 pounds) Gravenstein or other good pie apples, peeled and sliced, core and seeds removed
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (we used Penzey's Vietnamese Cinnamon)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1-2 Tablespoons soft butter, in small lumps
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons butter, cold, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a lightly floured work surface roll out the crust gently so that the crust will fill a 9-inch pie plate with an overhang of at least an inch all around. Fit into pie pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl toss the apples with the 2 Tablespoons flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon,and the 2 Tablespoons brown sugar until thoroughly coated and mixed. Put apple mixture into prepared pan and dot with the butter lumps. Set aside.

In  a medium bowl mix together the flour, brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt. Use a pastry cutter to cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until it looks like we sand. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Take a handful of the flour/butter mixture and squeeze lightly to make clumps. Distribute the clumps, which may come apart a bit as you distribute, over the top of the apple filling, completely covering the apples. Use all of the topping mixture.

Fold the extra dough up and over the filling and topping, pleating the crust as needed, giving a little pinch now and then to help it stay pleated.

Bake pie in the preheated 450 degree F oven for 10 (ten!) minues. Then reduce the oven temperature to 350 and continue to bake for another 35-40 minutes. Crust will be golden brown. It's a good idea to check on the pie about 10 minutes before it might be done and to tent the top with aluminum foil if the topping is browning too fast. I forgot to do that part, so some of the topping got a bit burnt...but it still tasted great.

Let finished pie cool on a wire rack until thoroughly cool. Serve in wedges with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side if you are feeling decadent.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Amazing Chocolate Cookie

As the pandemic continues, so does my perusal of old Bon Appetit magazines. About a week ago I was looking at an issue from 2001 and I came across an ad from Baker's chocolate that had a wonderful looking recipe for intensely chocolate cookies, which they called Death by Chocolate. Even though I had to translate the recipe a bit for another brand of chocolate which I had on hand, I knew it would be an outstanding cookie...and it was.

This is a moist, deeply chocolate drop cookie with walnuts. It's oversized and has chunks of chocolate that are still melted if you eat the cookies while still a bit warm. I had made up the batter in advance and baked up a dozen of these babies yesterday with my sous chef Raine. I scooped out the dough (still pretty firm from being in the fridge) and he made them into dough balls by rolling them in his palms. The second batch were flattened a bit after being put on the foil-lined baking sheet (we baked six at a time in my counter-top convection oven) because the first, round, batch were too tall. Since it was a new recipe I wasn't sure if they would spread, but they really don't.

Do make these if you really, really love chocolate and cookies! You could probably leave out the nuts but I love nuts and think they really add a great element to these cookies. Oh, yes, these cookies are made in one bowl and mixed by hand. Kinda old school, but less to clean up.

Death By Chocolate Cookies
based on a Baker's Chocolate recipe

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I use Scharfenberger but use your favorite quality chocolate)
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chunks or chips - chunks are better
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 cups chopped walnuts (optional) - I used 1 cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Chop the 8 oz of bittersweet chocolate. In a large microwavable bowl, melt the chocolate on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir with a heatproof spatula (I use a small silicone one), then microwave again for another minute. Stir until smooth and completely melted.

Add the butter and brown sugar and stir to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir to combine.

In a medium bowl whisk or stir together the flour, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt. Add the mixture to the chocolate mixture and stir just until combined.

Stir in the chunks or chips of semisweet chocolate and the walnuts if using. Stir thoroughly to combine. (At this point I refrigerated the mixture in a closed container for 4 days.)

Drop by 1/4 cupfuls or make similar sized balls of chilled dough onto lightly greased foil lined cookie sheets. Leave about an inch between dough mounds.  Flatten a bit.

Bake in preheated oven for 12-13 minutes. Cookies will be puffed and feel set to the touch. Cool for 1 minute on the sheet, then move to a wire cooling rack to cool completely...or as long as you can stand...they smell really good! Makes about 1 1/2 dozen (18) cookies.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

The Essence of Summer in a Sandwich

The first tomatoes are ripe! Started from seed in the early spring, planted with care in April, watered frequently and fertilized a few times, the bushes are full of tomatoes at all stages of development. It's been a while but the wait is worth it.

One of the first things I make with fresh, first of summer, home-grown tomatoes is the classic BLT sandwich. Good bacon is cooked until crisp, leaf lettuce is washed and dried, good bread is toasted, mayo and pepper are at the ready and I slice that first tomato with nice, thick slices. I only put mayo on the bottom slice of toast, followed by the tomato slices, some salt needed because of the bacon..., the bacon, the lettuce and the top slice of toast. It's a thing of beauty and a nice, juicy lunch, full of the flavors of summer.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Carrot Salad and New Blogger

First, about the new Blogger...I'm not sure that I can stand learning this new version. I had to revert to the old version to do this post since I couldn't figure out how to do a new post! It may be that when using the old version goes away in late August that new posts will go away, too. The already written posts will stay up, but who knows if I have the bandwidth to learn the new version by then. I'm currently learning the ins and outs of Zoom so that I can be a host for two of my P.E.O. scholarship groups when they need to meet. That may end up being all the learning of tech stuff that I can handle. It's been a great run on Blogger...since fall of 2006! Fourteen years is probably enough.

Still, I have until late August to learn the new version, so maybe I'll keep going...come back in late August and find out.

Today the recipe is a lovely Shredded Carrot Salad with Orange and Pine Nuts. It's from the cookbook of Michael Volpatt, co-founder of Big Bottom Market in Sonoma County. I found it one Wednesday in June in the food section of the Press Democrat. That section of the paper has improved so much during the pandemic! Not sure why, but happy that they are concentrating less on wine and more on food.

This refreshing carrot salad makes 6 servings as a side dish and is a great, fresh dish to go with barbequed foods so ubiquitous in summer. If I were to make it for the rest of the year I think I would add some spices.  It keeps for a couple of days, too, so make the full recipe and you'll have leftovers for a nice lunch salad.

I used a bunch of organic carrots from the market that came with tops. I cut off the tops and fed them to the sheep. The carrots themselves were washed and rubbed to remove dirt, and then the top part that was greenish and the tail ends were trimmed before I shredded them all in the food processor.

Before I juiced the lemon, I made zest strips from the peel and added about two teaspoons of them because zest always brightens up dishes. I really enjoyed the citrus zing of the combined juices and the crunch of the carrots and nuttiness of the pine nuts... may have used more than 1/4 cup since I love pine nuts! This salad goes with lots of other foods. Give it a try!

Shredded Carrot Salad with Orange and Pine Nuts

1 1/2 pounds of carrots, cleaned, tops removed, shredded
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt

Prepare the carrots by cleaning, peeling if desired, removing the tops and tails and shredding. You should have about 4 cups. A food processor works well for shredding this many carrots.

Place the shredded carrots in a bowl with the orange, lemon, (lemon zest, too, if using), and salt. Allow to marinate 10-30 minutes, stirring once.

Dry toast the pine nuts in a heavy frying pan, or heat the olive oil and saute the pine nuts, stirring constantly, until golden. Just before serving, toss the nuts with the carrots.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Lentil Salad For Hot Weather

Mid-July is a good time to beef up the recipe list for warm weather. Although we are having morning fog now, so no heat wave, I know that hot weather will be coming in the weeks and months to come.

A really great dish to have on hand is lentil salad. It's great at room temperature by itself, or layered over salad greens and tomatoes as I did yesterday for lunch, or folded into a stuffing for zucchini or bell peppers, along with rice or quinoa and some extra seasonings.

You start by cooking rinsed lentils in water, with the addition of onion, bay leaf, and pepper. Once cooked just until tender, you mix the drained lentils with red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings. I like to add the lentils while they are still warm because I think that helps with them soaking up the dressing. I also like to stir the mixture about every hour for a few hours and then cover the salad and let it sit on the counter overnight. This allows the flavors to meld nicely.

Although I did cook the lentils with a ham hock, you can also make them without it and then it's a vegan dish. The recipe calls for bacon, too, but I skipped it and didn't miss it a bit.

Do try this great summertime dish. It's perfect for a picnic since it doesn't need refrigeration. It supplies protein and lots of fiber and plenty of flavor. Enjoy!

Lentil Salad
based on a recipe by Alton Brown

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
(the above three ingredients can be replaced with 1/2 cup red wine vinegar)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt (kosher salt if you have it)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (freshly ground is best)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 recipe Basic Cooked Lentils (see recipe below)
2 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, cooled, and crumbled (or more, to taste - optional)

Whisk the vinegars, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, salt, pepper, parsley and thyme together in a large mixing bowl. Add the warm lentils and bacon and stir to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature. If you will be serving this much later, save the bacon in a zip-lock bag and add it 1/2 hour or so before serving. (That way the bacon stays crisp.)

Basic Cooked Lentils
1 pound brown or green lentils, approximately 2 1/2 cups
1 small onion, halved
1 large clove garlic, halved
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 pound salt pork, optional
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pick over the lentils, rinse and drain. Place the lentils along with the onion, garlic, bay leaf, salt and pork into a large 6-quart saucepan and cover with water by 2 to 3 inches. Place over high heat and bring just to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid and discard the onion, garlic, bay leaf and salt pork. Stir in black pepper and taste for salt. Serve immediately or use in Lentil Salad.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Torpedo Rolls With The Babes

July is always a challenging time to be a Bread Baking Babe because there are usually hot spells that make it unlikely that I'm going to be all jolly about heating up my kitchen to bake bread. This month was no exception, but fortunately I found a brief window with cooler temperatures and made the bread. It did mean that I used the fridge some to get the timing right and I baked the rolls in the evening when it had cooled down some. Sweetie ate one while it was barely warm...I think it was about 10 pm...and he pronounced it delicious.

Our Kitchen of the Month, Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories, chose delicious Mexican Sourdough Rolls, or Birotes Salados, for our July bread.

She says," Birotes Salados are Guadalajaran, or Tapatio, which is what Guadalajarans call themselves. The bread is used for Tortas Ahogadas, which are sandwiches made with carnitas, pickled onions, refried beans, and two sauces, one for spicing things up, and one for drowning/dunking the entire sandwich."

You start with some sourdough starter (if you don't already have one, you can create your own first - with the pandemic, there are lots of places on the internet to find out how to do that...just Google sourdough starter!), make an expanded starter, then use a portion of that for the actual dough. I used the remainder of the expanded starter the next day to make sourdough waffles and they were delicious!

Back to the rolls. These have beer as well as the sourdough starter. I used Corona because that's what we had on hand. With the pandemic we have tried to use what's on hand as much as possible since most grocery shopping is being done by our kind neighbors.

 It's kinda fun to make the dough because you mix it up with your hands, squishing the more solid and the more liquid elements together...sort of like making mud pies as a kid, and then do the stretch and fold, returning the dough ball to the bowl a few times, with spaces of time in between. Eventually you will see the dough turn into a smooth mass.

Karen has a suggested timeline. The rolls take 20-30 minutes to bake. Here is the rest:
10:00 am - Feed your starter to wake it up. If your starter is already very active, you can skip this step.

8:00 pm - Prepare the final feed of your starter and let it rest at room temperature overnight.

Day 2:
8:00 am - Mix and knead your final dough, including a few stretches and folds.
9:15 am - Let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled.
11:15 am - Shape the rolls and let them proof until puffy.
12:30 pm - Score and bake the rolls.

Of course this is an approximate timeline since the conditions in your kitchen/home can make it take longer or, a bit, shorter. If you use the fridge to store the dough between any one of the steps it will take longer but you'll be able to heat up the oven and bake when it is least likely to overheat your home.

I really enjoyed these rolls, although I didn't make the traditional sandwiches. The crumb was somewhat airy and mine were nicely moist, but not too moist. Because I was baking them on a preheated baking stone with an overturned foil roasting pan over to create a mini-oven, I had to bake these in my regular oven, unlike what I bake in my counter top high-end convection oven. I rarely get a good crust or deep brown color in my big oven unless I dry things out, so my rolls weren't as crusty nor brown as I would like, but that meant that they weren't bone dry, nor did they need to be dunked, either.

I filled them with pulled pork and coleslaw...non traditional but delicious. The rolls also were fine split and toasted and spread with non-dairy butter. I liked the slight saltiness of them, too.

If you'd like to be a Buddy, bake these and post about them by July 29th, then send Karen an email with a short description of your bake and a photo. She'll send you a badge.

Be sure to check out the other Babes to see what their birotes look like. Stay safe and healthy!

Birotes Salados - Mexican Sourdough Rolls

Wake Up Feed for Your Starter

200 grams (7 ounces) sourdough starter. Because you will be feeding it twice, it doesn't matter what hydration it is to begin with.
200 grams (1 1/2 cups) all-purposed flour
120 grams (1/2 cup) lukewarm water (90 degrees F)

Mix the "wake up feed" in a clean bowl with your fingers, cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel, and let ferment for 8 to 10 hours.

Final Feed

20 grams (1 tablespoon) of the "wake up feed"
270 grams (2 cups plus 1 tablespoon) of all-purpose flour
175 grams (3/4 cup) Mexican lager beer (I used Modelo)

Mix the final feed ingredients with your hand until well incorporated. Cover and let ferment at room temperature for 12 hours.

Final Dough

430 grams (3 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
20 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) granulated sugar
18 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon) salt
All of the starter
212 grams (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) water

Extra flour for dusting

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl or dough rising bucket. Divide the starter into small pieces and add it to the dry ingredients. Add the water and blend everything together with your hands. "Stir, squeeze, and pinch" the dough ingredients together until the dough comes together. You can use your dough scraper to help incorporate everything. This process should take about 2 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and stretch, fold, and flip the dough about 5 times.

Form the dough into a rough ball and place it back into the bowl. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

Lightly flour your work surface and place the dough, seam side up, onto the surface. Gently flatten the dough into a 2 inch thick circle. Stretch and fold the dough from all four "sides."

Flip the dough over and form it into a ball, return it to the bowl, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Repeat the stretch-and-fold process three more times at 15 minute intervals.

After the final stretch and fold, place the dough back into the bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, until doubled.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface with the smooth side down. Gently flatten until the dough is about 2 inches thick. Gently stretch and fold one side of the dough about half way over the dough. Turn the dough, and repeat from all four "sides."

Flip the dough over, seam side down, and form the dough into a ball.

Return the ball to the bowl, seam side up, and cover until doubled, about an hour.

Lightly flour your work surface.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces, about 150 grams each. Form each piece into a ball. Press each ball into a rough rectangle and then fold fold each "side" over each other to create a cylinder. Using your hands, roll each cylinder back and forth until you have an eight inch long roll with tapered ends.

Heat your oven to 475 degrees F with a baking stone and steam pan.

Place the rolls, seam side up, side-by-side lengthwise, between the folds of a couche or flour dusted tea towel to proof. Cover with plastic wrap or another towel for about 60 to 90 minutes, until puffy and airy, but not doubled.

You will probably need to bake these in two batches unless you have two ovens.

Place the risen rolls onto parchment paper on top of a pizza peel, seam side down with space in between. Add 2 cups of boiling water to your steam pan and close the oven door to let it get steamy.

Score the rolls with a sharp knife or lame the length of the roll down the center with the blade at an angle.

Place the loaves on the stone, along with the parchment, and close the oven door. If you like, you can also spray the oven with more water to get it extra steamy.

Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees F and bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes. They should be deep golden brown and hollow sounding.

Cool on a wire rack. Repeat with the rest of the rolls.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Roasted Veggies with a Marinade

It's just crazy to make roasted veggies when it's so hot, but I did last week when it was cooler here. During the summer there are just so many wonderful things to roast. I suppose you could also marinate these and then put them on the grill. Just be careful with the mushrooms and asparagus if you grill them because they dry out so easily and are then not terribly appetizing. It may be a bit crazy to make these during a heat spell, but they are a delightful thing to eat when it's hot. We served them at room temperature and that was perfect.

You can use any mixture of vegetables that appeals to you. I used some of the yellow summer squash and the zucchini that are starting to be ready to harvest in our garden, plus veggies from the market including sweet onion, asparagus, whole mushrooms, and a mixture of red, orange and yellow peppers. The marinade includes balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, mustard, herbs and spices. The easiest way to marinade them is to put the prepared veggies into gallon ziploc bags with the marinade, then turn them a few times so that they are fully marinated in the delicious, aromatic mixture.

A key thing when roasting...and to keep the vegetables in a single layer and not too close together. A little room between pieces will let the heat circulate nicely so that you get that delicious browning. These can be served warm or at room temperature. Any leftovers are even better the next day as is, or folded into an omelette, into pasta or a pasta salad, or into rice.

Sweetie and I are doing fine, staying home most of the time although we take the dog into town to walk him near the Laguna, and trying to enjoy The Pause, as my brother calls the pandemic. Hope that y'all are staying safe and healthy!

Marinade for Vegetables for Roasting or Grilling

1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon style mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, minced

Place all ingredients into a jar with a tightly fitting lid. Secure lid and then shake briskly until well mixed. Use as marinade for prepared vegetables. Place vegetables in a Ziploc bag, add marinade and seal bag. Shake bag gently to coat vegetables. Lay flat. After 1/2 hour, turn bag over. Lay flat. Repeat another few times. Remove vegetables from marinade before roasting in a 425 degree oven or on a hot grill until cooked through and with brown spots here and there. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, July 03, 2020

4th of July

My Dad served in the Navy during World War II as a captain. Now he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery and flags will be placed by each headstone in honor of our nation's birthday, July 4th.

When I was little it was an exciting day. We always had 'safe and sane' fireworks, starting during the day with the 'snakes' which were pellets that we lit with a match. As they burned, they left a snake shape of exploded ash. Then we would stomp on the snakes and they just became ugly dark marks on the sidewalk which we washed away with the garden hose.

There was usually a special cookout dinner with burgers or hot dogs, potato salad, and often strawberry shortcake for dessert. Once it was dark we had sparklers, hand held, which we waved around. My Dad always prepared for fireworks by having buckets of sand and water. The used sparklers went into the sand and the water was in case we had to put out small fires.

My favorite firework, besides sparklers, was the fountains. Once lit, they shot a fountain shape of sparks...WHOOSH....up into the air and the sparks had different colors.

Most of the time that I've been with Sweetie we have had dogs. Dogs are not happy with fireworks and sometimes are downright frightened by the noise. So, for a long time, July 4th has not included any fireworks and we play music and keep the windows shut to drown out as much noise as possible from the fireworks shows put on the the surrounding cities. Just to make it more interesting, the city closest to us has their show on the 3rd and two others nearby have theirs on the 4th, so two nights are spent shut up in the house, calming the dog.

This year it will be different. Due to the pandemic, none of the cities are having shows. There are still folks shooting off illegal fireworks in the neighborhoods, but the worry there is fire, not noise. It's dry enough now that even a small fire could spread. Unfortunately people are so upset about not having big shows (or perhaps they are just bored by having to stay home during the pandemic?) that they have already begun fireworks out and about and the fire departments have had their hands full.

For myself, I'll think of my Dad on the 4th of July, and I'll think of my siblings and the fun we had in the backyard with fireflies flitting around us as we celebrated...and got to stay up late! I'll be grateful that I live in a country that protects freedom of speech, even as I hope that we will progress so that there is less to protest. I love my country, even with all it's imperfections. Just like people, wouldn't it be boring if it were perfect?

If you are from the U.S.A. or just a fan, hope you have a happy, safe, and quiet 4th of July! Please stay home, practice social distancing and cover your nose and mouth so that we can have fewer folks sick in the coming months and fewer deaths. If you can find good strawberries, have some will seem sweet.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Fruit Basket Coffee Cake

Summer certainly brings lots of kinds of fruit. Right now we have ripe peaches, luscious dark cherries, olallieberries right off the vine, and raspberries, plus green grapes and some plums that are almost ripe which are turning a lovely shade of red-gold on the tree down the hill. The plums and olallieberries are the only local fruit, but the cherries, peaches and raspberries are certainly seasonal.

Yesterday I made a lovely coffee cake to showcase the peaches, cherries, olallieberries and raspberries. It's a variation of the Nectarine Cake in Lauren Chattman's Cake Keeper Cakes book, one of the great cookbooks we baked from during my time with the Cake Slice Bakers.

I made one and a half times the cake batter because the original recipe only makes a thin layer of cake and I wanted one thick enough to absorb all the fruit juices. I also added some almond extract, while keeping the vanilla extract. For the topping I used brown sugar, pecans and ground nutmeg instead of white sugar and cinnamon...they recipe gave two choices for nuts and pecans were one of them.

I baked it in a nine-inch springform pan instead of a ten-inch one. Because I had such a wonderful choice of fruits, I used cherry halves around the outer edge, then peach slices, then olallieberries and raspberries in the middle.

Do watch this cake because the nuts might get too brown...just tent with foil if that happens. Because  the batter is deeper than the original, it took a while to bake, but came out moist with a nice crumb and browned crust. We actually enjoyed this cake for dinner dessert, so I served it with soy vanilla ice cream and that was a great choice. Sweetie added some whipped cream to his, and you can always add extra prepared fresh fruit.

I've never been a big fan of summer, but sitting outside for dinner because it's still warm by 7 o'clock makes summer a bit easier to take. All of the beautiful flowers that are blooming in the garden also are a benefit of summer. Too bad it gets so hot!

Do try this cake, especially if you have some ripe fruit on hand. You can use all one kind of fruit or two kinds, or three if four is too much. With most kinds of fruit, push them down into the batter a bit to allow the juices to soak into the cake. Enjoy!

Fruit Basket Cake with Nutmeg Nut Topping
based on Nectarine Cake in Lauren Chattman's Cake Keep Cakes
serves 8-10

For the Topping:
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

For the Cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 6 oz.), unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine, softened
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups assorted stone fruit and/or berries or one kind or fruit, ripe - peel plums or peaches and pit them, pit cherries, pit nectarines or apricots, wash and dry berries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the insides of a springform pan, 9-inch or 10-inch preferred.

Combine the brown sugar, nutmeg and chopped nuts in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl or on a sheet of waxed paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape bowl and beaters as needed.

With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, beating to combine the eggs with the butter mixture after each addition. Scrape bowl and beaters as needed.

Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. With mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, a 1/2 cup at a time. Scrape bowl and beaters as needed and at the end. Use scraper to give batter a final stir to make sure all is combined.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top of the batter. Carefully place the prepared fruit, pushing down a bit into the batter. If using more than one kind of fruit, you can create a pattern.

Sprinkle with the topping. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides, unhinge the springform and cool cake on wire rack until tepid. Remove from the springform bottom and place on a serving plate.

Serve with more fruit, ice cream, whip cream or just as is.

Store uneaten cake, if any, in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Future Squash

We have been getting some nice zucchini squash for a few weeks now. I also planted some winter squash - butternut and delicata. This morning I finally saw a bloom on a squash blossom for the delicata. The color is paler than the zucchini blossoms and somehow it looks more delicate, too. This one is a male blossom, but I expect a female blossom soon. Have never been able to grow delicata squash before...the young plants always died or were eaten by I'm excited to see how they grow.

Have been grilling the zucchini and making my favorite pasta sauce. HERE is the link to the recipe. The nice thing about this sauce is that you can skip any meat and add about 8 oz. mushrooms to the sauce and have a really nice vegetarian version. The wonderful thing about the summer squash is that it soaks up the flavors of the herbs (and mushrooms if using) so you can cook it for a short time and have the flavors of a sauce that gets simmered for a long time over low heat. That's really nice in summer...less use of the stove means a cooler kitchen!

Friday, June 19, 2020

The French Toast...

My last post was of the Bee Keeper's Loaf. I knew that it would make stellar French Toast and it did! Served it with freshly picked olallieberries and some raspberries from the market, plus a syrup made from more of the freshly picked (literally 1/2 hour before, down the driveway near the road...the heat had ripened many, many olallieberries!) berries. It was very, very good French Toast!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Babes Bake Bee Keeper Loaf

In the middle of the week for each of the last three or four weeks we've had a heat wave. Even the days that are not super hot aren't really what we expect them to be like, here in the North Bay. Most summers we have a lot of fog and the chill that fog brings and a few hours of sun in the middle of the day and not much rain...often no rain after April. This year we've had some rain each month, thunderstorms (which used to be rare), and this warm to hot weather. At least there isn't much of the mugginess that I disliked as a child, growing up in Northern Virginia. Still, I would be happy with the usual fog.

Heat waves don't inspire me to bake, so little of that has been going on. I did bake some brownies from a mix on Friday but I added small chunks of bittersweet chocolate to make them more interesting. They were a tea treat from a good friend who loves chocolate. She and I sat far enough apart to qualify as social distancing and we consumed a lot of tea and a few of those brownies.

On Sunday it was cool enough to bake but I was tired from painting the floor in the farm house office, so all I did was start the biga for the Bread Baking Babes amazing June bread, brought to us by Tanna of My Kitchen In Half Cups. It's called Bee Keeper's Pain de Mie and it uses a good amount of honey! If you are adventurous you can also steep lavender, camomile or both in the warm milk that you mix the honey into. I had some really, really nice raw blackberry honey, so I skipped the herbs so that I could taste the honey.

This is one of those recipes that requires you to think and act ahead. You start both the biga and the milk mixture 12 to 18 hours before mixing the full dough. It's also fun because you use a pullman loaf pan (or you engineer something that works like a pullman pan...using bricks!) Of course that would be if you were baking in a regular size oven that allows space for both the loaf pan and bricks. Unfortunately, with the heat, I baked the loaf in my toaster oven so I didn't try for a pullman style, just a regular loaf. I also found that it was very slow to rise. That meant in my case that by bedtime it still hadn't risen enough, so I put the pan and dough into the fridge overnight, then let it sit at room temperature in the morning to finish rising. I only made one loaf since it's just the two of us. Sweetie really liked this bread, especially the buttery quality of it.

This dough browns easily. I actually burned part of the top crust on my loaf by not watching it as it baked. Perhaps baking in the toaster oven didn't allow sufficient space between the top of the loaf and the top of the oven. In the end, I turned the oven down to 325 degrees F for the last 5 minutes.

This is a lovely bread, soft and moist and very buttery. It is only slightly sweet and you taste a hint of sweetness, not the honey itself. I used a fairly strongly flavored blackberry honey, so it's interesting that not much honey flavor remains.

I think this will make wonderful French toast, regular toast, grilled sandwiches, etc. It's just as it it or with a bit of butter spread on it. The crumb is delightful. The crust is pretty thin, but that's OK. Do try this one yourself...just remember to start it the day before you want to bake it.

If you' like to be a Buddy, bake the bread, send an email to Tanna with a photo and a short note about your baking experience with this bread. She'll send you a Buddy badge. Do this by June 29th! Please use BBB Buddy w Bee Keeper’s Pain De Mis as the subject line.

Do visit other Bread Baking Babes sites to see how they baked the bee keeper's bread.

Bee Keeper's Pain de Mie
Martin Philip's book Breaking Bread: A Baker's Journey Home in 75 Recipes
Breaking Bread - 
two 9X5 pullman pans


410 grams durum flour

410 grams AP flour

352 grams water
172 grams wildflower tea (lavender) 
17 grams salt, fine
16 grams yeast
123 grams butter


******** BIGA******** 

410 grams AP flour  (205 grams for 1 loaf)

246 grams water (123 grams for 1 loaf)

pinch yeast


170 grams milk (85 grams soy creamer for 1 loaf)
35 grams honey (subtracted 57 grams sugar, increased honey) (18 grams honey)
4 grams lavender  (omit)
2 grams chamomile flowers (omit)

******** FINAL DOUGH FORMULA********
172  grams wildflower tea (86 grams for 1 loaf)
656  grams Biga (all above) (328 grams Biga for 1 loaf)
106 grams water  (53 grams water for 1 loaf)
410 grams Durum flour or Bread flour   (205 grams bread flour for 1 loaf)
123  grams butter   (62 grams non-dairy butter for 1 loaf)
17 grams salt, fine  (9 grams salt, fine, for 1 loaf)
16 grams yeast   (8 grams yeast for 1 loaf)



Combine the flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl. 
Add tepid water (75-80°).  Mix briefly, then knead until a smooth dough forms.
Cover and set at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours.

WILDFLOWER LAVENDER TEA ~ I have not used the chamomile and lavender. I wanted to try it with just the honey the first time.

Combine milk, honey in a small pot.
Over low heat, warm the mixture so the honey mixes into the milk.
When there are small bubbles around the edges add the chamomile and lavender if using.
Turn off the heat.
Cover and allow to set at room temperature 12 to 16 hours.
Strain before using.
Warm the tea to 80° when ready to use.

DAY TWO FINAL DOUGH ~ I used a stiff spatula to break up the biga, then my hands, and did all the rest of the mixing with my hands. 
Ending desired dough temperature: 80°.
Combine strained Tea, all the BIGA and the water.
Mix until the biga is broken up.
Add very soft butter, flour, salt and yeast.
Stir until the dough forms a shaggy mass.
Resist the urge to add more flour.

Cover and allow to rise for about 90 minutes.

Fold after 30 and 60 minutes; then leave untouched until divide.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces which will weight approximately 750 grams each. (Piece for 1 loaf will be about 750 grams.)
Pre-shape as tubes. Cover and rest 15 minutes.

Butter or spray two (one) loaf pans or two 9x5 inch pullman pans.
Shape as pan loaves.
With the long side facing you, fold the bottom third of the dough up to the center and the top third over (like a business letter). Fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand.
Place in pans seam side down. Press dough into pans to evenly fill to all corners.

For loaf pans: Cover and proof until dough is about 1 to 1.5 inches above top of pan: about 60 - 90 minutes. (Mine took so long that I ended up putting the pan with dough into the fridge overnight and baking it in the morning.

For pullman pans: Place the dough seam-down into the pan, and press it evenly into the corners. Put the lid on the pan and close all but an inch or so in order to monitor the loaf as it rises.
Allow the dough to rise until it's just below the lip of the pan, 60 to 90 minutes.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

If using a loaf pan, score the loaf in the middle. Put in the oven.

Close the lid of the pan completely, and put the pan in the oven.

Bake the bread for 20 then remove the lid and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. The loaf should be a deep golden brown on all sides.

Remove the loaf from the oven and, after 5 minutes, turn it out onto a rack to cool completely. Do not allow to cool in the pan as that will result in a soggy crust.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Peach Pie with a Twist

Sweetie loves pie. I think he has favorites, like banana cream pie, but he will eat any pie and he really enjoys doing so.

I'm more of a cake girl, but I really love peach pie. The flavor of peach pie reminds me of summer and since we have had summer heat the last few days, a peach pie was calling my name. It didn't hurt that yellow peaches were on sale at the market a few days ago. The first day we had the peaches I was just too hot to bake anything. I had been working down at the farmhouse, painting trim. Early in the afternoon it was just warm, but by mid-afternoon it was really hot. Fortunately our downstairs stays fairly cool if we open the windows at night and then close everything up in the morning. I retreated to the living room and skipped the baking.

The next day I baked the crust in the morning while it was cool and then did the fruit peeling and slicing and the filling making and putting it all together, plus baking, in the late afternoon when we had turned on the air conditioner. We try to only run it if the temperature outside is over 85 and since it was 90 out that qualified.

This is sort of a mash-up of a traditional peach pie and a frangipane tart. Sweetie really, really loved this one and I think you will, too. The frangipane gives a nice almond flavor that enhances the peaches and raspberries and baking the crust before filling it means that the bottom crust stays crisp. Of course it helps to watch the crust towards the end of blind baking to pull it out of the oven if it bakes too soon. I missed that part and so the crust was pretty brown on the edges even before baking the filling, so I masked the edges with foil during the final bake. I'll bet you can do better than me on that score.

My original plan was to have more raspberries but I discovered that many of them had spoiled, so I used the good ones in the center of the pie. I've resolved that the raspberries will now sit front and center in the fridge so that they get used in a timely manner, instead of being shoved toward the back and forgotten for a few days. The lessons we learn in the kitchen!

Peach and Raspberry Frangipane Pie
Serves 8

1 single pie crust, home made or purchased (I use Pillsbury ReadyCrust - 1/2 the package)
pie weights, parchment paper

Place the unbaked pie crust dough into a 9-inch pie pan and trim as needed, then flute edges or press down on edges with the tines of a fork. Place pie shell in freezer for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the rack in the center of the oven.

Remove pie shell from freezer. Place a circle of parchment paper inside the pie shell, having the parchment go up the sides of the shell. Fill with pie weights (I use lentils that I only use for being pie weights).

Bake for 25 minutes. Let crust cool. Remove the lentils and reserve for the next use. Remove the parchment and discard. Cool crust completely.

Prepare the frangipane filling:
3 tablespoons soft butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup almond flour or mixed nut flour
about 3 cups peach slices - used about 5-6 fresh peaches, peel them, remove the pit and slice

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the filling:  Beat together the butter, salt, sugar, flour, and almond extract.
Beat in the eggs, then add the almond flour, stirring just to combine.

To assemble the tart: Spread 1/3 the filling in the bottom of the crust. cover with peach slices, flat side down. Pour in the remaining filling and spread over the peach slices. Starting at the outer edge, place peach slices, thin edge down,pushing into the filling. Continue with more peach slices, until about half full. Fill in the remaining space to the center with raspberries, pointed side up, pushing down into the filling.

Bake the pie in the preheated 350 degree F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. Filling will puff up slightly around the fruit.  Cool slightly or completely before serving. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Lots of Bread Flour So Fougasse

My favorite neighbor ordered a super sized bag of Sir Lancelot flour from King Arthur Flours. Since the smaller sizes of flour were out of stock, he figured that we could share and we did. He is most generous. This particular bread flour has wheat flour, unbleached, but also barley flour. It's a great bread flour, so I wanted to make bread as soon as he brought the bag over and left it on the porch.

He made bagels. I made fougasse, a leaf shaped bread that is a bit like focaccia. My original plan had been to knead in some chopped walnuts in half the bread dough, and knead in chopped mixed herbs into the other half of the dough, but I ended up just using a pastry brush to brush the top of each lightly with olive oil and then sprinkling on chopped fresh rosemary and then a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Sweetie loved it that way!

This recipe makes four leaves, each about 10 inches on a side. Since the shape is a rough triangle, that gives you some idea of the size. I baked mine on parchment which was set on 12-inch pizza pans and that worked very well. You can also shape on parchment on a larger pan. You can shape it on parchment on a pizza peel, or, by adding some cornmeal under the dough to allow the dough to roll onto a pizza stone, shape it right on the peel. If not using a pan, bake on a preheated pizza stone.

I gave one loaf to a favorite relative for his birthday, and one loaf to the neighbor who gave me the lovely bread flour. Sweetie and I ate most of the first one on the day it was made, as part of our dinner. Our second one was baked four or five days later and enjoyed with a meal, too. Although this bread is delicious all by itself, it is also great dipped into a mixture of olive oil and good balsamic vinegar. Sort of gilding the lily, but so good.

You can bake the four loaves over time, or bake them all at once. I was using my toaster oven, so each baked by itself and two during each baking session seems right, but if you are using a full oven you may be able to bake all four at once. Just be sure to switch the pans out halfway through baking time...putting those on the top rack down and moving those on the lower rack up.

It's been pretty hot here for the last few days, so no baking going on at the moment, but I did enjoy local strawberries for the first time for breakfast. Stay safe and healthy dear reader.

 Fougasse with Rosemary and Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water (not hot), divided
2 cups bread flour, divided

Mix together 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast, 1 cup lukewarm water and 1 cup bread flour in a bowl. Cover lightly and let sit for 1 hour. Add an additional 1 cup lukewarm water and and additional cup bread flour and mix until all new ingredients are incorporated. Let sit for at least an hour for flavor (or refrigerate overnight, then bring to room temperature).

all of Preferment
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup water, divided
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 - 5.5 cups unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2-3 tablespoons olive oil from brushing
1-2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
1-2 tablespoons sea salt for sprinkling

In the bowl of a stand mixer place the Preferment.  Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and mix briefly just until the oil is mixed in.

Make sure the water for the dough is lukewarm, not hot. Take 1/4 cup of it and add the dry yeast in a small bowl. Let sit 5 minutes until foamy.

Add the rehydrated yeast, the rest of the warm water, and about half the flour (2 cups) to the mixture in the stand mixer bowl. Mix with the paddle.

Switch to the dough hook. On slow speed add the remaining flour, a half cup or so at a time, adding only a few tablespoons at a time toward the end. The dough will be soft. Add the salt and then knead with the dough hook on low to medium low speed for about 6 minutes, until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and is smooth. If necessary, add up to an additional cup flour so that dough is soft but firm. Turn kneaded dough out on a lightly floured board or counter and knead a few turn to make sure all flour is incorporated.

Form the dough into a ball. With the remaining tablespoon olive oil, oil a large bowl  and turn the dough ball in the oil to coat. Cover with oiled plastic wrap or a clean shower cap and place in a warm place and let rise until doubled in bulk. This usually takes a couple of hours, but check often. Dough is ready when a finger poked into the dough leave an indent that stays.

Shaping: About an hour before baking the fougasse, punch dough down, and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Knead a few time to get rid of the extra trapped gas, and divide it into four pieces weighing about the same. Take one of the pieces and press it out into a leaf shape. Use your clean hands to press it to about 10-11-inches on a side and about 1/2 - 1-inch high. Wet hands if necessary so that dough doesn't stick. (I shaped it into a tall triangle.)

Place the shaped dough onto a piece of baking parchment which has been placed on a baking sheet. Using a bench scraper or stiff plastic scraper or something similar, cut into the dough to make leaf 'veins' - see photo at top of post. Use your fingers to gently spread out the dough to open up the cuts. Keep the leaf shape. Repeat if desired with the other pieces of dough, making four leaves, or store rest of dough, covered, in fridge, until ready to use.

Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, oiled side down, and let rise for about 30 minutes. Leaf will get puffy. If holes close up, gently open them again with your fingers after removing the plastic wrap.

While leaf is rising, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone, put it in to preheat too.

Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the surface of the leaf with olive oil, then sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until dark golden brown. Remove from oven, cool a bit on a wire rack after having removed it from pan and parchment. Serve while still warm, breaking off pieces of the leaf, or cutting into portions.

 To make focaccia instead of fougasse, follow this link