Saturday, May 18, 2019

It's The Berries

I want it to feel like spring, but Mother Nature is not cooperating. We are having February weather...rain, chill, more rain, gray skies, chilly breezes, more rain.

Still, our local strawberry farm had berries on Wednesday so yesterday we had strawberries, some raspberries that are not local and some olallieberries from the freezer, saved there from last summer. Just what is needed to make a spring feeling galette (free form pie) for Sweetie.

Put the berries together (strawberries were diced since they were large, frozen berries were left frozen), add a tiny bit of sugar and a lot of cornstarch (for they WILL be juicy!), some lemon zest and orange zest and we have a spring-like filling. Total amount of filling was about 4.5 - 5 cups. Sugar was 1/4 cup and you have to estimate the cornstarch depending on how juicy your fruit is. Zest is 1/2 teaspoon each kind.

Roll out some pie dough to about 12 inches diameter, put it on a foil-lined pizza pan (because of those juices the foil is essential), mound the fruit mixture in the center and pat it down, then fold the edges of the pie dough over the berry mixture (about 4-5 inches for my galette), brush dough with some half and half or soy creamer (about 1 tablespoon) and sprinkle on some sanding sugar (optional) and you have the makings of a delicious dessert that is almost a pie, but easier and rustic looking.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake until golden brown and cooked through...and look at those beautiful ruby juices!

Cool long enough that you don't burn your tongue on the hot fruit and then cut a slice and enjoy! Think spring!!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Multigrain Sourdough Sandwich Bread for the Babes

Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories, our awesome Kitchen of the Month challenged us to make a sandwich loaf with multigrains AND sourdough. Since my sourdough starter was abandoned when Sweetie started losing weight, I had to begin another one, but it was worth it because this was an absolutely wonderful bread. It makes especially good toast! Just follow the recipe...and allow a few days to make the starter before you begin the actual bread dough. I did add 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast to the bread flour because this is a hearty bread with the grains and my sourdough was still pretty young when I baked.

If you bake this bread and would like to be a Buddy, take a photo and send an email to Karen (email address on her blog) with the photo and a short description of your bake and your URL. She'll send the lovely Buddy Badge that the very talented Elizabeth made.

Be sure to check out the other Bread Baking Babes blogs to see the creative ways they have come up with to make this recipe personal for themselves. I only took one photo. Thought I had taken others, but now the bread is gone...will have to make more!!

Happy baking!

If you don't have a sourdough starter, start with a 50/50 by weight mixture of water and flour and a pinch of yeast and let it ferment for 12 to 24 hours. This may affect the timing.

The sourdough starter in this bread is 100 percent hydration.

Suggested timeline (plus or minus depending on the weather):

Day one:
Feed your starter and let it sit, covered, at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.
Day two:
8 a.m. mix your dough and let it rise.
4 p.m. Shape the dough and let it rise
5 or 6 p.m. bake your loaf.

Alternative timeline (plus or minus depending on the weather):
Day one:
Feed your starter and let it sit, covered, at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.
Day two:
8 p.m. mix your dough and let it rise
6 a.m. shape the dough and let it rise
7 or 8 a.m. bake your loaf.

This bread is very flavorful and an easy way to incorporate sourdough.

Here's the recipe:

Multigrain Sourdough Sandwich Bread
by Karen Kerr   Makes 1 loaf

For the Dough
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) bubbly 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • 300 grams (1 1/4 cups) warm water
  • 20 grams (1 tablespoon) honey
  • 45 grams (3 tablespoons) melted coconut oil
  • 50 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) whole wheat flour
  • 450 grams (3 3/4 cups) bread flour
  • 9 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
For the Multigrain Soaker
  • 70 grams (1/2 cup) King Arthur Flour Harvest Grains Blend or Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Cereal, or another mixture of grains and seeds
  • 240 grams (1 cup) hot water
  • Rolled oats for topping the loaf (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, mix the starter, water, honey, and oil with a dough whisk or fork. Add the flours and salt. 
  2. Mix the dough by hand in the bowl to form a shaggy dough. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. 
  3. While the dough is resting, mix the multigrains and hot water in a separate bowl and let rest. Drain thoroughly before using. 
  4. Add the multigrains to the dough and knead to incorporate. The dough will be pretty wet at first but will begin to come together. Don't add more flour. 
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise until doubled, about 6 to 8 hours. 
  6. Place the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and press it out to a rectangle. Roll the dough into a log and place it into an oiled 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan, seam side down. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rest until the dough has crested one inch above the rim of the pan, 1 to 2 hours. 
  7. Heat your oven to 450 degrees F. 
  8. If you want to top the bread with rolled oats, brush the loaf with water and press in some oats. 
  9. Place the loaf on the center rack and reduce the temperature to 400 degrees F. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of 190 to 195 degrees F. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn it out to a wire rack to cool completely. 
Karen's Kitchen Stories

Friday, May 10, 2019

Little Lemon Cake

Fortune smiled on one of my sisters many moons ago when she met and later married her Sweetie. He is a good man and they love each other dearly and he takes such good and gentle care of her. He looks kind of like a Roman emperor and gets better looking with age. He says that is because of going bald. We just returned from a visit to their beautiful home. It was a great visit, especially meeting their new cat Foxy. We enjoyed the cake and tea. Those beautiful plates and cups are part of a set from his mom. It's a breakfast set and includes egg cups, but makes a great tea set, too.

One of the things I like to do when I visit this family is to bring something baked to go with tea. My sister's Sweetie really appreciates these goodies and I like making something different each time to see if he enjoys it. I know that Natashya enjoys the treats, too, but I often don't know how to let her hubby know how much I appreciate him and how happy he makes her, so this is one way.

This time I brought a small lemon Bundt cake, flavored with Meyer lemons from my own bush. It had an intense yellow color from the farm eggs brilliant egg yolks. One of our neighbors gave me the eggs and they really do taste better than eggs from the store.

This is a simple to make cake that can be stirred together with a wooden spoon. It is a variation on one in the Great British Baking Show cookbook I received for Christmas. They baked theirs in a loaf pan and iced it with a confectioner's sugar icing. I baked mine in that small Bundt pan, used melted margarine instead of olive oil, and did a poke cake style topping, using zest and lemon juice and sugar and spooning it over the top of the skewered cake until it was absorbed. That kept the cake fairly moist and certainly elevated the lemon flavor.

This cake is somewhat moist with a looser crumb than a pound cake. The cake itself isn't too sweet, but with either icing or topping it is can choose to serve it without those if you prefer a less sweet cake. The recipe said that the flavor is better after 24 hours. We had it about 20 hours after it was made and it really was flavorful and delicious! Do try it yourself. I hope you have a kitchen scale for weighing the dry ingredients...I don't know the substitutions to make it cups. The glaze is my own, so I used cups there. Hope it isn't too confusing.

Lemon-Yogurt Small Bundt Cake
A variation of the Greek Lemon-Yoghurt Loaf Cake in
The Great British Bake Off - Great Cakes and Bakes to Make at Home 
Serves 8

150g All-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
50g ground almonds
200g granulated sugar
finely grated zest of one large lemon
3 eggs, room temperature
125 ml yogurt (I used Russian style, they call for Greek style)
125 ml non-dairy margarine or butter, melted & cooled (or use mild olive oil)

Lemon Glaze
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F after you have gathered and measured your ingredients and the butter or margarine has cooled.

Grease and flour a small Bundt cake pan. Set aside.

Put the flour, baking powder, salt and ground almonds into a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Put the sugar and the lemon zest into a bowl and use clean fingers to rub the zest into the sugar. The mixture will resemble damp sand when you are done. Stir into the flour mixture. Make a well in the center.

Re-use the lemon-sugar bowl to whisk the eggs, then add the yogurt and mix, then the melted butter or margarine or olive oil and whisk to thoroughly combine.

Pour the wet ingredients into the well in the dry ingredients, then stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.

Scrape the mixture with a spatula into the prepared pan and spread to even the top. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes, then check every 5 minutes until well risen and a deep golden brown; a skewer inserted into the widest part should come out clean.

Towards the end of the baking time make the lemon glaze so it's ready when the cake is done. In a small bowl mix the lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

Once the cake is ready, remove from the oven and set on a wire rack. Cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto the wire rack. Place a plate under the rack to catch any drips. Use a skewer to poke the cake all over, then use a teaspoon to slowly drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake into the skewer holes. Keep going around the cake and drizzling until the glaze is used up. Leave the cake until it is cool and the glaze has set.

To store, wrap well in foil or plastic wrap or store in an airtight container. Eat within 4 days. The flavor and aroma will be even more lemony a day or so after baking.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Fresh Strawberry Quick Tartines

In ancient days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Sunset Magazine had a recipe that I immediately took to and make to this day...many years later. This was long before the term 'tartine' was heard anywhere outside of France. They called it something else, but that name has been lost in the mists of time.

When fresh strawberries finally make their spring appearance, I always have this delightful snack, either as a light breakfast or at tea time. It goes together quickly if you have the ingredients on hand. I recently discovered Kite Hill brand 'cream cheese' which is made from almond milk and is delicious and dairy free. You can, of course, use regular cream cheese or any of the other burgeoning selections of non-dairy and vegan 'cream cheeses'.

Be sure to use the best strawberries you can find because that is the dominant flavor. We have just started getting local strawberries so that's what I used.

Fresh Strawberry Tartines

For each of two tartines:
1 english muffin, split and toasted
1-2 tablespoons cream cheese, either dairy or non-dairy...use the one you like best
3-4 fresh strawberries, washed, dried, hulled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon fresh orange juice or 1 tablespoon orange marmalade

Take each warm, toasted muffin half and spread each with half the cream cheese. Arrange the strawberries in a single layer on top of the cream cheese. Then either sprinkle each with half the orange juice, or spread half the marmalade on each, over the sliced berries.

Eat at once!

Simple and delicious...and now you can make this treat whenever the strawberries are ripe.

BTW, Sweetie and I are fine. I've been hearing the siren song of the spring garden every day, so time has been spent weeding and planting and working on the irrigation system (and enjoying the blooms and fragrances) instead of sitting at the computer. Happens every year. *Happy sigh* I've also been sneezing and sniffling and fighting weeping, itchy eyes and runny nose as the grass allergies have kicked in from all the time spent outdoors. Have done a lot of weed-eating work, too, so serves me right I guess.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Tropical Pancakes

Does your family have a day on the weekend for making special breakfasts? Maybe you do brunch instead? Well, think about making these delightful pancakes and you'll enjoy the weekend even more.

I took two fairly basic recipes for pancakes from Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book, mixed them together, added some yogurt, substituted non-dairy soy creamer and non-dairy margarine for milk and butter, used white whole wheat and Irish Whole Meal flours (King Arthur Flour carries both) for part of the flour, added chopped pecans, finely chopped fresh pineapple, finely chopped banana, and chopped, pitted dates. What I ended up with were some of the best pancakes ever if you like tropical flavors.

It takes a few minutes to chop up the fruit and nuts, a few more to mix together the milk or soy milk and the yogurt, a few more to measure out the dry ingredients, more to melt the margarine or butter and mix it with the eggs and then the milk mixture. Hardly any time is needed to add the dry ingredients to the wet and barely mix them.

Cooking the pancakes probably takes the most time and that may just seem that way since you are standing at the stove with a pancake turner, watching the tiny bubbles form at the edges of the pancake and smelling the warming pineapple and banana fragrances. Then when you turn the pancake over, you see the golden brown sheen of the cooked side and you see the pancake rise and you know this is going to be soooo delicious! And it is!

I topped mine with some applesauce, but you can just as easily slather on some butter and syrup or mix up a syrup of sugar, water and orange juice, letting it bubble and thicken while you cook the pancakes. However you top them, enjoy the flavors of the islands.

Tropical Pancakes
based on Plain Pancakes and Buttermilk Pancakes by Marion Cunningham
in The Breakfast Book

2 eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup milk or soy milk or soy creamer, at room temperature
1/4 cup plain yogurt
4 tablespoons butter, or margarine, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or use regular whole wheat)
1/4 cup Irish Whole Meal Flour (or use regular whole wheat)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fresh pineapple, finely chopped
3/4 cup fresh ripe banana, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons finely chopped pitted dates

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl until they are fully blended. Add the plain yogurt to the milk or soy milk and beat until combined. Let sit a few minutes, then beat into the eggs. Add the melted butter or margarine and beat until filly blended.

On a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper or in another bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir into the wet ingredients and stir just until blended. Immediately gently stir in the pineapple, banana, pecans and dates.

Cook the pancakes on a lightly greased preheated skillet or griddle: scoop 1/4 cup of the batter for each pancake onto the griddle, using the cup to slightly spread the batter if necessary. Let pancook cook over medium heat until bottom is golden brown and the edges have rapidly breaking small bubbles. After flipping the pancake over, let cook until bottom is golden brown. Serve at once with toppings of your choice.

Makes enough pancakes for 4 people (usually).

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Surprise I'd Rather Not Have

Since this blog is a journal as well as the place where I focus on food, I'm adding this post because some folks who read this will want to know and also so that I have a record for myself. The first photo is of the iris that are now blooming like crazy and making our front walk a thing of beauty and great fragrance, too.

Yesterday started out normal. (The following is the only reference to food in this post..sorry). Eggs and potato and an apple for breakfast (which is one of two regular morning meals, the other being shredded wheat cereal with soy milk and raisins or fresh fruit), a trip to the gym and a walk for the dog, Sweetie and I took up the early morning. About 11 am I was putting a coat of wall paint on the upper part of the wall between the sink and toilet as part of the ongoing downstairs bath renovation.
I noticed that I felt bloated and that I didn't feel very well, but I didn't think much about it.

As the day progressed I felt worse and worse, with abdominal pain on and off so that by 2 pm I couldn't get comfortable, the pain and cramping was increasing and was getting worried.

My doc saw me right away and said it might be my gall bladder giving me the trouble, so he suggested the ER. Got there by 4 pm and waited at least three hours to be seen...they were swamped all day according to everyone who worked there. By then I was in less pain. All the tests and ultrasound didn't reveal any cause, so I went home, five hours after entering the hospital, with a Pepcid acid blocker and prescription for same & with advice that I contact my gastro doc for an appointment. By this morning there was only slight discomfort and now that it is evening I feel fine...but I did rest all morning and took an afternoon nap.

So now I get to see what happens each time I eat and see if there is something that sets off the cramping and pain. Getting older isn't for sissies!

Hope that you, dear reader, are in good health and enjoying the unfolding of the season. XO, Elle

Saturday, April 20, 2019

So Long For Now Cake Slice Bakers

I've really enjoyed baking with the Cake Slice Bakers each month for the past few years. Some of the recipes have become favorites, others have led to new skills or knowledge and it's always fun to see what the other bakers have baked.

The time seems to have come to take a break, both because I'm being supportive of Sweetie's new way of eating, and because I can stand to lose a few pounds myself. I'm sure that I'll still bake something delicious now and then, but not on a regular basis, and that regular basis is crucial for belonging to a baking group.

This month I baked one of the selections from The European Cake Book by Tatyana Nesteruk. The Marbled Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake takes advantage of the citrus season that is coming to a close and it was a delicious treat that I shared with others at a memorial service for a friend who had died. The combination of chocolate and orange is delicious. I did go off recipe a bit by rubbing the orange zest into the sugar before creaming the sugar with the butter, plus I substituted non-dairy butter and soy creamer for the butter and milk, changed how I put the batter into the pan, but otherwise I mostly followed the recipe. I did add some chocolate chips (not melted) to the chocolate batter for a little extra chocolate flavor. This recipe made a delicious, tender cake with lots of flavor, even without the glaze, which I skipped since it wouldn't keep for the memorial service. This is a lovely cake! Do try this for yourself.

Not sure how long I'll not be baking with the CSB group, but I want to commend Felice for her leadership and grace. She has picked some awesome recipes over time and has made every effort to have this be a delightful group to be a part of. Au revoir.

Marbled Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake
 From The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk

Zest from 1 orange
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened (I used non-dairy margarine)
4 large eggs,
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange oil
1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 335 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch Bundt pan with baking spray, or butter and flour the pan.

In a large mixing bowl, use your fingers to rub the orange zest and sugar together until sugar is moistened and looks like damp sand. Add the butter to the bowl and cream until mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, thoroughly combining before adding the next egg. Scrape bowls and beaters as necessary.

Add the vanilla, orange oil, and milk, then mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the batter and mix just until they are combined.

Divide the batter in half; remove half to a separate bowl. Add the melted and cooled white chocolate to one of the bowls and stir to combine.

Add the melted and cooled dark chocolate to the other bowl of batter and stir until combined.

Spoon alternating scoops of dark and light batter into the prepared pan. once all the batter is in place, use a knife in a zig-zag pattern to swirl the batters together. Don't over swirl.

Bake in a preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the thickest part comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in pan for 30 minutes. Invert onto serving plate and cool completely.

1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar
Zest from 1 orange

Whisk together the cream, confectioners' sugar, and orange zest. Adjust the amount of cream to make a thinner or thicker glaze. Pour over the cake. Let set for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Easter Bread with the Babes

Over the years we haven't really had very many Easter breads in April, but I'm really glad that our Kitchen of the Month, Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen, chose this one this year. There is still plenty of time to bake this for Easter and then become a Bread Baking Babe Buddy (see below).

"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.

The instructions given were for making the dough by hand, but I've been gardening and my shoulder is pretty sore from weeding and carrying heavy stuff, so I adapted it to use the stand mixer. I'm including the given recipe, but the changes I made include starting by putting the sugar into the bowl and adding the lemon peel, then blending the peel into the sugar with my fingers. The yeast had already soaked in the slightly warm milk by then. Then I added the butter and eggs and beat it together with a whisk, then added the milk mixture and half the water. In another bowl I combined the bread flour and salt. This mixture I gradually added to the moist mixture in the bowl to form a soft, sticky dough, then let the mixer knead the dough for about 8 minutes.

The dough went into a raising container, got covered with a clean shower cap, and it rose until doubled. After punching it down and letting it sit for 10 minutes, I turned it out onto a lightly floured board, divided it in half, set one half aside and divided the second half in half. Those pieces each were rolled into approximately a 14 inch snake. The two snakes were wrapped around each other, ends connected and the ring went into a greased 9-inch pie plate. Then I repeated the shaping with the other half of the original dough.

Here I really went off the recipe, because I let the rings rise for about an hour and a half, then put them in the fridge overnight. The next day I took them out of the fridge, let them warm up while I made the topping and preheated the oven.

For the topping I mixed the sugar, copious amounts (as called for) of cinnamon, and an egg yolk. I used a small spatula to spread the topping over each strand of the braid, then sprinkled with chopped almonds (unpeeled and untoasted), pressing the almonds down into the topping a bit.

I baked it for about 15 minutes, then reduced the heat to 375 degrees F for the rest of the baking time, which was shorter than the recipe called for since I had made two smaller loaves.

The finished bread had quite a bit of dark brown on the crust, but it wasn't burnt. The topping got crispy and the whole thing was delicious! Great plain or with butter. Also, the whole house smelled of cinnamon...wonderful!!

Do make this one...anytime, not just for Easter. If you do and want to be a Buddy, send an email to Aparna with a photo and your baking experience by April 29th for the round-up...and you'll get a Buddy Badge.

Be sure to visit the other Babe's sites to see what they've done with this lovely rich bread.

Ciambella Mandorlata is from my copy of Ultimate Bread by  Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno


For the dough:
2 tsp dry yeast
1 ⁄2 cup lukewarm milk
41 ⁄2 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 ⁄3 cup sugar
grated zest of 3 lemons
9 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs, beaten
1 ⁄2 cup water

For the topping:
4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp sugar
3 ⁄4 cup blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 egg yolk

Sprinkle the yeast into the milk in a small bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the butter, eggs, and dissolved yeast.

Mix in the flour from the sides of the well. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, to form a soft, sticky dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth, springy, and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a dish towel. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 4 hours. Punch down the dough, then let rest, covered with a dish towel, for about 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each piece into a 16-inch-long rope. Twist the two dough ropes together.
Place the dough rope on a buttered baking sheet. Shape it into a ring by bringing the two ends of the rope together. Pinch them to seal and cover with a dish towel. Proof until doubled in size, about 11 ⁄2 hours.

To make the topping mix the cinnamon, sugar, almonds, and egg yolk in a bowl. Use a rubber spatula to spread the mixture evenly over the top of the ring. 

Bake at 200C (400F) in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

A Chocolate Glaze That Hardens - for Cakes and Cookies

Hi there! It's been a while. Since Redding, I've been to the LA area to visit my daughter, done some gardening (mostly weeding), cleared out a whole bunch of books from the living room bookcases and scrubbed them down. Today I realized that they need painting - not so surprising since they haven't been painted for something like 30 years - and, a little less than a week ago, made some cute desserts for my scholarship group, P.E.O. as our local chapter hosted the Presidents of eight other regional chapters for lunch.

I've become known as the chapter baker, which isn't too surprising. About a month ago the luncheon chairman asked if I could provide dessert for the luncheon. I love a challenge like that and was only slightly worried when I found out that she wanted to plate the dessert before lunch started. Usually the cake (since that is the easiest dessert to make for a crowd, in my opinion) serves as decoration and is cut after lunch. I had even thought of doing a flower tiered cake since spring is beginning to be experienced now.

A plated dessert could still be a cake, so I baked my favorite chocolate cake, Maida Heatter's 86-Proof Chocolate Bundt cake, but baked the batter from one batch in small cake pans...four designs in all. There were twenty seven little cakes in the end, shaped like stars, swirls, little half round mounds, and hearts. Unfortunately three of the shapes didn't release easily from the pans, so they didn't look pretty enough for this lunch as they were.

After searching the internet, I decided to try a recipe that claimed that it made a coating that hardens when cool since that would work well in covering up the rough spots on the little cakes. The recipe is super simple, with margarine, cocoa, confectioner's sugar, hot water and vanilla. It's from Genius Kitchen, recipe by Nana Lee. At first I was concerned since the mixture looked pretty thin, but the glaze was thick enough to cover the mistakes and dark enough to make a nice contrast to the rest of the toppings.

It took some time (and two batches of the glaze) to coat each of the 27 little cakes. I placed them on wire racks over sheet pans so that the sheet pans would catch the drips (to be reused). I also made a quick batch of ganache to put on the Bundt cake that I made with a second batch of cake batter, for extra servings. After the disaster of the first batch I didn't have the patience to bake the second batter as little cakes!

After the glaze cooled, I made a thin icing of confectioners' sugar and lemon juice, which I tinted with a bit of rose gel coloring. I drizzled that across the cakes, then immediately sprinkled on a topping that I created by mixing a few store bought toppings which included pearls, sprinkles, tiny flowers and hearts. It looked really great and everyone was enthusiastic about those little chocolate cakes. A challenge met!

Chocolate Glaze That Hardens When Cool
by Nana Lee

2 tablespoons melted margarine or 2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons hot water
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine melted margarine or oil, cocoa, and hot water. Blend in confectioners' sugar and vanilla.

Pour or spread on cake (or brownies, or dip cookies in the glaze)

Glaze will harden when it cools.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Sundial Bridge

Last weekend I took a drive to Redding, CA and had an outing to the Sundial Bridge. It was a gray day, sprinkling on and off, but I was dressed for it with a waterproof jacket and nice rain hat, plus waterproof Merrells to keep my feet warm and out of the mud. I met a girlfriend in Redding and we took a hike on the other side of the bridge from the museum. Since they have been getting lots of rain and winds just as we have, the paths were often blocked by either swaths of mud or downed trees or both. Still, it was nice to get out in nature.

The bridge itself was spectacular, sort of a sail effect overhead and green glass below. The glass was slippery so we walked across it slowly. There were fishermen out fishing and the water was rough...and it looked cold.

I should know the name of the river that the bridge crosses, but the only one I can think of is the Sacramento river and that seems unlikely somehow. Still, not a whole lot further south there was a sign by the freeway that identified that river as the Sacramento, so who knows? What I know is that I had a great weekend with M, got to meet her sister, two nieces and a great niece, plus her Mom, participated in a fun pajama party, and went to a Mary Poppins play that was charming and had main characters who sang and spoke in convincing British accents throughout, with Bert the chimney sweep. maintaining a Cockney accent. The sets and dancing were excellent for an elementary school play. It was put on by the Grant School and had lots of support from local families and businesses.

So, nothing to report on the cooking and baking front. Maybe there will be something soon.  XO, Elle

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Austrian Pound Cake #The Cake Slice Bakers

Sometimes the needs of the day mesh nicely with the desires of the spirit. A little over a week ago that happened for me. I wanted to make this luscious sounding pound cake as my choice of this month's challenge recipes for the Cake Slice Bakers. That was the desire. The need was unexpected; a dear friend died unexpectedly and my scholarship group was asked to provide some of the food for the reception after the memorial service. So I baked the Austrian Pound Cake in a dairy-free version and took it to the memorial, where it was enjoyed and commented upon favorably.

Phyllis was an amazing woman, born just before the Great Depression to a local family, raised with love and lots of extended family. She was college educated, wife and mother, business woman and volunteer, expert seamstress and needleworker, childhood athlete and super S.F. Giants baseball fan, amazing mother, wife, aunt, grandmother and great grandmother as well as friend, a club woman, including Red Hat Society, Model T Club, Graton Community Club and our own P.E.O. scholarship group. She always made each person she was with feel special, which is a gift. She demonstrated how life is when everything is done with love. She will be very much missed and would have enjoyed the cake!

Other than swapping out margarine for butter and soy creamer for milk, I made this just as written. It is tender, with a delicate orange flavor, with delicious bits of apricot and golden raisin here and there, and with just a bit much oil I think. I would reduce the amount of butter called for by a few tablespoons, although not using real butter as I did might be the problem. It baked up very nicely in a Bundt pan. I recommend this would be a really nice Easter treat.

Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through. This year it is The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk. We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes!

Follow our FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the thumbnail pictures below to take you to each of our cakes, or visit our blog where the links are updated each month. If you are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details. The Cake Slice Bakers also have a new Facebook group called The Cake Slice Bakers and Friends. This group is perfect for those who do not have a blog but want to join in the fun and bake through this book.

March Cakes:
1. Triple-Citrus Mousse Cake
2. Toscaka Torte
3. Creme Brulee Cheesecake
4. Austrian Pound Cake

Austrian Pound Cake

1/2 cup (75g) golden raisins
1/2 cup (75 g) diced dried apricots
2 tablespoons (30 ml) orange liqueur (I used Grand Marnier)
1 cup (227g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup 990g) white chocolate chips, melted
4 large eggs
1 cup (219g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (48g) almond flour
4 teaspoons (16g) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest from 1 orange
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. (163 degrees C)
Spray a 9-inch (23 cm) Bundt pan with baking spray, or grease very well and flour.

In a small bowl, combine the golden raisins and the apricots with the orange liqueur. Allow the fruit to soak up the liquid while you prepare the batter.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, a few minutes. Add the melted white chocolate and then the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Pour in the milk, but don't mix in.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt. Sift these dry ingredient into the butter mixture bowl, then mix, just until combined. Fold in the raisin and apricot mixture and the orange zest.

Transfer the cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan, smoothing the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the thickest part comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minute, then turn out and cool until barely warm. Serve warm with a dusting of confectioners' sugar.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sweetie's Instant Pot Cheesecake

Sweetie has loved cheesecake ever since I have known him and likely before that. He never asks me to make one for him but I often do for his birthday. One year in Berkeley we had a surprise birthday desserts party for him that included a green cheesecake with Irish whiskey in it. Having your birthday on St. Patrick's Day gets you that kind of strange thing.

This year we were in LA visiting our daughter. Kate has an Instapot so I thought that it would be fun to try making a cheesecake in the pot. I'd been told that everyone who tried that method was quite taken with the results. Ours was amazing! Although I couldn't eat any, I was told that it was the best cheesecake ever...creamy, just sweet enough, the perfect texture with a great crust.

There are only four things, plus one technique that make this different from any other cheesecake. First, you need an Instapot or Instant Pot or similar appliances that have a pressure cooking feature. Second, you need a 7" in diameter spring form pan. They are easily available on Amazon. Third, you need a trivet or rack that fits in the bottom of the pot. Some pots come with that, but we needed to buy one. We found a silicone trivet at Target that will work well for other things, too. Four - You need an electric hand mixer for making the batter. This works much better than a stand mixer to avoid adding extra air. Extra air gives you a souffle instead of a cheesecake.

The technique that is different is that you need to be sure to beat in as little air as possible during creation of the batter...well, and steaming in the Instapot is different than baking.

The recipe itself is the usual one of a graham cracker crust with a cream cheese based filling, enriched with eggs. I also added some Meyer lemon zest for zing and we decorated it with blueberries and some sliced strawberries that I had marinated with a little bit of sugar and lemon juice due to the fact that it's not yet strawberry season.

This is a quick and easy recipe, but it requires a bit of planning ahead. DO let the ingredients sit out to come to room temperature...essential if you want that smooth, creamy filling that we love. DO freeze the graham cracker crust for at least 20 minutes. That way you have a stable crust to hold the filling. DO chill at least four hours before serving after cooking, or overnight. We did overnight, just to be sure.

Spring is coming with all the delicious berries...and this is the perfect dessert to serve with them!

Instant Pot Cheesecake
by Amy & Jacky - Pressure Cook

10 (120g) graham crackers, finely ground (I used a food processor)
3-4 tablespoons (42g - 56g) butter or margarine, melted
a pinch sea salt

Batter (7 inches x 3 inches)

16 oz. (454 g) cream cheese, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup (120g) sour cream, room temperature
2 tablespoons (16g) cornstarch
2 pinches sea salt
2/3 cup (133g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract

Crust: Melt the butter. Add the fine graham cracker crumbs and sea salt and mix to thoroughly combine. Before you do this, make sure that you have put out the cream cheese, eggs and sour cream to come to room temperature.

If desired, line the 7-inch x 3-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Add the crust mixture and firmly pack all over the bottom and part way up the sides. (See sides in the photos.) The back of a teaspoon works well for packing the mixture firmly. No butter is needed on the parchment or you can skip the parchment as I did. Put the pan in the freezer for at least 20 minutes while you make the cheesecake batter.

Batter: Use a hand mixer, not a stand keep the batter from having too much air.

In a small bowl mix together the cornstarch, salt and granulated sugar. Set aside.

Check to make sure that the cream cheese, eggs and sour cream are at room temperature. If they are not, wait until they are.

In a large mixing bowl place the cream cheese. Using low speed, briefly use the hand mixer to break up the cheese by beating it for 10 seconds.

Add in half the sugar mixture and beat just until incorporated using low speed, for about 20-30 seconds.

Scrape the bowl and beaters.

Add in the rest  of the sugar mixture and beat just until incorporated using low speed, for about 20-30 seconds.

Add the sour cream and vanilla to the mixture and and beat just until incorporated using low speed, for about 20-30 seconds.

Scrape the bowl and beaters.

Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating just until incorporated using low speed, about 20 seconds for each eggs. Scrape down bowl and beaters after each egg.

Use a silicone spatula to fold the mixture a few times to make sure everything is fully incorporated.

Remove prepared pan from the freezer and pour in the cheese batter. Spread top to even, using the silicone spatula.

Rap the pan sharply against the counter a few times. Air bubbles will rise to the surface. Pop the air bubbles with the tines of a fork or with a toothpick. Repeat until you are satisfied. Ensure the surface is clear of air bubbles or fork marks. It is almost impossible to remove all the air bubbles.

Make a foil sling for the springform pan by folding aluminum foil in a long strip about 3-4 inches wide.

Pour 1 cup (250ml) cold water in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker.

Place a steamer rack in the bottom of the pot. put in the foil sling with the ends to the top of the pot. Gently lower the springform pan down to the rack. Tuck the ends of the sling down so they are below the top edge of the pan.

Close the lid.

Pressure cook on High Pressure for 26 minutes, then Full Natural Release (takes roughly 7 minutes). Open the Pressure Cooker lid gradually. As much as possible try to avoid dripping the condensation from the lid onto the cheesecake.

Absorb any condensation on the surface by lightly tapping it with a soft paper towel (I found that the paper towel edge would wick up the moisture.)

Allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature on a cooling rack after using the sling to carefully lift the pan out of the Instant Pot.

After cooling 10-15 minutes, you can release the cake by carefully running a thin paring knife between the sidewall and the cheesecake (or parchment paper) and then opening the spring to release the sidewall. You can also chill the cake in the pan and do this same step once you are ready to serve the cake.

Chill cake for 4 hours or overnight.  Releasing the chilled cake from the springform bottom can be done by sitting the cake and pan bottom on a hot wet towel (damp towel microwaved for 30 seconds) for a few seconds until the butter melts slightly...cake will slide off the pan bottom.  Parchment, if used, can be carefully removed after cake is chilled. I didn't use parchment. I removed sides and bottom after chilling the cake overnight.

Place cake on serving plate and decorate or garnish as desired. I used sliced fresh strawberries and rinsed and dried fresh blueberries.