Friday, March 27, 2020

Porch Time Pizza

During the current virus crisis I've seen videos on social media of Italians standing on their balconies playing instruments, of neighbors having an impromptu social time by bringing their waste cans to the curb for pickup and bringing something to sip (wine, beer, water, soda) while standing far enough apart for social distancing but close enough to converse. There have been other examples of creative get togethers that keep the distance but allow for connection, like a mariachi band playing in a neighborhood in Petaluma while separated individuals danced in the streets.

We have done something similar with our neighbors by having porch time once a week. We meet at a pre-arranged time on our back deck. The chairs are far enough apart to be distanced, but we can converse. They bring their food and drink and we bring ours...sort of. Today I made up mini-pizza dough on parchment papers for each of us and each tray had that shaped dough blank plus things to put on it as toppings. Our neighbor brought some vegan cheese he enjoys and our other neighbor brought some curry already warmed for themselves to go with the pizza. Each of us used our individual tray to create our choices of toppings, then each person put the loaded pizza on parchment, one by one, onto the grill, baked them on a pizza stone, and returned them to the tray they came from. After that person sat down, the next one could cook. It was pretty hot around that grill and we've been told that this virus doesn't like heat. The neighbors also brought some lovely bourbon and some rye for tasting and each family provided their own cups and utensils. One person poured so no bottle was passed around! The important part was to catch up and converse and laugh together. At the end we made hugging motions but stayed apart. Better than nothing and certainly fun.

The recipe for the Pizza dough can be found HERE. Start it in the morning. Once it's ready for shaping, divide into four equal pieces (a scale works well here), shape each piece into a ball, place the four balls onto a large piece of parchment paper (they will spread a bit), spray with olive oil and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Put in the fridge until shortly before you'll need them. Shape each ball into a rectangle to fit a piece of parchment paper (I used half sheet of King Arthur Flour's ready cut half sheet pan size parchment sheets), being sure to make the inside fairly thin and the outside edge a bit thicker. Spray lightly with olive oil and you are ready to add the toppings.

We used both pre-made pesto and marinara sauces, various cheeses including Parmesan, mozzarella, Kite Hill non-dairy ricotta and a sliced white vegan cheese that was probably Dailya. Other toppings were thinly sliced fresh asparagus, sliced black olives, thinly sliced salami strips, bulk Italian turkey sausage that was pre-cooked in small pieces until lightly browned, and thinly sliced cherry tomatoes.

Sweetie preheated the grill to 400 degrees F with a baking stone in it. That stone ensured that the bottom crust was nice and crispy.

Have you found a way to stay at least 6 feet apart but still socialize?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Spring Flowers

Along with the rest of the world, we are weathering the virus pandemic by, mostly, staying at home. We do go into town to walk the dog many days because the roads around our home are dangerous due to ditches and people driving fast. It might look bucolic, but people drive up that hill at 60 MPH. Beyond that Sweetie went to the local mom and pop grocery today to stock up for the next week or so and everyone kept social distance according to him.

A joy during this scary time has been my garden. I've been planting seeds and seedlings. Some of those in pots and planters were moved inside last night due to frost this morning...which showed up as announced. The planters will stay inside today and go out tomorrow since tonight's low  is still in the lower 30s. The lily bulbs are starting to send up their new growth, too, like in the photo above. Weeding is being done, slowly, so I don't injure myself. Best of all, I've been enjoying the spring bulbs as they bloom and the fruit trees as they bloom.

We have had plums and quince and are now having pear blossoms. Soon will come blackberry blooms and apple blossoms.

The flowers have included grape hyacinth, now finished, plus daffodils and tulips and pot marigolds and deep pink azaleas.

The first California poppies just opened yesterday and it happens to be one that has overwintered twice and has a beautiful flower with stripes of orange and terra cotta on the petals. I's a double, too, so very spectacular.

Hope that you are staying safe and healthy and able to enjoy the change of seasons, too. Will have recipes soon.

XO, Elle

Monday, March 23, 2020

Spring Quiche

Keeping busy during the shelter in place time. Did some house painting yesterday on the farmhouse and did yard work today - weedeating, seed planting, regular weeding and watering. I even took a photo of the first California poppy on our property. It bloomed today and it's one of the ones with multi-colored petals in shades of dark orange and terra cotta.

There should be more blooming soon, including the regular gold ones. The nasturtium just started blooming and we've had a slow progression of daffodils and tulips. I'm just glad that spring is here, even though our night time temperatures are staying low in the 30s and 40s, so no putting out seedlings like tomato and squash until the nights warm up a bit.

Have been having fun in the kitchen, too. Baked porridge bread twice and shared with our across the road neighbor. Today I baked my favorite quiche for dinner, using a recipe that was easily found using the new and better index! For the carrot part I used carrots from the garden of the same neighbor who was given the bread. She brought them over, freshly pulled, and the flavor is wonderful! I used the last of the asparagus. It made a very spring themed quiche I think. Sweetie loved it. The last time I made this I was getting farm boxes delivered, but the produce section of the market has improved since then and we have the added benefit of neighbors who grow veggies!

You can find the recipe here. A few variations: I used Kite Hill non-dairy ricotta on the bottom of the quiche and no cheese, chopped the mushrooms small and sauteed them with the carrot, but not the onion since I had cooked onions the day before and used them on top, plus diced ham between the asparagus spears for the meat instead of smoked salmon. Used oat milk with eggs for the custard. As you can see, as long as you keep the proportions the same, you can use a wide variety of variations for ingredients and still get a delicious quiche.

Stay safe and healthy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Happy St. Patrick's Day and Happy Pi Day (A Little Late)

Combining two events 'cause I can. It's a wonder that anything is happening when it should with all the upheaval caused by the coronavirus around the world. It's been fascinating to watch the changes to everyday life that have happened, like a slow moving storm, over the last few weeks. Where I live we have been told to shelter in place (tonight) and events are being cancelled every day, stores, restaurants, bars, and public spaces are closed and mostly deserted, there are fewer cars on the roads and fewer people, reportedly, riding buses and trains and planes. Plans get cancelled all the time, even for things weeks and months from now. I've cancelled a trip to the East coast and one to Mendocino, plus our daughter canceled a trip up here to visit us, plus a trip to Europe. My youngest sister had to cancel her trip to Europe and her granddaughter had to cancel her college trip to Poland. Those are just the ones I know about.

We won't even talk about the stock market panic. Already looking into how to help hourly workers who have no pay. Just in sports and entertainment there are thousands and thousands of them. Work is drying up for hairdressers and barbers and others at small businesses. People aren't going to the gym, aren't eating out. The list goes on. Fewer than 10 people should gather. Six feet between people is 'social distancing' and recommended for those less than 10 people. Many, many folks are working from home and many, many schools have closed...some for the rest of the school year.

Sweetie and I have been self-quarantined since last Friday, along with our adorable dog Pi. Starting at midnight tonight everyone in our county is asked to shelter in place until April 7th. But we need to celebrate! Sweetie has also reached a milestone birthday. Since he loves pie, I made him his requested Banana Cream Pie. It's also for Pi day (3 days ago), which we celebrate because we love Pi (and pie). As you might imagine, this was an unusual celebration with no neighbors or friends from our area. We brought our daughter and her sweetie and a friend visiting them into the celebration via FaceTime when it was time to blow out the candle and cut the pie. Haven't figured out how to get a piece of pie to them over the internet, but I'm hoping that eventually we'll have a variation of 'Beam me up, Scottie' like Star Trek to handle stuff like that. Amazon will surely figure something out. I think that Skype and FaceTime will become very popular as the virus continues to change every day life.

This is a wonderful pie and pretty easy if you can make pudding. The vanilla pastry cream is also flavored with a bit of rum...goes so well with bananas...and the pie crust is ready-made Pillsbury from a box in the refrigerated section of your favorite market. Make sure that the bananas are ripe (you'll need three large ones) and that you allow enough time for the pie to set (3 hours is perfect). Add some whipped cream for decorations to be really decadent, but it really isn't necessary. The great thing about this is that you can make it any time of year as long as your store has bananas in stock. Since I haven't been in a market since Thursday it's possible that all the bananas left at the same time as the toilet paper I've been hearing so much about. If that's the case, substitute a cup or so of shredded coconut and you'll have a great coconut pie!

No green in this recipe, but St. Patrick would probably still enjoy a slice, if he were here. Now if only he would return and rid the world of the coronavirus as he did the snakes in Ireland, we could celebrate together with hugs. Also, because it is spring around here, let's celebrate the coming of light and flowers with photos of sheep in our yard giving Sweetie less to mow, and flowers from my garden, brightening up the house these cloudy days.

Banana Cream Pie
serves 8

1 envelope unflavored gelatin (7 grams)
1/4 cup cold water (60 ml)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar (130 grams)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (70 grams)
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
2 1/4 cups full fat milk or 1/2 & 1/2 (I used soy creamer)(562 ml)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon rum
slices from three large or 4 medium bananas
1 9-inch blind baked tart or pie crust, cooled to room temperature (I used 9-inch pie pan and Pillsbury ReadyCrust pre-made pastry dough rounds)
whipped cream for garnish, if desired

Soak the gelatin in the 1/4 cup cold water

Put the sugar, flour and salt into a saucepan and stir together with a whisk. Add the yolks and enough milk to make a paste. Whisk in the remainder of the milk.

Place the pan over low heat and, stirring constantly, cook until thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the  gelatin and stir until thoroughly combined and gelatin is dissolved. Pour into a mixing bowl.

Stir in the vanilla and rum. Set the mixing bowl in cold water and stir until the cream mixture is cool.

Place a layer of sliced bananas over the bottom of the tart or pie crust. Pour in enough of the filling to just cover the bananas.

Smooth the filling with an offset spatula, then put another layer of bananas over the filling and then pour in the rest of the filling and smooth the top and spread evenly.

Garnish with more banana slices if desired. Chill until set, about 3 hours. Garnish with whipped cream rosettes, if desired. Serve at or close to room temperature for the best flavor.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Spuds for St. Patrick's with the Bread Baking Babes

Sweetie celebrates a birthday each St. Patrick's Day but this year we celebrated early, on the weekend, so that we could enjoy this delicious bread, brought to us by Bread Baking Babes Kitchen of the Month Kelly of blog A Messy Kitchen. I guess I connect potatoes with Ireland with St. Patrick.

It's made with mashed potatoes...not the side dish which has milk and butter added, just plain boiled, peeled potatoes, mashed with a fork in my case. You add them to the dough while they are still warm.  The potatoes keep the bread moist, adds flavor and makes the texture velvety. The dough also has bread flour for strength, egg and milk (or soy creamer in my case) and salt. Once the first rise is finished, you also knead in some herbs...I used fresh rosemary, minced, but the recipe calls for thyme. I omitted the hard goat cheese called for, too. If you use the goat cheese, real butter, real milk and egg, it gets to be a really rich dough, which is why you need the bread flour...also called strong flour...if you want a good rise. Mine rose just fine in the proofing and had great oven spring, too. My checkerboard scoring on the top was better on one side than the other. If I made dozens I could probably improve on that.

Sweetie really, really enjoyed this bread. It has a soft, melting texture and just a hint of potato flavor. Do try making this and then email Krlly, our Kitchen of the Month, with your results and a photo and she will send you a Buddy badge and include you in the round-up. You have until March 29th. You can find her email on her blog HERE.

Do check out the results that the other Babes have had, too.

Potato, Thyme and Goat Cheese Pavé
world breads from pain de campagne to paratha
makes 1 loaf

500g (4½ cups) strong white flour (I added about 1/4 cup extra since there was no cheese)
50g (¼ cup) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small cubes (I used non-dairy margarine)
250 ml (1 cup + 2 tbsp) warm milk or water (I used soy creamer)
20g fresh yeast or 7g instant (¼oz active dry) yeast
1 tsp sugar
100g (1 cup) plain mashed potato, warm (no added cream or butter)
1 tsp fine salt
1 egg, beaten
150g (2/3 cup) mature goat's cheese, grated (I used NONE)
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (I used minced fresh rosemary)

1 Place the flour in a large bowl, rub in the butter to resemble coarse breadcrumbs.  In a small bowl, mix half the milk or water, the yeast and sugar and leave to stand for 10 minutes until frothy.

2. Make a well in the center of the flour, pour in the yeast liquid and the remaining milk or water.  Add the warm mashed potato, salt, egg and grated cheese and bring together with one hand to form a dough.

3. Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Place dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, covered with cling film, and leave in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

4. Turn out the dough again and knock back to expel the air.  Add the fresh thyme and mix well.  Shape into a rectangular loaf and place on a greased baking tray.  Cover with a damp cloth and return to a warm place to rise for a further 40-45 minutes or until doubled in size.

5. Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF).  Using a sharp knife, score deep slits in a criss-cross fashion on the top of the bread.  Brush the loaf lightly all over with extra beaten egg (or spray with water and dust with flour for a crustier loaf), then bake on a center shelf for 25-30 minutes until golden.  Che k to see if bread is cooked before transferring to a cooling rack.  Cut into squares to serve.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Cherry Tart From the Fridge Freezer and Pantry

A well stocked kitchen is a joy. I often (really often) find that I don't have the ingredients I need to make a recipe that catches my eye, so it's nice when a plan comes together easily like this yummy tart. I had frozen puff pastry in the freezer, a jar of dark pitted cherries in juice in the pantry, and in the fridge I had non-dairy Kite Hill ricotta, Silk soy creamer, an egg and a lemon for zesting. With a little sugar, sliced almonds and vanilla from the bake center, we were good to go.

First you use the puff pastry to make a free-standing tart base. I used a sharp knife to cut off 1/2-inch wide pieces from both the long and short sides, then used an egg whisked with a teaspoon of water to 'glue' those strips along the edges of the puff pastry sheet to make the tart sides. Be sure to prick the inside of the tart all over with a fork before baking, as I should have done, since it helps the interior to not rise as much as the sides. I had to flatten the interior with a pancake turner to achieve the same results. I did it about halfway through the bake when I realized my error, then at the end of the bake when the part shell had become golden brown in the middle.

You let the tart shell cool, then drain the cherries. I didn't use the whole jar, so don't throw the juice may need it for storing the rest of the cherries or for pouring over vanilla ice cream.

A 4 oz. portion of ricotta, mixed using a stick blender, with some soy creamer, the rest of the egg mixture, and vanilla made a nice, creamy filling for the bottom of the tart. I stirred in some grated lemon zest, too and a bit of sugar. A small offset spatula helped make the filling nice and even across the rectangular tart.

It's kinda fun to place the cherries in rows like soldiers all across the tart. I pushed them down into the filling a little bit. Once all the cherries are in place, I baked the tart for another 10 minutes to cook the filling, toast the almonds and warm up the cherries. My oven runs may need up to an additional 5 minutes. After the tart cooled to room temperature, it was ready to be served and enjoyed.

Although I really haven't been baking much (although I needed this tart to serve at an afternoon meeting, so it had to be made) since the garden is calling, I will be baking bread again soon for the Bread Baking Babes monthly challenge. I'll be posting that on the 16th.

The garden is coming along nicely. I planted an apple tree yesterday and have also been planting some perennials that were a birthday gift. Some of the seedlings are planted out, too, and some are just sprouting. It will be weeks before the soil warms enough for tomatoes and squash and cucumbers. I'm enjoying the tulips and daffodils and early wildflowers, too. Hope that you have been able to at least plant seeds indoors if you love gardening. I know that our unusual warm weather has not been the norm most places and winter is still having its way with you.Still, spring is coming (Northern Hemisphere)!

Easy Cherry Tart

1 sheet puff pastry (usually 1/2 a box)
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
1 jar dark sweet cherries packed in their own juice - about 20 oz.
4 oz. ricotta cheese - I used Kite Hill non-dairy ricotta
2 tablespoons 1/2 and 1/2 or soy creamer
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
zest from 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
sanding sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Thaw the puff pastry. On a lightly flour surface, roll the puff pastry into a rectangle 10" x 12". Using a sharp knife, cut a 1/2" strip from each side of the rectangle. You will need to cut a 1/2" piece off the end of each strip for fitting. In a small bowl whisk together the egg and water. Using a pastry brush, brush each strip  and lay the egg side down on the puff pastry rectangle at the edge, short pieces on the short sides, long pieces on the long sides. Use the tines of a fork to prick the inside of the tart all over. Using the same pastry brush, carefully egg wash the top of the pastry strips, being careful that the egg wash doesn't run down. If desired, sprinkle the egg wash with sanding sugar.

Place the pastry rectangle with sides attached on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until tart is lightly golden brown. If necessary, use a pancake turner to flatten the inside of the tart shell.

Cool tart shell to room temperature. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

While shell is cooling, drain the cherries. Don't rinse. Reserve the juice for another use.

In a medium bowl, place the ricotta, creamer, vanilla and the rest of the egg wash. Using a hand blender or lots of 'elbow grease' and a whisk, combine the ingredients into a creamy mixture. Stir in the lemon zest and sugar. Spread this mixture in the cooled tart. Smooth and even across the tart shell with a small offset spatula.

Use your clean fingers to place the cherries in rows across the tart shell, pushing cherries slightly down into the filling. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 -15 minutes to lightly toast the almonds and cook the filling. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Best the day it is made.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

March - I'm In The Garden

Here it is March 7th and this is my first post of the month! It's not that we haven't been eating, it's just that it's been really simple food, no recipes needed, plus I've been spending a lot of time in the garden.

We didn't get a drop of rain all of February, which is some kind of record. So the garden needed daily watering...we haven't checked out the drip irrigation system since fall. Hope to do it soon.

The soil stayed moist for quite a while, which meant weeding. I also have planted s few things, including some wild flower seeds that are beginning to sprout where the weeds were in one section of the front garden. I can imaging all the cheerful mixed colors when they bloom.

I've also started the veggie seeds to sprouting and some have been planted in potting soil flats. The beans and cukes are looking good and the sunflower seedlings will need to get planted out soon since they are too tall for the flat now. We had fairly warm weather the second half of February, so the almond and plum trees have already flowered and are leafing out. The quince still look lovely and I have an azalea in a pot which I received for my birthday last year and it's larger now and blooming like a champ. So pretty with ruffled pink and white flowers.

I've also been working in my studio to create more tea cup and saucer topped balusters for putting in the garden. They are quite decorative and you can fill the cup with bird seed or water. I paint the baluster to go with the cup and saucer design and colors and then Sweetie glues the cup and saucer onto the baluster. A photo I took last year is at the top of the post showing one of them I painted last winter. The one just above is of a gift for a friend for her birthday. She fills her cup with bird seed and she says the birds just love it.

Hope to have some recipes soon.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Golden Pancakes with Raspberry Topping

Tomorrow ends one of the most unusual Februaries I've ever experienced. We have had a month with now rain...none at all. February is often the month with the most rain in the year, so to have none is not only amazing but a little scary. Instead we have had some days with fog in the morning, a few days with clouds all day, but mostly we have had sunshine.

Along with all that sunshine and the resulting warm weather have come the plum and almond trees, blooming like debs ready for a ball, all fluffy in shades of pink and white. Ditto the manolias. Spring bulbs bloomed early and the first flush are gone, replaced by the first tulips. The rosemary shrubs are covered with pale blue flowers when usually we get a sprinkling of blue flowers. My azalea is gorgeous, covered with fluffy, ruffly dark pink and white blossoms. It's like Easter in February...maybe I should be coloring eggs, too?

Not sure if it is related to the warm weather or not, but our Costco has had beautiful raspberries for weeks now. Recently I made pancakes for breakfast and topped them with a mixture of fresh raspberries cooked in a little water and sugar and almond extract. Very springlike! I used some maple syrup, too because I just love maple with pancakes. Went well together.

Golden Pancakes with Raspberry Topping
Elle's recipe
Serves 4


1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 egg plus three egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup milk

Sift together the dry ingredients. In another bowl  combine the egg and egg yolks, melted butter and milk.

Quickly, with a few strokes, stir the wet ingredient mixture into the dry mixture. If too thick, add up to ¼ cup additional milk. Lumps are OK. Also OK to use non-dairy milk and butter instead of regular, if desired.

Ladle batter on a hot, greased griddle. Turn when small bubbles appear around the edges. Cook until second side has browned. Repeat until batter is used up.

Raspberry Topping

1 pint fresh raspberries, washed and drained
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

In a small saucepan, over low-medium heat, gently heat all the ingredient together until mixture comes to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Let simmer 2 minutes, then remove from heat, stir, and let cool to warm and serve over a stack of pancakes.

Serves 4.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Click Below To Go To Index

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

Friday, February 21, 2020

A Most Luscious Lemon Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

300 grams turbinado sugar
192 grams freshly squeezed lemon juice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENJOY! You deserve it!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

A French Regional Bread with the Babes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roll the pieces of dough into balls.

Leave to rest for 30 minutes.

                                                      photos on shaping from the book

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pain Tordu de Gers
(for two large corkscrew loaves)

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

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

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

The dough is left to rise for 30 minutes.

The baker divides the dough into pieces weighing 800g.

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

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

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

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

Bake 25 minutes for tordus weighing 800g.

Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups made this version.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Puppies and Pumpkin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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