Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cookies Revealed

Sorry to be so secretive, but I did want to surprise Natasha and XHP yesterday and Natasha reads this blog all the time.

The cookies that were a thank you for the birthday gift from Natasha and XHP were not covered with caramel, nor with ganache, nor with buttercream, but they have plenty of butter in them, some kick from espresso and (hand chopped!) bittersweet Scharfenberger chocolate. And since they are a Dorie Greenspan recipe, they came out perfectly, of course. People who don't bake a lot really can't appreciate how liberating it is to know that ANY recipe that has Dorie Greenspan's name on it will be a joy to bake and will be perfect (well, as perfect as the skills of the baker allow :) So, a big THANK YOU to the two lovely people who gave me the book!

Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies are crisp and still delicate, buttery, sophisticated and perfect with a cup of coffee. They were a hit on Wednesday and would be a hit any time of day or night...imagine them with fruit and coffee at breakfast, with milk in the afternoon, with cocoa at night. I may have to make more.

Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
by Dorie Greenspan from Baking: from my home to yours

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used one stick salted and on stick unsalted because that's what I had on hand)
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix the boiling water and the espresso to dissolve the espresso, then set aside to cool to tepid.

Beat the butter and confectioners' sugar together on medium speed using a stand mixer, for about 3 minutes, until mixture is very smooth. Don't use the whisk attachment, use the paddle or beaters.

Beat in the vanilla and espresso, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour and chocolate all at once mixing only until the flour is incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to gently mix in any flour on the sides, but mix as little as possible to keep dough tender.

Using a spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. (Elle's note: This is the part that was new to me and a bit scary, but it worked like a charm)

Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle that's 1/4 inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough (if you can) so it doesn't cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness (I was more concerned about the thickness), seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2 inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork. (Elle's note: Dorie calls for pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet...I tried that on the first one and the cookie broke in half. The rest of the sheet got perfunctory pricks, the following sheets none, but they all seemed to come out fine.) Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, rotating the sheets at the halfway point. The shortbreads will not get golden - they stay pretty pale. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool.

Makes 32

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers in May - Opera in the Land of St. Honore'

Spring had come to the Land of St. Honore’ and the duchess was expecting a special guest for coffee the next day. Arrayed on her kitchen counter were eggs and butter and sugar and flour…and a few secret ingredients…all the things that a Daring Baker like the duchess loved to work with.

She smiled at her niece Mm. Mandy who was a kindred spirit in the kitchen and had come to bake with her. First they read the long and complicated recipe, then divided up the tasks. Broken down that way, it didn’t seem too difficult.

As they worked together, eggs were separated and whipped,
nuts ground, butter melted, sugar and flour sifted, and white chocolate melted. A syrup that included coconut milk and rum was made and cooled.

Mandy took a turn with the whisk for the buttercream and later the mixer worked it’s magic, too.

The thick buttercream was silken and spreadable.

The kitchen ruler came into play to make perfect thirds of the baked and cooled jaconde for this was to be an elegant, formal sort of dessert.

As the women wove their way around the kitchen, laughing and chatting, the creation took shape. Mm. Mandy showed her skill with the piping bag making the light yellow decorations for the top.

Layers were brushed with the syrup,

then spread with the buttercream.

After buttercream was smoothed on the top layer,

the rectangle spent some time in the fridge. The white chocolate glaze, flavored with rum was finally spread on the top and the dessert set to chill overnight.

The next afternoon, to the strains of Mozart, lovely slices of Opera Cake were served on fine china plates to Prince Albert, along with some strong coffee in bone china cups.

This was not your usual Opera Cake which is often chocolate or coffee flavored, but a light version, with layers of macadamia nut sponge cake which had soaked up rum and coconut flavored syrup. Between the layers there was rich rum buttercream. The top was glazed with white chocolate that had been flavored with more rum and the sweet, pale yellow treble clef note design, piped from tinted white chocolate, with one placed on each slice, enhanced the musical theme perfectly.

The afternoon passed with light opera and delightful conversation. Since this Light Opera Cake, buttery and just sweet enough, with the coconut, macadamia nut and rum flavors giving it a feel of the tropics, was very rich, only small slices were needed.

When her niece left the next day to visit relatives to the east, she took the rest with her, to the delight of her Capitol aunt and uncle. They had no trouble finishing off the remaining slices.

The Daring Bakers are dedicating this month's challenge to Barbara of ( is the force behind the food blog event called A Taste of Yellow that supports the LiveSTRONG foundation started by Lance Armstrong. This year's LiveStrong Day is in May so we decided that we could show our support by dedicating our respective challenge posts to Barbara. Mandy’s yellow decorations are in support of A Taste of Yellow.

Do take a spin around the blogosphere and see what the other Daring Bakers have done with this delightful challenge by going to the blogroll ( . A big thank you to our hostesses this month - Shea of the blog Whiskful ( and Fran of the blog Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie ( , plus our honored founders Ivonne of CreamPuffs in Venice ( and Lis of La Mia Cucina ( . Loved the Opera Cake!

If you would like to create an Opera Cake for yourself, here is the recipe the duchess used:

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake

This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

The Elements of an Opéra Cake:

Joconde: The base of an Opéra Cake is a thin sponge cake that is made using nut meal, traditionally almond meal (finely ground blanched almonds).

Syrup: The joconde is flavoured with a sugar syrup that can be flavoured to suit your tastes.

Buttercream: The first two layers of the joconde are covered in a rich buttercream.

Ganache/Mousse (optional): In some recipes, the final layer of the joconde is covered in a ganache or mousse. While not hard to make, this makes the recipe quite involved.

Glaze: The final step to an Opéra Cake is the glaze that gives the cake a very finished and elegant appearance.

Elle’s NOTE: I made half the recipe and baked the jaconde in one jelly roll pan, then cut it into thirds. I substituted ground macadamia nuts for the ground almonds in the cake, used ¼ cup coconut milk and ¼ cup water for the syrup, then used rum for the flavoring. For the buttercream, I used the recipe from the Yule Log from the December Daring Bakers challenge, flavoring it with rum. This yielded a buttery cake, with a tropical flavor of rum and coconut, which went very well with the white chocolate and macadamia nut flavors.

For the joconde (sponge cake)
(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)

What you’ll need:

•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)
•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
•parchment paper
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s better to have two)


6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)

(Elle’s NOTE: We ground the macadamia nuts in a hand nut grinder for a fine, even nut flour)

2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.

6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

For the syrup

(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan


½ cup (125 grams) water (or ¼ cup coconut milk and ¼ cup water)
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.) (RUM!)

1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the Rum Buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons rum

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Beat the rum into the buttercream. Chill, if needed, to a consistency that will be firm enough for two layers of cake to be placed.

For the glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan or double boiler


14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.
Decorate if desired.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings. (The half recipe was decorated so that there were 10 slices.)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Something Rich But Not Too Sweet

My dearest Natasha gave me the Dorie Greenspan book, Baking: from my kitchen to yours for my birthday. It has taken me a while, but today I was able to bake her a recipe from it. In a few days the results will be hand delivered.

She said she would be happy with any recipe in the book, and who wouldn't? Every one I've tried has come out perfectly and there are intrepid bakers making one of her recipes each Tuesday and it sounds like those recipes always work, too. Natasha did say that, if possible, it would be lovely to have something rich, but not too sweet. I think that the goodies I made today fit that description perfectly. Lots of butter, only a little sugar.

In order not to spoil the surprise, the cookie (for it is a cookie!) will not be posted today, nor the recipe. Check back in a few days to see what her treat is...I know this is a tease, but it'll be worth it, I promise.

Oh, the photo is from my garden. These flowers re-seeded from last year, which is a good thing. There has been so little time for gardening this year that the only other things to see are the weeds.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Spelt and Bluberries Spiff Up Muffins

When Sweetie and I visited Calistoga for our anniversary last month, one of the places we visited was the Bale Grist Mill a little south of town. A strong volunteer group and lots of enthusiasm and some grants have made it possible for this old mill with a 30 foot water wheel to be restored. It's really fun to see the wheel spinning and the water falling as it turns, and to see the mill stones turning and the milled grain spilling into the bags. Makes you appreciated how easy it is to just purchase flour at the store anytime you want it. The State Park docents are very enthused and explain how it all works, also giving a lot of history and milling terms, like 'nose to the grindstone'. The miller keeps his nose close to the grindstone because if the stones get too close together that can damage the grinding surface...and you can tell only by smell that they are getting to close. If you get to the Calistoga - St. Helena area of Napa, make time to visit if you can.

The day we were there they were milling polenta. In the gift shop I was able to purchase some of the polenta and some spelt flour, too. I've been reading about spelt and wanted to try baking with some spelt flour. Wikipedia gives the following information (through"green grain"):

Spelt, an ancient grain, is pretty healthy. It contains about 57.9 percent carbohydrates (excluding 9.2 percent fibre), 17.0 percent protein and 3.0 percent fat, as well as dietary minerals and vitamins.[9] As it contains a moderate amount of gluten, it is suitable for baking. In Germany, the unripe spelt grains are dried and eaten as Grünkern, which literally means "green grain". It predates bread wheat, which may have been hybridized from spelt.

This weekend is chilly and rainy. We invited Grandma L to breakfast and I made some Spelt Blueberry Muffins to go with the scrambled eggs and fruit bowl and coffee. Since spelt doesn't have a lot of gluten, I used all-purpose flour for 3/4 of the flour and used spelt flour for 1/4. I added some lemon zest and lemon juice, an overflowing cup of fresh blueberries and both baking soda and baking powder, plus egg substitute and buttermilk. The muffins are not very sweet because they only have 2 tablespoons of sugar, so they would be great with the addition of some honey or even lemon curd.

The spelt added a nutty flavor and some nice texture.The muffins were a little flatter than usual, but really delish.

Spelt Blueberry Muffins
makes 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
finely grated zest of one lemon
1 egg, beaten or 1/4 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
juice of 1/2 lemon, seeds removed
1 cup buttermilk
1 heaping cup fresh blueberries, washed and drained

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with baking spray. Set aside.

In a bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Add the lemon zest and stir to distribute.

In a second bowl, whisk together the egg, butter, lemon juice and buttermilk.

Add the blueberries to the dry ingredients and gently stir to coat with the flour mixture. Add the wet ingredient mixture all at once and stir together with a fork, just until all the dry ingredients have been moistened. Don't overmix.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tins, distributing evenly. Bake in preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes until tops are golden brown.

Eat while still warm. Garnish with butter, honey and/or lemon curd if desired.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Another Flavor of Spring

Sweet fresh strawberries are a sure sign of spring, but another seasonal favorite is asparagus. There is something about those long bright green spears with the pointed heads that makes for great memories. My favorite way to enjoy them is grilled. We usually serve them with something else grilled. Recently Sweetie grilled a big bunch of asparagus which he first drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with a little garlic salt. Once they were grilled he served them with some pork tri tip that he had anointed with Scotch and more garlic. With a green salad on the side it was a delightful spring dinner.

Although it isn't a food item, our lab Xam recently turned 12...that's kinda old in dog years. Last month he had surgery to remove a growth from his was about the size of the first part of our thumb...fingernail to first knuckle...but fortunately it was not cancerous. Since the surgery he seems to be more active and peppy. Here is a photo taken at a local park a few days ago. He is full of life and such a good companion. We are super happy that he looks like he will be with us for a while yet.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spring Strawberries

Although the plants in my garden haven't yet produced ripe strawberries, only little green ones, the strawberries from Watsonville, just south of San Francisco, have started to arrive in the stores. It's time for strawberry delights.

Over the weekend I was in L.A. for the annual P.E.O. Conference. I attended as a delegate last year when it was in San Jose and was again a delegate. I won't take up time on the conference itself, but do want to show you the dessert from Saturday night, which was the main banquet.

It's a white chocolate box, topped with a glazed strawberry and plated over a swirl of strawberry syrup. Inside the little box are four thin layers of vanilla sponge cake, each layer separated by lemon buttercream, and the layers had a brush of strawberry syrup before the buttercream was applied. The cake was delicious, but the white chocolate box was difficult to eat, although very pretty.

Now that I'm home again, it's time to eat some spring greens, too. Today for lunch I had a salad of fresh mixed greens, sliced fresh strawberries, grilled chicken slices, and a sprinkle of candied walnuts. The dressing was a raspberry vinaigrette made with walnut oil. Light and tasty.

Strawberry and Chicken Salad
Serves 2

2 large handfuls of fresh mixed greens, washed and dried
6 medium to large fresh ripe strawberries, washed and hulled
1 chicken breast
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 cup candied walnuts
Strawberry-Walnut Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Place one large handful of fresh greens on each person's plate.

Slice the strawberries. If large, cut through the slices to make smaller pieces. Place half of the strawberry slices on each plate, scattering evenly over the lettuce. Set aside

Heat a small cast iron skillet over medium-hot heat. (if you prefer, use a non-stick skillet and less or no oil). Add the grapeseed oil and allow it to heat. While oil is heating, butterfly the chicken breast so that the pieces are more even in thickness. Sprinkle with the garlic salt.

Place chicken breast in hot oil and cook until just opaque and lightly browned on one side, about 3-5 minutes depending on size of the chicken breast.
Remove from the pan to a cutting board and slice into bite sized slices. Place half of the chicken slices on each salad. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the nuts on each salad and dress with the Strawberry-Walnut Vinaigrette to taste.

Serve while chicken is still warm.

Strawberry-Walnut Vinaigrette
6 medium to large fresh ripe strawberries
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup walnut oil (or olive oil if unavailable)
salt and pepper to taste

Dice the berries, then mash them with a fork in a small bowl. Rub through a food mill or fine mesh strainer, retaining the juices and discarding the seeds.

In a bowl large enought to whisk in, place the strawberry juice and vinegar. Whisk in the oil until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Keep any remaining in an airtight glass jar in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spring When It Sizzles

Unseasonable heat wave hit today and is supposed to continue for the next few days. The 'normal' temperature for mid-May around here is a high of 75 - 80. Today it was well over 90 degrees during the hottest part of the day, so that qualifys as hot. Tomorrow is slated to be at least a few degrees over 100.
That meant getting out early to water the garden and do a bit of weeding, then lots of time indoors where it was cooler, thanks to our concrete floor which retains the cool from the night before. There is an art show coming up for the watercolor class I attend, so I was matting and framing my piece (we have to choose just one). I was honored to have my piece chosen as one of four from our class on the postcard advertising the show. Careful viewers of this blog have already seen it almost finished in this post. I had to give it a title, so I chose 'Juicy' 'cuz the oranges look pretty juicy to me.

One of the dilemmas when the weather is hot is what to make for dinner. I tossed together a salad of cold leftover grilled chicken chunks, cucumber, avocado, carrots, fresh mandarin orange segments, golden raisins, sliced almonds and blue cheese bits mixed with mesclun salad mix. Sweetie enjoyed his favorite lime dressing and I opted for walnut raspberry since my favorite Organic Raspberry dressing is gone and I don't remember where I bought it. Sucks having an older brain sometimes.

If you have a toaster oven you don't have to heat up the kitchen to prepare a great appetizer for hot weather:

Smoked Salmon and Brie Toasts
serves 2-4

1/2 baguette, sliced in 1/2 inch to 1 inch slices, then lightly toasted in the toaster oven
2-4 oz ripe brie cheese
2 oz. smoked salmon (or more if you really love smoked salmon)
mizuna or herb leaf for garnish

Take the toasted baguette slices and spread about a tablespoon of brie on each slice. Place on a small cookie sheet that will fit in the toaster oven and broil in the toaster oven until brie melts.

Remove from toaster oven and immediately layer on some of the smoked salmon. Garnish with a leaf and serve at once while the cheese is melty.

Remember to share...although these are so good it's easy to eat them all yourself.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Very Berry Mother's Day

As we celebrate Mothers' Day, we venture once again to the Land of St. Honore':

Once upon a time in the land of St. Honore’, far off in the woods of the west country, lived a woodcutter and his wife. At Yuletide the goodwife had surprised her husband by baking a delicious Yule Log for the woodcutter. Now that spring has arrived, it’s time to surprise the goodwife herself.

While the woodcutter and his wife searched the woods for morels and fern fiddleheads to make a spring pasta dish, their daughter returned home and gathered her bowls and spoons and flour and sugar and eggs and butter and began to bake something wonderful for her mom.

First she made a flat layer of a cake like a sponge…called a genoise. She sifted the flour mixture, then folded it into the beaten eggs and sugar mixture. Spread in the prepared sheet cake pan it was pretty impressive looking. Into the preheated oven it went.

While it was baking she made a delicious rum flavored buttercream, whisking an egg white-sugar mixture over simmering water until hot, then beating it and adding softened butter a little at a time, then some rum for flavor....yummy!

She also made a berry ice cream filling. She diced some strawberries and halved some fat blueberries, put them in a pot with a little water and a bit of sugar and brought them to a boil. Then she placed the mixture in a shallow pan and put it in the freezer to cool. Once cooled, she softened some raspberry – vanilla swirl frozen yogurt and mixed in the berry mixture. That mixture then went back in the freezer to firm up just a bit.

Once the cake had cooled enough to handle, she laid it on parchment and brushed it with more rum, then fanned it with a sheet cake pan to get rid of some of the alcohol.

Then she took the frozen berry mixture out of the freezer & stirred it enough so it was spreadable, then spread it over the cake and rolled it up like a jelly roll. The roll was quickly wrapped in a length of heavy duty foil. An overnight chilling made it firm enough so that she could work the magic she had in mind to surprise her mom.

She cut off the ends straight across showing the swirl of light cake and darker purplish berry frozen yogurt mixture. Then she frosted the outside of the roll with the rum buttercream and decorated the roll with fresh flowers from the garden outside the cottage. When she served it up after the pasta dinner, her mom was so surprised and pleased…what an excellent Mothers’ Day gift!

On each serving the daughter spooned some extra, uncooked, blueberries and strawberry slices. The woodcutter even added some stawerry jam to his serving.

What a decadent and delicious dessert and perfect for spring! The goodwife was wonderfully surprised by the cake, impressed with her daughter’s baking skills and kindness in making it. It was a very nice ending to a nice weekend.

Wishing all mothers a happy Mothers’ Day, especially if you will be with your child/children. Extending a hug to mothers whose children are far from home, ill, or claimed by death, to those who would be mothers but have not yet been able to, and to children who are not able to be with their mothers today, for whatever reason. Remember the love you share with your mother, grandmother, child, foster child, adopted child, child of your desire. Love never dies but lives in our hearts always.
Do remember that although the food is real, this story, and all the stories in the Land of St. Honore’, are pure fiction. My own daughter has many talents, but, as far as I know, baking a genoise is not one of them. She lavishes such love on me throughout the year that, although I miss her since she is not here today, I know that whenever she flies in from the north that we will have a great time and I feel very loved and appreciated each day.

The recipe is at the end of this post if you wish to make this springtime dessert, too.

The Genoise and Buttercream recipes are the same, or only slightly varied, as the recipes used for the Yule Log from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert) (see link at beginning of story). The berry filling is my own creation.

Cake should be stored in the freezer, tightly wrapped. Leftovers should be frozen, but only for a day or two more, at the most. Best eaten the day it is made.

Berry Good Ice Cream Cake Roll
Serves 12

The Genoise
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch

one (1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).

4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream and the berry filling.

10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Rum Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons rum

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Measure the liquor and beat into the buttercream. (You will only use half of this buttercream, but it keeps well in the fridge for at least a week…surely you can figure out another use?)

Berry Ice Cream Filling
½ cup fresh blueberries. If large, slice in half
1 cup diced strawberries, tops removed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon water

In a small pot place all the ingredients, stir to mix, cove, then bring to a boil. Uncover and boil one minute. Remove from heat an cool to room temperature.
Take one pint of frozen yogurt or ice cream (I used raspberry – vanilla swirl frozen yogurt) and soften it. Mix with the cooled berry mixture, then place in a shallow pan and freeze to firm it up a bit. Stir after 10 minutes to keep it smooth.

Putting It all together:
Take a sharp knife and run it around the edges of the cake pan. Turn the cake out on a clean work surface and peel off the parchment paper. Turn the cake back over, so the top is facing up. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the cake with another tablespoon of rum (optional), then fan with a cake pan to evaporate some of the alcohol.

Stir the berry filling to a spreadable consistency, then spread it evenly over the cake. Roll up as tightly as possible, then wrap well in a length of heavy duty foil. Seal the ends by twisting them. Place the cake roll in the freezer at least 4 hours or overnight to firm up.

Remove from freezer and unwrap. Slice off the ends, exposing the swirled cake and filling. Place the roll on the serving platter and frost with half the buttercream, swirling the buttercream in a decorative way. Reserve the second half of the buttercream for another use.

Decorate with more berries or fresh flowers. Serve each slice with additional mixed berries for garnish.

Monday, May 05, 2008

It's Not Tuesday, But It's Still Dorie

I would really love to join the Tuesdays with Dorie group and bake a recipe that Dorie Greenspan has written once a week. Reality is cruel. There is no way I could find enough time or energy to do that. So instead I bake something from Baking: from my home to yours, her marvelous book, whenever I get a chance.

My lovely niece MMM is here to visit and she loves to bake, so we spend a wonderful time going through the book and being tempted by many great sounding recipes. In the end we made a Bundt cake that is the perfect thing to go with a cup of tea in the afternoon (or coffee for breakfast for that matter).

It uses fresh apples, grated, and apple butter from the store. We were able to purchase some locally made apple butter from Kozlowski's farms. Delicious! Sweetie said that the cake is almost like a carrot cake, except that it uses the fresh apple instead of carrot shreds.

We were using some rum for another recipe when it was time to do the glaze, so our version has a nice rum drizzle. It goes very nicely with the lightly spiced, apple rich cake. Time to go make a cup of tea to go with another slice.

Double Apple Bundt Cake with or without Rum Glaze
A variation of recipe from Dorie Greenspan, in "Baking: from my home to yours "

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon allspice (original recipe calls for cinnamon)
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
Note: original recipe called for 1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup store-bought apple butter – spiced or plain
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup pecans chopped (or walnuts)
½ cup plump, moist golden raisins (or dark)
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Enough rum to make a glaze with some body

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 – to – 10 inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. Dust interior with flour and tap out excess. If you are using a silicone pan, no need to butter or flour it, but don’t place on a baking sheet either…the oven’s heat needs to circulate all around the pan and through the inner tube.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.

Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed, scraping the bowl as needed, for three minutes, or until the mixture is smooth, thick and pale. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition for about 1 minute. The batter will be light and fluffy. Reduce mixer to low speed and beat in the apple butter. If it curdles that’s OK. Still on low speed, add the grated apples and mix completely.

Add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the batter. Using a spatula, fold in the nuts and raisins.

Pour the batter, which will be thick, into the prepared Bundt pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 50 -55 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack. Cool for 5 minutes. Unmould and cool the cake to room temperature. For better flavor, let cake cool completely, wrap well in plastic wrap, and let stand overnight at room temperature.

To serve the cake, either dust with confectioners sugar or drizzle the following glaze over it:
Put the confectioners sugar in s small bowl and gradually add the rum until a glaze with some body forms.


Thursday, May 01, 2008


I love sugar and butter and cream and cream cheese....all those delish ingredients that are hard on the arteries. Reading many, many, many Daring Baker blogs over the last few days that were full of the cutest cheesecake pops made me want to make another batch. An antidote to all that sugar had to be found.

So reason prevailed. There is a little BACON in this dish, so it's not super healthy, but it's not full of cream cheese, either.

If you want a great side dish that goes together in a snap, tastes savory and wonderful - hey, it has BACON - and would be good any time of year, look no further.

This recipe came together after I checked the fridge. The mushrooms were starting to get a little brown, the seasonings were easily found, and it has BACON so it must be good :)

Steamed Green Beans with Mushrooms and Bacon
Serves 2-4

2 strips bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, diced or sliced into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
16 oz whole frozen green beans

In a cast iron skillet or non-stick frying pan, saute' the bacon until crisp, but not burnt. Remove to a piece of paper towel to drain.

In the bacon drippings left in the pan, saute' the mushrooms 2 minutes, stirring often. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat another 2 minutes to release some of the juices.

Uncover the pan and sprinkle the mushrooms with the herbs. Stir to combine. Cover and continue to cook another minute over medium heat.

Uncover and add the frozen beans and about 2 tablespoons of water. If the mushrooms have released a lot of liquid, just use 1 tablespoon. Cover, bring heat up to high, and cook another 4 minutes, stirring half way through. Uncover, add the bacon pieces and stir.

Taste and add salt (if needed...with the bacon you might not) and black pepper to taste.

Serve at once, nice and hot.