Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sweet Way with a Veggie

Sweetie loves carrot cake. We don't have it very often, probably in part because I prefer chocolate cake, but we will be having some tonight. He was such a trooper, practically perfect in fact, during the ups and downs of my recent illness, that he deserves a treat. This one even comes with some veggies and nuts, so it isn't too wicked...unless you add the addictive cream cheese frosting. I also made a mini, pictured here, as a birthday cake for a friend. Even birthdays you don't want to celebrate deserve cake.

This one is the one I found in Dorie Greenspan's modern classic book Baking, From my home to yours. I followed it nearly to the letter, the only changes being that I used 1/2 cup less sugar than the recipe calls for and I decreased the oil by 1/4 cup and replaced that with soft unsalted butter. The oily taste has always been one of the things I don't enjoy with traditional carrot cake, so a little butter helps. It also makes the cake a touch lighter in texture. This one doesn't have any pineapple in it, nor raisins, nor cranberries, just carrots, coconut and pecans. I did add a teaspoon of vanilla, too, again to mask some of the oily flavor.

It makes a gigantic three layer cake, or, as I did, two small mini cakes and one thick layer. It is firm enough to cut the layers in half so you can put icing between the halves and on top. I used my friend Lori's thirty year old cream cheese frosting which has a touch of sour cream in it for a nice zing. It goes really well with carrot cake (and is great with Red Velvet Cake if you are planning to make that for Valentine's Day...never too soon to plan sweet surprises!) and there is plenty. The icing, by some magic alchemy, really brings out the flavors of the carrots and the cinnamon. Well worth the calories.

On the health front, seeing doc tomorrow, which should be the end of it. Still tire easily and I take naps, which is very unusual for me, but feel blessed that all is well again in general.

Mostly Dorie Carrot Cake with Lori's Cream Cheese Icing

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots (about 9-10 carrots)(this is a good place to use organic carrots, if available)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup canola or safflower oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter
4 large eggs at room temperature

Butter and flour 3 9-inch cake pans or equivalent. Place oven racks to divide oven into thirds. Put cake pans on baking sheets, two to one sheet, one on another sheet. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In one bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In another bowl combine the grated carrots, chopped pecans and shredded coconut.

In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the oil and butter together, then add the sugar and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth after each. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until barely combined. Gently mix in the carrot mixture. Divide the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 - 50 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. When done, a thin knife inserted in the center will come out clean.

Place cakes on a cooling rack and cool 5 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the pans and unmold them. Invert so tops of cakes are right side up and cool on cooling rack.

Make the Cream Cheese Icing (recipe below). Place 1/3 of the icing between each layer and the final third on the top, swirling the icing so its thick by the edges of the cake (which means you will be able to see some of the icing between the layers). Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set the frosting. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Serves 8 - 10.

For mini cakes, I baked some of the batter in a small 5" (I think, but could have been 4 or 4 1/2 inch) springform pan. Once the cake was cool, I split it horizontally. The bottom layer went on the plate, then some icing, which I swirled out to the edges, then the top layer and more icing on top. Since it was for a birthday, I added some heart shaped decor candies, silver balls and a candle. Party!

Lori's Cream Cheese Icing
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-3 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter, cream cheese, sour cream and vanilla together until fluffy. Then mix in gradually
the powdered sugar. Start with 2 cups and add to desired texture and taste by ¼ cup at a time.

Spread between layers, and on top of cake.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Three Kinds of Bread

For the third time in as many years I gathered a few weeks ago with women friends and baked bread. The friends gathered around the table have shifted slightly each time, but there has been a core group.

At first there was a fair amount of trepidation. That 'fear of yeast' is not uncommon. The first year we used a stand mixer since I thought that would help - just let the machine do all that kneading! Not as successful as I had hoped, so last year we went with breads created using thawed frozen bread dough. That worked for getting past the fear and some lovely breads were made after, all on their own.

This year I decided that we should get our hands covered with dough as we made focaccia. In case you haven't guessed, I'm teaching during these sessions. Seemed to me that we were ready to start from scratch and really get the feel of silky, supple kneaded dough. It worked! Everyone created great focaccia (in teams) and I think they all feel confident now to make it on their own.

The other two breads which I demonstrated were Aunt May's Irish Soda Bread (no yeast) and the shaping technique for the Pesto Rose that the Bread Baking Babes made in October. We did a cinnamon and sugar version of it, too. Next time? Already have requests for Sticky Buns and scones. Just wish I could do a Bread Baking Day like this with the Bread Baking Babes one day. I'll post Aunt May's Irish Soda Bread another day with more how-to photos.

I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her fabulous Yeastspotting weekly event. Stop by there as often as you can for yeast bread inspiration!

Your Guide to Making FocacciaIn general: Start with ingredients at room temperature. Gather together the items (including pans) needed for the recipe to make sure you have them, and enough of them. This is called mis en place, or gathering in place. Read the recipe all the way through at least once before starting. Feel free to contact me if you find yourself stuck at any point when you make this yourself. Sometimes it takes a few trials to feel comfortable with the process.

Ever since ancient times women have mixed flour, yeast and water together to make bread, working and kneading the dough with their hands until it becomes smooth and supple. This bread is a good one because it only has to rise a little and it has the lovely fragrance and taste of olive oil and salt. I like to add fresh rosemary, too. We are going to do a rapid rise version, but if you have lots of time, you can use less yeast and let it rise a few times before baking. For even more flavor, you can put the dough in the fridge overnight and then let it rise a few times.

Fast Focaccia

1 (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Toppings: olive oil, fresh rosemary, minced; Parmesan cheese, grated; sea salt, olives


1. Mix the yeast, sugar & water in a small bowl. Let proof for 10 minutes (bubbles begin to form)

2. In large bowl, stir together flour and salt. Make a well in the center for the yeast mix and oil.

3. Add the yeast mix and olive oil to the dry ingredients and combine. Dough will be shaggy.

4. When dough has pulled together, turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 5 - 10 minutes.

5. Gather into a ball. With hands coated with olive oil, oil the surface of the dough ball. Turn the bowl over the dough ball. Let dough rise in a warm place for 25 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil into bottom of 9 or 10 inch diameter cake pan. Swirl to coat bottom and sides with the oil. Repeat with another 2 tablespoons olive oil in another pan.

7. Punch risen dough down.

8. Divide dough in half. Place one piece of dough in each in oiled cake pan. Spread dough toward sides with your fingers, pushing fingers down into dough to create dimples or pockets.

9. Drizzle top of each pan with 1 tablespoons olive oil, then sprinkle with fresh rosemary and some Parmesan cheese or sea salt, if desired. Cover and let rise 15 minutes. Uncover.

10. Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden brown. Turn out of pan and turn right side up.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Better and Better

To all of you who have been thinkng good thoughts, sending good vibes, saying prayers and lifting me up, thank you! I'm doing much better. Hope to be posting some food posts soon :)  XO Elle

Friday, January 18, 2013

Jam Fantans for January

Hope you have had a chance to visit the blogs of the beautiful Babes who have bee good Babes and posted the January recipe. it's a good thing that Babes have no rules because I'm pretty late in posting considering I'm Kitchen of the Month. One of the things that means is that all the Babes got the recipe a while ago in early December. I baked my January version a couple of weeks ago. Will try to remember it all. The med-induced fuzz brain is clearing but still somewhat fuzzy.

I love whole grain and seedy savory breads and breads with savory fillings like pesto, but I do have a real sweet tooth, too.

Jam Fantans rolls are a great find for a sweet tooth because, well, there's jam!, and they are pretty to look at and single serving, too. You can freeze them for that day when you need just  a little sweet to go with you coffee or tea. I made two favors in January. My favorite is made with slightly tangy marmalade, all orange and sticky. Sweetie loved the ones with raspberry jam, which were also pretty with the pink layers. Not a big sweets fan? Go for savory! Pesto, butter and herbs, spicy tomato sauce can all stand in for the jam. No jam? To keep it sweet you can sub in Nutella, butter and cinnamon sugar, butter and a thick applesauce, butter and raisins or currants for the jam. Just be sure to leave that 1/6th space without jam, although the butter under the jam in the photo below did go over the whole dough rectangle.

The best advice I can offer is to have a good sized work surface ready, your dough at room temperature and a sharp a knife or bench scraper handy. The filling will squish out a little after the dough strips are stacked when you cut the strips into six pieces, but that's OK. There will still be plenty of filling. To be honest, I was drawn to this for the technique as much as for the dough, so feel free to substitute your favorite rich dough as long as you try the strips of dough stacked, cut and fanned in small baking container technique.

I do hope you will try this technique out, and be a Buddy. To be a Buddy, email me at plachman*at*sonic*dot*net with a photo of your Fantans and a short description of you experience with them. I'll send you your badge as soon as health allows. Last day to send is Jan. 29  & hope to have round up posted here a few days later. I know a lot of Buddies and great bakers are on out Facebook site, so will try to do a link there soon, as wheel as at round-up time. Bear with me, OK? Probably would have rewritten the recipe to clean it up if hospitilization had not gotten in the way, so hope you can do OK with what is below. Read all the way through first, OK?

Sweet Orange Marmalade Fantan Rolls


Makes 12 rolls

stand mixer with hook attachment (or mixing bowl and wooden spoon)
large mixing bowl, lightly coated with cooking spray (or clean, if you prefer)
12 cup standard muffin tin, buttered
3-4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup whole wheat bread flour (see update)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup whole wheat sourdough starter OR 1 package of RapidRise yeast mixed with ¼ cup warm water (see update at end)
1 cup non fat evaporated milk
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup egg substitute OR 1 egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided (see update)
2/3 cup marmalade (about), warmed


Sift 1 cup of the all-purpose flour, the 1 cup of whole wheat bread flour, salt, and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl. Stir until well blended. Set aside.

Placed evaporated milk, butter and maple syrup into a saucepan and heat until butter is nearly melted. Remove from heat. Stir a few minutes to help mixture cool. Let cool to 110 degrees F.

Add yeast (sourdough or fresher) mixture to milk mixture, then add milk mixture to flour mixture; beat well. Add egg and vanilla; stir until blended. Add 1 cup all-purpose flour, stir until thoroughly incorporated. Gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that is rather sticky.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 3 minutes or until dough is smooth and silky. (Add additional flour if needed while kneading, but only enough to keep it from sticking a lot.) Place in oiled (or clean if you are Elizabeth) bowl, turn dough to lightly coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Dust your work surface with flour. Punch down the dough, then halve it. Wrap one half in the plastic wrap and set aside. Roll the other half into a 12×12-inch (30.5×30.5 cm) square. You may have to roll slightly larger, and then trim the ends to even out the square. Brush dough with half the melted butter.

Spread the surface of the dough with about 1/2 the warmed marmalade, leaving 1/6 strip plain. This will allow you to have a plain side of dough on each side of the roll touching the muffin cup. Cut into 6 equal strips, then stack the strips on top of each other with the plain strip on top. Cut through the layers into 6 equal pieces, then place each into a buttered muffin cup, standing up so the layers are visible. Gently fan them open. Each will have six dough pieces with marmalade or other filling in between. Repeat with the remaining dough and the rest of the marmalade for the other six cups of the muffin tin.

Cover with a tea towel and let the rolls rise in a draft free spot at warm room temperature until the dough doubles, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. (Optional - I put a piece of plastic wrap between the rolls and the towel because of the sticky marmalade.)

Place the rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 375° F/190° C.

Remove the towel and bake the rolls until they are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan ten minutes, then transfer to a rack and allow to cool for about another 20 minutes before serving. If desired, drizzle a glaze of 1 teaspoon milk whisked together with enough confectioners' sugar (icing sugar) to make a drizzle that will not spread too much. Use the tines of a fork to drizzle it on. Let dry before serving the rolls.

1) If you don't have sourdough starter, you can combine a packet of dry yeast, 1/2 cup of warm water and 1/2 cup flour and let the mixture sit uncovered. I let mine sit for 4 hours, then made the recipe pretty much as written, using an additional 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour plus a little more flour on the board while kneading, and a little more later when shaping.

2) The butter references are confusing. 4 oz (1/2 stick) of melted butter is used in the dough. The rest of the stick is melted later and brushed, about 2 oz each, on the two rolled out dough squares before the jam is added. A small amount of butter is used to grease the muffin cups.

3) This is an easy dough to make without a machine. The recipe has been edited for how to use the sourdough starter or yeast mixture. I started with the mixture in #1, then stirred in the melted butter, milk and vanilla with a wooden spoon. Then I stirred the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients although the recipe puts it the other way. Then I kneaded the dough which meant a little more flour was incorporated. It makes a nice, supple, soft, and silky dough...a pleasure to work with.

4) When shaping, I brushed the whole square of dough with the melted butter, but put the jam only on 5/6th of the dough so that one strip, which was placed on top of the stack, was buttered but had no jam.

5) Be careful to watch these at 20 minutes and until they are finished. Due to the high sugar jam they can burn easily. It's also a good idea to place a drip pan on the rack under the one with the muffin tin to catch any dripping jam.

Remember, YOU can be a Bread Baking Babes Buddy...just email by Jan. 29th. Sorry, some photos got lost in the fog, but can be found on other Babes blogs.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Best Laid Plans

Dear Reader,

I know that my experiences with kidney stones since last Wednesday through now, both in the hospital and doing self-care at home, may lead to a funny story one day. At the moment I'm not in pain, although I'm very, very tired. Will be having some out-patient procedures and a doc visit tomorrow.

The best laid plans sometimes go awry. Today I was to post on Jam Fantans, the Bread Baking Babes recipe for the month. Since I'm also the Kitchen of the Month, the fact that it might be days before I can put together a coherent post is somewhat upsetting. The good news is that Elizabeth has posted the recipe on her post and perhaps other Babes, too. I'm sure their versions were wonderful! Do go and visit their blogs and see, OK?

If you want to be a Buddy, send me an e-mail with a photo and notes about our fantans. E-mail address is at top right of this blog in web view.

Thats all for now.  XO Elle

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Soup for the New Year

Happy New Year dear reader! I hope that your holidays were wonderful. With all of the rich foods I ate for the last month I'm ready for soup. It's usually fairly healthy, and perfect when the weather is chilly...which it is now here. Soup is one of my favorite foods...along with chocolate. I rarely write down recipes for the soups I make because my favorite ones are mixtures of onions, often garlic, sometimes carrots and celery, usually various veggies and broth, plus appropriate herbs and some pepper. I use what is in the pantry, in the fridge, in the garden and adjust the amounts both to what is on hand and what I feel like highlighting that day. Often the soup is a wonderful way to use up leftovers so I don't find little containers with exotic decomposed bits of this and that when I clean the fridge.

 Day before yesterday I finally found the time to make soup with my last garden grown butternut squash. The peeled chunks of squash were the most gorgeous golden color, even after being roasted in a very hot oven until soft. The pot also contained my usual chopped onions and some garlic, chunks of peeled garnet yam, chunks of a half a Granny Smith apple, peels left on, and chicken broth. After everything was nice and soft from simmering, I added cayenne pepper to contrast with the sweetness of the squash, apple and yams. I also added some ground ginger and some thyme, rosemary and mint for herbs plus lots of freshly ground black pepper.

I used an immersion blender to smooth it out a bit, but there was still plenty of texture. I also added a half cup of buttermilk and a half cup regular milk, plus some more broth until I had just the right consistency.

A few days before I had made a meatloaf with some ground pork, similar herbs to those used in the soup, onion, garlic, cooked bulgher wheat, feta cheese and Parmesan cheese. Once it was baked we had it for dinner with a nice salad, but there was still some left.

At dinnertime yesterday I had one of those 'light bulb' moments when I realized that the flavors of the meatloaf would go really well with those of the soup. I also decided that the soup needed some greens. Just before I was ready to serve, I reheated the meatloaf and cut it into bite sized chunks. In two soup bowls I placed handfuls of washed baby spinach, then microwaved the bowls on high for 2 minutes to wilt the greens. The soup was ladled on top and the chunks of meatloaf topped it all. The photo only shows the soup, with no spinach or meatloaf chunks...seems I forgot to take a photo at dinnertime and was able to do a quick snapshot yesterday at lunchtime when Sweetie was just about ready to polish off the last of the soup in this unadorned state.

The dinnertime soup looked lovely with that golden colored soup and some green from the spinach when I stirred it up. It also smelled wonderful! Best of all the flavors all came together. Sweetie is convinced that this is the best soup I've ever made. I'll let him think that until the next time that inspiration strikes!

Butternut Squash Soup with Spinach

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 average-sized Butternut Squash
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium to large sweet potato or yam
½ large Granny Smith Apple
2 ½ - 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
½ cup milk
½ cup fat-free buttermilk
½ teaspoon dried ginger powder
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried mint
¼ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
fresh ground pepper to taste (I used a LOT - gave it a nice kick)
a large handfuls washed baby spinach for each serving
meatloaf chunks (optional)

1. Peel and seed the squash. Cut into 1/2 inch chunks. In a large food safe bag (I use recycled plastic bags from the produce section of the grocery store), combine the squash chunks, 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil, salt and pepper. Spread the squash chunks on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. Peel onion and chop. Set aside. Peel potato and apples and cut into ¼ inch chunks.

3. Over medium heat in a large saucepan/stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil and stir onion and garlic until tender.

4. Add stock, yam chunks, apple chunks, and seasonings. Give it a good stir, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 20 minutes until the yam and apple chunks are fork tender. Add the reserved roasted squash chunks and stir. Heat another 2-3 minutes to heat the squash. Remove from heat.

5. In a blender or food processor scoop about ½ of the mixture into blender. On low speed, blend until nicely pureed. While doing this, add about ¼ cup of milk and ¼ cup of buttermilk until creamy. Transfer this to a bowl or a 2nd pot. Alternately, use an immersion blender to puree the whole pot of soup in the pot, being sure to add the milk and buttermilk (a total of ½ cup each milk and buttermilk) .

6. Repeat step 5, adding another ¼ cup of milk and ¼ cup buttermilk and transfer to bowl or pot; continue until all soup has been creamed.

7. Put soup back on very low heat, stirring to blend, and adding lots of black pepper...yum! Simmer for 15 minutes and taste soup. Adjust seasonings and, if needed, more broth, to get the consistency you like. Simmer another 2 minutes at very low heat.

8. To serve, place a handful of washed baby spinach leaves in the bottom of each microwavable bowl for the number you are serving. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Top each portion of wilted spinach with a serving of the soup. Garnish as desired. For a hearty soup, top with chunks of warm meatloaf as I did.