Wednesday, September 28, 2016


A bus ride at sunrise through San Francisco to catch a plane to Boston.

One day in Boston.

Two days in Ireland,

then yesterday with a lot of time on airplanes and in the car brought us to the magical tiny hill town in the Luberon in France where our dear friend Naomi lives with her man Pete.

Sweetie and I have never been to la belle France, but are quite taken with the beauty. This morning at breakfast the host of our BandB, Francis, we stumbled along with my broken French and his halting English but we had a satisfying exchange all in all. Some words and phrases returned like fish floating up in a pool...suddenly there.

The reason this post is headed Raspberries is that we had amazing dark red freshly picked raspberries in Ireland with pre-dinner drinks and then Naomi served darling tarts for dessert last night that had bright red and equally tasty raspberries on top. Naturally I didn't take photos of either, but their intense red hues stay in my memory.

When I return home I'll do many posts, with photos, of our journey, but today just wanted to say that all is well and we are having such a good time traveling with our daughter.

Haven't figured out how to add photos yet from this phone, so plain words today! (Some photos added when I got home.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pecan Tart

Natasha's favorite dessert is probably pecan pie. Pecan pie is often requested when I ask if I can bring a dessert when we are invited to her beautiful home for dinner. This time I decided to mash together two recipes to see if I could get the beauty and flavor of a pecan pie, but a crust which is easier to serve and not as prone to leaking. Fortunately it worked and now I can share with you how to make a wonderful, delicious to eat and easy to serve pecan tart. Natasha liked it a lot!

I started with the recipe from a loooooong time ago from a post from 2007. That February I posted each day from the first until Valentines day, with the theme of 'How Do I Love You?". If you have time check it out...there are some good recipes there. For that day, I think it was the fifth, but not sure now, I was making a mosaic nut tart and it was similar enough that it seemed it would work for the pecan tart. At the time I was still able to eat butter. It really does taste better with butter, so if you can, use a good quality butter and make sure that whichever fat you use is well chilled. It really helps to have cold butter or margarine. It makes a stable and tasty crust somewhat like a cookie. The filling rarely seeps through, but I bake it on a cookie sheet just in case. Baked on sugar and syrup filling is no fun to clean off the oven floor.

This tart crust uses a food processor, but if you don't have on, just put the dry ingredients in a bowl, cut the fat in with a pastry blender or two knives held close together, then, when the fat is cut into the flour mixture so that most pieces are tiny, stir in the yolk with a fork.

The pecan filling is straight from the dark Karo syrup bottle. Eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and Karo (plus some melted butter if your remember to add it, which I didn't) are stirred together. The nuts are added and the mixture turned into the cold, but unbaked, tart shell. I turned all my pecans with the curved side up and arranged them a bit in a nice pattern. As you might have guessed, I love playing with my food! It will taste just fine if you pour in the filling and put it right into the oven. A nice helping of whipped cream on top and no one will be the wiser.

If you've never had pecan pie or tart I should warn you that this is a very sweet dessert. You could reduce the sugar by a bit, but if you take out too much it will change the consistency and you might get a filling that is too loose or too grainy. Unsweetened whipped cream cuts the sweetness in a very rich but lovely way, if you do dairy.

By the way, very early tomorrow morning Sweetie and I will be headed off for a vacation. If I can I'll post while I'm gone, although it will most likely be about the trip rather than food. Otherwise I'll do posts and food once I come back. If you get bored, there are over 1,000 recipes on this blog...try a few. Some of the ones from the early years (ten years ago in a handful of days!) are really good. Just sayin'.

Pecan Tart
Makes one 9-inch tart

Combine 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, and ½ cup very cold butter (or margarine), cut into pieces. Whirl in a food processor or cut butter in with a pastry blender or two knives until coarse crumbs form. Add 1 egg yolk; process or sir until dough sticks together.

Using a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, put chunks of the dough over the bottom and use your clean fingers to smoosh the dough over the bottom and up the sides into a fairly smooth layer. Freeze for 30 minutes or more.

3 eggs
1 cup dark Karo corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl beat the eggs to break them up, then add the corn syrup, sugar, vanilla and butter.

Add the pecans and stir to coat. Pour the filling into the prepared, chilled tart pan. Arrange the nuts if you like. Put the tart on a cookie sheet and put into the preheated oven. Bake approximately 50 minutes. Finished tart will have browned nuts and the filling will be only slightly jiggly in the center.

Cool on a rack for 2 hours. Remove the tart sides and chill in the refrigerator for an hour or more. Bring to room temperature to serve.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dessert For A Queen

The Cake Slice Bakers are almost finished with the wonderful Maida Heatter's Cakes book, with this month being the last for sets of recipes to choose from. Be sure to come back October 20th to see which recipe I choose for the final bake from this book!

This month I chose the lovely Queen Mother Cake, a rich flourless chocolate cake with a chocolate ganache. I wasn't really sure that I could make a nice ganache with soy creamer, but it worked beautifully and no one knew that I didn't use whipping cream.

The original recipe calls for toasting almonds and grinding them in a food processor with sugar to create a fine flour. I've done this, but the particles of almond are variable. The flavor may have been different by just using the pre-made almond flour which isn't toasted, but the texture is then uniform, especially if you sift the almond flour as I do.

I found that the soy creamer worked just fine instead of whipping cream for the icing. I used two-thirds of a package of Scharffen Berger's chocolate for the cake and the remaining third, plus 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips for the icing. This worked well, too. You really taste the chocolate in this cake, so use the chocolate you most enjoy eating out of hand.

The original recipe had some instructions for cooling the cake on a damp towel. I skipped that and let it cool for a while on a wire rack in the pan. This seemed to work just fine. I also baked it on Friday night for a Saturday dinner, so I wrapped the cooled cake up in a plastic bag, with the pan bottom still attached, and put it in the fridge until the next afternoon. That made it very easy to handle because the chilled cake wasn't at all delicate. I always make a mess and create a mass of crumb when I trim the top of a cake as called for in the recipe, so I skipped that step and iced it right side up.

This is a rich cake. Small pieces are just fine. A bowl of berries (strawberries in my case) passed with the cake and some whipped cream are nice. The strawberries cut the richness a bit, for a thoroughly enjoyable serving of a very pretty cake. I already have requests to make it again.

It might seem like a lot of directions, but read it through a few times and then just take it slowly and have fun with it :)

Be sure to check out the choices that my fellow Cake Slice Bakers have made. Look at the bottom of the post!

Queen Mother's Cake
Adapted from Maida Heatter's Cakes
12 portions

6 eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
6 oz. almond flour (I used King Arthur Flour's)
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces (I used Scharffen Berger's)
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) non-dairy margarine or butter, at room temperature

Note: I don't have two stand mixer bowls, so I changed the directions so that I whipped the egg whites first. If you have two bowls, you can make the chocolate mixture, then whip the whites.

Adjust a rack one-third up in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a round of baking-pan liner (parchment works well) cut to fit. Grease the paper. Dust the pan all over the inside with fine, dry bread crumbs. Invert the pan over paper, and tap lightly to shake out excess crumbs. Set the prepared pan aside.

Place the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over warm water on moderate heat. Cover until partially melted, then uncover and stir until just melted and smooth. Remove top pan from double boiler and set it aside until tepid or room temperature.

Sift the almond flour into a small bowl and stir in 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Set aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, with clean beaters (I used the whisk attachment) beat the whites with the salt and lemon juice, starting on low speed and increasing it gradually. When the whites barely hold a soft shape, reduce the speed a bit and gradually add 1/4 cup granulated sugar. On high speed continue to beat until the whites hold a straight point when the beaters are slowly raised. Do not overbeat. Transfer the beaten whites to another bowl and set aside.

Rinse and dry the stand mixer bowl. Put in the butter. Beat the butter until soft. Add the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat to mix. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating and scarping the sides of the bowl as necessary until smooth. On low speed add the chocolate and beat until mixed. Then add the almond flour/sugar mixture and beat, scraping the bowl, until incorporated.

Stir a large spoonful of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to soften it a bit. Then, in three additions, fold in the remaining whites. Do not fold thoroughly until the last addition and do not handle any more than necessary.

Turn the batter into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan a bit briskly from left to right in order to level the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees F. and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. and continue to bake for an additional 50 minutes (total baking time is 1 hour and 10 minutes). Do not over bake; the cake should remain soft and moist in the center. (The top might crack a bit, but that is OK.)

Let cake stand on cooling rack until tepid, 50 - 60 minutes.

Release and remove the sides of the pan. Do not cut around the sides with a knife - it will make the rim of the cake messy. Let the cake stand until it is completely cool, or longer if you wish.

The cake will sink a little in the middle as it cools. Use a long, thin, sharp knife and cut the top level, removing the higher sides. Brush away loose crumbs. (I skipped this part, iced the cake right side up, and was very happy with the results. When the icing goes on its a little thicker in the center, which we found to be fine.)

Place a rack or a small board over the cake and carefully invert. Remove the bottom of the pan and the paper lining. The cake is now upside down; that is the way it will be iced (unless you do as I did and ice the top). Place four strips of baking-pan liner paper (each about 3 x 12 inches) around the edges of a cake plate. With a large, wide spatula, carefully  transfer the cake to the plate; check to be sure that the cake is touching the papers all around. The paper help to keep the icing off the plate when you ice the cake. (I chilled the cake, still on the springform pan bottom, overnight, then turned it out onto my hand, finger spread, removed the pan bottom & the paper and set the cake on a cake plate. Because it was cold it wasn't difficult to work with.)

1/2 cup soy creamer (or whipping cream)
1 teaspoon powdered espresso powder
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces (I used half Scharffen Berger semisweet and half chocolate chips)

Scald the soy creamer  or whipping cream in a 5-6 cup saucepan over moderate heat until it begins to form small bubbles around the edges. Add the dry espresso powder and whisk to dissolve. Add the chocolate and stir occasionally over heat for 1 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and whisk or stir until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth.

Let the icing stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the icing barely begins to thicken.

Stir to  mix the icing and pour it slowly over the top of the cake, pouring onto the middle. Use a long, narrow metal spatula to smooth the top and spread the icing until a little runs down the sides, then use a small, narrow metal spatula to smooth that icing over the sides. The icing on the sides should be thinner than that on the top.

Remove the strips of paper by pulling each on out toward a narrow end.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sweet Little Breads With Coconut Delight the Babes

First off, a huge 'Thank you!!' to the lovely Lien  of Notitie van Lien for stepping up and being the Kitchen of the Month even though she was hostess not that long ago. Secondly, another huge 'Thank you!!' to her for choosing this recipe. I had trouble letting these sweet little rolls cool enough to not burn my tongue before I bit in and enjoyed the great coconut filling. I subtracted about 1/4 cup of flour and replaced it with cocoa powder because I know that chocolate and coconut go well together. Even Straight Shooter, who is not a big fan of coconut, ate two of them.

This is an easy to work with dough. It rolled out smoothly and I added raspberry jam...a think smear...

to half the rolls and finely chopped pecans to the other half. I think I prefer the nutty ones. Probably should have done a fancy glaze, too, but they smelled so good that we couldn't wait to try them. Big goof...didn't take photos the evening I made them & gave away the last three today...without taking any photos of the filling!   The rolls are sure plain looking, but then you bite into them and experience that wonderful filling.....

I made a double recipe of the filling just to make sure that I had enough and there was a lot left. Thinking of using it as a filling in brownies. The chocolate-coconut flavor combo is rather like German Chocolate Cake and really delicious. You are going to want to try these. I'll be you can come up with even better variations. If you do make these, send Lien an email with a photo and a few words about your experience and she will send you a Buddy Badge.

Be sure to check out their blogs to see what the other Bread Baking Babes have done this month, too.

A Messy Kitchen – Kelly
Bake My Day – Karen
Blog from OUR kitchen – Elizabeth
Bread Experience – Cathy
Judy’s Gross Eats – Judy
Karen’s Kitchen Stories – Karen
My Kitchen In Half Cups – Tanna
Notitie Van Lien – Lien
And our awesome round-up queen…. Thyme for Cooking – Katie 

Coconut rolls
(makes 12)

2 TBsp sugar
160 ml lukewarm water (1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons)
2 tsp dry instant yeast
300 g bread flour (1 1/4 cup - for chocolate use 1 cup flour & 1/4 cup cocoa powder & increase sugar by 1 tablespoon)
50 ml vegetable oil (a little less than 3.5 tablespoons)
3/4 tsp salt

80 g + 2 TBsp dried, unsweetened, grated coconut (1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons)
(or sweetened coconut, reducing the light brown sugar with 4 TBsp)
120 ml boiling water (1/2 cup)
150 g light brown sugar (generous 1/2 cup)
4 TBsp corn starch
2 TBsp butter (or non-dairy margarine)

Combine all the dough ingredients and stir them together. Knead the dough until smooth and supple. At first it’s very sticky, but after kneading it shouldn’t be very sticky anymore. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and leave to rise for about 1½ hours or doubled in volume.

Now make the filling. When using dried coconut (80 g), it needs to soak in a bowl with boiling water. Leave soaking for 10-15 minutes.

Mix the cornstarch and sugar in a separate little bowl before adding it to the coconut.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the coconut-sugar mixture and keep it on a low heat until it thickens, a few minutes. Keep stirring to avoid it burning.

Take it off the heat and leave to cool. When cooled, place in the fridge.

About 30 minutes before assembling the roll, take the filling out of the fridge.

Stir in the remaining 2 Tablespoon of coconut in. At first the filling might be a bit stiff, but a little stir will soften it enough. Set aside. (Next time I'm going to stir in some finely chopped pecans.)

Divide the dough in two parts. Start with one piece, and roll it out into a rectangle of 30 x 16 cm (12 inches x 6 inches). Now cut it length wise in two equal parts, so you have two long thin strips.

Place a quarter of the filling evenly over the middle of the strip. The filling should be fairly dry, don’t place wet filling on the dough.

Flip over one long side of the dough over the filling, then flip over the other side. The two sides should slightly overlap. Close the seam by pinching the dough together.

Turn the roll seam side down. Cut the roll in three equal parts. Push the filling back a little, so you can close the cut sides, so the filling is no longer to be seen and can’t leak out.

Repeat with the other three strips (the one that you have rolled out and the two strips you make of the remaining dough).

Place the rolls, 4 cm (and inch and a half) apart, on parchment paper placed on two baking sheets. Cover them with lightly greased plastic and leave to rise for 35-45 minutes. They are ready when a light indentation, you make with a finger, stays visible.

While the dough proofs you should preheat the oven to 190ÂșC. (375 degrees F)

Bake the rolls for about 15-18 minutes until they are golden brown.(If you bake on two sheets, exchange them after 8 minutes, so they bake evenly).

Let the rolls cool on a wire rack. Eat them lukewarm or at room temperature.

(Adapted from: “De kunst van het bakken” – J. Alfort & N. Duguid)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hard to believe that September is almost half over already. Life has sure been busy. Did a minor eye surgery with a week of recovery, then jumped in to travel prep. Looking forward to visiting cousins in Ireland and Naomi in France this fall, plus a few days in Avignon and in Paris just with Sweetie. Since the last time we flew to Ireland (which was our sole excursion to any part of Europe) seven years have passed. We have to remember all over again what is needed for trans-Atlantic fun and games, plus see if we can pack in a small enough suitcase to go in the overhead bin. I have been having a blast looking in lots of guidebooks to see what we might do and see. Hard to concentrate on current life when the future is so alluring.

Still, the current life is lovely. The garden continues to look beautiful and to reward our efforts with squash and beans and tiny grape tomatoes, plus the pumpkins are starting to be ready to harvest.

Sweetie has been (with a little help from me) remodeling the studio so that the storage area is separate from the studio area. We have a new window, new wall, new door into the storage, new steps up to that door and new coat of paint over the whole front wall. Eventually there will be insulation for the studio area and a connecting door, so that the space can be heated and cooled with a space heater and/or fan. I'll be able to keep my art work and supplies out and ready to use!

We had used the space as a kitchen during our main kitchen remodel, so I still have a few kitchen items to relocate, too. It was also the place where I unpacked the things shipped from my Mom's home after she died, so there are a few items of hers to relocate. I will be glad that it will be more difficult for storage items to be left in the studio. I'm often the culprit, but will be more aware after all of this work.

Best of all, the fall is coming! The air is getting a nip to it in the morning and the light is changing too...sort of softening. Today at the paperback bookstore, Paperbacks Unlimited in Santa used books bookstore ever!...they were giving away ripe figs. I took one home and used it in my lunch sandwich. Figs are a wonderful fall fruit! I love the way the insides look with the rosy seeds. I love the way they taste with savory meat or poultry and a fruity and/or nutty bread. So delicious!

Grilled Pork and Fig Sandwich
makes one sandwich

2 slices cranberry walnut bread or similar rustic whole grain bread
3-4 thin slices cooked pork shoulder
1-2 fresh figs, thinly sliced
mayonnaise to taste
salt and pepper to taste
soft butter or margarine

Heat a sandwich press or skillet. While it is heating, thinly butter each slice of bread on one side. Place buttered sides together. On upward facing plain slice, spread some mayo, add the pork (warm it in a microwave if cold), the slices of fig, and salt and pepper to taste.

When the sandwich press of skillet is hot, pick up the filled slice, place it on the hot surface, then top with the next slice, butter side up. Close the press, or press down with a spatula if using a skillet. Cook until bread is toasted a dark golden brown. If using the skillet, turn sandwich over carefully (let's keep those figs inside the sandwich!) and finish browning the bread. Repeat with more bread and fillings and spreads as needed.

Serve each toasted sandwich whole or cut in half. Eat while still hot.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Easing In To Fall With Tea Brack

Fall is my favorite season, so I usually hurry it a bit. Can't help it. I've already put the autumn wreaths up by the doors and since my garden has produced at least 21 pumpkins, I've perched three on each side of the front steps. They are super cute and add a zing of orange, too.

Driving around the area I notice that the trees have gotten into the early fall spirit and the leaves are already changing from green to various shades of gold, red, orange and brown, too. These are wild grape leaves I spotted while walking the dog a few days ago.

Tea Brack is a dense, moist sweet loaf bread, jam-packed with currants, raisins, candied orange and lemon peel, all of them pre-soaked in strong tea. There are warm spices, too. Tea Brack makes a lovely snack in the afternoon with a cup of tea. Cream cheese to spread on that slice is optional.

Tea Brack
one medium loaf
from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

1 cup white raisins (I used a mixture of dark, golden, and red raisins)
3/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup chopped candied peel (I used half lemon and half orange peels)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cold tea (orange pekoe is fine, I used English Breakfast)
1/4 cup rum, Scotch, Irish whiskey, or brandy (I used Scotch)(optional but nice)
2 cups bread or all-purpose flour (I used half all-purpose, unbleached and half King Arthur Flour Irish whole-meal flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon EACH ground cinnamon, grated nutmeg and salt
1 egg, room temperature, well beaten

Grease and line sides and bottom with buttered waxed paper - 1 medium (8" x 4") loaf pan. Leave the paper ends sticking out about 1/2 inch so the loaf can be pulled from the pan. Set aside. (You can prepare the pan the next day after the fruit is marinated.)

In a bowl combine the raisins, currants, candied peel, brown sugar and cold tea. Add a dollop of brandy or rum to give it a secret goodness, although this is optional. Cover tightly with plastic wrap so that no moisture escapes and let marinate overnight.

The next day...Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. while making the batter.

In a clean bowl mist together, with your clean fingers, or a spoon, the dry ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the marinated fruit mixture, stir well to combine, and add the egg. The mixture will be on the thin side. Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the loaf slowly in the 325 degree oven until a toothpick comes out dry when pierced into the load, about 1 1/2 hours. If using a convection oven, reduce heat; bake at 300 degrees F.

Remove the bread from the oven. Place on a wire rack about 5 minutes to cool, then remove the bread from the pan, discard the paper, and let cool completely before slicing.

Serve with butter or cream cheese...and tea!
I suspect that you could marinate everything and keep it in the refrigerator (for at least a few weeks) until you wanted to make the Tea Brack. That would mean that it would all be done in less than two hours.