Friday, June 22, 2018

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie A Different Way

I love Strawberry Rhubarb pie. There is something magical about the combination of the sweet, sweet strawberries and the very tart rhubarb. I've made this pie many times, usually with a top and bottom crust.

This time I decided to only have a bottom crust and to do a streusel topping. I used the streusel recipe from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham. It was early last week when a good friend gave me freshly cut rhubarb from her garden and when we purchased three pints of local, just picked strawberries at the farm stand. In the early evening I started cutting up the berries and rhubarb and realized that Sweetie, who had had gum surgery that afternoon, wouldn't be able to enjoy the pie (he healed well and is doing just fine).

Since Sweetie really loves pie I decided to figure out a way to make the pie later in the week. The problem was that I had already prepped the fruit and it would likely spoil if I waited. Normally I put the unbaked crust in the pie pan, put in the uncooked filling, top it with the second crust, seal the edges and flute it, cut a few vents in the top and bake the pie. This time I would need to make the pie a different way. A search of the Internet gave me the solution: cook the filling and use it later. That worked really well. I am indebted to the blogger on Bewitchin Kitchen for this cooked pie filling. You can find her post here.

We had guests on Friday from Hawaii and on Saturday I was getting ready for guests from Australia, but on Sunday morning after the local fire station pancake breakfast I was finally able to make the pie. I only made one error...I used a pie pan for a deep dish pie and only had filling for a standard depth pie. I had already blind baked the crust in the deep dish pie pan before I realized that. The solution I came up with was to put in the filling, top it with already baked streusel, bake it at 350 degrees F just long enough to finish cooking the crust and to heat up the filling, then use a sharp knife to cut the crust on the side, using the nice crisp edges to edge the pie at filling level. It looked a little bit weird, but it tasted just fine, so no one seemed to mind. When you make it, remember to do the pie shell in a shallow pie pan (unless you have doubled the filling recipe).

No only does this pie taste incredible, but the filling is really pretty. Expect raves. Use the freshest berries and rhubarb available. Because there is still some tartness to the filling, you could put a puff of freshly whipped cream on the side of each slice to tone it down...and that looks pretty, too. Alternately you could increase the sugar in the filling recipe. This is a full flavored filling. If you don't care for the flavor of rhubarb (I know some folks don't), just use more strawberries!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling 
Makes enough for one shallow 8-inch pie

3 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
 2 3/4 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped or sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot.
Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly so that it doesn't scorch on the bottom of the pot.
Simmer for another 5-10 minutes until rhubarb is soft and filling has thickened.
Cool and use right away, or put into a covered container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Bring slowly to room temperature before using in the pie.

Blind Baked Pie Crust

Use your favorite recipe for a single crust pie, or do as I do and use a single crust from a refrigerated pie crust. I like Pillsbury ReadyCrust.

On a floured surface roll the pie out (if needed) to fit an 8-inch pie tin. Transfer the crust to the tin by draping it over your rolling pin. Fit the crust into the pie tin and crimp the edges, trimming excess crust as needed. Cut a piece of parchment paper or foil to fit the inside of the pie tin and place it loosely over the prepared crust. Fill with pie weights, or do as I do and fill it with dried lentils. Save the lentils to use the next time you need pie weights. They are very inexpensive and sit close enough to each other to do a great job of keeping the crust from getting over bubbly. Bake in a preheated 435 degree F oven for 8-10 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the lentils cool before removing them carefully and either discarding them or saving them for next time. If the crust still seems a bit raw, put it back in the oven for another minute, then cool crust in pie tin on a wire rack.

1/4 pound, 1 stick, 4 oz, 8 tablespoons butter or margarine, very cold
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup old fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment,

In a large bowl mix together the flour and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until mixture forms clumps.

Put streusel on the baking sheet and break up the clumps a bit so none are bigger than bite sized. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Streusel should be medium to dark brown but not burnt. Remove baking sheet to a wire rack and let streusel cool .

Making the Pie

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Put the pie filling, at room temperature, in the blind baked, cooled, pie shell. Level with an offset spatula. Liberally sprinkle the streusel over the filling. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Serve at room temperature or cold. Store leftovers, if any, at room temperature or in the fridge.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake #TheCakeSliceBakers

Chocolate cake with chocolate icing has always been my favorite cake flavor combination. Imagine how excited I was when I found out that an Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake was one of the choices for the Cake Slice Bakers for June. A grand chocolate layer cake! What could be better?

There were a few new techniques which took it out of the old-fashioned category in my mind, but the trick of making a sort of pudding for the chocolate part of the cake, by cooking the cocoa, chocolate and water together, then cooling it before adding it to the batter, was one I will use again. It seemed to make for a very moist cake with a tender but firm crumb. Buy or borrow the book and check out this cool technique!

The second non-old-fashioned thing was making the frosting in a food processor. Since mine was unavailable when I made the frosting, I used the exact same ingredients called for, but put them together in a different manner. I creamed two sticks of butter in the bowl of my stand mixer, added the cocoa and slowly beat it to make a paste, very slowly added the salt and confectioners sugar keeping the stand mixer on low speed, then added the vanilla and corn syrup and mixed them in. Once the chocolate mixture was cool enough I added it with the mixer on low and once that was incorporated I added the remaining butter, a tablespoon at a time. Once all the butter was incorporated, I turned up the speed for about a minute to completely mix the frosting. Of course there was a lot of scraping the sides of the bowl and the beaters throughout the process.

The frosting was creamy but didn't seem to get to filled with air and it was easy to work with when I applied it to the cake layers. I used the back of the spoon method to put swirls on the top of the cake, then used a pastry bag and tip to use some more frosting to decorate the bottom with flowers, with one in the middle of the top.

The resulting layer cake was lovely to look at and delicious, but I found it overly rich. (I write 'butter' but really used non-dairy margarine since I can't tolerate butter. Maybe real butter would have been less rich, but I doubt it.) Fortunately we were able to share this delightful cake with neighbors (who proclaimed it perfect for breakfast!), and with my sister and her family. Thin slices worked out well.

I decorated the final slice with strawberries from our garden. Celebrating summer!

 Next time I would do a ganache icing or the really old fashioned one with cocoa, hot milk and confectioners sugar, both of which would probably be less rich than the Test Kitchen chocolate frosting. I wouldn't change a thing about the cake itself. I baked the layers two full days before I frosted and served it and the cake layers stayed moist just wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature. This is a wonderful cake, but it is expensive to make if you use (as you should) high quality chocolate and cocoa. Use a chocolate that you enjoy eating since you will really taste it. I used Scharfenberger and was glad I did.

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

Follow our FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the thumbnail pictures below to take you to each of our cakes, or visit our blog where the links are updated each month. If you are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details.

The choices this month were Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake, Rhubarb Ribbon Cake, Lavender Tea Cakes with Vanilla Glaze, and Summer Peach Cake.

The Cake Slice Bakers are baking from a new book "The Perfect Cake" from America's Test Kitchen.

Our choices this month are...

June 2018
  1. Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake
  2. Rhubarb Ribbon Cake
  3. Lavender Tea Cakes with Vanilla Glaze
  4. Summer Peach Cake

Visit our bakers too see what choice they baked up!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Bread Baking Babes June Bread

Our Kitchen of the Month, Cathy from Bread Experience, gave us a challenge to bake Pain au Levain with at least 30% whole wheat flour and to include some citrus flavoring and some seeds or herbs or both.

I didn't have any sourdough starter, so I made an overnight poolish and added a little more yeast to the dough. It made two nice sized (large) loaves. Really delicious and with a nice crumb. My crust wasn't as thick as I had hoped, but I couldn't find my spray bottle, so the only steam was from ice cubes which apparently wasn't enough. Still, I liked the thinner crust and this is a bread recipe that I will use in the future, probably a lot.  I found the process of pinching in the salt and water after the autolyse period to be fun and different.

I used Irish wholemeal wheat flour and also lemon zest for zing and a combination of seeds because I love seedy bread.

Pain au Levain formula
Makes 1 Very Large Loaf or 2 Medium Loaves

Adapted from From the Wood-Fired Oven by Richard Miscovich

Levain: *
227 grams | 1 1/2 cups + 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
227 grams | scant 1 cup + 2 Tbsp  water
45 grams | 3 Tbsp liquid sourdough starter
499 total grams  **

* If you don't have or don't want to use a sourdough starter, you can make an overnight poolish.  In that case, you will need to add a bit of yeast (about 2%) to the final dough.

** The total weight of the levain is 499.  You are supposed to remove 45 grams of sourdough to keep as your starter for future use which would leave 454 grams of levain.  If you choose to use all of the levain, just adjust the final dough accordingly.

Final Dough:
415 grams all-purpose flour
275 grams whole wheat flour - I used Irish wholemeal whole wheat flour
375-500 grams water + 25-50 grams (to mix with salt)***
14 grams fine sea salt  (I reduced the salt from 17 to 14 grams)
1 Tbsp lemon zest
150 grams mixed seeds including poppy seed, sesame seed, flax seed and sunflower seed

*** Adjust the hydration according to the type/blend of flour used.  The addition of whole wheat flour makes the dough thirsty and the coarser the blend, the more water it soaks up.

Day 1: Evening - Mix the Levain or Poolish
Mix the water and starter together in a large bowl. Add in the flour and mix until completely hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 8 - 10 hours.

Day 2: Mix the Final Dough/Shape Loaves:
Pour the water over the levain and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or whisk to disperse.

Whisk the flours together and add on top of the water/levain mixture. Hold the salt until after the autolyse.
Mix thoroughly using a Danish dough whisk or wooden spoon to begin developing the gluten.

Add the citrus zest, seeds and/or herbs. Mix thoroughly using your hands. Cover and let rest (autolyse) for 20 - 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the top and dissolve it with the 25 grams of water. Use your fingers to pinch the dough to incorporate the salt evenly throughout.

Cover and let the dough bulk ferment for 120 minutes. Stretch twice, every 40 minutes.

Divide the dough, pre-shape, and then it rest (covered) for 20 minutes before final shaping to allow the dough structure to relax.

Shape the dough into an oval or round shape and place it seam-side up in a heavily floured, lined banneton basket or seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Proof for about 30 minutes at room temperature.  Cover the loaves and place in the refrigerator to cold ferment overnight, 8 - 10 hours.

Day 3: Bake the Loaves
Place a baking stone or steel on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. for at least 45 minutes. If you plan to use steam, place a steam pan on the top shelf.

If you shape the loaf round, you could bake this in a bread cloche, a Dutch oven or a Dutch oven combo baker instead of using a baking stone.

When the oven is sufficiently preheated, remove the loaves from the refrigerator. Carefully invert the loaves from the banneton proofing baskets (if used) onto parchment paper or a heavily dusted peel.  I've found that using a lined basket aids with this process.  You just carefully peel it off after flipping it over onto the parchment.

Score the loaves in the pattern of your choice. Slide them onto the preheated baking stone or steel and bake for 35 - 45 minutes. A larger loaf will take longer.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Be sure to visit the other Babes and to see what they baked this month.

Also, if you would like to be a Bread Baking Buddy, just email Cathy and let her know the url of your post and how the bake went for you. Include a photo, too. She will send you a Buddy Badge for your blog. Deadline is June 29th, so get baking!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Big Blackberries in a Cobbler

Summer is in full swing! The strawberries from the farm stand on Hwy. 12 are their usual amazing flavor bombs, there is ripe rhubarb in my friend's garden (and now in my crisper...thanks Water Woman!), the zucchini are finally large enough to harvest and were grilled for our dinner last night, and, perhaps best of all, the ollaliberries (a cousin of regular blackberries) along the road are ripe and juicy and bursting with flavor.

Like fresh apricots, their period of ripeness is fairly short, about a week and a half or two weeks, so when there are enough of them to gather and eat it is always a celebration. The regular blackberries last longer and will be ripe in about three weeks, just as the ollaliberries ar finishing. Most of those I picked a few days ago were the 'king' berry, the on in the middle that blooms first, so is ripe first. Because we had a rainy spring, the berries are full of juices, too.

I decided to bake a nice cobbler to showcase them. Our Australian friends who are visiting enjoyed the cobbler a lot. To make the cobbler, the berries are rinsed, then mixed with a combination of sugar and cornstarch. I also added a touch of sea salt and some lemon zest for zing.

For the cobbler part I used a recipe from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham for streusel topping for pie. I varied it (what a surprise!) by adding a bit of old fashioned oats since I like the added crunch The streusel is basically butter, flour, brown sugar and, in this case, oats, with the butter being very cold and being cut into the flour/sugar/oat mixture with a pastry cutter or two knives. You can also rub the butter in, which I did at the end since I wanted and almost cookie dough like texture.

I used half the streusel for another recipe, which I'll post about soon, and half I sprinkled over the berry mixture before baking it. My whole house smelled like summer once the berries warmed up and released their juices. Wonderful! Even with the corn starch this is a juicy dessert, as you can see in the photo at the top. Bowls work well for serving. I served portions with a small scoop of vanilla soy milk ice cream. A grand summer dessert and pretty easy, too.

Olallieberry Cobbler
Serves 6-8

1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (depending on how tart the berries are)
1/4 - 1/2 cup corn starch (depending on how juicy the berries are)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2-3 pints olallieberries, rinsed and drained
1/4 pound, 1 stick, 4 oz, 8 tablespoons butter or margarine, very cold
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup old fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 9-inch square pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix together the sugar, corn starch, salt and lemon zest. Add the berries and toss to coat. Pour berries into the prepared pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix together the flour and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until mixture forms clumps.
Divide streusel in half and save half for another use. Sprinkle remaining clumps of streusel evenly over the berries. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until streusel in golden brown and berries are bubbly along the sides of the pan.

Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with ice cream, custard, or cream if desired.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Big Heart Cookies

Until I received a lovely thank you note this week, I had forgotten about baking oversized heart cookies while I was visiting my daughter in LA. Originally we were going to my nephew and niece's home for dinner but their kids came down with the crud, so we met my nephew at a restaurant instead. Since we had already baked the cookies, we brought them along and he took them home to share.

You can make these cookies as one huge circle cookie in a pizza pan, or you can shape it into other shapes. One time I made a football shaped cookie for a football party. The batter does spread a bit, so for the hearts I shaped them sort of long and skinny. You can also make them personal by adding your favorite kinds of chips and decorations. I bet this would be delicious with peanut butter chips and Reese's Pieces decorations, for example. At Christmas you could use mint chips and press crushed peppermint candies to put on top after you drizzle on some plain white icing. Get creative!

If you really just want regular sized cookies, these work fine for that, too. Really, it's a great cookie batter and perfect for a party. I first posted these in 2007 (where you can see the football cookie), but they are too good not to make often. Below is a photo of the cookies raw, ready to bake.

Big Heart Cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar, light or dark, packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
½ cup quick rolled oats
2 cups (12-oz. package) semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped nuts (I left out the nuts, but added 1/2 cup dried cranberries)

For circle or heart shaped cookie:
1 cup M & M candies in appropriate colors
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons hot milk
Assorted cake decorations such as dragees, colored sugar, colored small shapes, chopped nuts

Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl and beat until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape bowl and beaters. Gradually beat in flour and beat until mixed. Beat in oatmeal. Mixture will be stiff. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Line a 12” pizza pan with foil. Spray with cooking spray. For a big circle cookie, put 2 cups of the dough on the foil. Using floured fingers, shape dough into desired shape, either circle or heart. Smaller hearts like the ones I made recently use 1/2 cup dough each. Exaggerate the shape since cookie will spread. You can fit two smaller hearts per pan. Sprinkle M&Ms over dough shape and pat lightly into dough.

Bake one sheet at a time in middle of oven for 10 - 18 minutes (depending on the size of the cookie) until golden brown. Let sit on sheet for 10 minutes, then slide shape on foil onto a cooling rack. Continue to bake the rest of the dough. You can make regular drop cookies with the remainder of the batter if desired.

Once the cookie has cooled, if you like you can decorate for a party! Mix the confectioners sugar and milk and drizzle over the cookie in a random pattern. While it is still wet, sprinkle cake decorations over as desired. The cookies are pretty with just the M& Ms, too.

Put decorated cookies on party platter and serve. Pieces can be broken off or you can cut it into portions. If it is for a birthday party, candles will stand up for a brief time; long enough to light them and sing Happy Birthday!

Monday, June 04, 2018

Frangipane Apricot Tart

The fresh apricot season is pretty short. When I spotted some organic apricots that were ripe and on sale at a local market on Monday I bought them even though I wasn't sure how I would use them. Some went on my morning cereal, but another five were used in a lovely tart for our Thursday dinner.

We had invited a friend over. He has been eating on his own for a week or so while his wife helps sort out her mother's house after her mother moved into a senior residence. Sweetie grilled some salmon and we had fresh corn on the cob and a lovely green salad. I served some seeded yeasted bread that I had made that day, too, but the tart was probably my favorite part of the meal.

I made the sweet dough for the crust in the food processor, which is quick and easy. It is sort of a cookie dough and I think there was too much of it. That made the crust a bit too tough to cut with the side of a fork. Next time I'll use less and perhaps bake it for a shorter time, too.

For the frangipane I usually use almond flour. Unfortunately I ran out and when I went to the market, they were out, too! They did have a mixed nut flour with almonds, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios so I bought that and added it to the almond flour I did have. It was great, even if the color was darker and less appealing to look at. The golden apricots really popped against that darker filling. Although the apricots were ripe, they were a little tart, but that worked fine since the mixed nut flour filling was on the sweet side and very moist. Overall it was a great dessert!

Try this yourself. Working with the crust dough is like working with kid's clay...really easy and fun. The filling goes together quickly if you have the nut flour. Blanching and peeling and pitting the apricots was the most time consuming. You could use canned apricots instead, but fresh is so much better, with an intense apricot flavor, so it is worth taking the time to prep the fruit.

If you like your tart a little fancier, you can melt some apricot jam in the microwave and use a pastry brush to paint the top of the tart, especially the fruit, with the jam. As it cools it will thicken and create a lovely shine on the tart. Sliced or flaked almonds also make a nice decoration around the edge while the jam is still wet. Of course this is optional...the tart is delicious without.

Sweet Tart Dough from Dorie Greenspan's Baking; From My Home To Yours

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. 

Scatter the cold pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. 

Stir the yolk to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses, about 10 seconds each, until the dough forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that still exist in the mixture.

Gather dough into a ball, then flatten it and put it into a 9-inch tart pan, using your fingers to push the dough into the corners and flutes of the pan, while keeping the thickness as even as possible. If dough looks too thick, remove some and redistribute dough to an even layer. Use a rolling pin, rolled over the top rim, to clean the top. Gather up any leftover pieces and wrap in plastic wrap, and put in the fridge for patching, if necessary. Prick all over and freeze for at least 30 minutes, but longer is O.K.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the rack in the center of the oven.

Remove tart shell from freezer. Spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray/oil and put, oil side down on the tart, pressing down to mold the foil to the tart shape.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil carefully and use the back of a spoon to gently press down any puffed crust. If necessary, use the extra dough from the fridge to patch any holes, then bake another few minutes. Let crust cool.

Prepare the frangipane filling:

3 tablespoons soft butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup almond flour or mixed nut flour
10 apricot halves, peeled and patted dry

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the filling:  Beat together the butter, salt, sugar, flour, and almond extract.
Beat in the eggs, then add the almond flour, stirring just to combine.

To assemble the tart: Spread the filling in the bottom of the crust.

Place the apricot halves in a pattern on top of the filling, pressing them down gently so the bottom of the fruit is covered.

Bake the tart in the preheated 350 degree F oven for 45 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. Filling will puff up around the apricots.  Cool slightly or completely before serving. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Salmon in South Bay

During my recent visit to the wonderful beach communities south of LAX, I was treated to a lovely salmon dinner by my talented daughter. This might seem like an unremarkable thing to you, but Katherine has rarely been interested in the kitchen arts. She did want to learn to make macarons, which we did together at a Sur la Table class a few years ago.

Baking sweets was something she enjoyed now and then as she grew up, but mostly she was charmed to eat delicious things that others prepared and cooked.

So what has changed? Many things, but the one that is the current motivator is Penzeys.

Never heard of Penzeys? They are purveyors of spices...and these are high quality spices. They have all the usual single spice selections, but they also have their own blends and that has been part of the fun. One that Sweetie also loves to use is the Bicentennial Rub which is "Hand-mixed from: coarse flake salt, Tellicherry black pepper, sugar, turmeric, minced orange peel and coriander."  Penzeys says, "The rich flavor and golden color make this our favorite blend for turkey, duck, goose and pork roast. Perfect for the grill, sprinkle heavily on rotisserie-style chicken or pork roast, also on thick-cut pork chops and beef short ribs. The larger chunks of spices in our Bicentennial Rub also make it perfect for any large cut that takes an hour or longer to cook, and the beautiful golden color can't be beat. Try on roast leg of lamb, baked or roasted whole stuffed chicken, Yankee pot roast and thick-cut pork or veal chops."

This may seem like an odd combination of ingredients, but it really is a great flavor combo for grilled items like chicken and pork, and for the salmon bake that we enjoyed at Katherine's home. Their black pepper is wonderful all by itself and will be an eye opener if you just use grocery store pepper.

Of course I've been home for a handful of days and spent a good amount of time each day in the garden. 

The larkspur, red poppies, golden California poppies, blue love-in-a-mist, red and yellow roses, 

orange and gold nasturtiums, and pink Sweet William flowers really are a pleasure to look at. Soon there will be zucchini, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes, plus lots of morning glories. Hard to tell if any of the sweet peas will bloom...they got a late start and some were eaten by the snails and small lizards. The joys of country gardening.

And now for the perfect and simple salmon recipe:

Baked Salmon
for two

Two center cut salmon filets

Bicentennial Rub or similar spice mixture

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Lay out a large square of heavy duty aluminum foil. Rinse the salmon and place on the foil, slightly apart. Sprinkle with a generous amount of the spice rub and use your clean fingers to lightly rub the spice mixture on all sides of the filets.

Fold in the foil, first one side then the two opposing sides, then the final side, sealing the foil. Cut a small slit in the top to allow a little steam to escape.

Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes. Turn the packets around 180 degrees, then bake for another 12 minutes.

Unwrap the packets, being careful because they are hot. Fish should flake lightly. Place one filet on each plate. Serve at once. We served ours with corn and black bean salad and some green salad. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Public Service Announcement

I'm taking this almost whole from a wonderful blog Thyme for Cooking since I have no clue how to comply with what the European Union wants about Privacy and Use. Hope this does the trick since I would like to continue to post on Blogger and to have it available to readers in the European Union countries.

"This is additional information to my Privacy Policy ...  to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (‘GDPR’) laws that go into effect from May 25, 2018.
The simple version: The only information collected by me is your email address (should you choose to leave it) in the comment section.
I use 1 service for the emails: Google Blogger. They have their own Privacy Policy should you care to read it. (My wording)
I do not use any of that information for any purposes and I do not send unsolicited emails.
I do not have any access or input to any of the ‘readers’ that can serve up posts from multiple sources.
If you have any questions, please contact me.
So there….
Whew! That’s done.
I don’t know about you all, but I have been inundated with these emails for the last few days…..
But one is compelled to comply."

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Chocolate Beet Cupcakes #TheCakeSliceBakers

I am enjoying baking from the Cake Slice Bakers' current book The Perfect Cake by America's Test Kitchen. The recipes are well thought out and the results so far have been great.

This month has been full of all sorts of things, but one is the seemingly endless work on the garden as well as setting up our outdoor living room on the front porch. We have a white rocker with a comfy cushion, a wicker sofa and matching chair, both of which have comfortable seats that wipe down, plus lots of cushions for the back. There is a low wooden bench which can be used as a coffee table or as a bench to sit on, plus a mosaic topped table to the right of the sofa (I made the mosaic top and it is funky but fun), plus a tea cart on the other side of the sofa which can be used for serving things or just as a side table. Tying this all together is an aqua outdoor carpet with a trellis pattern. We have been spending very pleasant time here, drinking water after attacking thistle plants with shovel and machete for instance. Pi loves to hang with us there, too. At the far south part of the porch we have a round table with an umbrella where we eat sometimes. Hope to entertain some this summer on the porch. The photo below is of the garden just below the eating area and the steps leading up to the porch and front door.

When I looked at our choices for May the one that called to me most was the Chocolate-Beet Cupcakes. I love chocolate and have had chocolate-beet cake and found it delicious. What put me off a bit was that the recipe calls for using fresh red beets. I've baked with them before and they are really, really messy and stain things. When I have busy days it is hard to imagine adding to my workload by having to do extra cleanup due to fresh beets. I had visions of the shredded beets erupting in the microwave and having to clean out the scattered beet threads, then wash out the whole inside of the microwave. No thank you. Soooo I ended up using small whole canned beets (which can still get messy, but not nearly as much as fresh beets). I shredded them and skipped the cooking part of the recipe. Worked like a charm and very little mess.

I also made a half recipe because there are only two of us. Sweetie has tried one to make sure it isn't poison, but the other five are above. Besides halving the recipe, I followed the recipe with the exception of using soy milk instead of regular milk.

I would have changed one direction if I were writing the recipe. As written you place the shreeded cooked beets in the bowl of the food processor and then melt chocolate in the microwave. Once the chocolate is melted you whisk in cocoa powder and vegetable oil.  I would change the steps. Once the chocolate is melted, I would add that to the beets in the bowl but not process it, then use the same bowl the chocolate was melted in to mix together the oil and cocoa, then add that to the beets in the processor bowl. Once it all gets processed I think the result would be the same and mixing just the cocoa and oil would be far easier than mixing three different textures...melted chocolate, dry cocoa, and liquid oil.

I also skipped the frosting because even halving the recipe I would have a cup of leftover frosting...what on earth would I do with that?

These were delicious cupcakes all on their own and a dusting of powdered sugar made them even prettier. I tried to dust the sugar through a paper doily but it didn't work too well. The cupcake itself was not too sweet and was a nice deep chocolate color and had true chocolate taste of beet that I could identify. It was also very moist...yum!

I don't post the recipes from this book. Do yourself a favor and purchase a copy of the book. It has classic and original cakes and is a keeper.

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

Follow our FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the thumbnail pictures below to take you to each of our cakes, or visit our blog where the links are updated each month. If you are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details.

The choices this month were Cream Cheese Coffee Cake, Chocolate-Beet Cupcakes, Rainbow Cake, and Swiss Hazelnut Cake. get the InLinkz code

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Roasted Rainbow Carrots

Sweetie has recently discovered that he just loves roasted veggies. Tonight I made roasted rainbow organic carrots and a half an onion. Gone in a flash!

Roasted Carrots and Onions

1 bunch carrots with greens on top (or use clip top carrots if that's all you have.) I used organic rainbow carrots...about 7 of them.
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried herbs ( or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs) I used Penzey's Greek seasoning and Zatar which are both dried
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Prepare the carrots by either peeling or rubbing with a clean scrubbie. Cut off the pointed end and just below the green tops. Use the tops for carrot top pesto if desired. Slice the carrots in half lengthwise. Place in a large plastic bag...I use the one from the produce section.

Add the onion wedges, oil, herbs and salt/pepper if using. Shake bag to distribute ingredients all over the carrots and onion wedges.

Line a baking sheet with heavy duty foil. Pour the carrots and onions out onto the sheet and use the bag to distribute the veggies into a single layer.

Roast in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until veggies are tender and edges of the onions are browned. Stir about half way through roasting.

Serve at once or at room temperature.

Serves 2-4

Heading off to visit my daughter and friends tomorrow, but Sweetie and Straight Shooter will keep Pi company until I get back.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Red Pepper Coques and A Different Topping

There are times when I can just look at a recipe and know that the resulting food will be wonderful. This was one of those. Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories is our Kitchen of the Month for May for the busy Bread Baking Babes. She chose Red Pepper Coques from "Bread Illustrated from America's Test Kitchen. According to the recipe, Coques are the Catalan version of the thin and crunchy tapas dish that can be found in bars in the Mediterranean region of Spain, including Barcelona."

This has been a busy month for me, starting with the final day of my visit to Denver and continuing on with massive catch-up in the garden, especially with weeding. The soil and overnight temperatures finally warmed up enough for planting, too, so there are now tomato plants, bean seedlings, cucumber seedlings, and lots of kinds of flower seedlings getting bigger. The zucchini I planted in April are getting bigger and so is the one from a neighbor...the other one was eaten by snails. I still have planting and weeding to do, but now its just a few of each.

Fitting in a bread that needs to start at least the day before it will be eaten was a bit of a challenge, but I'm glad I did. This recipe makes 4 coques, which are long ovals of flatbread, topped with a wonderful, tangy topping of roasted red pepper, caramelized onions and pine nuts (among other things). I decided that since there are only two of us enjoying these that I would make two at a time and used two different toppings on the two different bakes.

The first night I used the red pepper topping. The dough was difficult to make flat enough since it just wanted to spring back into a smaller shape. I eventually shaped the coques using gravity in a similar way to how I shape pizza dough. This left a thicker ridge around the edges, but that just helped keep the topping in the center, so no harm done. I love the topping, so do try it. The red peppers and yellow onions and pine nuts go really well together. Don't substitute on the sherry vinegar, either. It really makes the dish!

The second night I used a topping that I found in the food section of our local paper. It was meant to go on crostini, but went well on the coques, too. It is a combination of a homemade fig jam, caramelized red onions, and some soft cheese. I used Kite Hill fresh cheese mixed with a bit of soy milk in place of ricotta, but I'm sure that fresh ricotta would be lovely. I topped it with chopped walnuts since I had enjoyed the pine nuts topping the red pepper mixture the previous night. The experience was completely different, but I enjoyed this combination, too. The sweetness of the figs and onions was offset a bit by the balsamic vinegar and slight bitterness of the walnuts.

This recipe is going into the 'keep' file and will be used when I want appetizers for a party or pot luck. Except for the baking, the components can be made ahead, too, which is wonderful.

Do visit the other Bread Baking Babes sites to see their takes on this delightful bread. Bake it yourself and become a Buddy by sending Karen an email with your URL, photo and experience with making the bread. Deadline is May 29th. You'll be glad you did.

from Bread Illustrated from America's Test Kitchen

468 grams (16 1/2 ounces/3 cups) bread flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
10 2/3 ounces (1 1/3 cups) ice water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons table or fine sea salt

Red Pepper Topping
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
2 cups jarred roasted sliced red peppers
3 tablespoons sugar
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and yeast about 5 times. Turn the processor on, and slowly pour in the ice water and process for about 10 seconds. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. 

Add the oil and the salt to the dough and process for 30 to 60 seconds, until the dough forms a ball. Remove the dough from the the processor, and knead by hand for a few seconds, and form it into a ball. Place it into an oiled bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, and up to 3 days. 

Red Pepper Topping
Heat three tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12 inch non stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions, red peppers, sugar, garlic, salt, pepper flakes, and bay leaves. Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes over medium low. 

Remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring regularly, for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions are golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl and stir in the vinegar. Cool completely before using. You can make the mixture in advance and refrigerate overnight. 

Deflate the dough and divide it into four equal sized pieces. Shape each piece into a tight ball and place, seam side down  on your work surface, and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let rest for an hour. 

Place oven racks in the upper and lower third positions and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Brush two half sheet pans with 2 tablespoons of olive oil each. 

Place one dough ball on your work surface, and roll it out to a 15 inch by 5 inch oval. Place it on the baking sheet, lengthwise. Repeat with the rest of the dough balls, two per baking sheet. If the dough springs back, let it rest for another 10 to 20 minutes, and re-roll. Dock each about 15 times with a fork. Brush each oblong piece of dough with the rest of the olive oil. 

Bake the dough for 8 minutes, switching the pans at the four minute mark. 

Remove the pans from the oven, and spread them with the red pepper and onion mixture. Sprinkle with the pine nuts. (To make the Fig and Caramelized Onion Coques, use the topping below at this point instead of the red pepper and onion mixture. Top with the walnuts instead of the pine nuts.) Place the baking sheets back into the oven, and bake for 16 minutes, switching and rotating the pans at the 8 minute mark. Continue to bake until the flatbreads are golden and crispy.

To Make the Coques:
Remove the pans from the oven and let cool on the pans for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley, and transfer to a cutting board to slice and serve. 

Fig and Caramelized Onion Topping for Coques
adapted from Ramekins Culinary School recipe
1/4 cup dried Black Mission figs (stemmed and chopped into 1/-inch dice)- about 4 figs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons dry red wine
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 small bay leaf
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon butter or margarine
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 medium red onion (peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese or Kite Hill fresh almond cheese+ 1 tablespoon soy creamer
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts.

Place the figs in a small saucepan. Add the red wine, sugar, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to simmer and simmer until the figs are tender and the liquid is syrupy, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar and cook and additional minute. Removed from the heat and let cool.

Melt the butter or margarine and stir in the olive oil. Over medium-high heat sauté the onion until it is beginning to soften and brown, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and add the vinegar and sugar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir until the vinegar has almost evaporated, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool.

If using this topping for the coques, drain the ricotta, if using, in a strainer lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Transfer to a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. If using the Kite Hill nut cheese, place in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Once the coques have baked for 8 minutes, removed from the oven, leaving the oven on, and spread the two coques with the ricotta or almond cheese mixture, dividing evenly.

Top with the onions, dividing evenly and spreading to cover each coque, then top with the figs, dividing evenly and spread to cover each cocque. Sprinkle one tablespoon finely chopped walnuts over each coque and bake an additional 10-16 minutes, or until coque is deep golden brown.