Saturday, April 27, 2019

Tropical Pancakes

Does your family have a day on the weekend for making special breakfasts? Maybe you do brunch instead? Well, think about making these delightful pancakes and you'll enjoy the weekend even more.

I took two fairly basic recipes for pancakes from Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book, mixed them together, added some yogurt, substituted non-dairy soy creamer and non-dairy margarine for milk and butter, used white whole wheat and Irish Whole Meal flours (King Arthur Flour carries both) for part of the flour, added chopped pecans, finely chopped fresh pineapple, finely chopped banana, and chopped, pitted dates. What I ended up with were some of the best pancakes ever if you like tropical flavors.

It takes a few minutes to chop up the fruit and nuts, a few more to mix together the milk or soy milk and the yogurt, a few more to measure out the dry ingredients, more to melt the margarine or butter and mix it with the eggs and then the milk mixture. Hardly any time is needed to add the dry ingredients to the wet and barely mix them.

Cooking the pancakes probably takes the most time and that may just seem that way since you are standing at the stove with a pancake turner, watching the tiny bubbles form at the edges of the pancake and smelling the warming pineapple and banana fragrances. Then when you turn the pancake over, you see the golden brown sheen of the cooked side and you see the pancake rise and you know this is going to be soooo delicious! And it is!

I topped mine with some applesauce, but you can just as easily slather on some butter and syrup or mix up a syrup of sugar, water and orange juice, letting it bubble and thicken while you cook the pancakes. However you top them, enjoy the flavors of the islands.

Tropical Pancakes
based on Plain Pancakes and Buttermilk Pancakes by Marion Cunningham
in The Breakfast Book

2 eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup milk or soy milk or soy creamer, at room temperature
1/4 cup plain yogurt
4 tablespoons butter, or margarine, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or use regular whole wheat)
1/4 cup Irish Whole Meal Flour (or use regular whole wheat)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fresh pineapple, finely chopped
3/4 cup fresh ripe banana, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons finely chopped pitted dates

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl until they are fully blended. Add the plain yogurt to the milk or soy milk and beat until combined. Let sit a few minutes, then beat into the eggs. Add the melted butter or margarine and beat until filly blended.

On a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper or in another bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir into the wet ingredients and stir just until blended. Immediately gently stir in the pineapple, banana, pecans and dates.

Cook the pancakes on a lightly greased preheated skillet or griddle: scoop 1/4 cup of the batter for each pancake onto the griddle, using the cup to slightly spread the batter if necessary. Let pancook cook over medium heat until bottom is golden brown and the edges have rapidly breaking small bubbles. After flipping the pancake over, let cook until bottom is golden brown. Serve at once with toppings of your choice.

Makes enough pancakes for 4 people (usually).

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Surprise I'd Rather Not Have

Since this blog is a journal as well as the place where I focus on food, I'm adding this post because some folks who read this will want to know and also so that I have a record for myself. The first photo is of the iris that are now blooming like crazy and making our front walk a thing of beauty and great fragrance, too.

Yesterday started out normal. (The following is the only reference to food in this post..sorry). Eggs and potato and an apple for breakfast (which is one of two regular morning meals, the other being shredded wheat cereal with soy milk and raisins or fresh fruit), a trip to the gym and a walk for the dog, Sweetie and I took up the early morning. About 11 am I was putting a coat of wall paint on the upper part of the wall between the sink and toilet as part of the ongoing downstairs bath renovation.
I noticed that I felt bloated and that I didn't feel very well, but I didn't think much about it.

As the day progressed I felt worse and worse, with abdominal pain on and off so that by 2 pm I couldn't get comfortable, the pain and cramping was increasing and was getting worried.

My doc saw me right away and said it might be my gall bladder giving me the trouble, so he suggested the ER. Got there by 4 pm and waited at least three hours to be seen...they were swamped all day according to everyone who worked there. By then I was in less pain. All the tests and ultrasound didn't reveal any cause, so I went home, five hours after entering the hospital, with a Pepcid acid blocker and prescription for same & with advice that I contact my gastro doc for an appointment. By this morning there was only slight discomfort and now that it is evening I feel fine...but I did rest all morning and took an afternoon nap.

So now I get to see what happens each time I eat and see if there is something that sets off the cramping and pain. Getting older isn't for sissies!

Hope that you, dear reader, are in good health and enjoying the unfolding of the season. XO, Elle

Saturday, April 20, 2019

So Long For Now Cake Slice Bakers

I've really enjoyed baking with the Cake Slice Bakers each month for the past few years. Some of the recipes have become favorites, others have led to new skills or knowledge and it's always fun to see what the other bakers have baked.

The time seems to have come to take a break, both because I'm being supportive of Sweetie's new way of eating, and because I can stand to lose a few pounds myself. I'm sure that I'll still bake something delicious now and then, but not on a regular basis, and that regular basis is crucial for belonging to a baking group.

This month I baked one of the selections from The European Cake Book by Tatyana Nesteruk. The Marbled Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake takes advantage of the citrus season that is coming to a close and it was a delicious treat that I shared with others at a memorial service for a friend who had died. The combination of chocolate and orange is delicious. I did go off recipe a bit by rubbing the orange zest into the sugar before creaming the sugar with the butter, plus I substituted non-dairy butter and soy creamer for the butter and milk, changed how I put the batter into the pan, but otherwise I mostly followed the recipe. I did add some chocolate chips (not melted) to the chocolate batter for a little extra chocolate flavor. This recipe made a delicious, tender cake with lots of flavor, even without the glaze, which I skipped since it wouldn't keep for the memorial service. This is a lovely cake! Do try this for yourself.

Not sure how long I'll not be baking with the CSB group, but I want to commend Felice for her leadership and grace. She has picked some awesome recipes over time and has made every effort to have this be a delightful group to be a part of. Au revoir.

Marbled Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake
 From The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk

Zest from 1 orange
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened (I used non-dairy margarine)
4 large eggs,
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange oil
1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 335 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch Bundt pan with baking spray, or butter and flour the pan.

In a large mixing bowl, use your fingers to rub the orange zest and sugar together until sugar is moistened and looks like damp sand. Add the butter to the bowl and cream until mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, thoroughly combining before adding the next egg. Scrape bowls and beaters as necessary.

Add the vanilla, orange oil, and milk, then mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the batter and mix just until they are combined.

Divide the batter in half; remove half to a separate bowl. Add the melted and cooled white chocolate to one of the bowls and stir to combine.

Add the melted and cooled dark chocolate to the other bowl of batter and stir until combined.

Spoon alternating scoops of dark and light batter into the prepared pan. once all the batter is in place, use a knife in a zig-zag pattern to swirl the batters together. Don't over swirl.

Bake in a preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the thickest part comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in pan for 30 minutes. Invert onto serving plate and cool completely.

1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar
Zest from 1 orange

Whisk together the cream, confectioners' sugar, and orange zest. Adjust the amount of cream to make a thinner or thicker glaze. Pour over the cake. Let set for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Easter Bread with the Babes

Over the years we haven't really had very many Easter breads in April, but I'm really glad that our Kitchen of the Month, Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen, chose this one this year. There is still plenty of time to bake this for Easter and then become a Bread Baking Babe Buddy (see below).

"The Ciambella Mandorlata is an Italian Easter bread that originated in Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region. It is typically baked in the shape of a ring which is supposed to represent the unity of the family." It is basically a brioche type bread with lots of butter and eggs. Most of the sweetness comes from the topping and even that isn't very sweet, so this is a primarily breakfast bread but I think that that you can eat anytime of day with enjoyment.

The instructions given were for making the dough by hand, but I've been gardening and my shoulder is pretty sore from weeding and carrying heavy stuff, so I adapted it to use the stand mixer. I'm including the given recipe, but the changes I made include starting by putting the sugar into the bowl and adding the lemon peel, then blending the peel into the sugar with my fingers. The yeast had already soaked in the slightly warm milk by then. Then I added the butter and eggs and beat it together with a whisk, then added the milk mixture and half the water. In another bowl I combined the bread flour and salt. This mixture I gradually added to the moist mixture in the bowl to form a soft, sticky dough, then let the mixer knead the dough for about 8 minutes.

The dough went into a raising container, got covered with a clean shower cap, and it rose until doubled. After punching it down and letting it sit for 10 minutes, I turned it out onto a lightly floured board, divided it in half, set one half aside and divided the second half in half. Those pieces each were rolled into approximately a 14 inch snake. The two snakes were wrapped around each other, ends connected and the ring went into a greased 9-inch pie plate. Then I repeated the shaping with the other half of the original dough.

Here I really went off the recipe, because I let the rings rise for about an hour and a half, then put them in the fridge overnight. The next day I took them out of the fridge, let them warm up while I made the topping and preheated the oven.

For the topping I mixed the sugar, copious amounts (as called for) of cinnamon, and an egg yolk. I used a small spatula to spread the topping over each strand of the braid, then sprinkled with chopped almonds (unpeeled and untoasted), pressing the almonds down into the topping a bit.

I baked it for about 15 minutes, then reduced the heat to 375 degrees F for the rest of the baking time, which was shorter than the recipe called for since I had made two smaller loaves.

The finished bread had quite a bit of dark brown on the crust, but it wasn't burnt. The topping got crispy and the whole thing was delicious! Great plain or with butter. Also, the whole house smelled of cinnamon...wonderful!!

Do make this one...anytime, not just for Easter. If you do and want to be a Buddy, send an email to Aparna with a photo and your baking experience by April 29th for the round-up...and you'll get a Buddy Badge.

Be sure to visit the other Babe's sites to see what they've done with this lovely rich bread.

Ciambella Mandorlata is from my copy of Ultimate Bread by  Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno


For the dough:
2 tsp dry yeast
1 ⁄2 cup lukewarm milk
41 ⁄2 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 ⁄3 cup sugar
grated zest of 3 lemons
9 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs, beaten
1 ⁄2 cup water

For the topping:
4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp sugar
3 ⁄4 cup blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 egg yolk

Sprinkle the yeast into the milk in a small bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the butter, eggs, and dissolved yeast.

Mix in the flour from the sides of the well. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, to form a soft, sticky dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth, springy, and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a dish towel. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 4 hours. Punch down the dough, then let rest, covered with a dish towel, for about 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each piece into a 16-inch-long rope. Twist the two dough ropes together.
Place the dough rope on a buttered baking sheet. Shape it into a ring by bringing the two ends of the rope together. Pinch them to seal and cover with a dish towel. Proof until doubled in size, about 11 ⁄2 hours.

To make the topping mix the cinnamon, sugar, almonds, and egg yolk in a bowl. Use a rubber spatula to spread the mixture evenly over the top of the ring. 

Bake at 200C (400F) in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

A Chocolate Glaze That Hardens - for Cakes and Cookies

Hi there! It's been a while. Since Redding, I've been to the LA area to visit my daughter, done some gardening (mostly weeding), cleared out a whole bunch of books from the living room bookcases and scrubbed them down. Today I realized that they need painting - not so surprising since they haven't been painted for something like 30 years - and, a little less than a week ago, made some cute desserts for my scholarship group, P.E.O. as our local chapter hosted the Presidents of eight other regional chapters for lunch.

I've become known as the chapter baker, which isn't too surprising. About a month ago the luncheon chairman asked if I could provide dessert for the luncheon. I love a challenge like that and was only slightly worried when I found out that she wanted to plate the dessert before lunch started. Usually the cake (since that is the easiest dessert to make for a crowd, in my opinion) serves as decoration and is cut after lunch. I had even thought of doing a flower tiered cake since spring is beginning to be experienced now.

A plated dessert could still be a cake, so I baked my favorite chocolate cake, Maida Heatter's 86-Proof Chocolate Bundt cake, but baked the batter from one batch in small cake pans...four designs in all. There were twenty seven little cakes in the end, shaped like stars, swirls, little half round mounds, and hearts. Unfortunately three of the shapes didn't release easily from the pans, so they didn't look pretty enough for this lunch as they were.

After searching the internet, I decided to try a recipe that claimed that it made a coating that hardens when cool since that would work well in covering up the rough spots on the little cakes. The recipe is super simple, with margarine, cocoa, confectioner's sugar, hot water and vanilla. It's from Genius Kitchen, recipe by Nana Lee. At first I was concerned since the mixture looked pretty thin, but the glaze was thick enough to cover the mistakes and dark enough to make a nice contrast to the rest of the toppings.

It took some time (and two batches of the glaze) to coat each of the 27 little cakes. I placed them on wire racks over sheet pans so that the sheet pans would catch the drips (to be reused). I also made a quick batch of ganache to put on the Bundt cake that I made with a second batch of cake batter, for extra servings. After the disaster of the first batch I didn't have the patience to bake the second batter as little cakes!

After the glaze cooled, I made a thin icing of confectioners' sugar and lemon juice, which I tinted with a bit of rose gel coloring. I drizzled that across the cakes, then immediately sprinkled on a topping that I created by mixing a few store bought toppings which included pearls, sprinkles, tiny flowers and hearts. It looked really great and everyone was enthusiastic about those little chocolate cakes. A challenge met!

Chocolate Glaze That Hardens When Cool
by Nana Lee

2 tablespoons melted margarine or 2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons hot water
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine melted margarine or oil, cocoa, and hot water. Blend in confectioners' sugar and vanilla.

Pour or spread on cake (or brownies, or dip cookies in the glaze)

Glaze will harden when it cools.