Saturday, June 29, 2019

Out Of The Oven

Father's Day seems like a long time ago. Since then I've had a couple of weeks of very low energy and have taken some medication to help with an infection that was part of the cause. Feeling much more like my usual self the last few days, enough so that I baked a cake...and enjoyed doing it. Prior to that, for a while, I'd do some stuff, but it was a struggle to get my brain working on whatever it was and, truly, all I wanted to do was sleep. Scary feeling. Glad that it seems to be in the past now. Sweetie is glad, too...he was pretty worried.

The cake, out of the oven just long enough to cool before being iced with ganache, was a 6-inch version of the Queen Mother flourless chocolate cake that Maida Heatter made famous quite a few years ago. If you know how to fold beaten egg whites into a thicker batter and still retain most of the air in the egg whites, this cake will become a favorite! If you don't know how, just be patient and give it a try. Even if you knock some of the air out the first try, you will still have an awesome, delicious chocolate cake that will impress your family and friends.

The chocolate is a really big part of this cake and icing, so be sure to use chocolate that you would enjoy eating by itself. Save your small change if necessary until you have enough to purchase good chocolate. I used Scharffenberger for the cake and a combination of Scharffenberger and Lindt for the ganache. The sprinkles on the birthday cake are just for fun...and color. I also substituted 6 oz. of Bob's Red Mill almond flour for the whole almonds, using the 1/4 cup sugar for the butter mixture (along with the 1/4 cup called for) instead of using it to grind up the almonds. Otherwise I followed the recipe for the cake. I used butter for the cake and soy creamer instead of whipping cream for the ganache...I never have whipping cream in the house these days. Here is a good tip: Separate your eggs while cold, then allow them to come to room temperature.

This is most easily made in a 9-inch springform pan. I used two 6-inch springform pans (one with tall sides) because I was making a small cake, by request, for our friend AM. The second one was for Sweetie, but he ended up taking 3/4 of it to our friends and sharing it with them...and they still had the birthday cake to enjoy the next day. They claimed it would be breakfast, and why not? There are plenty of eggs in it!

Queen Mother's Cake - serves 12
From Maida Heatter's Cakes

6 oz. (scant 1 1/2 cups) blanched or unblanched almonds
6 oz. Semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Toast the almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan in a 350 degree F oven for 12-15 minutes, shaking the pan a few times, until the almonds are lightly colored and smell deliciously of toasted almonds. Set aside to cool.

Adjust a rack on-third up in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a round of baking-pan liner paper cut to fit (I used parchment). Butter the paper. Dust the pan all over with fine, dry plain bread crumbs, inver over paper, tap lightly to shake out excess. Set 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. (I find that using a silicone spatula works well for stirring the melting chocolate.) Remove the top of the double boiler and set aside until tepid or room temperature.

Place the cooled almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. Process very well until the nuts are fine and powdery. Scrape down the sides at least twice. Process for at least a full minute. The finer the nuts are, the better the cake will be. (Or use almond flour that is finely ground already.) Set aside the ground nuts.

If at all possible, have two clean large stand mixer bowls and a stand mixer, plus a regular beater and a whisk beater ready.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer eat the butter until soft. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar (or 1/2 cup if using pre-ground nuts), reserving the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat to mix. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary until smooth. On low speed add the chocolate and beat until mixed. Then add the processed almonds (almond flour) and beat, scraping the bowl, until incorporated. You will have a thick batter.

Now beat the whites in the large bowl of a mixer. If you only have one bowl, transfer the chocolate batter to any other large bowl. Wash the bowl and beaters carefully.

In a large bowl of the mixer, with clean beaters (preferably a whisk beater), beat the egg 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 the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Then, on HIGH speed, continue to beat until the whites hold a straight point when the beaters are slowly raised. Don't overbeat.

Stir a large spoonful of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to soften the batter a bit.

Then, in three (3) additions, fold in the remaining whites. Do not fold thoroughly until the last addition & don't handle the batter any more than necessary. (Streaks are fine until the very end...the goal is to keep as much air as possible in the egg whites).

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

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees F, 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). Don't overbake...cake will remain soft and moist in the center...and the top might crack a bit...that's OK.

Let cake rest on a wire rack for 50 - 60 minutes, then undo the spring catch to release the sides. Let the cake stand until completely cool, or longer if you wish. The cake will sink a little in the middle with slightly higher sides...that is OK. You can trim the top level if you like (I left mind as is), and brush away loose crumbs.

Invert the cake onto a board or cake plate and remove the bottom and baking paper. Place strips of waxed paper or parchment paper under the edges of the cake. Ice with the ganache icing.

1/2 cup whipping cream (I used Silk soy creamer)
2 teaspoons powdered espresso coffee (Medaglia D'Oro instant espresso powder works well)
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces (I used part Scharfenberger semi-sweet and part Lindt salted bittersweet dark)

Heat the cream and espresso powder in a small saucepan over moderate heat until small bubbles form around the edges. Add the chocolate and stir occasionally over heat for 1 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth.

Let the icing stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes, until the icing starts to thicken.

Stir then pour slowly over the top of the cake, pouring over the middle. Use a long, narrow metal spatula to smooth the top and spread so that a little of the icing runs down the sides. With a small narrow metal spatula, smooth the sides.

Let the icing set for 10 minutes. Remove the papers by pulling each one out toward a narrow end. Decorate as you see fit...or not at all.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Fathers Day Weekend

Sweetie has the nicest friends! A dear friend who has known him since they were both in high school visited this weekend with her lovely granddaughter. We had a marvelous time with them and they were the first to try out the renovated farmhouse for a few nights. Looks like we have a winner. Our daughter will be coming to stay there in about a month.

One of the fun things about having guests is that you can spoil them with good local food. Sweetie grilled some awesome local salmon one night. We had local grass-fed lamb shoulder braise another night. I marinated the lamb for 24 hours in fresh rosemary from our garden, fresh garlic and red wine. The day I served it I first sauteed carrots, onions and celery and then cooked the shoulder just like I do lamb shanks. It makes an awesome dish with lots of yummy juices which adorned the mashed potatoes that shared the bowl. I didn't take any photos, but it was delicious.

I did take photos of the pie I made. Sweetie really likes pies and I like using our farm grown fruits when I can. I used white peaches from the market and the ollieberries that grow at the bottom of our driveway. The crust was Pillsbury ReadyCrust. The secret to its deliciousness (other than perfectly ripe fruit) was that I put a mixture of plain dry breadcrumbs, brown sugar and freshly grated nutmeg on the bottom of the pie. It helps absorb the juices and also flavors the pie. If you have other fruit the recipe will work well for that, too. Peaches and blueberries are a great combo, so are rhubarb and strawberries, nectarines and get the idea! One of the nice things about this pie is that there is no top crust, nor do you need to flute the edges, so it goes together really quickly.

I did bake it briefly at a high temperature to help the crust crisp up some, and finished at a reduced heat. Check it to make sure the top isn't browning too much. If it is, tent with some aluminum foil.

White Peach and Olallieberry Pie
serves 8

1 roll Pillsbury ReadCrust pie crust, rolled into a 12-inch circle
2-3 ripe white peaches, peeled, sliced, pit discarded
1 pint olallieberries or blackberries, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
sanding sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

Fit rolled out pie crust into a 9-inch pie pan, leaving edges hanging over edge of pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, use your hands to gently mix the peach slices, berries and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the dry bread crumbs, brown sugar, and nutmeg. Spread this mixture evenly in the bottom of the prepared pie pan. Top with the fruit mixture and mound slightly in the center of the pie pan.

A little at a time, lift the edges of the crust onto the filling, pleating the edges as needed until all the crust has covered the outer edge of the pie. Use clean fingers moistened in water, as needed, to seal the pleats and to lightly moisten the overlapping crust, then sprinkle with a small amount of sanding sugar, if using. If not using the sanding sugar, no water is needed once the pleats are secure.

Place filled pie pan in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 25-30 minutes, or until juices are bubbly and crust is browned.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve slices either barely warm or cooled to room temperature.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sourdough and Rosemary and Raisins...oh my!

This is the first bread I've baked since the last Bread Baking Babes effort in May. Totally unusual for me, but it's been pretty hot around here for the last few days. Sweetie has now lost over 65 pounds and I've lost some, too, although far from that amount. Still, I miss bread baking and so I'm grateful to the Babes for giving me an excuse every month to bake bread. During the last month time was well spent painting and refurbishing the front room of the farmhouse so that it can be a beautiful bedroom this weekend. Sweetie and I have a lovely friend and her granddaughter here for a visit. They've been camping, so a nice, soft bed and good shower was very much appreciated.

Back to the bread...brought to us by our Kitchen of the Month Judy of Judy's Gross Eats.  THis fantastic bread is Rosemary Raisin Sourdough. I used the sourdough starter that I started up last month. This was an easy bread to work with. I chose to make half the recipe so we wouldn't have too much bread (I know, it sounds strange to even think that, but these days Sweetie isn't the only one who is losing weight and too much bread puts the pounds back on). I also substituted molasses for the honey and used some white whole wheat flour instead of part of the bread flour. My sourdough starter from last month came through the month just fine with a few feedings and it really adds great flavor to this delicious bread. I think the part I like best is the combination of the sweet golden raisins and the zingy fresh rosemary. It's a good bread by itself, but it's also a good sandwich bread. We served the last of it tonight to go with our braised lamb shoulder went perfectly with it!

Because I do like to change things around and I've been baking bread long enough to feel comfortable with variations, I put all the wet ingredients into the bowl, put all the dry ingredients into another bowl (and mixed them well) and then stirred about a cup of the dry ingredients into the wet, then used the dough hook to mix in the rest of the dry ingredients and to knead the dough (so no 10 minute rest for the dough before kneading), and it worked really well. The bread had a great oven spring and a good crumb. I did burn the top a little bit...should have tented it with foil for the last 7 minutes or so.

Do try this bread. You can probably shape it any way you like to shape bread because it has great body and is easy to work with. Give it a try and take a photo or two and send an email to Judy with your baking experience so that you become a Buddy and she'll send you a Buddy Badge. Her email is on her site.

Be sure to visit the other Babes's blogs to see how this bread worked out for them, too. Bet someone used another grain like's the perfect recipe for that kind of substitution!

Thanks for viewing this blog. I'll probably be posting more often now. Berry season has arrived, which always inspires me.

XO, Elle

Rosemary Raisin Sourdough Bread

(Recipe can be halved or doubled)
28 oz bread flour
8 oz whole grain flour
1 oz Kosher salt
2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 oz honey
4 oz olive oil
4 oz raisins
1/8 cup chopped fresh rosemary
16 oz sourdough starter (100% hydration)
16 oz room-temperature water

Blend dry ingredients in mixing bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until just combined into a shaggy dough.  Cover with a towel and let mixture rest for 10 minutes.  

Using a dough hook, knead dough for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl.  Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until doubled.

Remove risen dough from bowl, shape as desired, place on baking sheet, cover, and let rise for 30-45 minutes.

About 20 minutes before baking, heat oven to 500˚F.  Bake at 500˚F for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 425˚F and continue baking until top is brown and the internal temperature is between 190-200˚F, about 15-20 minutes.  Watch the bread carefully so it doesn’t get too dark (adjust oven temperature accordingly).

Remove from oven; let cool on rack.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Food Blogging Is Taking Back Seat

Just checking in...Time for you to start wandering through old posts I guess. Between the burgeoning garden...the soil is finally warming up and so are the days...and the room painting going on in the living room (see photo above), there just isn't much time or energy left for food blogging. Today I finished painting the crown molding at the ceiling and my neck is sore since it is only a bit different than painting the of the worst painting jobs in my opinion.

 Of course we are eating, but it's not the most exciting stuff. Today I made Cobb salad and yesterday we had turkey sausages and an onion/mushroom/red pepper relish that I love with the sausages, plus hot sugar snap peas and garlic. Mostly I don't think to take photos and I'm not baking these days either. I'm sure I will be soon, so hang in there and keep checking back, OK?

Hope that your spring is a good one.

XO, Elle