Monday, August 26, 2019

Summer's First Tomato and a Dragonfly

For many years I planted at least a dozen tomato plants, most grown from seed. Last year it was just two - a cherry tomato and a Black Krim. This year it was just the Black Krim, which is my favorite. It has old fashioned tomato flavor and is nice and big, too.

Last weekend (not the one that just passed, but the previous one) the first Black Krim finally ripened and we enjoyed it with dinner. I sliced it, added pepper, minced fresh basil, a bit of good balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of excellent olive oil. A few flakes of sea salt went on top when I served it. Soooo good.

The same weekend I purchased a beautiful slumped glass dragonfly for my garden. The artist is Valerie Adams of Modern Fused Glass in Santa Rosa. She is an Art Trails and Art at the Source artist and I love her work! This gorgeous dragonfly has dichondric glass on the wings which makes it almost sparkle when the sun hits it. She attaches a brass fixture and includes a brass rod to go in the fixture so that the dragonfly can be affixed in your garden wherever you can poke in the rod. Mine is hovering over the lantana in a big pot and looks so pretty there.

Of course the morning glories continue to bring great pleasure each morning. Sweetie is watering the garden for me while I recover from the surgery, but I still go out and admire the flowers and help pick the ever producing zucchini and yellow squash. As we head into fall the annuals are starting to taper off and the green beans have finished, so squash and tomatoes are the harvest for now and to come.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Had gallbladder removed on Tuesday. Everything went well and I'm at home and healing, but this is the first time that I've sat down at the computer since Monday. Sleeping lots. Sweetie is doing all the cooking...and he is doing a great job.

Wishing you, dear reader, good times and a happy August! XO, Elle

Friday, August 16, 2019

Sunshine for the Babes

It's summer, so lots of sunshine, especially for the Bread Baking Babes. This month our delightful Kitchen of the Month, Cathy of Bread Experience has challenged us with a shaped bread that look like a sun. It uses sourdough starter and I changed things up by using freshly milled barley flour instead of the rye called for. The dough was easy to work with and shaping was fun. The bread was delicious, with both a nice crumb and great crust. I used bread flour, whole wheat flour and the barley flour and then kneaded in a mixture of seeds instead of using caraway. Caraway works well with rye, but since I wasn't doing rye, I went with mixed seeds. Delicious!

Be sure to visit the other Babes to see what they have done with this recipe. It's an easy on to make changes to, so I'll bet there will be variety!

If you would like to be a Bread Baking Babes Buddy...of course you would!...bake the bread, take a photo and email Cathy, including the photo and your experience and a URL if you have one. Deadline is August 29. She will do a round-up early in September.

In a few days I'll be having gallbladder removal surgery, so it may be awhile before I post again. I have a very good doc and lots of support, so I expect things will go well. Sweetie will be doing the cooking for most of a week. Maybe he'll want to guest post?

Be good to yourself until we 'meet' again...and wear sunscreen if you are going to be out in that summer sunshine!

Here is what we started with from Cathy:
Here is the formula for the Sourdough Sunshine Loaf:

Adapted from: BREAD: the breads of the world and how to bake them at home by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter. 

Makes: 1 Large Loaf or 2 Smaller Loaves
The directions below are for shaping one large loaf. Adjust accordingly to shape 2 smaller loaves.

15 grams / 1 scant Tbsp. active sourdough (100% hydration)
60 grams / 4 Tbsp milk, lukewarm
55 grams / 4 Tbsp water, lukewarm
125 grams / 1 cup all-purpose flour

250 grams / 2 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour (I used stone-ground bread flour)
440 grams / 4 cups rye flour (I used freshly milled whole grain rye flour)
480 - 550 grams / 2 cups + water, divided (I started with 2 cups (480 grams) water and gradually added more as I was mixing the dough. The whole grain rye soaked it up.
16-18 grams / 1 Tbsp. salt
Caraway seeds, or the seeds of your choice, for sprinkling
Milk or water for glazing

Day 1Prepare the Starter
Mix the starter ingredients together in a medium bowl and stir thoroughly until there are no dry bits of flour. Cover and let rest on the counter at room temperature overnight until it is well risen, bubbly and starting to collapse; about 8 to 12 hours.  I mixed the starter at 10pm and let it rest at room temperature until noon the next day (14 hours) and it worked fine.  If your kitchen is hot, it may take less time to fully activate.

Day 2: Final Dough
The next day, when the starter is ready, add about half (1 cup / 240 grams) of the water to the starter and stir to break it up. 

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour the starter over the dry ingredients and stir to incorporate.  Add in the remaining 240 grams of water and mix thoroughly to incorporate. 

Add in more water (or flour) gradually, if necessary, to achieve a workable dough. It is sticky dough so it’s best to use wet hands. I started the mixing process using a Danish dough whisk, and then switched to using wet hands and a bowl scraper.

Cover and let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes.  Stretch and fold the dough in the bowl using wet hands.  I added in a little more water at this point because the dough was tearing.

Cover again and let the dough rest at warm room temperature for 6 hours.  Perform stretch and folds every 45 minutes to an hour (using wet hands) for the first 4 ½ hours. Then let the dough rest undisturbed for the final hour or two. 

Continue with shaping the loaf or place it in the refrigerator overnight to cold ferment for 8-12 hours.  The cold ferment may not be necessary, but it worked better with my schedule.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces.  I had 1435 grams of dough so each piece was 287 grams.

Roll one piece into a 20-inch log. Then roll it into a spiral shape.  See notes on shaping middle spiral.

Divide the remaining pieces of dough in half (~143 grams each) and roll each piece into an 8-inch rope.

Place the ropes in a circle on a large baking sheet (See notes on using a greased baking sheet), spaced evenly apart. They should look like rays of sun. Curl the ends around, leaving a slight gap in the middle for the center spiral.

Place the center spiral on top.  Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, bees wrap, or a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place, for 30 minutes.

While the loaf is proofing, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Brush the loaf with milk, or water, and sprinkle with caraway seeds. Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  I brushed my loaf with melted butter after placing it on the wire rack. See notes about brushing with milk.


I used 4 cups of rye, and it was really sticky.  So I plan to reduce the amount of rye the next time.  I liked the flavor of the rye, but I think 3 cups of whole grain rye and 3 cups of white flour will be easier to work with.  If you use a lighter rye, that will probably help as well.

This is a really big loaf.  I had a hard time figuring out how to fit it on the baking sheet which is why I rolled the rays tighter than the picture. Unless you have a larger baking sheet, I think 2 smaller loaves will be easier to shape. 

Shape it on a greased baking sheet. I tried shaping the loaf on parchment paper, but the dough stuck to it, and the rectangular shape of the parchment didn’t lend itself to the shape of the loaf.  It wasn’t wide enough for the rays to fit on.  I used a greased baking sheet instead and it worked much better. 

Work fast when shaping the loaf. I shaped the pieces straight from the refrigerator and had to work really fast so the pieces didn’t proof too much before I got the loaf put together.  I probably shaped and reshaped it 3 times before I got it right and onto the baking sheet.  

*Shaping the middle spiral. The directions said to shape the middle section first, but I ended up having to reshape it when I transferred it to the baking sheet because it had been proofing the whole time I was shaping the other pieces.  This piece goes on last so I would wait to shape this piece until after shaping the other pieces.

I didn’t like the look of the milk-brushed loaf. I brushed the loaf with milk and sprinkled it with caraway seeds before baking, as the recipe suggested, but it looked pale once I removed it from the oven. So to give it some color, I brushed the warm loaf with melted butter. It looked much better and didn’t affect the flavor.   I used almond milk so perhaps regular milk would work better, but I’ll probably just use water next time. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Sweet Little Party Cookies

Last Saturday we had the second annual Scholar's Social for the winners of Chapter AJ P.E.O.'s local scholarships. The young women who attended are awesome, with various educational goals including a freshman whose long term goal is to be a medical doctor. One will be studying in Italy this year. Another is not only attending college, she is spearheading an effort to form a non-profit to assist women who have escaped human trafficking. Two others will be continuing their education toward degrees in biology and environmental sciences. These women are intelligent, articulate and altogether wonderful. So glad that we can assist them in furthering their education through scholarships.

For the party, which was an afternoon gathering with finger foods and iced tea and lemonade, I made a recipe that was new to me from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts. The results were little pastries that not only were delicious, but that looked impressive. The truth is that they were fairly easy, but that is often the way with impressive looking food. In the photo above, they are the cookies on the small plate by the napkin stack. The dough is made from almonds, sugar and egg whites, rather like marzipan. It's shaped into a long strip and a trough indented into it, while keeping the sides high. The shaped dough sits out overnight and then the indent is filled with apricot jam and sprinkled with sliced almonds. Bake until golden brown, cool, and slice on the diagonal and you have a yummy cookie that looks like something from a pastry shop.

I also tried making a tart with the cookie dough, baking it partway, then adding jam and raspberries and baking it a bit more. Unfortunately, the jam turned to liquid and soaked the pastry overnight, so they were tasty but no longer finger food. If you decide to make them, just be sure to serve them as soon as they are chilled.

Almond Macaroon Slices - a two day recipe
from Maida Heatter's Best Dessert Book Ever (slightly changed)
Makes about 12 slices

7 1/2 oz. (1 1/2 cups) blanched almonds
2 3/8 oz (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
2 egg whites graded 'large' or extra large', separated from each other
About 1/3 cup apricot preserves
sliced almonds (for topping)
confectioners sugar - optional - (for topping)

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat and set aside.

Place the blanched almonds and granulated sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade. Process until fine and powdery. Through the feed tube add one of the egg whites and process briefly. Beat the remaining white slightly since you will only be adding part of it, Gradually add the second egg white, just a bit at a time, until the mixture holds together and forms a paste firm enough to hold its shape...but better too wet than too dry. You will most likely not use all of the second egg white.

Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface, form it into a ball, turn it over to flour all sides. With your hands mold it into a sausage shape about 11 inches long and about 1 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter.

Carefully transfer to the prepared cookie sheet. To form the trench down the middle, dip your middle finger in water and with the wet fingertip, press a trench in the dough. The long sides and the ends of the strip much remain high or the preserves will boil over during baking. The trench should be about 1 inch wide and about 3/4 inch deep. As you are shaping, support the outside of the strip with one hand while you shape the trench with the middle finger of your other hand.

Let stand uncovered overnight.

The next day, before baking, adjust the oven rack to the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Stir the preserves well to soften. With a small spoon, place the preserves in the trench. The preserves should just about fill the trench but should not be higher than the sides anywhere or they will run over during baking. Too much preserves will also be too runny/sticky.

With your fingertips, placed a generous layer of sliced almonds all over the preserves, placing them casually every which way.

Bake for 25 to 28 minutes until the macaroon mixture is lightly colored and the preserves start to bubble. Keep an eye on them for the last few minutes to avoid having the preserves run over the sides.

Remove from the oven. Run a long, thin spatula under the whole cookie to loosen the bottom. Let cool completely. Cookie will firm up some as it cools.

Transfer carefully to a cutting board. If desired, lightly sprinkle confectioners sugar through a fine strainer on the top. Then, with a sharp knife, cut the strip on an angle into slices a scant 1-inch wide.

To make the raspberry tart variation: make the macaroon dough as described above. Flatten it into an even layer in a rectangular tart pan. push the dough up the sides of the pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. When cool, spread about 1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam over the bottom of the tart. Cover surface with fresh raspberries. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes until tart dough is golden and jam bubbles. Remove from oven and let cool. Cut into squares. Eat the same day!