Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Fruit Basket Coffee Cake

Summer certainly brings lots of kinds of fruit. Right now we have ripe peaches, luscious dark cherries, olallieberries right off the vine, and raspberries, plus green grapes and some plums that are almost ripe which are turning a lovely shade of red-gold on the tree down the hill. The plums and olallieberries are the only local fruit, but the cherries, peaches and raspberries are certainly seasonal.

Yesterday I made a lovely coffee cake to showcase the peaches, cherries, olallieberries and raspberries. It's a variation of the Nectarine Cake in Lauren Chattman's Cake Keeper Cakes book, one of the great cookbooks we baked from during my time with the Cake Slice Bakers.

I made one and a half times the cake batter because the original recipe only makes a thin layer of cake and I wanted one thick enough to absorb all the fruit juices. I also added some almond extract, while keeping the vanilla extract. For the topping I used brown sugar, pecans and ground nutmeg instead of white sugar and cinnamon...they recipe gave two choices for nuts and pecans were one of them.

I baked it in a nine-inch springform pan instead of a ten-inch one. Because I had such a wonderful choice of fruits, I used cherry halves around the outer edge, then peach slices, then olallieberries and raspberries in the middle.

Do watch this cake because the nuts might get too brown...just tent with foil if that happens. Because  the batter is deeper than the original, it took a while to bake, but came out moist with a nice crumb and browned crust. We actually enjoyed this cake for dinner dessert, so I served it with soy vanilla ice cream and that was a great choice. Sweetie added some whipped cream to his, and you can always add extra prepared fresh fruit.

I've never been a big fan of summer, but sitting outside for dinner because it's still warm by 7 o'clock makes summer a bit easier to take. All of the beautiful flowers that are blooming in the garden also are a benefit of summer. Too bad it gets so hot!

Do try this cake, especially if you have some ripe fruit on hand. You can use all one kind of fruit or two kinds, or three if four is too much. With most kinds of fruit, push them down into the batter a bit to allow the juices to soak into the cake. Enjoy!

Fruit Basket Cake with Nutmeg Nut Topping
based on Nectarine Cake in Lauren Chattman's Cake Keep Cakes
serves 8-10

For the Topping:
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

For the Cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 6 oz.), unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine, softened
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups assorted stone fruit and/or berries or one kind or fruit, ripe - peel plums or peaches and pit them, pit cherries, pit nectarines or apricots, wash and dry berries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the insides of a springform pan, 9-inch or 10-inch preferred.

Combine the brown sugar, nutmeg and chopped nuts in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl or on a sheet of waxed paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape bowl and beaters as needed.

With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, beating to combine the eggs with the butter mixture after each addition. Scrape bowl and beaters as needed.

Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. With mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, a 1/2 cup at a time. Scrape bowl and beaters as needed and at the end. Use scraper to give batter a final stir to make sure all is combined.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top of the batter. Carefully place the prepared fruit, pushing down a bit into the batter. If using more than one kind of fruit, you can create a pattern.

Sprinkle with the topping. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides, unhinge the springform and cool cake on wire rack until tepid. Remove from the springform bottom and place on a serving plate.

Serve with more fruit, ice cream, whip cream or just as is.

Store uneaten cake, if any, in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Future Squash

We have been getting some nice zucchini squash for a few weeks now. I also planted some winter squash - butternut and delicata. This morning I finally saw a bloom on a squash blossom for the delicata. The color is paler than the zucchini blossoms and somehow it looks more delicate, too. This one is a male blossom, but I expect a female blossom soon. Have never been able to grow delicata squash before...the young plants always died or were eaten by snails...so I'm excited to see how they grow.

Have been grilling the zucchini and making my favorite pasta sauce. HERE is the link to the recipe. The nice thing about this sauce is that you can skip any meat and add about 8 oz. mushrooms to the sauce and have a really nice vegetarian version. The wonderful thing about the summer squash is that it soaks up the flavors of the herbs (and mushrooms if using) so you can cook it for a short time and have the flavors of a sauce that gets simmered for a long time over low heat. That's really nice in summer...less use of the stove means a cooler kitchen!

Friday, June 19, 2020

The French Toast...

My last post was of the Bee Keeper's Loaf. I knew that it would make stellar French Toast and it did! Served it with freshly picked olallieberries and some raspberries from the market, plus a syrup made from more of the freshly picked (literally 1/2 hour before, down the driveway near the road...the heat had ripened many, many olallieberries!) berries. It was very, very good French Toast!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Babes Bake Bee Keeper Loaf

In the middle of the week for each of the last three or four weeks we've had a heat wave. Even the days that are not super hot aren't really what we expect them to be like, here in the North Bay. Most summers we have a lot of fog and the chill that fog brings and a few hours of sun in the middle of the day and not much rain...often no rain after April. This year we've had some rain each month, thunderstorms (which used to be rare), and this warm to hot weather. At least there isn't much of the mugginess that I disliked as a child, growing up in Northern Virginia. Still, I would be happy with the usual fog.

Heat waves don't inspire me to bake, so little of that has been going on. I did bake some brownies from a mix on Friday but I added small chunks of bittersweet chocolate to make them more interesting. They were a tea treat from a good friend who loves chocolate. She and I sat far enough apart to qualify as social distancing and we consumed a lot of tea and a few of those brownies.

On Sunday it was cool enough to bake but I was tired from painting the floor in the farm house office, so all I did was start the biga for the Bread Baking Babes amazing June bread, brought to us by Tanna of My Kitchen In Half Cups. It's called Bee Keeper's Pain de Mie and it uses a good amount of honey! If you are adventurous you can also steep lavender, camomile or both in the warm milk that you mix the honey into. I had some really, really nice raw blackberry honey, so I skipped the herbs so that I could taste the honey.

This is one of those recipes that requires you to think and act ahead. You start both the biga and the milk mixture 12 to 18 hours before mixing the full dough. It's also fun because you use a pullman loaf pan (or you engineer something that works like a pullman pan...using bricks!) Of course that would be if you were baking in a regular size oven that allows space for both the loaf pan and bricks. Unfortunately, with the heat, I baked the loaf in my toaster oven so I didn't try for a pullman style, just a regular loaf. I also found that it was very slow to rise. That meant in my case that by bedtime it still hadn't risen enough, so I put the pan and dough into the fridge overnight, then let it sit at room temperature in the morning to finish rising. I only made one loaf since it's just the two of us. Sweetie really liked this bread, especially the buttery quality of it.

This dough browns easily. I actually burned part of the top crust on my loaf by not watching it as it baked. Perhaps baking in the toaster oven didn't allow sufficient space between the top of the loaf and the top of the oven. In the end, I turned the oven down to 325 degrees F for the last 5 minutes.

This is a lovely bread, soft and moist and very buttery. It is only slightly sweet and you taste a hint of sweetness, not the honey itself. I used a fairly strongly flavored blackberry honey, so it's interesting that not much honey flavor remains.

I think this will make wonderful French toast, regular toast, grilled sandwiches, etc. It's just as it it or with a bit of butter spread on it. The crumb is delightful. The crust is pretty thin, but that's OK. Do try this one yourself...just remember to start it the day before you want to bake it.

If you' like to be a Buddy, bake the bread, send an email to Tanna with a photo and a short note about your baking experience with this bread. She'll send you a Buddy badge. Do this by June 29th! Please use BBB Buddy w Bee Keeper’s Pain De Mis as the subject line.

Do visit other Bread Baking Babes sites to see how they baked the bee keeper's bread.

Bee Keeper's Pain de Mie
Martin Philip's book Breaking Bread: A Baker's Journey Home in 75 Recipes
Breaking Bread - 
two 9X5 pullman pans


410 grams durum flour

410 grams AP flour

352 grams water
172 grams wildflower tea (lavender) 
17 grams salt, fine
16 grams yeast
123 grams butter


******** BIGA******** 

410 grams AP flour  (205 grams for 1 loaf)

246 grams water (123 grams for 1 loaf)

pinch yeast


170 grams milk (85 grams soy creamer for 1 loaf)
35 grams honey (subtracted 57 grams sugar, increased honey) (18 grams honey)
4 grams lavender  (omit)
2 grams chamomile flowers (omit)

******** FINAL DOUGH FORMULA********
172  grams wildflower tea (86 grams for 1 loaf)
656  grams Biga (all above) (328 grams Biga for 1 loaf)
106 grams water  (53 grams water for 1 loaf)
410 grams Durum flour or Bread flour   (205 grams bread flour for 1 loaf)
123  grams butter   (62 grams non-dairy butter for 1 loaf)
17 grams salt, fine  (9 grams salt, fine, for 1 loaf)
16 grams yeast   (8 grams yeast for 1 loaf)



Combine the flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl. 
Add tepid water (75-80°).  Mix briefly, then knead until a smooth dough forms.
Cover and set at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours.

WILDFLOWER LAVENDER TEA ~ I have not used the chamomile and lavender. I wanted to try it with just the honey the first time.

Combine milk, honey in a small pot.
Over low heat, warm the mixture so the honey mixes into the milk.
When there are small bubbles around the edges add the chamomile and lavender if using.
Turn off the heat.
Cover and allow to set at room temperature 12 to 16 hours.
Strain before using.
Warm the tea to 80° when ready to use.

DAY TWO FINAL DOUGH ~ I used a stiff spatula to break up the biga, then my hands, and did all the rest of the mixing with my hands. 
Ending desired dough temperature: 80°.
Combine strained Tea, all the BIGA and the water.
Mix until the biga is broken up.
Add very soft butter, flour, salt and yeast.
Stir until the dough forms a shaggy mass.
Resist the urge to add more flour.

Cover and allow to rise for about 90 minutes.

Fold after 30 and 60 minutes; then leave untouched until divide.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces which will weight approximately 750 grams each. (Piece for 1 loaf will be about 750 grams.)
Pre-shape as tubes. Cover and rest 15 minutes.

Butter or spray two (one) loaf pans or two 9x5 inch pullman pans.
Shape as pan loaves.
With the long side facing you, fold the bottom third of the dough up to the center and the top third over (like a business letter). Fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand.
Place in pans seam side down. Press dough into pans to evenly fill to all corners.

For loaf pans: Cover and proof until dough is about 1 to 1.5 inches above top of pan: about 60 - 90 minutes. (Mine took so long that I ended up putting the pan with dough into the fridge overnight and baking it in the morning.

For pullman pans: Place the dough seam-down into the pan, and press it evenly into the corners. Put the lid on the pan and close all but an inch or so in order to monitor the loaf as it rises.
Allow the dough to rise until it's just below the lip of the pan, 60 to 90 minutes.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

If using a loaf pan, score the loaf in the middle. Put in the oven.

Close the lid of the pan completely, and put the pan in the oven.

Bake the bread for 20 then remove the lid and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. The loaf should be a deep golden brown on all sides.

Remove the loaf from the oven and, after 5 minutes, turn it out onto a rack to cool completely. Do not allow to cool in the pan as that will result in a soggy crust.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Peach Pie with a Twist

Sweetie loves pie. I think he has favorites, like banana cream pie, but he will eat any pie and he really enjoys doing so.

I'm more of a cake girl, but I really love peach pie. The flavor of peach pie reminds me of summer and since we have had summer heat the last few days, a peach pie was calling my name. It didn't hurt that yellow peaches were on sale at the market a few days ago. The first day we had the peaches I was just too hot to bake anything. I had been working down at the farmhouse, painting trim. Early in the afternoon it was just warm, but by mid-afternoon it was really hot. Fortunately our downstairs stays fairly cool if we open the windows at night and then close everything up in the morning. I retreated to the living room and skipped the baking.

The next day I baked the crust in the morning while it was cool and then did the fruit peeling and slicing and the filling making and putting it all together, plus baking, in the late afternoon when we had turned on the air conditioner. We try to only run it if the temperature outside is over 85 and since it was 90 out that qualified.

This is sort of a mash-up of a traditional peach pie and a frangipane tart. Sweetie really, really loved this one and I think you will, too. The frangipane gives a nice almond flavor that enhances the peaches and raspberries and baking the crust before filling it means that the bottom crust stays crisp. Of course it helps to watch the crust towards the end of blind baking to pull it out of the oven if it bakes too soon. I missed that part and so the crust was pretty brown on the edges even before baking the filling, so I masked the edges with foil during the final bake. I'll bet you can do better than me on that score.

My original plan was to have more raspberries but I discovered that many of them had spoiled, so I used the good ones in the center of the pie. I've resolved that the raspberries will now sit front and center in the fridge so that they get used in a timely manner, instead of being shoved toward the back and forgotten for a few days. The lessons we learn in the kitchen!

Peach and Raspberry Frangipane Pie
Serves 8

1 single pie crust, home made or purchased (I use Pillsbury ReadyCrust - 1/2 the package)
pie weights, parchment paper

Place the unbaked pie crust dough into a 9-inch pie pan and trim as needed, then flute edges or press down on edges with the tines of a fork. Place pie shell in freezer for 20 minutes.

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

Remove pie shell from freezer. Place a circle of parchment paper inside the pie shell, having the parchment go up the sides of the shell. Fill with pie weights (I use lentils that I only use for being pie weights).

Bake for 25 minutes. Let crust cool. Remove the lentils and reserve for the next use. Remove the parchment and discard. Cool crust completely.

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
about 3 cups peach slices - used about 5-6 fresh peaches, peel them, remove the pit and slice

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 1/3 the filling in the bottom of the crust. cover with peach slices, flat side down. Pour in the remaining filling and spread over the peach slices. Starting at the outer edge, place peach slices, thin edge down,pushing into the filling. Continue with more peach slices, until about half full. Fill in the remaining space to the center with raspberries, pointed side up, pushing down into the filling.

Bake the pie in the preheated 350 degree F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. Filling will puff up slightly around the fruit.  Cool slightly or completely before serving.