Sunday, May 30, 2021

Delightful Chocolate Frangipane Cherry Tart

During the late spring and on into summer when all of the berries and then stone fruits come into season, a frangipane tart is a lovely thing to make to highlight their seasonal ripe deliciousness. Today we had a BBQ on our back deck and invited neighbors who have recently moved here from San Francisco. Sweetie grilled the chicken sausages they brought and some turkey Italian sausages we already had. I made my favorite corn, black bean and tomato salad, and I wanted something special for dessert.

Costco had dark, ripe, decadent dark cherries this week, so I decided to make a frangipane enriched with dark cocoa and a touch of espresso powder (since espresso brings out the flavor in chocolate). I know that I love chocolate and cherry you?

I started with my trusty ReadyCrust pre-made pie dough, but instead of putting it into a pie pan, I put it in a 9-inch tart pan, folded the excess into the tart and tucked it down along the sides. Then I gently pushed the dough into the tart rippled sides, pricked it all over and froze it for 30 minutes. Once the oven was preheated, I added a circle of parchment and some pie weights, gently pushed up against the sides and smoothed out over the bottom. These keep the crust from rising up. 

For the filling I used margarine, salt, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, flour and vanilla, beaten together for a couple of minutes, then a couple of eggs were added and, last of all, the almond flour. This mixture gets scooped into the baked and cooled tart shell.

While the tart shell was baking, I prepared the cherries. I like to cut off the fruit on both sides of the pit, but some folks prefer to pop out the pit with a hat pin or a gadget made for pitting cherries, then cut them in half. Either way, the prepared cherry halves get placed in a nice pattern on top of the frangipane, pushing down a bit into the batter.

Now all that is needed is about 30-40 minute of baking at 350 degrees F and you have a wonderful dessert! Let it cool before slicing. Add a bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if you'd like to gild the lily, but do bake this while cherries are available. You could also use fresh strawberries, fresh raspberries, or any kind fruit that is at its peak and goes with chocolate.

Chocolate Almond Fruit Tart

     Elle's recipe

Makes one 9-inch tart

 Use a already made pie crust, like Pillsbury ReadyCrust, shaping and baking as described below, or use the following recipe for the shell:

Make the tart crust:

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. 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 filling:

 4 tablespoons soft butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup almond flour or finely ground almonds

1 1/2 cups fresh fruit ( berries, cherries, apricot halves, drained and patted dry) - about a pint of fruit


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the filling:  Beat together the butter, salt, sugar, flour, cocoa, espresso powder, and vanilla 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 fresh fruit, cut if necessary, in rows or a nice 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. Cool slightly before serving. 




Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Rhubarb Adds Zing To This Crostata

 We're at the beginning of berry season, with local, divine strawberries easily available and the first of the blackberry types due locally in a couple of weeks.

When strawberries are so plentiful and ripe, I love to make a strawberry-rhubarb pie or crostata. You don't need a lot of rhubarb to add a nice zing to the filling. Yesterday morning I made a crostata (a rustic pie made by rolling out a circle of dough larger than the diameter of the pie. Once filled, the extra pastry gets folded over the filling) with a pint of strawberries and one long stalk of rhubarb. I cut all the fruit in a large dice. It only made four servings, but that was just right since Sweetie is still watching his calories and losing weight. We each had a serving for breakfast yesterday while it was warm, and ate the other two servings today for breakfast, warmed slightly in the microwave.

Use your favorite pastry for this. I used Pillsbury ReadyCrust from the refrigerator section of the market. If you look at the flaky crust in this photo you'll understand why I often use this ready made pie dough instead of making my own. Quick, easy and wonderful flaky pie crust...what's not to like? I baked it on a pizza pan but you can use a cookie sheet or similar pan. I like to use a pan without sides because I think the crust browns better all over that way.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crostata

Elle's recipe

1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, drained, hulled and cut into large dice
1-2 stalks fresh rhubarb, washed, ends trimmed, cut into smaller dice (about 1/4-inch)
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon (less if freshly grated) nutmeg

1/2 box Pillsbury ReadyCrust or any pie dough for 1 crust pie
sanding sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the rack in the middle or lower-middle part of the oven.

In a large bowl, thoroughly but gently mix the strawberries, rhubarb, flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt and nutmeg.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to an 11 to 12-inch diameter circle. Transfer to a sheet pan, pizza pan, cookie sheet or similar flat metal pan.

Mound the contents of the bowl in the middle of the dough circle. Spread out to a single layer, making sure that there is at least an inch of uncovered dough at the outer edges. Fold the uncovered dough up and over the fruit mixture. If you have a smaller quantity of filling, there will be more pastry over the filling (as happened with my crostata); if you have more filling, the pastry over the filling will not cover as much of the filling. It's all good!

Optional: Brush the pastry lightly with water using a pastry brush and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until filling is bubbly and crust has browned. Remove pan to a wire rack to cook for at least 10 minutes, then cut in portions and serve.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Hush Puppies and Salmon Loaf

It's funny the things that we get nostalgic about. Recently I made bourbon balls for a friend for her birthday and the minute I smell the final mixture I was transported back to Christmas when I was little. While enjoying a recent porch Friday with neighbors we got to talking about foods we miss and somehow hush puppies came up. Turns out the G enjoyed them a lot when he was younger at a time when he lived in the South. I was the family cook for Fridays starting at about age 11, so I have a lot of experience in making them...they go so well with fish, especially fried fish. Hadn't made them for about 50 years (I may be exaggerating) or so but I know how to make them! Then the conversation turned to my Family Food cookbook and A.M. brought up Salmon Loaf Supreme. She wanted to make that, I wanted to make Hush Puppies and so a joint dinner was planned on the spot. I offered to also make Cole Slaw since Sweetie really enjoys mine and it goes so well with the other offerings.

Last weekend we were finally all able to get together. A.M. made an amazing salmon loaf, using fresh breadcrumbs and home made mayo!  The slaw was delicious with it and with the hush puppies. The hush puppies were just as I remembered, but more importantly, they were exactly what G remembered and missed. He may have eaten a few more than anyone else, but why not? The company, as usual, was the best part.

The story goes that these little fried corn muffins (because that's what they really are) are called hush puppies because the leftovers were thrown to the dogs to get them to be quiet. Begging clearly worked.

Do try these yourself. Since they are fried I don't recommend a regular diet of them, but for the occasional treat, they really do go well with fish (including salmon loaf). If you have one, use a large cast iron skillet. The oil will stay at an even temperature better with one. I used Crisco because that's what my Mom used. She used to strain hers through cheesecloth when it had cooled a bit and re-use the oil, but I returned mine to the (empty) Crisco can and threw it away. 

I used a medium grind corn meal (Bob's Red Mill brand) because I like them a bit chewy, but finer ground corn meal is fine, too. Be sure to chop the onions really fine so that they mix in well. 

I made the first ones too large (see photo below) and when I turned them over the centers came out. Returned to the teaspoon size recommended in the recipe and that worked really well.

I used a pancake turner to flip these as one side cooked to golden brown. A teaspoon of batter doesn't seem like enough, but it really is. If you let the batter sit for 10 minutes after making it before you cook the hush puppies, it will thicken just a bit and you will have perfect cornmeal morsels. Be sure to have lots of paper towels or brown paper grocery bags to drain them on and be sure to serve them right away! You can keep the first ones warm in a 160 degree F oven, spread out on a cookie sheet or sheet pan while you finish frying the rest, then put them all in a basket lined with paper or cloth towels and eat while they are still warm.

Hush Puppies
old family recipe

2 cups cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoon sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
½ cup onion, finely chopped

Stir together dry ingredients. Beat egg and milk together; add to the dry ingredients. Stir until smooth. Blend in the onion. Drop by teaspoonfuls into deep fat preheated to 3750 F. Dad usually fried these in about 2 inches of hot Crisco oil in the cast iron skillet. Cook until well browned on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper.

Makes about 25. Traditional bread to go with fried fish. It’s possible that cooking these after the fish are fried allows the hush puppies to absorb most of the fishy flavor from the oil.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Babes Bake Povitica

Many moons ago I was one of the Daring Bakers, a group which attempted to bake recipes that really challenged us and sometimes were ones that we had be afraid to try making. This challenge reminded me of those days. I have often wondered if I could make a pastry or bread that required stretching the dough almost thin enough to read through but I was afraid to try. Povitica is such a pastry and so I finally attempted it...and did a pretty good job, too. The other way that this reminded me of the Daring Baker days was that it was a complex recipe, requiring many steps and so many implements to make that both my sinks were needed for the cleanup! It also required space. I ended up doing the dough stretching on the back side of a tablecloth spread over one end of my kitchen counter. There just wasn't enough room in the bake center.

So was it worth it? I would say yes, especially since Sweetie really loves it. It looks wonderful and the looks reflect fairly the amount of time and effort that went into it. However, these days I often take the easier path, so I doubt that I'll make it again. I think that I can have the same taste by using the wonderful walnut filling in an easier bread.

I did use that walnut filling just as given in the recipe, with the usual caveat that all dairy is replaced with non-dairy substitutes. For the pastry I used a combination of lots of pastry flour, a small amount of Irish wholemeal flour that I sifted so that only the very fine flour was used, plus another small amount of all purpose flour. I made sure to  knead for a long, long time to develop the gluten, most of it with the stand mixer, but the final few minutes using a bench scraper and hand kneading.

This recipe pretty much takes all day since the first rise is about three hours and that's after all that kneading. The second rise is about the same and the bake is an hour, so plan on a minimum of 8.5 hours since stretching the dough and spreading the filling takes at least a half hour. I made the filling about hour two of the first rise. If I were to do it again, I'd make it right before the end of the third hour. I think it would have spread better slightly warm. As it was I spread it using a small offset spatula and I dipped that in hot water before each use to help warm up the filling so that it would spread more easily and not tear the dough.

As it happens, I did tear the dough here and there a bit, but you don't really notice once it's all rolled up. I do wish that I'd trimmed the edges of the rectangle. It was thicker there and once rolled into the dough roll it wasn't as pretty as it would have been if I had cut those out as you can see by the photo above. Otherwise I wouldn't change a thing.

Don't forget, there is cinnamon in the filling. This lovely bread will make your kitchen smell heavenly!

If you'd like to be a Buddy be sure to go to our Kitchen of the Month, Kelly of A Messy Kitchen, and send her an email with your URL of the your experience with making the bread, plus a photo. She will include you in the round-up if you do so by May 29th.

Also be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes to see what they have made. I assure you, most of their bread's are far more professional looking than mine!

makes 1 loaf
Recipe from Bake Street



A pan 10 x 4 x 3 inches (25 x 11 x 7 cm) 

10 oz (285 g) T45 flour (this is essentially a pastry flour, soft wheat)(I think you can safely just use all purpose flour and just let it rest while stretching if it resists.)
0.05 oz (1.4 g) dry yeast (~½ tsp)
4.25 oz (120 g) whole milk (I used 2%)(
I used soy creamer)
0.5 oz (15 g) water
0.18 oz (5 g) salt
1 large egg (2.1 oz - 60 g)
1.75 oz (50 g) sugar, divided

0.8 oz (22 g) unsalted butter melted and cooled, divided (Butter substitute)


9.9 oz (280 g) walnuts

3.35 oz (95 g) sugar

½ Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

0.1 oz (3 g) cinnamon powder

pinch of salt 

2 oz (58 g) unsalted butter (Butter substitute)

2.1 oz (60 g) whole milk (used soy creamer)

1 large egg yolk

¼ tsp vanilla extract


For Topping:

0.9 oz (25 g) unsalted butter melted and cooled (Butter substitute)

icing sugar (optional)



 First, make the dough.

 In a bowl or stand mixer, combine the flour together with the dry yeast.  Then add the milk, water, egg and salt.

Mix the ingredients in the bowl until a fairly smooth and homogeneous dough is obtained.

Add the sugar in two additions, kneading each time until it is fully integrated.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and silky with at least a medium gluten development.  Work in the butter in about three additions until smooth again.

Knead for about 12-15 minutes to develop the gluten well and obtain an elastic, soft, and very well developed dough.   It may be slightly sticky but should pass the windowpane test.  If it does not, the final stretching will not be possible without tearing.

When the dough is properly developed, form into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until it doubles its volume. This can take up to three hours.


Make the filling while the dough is rising.

 In a food processor add nuts together with sugar, cinnamon, salt and cocoa powder.  Blend until the nuts are finely chopped and transfer to a bowl.

In a saucepan or microwave, heat the milk along with the butter until it just boils. Remove from the heat.

Pour the milk into the nut mixture.  Add the vanilla and the egg yolk and mix until completely homogenized.

Set aside at room temperature, covered, until ready to fill the povitica.


Stretching the dough:

Lay out a sheet or cloth on a wide, flat surface.  

Sprinkle the work surface very lightly with corn flour.  (I used all purpose.)

Turn out the dough and de-gas it gently.

Roll the dough out into a very thin rectangle with a rolling pin, then continue to carefully stretch with hand to about 25½x18-in. (65 x 45 cm) rectangle.  (The dough should be about three times as long as your pan.  Very gently and slowly work the dough with your hands, stretching from the center to the edges.  It should remain soft and elastic and stretch without tearing as long as the gluten was developed and the process is taken slowly.

Spread the filling.

Drop spoonfuls of the filling evenly across the dough.  Using an offset spatula and/or your hands, spread and distribute the filling evenly across the dough to all but one long edge that will seal after rolling.  The filling may be dense so just go slowly and try not to stretch or tear the dough.


The finer the grind, the easier to spread the filling!


Roll up the dough.

Starting with the long edge that has filling to the edge, roll the dough on itself making sure that there is no gap between each layer. Start at one end and just turn up the edge all the way across.  Then continue to roll from edge to edge carefully and with the help of both hands. 


Once the entire sheet is rolled up, carefully pinch and seal the long edge.

Shape the roll into an S and place it into the pan.  It will take two hands, scoop in from the ends and carefully lift into the pan.  (Other shaping methods including rolling up in a circle like a snail and baking in an earthenware baker, or cutting the roll into sections and lining them up in the loaf pan.  Using sections and a smaller loaf tin will yield a taller loaf.)

Cover with plastic and let the dough rise until the dough has puffed up somewhat. This will be most evident looking at the ends of the dough to see any increase in size. Again, this can take 1-3 hours.

 Bake povitica.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Brush the top of the loaf with half of the butter and place in the center of the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 300ºF and leave for 45 minutes more. The total baking time is 60 minutes.


Remove from the oven and brush with the remaining butter.

Let it rest in the pan for 20 minutes.  Then turn out the loaf and allow to cool completely on a rack.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

 This loaf should ideally be cut from the bottom to keep the outside edges/top from crumbling.  Excellent with coffee or tea!

 This loaf will keep for 4-5 days in a sealed bag or a week in the refrigerator.  It may also be frozen in portions.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

May Bread

 It's the traditional day for me to post the Bread Baking Babes monthly challenge bread. But it's also past the time when my brain mostly shuts down (since I'm really a morning person), and... the bread just came out of the oven.

That is the long way of saying that our monthly bread will be posted tomorrow for your edification and enjoyment! The photo will have you anticipating it I'm sure.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Jam Tart For Mother's Day - Mine

I know that many mothers enjoy having food prepared for them on their day...breakfast in bed, or as we did for my mom, a dinner that included Porterhouse steak (a rare treat) and strawberry shortcake for dessert. I guess I'm a bit different because I like to be the one cooking and baking. When Sweetie asked what I wanted for this Mother's Day, I asked that we invite our good friends from down the road and that we cook breakfast. This is a couple with whom we have shared many, many Sunday morning breakfasts over 20+ years. During the pandemic that wasn't possible. We missed them and our ritual breakfast. For a few months since getting vaccinated we have gotten together on our back porch with purchased breakfast take-out, just so that we could be together, although still sitting a bit apart. It seemed like it was time to share food that we cooked ourselves.

Our friends brought orange juice and champagne so we had mimosas! What a great way to start. Sweetie cooked the bacon and some of the best scrambled eggs I can remember having...perhaps the champagne helped?...with onions and mushrooms scrambled in. 

I made an Italian jam tart using a recipe from An Italian In My Kitchen blog. It has a shortbread type crust, and a thin jam filling. I used a jar of amazing sour cherry jam as the filling, with a touch of almond extract added because it brings out the cherry flavor. I also scattered some sliced almonds over the tart just before baking and after brushing the pastry with milk, so the recipe was tweaked a always! The crust has a beautiful golden color because I used farm fresh eggs given to us by neighbors across the road. Those yolks are soooo orange. It will be a fine tart with store bought eggs, too.

This is a wonderful tart, good for breakfast, but great for teatime or afternoon coffee, too. The shortbread is tender and easily made in a food processor, and you can use any jam you like. If your jam is on the tart side, that is the best. This makes 8 servings, but you could cut smaller slices and probably serve 10 tastes. I find it hard to imagine that no one would want two tastes, so, really it serves 4-6, right?

The dough has to chill for 30 minutes, at least, so I made it the night before. That made it possible to finish the recipe, bake it, and let it cool a bit before breakfast. Do try this one if you like pastry and jam.

Italian Jam Tart


1 3/4 cups flour (227 grams), plus 1 tablespoon more (sorry, no grams for that)
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (my addition)
1 egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons butter (131 grams), at room temperature

3/4 cup jam (253 grams)
3-4 drops almond extract (optional)
1 tablespoon sliced almonds (optional)

1 tablespoon milk for glazing the pastry

On the day you bake the Tart, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 8-9"tart pan with a removable bottom. (I used a 9")

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel knife blade and pulse a few times to combine. Add the room temperature egg, egg yolk and the butter (which has been cut into pieces), also at room temperature. Pulse until the mixture comes together in a ball. Remove from the food processor to a lightly floured work surface and knead a few time to thoroughly combine. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes. Can be refrigerated longer, as long as overnight.

Remove wrapped dough from fridge, unwrap and knead the cold dough a couple of times to soften it. Set aside 1/4 cup.

In a small bowl, stir the jam with a fork and, if desired, add the almond extract and stir it in.

On a lightly floured work surface roll out the large quantity of dough to 1/8" using a floured rolling pin. Place rolled out dough into tart pan, pushing into the ridges gently with your finger and also into the crease at the bottom of the sides. Use the rolling pin, rolled over the edges of the sides, to clean the excess dough from the tart pan. Gather these pieces of dough and add to the reserved 1/4 cup.

Dock the dough in the tart pan by pressing the tines of a fork all over the bottom, about every 1/2 inch or so, making sure that you don't press the fork all the way to the bottom. 

Spread the jam over the docked dough. (I used a small offset spatula to spread the jam.)

In a small bowl combine the reserved 1/4 cup dough, the dough pieces gathered by the pan and the 1 tablespoon of flour and mix together with your clean fingers until the flour is incorporated. (This is an additional step that I took because my dough was too soft to work with to make strips that have to be handled. The extra flour did the trick.)

Turn that dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into strips and use to make a lattice over the jam layer. Gently push the strip ends down into the tart dough sides. 

Use a pastry brush to brush each lattice strip on the tart with the milk, then scatter the almonds (if using) over.

Bake in the preheated 350 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove the tart sides and put tart on a serving plate. Enjoy! Can be eaten a bit warm or at room temperature.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Blogging in 2020 - The Year We Would Rather Forget

 The first couple of months of 2020 were fine, with little hints that something serious was coming, but mid-March our world changed completely, almost overnight.  COVID-19 virus turned virtually everything upside down and sideways. Quarantine, shortages of things that were understandable, like toilet paper, but also things that were unforeseeable, like yeast and flour. Stoppered up in our various homes, people took to baking banana bread and to starting sourdough starters and using them to bake bread! Many people all of a sudden had to figure out how to work from home, how to also have their kids go to school from home, and all this while we were being told to stay home! Comfy clothes became possible when all your employer and fellow employees saw was your upper half on Zoom. The devastation to the restaurant industry, the events and sports industries, and to the performance and movie industries was sudden and severe. All walks of life had layoffs and furloughs. The supply chain became so messed up that not only were goods not available much of the time, but the cargo containers from China piled up in American ports, so that prevented more shipments. For example, a friend whose refrigerator died found that there were almost no refrigerator in stock most places, so she bought the one she found, even though it wasn't what she wanted just so she could keep her food cold.

The worst of it, of course, were the thousands and thousands who became ill with COVID, those who died from it, and those who will likely never recover from it. The medical professionals did heroic work, but so did the people who clean the places they work, those who make sure that their supplies are there for them and the bills are paid for lights to keep working. Other heroes include the grocery and fast food workers and those who delivered the food, plus all the delivery drivers who allowed so many to stay home and not venture into stores. Low paid workers who care for our elderly were also on the front lines. Hairdressers, bar workers, gym folks, most of whom are low paid, also lost their jobs. The disparity between the lives of those well off and those struggling, especially people of color, became more glaring during this pandemic. Many people suffered and still suffer from depression and other conditions due to the upending of their usual lives and the stress of finding rent, money for food, help for children, loss of time with family, loss of fun with friends and so on. Not everyone is built to do well sitting at a computer all day, either.

This summary doesn't even touch on the election in November and our fires, which have become an annual part of late summer and early fall.

There were silver linings, too. The air during March and April and May was so clean. It was quieter without all the cars, buses, and airplanes going to and fro. In some families, people drew closer together during the enforced time together. My brother called it the Great Pause. It allowed us to examine all those things that kept us so busy before and decide which were important to continue once things returned to whatever 'normal' became. Those dear to us became dearer.

I spent a lot of those months in 2020 working on the farmhouse. It's was built in 1906 and with buildings that old it's a challenge to know what to fix and where to stop. It was a rental, but we are finding so many things that need work that right now it's a relaxed (as in don't expect too much) guest house. Our daughter came and stayed in March for Sweetie's birthday and we hope that she and her crew can come in the summer sometime, but we also have friends and other family whom we hope will visit now that we can be vaccinated. We have really missed time with friends and family!

So what happened on the blog in 2020? I posted 95 times, which is more often than some years and less than others, so about average. I'm going to start with just January and February with this post and continue the rest of the year in later post or posts.

 I started the year with a round-up of Bread Baking Babes posts, and then a post about my older brother's funeral. We had no idea that a few months later we would not have been able to gather much less toast him with Irish whiskey. For the gathering after his burial, I made a fruit salad that was refreshing.

A few posts later I talk about the Bale Grist Mill in Napa where we bought some freshly ground polenta. I included a recipe for Soft good! Photo by Jennifer Davick.

An easy and modern Lemon Tart was also posted in January. It uses olive oil instead of butter, so I was all about non-dairy, plus it tasted great.

Still in a mood for tarts, I also made a version of the classic Bakewell Tart in January.

For the Bread Baking Babes 12th Anniversary, I chose the French Le Pain Tordu, which is a twisted bread and is a specialty of the Lot-et-Garonne region, although there is also a version baked in Gers.

If you have a celebration coming where you need a larger than usual cake, you may want to try the Lemon Celebration Cake from February.

Last, but not least, I made some egg yolk rich Pancakes from scratch and topped them with a home made Raspberry Sauce you might enjoy.

Will be coming back soon with more months from the blog in 2020.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Party Cookie Hearts For Moms

It's interesting how certain foods or recipes instantly evoke memories. Recently I made bourbon balls for a friend for her birthday. Usually they are a Christmas treat. When I did the final stir and all the fragrances mingled, it took me back to being a little girl and helping my Mom make rum balls for the holidays. 

Today I'm making my version of Cobb salad, and that brought back memories of when we would have it for dinner when the kids were young. Because I made it on a wooden tray in rows - each of the ingredients had their own row...or two...across the board, each of us could choose to scoop the desired ingredients onto our plate and in the quantity we wanted, too. These days there is no blue cheese on the tray, but tonight there will be fresh steamed green beans, not something we had those many years ago. 

It also made me think of past dinners when the kids were home where we would make our own burritos, adding as much or as little chili, diced tomato, diced avocado, salsa, shredded cheese and so on to the burrito tortilla as desired.

I've just returned from a visit to my daughter and her crew in Phoenix. While there we baked together, making a multi-grain sourdough loaf and braid, and, with 11 year old Raine, Party Cookies. 

The Party Cookie recipe is another blast from the past recipe since I think it came from Sunset Magazine in the 70s. I used to bring it to school instead of cupcakes for birthday parties where the Mom was expected to bring birthday treats. It has standard Toll House chocolate chip cookie ingredients, but also uncooked rolled oats, mix-ins like dried fruit and nuts. We used dried cherries and chopped pecans for those. The fun thing is that you scoop up a cup of the dough and shape it into a large cookie on a greased, foiled baking sheet. We made an oval, a flower, and two hearts, then saved the rest in the freezer to be baked as individual cookies sometime in the future.

One of the hearts was decorated with pink icing, gold glitter and a bit of purple icing around the edge. That went with Raine as an early Mother's Day gift for his mom. She was surprised and delighted. It's an easy surprise for your own mom or grandma, too. 

Big Heart Party 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 used pecans)
½ cup dried fruit (I used dark cherries)

For circle or heart shaped cookie:
1 cup M & M candies in appropriate colors (optional but fun)
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  or baking sheet with foil. Spray with cooking spray. For a big circle cookie if using the pizza pan, put 2 cups of the dough on the foil. Using floured fingers, shape dough into desired shape, either circle or heart. Smaller hearts on baking sheets use 1 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, if using.

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. If you like you can color the icing. While it is still wet, sprinkle cake decorations over as desired. To edge with colored icing as Raine did, add a bit more confectioners sugar. 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! For Mother's day, wrap carefully in clear plastic wrap and add a bow. If you are good with icing, you can put Mom or her name in the middle of the heart.