Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Sweet Peach and Strawberry Pudding

One day last week I have a couple of ripe peaches and a few fresh strawberries that were ready to play with. At first I thought I would do a galette or maybe a cobbler or crisp, but what I ended up making was more like the French clafouti. I sort of made it up as I went along, which sometimes is disastrous, but this time worked out really well.

Fresh peaches are peeled, pitted and sliced, cut into chunks and placed in a small baking dish. Strawberries are hulled and cut into chunks and those are scattered over the peaches. My peaches were so ripe that I knew they would be extra juicy, so I crumbled a almost-stale scone and sprinkled those crumbs over the greased baking dish before I added the fruit. If your fruit isn't super juicy you can skip that step. Juicy but no scone? Dry bread crumbs would work fine.

Over the fruit I poured a mixture of soy creamer (but you could sub in half and half, milk, or cream), brown sugar, nutmeg and an egg. A dash of vanilla or almond extract would be delicious, too, but I really like nutmeg, so I wanted that to shine in the dish.

This gets baked in a medium oven. The top will brown and the edges will brown, but the center should still be a bit wobbly. An overcooked custard is terrible!

This sort of pudding can be eaten for dessert or even for breakfast. The custard is the background flavor so the peaches and strawberries...and nutmeg...are the star flavors here. The texture is soft in the interior and a bit chewy at the edges. If you love peaches and strawberries, here is a new way to enjoy them that I know you will appreciate.

Small Peach and Strawberry Pudding
My own recipe
Serves 3-4

2-3 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced, then cut into large chunks
6-8 fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into chunks
If needed...1 scone crumbled, or 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
butter or grease for the pan
1 cup soy creamer or milk, or 1/2 & 1/2, or cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/8 teaspoons salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or grease a small baking dish. An 8 x 8-inch pan should work. If fruit is very juicy, sprinkle with crumbled scone or dry bread crumbs, distributing as evenly over the bottom as possible.

Place the peaches, then the strawberries into the pan, distributing as evenly over the bottom as possible. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy creamer, brown sugar, egg, nutmeg and salt. (Add 1/8 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract, optional, if using.)

Pour egg mixture over the fruit, place pan on a larger baking sheet, and bake for 20-30 minutes. Top will be brown and edges will be brown, but center will still be just a bit soft.

Cool on a wire rack for 10-20 minutes, then serve while still warm. Some folks like a scoop of vanilla ice cream with this. Others like some fresh strawberries with it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Garden Update

Harvest time has arrived. We've been getting about 3-4 good sized zucchini every day all summer. That's still going on, but now the grape (teardrop?) tomatoes have really gotten ripe...and there are lots of them...

and the Gravenstein apples are very ripe, too.

Getting nice cucumbers every few days and the second production of green beans is starting to come in, too. One lonely golf ball sized tomato (maybe a black krim...not sure) has ripened, but more are coming.

There is lots of Swiss chard, although not many takers. The basil continues to produce by the front steps.

 At last count we have 22 pumpkins of various sizes turning from green to orange.

The pears and plums were early and sparse this year and are done. Soon there will be walnuts, too. We feel blessed.

Of course I always plant flowers for their loveliness. There is a nice pot of zinnias by the front porch,

along with pots of magenta cosmos, yellow verbena, blue lobelia, orange snapdragons, red poppies (flower at top of post), golden California poppies and more.

The sweet peas astound me as they continue to bloom despite heat spells and the occasional neglect when I forget to water them. As you can probably see, I've also not been good at weeding this year and I usually try to avoid using pesticides, so there are signs of that, too.

 The morning glories keep coming

and so do the roses. I only have four rose shrubs now, which is enough really. The white climber, which is between blooms, the red single,

the aromatic Scentimental, and the yellow floribunda, also between blooms.

One daylily plant is still blooming, too. I planted a pot to sit on the tree stump by the upper entry into our driveway. It has shade tolerant red and white flowers and they are a nice greeting.

I used some of the same plants for a planter on the steps up to the front door, plus, one step up, another planter with a blue convulvus, a member of the morning glory tribe. I love the intense blue color!

Each day is a revelation and an opportunity to appreciate beauty. More recipes soon, I promise.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cake Slice Tie Dye Fun

When I first joined the Cake Slice Bakers a few years ago I was sure that I would be baking lots of layer cakes, but it turned out that I kept choosing to bake other kinds of cake more frequently than layer cakes.

The same seems to have been true this time around, but I decided that this month I would bake that layer cake since one of our choices was American Chocolate Layer cake, which is actually yellow cake and chocolate icing. Because I was baking this cake for a dinner party where there would be little boys, I decided to surprise them with a tie-dye interior instead of plain yellow cake. I had done this using a cake mix and figured that I could use gel food colors that I had in my cupboard and use the same technique. I chose to use turquoise, magenta and orange which made for a lively colored cake. 

When we arrived for dinner there was general excitement about the cake. It looked festive with the multi-colored heart sprinkles. The boys had been told ahead of time that there was a surprise in the cake and seemed thrilled with the multi-colored swirls when we cut into it. I thought that the cake itself was a bit dry. It may be that I over baked the layers.

To make a tie-dye type cake, you divide the dough into three bowls once it is finished and you add gel food color to the batter, making three colors. Into the prepared pans you scoop one color right in the middle of the pan, top it with a second color (which caused the first color to spread out) then top that with the third color and continue until the batter spreads out to the edges. I complicated it by doing two circles of color in one pan, then filling in the space between the two with the last of each color. Turned out great and it was fun to do! You can use any color combination you choose, but three colors or one plain batter and two colors are the minimal amount to go with. I made half the recipe because we only needed to feed 8, not 20! Two layers were just fine.

America Chocolate Layer Cake 
by Maida Heatter found in Maida Heatter's Cakes
20 or more portions

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter (I used non-dairy margarine)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
3/4 cup milk (I used soy milk)

Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter four 9-inch round layer cake pans, line them with parchment or wax paper cut to fit, butter the paper, dust the pans all over with fine, dry breadcrumbs, tile the pans from side to side to coat them evenly, and then turn them upside down over paper and tap them to shake out looks crumbs. Set the pans aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and then the sugar, and beat to mix. Add the eggs one or two at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Add the sifted dry ingredients with the mixer on low speed, adding them in three additions alternating with the milk in two additions.

You will have a generous 8 cups of batter. If making the tie dye cake, divide batter into three bowls, tint as desired with gel food color and layer in the pans. Into the prepared pans you scoop one color right in the middle of the pan, top it with a second color (which caused the first color to spread out) then top that with the third color and continue until the batter spreads out to the edges. You will do this for each of the four pans.

Place two of the pans on each oven rack, staggering them so the pans on the lower rack are not directly below those above. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, but check a little sooner. Do not overbake (as I did) or cake will be dry. Cake should barely spring back when gently pressed with a fingertip.

Once your remove the pans from the oven, turn each cake out on a rack and remove the paper, then use another rack to turn layer right side up. Repeat with all the layers. Let cool.

Ice with your favorite chocolate icing. Decorate as desired.

(I used a childhood favorite for icing: confectioner's sugar, melted unsweetened chocolate, hot soy milk and a tablespoon of Greek yogurt to keep the icing from hardening so quickly.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Babes Let The Good Times Roll

I'm currently reading some mystery novels set in New Orleans and it seems like at least once in each book that the heroine makes it to Cafe du Monde for some chicory coffee and beignets. Every time she does, I think of the beignets because I know how delicious they can be, freshly made and shaken with powdered sugar or cinnamon and sugar.

I know it's summer and a long time away from Mardi Gras, but the traditional saying  which is the title for this post is appropriate for the August BBB recipe. In July the Bread Baking Babes explored the almost extinct bialy and for August I'm asking you to gather around my kitchen counter as we make something that is also not an easily found bread and, bonus!, doesn't require turning on the oven! Of course you will need to heat up some oil to make traditional Beignets, the powdered sugar coated bread treats of New Orleans and that part of the South.

Wikipedia has this to say," Beignet (English pronunciation: /bɛnˈjeɪ/; French: [bɛɲɛ], literally bump),[1]synonymous with the English "fritter", is the French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux pastry.[2] Beignets can also be made from other types of dough, including yeast dough.
Beignets are commonly known in New Orleans as a breakfast served with powdered sugar on top.[2] They are traditionally prepared right before consumption to be eaten fresh and hot. Variations of fried dough can be found across cuisines internationally; however, the origin of the term beignet is specifically French. In the United States, beignets have been popular within New Orleans Creole cuisine and are customarily served as a dessert or in some sweet variation. They were brought to New Orleans in the 18th century by French colonists,[3] from "the old mother country",[4] and became a large part of home-style Creole cooking, variations often including banana or plantain – popular fruits in the port city.[5][6] Today, Café du Monde is a popular New Orleans food destination specializing in beignets with powdered sugar, coffee with chicory, and café au lait.[7] Beignets were declared the official state doughnut of Louisiana in 1986.[8]"

This recipe is from Martha Stewart's blog, but I tested it ahead of time, having had a woeful experience with a Martha recipe years ago. Not sure that she always does sufficient testing on her recipes.

Anyhoo, this one makes light, airy sweet squares (bumps) that go well with coffee and tea. I suspect that if you wanted to that you could cut the dough into squares and put those squares on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze them. That way you could deep fry the frozen squares (or thawed ones) whenever you got a hankering for a New Orleans snack.

The challenge here is to get the oil hot enough to fry them up without either having them greasy or over browned. It could also be fun to flavor them in different ways...banana slices would be traditional, but consider bits of dried fruit (cherry beignets anyone?), finely chopped nuts, sunflower seeds, ground ginger and candied ginger...all possibilities. Different flours would change the flavor, too. Just don't let them get heavy. Beignets are so light they almost float away....

Do be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes to see what they have done with their beignets.

If you'd like to be a Buddy, I'm the Kitchen of the Month, so you can email (plachman at sonic dot net) me a photo and a short description of your experience making the beignets, plus your blog URL so that I can include you in the round-up. Just get them to me by August 29th.

from Martha Stewart's blog
Makes 16

1 (1/4 oz.) envelope active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm, not hot, water, about 110 degrees F
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk
1 large egg
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping and for the baking sheet
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups safflower oil, for bowl and for frying
1 lb confectioner' sugar for coating (might not take this much, but close)

The wet ingredients will go into the stand mixer bowl. The dry ingredients will get mixed together and added to the wet.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, warm water and sugar. Stir. Let stand 5 minutes until foamy. Add the soft butter and stir. In another bowl, use a fork to stir together the milk and egg. Add to the yeast mixture and stir. Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer.

In another bowl combine the flour, salt and nutmeg.

Gradually, with the mixer running on lowest speed, add 1 1/2 cups of the flour mixture. When incorporated, add another 1 3/4 cups of the flour mixture. When incorporated, turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in another 1/4 cup flour mixture and knead until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. Form dough into a ball. Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat whole dough ball. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a shower cap and place in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about an hour.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch down. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough to a 12-inch square. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut dough into 3-inch squares. Transfer squares to a floured baking sheet and cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 30 minutes.

While squares are rising, heat oil in a medium pot or deep-fryer until it registers 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in batches, add a few squares to the oil and fry, rolling them around constantly with a slotted spoon or spider, until golden brown all over, 1-2 minutes. Transfer beignets to a paper-towel lined baking sheet to drain. Coat immediately with confectioners' sugar while warm. Repeat process with remaining dough and more confectioners' sugar. Serve at once while still warm.

I've heard that these can be microwaved (the next morning) successfully, too.

BTW, I used soy creamer instead of the milk, non-dairy margarine instead of the butter. To make it vegan, substitute egg replacer for the egg and you have it made.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Scones For The Mostly Dairy Free Folks

When I first learned to make scones I loved using cold butter and rich cream to make wonderful, light but rich and flaky delights. When I planned a tea party for this month my sister challenged me to make a scone that was equally delightful, but with none of the usual dairy. After all, when my guests were going 'mmmm good' as they ate their scones, I wanted to be right in there with them. No lemon curd or clotted cream for me, but raspberry jam goes really well with the perfect scone.

These may not have been the perfect scone, but they were delicious and had the right texture, too. I used very cold margarine instead of the butter, used a light hand with the cutting in of the margarine, used a mixture of soy milk creamer and Greek yogurt (the only dairy I can tolerate) for the liquid and I added a touch of almond extract, too. Sweetie had one shortly after I took them from the oven and he was a convert. I enjoyed mine, too and so did my guests. If you are eating vegan, just skip the Greek yogurt and use a full cup of the soy creamer. I used Silk brand original plain soy creamer. I've found that it works well as a milk/cream replacement and tastes good, too.

Here are half the scones before make two discs like this.

Simple Only Yogurt Scones
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease two cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup non-dairy margarine, well chilled
¾ cup soy creamer
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Glaze: 2 tablespoons soy creamer
2 tablespoons sugar (I used white sanding sugar)

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. With pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine to medium crumbs. In a large measuring cup whisk together the soy creamer and the Greek yogurt. (Alternately, just use 1 cup soy creamer instead of that mixture.)

Pour soy milk mixture over crumb mixture. Stir together with fork just until mixture comes together. Use a light hand. Gather dough gently into a ball; knead 4 or 5 times. Cut dough in half and transfer pieces to prepared cookie sheets. Shape each piece into a 6 inch x 1/4 inch thick circle. Using floured knife or bench scraper, cut each circle into 8 wedges. Put wedges on the prepared cookie sheets.

For glaze, brush tops with soy creamer and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 20 – 25 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 16 scones.

If you are going to freeze these to re-heat later, bake them just short of golden brown and re-heat, thawed, for 5 minutes at 425 degrees F.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Pickled Beans

I'm not a big fan of dill, with one exception. I really love dill pickles. Recently I bought a book on pickling foods and decided to try the Dilly Beans since I have enough string beans to do some canning. I hope that I enjoy them as much as regular dill pickles.I planted regular green, yellow and purple beans this year and planted two plantings about 10 days apart. They have done well, especially the purple ones, and we have enjoyed them steamed and in salads. The pickles will be my way of taking care of the full flush of production. They are starting to reduce the number of beans produced, so this is the optimal time.

I also planted cucumbers but so far the production is one here and then another one a few days later, etc. so it is unlikely that there will be enough to pickle them. If that changes, I'll let you know.

The pickled beans are fairly easy to make, but canning is one of those activities where keeping everything clean is essential. I washed the jars and lids in hot soapy water, rinsed them, then put them into boiling water, too, before filling the jars with the trimmed beans, dill, garlic cloves, whole peppercorns and whole mustard seeds. The vinegar solution was boiling so I used a metal cup measure to fill the jars with that mixture, then dipped the lids in the boiling water before putting them on top of the jars. Then they went into a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Here I'm using a canning tongs tool to take them out of the hot water so that they can cool. As the jars cool, the lids become concave...that lets you know that they have sealed properly.

 I wasn't really surprised that the vivid green and purple and light yellow of the beans (photo at top of post) turned to a muted green when the jars had finished processing in the water bath. That usually happens when I cook them, too. There is still a difference of light and dark, but not the great colors.

Here's hoping that they will be yummy when I finally crack open a jar to sample these dilly beans!

For those of you who keep up with what Sweetie is doing, here is a photo taken today at the Registrar of Voters office. He is filing for another term (his 5th!) on the fire board. Here his is swearing to uphold the Constitution. Very proud of him and his service to the community.

Dilly Beans
from Tart and Sweet by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler

4 cups white vinegar
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
4 pounds green beans, trimmed to fit into jars

Per Jar: 
3 dill sprigs or 1 dill head
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
(recipe also called for 1/4 teaspoon brown mustard seeds, but I left them out)

Bring the vinegars, water and salt to a boil in a medium nonreactive pot. Stir to dissolve the salt.

Place dill, garlic, mustard seeds, and peppercorns in each hot jar. (I dipped each clean jar into the boiling water & then drained it right before filling it.) Pack the beans in tightly. Make sure there is a half inch headroom and trim the beans so that they will be covered with the brining solution.

Pour boiling brine over the beans. Check for air bubbles, wipe the rims, and seal with the screw bands.

Lower carefully into the super large pot of boiling water which covers the jars completely. There should be enough room around the jars to easily lift them in and out of the water. Process for 10 minutes. Water should be at a full boil when you start timing.

After the 10 minutes are up, turn off the heat and let the water stop bubbling before removing the jars. Place the jars on a cooling rack or a heat-absorbent surface, such as a towel or cutting board, allowing space around them. Leave them undisturbed until they;re cool to the touch.

After the jars have cooled completely (up to 8 hours or so), eyeball the lids. If the lid is concave (curved downward) the jar has sealed. TO check, press your finger into the center of the lid. If there's no give ( lid doesn't pop up upon release of your finger) it's airtight and ready to be labeled and stored. Stash in a cool, dark place.

Yield: 4 pints

Friday, July 29, 2016

Zucchini Bread Revisited

Two of the most prolific July produce grown here on the property are zucchini and blackberries. Being seasonal, they are also pretty inexpensive in the store around here. Having recently enjoyed the moist deliciousness of the chocolate zucchini bread, it was easy to return to that recipe and make it again. This time I stayed closer to the original recipe. I did add orange zest to the sugar and rubbed it in so that the sugar soaked up the orange oils and color. When I added that sugar to the eggs the fragrance of oranges was delightful!

I kept the strong flavor of cinnamon and then added the flavor, color and texture of freshly picked blackberries. They were folded in at the end, which was tricky since the batter is pretty thick and I didn't want to crush them too much. I think you will enjoy this version if you like blackberries. Their sweetness and tang and intense berry flavor is a nice counterpoint to the mellow zucchini and spicy cinnamon and fragrant orange.

The best size squash for zucchini bread is medium sized with very small seeds. Save the baseball bat huge ones for soup or spaghetti sauce! I used my food processor to shred my squash, but a good box grater works well, too. Use the large holes so that your shreds have some substance.

Zucchini Loaf From Seattle - With Blackberries
adapted from Maida Heatter's Cakes

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
scant 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups shredded zucchini, packed, about 1 pound zucchini
2 eggs
zest grated from 1/2 an orange
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 pint fresh blackberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or grease a 10 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan (10-cup capacity) or two loaf pans with combined 10-cup capacity. Dust the pan or pans with fine, dry bread crumbs and tap to shake out excess crumbs.

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.
Clean the zucchini well and cut off the ends, then shred into large slivers. Don't drain. Pack into a 2-cup measure and set aside.

Beat together the eggs. In a small bowl rub together the orange zest and the sugar with your fingertips until blended and fragrant. Add to the eggs, then add the oil and beat to combine. Add the vanilla and beat to combine. Add the sifted dry ingredients and beat just to mix. Mixture will be thick. Add the zucchini, along with any moisture that has collected and mix thoroughly. The zucchini shreds thin the batter a little. Fold in the berries with a spatula, keeping them as whole as possible.

Scoop dough into the prepared pan(s), smooth the top(s), and bake. A large pan will take about 1 hour and 35-50 minutes. A cake tester gently inserted into the middle comes out clean and dry. Batter will rise up as it bakes and form a crack on top. That's O.K.
Smaller pans will take less time. Check after 40 minutes. A tiny one could be done in 30 minutes or less.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Cover with a rack, turn over and remove the pan, turn over again. Cake will be right side up.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Summer Fun

Last weekend we helped organize and put on a summer BBQ for the local chapter of the P.E.O. scholarship group I belong to.

It was a beautiful summer day, with moderate temperatures and mild breezes and we were cooking and eating in the middle of an awesome grove of tall old redwood trees. I made iced tea. I probably knew how to make it when I was a kid, but it has been a very long time since I made iced tea, so I had to check on the internet for a recipe. Sounds silly, but I was making it for about 40 people, so I didn't want to do it wrong. I think the iced tea I had when I was young was sweet iced tea and I have never cared for it, but this time I could add the amount of sweetness I liked, so it was better. Still prefer my tea hot, but at least now I can make a great batch of iced tea!

Sweetie and Jerry did their magic at the BBQ grill and cooked up some delicious tri-tip. All the other appetizers and food were pot luck and there were lots of delicious offerings. A fine time was had by all! Never did take a photo of the iced tea...too busy. Use your imagination, OK?

Iced Tea

4 cups boiling water
2 tea bags
4 cups cold water
1/4 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, boiled until the sugar dissolves)
1/2 a lemon, slice thin, seeds removed

In a large non-reactive container (I used a very large tempered glass container) combine the boiling water and tea bags, leaving in the tea bags long enough to get a good color. Remember you will be diluting this with cold water and ice, so make it strong enough.

Remove the tea bags and discard.

Add the cold water and the simple syrup. Stir to combine. Chill in the fridge until cold.

Add ice and stir. Add lemon slices and stir. Serve.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summertime Cake

The Cake Slice Bakers had some great choices this month. The Black and White Layer Cake sounded great and so did the Sour Cream Coffee Cake and Blueberry Surprise, but the one that grabbed my attention was the Zucchini Loaf from Seattle. It's baked in a large loaf pan, is moist from the shredded zucchini and uses veggie oil instead of butter.

I'm a summer gardener. I love planting flowers like morning glory and zinnia and veggies like cucumbers and beans. My two favorites are tomatoes and zucchini. Some years the snails decimate the veggie starts and so we only get one or two zucchini a week. Other years, like this one, we are harvesting a decent sized zucchini from at least four plants every day. Now we love zucchini and eat it just about every day, plus we give lots away, but that's a lot of zucchini. This recipe used up one and a half zucchini. Maybe I should make multiple recipes to freeze as Christmas gifts?

Anyway I decided to make the zucchini loaf, but since I discovered chocolate zucchini bread a few years ago I can't go back to plain, spiced loaves. It was easy to convert this recipe to chocolate, so that's what I did. I actually like this recipe better than my old one, so thank you Maida!

Be sure to check out what the other Cake Slice Bakers have baked this month. It's always fun to see which recipe had their name on it!

Zucchini Loaf From Seattle - Amended
from Maida Heatter's Cakes

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
scant 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/3 cup cocoa powder (I used Bensdorp Dutch-processed cocoa from King Arthur Flour)
2 cups shredded zucchini, packed, about 1 pound zucchini
2 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or grease a 10 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan (10-cup capacity) or two loaf pans with combined 10-cup capacity. (I used a 9.5 x 5 x 2 1/2-inch pan and a tiny loaf pan for the remaining batter.) Dust the pan or pans with fine, dry bread crumbs and tap to shake out excess crumbs.

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, espresso powder and cocoa powder. Set aside.
Clean the zucchini well and cut off the ends, then shred into large slivers. Don't drain. Pack into a 2-cup measure and set aside.

Beat together the eggs, sugar and oil, then add the vanilla and beat to combine. Add the sifted dry ingredients and beat to mix. Mixture will be thick. Add the zucchini, along with any moisture that has collected and mix thoroughly. The zucchini shreds thin the batter a little. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop dough into the prepared pan(s), smooth the top(s), and bake. A large pan will take about 1 hour and 35-50 minutes. A cake tester gently inserted into the middle comes out clean and dry (except, maybe, for melted chocolate chips). Batter will rise up as it bakes and form a crack on top. That's O.K. 
Smaller pans will take less time. Check after 40 minutes. My tiny one was done in 30 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Cover with a rack, turn over and remove the pan, turn over again. Cake will be right side up.

This cake is delicious when still slightly warm.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Onions And Poppy Seeds and Babes

It's the 16th of the month so it's time to gather round the kitchen table and tell tales of the Bread Baking Babes. This month we are baking a delicious, round, chewy, onion filled, poppy seed embellished cross between a bagel and a soft pretzel called a Bialy. Our Kitchen of the Month is the lovely Judy at Judy's Gross Eats and she has given us two recipes for this baked savory personal sized bread.

Here is what she said when she introduced the recipes:
"This month, my friends, you will be baking bialys, a bagel-cousin from Bialystok, Poland.  This is only a one-step process – baking only – and instead of a hole, the bialy has a depression that can be filled with onions, cheese, or whatever you choose."

I chose the one with the poolish that you stir together the night before. It sits at room temperature and you make the dough the next day. Because I wasn't baking until late in the day, I added an additional flour/water mixture in the late morning to feed the yeasties and subtracted that amount of flour and water from the final dough.

I found that one large onion, minced and cooked, was more than enough for filling the bialys. For the salt topping I used a moist gray sea salt and sprayed the bialys with olive oil after adding the onion filling but before putting on the poppy seeds and sea salt. That seemed to work well, helping the seeds and salt stay attached to the little breads.

The only other real change was that I misread the recipe and completely skipped the two hour rise. That probably resulted in less light bialys but they were delicious and chewy like a good bagel, plus this way they were ready for dinner. It has been summer-time hot for the last few days, so I was happy that it cooled down last night (the fog came in) enough to enjoy baking.

These are really yummy and easy to make and fun to bite into since you get a nice crust on the bottom, chewy interior, soft onions, the pop of seeds and savory tang of sea salt.

Bake along with us and become a Buddy, with a badge for your post, by sending Judy an email with a photo of your finished Bialy and a short description of your baking experience for the round-up.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Babes, too. Bet you see some with whole grain flour and/or flax seeds!
Bake My Day - Karen

from Elizabeth Faulkner

Prep Time: 30 mins + 3 hours resting time
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serving Size: 16 bialys

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 onion minced, per bialy

17 ounces bread flour
9 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 ounces starter or poolish*
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 ounces warm water
14 1/2 ounces cold water

*Make the starter or poolish the night before with 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast. Mix together and leave out at room temperature overnight.

  1. Combine 2 ounces of warm water with the yeast to dissolve. Combine all dough ingredients together except the salt.
  2. When dough comes together, knead for 6 minutes.
  3. Add salt and knead for another 2 minutes. Set aside to rise for 2 hours.
  4. Roll into a log on a flour dusted surface. Scale out dough at 3 ounces a ball (about 16 bialys total) 
  5. Press each out to shape without overworking and leaving 1" lip around edge.
  6. Proof dough balls (allow to rise again) in warm spot covered with a clean dish towel for an hour or until soft and airy.
  7. Sauté onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil until light caramel in color but at higher heat. Make center depression in each one and fill with the filling.
  8. Sprinkle bialys lightly with poppy seeds and salt. Bake at 450 degree oven, preferably on a pizza stone, for about 12-15 minutes.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

French Toll House Cookies

Apparently the French like our Toll House chocolate chip cookies but in creating their own version, Parisian bistro owner Edouard Bobin played around a little with the classic recipe and created a cookie that has much the same flavors, but is a bit chewier (due to some almond flour) and utterly delicious. I found the recipe in Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. The cookies went well with a wonderful fresh fruit compote we were served recently at a winery picnic. Because they were scooped with a disher the shape was pretty round and much the same size for each cookie. Because the recipe asks the baker to flatten the top half way through the baking, they were sort of puck shaped. They made a slightly more elegant presentation than my usual ragged edged, bumpy chocolate chip cookies. I think next time I'll include some white chocolate chips and maybe a few dried cranberries. They might be bumpier, but still delicious that way.

French Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cups (476 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks (8 oz; 226 grams) butter at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1 cup (200 grams) packed brown sugar
1  1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
12 oz. (340 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or 2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups (150 grams) hazelnut or almond flour

Whisk the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minutes, until smooth. Add both sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well blended. Beat in the vanilla. Scrape bowl and beaters.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating for a minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 4 or 5 additions, mixing only until each addition is just incorporated.

Still on low speed, mix in the chocolate and the nut flour.

Chill the dough at least 2 hours (up to 3 days).

After dough chills, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Scoop the dough into mounds the size of golf balls, about 1 1/2 tablespoons to a mound. Space about 2 inches apart.

Bake one sheet at a time for 8 minutes, then use a metal spatula to gently flatten just a little. Rotate the baking sheet and bake for an additional 7 minutes. The cookies will be a fairly pale brown and will still be slightly soft in the middle...which is good. Remove from the oven and cool for 1 minute, then use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Cool to room temperature.

Bake the next sheet and continue to shape and bake the cookies the same way, making sure that the baking sheet is cool before putting the dough onto it.

Makes about 50 cookies.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Blackberry Pie For The 4th

Our 4th of July celebrations tend to be pretty subdued since we have a dog who freaks out at the sound of fireworks...even ones going off miles away. There are very close by fireworks on the 3rd every year at our local high school and then on the 4th itself usually three that are close enough to hear. Our solution is to close the windows and play loud music. It works pretty well. Needless to say, we don't go out and leave Pi alone. This year we did cross the road to our neighbors to share freshly made blackberry pie in the afternoon. Mellow and no fireworks except for those on the tastebuds. Blackberries are very flavorful and fragrant when ripe and this pie also added ripe peaches to the mix. It smelled heavenly!

AM made rich, decadent vanilla ice cream using a David Lebovitz recipe. I had soy ice cream but have to admit that the soft serve vanilla was truly decadent looking. (see photo by recipe)

It's been a long time since I made a double crust pie and I'm not sure that I've ever made a blackberry pie. This one was more challenging because I decided to use lard instead of butter or shortening in the crust. The crust was the best ever, but delicate and a challenge to work with. Still, if you like flaky pie crust, it pays to find some lard. I used rendered lard, not the rectangle of hydrogenated lard you find in the market. It has a faint bacon fragrance which was kinda nice. I made a second pie with shortening for my nephew and Sweetie to enjoy the next day and that is the crust you see in the top photo. Much easier to work with!

This was an outstanding pie. I did make some changes to the given recipe (what a surprise, right?), including the step of chilling the dough. I think it's important because it gives the flour time to absorb both the water and the lubricant (lard or shortening) which makes for easier rolling. I also didn't do a lattice crust. It would have been almost impossible with the lard version. Adding the peach was also different, but I've always love the combination of blackberries and peaches, so why not?

This is truly a seasonal treat. See if you can find some ripe blackberries and peaches and enjoy it while they are at their sweet and juicy best.

Blackberry Peach Pie
based on two recipes from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham

Basic Pie Dough (Lard or Shortening)
for a 9-inch two-crust pie
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup lard or shortening, cold
6-8 tablespoons ice cold water

Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl, add the shortening, and work it into the flour with a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingertips until the mixture resembles fresh bread crumbs. Use a light hand.

Sprinkle on the water, a tablespoon at a time, stirring lightly with a fork after each addition. Clean off the fork tines after each tablespoon. The free tines help keep the action light. Use just enough water so that the dough holds together. (I tend to work my way around the bowl, leaving clumps of dampened flour, then use the final tablespoon of water to gather it all into one mass.)

Divide the dough in half and put each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a flattened round, wrap up and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Remove first packet of dough from fridge and place on a lightly floured clean work surface. Roll out the dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick and 2 inches larger than your inverted pie pan. (I find that it is a good idea to turn the dough mass itself a little as you roll it out so that you can add a bit of flour to the work surface as needed to prevent sticking.) Transfer the rolled out dough to the pan using your rolling pin. Center in pan. Set aside. Remove second packet of dough from fridge and place on a lightly floured clean work surface.  Roll out the dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick and 1 inch larger than your inverted pie pan. You are now ready to fill the pie pan with the filling.

Pie Filling:
5-6 cups fresh blackberries (I used 5 cups plus one large peach [peeled, pitted and cut into chunks])
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar (if fruit is very sweet, you can reduce it to 3/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Note: You can substitute other kinds of berries or stone fruit for some or all of the blackberries.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Make sure that you have the pie plate lined with dough and the top crust rolled out.

Pick over the berries, removing any moldy ones, and wash them only if they have visible dirt on the. Drain if you washed them and pat lightly with a paper towel to dry them some. Place berries and peach chunks in a large mixing bowl.

In another mixing bowl stir together the flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Pour this mixture over the berries and toss gently to mix. Pile the fruit into the pastry-lined pie pan. Moisten the edges of the bottom crust with water, then carefully transfer the top crust so that is sits centered on the pie. Press down gently all around the edge to seal, then trim, roll under, and crimp or flute the edges. Slash three to four steam holes near the center of the pie with a small, sharp knife.

Place the pie pan on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and bake the pie for about 25 minutes, until the crust has begun to brown. Reduce the heat to 350d degrees F. and bake for 20 - 25 minutes more, until the top is well browned. You can place strips of foil over the edges if they start to brown too much.

Remove the baked pie from the oven and cool on a rack.