Saturday, April 29, 2017

Accidents Happen

Glad we took the day trip last Saturday. Sunday Sweetie was finally able to get out the tractor and mower deck and do the high weed mowing. Due to the weekly doses of rain, the ground is still a little soft and some of the weeds are over my head. He did a wonderful job and was on the last pass when the big tire in the rear first hit a low a slightly mucky spot, then hit a apple tree root hidden in the grass. They were both uphill of the tractor, which was the reason that the tractor flipped over.

Sweetie fortunately must have instinctively launched himself a bit because his leg wasn't trapped, but the seat back did hit him on the right side and he suffered a couple of cracked ribs. Pretty painful, although the pain hit him that night instead of sooner.

Sooo it has been almost a week and he is improving daily. Not a whole lot of baking this week and no photos, so the only one is of the accident. We are very grateful that it wasn't worse. The doc said that Sweetie is a very lucky guy!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day

Lately a lot of time has been spent on necessary things (the result of choices freely made) that have kept me either close to home or involved with meetings and similar things. Today Sweetie and I agreed that a day trip was in order, just for fun. Since Straight Shooter was up from the City, he came along and so, of course, did Pi doggie. We started out at about 3 pm. The sky was cloudy, but the weather pretty mild. We drove out past the blooming berry vines, ready for spring vistas.

We have had an abundance of rain this winter and spring. This is most appreciated since it follows way too many years of drought. We decided to celebrate Earth Day by going to the tiny town of Marshall on Tomales Bay and having an early dinner at Tony's.

The ride there is through lush countryside, much of it looking like the year could be 1857 or 1917 instead of 2017. Milk cows and beef cattle were seen enjoying the green, green grass. Sheep roamed the hills and valleys. Wildflowers were everywhere.

We stopped at Tony's, but they were closed because of needing repairs from recent storms. So we kept going to Point Reyes Station. We arrived about 4 and dinner started at 5 at most of the restaurants. Walking around town we spotted a feed store that also had a coffee bar, so Sweetie and Straight Shooter had coffee and a cookie. I didn't feel the need of refreshments, so I wandered around. SS pointed out the incubator with little chicks enjoying some feed. So cute!

We also made our way through the place where Cowgirl Creamery make their yummy cheese, inspected some used chippers and stump grinders across the road from there, and let Pi have a walk.

On the way back to the road that would take us to Petaluma, we stopped at the Marconi Conference Center for a look around. It is a lovely place with a variety of rooms for both conferences and just an overnight stay. I took this photo from near the common room which holds lots of Marconi memorabilia. We are looking toward Tomales Bay just south of Marshall.

The drive to Petaluma was glorious! The hills are soft along most of the drive and everything is so green. It reminded me of County Limerick in Ireland, up in the hills, south of the Shannon.

Eventually we made it to Petaluma and then along Stony Point Road to the Washoe House, a roadhouse that has been there since the 1860s, and it became a stop on the stagecoach  routes connecting the towns of Petaluma, Santa Rosa, and Bodega, CA during the 19th century. It was recently purchased by the folks who own the Petaluma Creamery and they have spruced it up some and brought in a chef. The food is quite good, although not fancy. It is also a bar, so try the Irish Coffee if you go there. They do it right. (Photo from Wikipedia)

It was a delightful day and a fun afternoon and early evening. Good to get out and about and to enjoy the spring. Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

An Australian Treat With The Cake Slice Bakers

We always have four choices when the month comes around, but this month there was really only one for me to make. The Japanese Strawberry Shortcake required dairy, the Pistachio Cake was too much like the Banana Loaf from last month, the yogurt cake was too dairy and too plain. Fortunately, the last choice was Lamingtons. Sounds sort of like lambs, right? Well, we have four little black lambs in our pasture, two born just a couple days before Easter, so lambs were on the brain anyway. These, however, are nothing like lambs, they are small packages of deliciousness.

Lamingtons are a traditional Australian treat of sponge cake dipped in a chocolate icing and then coated on all sides with dry coconut. Sweetie and I had some when we visited Australia. It was during one of the few super-tourist things we did in Sydney. We took a boat trip around Sydney harbor, which gave us a lovely view of the Opera House from the water, plus we enjoyed tea and Lamington cakes.

The recipe in our book, World Class Cakes, didn't seem right to me. I checked out a number of different sites online because I really remembered some sort of red jam being part of the treat, but I didn't remember any cream. Turns out that the cream and even jam are not in the best of traditional ways, but can be done for a fancy tea. Since I don't do dairy anymore I left out the cream and used a mixture of seedless raspberry jam and brandy and raspberry brandy to brush on the cut side when I split the sponge cake in two. Sponge cake is pretty plain tasting and can be a bit on the dry side, so the addition of a little sweet liquid is traditional with many European cakes and seemed like a good idea. Cakes sandwiched with jam would probably have slid apart even more than these with just  flavored syrup did.

The sponge cake is another story. The recipe in the World Class Cakes calls for an odd sized pan, so I used David Liebovitz sponge cake recipe, which bakes in a 9-inch square pan. It made a tasty sponge cake with was pretty moist for a sponge. Easy to work with, too. Be sure to either chill or freeze your cake to make it easier to handle.

I did use the delicious icing recipe in our book, but it wasn't terribly helpful since it didn't give the amount of water to add. At first I tried it with a somewhat thick icing but that was terrible (if you look at the back lamington in the group photo below on the cooling rack, you will see the misshapen one that had thick icing). I added some more boiling water and eventually had an icing that was glossy and thick enough. I probably could have added a bit more water, but I was worried about it getting too thin.

I used a whole package of the dry coconut. Even though the final product was delicious and made a great dessert for a dinner party, it was a bit fussy in production, so I probably won't do it again. The most exasperating part was that the top and bottom layer kept sliding apart as I coated the Lamington with the icing. Two forks for both coating and taking the iced cake out while removing excess icing seemed to work well. I also put the icing into two bowls so that I could use one and switch to the other when the first became less than glossy due to lots of cake crumbs.  It was a very messy deal. I can see why Lamingtons have not taken over the world like, say, croissants. Or, maybe, there are folks who enjoy fussy work like this. I bet a ten year old boy would love it! Still, it was fun to try them and these were far tastier than the tourist fare in Sydney.

makes 16
Sponge Cake - David Lebowitz
Icing and Coconut - Shannon Bennett from World Class Cakes
Jam Filling - Elle

Sponge Cake
6 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 g)sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups (175 g) cake flour
2 1/2 oz. (70 g) melted butter (I used non-dairy butter), melted and cooled to room temp.

Butter a 9-inch square cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Whip egg and sugar and salt on high in a stand mixer for 5 - 10 minutes until thick and a well-defined ribbon remains on top of the batter when it falls from the beaters. Stir in the vanilla.

Fold the flour into the egg mixture - sift and fold. Fold in the melted butter. Don't overfold. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake about 30 minutes. Cake will pull away from the sides when done. Cool completely.

When cool, unmold onto cutting board. Remove parchment. Trim the ends, then cut into two rectangles. Split horizontally.

3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam (or strawberry jam if you prefer)
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons raspberry brandy

Whisk these ingredients together until smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush onto one of the cut sides of the sponge cake, dividing evenly between the two rectangles. Stack the top and bottom of each rectangle together, with the jam coating in the middle. Wrap airtight and freeze overnight or for at least 30 minutes. Cut frozen cake into 16 squares.

Icing and Coconut
2 1/4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
2 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa
boiling water
3 1/3 cups dry unsweetened coconut

Sift and mix the dry ingredients together, then add water while whisking until the desired texture is reached.

Place a wire rack over a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet. Place the coconut in one bowl and divide the icing into two bowls (this way when one bowl gets filled with crumbs, you have a new bowl to ice cakes with). Have two forks handy.

Place a prepared cold Lamington cube into the chocolate batter, making sure all sides are coated. Using the forks, lift the cube from the icing and let extra drip off, (you can help it along near the bottom with a fork). Next dip the cube into a bowl of dry unsweetened coconut. Coat fully, then place on the rack to let the icing harden a bit. Only 15 more to coat...

Serve with a fork. Some raspberries on the side or a puff of whipped cream are nice, too.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Two A Penny...Hot Cross Buns

It's been years since I've baked these seasonal treats, which is a shame since they are so delicious. A fairly rich yeast dough becomes even nicer with the addition of candied orange and lemon peel, currants, and raisins. There are some nice spices, too and shredded fresh lemon zest for zing. I made an icing cross for some of them by mixing a small amount of confectioners sugar and fresh lemon juice in a Ziploc bag, then cutting a tiny bit off the corner for the icing to go through. I made them Wednesday so that I could take some to friends. A gift of some of them to trainers at the gym on Thursday had no cross, but then liturgically, the cross was for Good Friday. Still time to make these for Easter if you start right away, but bake them any time for a nice little sweet roll with dried and candied fruit.

Hot Cross Buns
Makes 16 buns

3/4 cup warm (100° to 110°) whole milk (I used soy)
4 1/2 teaspoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
1 large egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Finely shredded zest of 1 large lemon
About 31/2 cups flour - I used 2 cups bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped candied orange peel(or candied lemon peel or candied citron) or 1/2 cup orange marmalade*
1/4 cup dried currants, plumped with a little boiling water if dry, then drained well
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 teaspoons (about) fresh lemon juice
1 cup powdered sugar

1. In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine milk and yeast; let stand until yeast softens, 5 to 10 minutes. In another bowl, whisk together the whole egg, brown sugar, cooled melted butter, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and orange or lemon zest. Add to the milk/yeast mixture and beat on medium speed with dough hook until blended.

2. Whisk the flours together in a bowl or large measuring cup if using more than one kind. Blend most of the cup flour into the batter. Beat on medium speed until dough is smooth and stretchy, 10 to 12 minutes, using dough hook. Add just enough additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, (about 1/4 cup) so dough is only slightly tacky.

3. Add orange peel and currants and raisins to the dough, pick up dough, and mix with your hands to distribute fruit.(I turned the dough out onto a lightly floured board and kneaded the dough in...that way I was sure that I had the dough well kneaded before adding the fruit and that the fruit was well distributed.)
Return dough to bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

4. Punch down dough. With floured hands, shape into 16 smooth rounds. (With all the fruit added it might be difficult to have a smooth top...just do the best you can.) Evenly space rounds in two buttered 8- or 9-in. square pans.

5. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place until doubled and puffy, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°. Brush buns with beaten egg (egg wash is optional). Bake until deep golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool in pans at least 30 minutes.

6. In a small bowl, stir together juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Spoon into a small, heavy-gauge plastic bag, snip a hole in a corner, and squeeze icing onto buns to form large Xs.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Springs Lambs

No, this isn't about a dish, but about the two newborn lambs in our pasture. They were born this morning and are pretty cute. They join two month old lamb cousins, also black. They are a sure sign of Spring, which is good because our weather is still pretty Sonoma County winter with rain today, tomorrow, and the next day. Pretty windy, too. Still, with new life comes the hope that one day soon we will be able to have breakfast on the the sun.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Spanish Chicken With Memories

One of my favorite casserole dishes from when I was growing up is Arroz con Pollo, or Spanish Chicken with Rice. It includes things my mom didn't use very often together, like saffron and sherry. This is a mellow dish with browned chicken (I used boneless, skinless thighs even though the original recipe calls for whole cut up chicken, with bones and skin), garlic and onion, peppers, tomatoes and rice, bay leaf and cloves and paprika, and the saffron and sherry, too. The finished dish is garnished with green peas, so it is a whole meal in one dish and once the chicken is browned, the rest goes pretty quickly. I made mine a day early so that the flavors would mingle. Because I was unexpectedly out of yellow onions, I used a red onion...worked beautifully. I was also out of sherry and used Port instead. That seemed to be emblematic of this cooking spree.

So if you need a blast from the past, or just a delicious, filling, fairly healthy but still slightly exotic flavorings, give this a try. The leftover are even better than the fresh dish, too, so be sure to make the whole recipe. I left off the pimento because I forgot to buy some, but if you have it, it adds greatly to the dish, both in flavor and color. Since I used red bell pepper instead of green bell pepper, that brought a bit of the flavor and color to mine, but not as much as the pimento. Give this one a try. It is well worth your time. We had the leftovers tonight and they were so good that I neglected to take a nice photo. What you have above is what was on the plate when I remembered. *Grin*

Arroz con Pollo (Spanish Chicken and Rice)

1 frying chicken (about 2½ lbs. ) cut up
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 can peeled tomatoes (19 oz.)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
1 cup water
1-2 bay leaves
1/3 cup dry sherry (I used dry Port...out of sherry)
1 pinch Spanish saffron
2 whole cloves
1 cup long grain white rice, uncooked
1 cup peas, cooked and hot
1 pimento, cut up

Dry chicken pieces. If desired, season chicken with salt. Brown in hot oil. Add onion, garlic, and green pepper; brown 5 minutes longer. Add remaining ingredients, except for rice, peas, and pimento. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add rice. Bring to a boil, stir; cover and
simmer for 30 minutes. Garnish with peas and pimento. Serves 6 - 8.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Cinnamon Raisin Struan Round-Up

The March Bread Baking Babes bread was Cinnamon Raisin Struan Bread from Brother Juniper's Sacramental Magic in a Small Town Cafe. (Brother Juniper is Peter Reinhart.)

We had three intrepid bakers join us as Buddies and each of their breads was different, but wonderful!

Gilad Ayalon of Gilad Ayalon Vegan mostly used the given ingredients but used a Tartine method of folding and made a beautiful loaf with marbled cinnamon and dots of raisins and a great crust. She said, "I changed the recipe and the sequence, but tried to keep the percentage between the flour and the other grains. The sequence is my modification to the Tartine’s bread sequence (A lot of kneading instead of the autolyze phase)."

Marcin from Poland, of Grahamka made a sourdough version. It "was made on real polish sourdough from wholemeal rye flour, which is a base for dark wholemeal bread and for the most famous Polish soup."

Shirley of Flour.ish.en Test Kitchen made the Struan bread using sprouted flour from King Arthur Flour. It opens up a whole other level of bread baking!

Thanks to Gilad, Marcin and Shirley for being stellar Buddies and pushing the envelope of this mixed-grain bread.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Twofer- Spring Salad and Date-Pecan Soda Bread

Although fall is my favorite time of year, spring comes a close second. The days are lengthening so there is more time to enjoy the sunshine, birdsong and fresh spring flowers. Yesterday I planted some strawberry plants and will soon be getting the seedlings crowding my sunroom into the ground outdoors. They just need a few days of hardening off first.

Inside the house there are changes, too. Sweetie and I decided to upgrade our tiny guest room with a queen size bed but, since that size bed takes up most of the room, we opted for a chest Murphy bed. Until we visited a home show a few weeks ago we didn't even know that such a thing existed. The memory foam mattress fold into three attached sections and fits into the chest. The chest also contains a drawer for storage and a couple of support pieces which fold or roll out. Closed up it's a pretty piece of furniture.

Yesterday I was in Santa Rosa and decided to stop by the new Safeway on College Avenue where G&G market was for over 25 years. They have done a nice job making it into a Safeway and near the front there is an amazing array of salad greens and fixings. I had a good time choosing some items to make a salad for dinner, and then went right next to the salad area and bought some already grilled chicken kabobs to top the salad with.

In my world a dinner salad is best accompanied by warm bread. I decided to make Aunt May's Irish Soda Bread, but changed up to include dates and pecans. After we had some I wondered why I don't bake this weekly. Then I remembered that I'm trying not to bake things that we feel compelled to eat immediately because Sweetie and I both are losing a few pounds that crept up on us during the winter. Weekly soda bread would put on the pounds, but it's nice for the rare treat.

Spring Salad with Chicken, Avocado, Broccoli and Snap Peas

2 cups mixed spring mix type greens...small red and green lettuces, mizuna, mustard, curly endive, spinach, etc.
2 cups mixed green salad...torn or chopped romaine, iceberg, red cabbage, etc.
1 cup shredded or matchstick carrots
2-3 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/4 cup cooked and cooled wheat berries
2-4 tablespoons cooked and cooled red quinoa
2-3 tablespoons raisins
1 cup sugar snap peas, rinsed and sliced into bite sized pieces
1/2-1 cup broccoli florets, steamed and cooled
1/2 - 1 avocado,peeled, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup cooked chicken, in bite sized pieces, warmed (I used to grilled kabobs, stick removed)
your favorite Asian dressing (I used Newman's Own Sesame Ginger)

In a large salad bowl mix the spring mix greens, green salad greens, carrots, almonds, wheat berries, quinoa, raisins and snap peas. Toss gently to mix. Add the broccoli and toss gently again. Add the amount of dressing you like and toss to coat lettuce leaves. Pile salad on large plates. Top with sliced avocado, arrange in a nice pattern, and chicken pieces. Serve at once.

Aunt May's Soda Bread but with Dates and Pecans
makes one medium loaf

1 cup (about) soy milk
3 tablespoons plain yogurt (not Greek style)
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Irish style whole-meal flour or whole wheat flour1/4 cup wheat bran
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 oz. (½ stick) cold butter or margarine, in thin slices
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup roughly chopped dried pitted dates
In a small bowl combine the milk and the yogurt. Let sit to 'sour' the milk, at least 5 minutes. Stir in the egg yolk. Set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients over the butter and cut in well with a fork or pastry blender. Add the brown sugar, pecans and date pieces; mix well.
Add the soured milk and mix just until moist - don’t over handle. You may need to add 2 - 4 more tablespoons of milk or a tablespoon more of flour. Some dry stuff is OK but the dough should be sticky.

Pat into a round on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with flour. Cut a cross on top. Bake 45 minutes at 350F. Cool a bit before slicing.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Quick Lemon Chicken

I love the Lemon Chicken for a Crowd that marinates for a while and then is cooked slowly to perfection, but sometimes you need dinner in a hurry. Last week I had one of those days, so I threw together Lemon Quick Chick, a recipe I've had for ages. I've used it so long that I don't even remember where it came from, but it was probably the newspaper or a magazine.

The thing that takes the longest amount of time is making the starch that it goes over. I like rice the best, but have used mashed potatoes and, for an even shorter cooking time, pasta.

After that cutting up the chicken takes a bit of time, but not much. Often I use chicken breast, which cooks up the fastest, but last week I had boneless chicken thighs, so that's what I used. You want the pieces to be on the smaller side of bite sized because they cook up faster that way.

You will also need a lemon, some chicken broth, a few tablespoons of butter and/or oil and a few tablespoons of flour, plus seasonings like poultry seasoning, pepper, salt, and thyme. I like my lemon chicken on the mellow side, but you could also add some hot sauce if you like more bite.

This is a combination stir-fry and braise. Have everything to hand since it does go pretty quickly.

You end up with a savory dish with a lovely sauce to spoon over rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. Barley would be good, too. I served mine with steamed rice and steamed broccoli. It made a great early spring dinner.

Lemon Quick Chick
Serves 4-6

1 lb chicken, preferably boneless
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 lemon, sliced very thinly

Cut the chicken into small bite sized pieces. (I often use boneless chicken breasts or boneless chicken thighs). Set aside.

In a large frying pan heat the butter or margarine and the oil, then saute' the cut up chicken, stirring so that all sides get opaque.

Add the flour and seasonings and stir, then let brown a minute, then stir again and let the mixture brown. Add the chicken broth all at once and, using a wooden spoon or similar implement, scrap up the browned flour/butter bits and stir to incorporate into the sauce. Let cook, stirring, on medium, until the sauce starts to thicken.

Placed the lemon slices around the pan on top of the chicken mixture, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for another 2 minutes. Uncover and serve.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Asparagus Season

We have gone to daylight savings time and the calendar said that this past Monday was the first day of spring, but many days have still been chilly and last night the temperature was in the upper 30s, so winter is having trouble letting go. Friday is supposed to bring a big storm with a lot of rain and maybe some thunder and lightning. Even so, things keep blooming. The plum trees are finished with their flowers and are sending out lots of lovely light green leaves. The pear trees are in bloom right now and the apples are in the bud stage, ready to bust out all over this weekend if it warms up a bit. This afternoon I re-potted some of the squash seedlings into larger pots since they were getting too big for the tiny cells of the seed starting trays. The tomatoes will need to be re-potted soon. Spring is all around.

One of the joys of spring are the fresh asparagus that show up in every market, often at a reasonable price. I love them just steamed lightly, but they are great grilled with just a mist of olive oil to keep them from sticking, in an omelet, added to a stir fry, as part of a pasta dish, with Parmesan cheese and ricotta, and even as the star of a yummy bread.

Today I made a flatbread with halved asparagus spears that I cut into 2-inch long pieces. First down on the parchment was a sourdough pizza dough made with Italian 00 flour instead of all-purpose flour. It is very easy to work with, stretches thin for a nice crust, and tastes great, too. On top of that I put some almond milk ricotta cheese (thank you T-Rose for helping me find it at Community Market), very thin slivers of red onion, and the prepared asparagus. A drizzle of olive oil finished it up, ready for baking in a hot oven. Since Sweetie and I prefer different amounts of salt and pepper, we added it at the table. I used my baking stone, well pre-heated, and slid the parchment paper holding the flatbread right onto the stone. You get a really nice bottom crust that way.

The asparagus flatbread went really well with a green salad that had fresh orange segments and avocado, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. What did you have tonight?

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Lovely Banana Loaf with the Cake Slice Bakers

Happy first day of Spring!

The 20th of the month is always a fun day to check out this blog because I often have a post for a recipe from the Cake Slice Baker group's latest book, this time Roger Pizey's World Class Cakes. 

Although we had four choices this month, the multi-layer chocolate cake used a mousse as filling, which is hard to do for the dairy-impaired. The cake with coconut on top was no good because I had a guest who hates coconut. The mandarin and macadamia cake is too similar to my favorite orange cake from Orangette, so I went with the Banana Loaf. I didn't really expect much, but Sweetie went wild over it and he really isn't a big cake fan. I thought at first that it was because I served slices still a bit warm from the oven, but he enjoyed it just as much this morning when it was cold.

This cake is not too sweet and it's very moist. I goofed and used both bananas in the batter when you are supposed to put one, sliced, on top of the loaf. That probably made it too liquid a batter and definitely made it too much overflowed quite a bit. Fortunately I put a sheet pan underneath to catch any drips, so no harm done. I did use ground almonds instead of hazelnuts because that was handy and I did add 1/2 cup chopped pecans to the batter. No banana on top, no glaze. Still an awesome cake! The half pecans I put on top for decoration just sank into the batter, so I photographed the upside down looked better. Not the best photos in the world, but a delicious banana loaf!

Banana Loaf
serves 8

2 really ripe bananas
2/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup ground almonds
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan (I used a 8.5 x 4 x 2.5 pan...a larger one would be better). Set aside.

Mash one banana in a bowl. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the ground almonds, followed by the eggs. Scrape bowl and beaters and mix a little more until well combined.

On a piece of waxed paper or parchment, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder. Add to the batter and mix well. Mix in the sour cream, then the banana puree, and pecans.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Removed pan from oven and add the remaining banana, sliced lengthwise, in a long along the length of the loaf. (I missed this part and had both bananas, mashed, in the batter...the pan overflowed, so go with the correct directions!) Return pan to the oven and bake and additional 45-50 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean.

Remove to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes, then turn out of pan and turn right side up. Serve warm or cool.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Apricot Tart So Sunny

No, it isn't apricot season, but I've always wanted to try an apricot tart using canned apricots, so I actually had two cans in my pantry waiting for such a day. Finally, the day came last weekend. I used a sweet tart dough from Dorie Greenspan and a frangipane for the filling. It's made with ground almonds and puffed up around the apricots.

Almonds and apricots are a great flavor combination, so it was bound to be delicious. I took it to Natasha's for a lovely lunch with Natasha, her hubby, my hubby, our older brother, and Lex. There were even a few candles since Sweetie and I were jointly sharing a birthday, even though mine was last month and his is days away. Birthdays are very movable feasts in my family!

At the end of the post is a photo that shows the three views of one scene that I am using as the inspiration for a painting I'm doing in the refurbished studio. Great fun to work there, especially now that the weather is warmer. I'll post the finished art when it is done.

Apricot Tart

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.

Chop up 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate. Put in a microwave safe bowl. Add 1 teaspoon butter or margarine. Heat on high in the microwave, a half minute at a time, stirring after each heating, until mixture is melted and smooth. Use pastry brush or silicon brush to coat bottom of tart with the chocolate. Let cool until hardened. This layer prevents the filling from making the tart soggy on the bottom.

Prepare the 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 finely ground almonds
1 can apricot halves, drained and patted dry

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 the filling in the bottom of the crust.

Place the apricot halves in rows 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.