there’s gnome place like home…

IMG_7587Long story short, I am staying with mom while she recovers from a fall.  While out in the yard, she fell, broke her leg and had to have a rod inserted to support the bone.  Thankfully, she is well on her way to returning to normal but it will take some time and for the next few weeks, I will be here doing all of the things she cannot do and some of the things she does not care to do, like baking cookies.

IMG_7600Leaving my garden for a month was rough.  We had really just begun to get the summer crops in and there is still much to do to eradicate the bermuda grass.  Here in PA, spring is still in the air and the trees have only recently leafed out.  In case you haven’t visited this blog before, I have posted photos of my mother’s yard before.  In her community, deer are prevalent, and as a matter of fact, there are several grazing in the yard as I write this.  Because they eat everything, including plants that they shouldn’t, mom gardens with things rather than plants.  As you walk the yard, little statues and hidden treasures will become obvious.  Of course, gnomes have a mind of there own and we never quite know where they will pop out and surprise you.  Standing stock still and looking like a statue, you will almost think that someone placed them there on purpose…

IMG_7602Moss grows all over the yard because it is shady and moist.  This little cherub spends his time watching the yard but if he knows what the gnomes are up to, he isn’t telling anyone.  He sits and stares in disbelief as raccoons and squirrels come to the basin to drink water.

IMG_7604This little guy seems to be guarding the front door.  We throw peanuts to him from the deck but he usually lets the squirrels eat them.

IMG_7607The yard is so lush and green right now that the only color that pops out is red.

IMG_7611All over the yard are these tiny blue blossoms, wish I had my wildflower book with me!

IMG_7612When you walk the yard, you really need to watch where you are going, it is easy to step on the residents.  This moon face greets all that visit the pond.IMG_7617It must be nice to have the time to lounge in the woods all day.

IMG_7576Mom is not a big fan of chocolate so I made a batch of crispy lemon cookies with a small amount of anise seeds thrown in for fun.  Since I do not have my cookbooks here to flip through, I used this recipe from Taste of Home magazine.  They really are crispy and for the most part, I followed the recipe except I used fresh lemon zest instead of the extract, threw in a half teaspoon of anise seeds and scooped them out with a #70 scoop.  Because I am unfamiliar with the oven here, I lowered the baking temp to 375 which allowed them to spread out nice and thin but I did have to increase the baking time by 2-3 minutes.  The review, mom tested and mom approved; this recipe is a keeper!

Happy baking and gardening and if I were you, I would keep an eye on those gnomes-just leave them a cookie every now and then, that should keep them happy…

 

just another sunday in paris…a tuesdays with dorie post

img_7409If only I knew what a Sunday in Paris was like; someday… Actually, in this case, it is a reference to a pastry shop in Paris and that is the name of it; Sunday in Paris.  This cake is a specialty of theirs and a favorite of Dorie Greenspan’s which is why she developed the recipe for her book, Baking Chez Moi.  The Tuesdays with Dorie bakers chose this cake for February and it was a great cake for Valentine’s day, or any day that chocolate and peanut butter are appropriate-otherwise known as everyday in my book!

img_7413Peanut butter is not that popular in Paris where Nutella apparently reigns but here in Tennessee, it flies and fast.  We took this cake to a potluck dinner and I came home with crumbs on a dirty tray.  The dark, rich cake reminded me of Drakes Devil Dogs with a hint of peanut butter.  To have enough for the dinner, I doubled the recipe and baked it in a pullman loaf pan to make a tall, brick shaped cake.  We didn’t have any peanuts in the house but while rummaging through the cupboards, I found a Payday bar and chopped some of it up for the garnish on the top.

img_7417This is a recipe I would make again and if you have the book, do not hesitate to try it!  To see what the other bakers came up with this week, visit the website!  To participate, pick up a copy of the book and bake along with us.

granola cake; a tuesdays with dorie post

img_7316Back in September, I learned we were relocating again.  After a few bumps in the road, we have landed back in Nashville and are settling into our new home.  During the move, one of the things I missed the most was being able to bake in my own kitchen and now that I have a kitchen again, I am also baking again!

First up; granola cake.  Actually, this recipe comes from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan and not only is it the first cake I have baked in a while, it is the first time I have been able to join the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers since we started packing up for the move.  Since we are back in Nashville, we are active with the Master Gardener program and this cake was a great choice for the potluck dinner we have each month.  Having cut the cake into thin slices, I placed the cake on the dessert table and didn’t have any trouble convincing folks to try it!

img_7318The recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, shredded coconut and granola which all combine to make the flavor similar to an oatmeal cookie with coconut and chocolate chips.  The only thing you need to know, use a good quality granola because it is a large part of the flavor and texture of the cake.  With this in mind, I made a small batch of my own granola rather than buy it.

While I am not posting the recipe for the cake, we do not post the recipes from the book out of respect for the author, I am posting the recipe for the granola that I used in the cake.  This recipe is the one that I made for years when I was working at the Loveless Cafe and I suggest you mix up a batch-it’s that good!

img_7330Granola

This small recipe makes about 2 cups of granola and can easily be doubled or tripled, just store it airtight and use it within a month.  My preference is to use a combination of wildflower honey and sorghum but you can use just one for the total amount.  If you can’t find sorghum, molasses will work but will give it a little more color.

3/4 oz light brown sugar

1-3/4 oz pecan pieces

5 oz whole rolled oats

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon sorghum

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. In a heat proof bowl, stir together the brown sugar, oats, nuts and cinnamon, set aside.  In a small pan, combine the butter, honey and sorghum and over low heat, stir until the butter melts and the mixture is heated but not boiling.  Pour the melted butter mixture over the oats and stir until it is combined.  Dump the mixture onto the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.  Bake for about 10 minutes, stir it well and continue baking for another 10 minutes or so.  The time depends on how thin the layer is in the pan.  Keep a close eye on the granola and stir it frequently until it turns a nice deep amber color.  When the granola is the color you want, remove it from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Using your hands-it will still be hot and it needs to be pretty warm for this to work, break up the granola so that it will be free flowing when it cools off.  Gently rub the clumps between your fingers to separate the large lumps-they will be pretty hard once cooled so do not be tempted to leave them in tact.  Allow it to cool completely and store it airtight.

img_7326Want to bake along with us?  Pick up a copy of the book, visit the website and get to work!

last minute cookies; coconut spritz

img_0426If you are like 99% of the people I know, you are in a hurry and trying to get everything done; baking, cooking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping and more.  Even though I am still trying to get my house unpacked from the move, I am also trying to do some holiday baking because it just isn’t Christmas without a small truckload of cookies in the house!  The good news is, that I have found one of the quickest and easiest recipes to prepare.

Coconut Spritz cookies are easy to mix and just as easy to shape.  While the dough can be shaped with a cookie press, it can also be scooped out and pressed with a cookie stamp, a flat bottomed glass or even the palm of your hand.  However, if you have a cookie press, use it, it will save you some time and produce cookies that are consistent in size.  One note, this dough is a bit high in fat and on the soft side.  Like most Spritz recipes, you should press the dough directly onto a sheet pan that is not non-stick or lined with any kind of paper.  While this may go against all you know about cookie baking, if you try to use paper or a treated pan, the dough cannot stick as you press it out and you will spend your time fighting with the press.  Do not worry, after baking, you will be able to get them off the pans by simply letting them set for a minute and then lifting them with a thin spatula.

The coconut flavor mainly comes from the oil so be sure to use a virgin oil that has not been refined and stripped of the flavor.  This recipe also calls for finely shredded coconut and if you plan to use the press, it must be extremely fine.  Whether it is sweetened or not is hardly important but in this case, size absolutely matters! If you cannot find it at the grocery store, try a Latino market, that is where I found mine.

img_7278Coconut Spritz Cookies

makes about 72 pressed cookies

1 cup coconut oil, at room temperature-not melted

5.4 oz sugar (153 g, 3/4 cup)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg yolks

10.75 oz unbleached all purpose flour (305 g, 2 1/4 cups)

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 oz extra fine shredded coconut (14 g, 1/4 cup)

3-4 tablespoons heavy cream

Coarse sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a mixing bowl, cream the coconut oil with the sugar, vanilla and salt until well blended but do not mix it too long-the oil may begin to melt.  Add the egg yolks and mix to combine, scrape the bowl well.  Stir in the flour and baking powder and then the coconut.  Mix until it comes together.  Add the heavy cream, 1 tablespoon at a time until you have a dough that is soft and easy to shape.  You may not need all of it, and the more you add, the more the cookies spread in the oven.

Using the press, deposit the cookies onto the baking pans, leaving at least 1 inch between them.  Sprinkle the top of each cookie with a little coarse sugar.  Bake until golden around the edges, about 12 minutes.  Rotate the pans halfway through baking.  Let the hot cookies set for a minute then remove them from the pan with a thin, metal spatula and cool completely on a rack.  Store in an airtight container for about a week-if they last that long…

If not using a press, use a small portion scoop such as a #50 scoop.  Dip the top of each ball of dough into the coarse sugar and place onto a pan.  Flatten them slightly with a cookie stamp, the flat bottom of a glass or your hand.  Baking times will depend on the size of the scoop used, watch them closely and adjust the time as needed.

img_7287

Time for pie! A collection of pies for Thanksgiving.

img_7235Each holiday seems to have a specific dessert associated with it.  For me, Easter always brings visions of coconut cakes smothered in shredded coconut, Christmas calls out for cookies of all kinds and Thanksgiving is the day that pies are front and center of the dessert table.  No pie is more synonymous with Thanksgiving than Pumpkin Pie and with the current proliferation of all things pumpkin spice, I have decided not to include it in this small collection of recipes and instead, focus on a few others that are guaranteed crowd pleasers!

Right about the time of the onslaught of pumpkin spice laden goods, apples come into season.  While just about every pumpkin pie is based on a creamy, custard based filling recipe, apple pies are much more flexible.  Pumpkin is pumpkin but each variety of apple has its own characteristics and by simply switching out varieties, you can completely change the flavor of the filling.  Personally, I prefer to blend apple varieties to create a full flavored pie that has plenty of juice to keep the pie from being dry and enough heft in the slices to prevent them all from falling apart while they bake.

img_7243The skins of an apple contain pectin, which will make wonderful sauce or jelly, but is tough and chewy once baked, so be sure to peel and slice the apples as you make the filling.  Do not worry about the browning that might occur because the sugar and spice will camouflage the color.

img_7244For this pie, I chose Rome, Cortland and Golden Delicious.  Each one had flesh of a slightly different color.  The yellow hue of the Golden Delicious apples made the slices resemble rutabegas!  The Cortlands were a bit green and the Romes were bright white.  The texture and flavor of each was also different and ranged from crispy and tart to soft and sweet with a lovely scent.  If you aren’t sure of what varieties are suitable for pie, this comprehensive chart from Pick Your Own will be very helpful.

img_7250With my kitchen packed up for the move, my options were limited and I decided to skip the top crust and just go with a streusel topping.  That dome of apples looks a bit ridiculous but the truth is that the apples used for pies always juice out and collapse a bit in the baking.  For this monster, I had two and a half pounds of apple slices in the fillings-something I do not recommend for a 9″ crust!  For a pie that size, don’t go over two pounds.

One other thing I would like to mention, if you are intimidated by the idea of making your own crust or simply do not have the time or desire, don’t make one-buy one!  Usually, I mix up a large batch of dough divide it into the portion, roll out what I need for the pie I am baking and then freeze the leftovers.  This way, I always have a stash of dough to pull from the freezer any time I want to bake a pie.  Because we are in the process of a long distance move, I have run through my stash and had to purchase a crust for this pie.

img_7258A spicy crumb topping is a quick way to dress up a pie and to add a little crunch to the texture along with flavor.  It is also a lot easier to handle than a top crust which makes it the perfect solution if you are not keen on working with pie dough.  The recipe included  with this post is one of my favorite crumb toppings and it works just as well on cobblers, crisps, muffins and coffee cakes as it does on this pie so be sure to keep it handy!

img_7257Crumb Topped Apple Pie

makes one 9 inch pie, serving 8-10

2 pounds fresh apple slices-any variety suitable for baking

8 ounces brown sugar

2 tablespoons of apple (or pumpkin) pie spice or you can blend your own spices by combining 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom and 1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/4 cup all purpose flour or 2 tablespoons corn starch if you prefer starch to flour

Preheat the oven to 350.  On a sturdy baking sheet that will not warp and buckle in the oven, place a sheet of parchment paper and give it a spritz of grease.  Toss the apple slices with the sugar, spices and flour and pour it into the crust.  Cover it with the crumb topping, pressing it down lightly to pack it and to prevent it from falling off.  Put the pie onto the prepared baking pan and bake the pie until the juices are bubbling and have thickened, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Allow the pie to cool until room temp so that the juices set and it will be much easier to slice.

My Favorite Crumb Topping

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup dark brown sugar (honestly, can be light or white, I just prefer dark)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or apple/pumpkin pie spice blend

1/8 teaspoon baking soda, optional-using it will make the crumbs lighter, omitting it will keep them crunchy

img_7242

To call this a collection, I must include other recipes and these are two of my absolute favorite pies!  Rather than print the recipes here, I am including the links to my food52.com page;  Masala Spiced Pear Pie with a lattice top and Roasted Butternut-Maple Pie with Smoked Pecans

img_4740For the adventurous bakers, this gem from my days as the pastry chef of the Loveless Cafe, a Goo Goo Cluster Marshmallow pie is an unbaked pie but it does require making the crust, a ganache and a cooked marshmallow filling.  While a little time consuming, it is well worth the effort if you are a marshmallow fan, the recipe is also posted on my food52.com page and can be found here.  If you can’t find Goo Goo Clusters, visit the website and stock up or search for a store that sells them near you!

peach and blueberry deep-dish galette

IMG_6497Summer fruit pies are one of my favorite things.  When the fruit season is at its peak, freshly picked, ripe and juicy, fruits just about beg to be baked into a pie.   With a dozen peaches and a basket of blueberries in the house, I couldn’t resist the temptation and I baked a pie, a whole 9″ pie just for the two of us!

IMG_6494Of course, I also used homemade pie dough.  Before you start panicking, before you go on about how you just cannot roll out pie dough, let me tell you that you can, you absolutely can!!!  First, make the dough ahead of time and chill it for at least an hour.  Take it out of the fridge and let it soften until it is pliable but not sticky or squishy.  Now do you see all of the flour on my table?  That’s the secret, cool dough, lots of flour and short strokes with the rolling pin.  Lift the dough and turn it as you go, spread out more flour on the table if it sticks, don’t worry you can brush it off before you put it into a greased dish.  Make sure the circle of dough has an overhang of at least 2 inches to make the pleats like I have in the photo.  Start by taking one small section and folding it in over the fruit but leave the center open.  Section by section, fold the dough in towards the middle of the dish, creating the pleats until you get to the last section.  Lift the first pleat up and carefully tuck the last one into place and lay the first one back down.  Then brush it with some egg wash and sprinkle on some sugar before baking.

IMG_6507To get a deep, even color, just use one temperature in the oven.  Many recipes tell you to start high and drop it down low but I think one temperature is better.  It prevents that “OH I FORGOT TO TURN DOWN THE OVEN” disaster and also prevents uneven coloring.  My pies only bake at 350F.

IMG_6523For this pie, I chose peaches and blueberries but you could easily switch out the blueberries for raspberries or blackberries and if you are lucky to have rhubarb on hand, it would be lovely too!  Sweeten the pie according to taste but you will want at least half a cup of sugar, and if you use rhubarb, you will have to increase the sugar.

 

IMG_6531Peach-Blueberry Deep Dish Galette

1-1/4 pounds fresh peaches, 5-6 medium sized peaches

1 basket of blueberries

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 vanilla bean, scraped-seeds only

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

zest of 1 small lemon and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

pie dough for a two crust pie

1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water

cinnamon sugar

 

IMG_6537 (1)Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the sugar, cornstarch, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and spices into a bowl and rub them together.  Peel and slice the peaches, you need a pound of them-the extra weight is for the skin and pits you remove.  Add the peaches and blueberries to the sugar with the lemon juice and toss them to coat them.  Place the rolled out pie dough into a greased 9″ pie plate.  Scrape the mixture into the pie crust and fold as directed above.  Place the pie plate on a sheet pan and bake until the juices are bubbling in the center and the crust is a deep caramel color, about 1 hour.  Allow it to cool for a few hours before cutting so the fruit can set up a bit.  We enjoyed it like this but a generous scoop of ice cream would also be nice!

tartine’s country bread; a lesson in bread making

IMG_5912On my last birthday, my husband gave me a copy of the Tartine Bread book.  We were out on a rainy Saturday, wandering through the shops in Merchant Square and I had a chance to look through a copy of the book.  The cover shot, the dark loaf with the blistered crust…Yes, it was bread lust at first glance.  However, I suspect my husband was also lusting over that loaf of bread and now that I have made the Country Bread, I am sure of it!

Like so many of the popular books on bread available, this one relies strictly on techniques created by the author and many aspects of the methods used seem at odds with traditional bread making.  Most notably, the lack of extensive kneading to build structure and instead, the use of an autolyse so the flour can expand and absorb the water and a longer bulk rising to allow the gluten to develop slowly.  Now, to be perfectly honest, the first section of the book consists of only one actual bread recipe with sub-recipes that rely on the basic recipe with various additions, but to really understand the technique, you must master the Country Bread.  The entire collection of bread recipes in the book rely on the methods outlined in that very first recipe!

What I love most about the Country Bread recipe, simplicity.  Especially the equipment list.  First of all, you must have a scale that measures in grams.  The rest of the list includes a thermometer, bowl, plastic bowl scraper, a bench knife and an oven proof dutch oven or covered casserole dish.  The recipe is worked in percentages, called baker’s percentages and the weights are all in grams.   The good news is that weighing it all out in grams guarantees consistency.

IMG_5863The only step I did not follow was creating a starter to leaven the bread because I have a starter that I grew from grapes that were growing in the Demonstration Garden that I worked in when I lived in Tennessee.  The starter has been in use since 2009 and when we moved in 2014, it was one of the things I was most worried about losing!  We had a 12 hour drive, stopped multiple times for the dog and for the night in the middle of that drive, the entire time the starter was tucked in a cooler with some ice.  It made the trip like a champ and nearly 2 years later, I am still using it.

The starter is fed and allowed to develop overnight.  If you read the recipe, you will be given many bits of information to help you along and I find that very helpful when using a new recipe.  The instructions tell you to measure out the warm water, add the starter to it, and if it floats, it is fully developed and ready to go.  As you can see in the photo above, my starter is floating in the water.

IMG_5871There are two schools of thought on adding salt to flour dough.  One says add it to the dough as you add the flour, one calls for holding it back and adding it later because it can affect the structure of the dough.  At Tartine, they hold the salt and a small amount of water back and add them after the initial mixing and resting period.  The salt is sprinkled over the dough, water is poured on and using your hand, you squeeze and squish and work the dough onto itself to mix it all in.

IMG_5873As the dough develops during the bulk fermentation, bubbles form around the sides of the bowl.  Rather than dumping it onto a table and forcibly kneading it, the dough is “turned” in the bowl every thirty minutes for three hours.

IMG_5875Using a wet hand, the dough is pulled up from the bottom of the bowl and stretched across itself, turning it.  This is done 2-3 times each half hour, each time is called a “turn” and it is all the kneading the dough will get.

IMG_5879As the dough develops and rises, it gets softer and lighter and you need to take care not to press the air out in the process of turning the dough.

IMG_5883When it is ready, dumped onto a table and cut in half.  A minimal amount of flour is used to help with shaping.  The folding and shaping is probably the most complicated step and it is completed with one hand and a bench knife.  Lifting and stretching the dough across it’s center, it is carefully shaped so that it is not deflated.

IMG_5891After shaping, it is allowed to rise in a cloth lined bowl which has been floured.

IMG_5893The loaves rise for about 3 hours and because most of us do not have two dutch ovens or even the ability to bake with two of them simultaneously, you will want to hold one back by placing it in the fridge for a while.

IMG_5895Once the oven and the dutch oven are heated properly, flour the surface of the dough (do not forget this step-it will not come out of the pan if you do!) and turn it into the hot pan.  Using a lame or a very sharp blade, score the dough, cover it and place it in the oven.  Twenty minutes covered, twenty minutes uncovered and it will be ready to take from the oven.

IMG_5896IMG_5900IMG_5903Beautifully colored, perfectly blistered.  Let it cool completely before cutting into the loaf.

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To see the recipe, please consider purchasing a copy of the book Tartine or at the very least, borrowing it from a library.  There are many great videos of the author as well as other bakers making bread using the technique described in the book and they are worth watching so consider looking them up.  The Country Bread recipe is available, reprinted with permission on the New York Times website.