Rose-Hibiscus Shortbread Fans; a Tuesdays with Dorie post

IMG_4417Isn’t it wonderful when several of your favorite things come together?  Everyone who visits this blog knows I love to garden and that baking is what I do professionally.  But I am betting that not many of you know that I have a thing for hibiscus plants, specifically, Hibiscus sabdariffa.  More commonly known as Roselle, this is the variety of hibiscus used to make tea.  Just look at that bloom; how could you not love it?

IMG_4424While the flower is pretty, and edible, it is a day flower which means it opens for a day and then dies.  As soon as the bloom withers, the plant begins producing seeds in the calyx.  To make tea, you must gather them before the pod swells with immature seeds.  It takes quite a few to make a pot of tea!  Because of this, I generally plant 3 or 4 of them around the garden and yard.  They can get quite large if the conditions are right; lots of direct sun, plenty of moisture but not soggy.

IMG_4431If you are looking at this plant and are thinking that it looks like okra, you are right!  Hibiscus is also related to cotton and if you spend time in garden centers, you will find that there are lots of perennial and annual varieties of hibiscus.  Unfortunately, this variety will not survive a freeze which means you must overwinter it indoors or start over each spring which is what I do.  The seeds need heat and will not germinate until the soil is warm.  Start them indoors or wait until about May to plant seeds outdoors.

img_4439They will begin blooming in late summer and that is when you will have calyxes to collect.  Spread them out and dry them completely, I do it in the oven with just the light on.  Then when dry, you can store them in a glass jar.

img_7400So what does this plant have to do with baking?  This week’s recipe from Baking Chez Moi calls for hibiscus tea!  This recipe mixed up quickly and easily and when it was all said and done, I sent these, along with the Valentine’s Share-A-Heart cookies to my girls for Valentine’s Day.  They loved them!

img_7401Devon called hers a little pink pizza and looking at that shot, I can see why.  However, they tasted like no pizza I have ever eaten!  Crispy and flaky and full of vanilla(I was out of rose water) and with just a hint of tangy, floral notes from the hibiscus tea.

img_7404The recipe does not call for much tea so I only used a few calyxes-whizzed them in the spice grinder.  My thought is that next time, and there will be a next time, I will use double the amount.  After all, summer is coming and I will have more plants in the garden!

img_7405Join us sometime!  We love the company.  Pick up a copy of Baking Chez Moi and bake along with us.  To see how the rest of the bakers did, visit the website.

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.

valentine’s share a heart cookies; a two-for-one, cookies and kindness, tuesdays with dorie post

img_7389It is so nice to be back to baking with the Tuesdays with Dorie gang!  Especially when it means baking cookies, lots of cookies!  If you recall my post from earlier this month, Dorie Greenspan recently began a revolution to make the world a sweeter place with Cookies & Kindness.  Each month, she posts a recipe on her website and encourages us to bake and share the cookies.   For February, she chose these easy to make Valentine’s Day Share-A-Heart cookies and this is also the recipe chosen by the Tuesday with Dorie Bakers; a two-for-one recipe!

The recipe calls for making two large hearts that can be decorated and given as gifts.  As soon as I saw the recipe, I knew I would be making them for my daughters but having to ship them to Georgia and California, I chose a smaller size cutter so that the cookies would survive the trip.

img_7391Do not be intimidated by the call for rolling out the cookies with parchment paper.  Over the years, I have rolled out thousands and thousands of cookies and one issue I have always encountered, the added flour from rolling out the cookies can change the consistency of the dough.  If you have read any of my posts on rolling cookies, I have always instructed that you brush off as much of the flour as possible to prevent the dough from changing.  Dorie has a brilliant suggestion in her recipe; place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and skip the flour!  For small quantities, this is absolutely the way to go and it is definitely a technique I will use again.  The parchment paper takes the place of the flour and the consistency of the dough remains the same from start to finish.  Keep in mind, repeatedly rolling out the dough will toughen it as the gluten becomes developed but for small quantities like this, you won’t have to worry about that happening.

img_7395If you enjoyed this post, think about baking along with us.  Pick up a copy of Dorie’s Cookies and bake cookies to share!  Sweeten the world one cookie recipe at a time!  To see what the rest of the gang did with their cookies, check the website!

cookies and kindness

img_7300Join the revolution and change the world one cookie at a time.  We need more kindness and Dorie Greenspan has decided that baking cookies and sharing them is the way to make the world a sweeter place; I like her thinking and couldn’t agree more!  You can read her post and find the recipes on her website.

It is no secret that cookies are one of my favorite things and this is the perfect excuse to bake them!  Having a kitchen to bake them in is even better!!!  My only issue, the lighting.  Our last house was so bright and had many windows and a skylight; it was so easy to find a place to take a photo.  This house, is a challenge.  All of the windows in our kitchen face the covered patio and in the front, the porch shades the window.  The cedar plank paneling in the kitchen also gives everything a ruddy appearance.  It will take some time, and probably a lot of white paint but eventually, I hope to have an easier time of taking photos in my kitchen.  Until then, I go out to the garage-it actually has a decent amount of light in the window!

img_7304These are the January recipe, Olive Oil and Wine Cookies, and you can find the recipe here. While the title give the cookies main ingredients away, after you bake and age them, no one will know what is in them!  These cookies disappeared fast when I set them out on the buffet at the pot luck dinner for our last Master Gardeners meeting.   img_7308My advice, make these on a day that you have the time and then let them age for three or four days.  If you keep them airtight, you will be able to enjoy them for a week after that.  They are perfect for sharing and just a perfect for an afternoon cup of tea.  Spread the kindness; bake cookies and share them!  img_7308

Swedish Limpa; a Tuesdays with Dorie post

IMG_6640It has been quite a while since I have participated in the Tuesdays with Dorie baking.  What can I say, life gets in the way?  Partly, the other angle; having a pile of sweets in the house for just two of us means we eat way more than we should!  When I saw the choices included a bread recipe this month, I decided to get in gear and give it a go.

Limpa is a type of black bread.  The dough is made with rye flour and is a bit on the sweet side from the addition of molasses and brown sugar but what gives it the most flavor are the aromatic seeds in the dough.  Anise, caraway and fennel seeds are crushed and added to the mix and so is a bit of orange zest (which I skipped) and the result is a slightly sweet, bread that has a touch of licorice flavor and a nice compact crumb.  The recipe suggests using it for sandwiches, much like they do in Sweden, layering it with smoked meats and cheeses.  We preferred to slice it and enjoy it toasted with butter.

IMG_6641Rather than bake it in the round 9 inch pans the recipe calls for, I used 6 inch square pans.  They made the most perfect cube shaped loaves and the slices were just large enough that two thin slices of toast were more than filling.

IMG_6643My rye flour was stone ground and it added a nice texture to the crumb.  Little flecks of rye and seeds, this one is a keeper.  Since the recipe made two loaves, I froze one for later.

Be sure to visit the website and see what we are up to and if you like, bake along with us!  To see the recipe, or bake with us, you will need the books

persian naan; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5601This week, we revisited a recipe we prepared once before because part of baking every recipe in a cookbook means that on occasion, you make a recipe more than once.  Sort of.  The dough for Persian Naan is also the dough used for Oasis Naan, a flat bread we made way back when I lived in Nashville.  The dough is quick and easy to mix and only requires a single rise until doubled before being shaped and baked.

IMG_5571The bread is not one that holds well and as a result, I made half the recipe.  Considering that the loaves are stretched until they are about 18 inches long, halving the recipe really made sense.  My loaves were only about 12 inches long which fit my baking stone with room to spare.  After dividing, preshaping and resting the dough while the oven heated, the dough was heavily dimpled with wet fingertips before the stretching began.

IMG_5590My first loaf inflated like a balloon in the oven so I chose to dock the rest of them to prevent them from looking more like a bread pillow than a bread sheet.

IMG_5599The recipe called for a simple topping of sesame seeds and I stuck to the recipe this time out.  It was chewy and pliable with a light crust, perfect for scooping up stuff or wrapping around something while it was warm.  My plan is to tear off pieces and eat it with some roasted vegetables for dinner.


Hard to believe but we have been baking the recipes from the book Baking with Julia for four years!  We are getting close to the end of the book but we also have a group that is baking the entire book Baking Chez Moi.  This week, I saw a tweet from Dorie about her new book-it is about cookies, that could be fun to bake through.  Join us, pick up a copy of either book and bake along.  Visit the website for a list of the recipes we have made and to see what is up next.  To see how the rest of the bakers made out this week, check out the LYL page.


buttermilk bread: a tuesdays with dorie rewind post

IMG_5284Late last month, I made a loaf of the buttermilk bread from Baking with Julia.  It was the challenge for the week chosen by the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers and despite baking it on time, I never posted my photos.

The original recipe calls for making it in a bread machine and even though we actually own one, I chose to make it using my kitchen aid mixer.  One thing I noticed is that the dough did not need the full amount of flour called for in the recipe and I left out about half of a cup.  IMG_5286One of my favorite types of bread is Japanese Hokkaido Milk Bread.  The tall loaves are actually made of smaller loaves placed side by side in the pan.  Once baked, you can separate them into smaller pieces.  Because there is just the two of us here, I chose to make my loaf into three smaller loaves.

IMG_5287After the loaf cooled, I pulled it apart and froze two pieces for later.  The texture was so nice and fluffy and it had wonderful flavor.  We ate it all pretty quickly, it made fantastic sandwiches!  This is definitely a loaf worth making again and if you haven’t made it yet, I highly recommend giving it a go-just add the flour cautiously, you may not need it all.

IMG_5291The day I made the loaf was one of those days that I had a list of things to do that was as long as I am tall.  Taking a lot of photos was not an option and I had to make do with what was in front of me rather than styling the photo.  Rather than drag bounce cards and tripod out, I took an empty box of cereal and clipped a binder page to it to reflect the light.

To see what the other bakers made on this rewind day, visit the website!

matcha financiers; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5395A while back, I picked up a little tin of matcha tea so that I could try baking with it.  Needless to say, it has been living on the spice rack in the pantry and would probably still be there, unopened, if the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers had not chosen to make matcha financiers this week!

IMG_5388Since we are trying to lose a little weight here, I only made a third of the recipe which gave me 10 little cakes.  My new pan, one I found on my last trip to Pennsylvania, is actually for popovers and for some reason, it only has 7 cups in it which meant I had to use 2 pans.  The ones I baked in the muffin pan, a black-nonstick pan, are on the right side of the photo.  The look very different from the ones baked in my aluminum popover pan.

IMG_5382Not only did they look different, they also came out shorter and much darker.  Beleive it or not, I used a portion scoop and each one is the same amount of batter-the pans were just so different that it really shows in the baked cakes above.

IMG_5328Matcha tea is not easy to find and I picked mine up in a spice shop that also sells teas.  The tin is so cute but if you notice the size of my measuring spoons next to it, you should see that it is also tiny; it holds barely 2 tablespoons!

IMG_5355My new, old pan.  It is a fairly heavy gauge, aluminum popover pan and the cups are nice and deep.  Best part, I think I spent $3.00 for it!

IMG_5358A side view of the cups-nice and deep

IMG_5398The photo in the book has very bright green cakes but the recipe tells you that the batter will be a pea green.  Mine are definitely pea green which makes me wonder about the photo in the book.  The day these were baked, the flavor was a little grassy and I did not care for them but as they aged for a day or two, the flavor improved, a lot.  These may make another appearance in our kitchen, but not for a while-we really need to get back on track with the diet!

To see how the other bakers did, visit the website.  Feel like baking along with us?  Pick up a copy of the book and head to the kitchen!

pain de campagne; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5411This week, the recipe was a true challenge that took two weeks to complete.  Now if that doesn’t deter you from trying to mix up a batch of this bread, not much will!  To make a traditional Pain de Campagne, you have to save a piece of the dough from your batch to act as a starter for your next loaf which means you are always working with a bit of old dough called a chef.  If you find yourself without a chef, you have to start one with whole wheat flour and water and pray the yeast feels like cooperating.

This loaf was off to a bad start because not only was I chefless, I was also out of whole wheat flour.  Because I was determined to make this bread, I grabbed my tub of whole grain rye flour and my tub of graham flour and when ahead and mixed up a half batch for two chefs-one with each of the flours.  The worst part was knowing I would have to wait two days to see if either one grabbed yeast.  They did ferment a bit and not in a nice sourdough smelling way.  Even so, I kept on with the process and letting them sit longer than the recipe suggested just to see if it would increase the rise.  In the end, I was only half successful.  The rye chef never really got going and the graham flour only got going with about half of the rise.

IMG_5420The rye is on the left, the graham is on the right.  What a disappointment it was, I had assumed that since I do a fair amount of bread baking here that there would be plenty of yeast to grab and get the starter going.

IMG_5426Out of curiosity, I sliced the loaves to see what the interior looked like.  It was dense, moist and a bit gummy.  Both of them were.  It was pretty obvious that there just was not enough yeast in the chef and then the levain to give rise to the bread.  Honestly, I was surprised that the graham loaf had a ribbon of raw dough along the bottom crust-it had risen pretty well.  The flavor was surprisingly sour, a mild sour but it was there.

With that same determination that got me started on this loaf, I pulled my sourdough starter out of the fridge and measured out a tablespoon and placed it in a bowl.  With my tub of graham flour still out on the counter, I mixed up another half batch of dough starting with the chef.  After all of the refreshments, I actually had a piece of dough that showed some promise…

IMG_5436The little ball of dough rose nicely and because I ran out of time, I decided I would put the basket of dough in the fridge to rise overnight.   Because I am curious, I pulled off a walnut sized piece and set it aside in the fridge; I was going to use it as a chef for a full batch of dough.  The next morning, I pulled the basket out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter to warm up and rise a little more.

IMG_5434When the time came to bake the loaf, I was excited-this one actually rose!  There was oven spring too-it rose more!  The only thing I did not understand was the pale color of the crust on the top, it browned nicely on the bottom.  The interior looked nice, no stripes and no gummy crumb.  It also had a nice sour flavor.  As for that piece I set aside, I used it to start a new loaf but this time, I made a full batch.

IMG_5438The shaping was easy to do and I cannot remember when I did this type of baking last-perhaps at school…My wheat stalks in the bottom of the basket.

IMG_5439The loaf was placed over the wheat stalks.

IMG_5443The loaf gets wrapped with a braid of dough and then it is left to rise in the basket.  Two hours later, I turned it out onto the peel and let it rise some more.  Just before baking, I brushed the loaf with a wash of egg whites and snipped the wheat stalks.

IMG_5444Fresh out of the oven, my wheat stalks look more like paws.

IMG_5446The scissors did a nice job on the stalks.  It was fun to make this loaf and now it is sitting on the counter taunting me…IMG_5450May have to make another one just so I can make those wheat stalks again!  Be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie to see how the other bakers did this week.

odile’s fresh orange cake; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5338It has been a while since I have participated in the Tuesdays with Dorie baking and I decided to get back to it this week by baking Odile’s Fresh Orange Cake.  Luckily for me, I happened to have a bowl of Sky Valley heirloom oranges from Trader Joe’s camping out on the kitchen counter and this gave me a way to use them before they went bad.

The recipe is simple and easy to prepare, it was also very easy to cut in half thanks to the fact that Dorie includes the weights for the ingredients in the recipe.  Honestly, if you aren’t using a scale at home, you really need to pick one up.  It is easier to weigh out ingredients and it guarantees accuracy.

To decorate the cake, I followed the directions except rather than use slices of whole oranges, I cut the oranges into sections-not really the supremes but close enough!  And just as Dorie suggested, I only used half of the syrup to soak the cake.  The rest was drizzled over the slices as I cut them from the cake.  The flavor is strongly orange but not overpowering or cloying, either one is easy to do with orange.  The soaking from drizzling half of the syrup on the warm cake gave it a nice amount of moisture without making it wet or soggy.

My half batch of batter made a 6 inch cake which actually was more than we could eat.  We both like oranges and will snack on them but when an orange flavored dessert is offered, neither of us will go crazy with it.  This cake would probably be wonderful with tangerines or blood oranges so I may try it again!  To see what the other bakers came up with, be sure to visit the website and if you would like to bake along with us, pick up a copy of Baking Chez Moi and head to the kitchen!