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.

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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!