Anzac Biscuits; a Tuesdays with Dorie post

IMG_7493How time flies…We have been so busy here; the garden takes so much of our attention and leaves little time for anything else.  The space the garden occupies is the footprint of the garden that was maintained by the man who once lived here but has since passed away.  Funny coincidence, he too was a member of the master gardeners and more than one of my fellow members remembers him and stranger still, several of them would come here to help him in the garden.  It has been interesting to learn about him and the methods he used here.

When we hold our monthly meetings, we always have a potluck dinner.  Along with a large platter of salad greens fresh from our garden, I brought a tray of cookies.  Well, we call them cookies but to the folks in Australia where this recipe originates from, they call them biscuits.  If you take the time to read about the recipe in the book Dorie’s Cookies, you will learn that Anzac is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and that the history of the cookie suggests that it is a wartime recipe and was most likely favored because it was easy to ship.  Interesting to say the least but truthfully, tasty cookies worth the effort!

IMG_7490The recipe calls for golden syrup, a traditional British and Australian favorite but I used wildflower honey; it tasted awesome in the cookies.  Oatmeal and coconut are the other predominant flavors but the surprise is that the cookies contain no eggs!

IMG_7487Crispy and chewy at the same time.  These went fast at the potluck and I received many compliments.  The verdict; must make these again!  May even pick up some golden syrup just to see if it makes a difference.

IMG_7495To see how the other bakers did, check out the website.  Feel like baking along with us?  Pick up a copy of the book and get to work!

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!

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

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!

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.

lemon-parsnip cake; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5068The cake for today’s challenge is supposed to be a tangerine-carrot cake but after a quick check in the fridge, I could only find lemons.  Then I spied the last lonely parsnip and decided that I should keep going in this direction and change it all up.   We have been trying to cut back on snacking and it has been a while since I made a cake.  The fresh eggs from our hens are stacking up on the counter and it was a chance to use a couple.

IMG_5082The change from tangerine to lemon meant that the acid level was increased and I am pretty sure that it changed the texture of the cake and made it a little denser than the description in the recipe.  Even so, it was still pleasingly moist and a little firm.  The parsnip mellowed during the baking and honestly, you wouldn’t know it was there unless I told you.

IMG_5087The only other observation I made was that the batter amount baked up just fine in my 8 inch tart pan.  After greasing the ring and bottom and dusting it with flour, I set it onto a sheet pan to prevent leakage in the oven.  It came out of the pan and off the bottom beautifully.  This was such an easy cake to make and honestly, the potential combinations are numerous so I can see myself pulling this recipe out again when I need a quick and foolproof cake!

Please consider picking up a copy of Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan and baking along with us.  To join in on the fun, visit the website and see how the other bakers made out with this recipe!

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pear-almond baby loaves; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Now that I am home full-time, not only do I plan to work on my book, I also plan to participate with the Tuesdays with Dorie group more.  This week, we are working from the book Baking with Julia and the chosen recipe is for Hazelnut baby loaves.  The recipe is actually for a small loaf cake and requires an unusual pan size.  Most mini loaf pans are 5″ x 3″ x 2″ or a close approximation to that but the recipe calls for eight 4″ x 2″ x 2″ pans and I only have three-hard to believe.  After looking in a couple of shops, I could only find the 5″ pans and had no desire to buy a big baking plaque for loaves in that size (think rectangular cupcake pan) so I did the next best thing; I used a muffin pan.

My tale of woe does not end here.  When one isn’t working, one watches spending and I could not bring myself to spend $6 on hazelnuts when I only needed 1/3 cup so I used 1/4 cup of almond flour, something I am apparently hoarding in my freezer.  
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When my husband and I went to the not so local International market on Sunday, I stocked up on tiny pears.  They had both Fourelle and Seckel pears and I chose a half-dozen of each.  What can I say, I happen to love pears and was thinking of something I saw on Pinterest recently and thought I would give it a try.  First I poached the pears.  To do this, I placed the peeled pears-stems and cores left in place, into a saucepan with 1/2 cup ruby port, 1/2 cup apple cider, 2 cups water, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1 cardamom pod, 1 star anise pod, a 1″ piece of vanilla bean, 3 whole allspice and 5 whole black pepper corns.  With the heat at medium-low, I allowed the pears to simmer gently, turning them occasionally so they would color evenly until they were tender when a knife tip was inserted.  The pears were allowed to sit in the liquid until mostly cooled and then were carefully lifted out and placed in a dish lined with a paper towel and placed in the fridge over night.
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The recipe also called for creme fraiche and since I had some heavy cream and cultured buttermilk, I made my own by pouring 1 cup of cream into a glass measuring cup, then I stirred in a tablespoon of buttermilk and let it sit out overnight.  It was pretty thick-I may have added a bit more than a tablespoon of buttermilk.
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Having toasted the almond flour, I proceeded with the recipe but doubled the almond extract to give it a bit of a frangipan flavor.  The batter was divided between the pans and the pears were pressed into the batter.  A little of sprinkle of Demerara sugar over the top and into the oven they went.
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They baked up beautifully; the pears only added about 5 extra minutes of baking time.  They needed to cool in the pans so that the cake could set and support the pears.  However, the greasing/flouring of the pans allowed them to slip out undamaged.
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To get an idea of what the pears were like, the front left is a Seckel pear, the front right is a Fourelle pear and in the rear is a fully ripened Comice pear.  Can you see the difference in size?  The Comice pear was easily twice the size of the others but all were ripe and juicy and when poached, they held their shape without falling to pieces.
IMG_4761The syrup on the plate is actually the poaching liquid.  After I removed the pears, I had about 2 cups of liquid and using the same sauce pan over medium-low heat, it was reduced down to slightly less than a cup.  It is flavorful and a beautiful ruby color and I am thinking it will make some wonderful cocktails…My only thought on this, the cake was not very sweet.  While my first impulse is to add more sugar next time, I think in this case, more syrup and possibly a scoop of ice cream would do the trick nicely.

Until next week, bake on friends.  To see how the other participants made out with this recipe, check the website and consider joining in on the fun!

apple pielets; a tuesdays with dorie post

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The weather has changed; suddenly, it is fall.  The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are cooler.  It is also apple season, one of my favorite things of fall.  Fresh, crispy, crunchy, juicy… apples with skin of every shade from red and green to yellow and pink.  Sliced, or whole; I’ll eat them either way.  Baked into pies and cakes, cooked into sauce or spicy butter, layered on peanut butter sandwiches or dipped in thick, creamy caramel; I love all of them.
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If you haven’t visited my blog before, then you may not be familiar with Tuesdays with Dorie.  We are a large group of bakers who are baking our way through two books written by Dorie Greenspan.  We alternate books each week and this week the group chose to make the Apple Pielets from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi which was also the perfect way to add more apples to my diet.  To keep up with our baking adventure, visit the website and consider joining us each week.
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The recipe calls for using a muffin tin and lining the cups with a galette dough.  If only I could find my muffin tin.  Perhaps if I finished unpacking…Rather than searching for the pan or buying a new one, I chose to use my mini brioche tins.  They were the perfect size and gave them a cute fluted shape.  To make the filling, I chose Granny Smith and Sweet Tango apples, diced them, sweetened with dark brown sugar and spiced them with some garam masala.  The directions called for rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment or plastic.  Can I just say that is my least favorite method to roll out dough?  If you ask me, I think that rolling slightly chilled dough out with large amounts of flour is always the way to go.  Chilling reduces the stickiness and the flour makes it so much easier to roll out.  If you truly go crazy with the flour, you can always brush it away with a soft brush.

After heavily greasing the pans, I lined them with circles of dough and filled the pielets with the apples.  A smaller round of dough was laid over the top of the filling and the two pieces of dough were sealed together.  To allow the steam to vent, a few small slits were cut into the top crust and the pielets were baked to a lovely, golden brown.  It was hard to wait but it was easier to remove them when they had mostly cooled.  After pulling the pies out of the pans, I set them aside to finish cooling.

Here’s to another apple season!  Join us if you dare, we do this weekly.  Visit the website, pick up a copy of the book and get to baking-you won’t regret it!

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