Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lemon Cucumbers

These little golden balls of cucumber arrived the other day. I set them aside while I unpacked the box. Out of site, out of mind. There they sat. Silly me! Good thing I found them and rescued them from their dark corner and safely placed them in my happy tummy!

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Simple and Well Deserved Dinner

After a morning of cutting firewood followed by an afternoon of baking muffins, I needed something simple. This fit the bill!

A little Boursin. A little bit of cremini mushrooms and shallots. Slices of toasted italian sourdough. Don't forget the glass of wine :)

Company Muffins With A Hidden Surprise

I have a confession, I LOVE apple butter. Sorry dear loved ones. I don't mean to scorn our love.. but ummmmmmmmmmmmm apple butter! I no longer can eat it but that doesn't stop me from wanting to see it spread on food for nothing more than old time's dreamy sake.

This week I have a few pears, apples, and a hodge podge of nuts to use up. The company muffin recipe I have is a great base recipe to use with ever you have handy. This time I decided that since apple butter and muffins was already a given, why not add the apple butter before baking and save my family a step. See, aren't I considerate ;)

Company Muffins
Recipe from Simply in Season

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat bran or rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl combine and stir well.

2 large apples (peeled, cored, and sliced)
1 1/2 cups carrots (finely shredded)
1 cup walnuts (chopped) or flax seed meal
1/2 cup raisins

Add and stir to coat. Make well in center

2 eggs (slightly beaten)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil

In a separate bowl mix together. Pour into flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Fill muffin tins about 3/4 full. Bake in preheated oven at 375°F for 18-20 minutes.

I never stick to the recipe and add nuts, fruit, and spices to suit my whims.

This round I used organic carrots from my CSA box. Yum. They were so tender and sweet. Notice the sunlight? After 21 straight days of rain I sure did!

My pears were starting to get squishy but were still great for baking. And since I am rarely satisfied with one variety, I made an apple one too!

Now about those varieties I mentioned. One batch had pears, pecans, and chocolate. The second batch had pears, walnuts, almonds, and apple butter. Before I put on the streusel topping I spooned some apple butter and another dollop of batter.

Now go rescue that fruit rotting away in your fruit bowl. This is a great recipe to play with.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Harvest Day

Today I harvested the last of my strawberries and rhubarb. The raspberries are nearing the end but I still might get a few more days of picking out of the bushes. Everything is now all washed, chopped, and packaged for freezing. Wahoo!

My handy Ulu made quick work of the over 16 cups of chopped rhubarb.

CSA Box For Wednesday September 10

I signed up to receive a CSA box every week. My boxes come from Full Circle Farm in Washington. Don't know what a CSA is? Click this link to find out.

The boxes are like a little present to myself each week. When pick up day comes I can't wait to go unwrap my little brown paper wrapped bundles of organic goodness.

This box included:

Gala Apples
Bunched Carrots with greens still attached
Bi-Color Sweet Corn
Flavor Heart Pluots
Red Flame Grapes
Breakfast Radishes
Orange Tomatoes
Cremini Mushrooms
Romaine Lettuce

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pane Siciliano

One of my favorite bread books is The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. It is my go to book when I want to try something new. Even though the book is packed full of wonderful pictures, it is his writing that pulls me in. I can picture every twist and fold of the dough in my head without ever looking at a picture. Or maybe I am just a visual person, who knows LOL!

It has been hard to find specialty flours in this sleepy town. Anchorage isn't much better. So for that reason, I haven't been able to play with this book as much as I would like. Luckily I did have some Semolina flour on hand.

Reinhart's recipe for Pane Siciliano is an easy recipe to work with during the week. This is a several day process that requires very little active time. It is also ideal because if something comes up there is nothing wrong with letting it ride in the fridge overnight.

Day 1 - I started with a pate fermentee. Let it rise, degas, and then store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Day 2 - Remove the pate fermentee from the fridge and cut up in small pieces to de-chill. Add this to a fresh dough. Let rise, shape, cover, and stow away in the fridge overnight.

Day 3 - Remove from the fridge, let rise, and bake.

This was done in between my other projects, work, and family. Hence the reason it is a good bread to make during the week, but also the reason I don't have many pictures this time around.

Here is what the bread looked while waiting for the oven. The bread really soaks up the flavor of the sesame seeds. Combine that with the semolina and you get a pleasantly nutty bread.

I used a steam pan. No comments from the peanut gallery about my stove please :)
Finished spiral!

That 45 minute wait for it to cool down was a killer. I didn't think I was going to make it through. Thank goodness I have some self control. Hey now, easy, I didn't say I had a lot, but I do have some!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pig in the blankets

After Saturday's UFC night, I had some extra bierock dough left over. Those things have been very popular lately so I have had a lot of scrap dough to play around with.

This time I made pig in the blankets for my son's school lunches. It is pretty straight forward. I rolled out the dough and used a pizza roller to cut out strips about an inch wide.

Since everything is better with cheese, I cut a slit in the dogs and added a few small strips of muenster cheese.

Aren't I creative? I managed to get the strips of dough and dogs in one shot. It was getting late and I was getting tired.

Gently wrap the dough around the dogs. Make sure the dough is wrapped tight but don't force it. Seal the dough by wetting the end of the strip with water and pressing it against the bottom.

Let proof and bake at 375 F for about 15 minutes or until golden.

My son came home today and told me that all the kids at his table thought I should sell them to the cafeteria. How funny!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My last ditch effort to hold onto summer.. Key Lime Cupcakes with Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting

This weekend we went to a UFC fight night get together. I always enjoy trying to come up with something new to tantalize their taste buds. The only real requirement is that the goodies be something that they guys can pick up easily and take to the couch during the short commercials. The hosts are great about letting me know the main dish ahead of time.

The theme this Saturday was Mexican. My spicy pizza bierocks are always a hit so that was a given. Key Lime Cupcakes sounded like the perfect match to a spicy and heavy meal. I suppose I could have made them a bit lighter and not so rich. But what is the fun in that!

I chose to modify a coconut cupcake recipe from the Barefoot Contessa

Here is the recipe per

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

Here is what I changed

I didn't have extra large eggs. 1 extra large egg is about 4 Tablespoons
No vanilla or almond extra. Instead I used about 4-5 Tablespoons key lime juice
3 1/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons cake flour instead of AP flour
No coconut
Added lime zest of 2 limes

Simple Key Lime filling recipe -
I don't know where I originally found this. But I have been using it for years.

5 egg yolks
1/2 cup key lime juice
1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
Whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Start by juicing the limes. I like to use a garlic press to juice them. It is fast and efficient.

My helper came away from his mp3 player for this... well sort of.

See? All squished.

Ignore the brown peels. Beggars can't be choosers when it comes to produce in this town.

Pour the sugar and lime zest into a small bowl. Using your fingers, mash around the zest and sugar just as you would crumb together butter and sugar. Continue until all the sugar is moist from the oils in the zest.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a separate bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar/zest mixture until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time until well blended. As mentioned earlier, I didn't have any extra large eggs. To accommodate the recipe I whisked 6 large eggs together and then measured 20 Tablespoons of this mixture (1 extra large egg = 4 Tablespoons).

Mix in key lime juice

Alternate in the flour mixture and buttermilk. Adding only about a third of each and stirring until fully incorporated before adding another third.

Fill cupcake pan, with liners.

Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

While the cupcakes are baking make the filling.

Beat the egg yolks. Add lime juice and condensed milk. Cover and chill until slightly thickened. Mix in whipped cream. I normally make my own but was in a time pinch. So this time I used a carton of extra creamy whipped cream. Put mixture in fridge until you are ready to use.

Cool the baked cupcakes completely.

Prepare them for filling by using a paring knife to cut a cone out of the top. Slice off the majority of the cone, leaving a flat plug.

Spoon the filling into the hole in the cupcake and top at with the plug. Be careful not to over fill or the plug will lift.

There you go. Here is the cupcake looking like nothing happened!

Frost with your favorite icing. I had some left over Bailey's and cream cheese frosting in the freezer. Yes, I keep frosting in the freezer. All you have to do is thaw in the fridge and then whip for a few seconds to fluff it up again.All you have to do is thaw in the fridge and then whip for a few seconds to fluff it up again.


Now here is what they look like inside.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Focaccia in 2 hours? No way, Yes way!!

I have been too busy playing outside to devote time to bread making. This Labor Day weekend was wet and cool and it put me in my winter baking mood. Well sort of.. I wanted something low maintenance that I could leave at a moments notice if the sun did decide to shine. It never did shine but it was warm and homey in my kitchen.

2 Hour Focaccia Bread
Adapted from King Arthur's Flour

1 1/2 cups warm water
3 tablespoons good quality olive oil(plus additional for drizzling)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups A/P flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 heaping cup cheese of your choice
Fresh or dried herbs of your liking

For the cheese I used an 80/10/10 blend of Mozzarella, Provalone, and Mild Cheddar. The herbs used were a mix of fresh and dried herbs that I had handy (fresh rosemary, fresh cilantro, dried oregano, dried basil, fresh coarse cracked black pepper, and fresh thyme from my garden).

Preheat the oven to 425. The recipe calls for 375 but I prefer a hot oven.

Combine all ingredients, except for cheese and herbs into your mixer. Use a paddle attachment to combine on high speed for 60 seconds.

While the mixer is working, grease a 9 x 13 pan with olive oil. Don't be stingy. I used a smaller 7 x 11 glass pan. This is to be sandwich bread for my son's school lunch so I wanted it a bit thicker.

The dough should look like this.

Add the cheese to the mixer bowl and stir to mix in.

Scoop out the dough and spread evenly in pan. Wet your hands first!

Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place. It is cool outside but not cool enough to turn up the heat. We built a fire in the wood stove last night and although the fire is out the stove is barely warm. The yeast likes this spot :)

Let sit for an hour or until doubled.

Drizzle with olive oil. Then wet fingers and poke the dough to leave the dimples.

Sprinkle with herb mix.

I added a few sprinkles of lavender garlic rub for fun.

Bake in oven for 35 -45 minutes at 425, until golden brown.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove carefully and place on a cooling rack. If you leave it in the pan your crust will be soggy.

I still prefer traditional focaccia. The crumb and chew isn't the same but the flavor is good. One certainly can't complain about how easy it is. Besides, my son likes this better because it is soft and a bit fluffy. It also holds up well for packed lunches and doesn't become soggy.

Hmm, I see an organic tomato and cucumber sandwich on 2 hour focaccia calling my name!