Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Cast Iron Cookery

I've jumped ship on blogging these days, but I do have some fun non-blog news!  Sounds like I might be featured in an article about cast iron cooking in a little magazine coming out this fall!  I wish I could tell you more, and I am not being coy...I really don't know anything more that that.  Just for fun, I'll include links to my posts that feature cast iron cookware at the bottom of the page.  Enjoy your summer and I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rise and Shine Retirement Party

I'm kind of sad to say I'm off blogging these days...Perhaps you can tell by the gradual decline in my number of posts and the manner in which my photos have suffered...

It's not for lack of love!  I'll still be feeding people and whatnot, just not spreading the word quite so far as I have been for the past four years.  I have the Daring Bakers to thank for most or all of what I've done with this blog!  I will miss them.

Here's some of what I'll be up to in the days to come:

Playing with my loveys at the big lake

playing in the backyard

thinking about my big girls growing up

and chasing this little girl around.

Enjoying the little things and looking for luck

fiddling, or trying to

and dancing!

Thanks to everyone who kept in the loop as I polished up my baking talents!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Blueberry Lemon Charlotte Royale

For the June daring bakers challenge Rebecca from BakeNQuilt.com challenged us to make Charlotte Royale and Charlotte Russe from scratch.

I know this looks like some kind of crazy ice cream cake.  It's actually a creamy blueberry jello type filling covered in lemon cake that's been soaked in blueberry jam!  The outer cake layer is made of spirals, created by spreading blueberry jam on a thin flat cake and rolling it up, freezing, then slicing.  I actually didn't do my best work with this challenge.  I had to bake the lemon cake twice because the first time I over-baked it and it was too dry to roll up without breaking.  Then I thinned out my blueberry jam too much and it soaked into the cake so the spiral detail had a messy look to it.  All that aside, it tasted great, and I was really happy with the blueberry bavarian cream filling!

My cake won't win any beauty contests (and what is up with this photo that won't load properly no matter what I try?!) but in flavor it can definitely hold it's own!

This recipe is my interpretation of Rebecca's Charlotte Royale recipe challenge.  For the original recipe, you can find the challenge PDF here!

Blueberry Lemon Charlotte Royale
Serves 6.

Lemon Sponge Cake
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons oil
A touch of yellow food color, if desired
Juice plus the zest of one large lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of baking soda
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a jelly-roll sheet pan about 17" by 12" with baking spray and line the pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with a hand mixer on high for 5 minutes until light. Gradually add sugar until combined.

Add oil and gel food coloring until the desired shade of yellow is achieved. Add lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix briefly.

Gradually add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the liquid ingredients. Mix until combined.  Pour your batter into the prepared pan (it will be a very thin layer).

Bake for 13-15 minutes until the cake is set and the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not over bake or the cake will be dry and will crack when you roll it.

Meanwhile, select a round bowl that holds about 6 cups.  You will be lining the bowl with plastic wrap, lining the bowl with cake slices, filling with bavarian cream, and covering with a round base of cake.  Once chilled and set, you'll flip it over onto a platter, remove the plastic wrap, garnish and serve :)

While the cake is still hot, you will need to set aside a piece for the base and roll the remainder in a towel as described here:.  Quickly flip the cake upside down out of the pan and remove the parchment paper.  Trace the round top of your bowl onto half of the cake.  This will be used for the base. Trim the remaining cake into a rectangle.
While the cake is still hot, roll the remaining rectangle of cake up tightly in a dishtowel. Roll from the longest side with the darkest side of the cake on the inside. Cool the rolled cake/towel on a wire rack.
Assembly stage 1
You will need 1/2 cup blueberry jam, room temp and whipped to a spreadable consistency.  Warm slightly if needed to soften.

When ready to fill, gently unroll the cake and leave it on top of the towel. Spread up to ½ cup of blueberry jam in a thin layer on top of the cooled cake, leaving it on the towel.

Roll up the cake as tightly as you can in plastic wrap and then foil and freeze until firm enough to slice, at least a couple of hours.
Lightly oil your 6-cup round bowl and line it as smoothly as possible with plastic wrap, leaving a small overhang of plastic. 
Slice the cake roll into ¼ inch slices. To line the bowl with cake slices, place 1 slice in the center and place other slices around it in a single layer as tightly as possible to try to avoid gaps.
The width of your bowl and the width of your slices will determine how far up the bowl you can get. You may not get all the way up the sides and will have to trim to create a clean edge. If your spirals do go all the way up, trim the last ones even with the edge of the bowl. If not, you can trim them when you put in the cream.

If there are any gaps between the spirals, plug them with trimmings from unused spirals. If you are using a glass bowl, you can hold it up to the light and see where light comes through. You want to plug these spots to prevent the Bavarian Cream from leaking through.

Blueberry Bavarian Cream

12 ounces frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup blueberry Pom juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 ounce unflavored gelatin powder (1 packet)
1 cup heavy cream

Combine frozen berries, sugar and 2 tablespoons juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer 15 minutes, uncovered, stirring often. Strain and press mixture through a wire mesh strainer into a bowl (you'll have about 1 cup juice). Cool to room temperature.

Combine 1/4 cup juice and gelatin in a small saucepan and let stand 5 minutes. Melt on medium-low heat just until liquid. Whisk into your blueberry juice. 
Using an electric mixer at high speed, beat heavy cream in a bowl until stiff peaks form.  Fold your blueberry mixture into the whipped cream.
Assembly stage 2

Spoon the blueberry cream into the lined bowl until it comes up to the top of the bowl or to
 the top spirals. Trim the top spirals above the cream if necessary.
Place the cake round on top of the cream. Press down gently on the edges of the cake circle so it makes contact with the edge of the spirals.

Cover tightly and refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours.

To unmold, invert onto a plate and lift away the bowl, tugging gently on the plastic wrap to release it. To prevent drying out, leave the plastic wrap in place until serving. If desired, decorate with whipped cream and fresh fruit.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cherry Almond Lamingtons

For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons. An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant.

These fancy little cakes are a bit of a project, but not too bad all around.  Most Lamingtons are dainty little squares and looked too tedious for my mood on baking day, so I opted to use a biscuit cutter to make something like a Little Debbie snack cake.  These were so sweet and fancy, I couldn't help but think they tasted like Christmas!

In the words of our host:  "The classic Australian Lamington is a cube of vanilla sponge cake dipped in chocolate icing then coated with desiccated coconut...It is said that the cakes were named after Lord Lamington who was the Governor of Queensland, Australia from 1896 to 1901. Stories abound as to why the cakes came about. I like the one that tells of Lord Lamington’s maid-servant accidentally dropping a freshly baked sponge cake into some melted chocolate. Apparently Lord Lamington disliked wastage so he suggested coating the chocolate coated cake in desiccated coconut to avoid messy fingers."

This recipe was adapted from Sprinklebake's Cherry Chip Sponge Cake with Almond Whip.  For the original Daring Baker's challenge recipe, you can find the challenge PDF here.

Cherry Almond Lamingtons
Makes 6 round cakes and a mess of scraps, or about 15 square cakes.

Cherry Sponge Cake

4 eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pink gel food color
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
10 ounce jar stemless maraschino cherries, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a jelly-roll sheet pan about 17" by 12" (a bit smaller of a pan is fine too) with shortening and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat eggs with a hand mixer on high for 5 minutes until light.  Gradually add sugar until combined.

Add cream and almond extract to the whipped eggs and mix briefly.
Gradually add the flour, baking powder and salt to the liquid ingredients. Mix until combined. Mix in the pink gel food color a little at a time until the desired shade is achieved, about 1/8 teaspoon. 

Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon flour over the chopped cherries and stir. Fold the flour-coated cherries into the sponge batter and pour your batter into the prepared pan (it will be a very thin layer). 

Bake for about 13-15 minutes (meanwhile, make your almond buttercream and set aside).  The cake is done when the center is set and the cake springs back when pressed in the center.  Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a large wire rack to cool completely.

Almond Buttercream

1/2 cup room temp unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon milk
1 small teaspoon almond extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup

Mix butter, salt, milk and almond extract on high for one minute.  Scrape the bowl and add the powdered sugar.  Mix on low until combined and crumbly.  Mix on medium for one minute until smooth.  Add corn syrup and mix a half minute.  Then beat on high for about one minute until soft and fluffy.


Trim the edges of the cake with a serrated knife so that the rough edges are straight. Cut the cake into 2 rectangles of equal size.

Frost one of the sections of cake with almond buttercream.  Set the other layer of cake on the frosted cake.  Press the top using the flat bottom of a sheet pan (to level it) and chill for at least an hour or overnight.

White Chocolate Glaze and Coconut Coating

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
8 ounces white chocolate pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

On a sheet pan in a layer no more than 1/4 inch thick, toast the coconut at 325F for about 10 minutes until lightly browned in some areas.  Stir halfway through the cooking time to ensure the coconut at the corners does not burn.

In a double boiler, heat white chocolate, butter and milk and whisk until they melt and are smooth.  Take it off the heat and whisk in the powder sugar.  The glaze should be the consistency of honey.  If it's too thin, chill it for about 20 minutes or so.

Cut your cakes into big squares, little squares, rectangles, circles...whatever you like.

Dip each cake into the icing.  Drain or scrape off excess.  While wet, roll the coated cake in coconut.  Set on parchment paper to cool.  Chill overnight if possible.  These cakes are better after they have sat in the fridge for a day.  They will keep for several days in the fridge.


Monday, April 27, 2015

French Onion Fugazza Bread

For the month of April, Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch.

Thick focaccia-like crust topped with a condensed french onion stew and a touch of gruyere cheese.

I veered a little from the classic focaccia recipe this month and went for a similar bread called fugazza. It's a little more similar to pizza, though the crust is a thicker and more focaccia-like.

In the words of our hosts: "The word 'fugazza' is an Argentinian derivation of the Italian word 'focaccia' – indicative of the prominent Italian population in that South American country and of the influence of Italian cuisine there. Very similar to an Italian focaccia, it’s usually cooked in a cast iron skillet and is generally thicker than an Italian focaccia."

Check out the color on that bottom crust!  To achieve this, be sure to preheat your pizza stone for at least twenty minutes before baking.  If you were to use a cast iron skillet, you could preheat that, too.
This recipe is my interpretation of this month's Daring Baker's Focaccia challenge.  You can find the original PDF recipe here.

French Onion Fugazza Bread

Fugazza Dough:
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1⁄2 cup lukewarm milk
1⁄2 cup lukewarm water
2 1⁄2 cups bread flour
1⁄4 teaspoon salt

Stir yeast and sugar into the milk and water in a small bowl and let it sit for about ten minutes until foamy.

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl, make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture.
Stir flour into the yeast mixture until the dough clumps in a mass around the spoon.  Turn onto a well-floured surface and knead for about 8 or 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  As you knead, add sprinkles of flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

Oil a large bowl and add the dough, turning to coat in oil.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size (1 to 2 hours).

Meanwhile, make your caramelized onions.

This process is simple, but it takes time...1 to 1 1/2 hours!

Caramelized Onions:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 large onions, thinly sliced (I used sweet Vidalia)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 small bay leaf
1 fresh thyme sprig
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup beef broth
1/4 cup red wine

Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring here and there, over medium heat until the onions are very soft and caramel brown.  This will take about one hour to one and a half hours. Add the broth and wine and raise the heat to bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are nearly dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450F with a pizza stone set on a rack in the lower third of the oven.  

1 1/2 cups gruyere cheese, grated
Pinch of dried oregano and black pepper

Press your dough out on a piece of parchment paper to about 14 inches round, ½ inch thick.  Spread with caramelized onions, leaving a 1 inch border at the edges.  Cover onions with cheese and sprinkle with a bit of dried oregano and black pepper.

Slide the dough onto the hot pizza stone, leaving it on the parchment paper.  Bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Slice into wedges and serve.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Mixed Fruit Tarte Tatin with Homemade Creme Fraiche

For the March Daring bakers’ challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen taught us that some treats are best enjoyed upside down. She  challenged us to make a tarte tatin from scratch.

I thought our challenge host's description of a tarte tatin was really perfect:  "This classic French dessert is basically the apple pie version of an upside-down cake: apples are caramelized in sugar in a saucepan, covered with pastry and baked, and then inverted on a plate to serve. It’s a great example of the magic of caramelized sugar: the apples take on a deep, rich mahogany color and become infused with the complex flavors of a well-cooked caramel, and the crisp puff pastry base also becomes practically candied with caramel at the edges, resulting in a fantastic mix of soft, crunchy, and chewy textures."

For my tatin, I chose to replace the classic apples with banana, apricot and mandarin oranges...all of which melt together in a delicious caramel.  I especially enjoy the oranges as they basically disintegrate into the caramel, which is flavored with a touch of cinnamon and rum.  Yum!  Though my favorite part of this dessert is the homemade creme fraiche.  It's insanely easy to make and super creamy and fancy.  This whole sweet treat is pretty easy to accomplish, actually.  I made two this month and both were done in time for breakfast because I always make my crust the night before.

Above you can see how it's made.  The filling is cooked on the stove top until caramelized.  The filling is then topped with a layer of dough.  Once it's baked, the whole thing is turned onto a platter and the top crust becomes a bottom crust.

Korena told this little story about the tatin's origin. Maybe it's a true story, maybe not, but it's kind of fun:

"The tart is named after the Tatin sisters, who ran a hotel near Paris in the 1880s. Apparently, one day one of the sisters forgot to put a bottom crust on her apple pie, but instead of the disaster she was expecting to pull out of the oven, she ended up with a dessert so loved by the hotel guests that it became the hotel’s signature dish."

Korena's apple tatin looks amazing, by the way.  You can find the PDF file for this challenge here.

Mixed Fruit Tarte Tatin with Homemade Crème Fraiche

Homemade Crème Fraiche
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup sour cream

Stir together until blended (shaking in a covered mason jar is easiest).  Let sit, covered, at room temperature overnight.  Refrigerate after 10 hours.  Before serving, add a pinch of sugar or two and whip for several minutes using an electric mixer on high until thickened and fluffy like whipped cream.

Flaky Tart Crust
For one 10 inch tart.

1 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold shortening, cut into pieces
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup ice water

Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Drop in shortening and quickly grate butter directly into the bowl using a cheese grater. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, work butter and shortening into the flour mixture until it's broken down into course, chunky crumbs. Stop mixing when the largest crumb is about the size of a pea.

Using a fork, quickly stir in 1/3 cup of very cold ice water.  If needed, stir in more water in sprinkles until most of the flour has been picked up by the dough. Turn the rough dough and crumbs onto a floured surface. Fold the dough over on itself (a very gentle knead) just until the dough holds together in a mass, about 10 times. Do not over mix! You will be able to see bits of butter in the dough and this is a good thing.

Shape the dough into a disk (like a burger patty). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before use. The dough will keep in the fridge for a full day, or you may freeze the dough for up to 3 months. Bring back to a thawed chill before rolling.

Tarte Tatin
Makes one 10 inch tart.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large ripe bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 cup halved canned apricots
1 cup canned mandarin oranges
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
Flour, for your work surface
1 recipe of flaky tart crust
Crème Fraiche, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally (but do not stir), until the mixture browns lightly, about 3 minutes.  Do not over-brown, and if it burns, start over!

Arrange the fruit in the skillet, overlapping as needed. If it's going to take you a minute to arrange the fruit, remove the pan from the stove while you do this.  Cook without stirring for 3 minutes. Drizzle vanilla and rum over the fruit and cook until the liquid has thickened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Roll out the tart crust 1/4 inch thick using a floured rolling pin on a well-floured surface.  Cut the dough into a circle by tracing a 10-inch skillet or lid.

Place the round of crust on top of the fruit, and slice some vents into the center of the dough. Tuck the edges of the dough in around the filling a little. Transfer to the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully invert the tart onto a serving plate.  To invert the tart, cover the skillet with a serving plate and turn over in one quick motion, then slowly lift the skillet. If the fruit has shifted, use a spatula to move things into place.

Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled with dollops of crème fraiche.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Siopao {Asian Stuffed Buns}

The February Daring Bakers’ challenge is hosted by Julie of One-Wall Kitchen. She challenged us to an easy, simple filled bun using no-knead dough.

I love a savory baking challenge, especially one that is new to me, easy to make, and something that kids and grown-ups love equally! Siopao literally means "steam buns" and if you frequent Asian markets you've likely seen them in the food court. Julie's recipe is for baked rolls, and I wondered how the baking would affect the texture of the bread. Steam buns are incredibly tender, and those that I've eaten have been stuffed with spiced pork. These baked Siopao were also incredibly tender, and I filled mine with pork laab, a minced meat salad that is crazy delicious and packed with traditional Thai flavor. My family went crazy for these! Everyone wants me to make them every day now, which to be honest, I could probably accomplish even on a work night if I made the filling ahead of time. The dough is a no-knead recipe, so you could mix it up and leave it sit in the fridge for the day. Dinner could be on the table in an hour with little active work, after work :)

I served our Siopao with an Asian cabbage salad, and you can find a recipe for it in my cookbook. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!  For Julie's Daring Baker recipe, you can find the challenge PDF here!


Savory Siopao Filling
Servings: 12

4 tablespoons uncooked rice
1 tablespoon oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound course ground pork
1 tablespoon tamari sauce
½ tablespoon fish sauce
One shallot, minced
Juice of one lime
1 jalapeno, minced (and seeded, if desired to reduce spice)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

Toast the rice in a hot dry skillet, stirring often, until nutty and brown.  Grind or pound into a course powder.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, then add garlic and cook for a minute.  Add pork, tamari sauce, fish sauce and shallot.  Cook until the pork is cooked through.  Stir in lime juice, jalapeno, cilantro and toasted rice.

Place cornstarch and water in a small bowl and stir with a fork or small whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved.

Stir the cornstarch mixture into the filling and cook for a minute until thickened. Remove from the heat and cool completely before making the rolls.
Siopao Rolls
Servings: 12 large buns

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten, for the egg-wash

Mix yeast, water, sugar, melted butter, and salt together in a large mixing bowl.  Slowly mix in flour until it's fully incorporated and you have a shaggy, very tacky dough, but not wet and sticky.

Cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap and let it rise for about an hour in a warm place (such as in a cold oven with the light turned on) until doubled.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Sprinkle some flour over the top of the dough and fold it over on itself several time until you can shape it into a smooth ball.  Divide the dough into about 12 equal pieces.

On a floured surface, roll each piece into a ball and flatten it into a disc about 6 inches wide.

Place a walnut sized mound of filling into the center of the disc, wrap the dough around the filling, and firmly pinch it closed around the top of the filling.

Place filled buns, seam side down, on a baking sheet and loosely cover them with plastic wrap. Let them rest for 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Brush your egg wash on the top of each bun. Bake the buns for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.


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