Wednesday, May 24, 2017

As Time Zips By


So what have I been doing for the last 10+ years instead of turning this blog into a money maker? It seems that lots of people who started blogging when I did went on to either turn their blog into a business or else to turn the skills they learned into a business...photography, blog writing, etc. I cheer each of them on because when you love something and can also make money doing it, it deserves a cheer!

So why did I take the path less traveled in the blogosphere? Part of it is a desire to keep it simple, part is a lack of time to turn it into a business.



A little over a month ago the half year anniversary of this blog rolled around without any fanfare. Still, that means that I've now been blogging over ten and a half years. During that time Sweetie and I have remodeled the farmhouse, the main bathroom, the laundry room, and...the biggie...the kitchen. We've also created a new front entry, redone the front deck and maybe the back one, too...all of these projects run together sometimes. There were a couple of window installations when we discovered that the folks who built the house didn't believe in window flashing. Sweetie built a 20 x 15 one-story shed from scratch and remodeled the old storage shed into a kitchen for the remodel and then into an art studio for me. He has been upgrading his work area in the barn over time, too. Perhaps the most interesting was the time when we removed some tall windows in the living room area of the house and ended up repairing the second story, the first story and even the subfloor due to water damage.  So I guess that these project are one reason I didn't devote all my energy to making my blog into a source of income.


Then there is the P.E.O. Scholarship group. Making scholarships for women a reality takes time, energy, patience, persistence, and good will. There are also fundraisers that take all of that and skills, too. I have benefitted far more from all of our efforts as a sisterhood than I've ever given, but the time spent is also time not available to the blog.

Somewhere in there I took watercolor classes and graphic arts update classes on programs like InDesign and Photoshop. I do a 10-12 page full color Newsletter for the regional arm of P.E.O., plus various cards, programs, flyers and that sort of thing. For a couple of years I helped with the photo albums, too. Sometimes I have to revisit art skills that have gone stale.


Lately I've been trying out acrylics painting a sand and seascape with clouds. It's a work in progress in many ways.


Let's not forget the garden, a source of joy for me. During those ten + years I started hundreds of tomato starts from seed,


way too many zucchini and other squash plants, plus beans, cucumbers and flowers galore. Anyone who has gardened knows that producing the plants is just the beginning of a lot of work over a lot of months.

Then there is social time with family and friends, fun time with the dogs, the usual life stuff like grocery shopping and laundry and cleaning the house. It's a wonder I have time to do the couple-a-week posts I do put up.

So, there you have it; lots of reasons why this is still an ordinary, non-commercial food blog. Still, I've posted over 1,180 times and so there are over 1,000 recipes in all those posts, too. Hope that you wander around and find some new ones that tickle your fancy. A lot of them are for baked good, especially bread, but there are plenty of others. A great one for this time of year is the Creamy Coleslaw Dressing recipe. Coleslaw goes so well with barbecued meats and poultry, pulled pork, and grilled sea food. You may also enjoy the fictional Land of St. Honore', where baking is a birthright.



Thanks for stopping by, dear Reader.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Spring Warmth with Strawberries and Rhubarb



It is truly spring. Usually this is a non-event as spring arrives in Northern California most years in February or March, but this year our spring has been more like the ones I remember from my childhood in Virginia. The nights stayed very cool and we had significant rain right up into May. So this year April showers really did bring May flowers. Many of my flowers are just now starting to bloom and the cool weather has keep the roses going with the flowers staying on the shrubs longer while new buds begin to form.


Our little lambs are getting bigger. Earlier in the week one of the younger set got his head stuck in the fence and tonight one of the older set became stuck. Since he has actual horns it was tougher to get him back through, but Sweetie did it and then the little fellow ran away to his mom. The photo of lambs on this post is actually from the flock of a friend...her lambs are white while 'mine' are black. They aren't really mine since they belong to our neighbors, but since they are in our pasture and we see them every day and give them water and sometimes some hay, I feel a little like they are ours, too.

One of the treats of spring is the coming of strawberry season. It started really late this year, too. Finally we are getting some warm days, so the strawberries at our local farm stand are plentiful, juicy, fragrant and all together wonderful. Often we just eat them right from the container, but sometimes I feel like baking using them.

A great pairing with strawberries is rhubarb. It sort of looks like red celery and it is pretty tart, but that tartness is magic combined with strawberry sweetness. I put them together in a tart for a family dinner on Friday. If you have puff pastry in the freezer, plus the usual baking staples and some sliced and ground almonds and some citrus, you can put this together in no time and bake an impressive dessert...it's delicious, too.


I actually combined two recipes for this. A few pages further into Annie Rigg's Summer Berries Autumn Fruits cookbook, there is a recipe for a strawberry-rhubarb compote over brown sugar meringues, so I took the cooking method for the compote and used it for the tart fruit. It worked really well and I was left with enough syrup to boil down for a drizzle over the served slices of tart. The almond and orange flavors go so well with the sweet-tart strawberry rhubarb combo. The crust adds crispness and flakiness. There were actually a couple of pieces left over, so Sweetie and I had them for breakfast the next morning...heaven!


Strawberry Rhubarb Almond Tart
From Summer Berries Autumn Fruits by Annie Rigg
Serves 6-8

1-2 slim-stemmed rhubarb stalk(s)
1 cup granulated sugar
three strips orange peel (each about 1/2 " X 2 ")
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise or
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 x 14 oz package store-bought puff pastry
(I used 1 of 2 sheets in a Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry box, thawed)
2 tablespoons milk or soy milk
1 medium egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 rounded tablespoons sliced almonds

For the frangipane
2/3 cup ground almonds
3 tablespoons softened non-dairy butter or real butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 medium egg
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Rinse the rhubarb under cold running water and trim the ends. Cut each stem into lengths of about 1 1/2 inches. Put the sugar, orange peel and vanilla in a saute pan and add 3/4 cup cold water. Bring slowly to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Add the rhubarb and cook over low heat 2-3 minutes or until rhubarb is softened. Remove from heat. Add the strawberries, stir and let sit while you prepare the tart shell.

Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the pastry into an oval or rectangle until pastry is about 1/16th-inch thick. Use a large knife to trim and neaten the edges. Carefully slide the pastry onto a large parchment-lined baking sheet, brush the milk or soy milk around the edges of the pastry, and crimp and fold over to create a border. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes while you make the frangipane.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put all the frangipane ingredient in a mixing bowl and beat well until smooth.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and spread the frangipane over the pastry, leaving a 1/2 inch border all the way around as it will spread slightly during cooking. Drain the cooled rhubarb and strawberries from the syrup and scatter the rhubarb and strawberries evenly over the tart. Brush the edges of the tart with the beaten yolk and scatter the tart with the sliced almonds.

Bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and cook for another 20-25 minutes. The frangipane will be golden, the pastry crust crisp, and the fruit tender.

Best served warm on the day it is made. You can take the syrup remaining after the fruit is removed and, over low heat, reduce it to a thick syrup for garnishing the tart slices.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lime and Poppy Seeds with the Cake Slice Bakers


April was crazy busy, but since I needed a donation for our share table at our regional scholarship meeting in late April, I decided to bake the May Cake Slice Bakers cake then.

I chose the Lime Poppy Seed Syrup Cake and baked it in a Bundt pan that has four different designs. It's fun to see how the cake turns out with the different levels of detail and curves. Sweetie and I ate one of them and the other three went off to be part of the fund raiser.


This is a lovely, fairly moist (due in part to the syrup), tight-crumbed beauty, with great lime flavor and the nice little crunch of poppy seeds. I keep my poppy seeds in the freezer, so I always have some ready for wonderful recipes like this. Usually you see lemon with poppy seed, but the lime was a refreshing change.

Please be sure to visit the other Cake Slice Bakers to see which of the four cakes they baked this month. It's always a treat to see their artistry.

I'm stepping back from the computer a bit over the summer, so I probably won't be baking with this group again until the fall.  Will probably do the last bake from this book, since we change over to a new one in October or November.

Happy Summer fellow Cake Slice Bakers! Bake on.



The following recipe gives the ingredients I used so that the cakes would be dairy free and the plural for cakes and pans refers to how I baked, since I produced four cakes from the recipe.

Lime and Poppy Seed Syrup Cake
From World Class Cakes by Roger Pizey
Serves 16

1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/2 cup soy creamer (or use whole milk as called for in the book)
1 cup softened non-dairy butter (or use softened creamery butter)
1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour, sifted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup drained yogurt (or use sour cream as called for in the book)

For the lime syrup:
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10 cup Bundt pan well (or equivalent).

Soak the poppy seeds in the soy creamer (milk) for at least 10 minutes.

While poppy seeds soak, cream the butter, lime zest and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Then, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape beater(s) and bowl during this step.

Add in the sifted flours and the drained yogurt (sour cream). When thoroughly combined, add the poppy seed mixture to the batter and mix until well combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour. (Note; if baking smaller cakes, check to see if they are done at about 25-30 minutes.)

While the cake is in the oven, make the lime syrup. Place all the ingredients in a pan and stir over low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Let it simmer until the liquid thickens and the batter has reduced by half. Let cool until cake bakes.

When cake is done a toothpick in the center will come out clean. Remove from the oven and pour the slightly cooled syrup over the cake while it is still warm to allow the flavors to infuse the cake.(If desired, you can use a thin skewer to prick the cake to allow the syrup to penetrate further.) You can remove the cake(s) from the pan(s) and put the cake on a rack over a sheet pan, which allows you to catch any syrup that drips off and to reuse it, or you can put the syrup on the cake(s) while still in the pan(s) and then turn the cake out onto a rack once the syrup is absorbed.

When cool, serve small slices.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Good and Green


Cinco de Mayo has come and gone but it is still avocado season around here and limes are still plentiful, too, so I made guacamole the other evening. You may be watching the playoff basketball games, or finally be enjoying spring weather on the deck, porch, patio or in the park. Maybe you are looking for something to bring to a potluck or celebration for graduation or other end-of-the-school year event. Never fear, this is a delicious and fairly easy dish and always welcome...at least that has been my experience.

Guacamole is a combination of ripe avocados, garlic, salt, lime, cayenne pepper or hot sauce, cilantro, green onion and something creamy like mayo, yogurt, or sour cream. You scoop it up with tortilla chips and it goes great with drinks like beer, lemonade, or margarita.

Every recipe differs just a bit, so I'll just give you mine. Because a really ripe avocado tastes different from a almost ripe one, I ask that you add salt to taste instead of specifying an amount. The same goes for the cayenne or hot sauce...some like it hotter than others. I also add just a cherry tomato or two to give spots of color and just a little bit of tomato taste now and then. Add more if you like. In fact, change the amounts of any ingredient to please your taste buds.

For those keeping up on things, Sweetie is doing much better. It no longer hurts when he sneezes or laughs, although he is still sleeping in his lounge chair since lying in bed is still painful. Fortunately we still have the joys of eating things like this guac.

Elle's Guacamole
enough for 4 for an appetizer

3-4 ripe avocados
zest from 1/2 lime
juice from 1 lime
1 green onion, chopped finely, green and white parts
1-2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro
1-2 cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons plain, unsweetened yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream (I used Tofutti soy based 'sour cream')
1-2 clove(s) minced garlic
salt to taste
cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste

Serve with tortilla chips

Cut the avocados in half and remove the seed by whacking a sharp knife into the seed, give a twist and pulling the seed out. Carefully remove seed from knife and discard. Repeat with each avocado.
Run the sharp knife edge along the middle of each half to cut just the skin, then peel the skin off. Put the halves in a shallow bowl. Use a fork to mash the avocado to desired smoothness. I like mine a bit chunky, but some like it really smooth.

Add the lime zest, lime juice, green onion, cilantro, tomato yogurt, sour cream, garlic and mix to combine completely. Taste. Add salt and cayenne pepper and/or hot sauce to taste. Serve at once.

(If you need to hold off serving it, sprinkle additional lime juice over the surface of the guacamole, then cover with plastic wrap and chill. At serving time, stir to distribute the extra lime juice into the mixture.)



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May Babes Open the Lover's Window



I had every intention of making the May bread bake just as posted by our lovely Kitchen of the Month Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories. Really, I did. The Shubak el-Habayeb is a wonderful bread to make, with the fragrance of flower waters and the exotic taste of mahleb. Here is what she says about it:
"Shubak el-Habayeb is an Iraqi bread, and the name, translated, means The Lover's Window.

I found this bread in the book, The Book of Buns, from Jane Mason. To quote Jane: ".. The Lover's Window, which kind of makes me want to cry every time I think about it - it's just lovely! I would love to know who named it and whether they ever found their true love."

This is a fragrant bread, with orange blossom water, rose water, cardamom, and mahleb. Mahleb (or mahlab) is a powder made from the seeds of the St. Lucy's cherry. I had a jar in my pantry, which I had hunted down from when I made Ka'kat, so when I spotted this recipe, I knew I had to make it! "



But, as often is the case, life had other plans for me. My lover has kept me guessing this month. After Sweetie rolled the tractor over and narrowly avoided consequences much greater than the cracked ribs and massive bruise that he did get, time really got away from me as I tried for a few weeks to be two people for all the usual chores, plus as I did my best to take good care of him and keep him from overdoing.

Then, yesterday, he was told by a medical professional to avoid eating foods with small seeds. Aaakk.The tops of these rolls are supposed to have sesame seeds. So I made the rolls as seed-less long oblongs and filled them with Italian turkey sausage links,


but with no seeds, just a little sea salt after I brushed on the glaze. The spaces that I cut into the rolls didn't seem to hold, either, but then the rolls had great oven spring! I measured them at 1/2 inch when they were first shaped, but they did puff up some during the rise before baking, and then a lot in the oven.

These were delicious rolls, moist, exotic in flavor, only a little sweet, and really lovely to look at, too. Very nice, tight crumb, perfect for soaking up the sausage juices.



I found the dough very easy to work with. I only used half the dough because I plan to mix some currants into the rest and make pan rolls. Thanks you Karen for a great recipe. Use this link to go to Karen's page for the full recipe.


You know you'll want to be a Buddy and do better than I did, which won't be all that difficult, really. Bake the rolls, take a snap and send Karen a short description of your bake, the photo, and a link. She'll send you a Buddy badge and include you in the round up.

Do, also, check out the lovely buns of my fellow Babes...wait, that doesn't sound right...erm, check out their Shubak el-Habayeb rolls.




Happy May!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Onion Tart With Something Extra


Inspiration comes from different places, and when it comes to cooking and baking that can include meals eaten at other's homes or in restaurants, cookbooks, magazines, the internet...lots on the internet...and even books.

When I knew that we were going to be visiting with sisters and their families this weekend, I offered to make some bread, but heard the answer too late to do so. Falling back on something that I knew was a hit and which I could make fairly quickly, I decided to go with an onion tart made with frozen puff pastry (which I usually have in the freezer), but I wanted to change it just a bit. My inspiration for the changes was a pizza that Sweetie had earlier in the week when we had lunch with friends. The pizza had fig jam and prosciutto which seemed like a great combo. It seemed likely that that combo would complement the herbed sour cream and sweet-tart honey-wine roasted onions that are the tart's filling in the original recipe. After all, the original had bacon and prosciutto is like bacon.

The challenge was mostly how to assemble the tart...onions on the sour cream base, then jam and prosciutto or jam and prosciutto topped with onions or some other arrangement? I eventually decided to cook the ultra thin slices of prosciutto so that they were a bit crisped, then put them and the jam over the herbed sour cream mixture, topping it all with the roasted onions.

Even though the onions became a bit charred from overcooking, the tart was delicious and everyone seemed to enjoy it a lot. If you cook the onions ahead of time and put them in the freezer, you could have the tart, or a variation of it, in pretty short order since the tart only takes 20-25 minutes to cook. I only took one photo, mostly because I was feeling happy after drinking a mint julep and so forgot I needed more photos of the tart served...and then it was eaten pretty fast, too.


Fig, Prosciutto Honey-Roasted Onion TartInspired partly by February 2011 Bon Appetit magazine


1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-oz. package), thawed

6 paper thin slices prosciutto

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 large sweet yellow onions (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3/4 cup sour cream (I used non-dairy soy sour cream)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2-3 tablespoons fig jam
Few sprigs fresh thyme leaves


Using lightly floured rolling pin, roll out puff pastry on lightly floured surface to 14 x 10-inch rectangle. Fold 1/2 inch of pastry edges in toward center on all sides, forming 13 x 9-inch rectangle. Transfer pastry to large rimmed baking sheet. Press firmly on pastry edges with fork to form rim. Chill crust.

Cook prosciutto in medium skillet over medium heat, one slice at a time, until shriveled and slightly crisp. Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F while prosciutto is cooking. Transfer cooked prosciutto to paper towels to drain. .

Whisk honey, wine and olive oil in large bowl. Add onions; toss to coat. Coat another large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Spread onion mixture in even layer on sheet. Roast 30 minutes. Turn onions over, allowing rings to separate. Roast until onions are caramelized, turning often for even browning, 30 to 40 minutes. Watch carefully towards the end because honey burns easily. (I cooked them until the least colored ones were pale gold, which meant that some edges were charred, but mostly the mass of onions was medium gold, not darker because they will still be browning while tart cooks later.) Cool onions slightly. 

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Mix sour cream, sea salt,nutmeg and dried thyme in small bowl. Using offset spatula, spread sour cream mixture over crust almost to the folded edge. Dollop fig jam in 'little finger nail' sized blobs evenly over sour cream. Break cooked prosciutto into pieces and arrange all over the sour cream and jam. Arrange slightly cooled onions atop jam and prosciutto. Bake tart until crust is light golden brown and topping is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh thyme and serve.

Makes about 6 appetizer servings.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Raspberry Blondes


One of the joys of living not too far from San Francisco is that family and friends find it no hardship to visit there. We also have family who live in the city, so we are there a number of times a year.

There was a family gathering in San Francisco yesterday, with all four members of the Michigan branch there, all three members of the Sacramento area branch there, Sweetie and I and Coffee Man, the sweetie of T-Rose who lives in SF.

Food is always an important part of any gathering in my family. Mark was in charge of most of the food, so we knew it would be creative, top-notch, perfectly cooked with fresh ingredients, and delicious. In order to work up an appetite, we decided to visit Golden Gate Park, a few blocks away. It was a beautiful day, breezy and bright and not too hot. After a meandering walk in the park, and went up in the De Young museum tower, which gives a 360 degree view.


The entrance to the bay was sort of foggy, but you could see the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge. Then we walked back. There were so many flowers blooming and tiny wild strawberries lined some of the paths. Lots of people, too, but that's part of the fun.

After the walk (which was almost too long for Sweetie as he has been mostly resting the last two weeks), we had mint juleps in honor of Derby Day, watched the running of the race in the terrible muck that the track was, and enjoyed the onion tart which I baked earlier in the day at home. I'll post the tart recipe tomorrow or the next day. It is a variation of this tart. As we caught up on family news, Mark finished off the feast.


The feast was a truly delicious slow cooked pork shoulder with Asian seasonings, served with rice and lettuce cups (well, lettuce and radicchio). Mark had created sauces to go with it which included one with cilantro, lemongrass and ginger, plus a hot one, and some kimchi. There was a delicious salad of roasted corn kernels, avocado, and various kinds of peppers. We almost didn't have room for dessert...almost.

Natasha from Sac area had shared with me that she would be bringing something from Freeport Bakery,


so I knew I should bring something non-dairy for myself. The bakery goody was their famous Princess Cake,


a wonderful creation of sponge cake, chocolate, custard, raspberry jam, much whipped cream and marzipan over it all.

My raspberry blonde bar with fresh raspberries, plenty of aromatic white chocolate, slivered almonds, macadamia nuts and coconut (but no brown sugar) was equally delicious and went really well with a cup of peppermint tea. The bars are moist, very almondy, have lots of mellow but crunchy nuts and the raspberries go so well with the almond and coconut top notes.

Sweetie was fading fast by then, so we headed home. Happy Derby Day! Try some of these Raspberry Blondes yourself the next time you have some fresh raspberries on hand. If you love white chocolate you will love these bars!


Raspberry Blondes 
makes 24

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or non-dairy butter, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1 1/2 cups blanched slivered almonds
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup white chocolate chips and chunks (I used about half chips and half hand broken white chocolate chunks)
1/2 pint fresh raspberries, rinsed and dried lightly with a paper towel (don't crush)

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Use cooking spray to lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Melt the butter and sugar together in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter and sugar are blended and completely melted and starting to bubble gently. Remove the pan from heat and let the mixture cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and salt. Slowly whisk the cooled butter and sugar mixture into the eggs just until combined. Whisk in the flour and baking powder to form a loose batter. (Make sure the batter is cool before stirring in the remaining ingredients, otherwise the chocolate will start to melt before the bars are baked.)

Stir the nuts, coconut, and white chocolate chips and chunks into the cooled batter. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Distribute the raspberries over the batter as evenly as possible. Pour the remaining batter over the berries and smooth with a spatula.

Bake until the top is shiny and slightly crackled and feels firm to the touch, 30 – 35 minutes. A wooden skewer inserting into the batter should come out with moist crumbs clinging to it. Let cool on a wire rack to room temperature, then cut into bars and serve.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Herbed Pinwheels


Yesterday I was looking for a recipe that I posted a long time ago. I found it but then started reading posts older than that one. It was fun to see some of the old recipes and to find that the five things I most wanted to change about myself ten years ago are still the ones that need the most work, although some progress has been made. Somehow I hadn't really understood that the blog is almost a teenager now. A lot of things have changed in the last 10+ years besides my hair now being silver gray instead of red.

My posts are not as chatty. I was busy then, but as I've gotten older it seems to take longer to do almost anything, including writing posts. I also didn't have Facebook then and I do spend at least half an hour on Facebook a day.

There aren't so many over the top desserts, either. I think some of the earlier excess can be laid at the feet of the Daring Bakers, but I wouldn't change a thing. I had such fun doing those complex recipes and learning how to make a mirror cake, a buche de noel, Gateau St. Honore', eclairs, and so many other delights. Now the dessert is more likely to be a homey gingerbread or lemon tea cake, something wacky like Christmas crack popcorn chunks, or a simple apricot tart. Having cut out all dairy is challenging when it comes to desserts, too. Anything with whipped cream is out, cheesecake and things with cream cheese are not on the menu either. Still, I have found substitutions so that I can still make Anzac cookies and brownies, and similar yummy delights.

The one thing that doesn't seem to have changed much is my passion for bread baking. Having a sourdough starter in the fridge probably helps there, but mostly I just love making bread and sharing bread with friends and family. It's basic, but it's love, too. My latest creation is a herbed roll for dinner on Tuesday that looks like a cinnamon roll, but is savory and herby and garlicky instead. I baked it in our toaster oven out in my art studio so as to keep the heat out there because the last few days have been hot for here and there was no way I was going to heat up the big oven.


For these I did a basic sourdough dough like the one here (except that I used all-purpose flour and bread flour, no whole wheat or 12-grain), rolled it out after the first rise to a 12 x 12-inch square, painted the dough with a combination of olive oil and lemon flavored olive oil (1 tablespoon of each, spread but leaving an inch all around bare), then sprinkled on Pensey's Sandwich Sprinkle, which is a combination of salt, garlic, black pepper, oregano, thyme and rosemary. I added some fresh rosemary, too (about 1 tablespoon, stripped from the stem and separated into leaves), then rolled it up like a jelly roll, sealing the edges.

Just like with cinnamon rolls, I cut the dough roll into slices about 1-inch thick, then put them into a greased flat pan. I didn't use a cake pan as I usually do because I was using the toaster oven and the thicken metal works better to get a nice crust on the bottom. I left a little space between the buns, covered them lightly and let them puff up while the oven preheated. I also added a little bit of sea salt on the tops of the rolls. They didn't puff up a whole lot, but there were still plenty of nice air pockets and a nice crumb.


I baked them at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then switched to the broiler for 5 minutes, then back to fan bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. By then the rolls were baked and browned enough to enjoy. By then I was also hot enough to enjoy being inside again. We had microwaved steamed broccoli, chicken cooked at the market, and a cool salad. The rolls were wonderful with all of that.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Accidents Happen


Glad we took the day trip last Saturday. Sunday Sweetie was finally able to get out the tractor and mower deck and do the high weed mowing. Due to the weekly doses of rain, the ground is still a little soft and some of the weeds are over my head. He did a wonderful job and was on the last pass when the big tire in the rear first hit a low a slightly mucky spot, then hit a apple tree root hidden in the grass. They were both uphill of the tractor, which was the reason that the tractor flipped over.

Sweetie fortunately must have instinctively launched himself a bit because his leg wasn't trapped, but the seat back did hit him on the right side and he suffered a couple of cracked ribs. Pretty painful, although the pain hit him that night instead of sooner.

Sooo it has been almost a week and he is improving daily. Not a whole lot of baking this week and no photos, so the only one is of the accident. We are very grateful that it wasn't worse. The doc said that Sweetie is a very lucky guy!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day

Lately a lot of time has been spent on necessary things (the result of choices freely made) that have kept me either close to home or involved with meetings and similar things. Today Sweetie and I agreed that a day trip was in order, just for fun. Since Straight Shooter was up from the City, he came along and so, of course, did Pi doggie. We started out at about 3 pm. The sky was cloudy, but the weather pretty mild. We drove out past the blooming berry vines, ready for spring vistas.

We have had an abundance of rain this winter and spring. This is most appreciated since it follows way too many years of drought. We decided to celebrate Earth Day by going to the tiny town of Marshall on Tomales Bay and having an early dinner at Tony's.


The ride there is through lush countryside, much of it looking like the year could be 1857 or 1917 instead of 2017. Milk cows and beef cattle were seen enjoying the green, green grass. Sheep roamed the hills and valleys. Wildflowers were everywhere.


We stopped at Tony's, but they were closed because of needing repairs from recent storms. So we kept going to Point Reyes Station. We arrived about 4 and dinner started at 5 at most of the restaurants. Walking around town we spotted a feed store that also had a coffee bar, so Sweetie and Straight Shooter had coffee and a cookie. I didn't feel the need of refreshments, so I wandered around. SS pointed out the incubator with little chicks enjoying some feed. So cute!


We also made our way through the place where Cowgirl Creamery make their yummy cheese, inspected some used chippers and stump grinders across the road from there, and let Pi have a walk.

On the way back to the road that would take us to Petaluma, we stopped at the Marconi Conference Center for a look around. It is a lovely place with a variety of rooms for both conferences and just an overnight stay. I took this photo from near the common room which holds lots of Marconi memorabilia. We are looking toward Tomales Bay just south of Marshall.



The drive to Petaluma was glorious! The hills are soft along most of the drive and everything is so green. It reminded me of County Limerick in Ireland, up in the hills, south of the Shannon.


Eventually we made it to Petaluma and then along Stony Point Road to the Washoe House, a roadhouse that has been there since the 1860s, and it became a stop on the stagecoach  routes connecting the towns of Petaluma, Santa Rosa, and Bodega, CA during the 19th century. It was recently purchased by the folks who own the Petaluma Creamery and they have spruced it up some and brought in a chef. The food is quite good, although not fancy. It is also a bar, so try the Irish Coffee if you go there. They do it right. (Photo from Wikipedia)



It was a delightful day and a fun afternoon and early evening. Good to get out and about and to enjoy the spring. Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

An Australian Treat With The Cake Slice Bakers



We always have four choices when the month comes around, but this month there was really only one for me to make. The Japanese Strawberry Shortcake required dairy, the Pistachio Cake was too much like the Banana Loaf from last month, the yogurt cake was too dairy and too plain. Fortunately, the last choice was Lamingtons. Sounds sort of like lambs, right? Well, we have four little black lambs in our pasture, two born just a couple days before Easter, so lambs were on the brain anyway. These, however, are nothing like lambs, they are small packages of deliciousness.


Lamingtons are a traditional Australian treat of sponge cake dipped in a chocolate icing and then coated on all sides with dry coconut. Sweetie and I had some when we visited Australia. It was during one of the few super-tourist things we did in Sydney. We took a boat trip around Sydney harbor, which gave us a lovely view of the Opera House from the water, plus we enjoyed tea and Lamington cakes.

The recipe in our book, World Class Cakes, didn't seem right to me. I checked out a number of different sites online because I really remembered some sort of red jam being part of the treat, but I didn't remember any cream. Turns out that the cream and even jam are not in the best of traditional ways, but can be done for a fancy tea. Since I don't do dairy anymore I left out the cream and used a mixture of seedless raspberry jam and brandy and raspberry brandy to brush on the cut side when I split the sponge cake in two. Sponge cake is pretty plain tasting and can be a bit on the dry side, so the addition of a little sweet liquid is traditional with many European cakes and seemed like a good idea. Cakes sandwiched with jam would probably have slid apart even more than these with just  flavored syrup did.


The sponge cake is another story. The recipe in the World Class Cakes calls for an odd sized pan, so I used David Liebovitz sponge cake recipe, which bakes in a 9-inch square pan. It made a tasty sponge cake with was pretty moist for a sponge. Easy to work with, too. Be sure to either chill or freeze your cake to make it easier to handle.

I did use the delicious icing recipe in our book, but it wasn't terribly helpful since it didn't give the amount of water to add. At first I tried it with a somewhat thick icing but that was terrible (if you look at the back lamington in the group photo below on the cooling rack, you will see the misshapen one that had thick icing). I added some more boiling water and eventually had an icing that was glossy and thick enough. I probably could have added a bit more water, but I was worried about it getting too thin.


I used a whole package of the dry coconut. Even though the final product was delicious and made a great dessert for a dinner party, it was a bit fussy in production, so I probably won't do it again. The most exasperating part was that the top and bottom layer kept sliding apart as I coated the Lamington with the icing. Two forks for both coating and taking the iced cake out while removing excess icing seemed to work well. I also put the icing into two bowls so that I could use one and switch to the other when the first became less than glossy due to lots of cake crumbs.  It was a very messy deal. I can see why Lamingtons have not taken over the world like, say, croissants. Or, maybe, there are folks who enjoy fussy work like this. I bet a ten year old boy would love it! Still, it was fun to try them and these were far tastier than the tourist fare in Sydney.


Lamingtons 
makes 16
Sponge Cake - David Lebowitz
Icing and Coconut - Shannon Bennett from World Class Cakes
Jam Filling - Elle

Sponge Cake
6 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 g)sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups (175 g) cake flour
2 1/2 oz. (70 g) melted butter (I used non-dairy butter), melted and cooled to room temp.

Butter a 9-inch square cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Whip egg and sugar and salt on high in a stand mixer for 5 - 10 minutes until thick and a well-defined ribbon remains on top of the batter when it falls from the beaters. Stir in the vanilla.

Fold the flour into the egg mixture - sift and fold. Fold in the melted butter. Don't overfold. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake about 30 minutes. Cake will pull away from the sides when done. Cool completely.

When cool, unmold onto cutting board. Remove parchment. Trim the ends, then cut into two rectangles. Split horizontally.

Jam 
3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam (or strawberry jam if you prefer)
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons raspberry brandy

Whisk these ingredients together until smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush onto one of the cut sides of the sponge cake, dividing evenly between the two rectangles. Stack the top and bottom of each rectangle together, with the jam coating in the middle. Wrap airtight and freeze overnight or for at least 30 minutes. Cut frozen cake into 16 squares.

Icing and Coconut
2 1/4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
2 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa
boiling water
3 1/3 cups dry unsweetened coconut

Sift and mix the dry ingredients together, then add water while whisking until the desired texture is reached.

Place a wire rack over a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet. Place the coconut in one bowl and divide the icing into two bowls (this way when one bowl gets filled with crumbs, you have a new bowl to ice cakes with). Have two forks handy.

Place a prepared cold Lamington cube into the chocolate batter, making sure all sides are coated. Using the forks, lift the cube from the icing and let extra drip off, (you can help it along near the bottom with a fork). Next dip the cube into a bowl of dry unsweetened coconut. Coat fully, then place on the rack to let the icing harden a bit. Only 15 more to coat...

Serve with a fork. Some raspberries on the side or a puff of whipped cream are nice, too.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Two A Penny...Hot Cross Buns


It's been years since I've baked these seasonal treats, which is a shame since they are so delicious. A fairly rich yeast dough becomes even nicer with the addition of candied orange and lemon peel, currants, and raisins. There are some nice spices, too and shredded fresh lemon zest for zing. I made an icing cross for some of them by mixing a small amount of confectioners sugar and fresh lemon juice in a Ziploc bag, then cutting a tiny bit off the corner for the icing to go through. I made them Wednesday so that I could take some to friends. A gift of some of them to trainers at the gym on Thursday had no cross, but then liturgically, the cross was for Good Friday. Still time to make these for Easter if you start right away, but bake them any time for a nice little sweet roll with dried and candied fruit.

Hot Cross Buns
Makes 16 buns

3/4 cup warm (100° to 110°) whole milk (I used soy)
4 1/2 teaspoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
1 large egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Finely shredded zest of 1 large lemon
About 31/2 cups flour - I used 2 cups bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped candied orange peel(or candied lemon peel or candied citron) or 1/2 cup orange marmalade*
1/4 cup dried currants, plumped with a little boiling water if dry, then drained well
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 teaspoons (about) fresh lemon juice
1 cup powdered sugar

1. In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine milk and yeast; let stand until yeast softens, 5 to 10 minutes. In another bowl, whisk together the whole egg, brown sugar, cooled melted butter, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and orange or lemon zest. Add to the milk/yeast mixture and beat on medium speed with dough hook until blended.

2. Whisk the flours together in a bowl or large measuring cup if using more than one kind. Blend most of the cup flour into the batter. Beat on medium speed until dough is smooth and stretchy, 10 to 12 minutes, using dough hook. Add just enough additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, (about 1/4 cup) so dough is only slightly tacky.

3. Add orange peel and currants and raisins to the dough, pick up dough, and mix with your hands to distribute fruit.(I turned the dough out onto a lightly floured board and kneaded the dough in...that way I was sure that I had the dough well kneaded before adding the fruit and that the fruit was well distributed.)
Return dough to bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

4. Punch down dough. With floured hands, shape into 16 smooth rounds. (With all the fruit added it might be difficult to have a smooth top...just do the best you can.) Evenly space rounds in two buttered 8- or 9-in. square pans.

5. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place until doubled and puffy, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°. Brush buns with beaten egg (egg wash is optional). Bake until deep golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool in pans at least 30 minutes.


6. In a small bowl, stir together juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Spoon into a small, heavy-gauge plastic bag, snip a hole in a corner, and squeeze icing onto buns to form large Xs.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Springs Lambs


No, this isn't about a dish, but about the two newborn lambs in our pasture. They were born this morning and are pretty cute. They join two month old lamb cousins, also black. They are a sure sign of Spring, which is good because our weather is still pretty Sonoma County winter with rain today, tomorrow, and the next day. Pretty windy, too. Still, with new life comes the hope that one day soon we will be able to have breakfast on the porch...in the sun.