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.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Spanish Chicken With Memories


One of my favorite casserole dishes from when I was growing up is Arroz con Pollo, or Spanish Chicken with Rice. It includes things my mom didn't use very often together, like saffron and sherry. This is a mellow dish with browned chicken (I used boneless, skinless thighs even though the original recipe calls for whole cut up chicken, with bones and skin), garlic and onion, peppers, tomatoes and rice, bay leaf and cloves and paprika, and the saffron and sherry, too. The finished dish is garnished with green peas, so it is a whole meal in one dish and once the chicken is browned, the rest goes pretty quickly. I made mine a day early so that the flavors would mingle. Because I was unexpectedly out of yellow onions, I used a red onion...worked beautifully. I was also out of sherry and used Port instead. That seemed to be emblematic of this cooking spree.

So if you need a blast from the past, or just a delicious, filling, fairly healthy but still slightly exotic flavorings, give this a try. The leftover are even better than the fresh dish, too, so be sure to make the whole recipe. I left off the pimento because I forgot to buy some, but if you have it, it adds greatly to the dish, both in flavor and color. Since I used red bell pepper instead of green bell pepper, that brought a bit of the flavor and color to mine, but not as much as the pimento. Give this one a try. It is well worth your time. We had the leftovers tonight and they were so good that I neglected to take a nice photo. What you have above is what was on the plate when I remembered. *Grin*

Arroz con Pollo (Spanish Chicken and Rice)

1 frying chicken (about 2½ lbs. ) cut up
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 can peeled tomatoes (19 oz.)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
1 cup water
1-2 bay leaves
1/3 cup dry sherry (I used dry Port...out of sherry)
1 pinch Spanish saffron
2 whole cloves
1 cup long grain white rice, uncooked
1 cup peas, cooked and hot
1 pimento, cut up

Dry chicken pieces. If desired, season chicken with salt. Brown in hot oil. Add onion, garlic, and green pepper; brown 5 minutes longer. Add remaining ingredients, except for rice, peas, and pimento. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add rice. Bring to a boil, stir; cover and
simmer for 30 minutes. Garnish with peas and pimento. Serves 6 - 8.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Cinnamon Raisin Struan Round-Up

The March Bread Baking Babes bread was Cinnamon Raisin Struan Bread from Brother Juniper's Sacramental Magic in a Small Town Cafe. (Brother Juniper is Peter Reinhart.)

We had three intrepid bakers join us as Buddies and each of their breads was different, but wonderful!


Gilad Ayalon of Gilad Ayalon Vegan mostly used the given ingredients but used a Tartine method of folding and made a beautiful loaf with marbled cinnamon and dots of raisins and a great crust. She said, "I changed the recipe and the sequence, but tried to keep the percentage between the flour and the other grains. The sequence is my modification to the Tartine’s bread sequence (A lot of kneading instead of the autolyze phase)."


Marcin from Poland, of Grahamka made a sourdough version. It "was made on real polish sourdough from wholemeal rye flour, which is a base for dark wholemeal bread and for the most famous Polish soup."


Shirley of Flour.ish.en Test Kitchen made the Struan bread using sprouted flour from King Arthur Flour. It opens up a whole other level of bread baking!

Thanks to Gilad, Marcin and Shirley for being stellar Buddies and pushing the envelope of this mixed-grain bread.