Two years blogging!

This was a perfect day for baking.  The weather was downright chilly after a week of sweltering heat. I had printed this recipe earlier in the month and this was the day to use it. So for the anniversary blog I have made the July Bake Along Recipe from King Arthur Flour: Blueberry Hand Pies. Now I have made hand pies before: Pork Pies. But this is summer and the berries are in season and blueberry pie is so good! I had anticipated changing the recipe when I got down to making these, but I followed it exactly! That’s probably a first. I had recently bought some tart pans and thought I would make these into individual tarts and I was even thinking of making my own standard pie dough or using store bought: oh my!

I gathered the ingredients for the pastry and got out my food processor with its brand new blade that I waited 6 months for Cuisinart to replace for safety reasons. This is the part of the recipe that I did not follow. The food processor makes making pie dough simple. I never liked making it by hand.

PASTRY

  • 2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour; I had exactly two cups; I thought I might have had to use some whole wheat pastry flour, but I had just enough.
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (16 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cold sour cream

I pulsed the dry ingredients and then added the butter and finally the sour cream. It does come together in clumps as described in the recipe. When I dumped that onto my lightly floured board and read the description of rolling this out, it dawned on me that this is a puff pastry. Most likely a rough-puff as it only has two turns: rolling out, folding over, rolling out again, repeat, fold over, and chill for 30 minutes. My cutting board block is marked in two inch squares so I measured it to the 8×10 inches both times.

FILLING

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt (a large pinch)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Rinse berries and put in saucepan. Mix the dry ingredients and pour over. Add the lemon juice and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. My filling began to thicken in about 3 minutes over medium-hot heat so that is how long I cooked it. I don’t usually cook the blueberries before putting in pie. But this does help hold the filling together for the small squares of pastry. Let cool. I let the filling cool but not quite to room temperature. And I have leftover filling. This could be good on pancakes or to top ice cream. I will use it to top Brie cheese!

Preheat oven to 425 F and get that pastry out of the fridge and get ready to roll!

Here again I found the markings on my cutting board block helpful. Roll the pastry into a 14 inch square. Then cut it into sixteen 3 1/2 inch squares. My squares were not squared completely nor were they cut to the exact size. Put a heaping tablespoon or two on eight of the squares. Brush the edges with beaten egg. Oh yeah, make a vent in the other eight squares. Then put together and press the edges with the tines of a fork. Brush the rest of the egg yolk on the tops and sprinkle with sugar. And they are ready for the oven.

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Looking good so far…

Bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly browned. When I took these out I was in awe…

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And they taste great. I am not sure how to share this with the King Arthur website for the bake-along so I will be content sharing it with you who read this.

Many blessings to all!

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What’s new in my kitchen?

The first answer that comes to mind is “nothing much”. But there is a new green bucket for compost. I have subscribed to a composting service called blue earth. This is not a paid endorsement just my newest little way of saving the planet. And we earn dirt! I would post a picture but it just looks like food scraps.

Next, I found Keurig cups that are completely compostible: Chock Full O’ Nuts. Oh, and the Keurig is also new in my kitchen. Hubby and I were drinking less coffee even though brewing a pot full each morning. This way we control the amount of coffee used and drunk.

I have not been doing much baking or innovative cooking. My creative juices seem to have dried up. Cooking dinners of meat and vegetable and sometimes rice or potatoes. No recipes required. I see recipes that I think are interesting but have not gotten around to it.

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So tonight’s dinner is soup and bread. The soup is a mix from King Arthur Flour. In fact I got my purchases in the mail today. Contrary to my nature, I ordered several mixes from them. I do not usually buy mixes or from on-line but took a survey and got a coupon. My math skills being a little rusty had the idea that 10% would be $10 but is really only $5 on $50 worth of items. Oh well.

Soup is for supper even though I had thought about barbecue chicken pizza. On Facebook I saw a video on how to make a stuffed crust pizza in a cast iron skillet. I love my cast iron skillet and I have four pieces of barbecue chicken hanging about in my refrigerator. There’s also three pieces of Popeye’s chicken in there.  But there is a nice loaf of artisan bakery bread that needs to be eaten. The soup is farmhouse vegetable and I used chicken stock. Hubby will eat a couple pieces of chicken anyway. And this dreary New England day is a perfect one for soup. I will need to steer Hubby away from the BBQ chicken so I can make that pizza tomorrow night, or Saturday, or maybe someday in the future!

So here is my three ingredient supper!

 

The Great Brownie Chase…

Back in 1999 I tried a bunch of brownie recipes on my teenagers and their friends. Over 6 months the winning brownie came out of a box. And it did not matter much which brand.

Well, I want to change that outcome so I am trying out brownie recipes on my coworkers. The biggest drawback is that brownies generally get rave reviews just for showing up and just for being chocolate.

For a two week trial so far, here is what I have done. I chose a Quick & Easy Fudge Brownies recipe from the back of a King Arthur flour bag. I clipped this and stuck it on my kitchen counter. I am not sure if I made this one before or a different KAF recipe. I have written about brownies twice before, here and here. But my endeavor here is to find a go-to recipe that gets high ratings from a variety of people. And because I am a social scientist I have a three point Likert scale for tasters to rate each brownie.

I virtually made the same recipe for both weeks. There are technical differences but I think this makes a big difference. Here is the basic recipe:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

KAF’s instructions are to put the ingredients in a large bowl in the order listed and beat until the mixture is smooth. Bake in a 913-inch pan for 25-30 minutes at 375 F.

Being the baker that I am I did not exactly follow the above, but almost. I accidentally used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa in the first batch. Also in the first batch, I used 4 egg whites (because I had these in need of use) and one whole egg. I used Whole Wheat Pastry Flour both weeks. The second week I used regular cocoa powder and three whole eggs. I melted the butter in the bowl, sifted the dry ingredients together, then added all the ingredients and mixed until smooth.

I had my coworkers rate these on three aspects: appearance, texture, and taste. I am sure there is some skewing of the results based on the time between samples. But, too bad!

The first was the Special Dark cocoa brownies. The sample size was n=12. The second week sample size was n=8. And the winner is…

I think these results show that Special Dark Cocoa should not be used in brownies. It is most likely best suited for dark and rich chocolate cakes. The medical student at work with a discerning palette picked up on the difference in moistness between the two which is the result of the egg whites vs. whole eggs. There was another coworker who verbally gave me her results so the second week is really a sample of 9. Three people who compared the two weeks all said the second week was better.

So don’t mess with the cocoa or the eggs! Whole wheat pastry flour works just as well as the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe. So we could say this is a healthy brownie, LOL! This is a simple enough recipe and makes a 9 x 13 pan so it could easily be a go-to recipe. Maybe I’ll try out recipes using baking chocolate next.

 

Dark. Chocolate. Eclairs.

Dark: this is the glaze on top.

Chocolate: this is the filling.

Eclairs: this is choux pastry.

Oh my! This is chocolate. For some reason I did not think that the pastry cream would be that chocolate-y. Sometimes my brain does not seem to process the information as well. Or I imagine it to be one thing and go with that thought!  After all the pastry cream has two types of chocolate in it! I think I looked at the picture and imagined the pastry as the filling. As I was making these I was debating as to whether or not to include the chocolate glaze on top. These deserve to be eaten with a cold glass of milk.

I decided to make the King Arthur Flour February bakealong recipe.Here is the link, February: dark chocolate eclairs.

Their recipe said to pipe these into 5 inch strips and it would make 12-18 eclairs. Well, I piped into 5 inch strips, had to pipe a strip along side to use up all the pastry, and this made 24 for me. The whole in my pastry bag could have been bigger.

20170220_191714873_iosEasy choux pastry: 1 cup water, 1/2 cup butter, 3/8 teaspoon salt, 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour, 4 large eggs; bring water, butter, and salt to boil. Add flour and stir until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time until smooth. KAF instructs to let the flour mix cool for 5-10 minutes before adding the eggs. Pipe this mixture out into 5 inch logs on parchment paper. This will take two baking sheets. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes; lower the temp to 350 and bake for an additional 25 minutes. KAF then instructs to cut small slit in tops and return to oven for 5 minutes to let steam escape. Well mine did not have any escaping steam so I skipped this step. Let cool slightly and then slice in half to cool completely.

20170220_195654520_iosMeanwhile make the pastry cream. This should be made first, actually, so that it cools. 1/2 cup sugar, 5 tablespoons cornstarch, 4 large egg yolks, 2 cups whole milk, 1/2  cocoa powder, 1/3 cup chopped unsweetened baking chocolate, and 1 tablespoon butter.Bring milk and cocoa to simmer. Combine sugar and cornstarch and whisk in the egg yolks. Pour some of the hot chocolate mixture into the yolks and then return to the pan and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add butter and chopped chocolate and stir until smooth. Transfer this to a bowl, bring to room temperature, and refrigerate for about two hours. I was impatient and began assembly prior to the two hours.

Make the glaze with 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate (I used chips), 1 12 teaspoon light corn syrup (this is to make it shine), and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Bring the cream to just simmer and pour it over the first two ingredients. I just put all three in my sauce pan and brought to just boil, and then stirred until smooth. I forgot to read the instructions clearly! It worked out fine.

And the final product is….

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So I now have to decide if I will assemble all of them and refrigerate them “ready to eat” or assemble them “as needed”. Hmmmm?

Thoughts from my kitchen: this is a rich pastry cream filling. It is not pudding or whipped cream. To make these “lighter” one could use a favorite pudding or mousse. I think my Betty Crocker Cookbook has a choux pastry recipe that makes less so that would be better for just the two of us here at home. And for quick and easy just use whipped cream or a pudding mix. Jello brand is making a simple mix with no artificial flavors and preservatives now. But you must absolutely use cow’s milk and not nut milks for that mix.

 

 

Pound Cake for the New Year: everything is better with cake!

 

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Hubby’s favorite cake is pound cake.I wanted to bake something. We ran our Saturday morning errands, spent a bit of money on pet food, took the dog to a play date at the local dog park, and came home. We will not go out this New Year’s Eve. But I will bake a cake.

The latest King Arthur Flour’s sales flyer has a recipe: King Arthur Flour’s Original Pound Cake. (They probably have it on their website as well, but I did not look for it.) Heat oven to 350 F and grease or cooking spray your Bundt pan.

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar; I use the organic fair trade sugar from Aldi which has a slight caramel color
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

Beat butter until very light. I softened my butter by putting it in a bowl and in the microwave for 30 seconds. I know this is a cake-baking “no, no”. But that is what I did. Then gradually add the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time.

  • 2 cups flour; with all respect I changed this up to 1 cup all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour; we had just been talking about adding fiber to our diet. I did notice that the high end pet food we bought features “no grain”
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Sift or whisk these ingredients in a separate bowl.

  • 1/2 cup milk; I did not want to use almond milk so I used 1/4 cup half-and -half diluted with water to make 1/2 cup.
  • 1 Tablespoon your choice liquor such as brandy, sherry, rum; (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Hubby brought home a bottle of Jim Beam maple bourbon, pure Kentucky whisky! I am not much for the drinking of spirits but this has been an exception! Just a finger of this to sip on while watching some good, some bad, TV…yum! But nights kept awake with heartburn (both of us) made us put this back on the shelf. But it sounded like the perfect “liquor of my choice” for the pound cake.

Whisk these three ingredients together in a small bowl. Alternately add the wet and dry ingredients to the egg/sugar/butter mixture, stirring after each addition. End with the flour. Well I stirred quite a bit with the “stir” setting on the KitchenAid. Pour into the prepared pan smoothing the top. Bake 60-65 minutes. You can tent with foil for the last bit of baking if you think it is browning too fast.

Remove cake from oven and loosen the sides. Wait five minutes and turn out onto rack to cool. The recipe says to wrap in plastic wrap and store for a day or two before serving. I’m not doing that! Why bake a cake if you are not going to eat it?

Now my cake does not look as pretty as the one in the KAF flyer. I decide to add a glaze using maple syrup and the bourbon. This is an adaptation of a glaze for the cake I made in September. Take one tablespoon of butter, 1/8 cup bourbon, and 1/8 cup maple syrup and bring to boil. Keep boiling for 5-8 minutes until reduced to syrup consistency. Brush this over the warm cake.

We did not wait for the cake to cool completely before having a taste. I whipped up some cream with a touch of maple syrup for the topping. Delish!

Happy and blessed new year to all. Thanks for reading my food rantings this past year. I plan to keep them coming: I hope you do too! And may God bless us, everyone.

Thoughts from my Kitchen

I had a fabulous baking weekend. Well, on Saturday I roasted a big chicken, with Mediterranean vegetables. Yum! I was so tired after winterizing the trailer which included arguing about how to drain all the plumbing properly and running off to the store to buy more RV/Marine antifreeze to be effective that I did not want to make anything else. Wow! That is a run-on sentence if I ever wrote one! As I write this we are waiting for all the little goblins and ghouls to show up to beg for the $20 worth of candies I bought. Then I will turn off the porch light and relax.

After a tiring first half of the weekend I set to work in the kitchen. First I did a bit of cleaning and then got out the sourdough starter to make rolls. I used a recipe that looked good and as luck would have it I had powdered milk and potato flour. If you don’t have these ingredients there are plenty of other sourdough bread and rolls recipes. I had fed the starter the day before so I figured it would be just fine. I let it set out for the entire morning of the day I made the dough: sourdough dinner rolls from King Arthur Flour. This makes two pans of eight. Here is the one for the future!

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I have found the chocolate cake recipe that bests the  Best Ever Chocolate Cake. I hang my head in shame as I write these words. I had to look again and again at the ingredient list to note the differences.Best Ever uses 1/2 cup more flour and twice the baking soda. I looked into the explanation of using baking soda in cakes in the book BakeWise by Shirley Corriher. She explains that 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda is sufficient for each cup of flour. The new best chocolate cake recipe rises nicely and even has better body than Best Ever.

So what is this rogue recipe that has come to shake up my baking world? It is basically King Arthur Flour’s version of Texas Sheet Cake baked in a 9 x 13 pan. I found this in their sales catalog/flyer that arrives by the post ever so often: King Arthur Flours Favorite Fudge Cake. And its not just because of the fudge frosting, although that makes it awesome!

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I actually followed both of the recipes exactly although I don’t always use KAF products.

I am not advertising for them; I just recently got their flyer and was organizing recipes for my recipe notebooks. And these were two of the ones I had marked to try.

 

Maple Pound Cake

I have been baking, and cooking, just not writing! We got a late start on camping this summer so are trying to make up with the weekends that are remaining through October. There’s something about camping that makes sitting around doing nothing very productive. This is compared to sitting around at home doing nothing which is just plain laziness.

I am back to using King Arthur Flour recipes. I have not yet taken up their current bake-along challenge but may do so in the future.The catalog flyer they send each month has a few recipes in it along with the promotions of their products for sale. This latest had a Maple Pound Cake with Maple-Rum Glaze recipe which looked and sounded tasty and seasonal. It is definitely fall in New England and the Sugar houses will be full of maple syrup soon. Here is the link to the recipe on their website. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/maple-pound-cake-with-maple-rum-glaze-recipe

I followed the recipe almost exactly because that is just the kind of baker I am! Mise en place is essential for baking and I failed to pay attention to the recipe and what ingredients I had in the house. What type of baker runs out of butter! I had only some butter so I substituted coconut oil. This was solidified being less than 70 degrees F in my pantry. I also made my own cake flour using the directions from Mark Bittman’s book How To Cook Everything.

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour whisked with 1/4 cup cornstarch (OR 2 cups cake flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons coconut oil and 2 tablespoons butter (OR 3/4 cup butter, softened)
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup dark maple syrup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the recipe also calls for 1/4 teaspoon maple flavor but this I do not have)

Sift the first four dry ingredients in a bowl. Cream the coconut oil/butter with the brown sugar in separate bowl. To this add and beat eggs one at a time and then add the maple syrup. Now add half the flour mixture followed by the sour cream and vanilla. Then add the remaining flour. Mix just until combined.

You will have preheated the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly greased a 9-10 cup bundt pan. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes until cake test done. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then turn out on a cake plate. My cake did not come out cleanly. I had to patch some of the pieces of the top (or bottom, depending on your perspective) of the cake back to the cake like a puzzle. Luckily this does not affect the taste. No Star Baker for me though!

While the cake is baking, or actually when you pull it out of the oven, make the glaze by combining 2 tablespoons butter (I found a partial stick of butter in the camping butter container), 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 1/4 cup rum (or water) in a saucepan. Bring this to a rolling boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 5-8 minutes until thickens to a syrupy consistency. I forgot to check the consistency and just simmered it for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over the warm cake.

The directions say to let the cake cool completely before serving. What? Why?

I let it cool just a bit while finishing an episode of the current Binge Watch on Amazon!

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This is a flavorful and moist cake. Hubby asked for a piece to put in his lunch the next day. This recipe is a definite keeper. Ice cream or real whipped cream could be added but is not necessary.