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July 26, 2010 in desserts, notfood3 comments

back from hiatus

blueberries and cream

Looks like I fell off the edge of the world for a while there. It was an unplanned hiatus, brought on by minor crises and busy-ness. Here’s the tale, and a “recipe” for blueberries and cream.

Mainly it was the June Dental Crisis

For months I’d been having problems with “sinus infections” and tooth sensitivity and swelling/pain in my upper left jaw. “Sinus infections” is in quotes because I thought they were at the time; now I’m fairly certain some of them were caused by the tooth and not the other way around (“Your tooth hurts? Oh, that must be from a sinus infection”). Read more on back from hiatus…

April 18, 2011 in desserts, vegetarian8 comments

Birthday Beignets, Anyone? A Whole Wheat Beignet Recipe

beignets3.jpg

Sugar beets are a communal crop. It’s rare for one farmer to have both the specialized harvesting equipment and the manpower required to harvest all of his sugar beets by himself. It’s also a busy crop: as the beets are pulled from the ground by the mechanical harvester they are dumped into a truck driven alongside it in the field, and they need to be driven to the sugar plant ASAP. As a result, several farmers work together in the fall to get everyone’s sugar beet crop in on time. Read more on Birthday Beignets, Anyone? A Whole Wheat Beignet Recipe…

October 21, 2009 in 100 calorie snack, desserts2 comments

caramelized Italian plums

italian prune plums, halved

Here’s a great way to use up Italian prune plums you may have lingering in the fridge. Sweetened just a bit and roasted in the oven, their flavor is intensified, and the plums create a rich, tart sauce. Caramelized Italian plums make a great topping — spoon them on ice cream, pound cake, or rice pudding. Read more on caramelized Italian plums…

August 4, 2009 in desserts, PIE4 comments

currant chiffon pie

currant chiffon pie

Oh man. You have to try this. Currant chiffon pie. If you don’t have currants, sub another juice like lemon, orange, or grape or raspberry or…anything. Just make this pie, once in your life. It’s creamy, fluffy, melty, and tart, the perfect foil for a flaky pastry crust or graham cracker crust.

Seriously. Dude. Eat this pie and die happy.

currant chiffon pie, in the pan

This pie will drive you to eat when you’re not hungry. One slice is good, two better, three divine. Consume only in public or with other safeguards nearby.

reverse engineering a mid-twentieth century recipe

Grandma (Dad’s mom) used to make this currant pie, in a convenience-food version using lemon Jell-O and Dream Whip. I wanted to recreate it using less-processed foods, and it was a bit of a challenge at first.

First, we always called it currant cream pie.

Reseaching cream pies on the internet taught me three things:

1. Always turn on SafeSearch when googling phrases like “cream pie.” I cannot emphasize this enough.

2. It wasn’t a cream pie. It was a chiffon pie.

currant-gelatin mixture, ready for the fridge

3. No currant juice-specific pie recipes exist anywhere on the intertubes. They all used whole berries. Which didn’t make sense to me, as currants have nasty raspberry-like seeds. And you know what I think of those.

I turned to a cookbook I always seem to forget about: the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. It’s not trendy, vegetarian, whole grain, or frou frou, so it languishes on the shelf. What it does have, however, is basic recipes for everything, in spades. And it had a few chiffon pie recipes. The ones closest to my needs were a lemon chiffon pie and an orange chiffon pie.

The first currant chiffon pie. It looks much like the second one, except the second didn't last long enough to get a whole-pie pic

Currants are not as tart as lemons, nor as sweet as orange juice, so I had to play with the sugar amounts a bit. The recipes also differed in that one called for 4 eggs, one for 3. So I did a trial run, with 4 eggs and a cup of sugar. It filled a 10-inch pie plate to the brim, but was a bit sweet and a bit eggy.

So I tried again, with the result here, using 3 eggs and 3/4 cup sugar. Dad and I agreed you could cut another 1/8 to 1/4 cup of sugar for more tartness.

on the bright side, you’ll master beating egg whites and whipping cream

The dry ingredients for currant chiffon pie.

Chiffon pies rely on gelatin for stability…

Beaten egg whites for the currant chiffon pie, ready to be folded in

Whipped cream for currant chiffon pie, ready to be folded into the currant-gelatin-egg whites mixture

…and most add some Look! The egg whites are folded in!

In this recipe you’ll do all those, plus Read more on currant chiffon pie…

currant sorbet

currant sorbet

Check out this awesome bowl Dad found under the house.

Under the house, you say? Why yes, under the house. Why do you ask?

Oh, you didn’t know. My house got a new foundation this spring.

Wow, those plum blossoms in the background sure look pretty.

So yesterday Dad, his cousin, and the guy who works with him were putting new beams under the house. At one point I was out in garden, valiantly hacking at the giant weeds with a hoe, when Dad called out, “Amy…I found something for you!”

the moat and gangplank, er, the foundation

Great, I said to myself. Probably a burlap sack he wants me to turn into a dress. Sorry, family joke.

It was actually the little white bowl above, caked in dirt. It had no chips and cleaned up nicely.

get to the currant sorbet already

Isn’t that currant sorbet a lovely shade of pink? It’s super refreshing on a hot summer day, and a whiff of summer in the dead of winter. If you can get your hands on some red currants, make some currant juice and get this sorbet into your freezer posthaste.

The inherent sweetness of the berries can vary. The main liquid/sweetening agent in this sorbet is a simple syrup. Simple syrup is traditionally just a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar, heated until it forms a clear liquid. In fact, simple syrup can be used in all sorts of sorbets. If you find the sorbet a little tart, try increasing the simple syrup to 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Read more on currant sorbet…

daring bakers: nanaimo bars

nanaimo bars stacked

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca. Recipes for whole wheat graham crackers and Nanaimo bars at the end of the post.

Read more on daring bakers: nanaimo bars…

May 28, 2010 in daring bakers, desserts4 comments

daring bakers: piece montée, or croquembouche

the small piece montee / croquembouche

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

I’m going to suck it up and pick one name to stick with for this post…so croquembouche it is. I like the sound of it and how it rolls off the tongue. Try it yourself: CROAK-EM-BOOSH. Isn’t that fun? “Piece montée,” on the other hand, means “mounted piece.” So you can see that, clearly, “croquembouche” is the superior term. Read more on daring bakers: piece montée, or croquembouche…

February 28, 2010 in daring bakers, desserts5 comments

daring bakers: tiramisu!

the whole tiramisu, daring bakers feb. 2010

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Boy was I excited earlier this month to find that February’s Daring Bakers challenge would be tiramisu. It’s a dessert I’ve always enjoyed in restaurants — that is, when I’ve had room…and who ever has room? Mom and I agree that one day we should order dessert first, and then if we’re still hungry get something after. Who says dessert has to be last, anyway? Read more on daring bakers: tiramisu!…

February 13, 2012 in cake, desserts4 comments

Fairytale Gingerbread Cake

fairytale gingerbread cake

When I told Mom I was thinking of making gingerbread cake, she told me she wasn’t a fan. Which didn’t surprise me a bit. She’s very spice-averse, particularly the warm spices: cloves, nutmeg, ginger. (However, she doesn’t realize that in the past several years she’s become much more tolerant of them. Don’t tell her I told you!)

Then Mom said something that set off happy little bells in my head.

“My mom used to make gingerbread and it was the best thing ever with canned peaches and whipped cream on top.”

Speak of the fruit-devil! I had just opened up a jar of peaches the other day and they had me hooked. They have me hooked. We’d just canned peaches again last summer and I vowed to actually eat them this winter. Damn, nothing better than home-canned peaches in February.

Now, toss those luscious, home-canned peaches atop moist, whole-grain gingerbread? Spray some fun canned whip cream on top?

Where do I sign up? Oh, that’s right. Here! Read more on Fairytale Gingerbread Cake…

November 29, 2009 in 24x24, desserts, vegetarian15 comments

foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: girly cousins baking day! making grandma’s old world pastries

many miloste mingling merrily

Weddings. Baby showers. Christmas.

These are the some of the family gatherings where miloste, a Bohemian fried pastry, graced the banquet tables and spreads. Don’t bother googling; “miloste” is a phonetic spelling. We have no idea what the “real” name for these treats is. Hell, we usually call them “those fried things with beer in them and powdered sugar on top.” Read more on foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: girly cousins baking day! making grandma’s old world pastries…

fresh blueberry pie

i had to rip this out of someone's hands to get a pic before the whole pie was gone

Blueberry pie ranks right up there. Number two after sour cherry pie, for sure. I’d always had blueberry pie that was baked, but the blueberries this year are so fabulous — large, and the perfect sweet-tart combination — that I wanted to do one that was more strawberry pie-style.

the blueberry and cornstarch mixture just as it begins to cook

In other words, blueberries mixed with a thickening agent and set inside a prebaked shell of some sort. So the flavor of the fresh berries would burst through.

the cooked and thickened blueberry mixture. time to add in the fresh ones!

KAF came through! That’s the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book. Remember that, because I’m not going to repeat it.

cool, we've dumped in the fresh blueberries!

The original recipe in KAF called for 1 cup of sugar. Based on scientific evidence — Mom had just made a fresh blueberry pie using another recipe calling for 3/4 cup sugar and turns out is was JUST. TOO. SWEET. — I cut it to 1/4 cup. I don’t know why you’d want more, unless you’re some kind of stereotypical sugar-loving animal whose name escapes me at the moment. Plus if you use the walnut-oat crust, you’re getting some more sugar there. Read more on fresh blueberry pie…

german chocolate cake with coconut-pecan frosting

a wee slice of German chocolate cake

Today is Mom’s birthday. Go Mom! I won’t tell you which birthday it is, since she’s a tad shy about that. I’m just gonna say she had me when she was very very young. Nearly criminally young. Not that she’s a criminal. I don’t think.

Got anything to confess, Mom?

Grandma used to make this, her favorite cake, for her on her birthday. Which was pretty nice of her considering she wasn’t her mom, but her mother-in-law.

german chocolate cake

Naturally I assumed it was some secret family recipe, scrawled in chickenscratch cursive on a spattered and yellowed recipe card. Lovingly tucked into a battered tin box. Like something in a soft-focus “Mom, what do you do on those not so fresh days?” commercial.

I asked Mom the other day where to find the recipe.

“It’s on the back of the Baker’s Sweet Chocolate box,” she said.

Oh. Okay, then.

the cake is a lie

It’s not handed down from German immigrants. It’s named after the guy who owned the Baker’s chocolate company. His last name was German. No, it wasn’t German. It was German. As in Bob German. Or Phil German.

I know. It’s confusing. Have some cake; you’ll feel better. And for gods’ sake, whatever you do, do not read the nutrition information at the bottom of the recipe. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

egg whites: soft peaks v. stiff peaks

And the recipe was invented by a homemaker in 1957 and published in a Dallas newspaper. The rest, as they say, is history.

I’m going to keep calling it “German chocolate cake” though. It just makes life easier.

the cake is real. ta da.

Ta da. German chocolate cake

It turned out really well. I used pecans Aunt Geri sent as packing material in the gift box a couple Christmases back. Pretty handy having relatives with pecan trees.

Mom and Sis said it was as good as Grandma made it. It’s a pretty sweet cake, not in the cool sense but in the omg diabetic coma sense. I made it as written, because for some reason my white whole wheat flour, which is my go-to flour for quick substitution, tastes stale. I think it came that way, because I got it into the freezer the moment I brought it home.

So what we have here is a very moist cake made with 4 ounces of sweet German chocolate. It’s a bit labor intensive what with the beating of the egg whites and stuff, but that’s what keeps it light as well. It’s not dense-feeling at all.

buttermilk, pecans, and flour/soda/salt

The frosting is sheer decadence. Four egg yolks, butter, sugar, evaporated milk, sweetened coconut, and chopped toasted pecans. I mean shit, this cake has everything.

Look. You don’t frost the sides. You’re not supposed to frost the sides on this cake. Trust me. You’ve had enough sugar already. I don’t need you bouncing off the walls even more. Read more on german chocolate cake with coconut-pecan frosting…

December 25, 2012 in cake, desserts, holidayno comments yet

Merry Christmas, everyone

Second Empire house from The Gingerbread Architect

And peace on earth.

Back of Second Empire house from The Gingerbread Architect

And good will towards everyone.

Penguins made from sugar paste, 100% edible

Including penguins.

Maggie aka Godzilla

And radioactive monster children.

Sugar penguin just chilling on a melted hard candy lake.

But especially penguins.

Recipe did NOT specify enough shingles. Bad recipe!

Merry Christmas, my little monsters and penguins.

mini palmiers: what to do with leftover puff pastry

mini palmiers

Here’s one amazing thing to do with leftover scraps of puff pastry: make mini palmiers. A good idea for snacks for a crowd. They’ll go fast, though!

Warning: drunken post ahead

My cousin Tone is in town, and he brought a big ass RV and several other modes of transportation with him. I countted five: the RV, the pickup, motorcycle, 4-wheeler and…kayak.

He’s set up house across the driveway. Yay.

He’s from Texas, like his mom —my aunt — who paradoxically was originally from right here. Like, right in this house. The oldest of my paternal triumvirant, Geriann, is his mom, and okay, this is getting both involved and a bit pedantic.

obliterating my ass at 500 rummy

He came over tonight and we played 500 rummy. Four times. He completely, totally obliterated my ass the first two times. He played it a bit gin rummy style, holding things back to kick my ass, playing mind games, and so forth.

I fixed that right quick

no, mini palmiers are not eyeglasses

Here, have some Wal-Mart wine, Tone.

Did you know that Wal-Mart, like Trader Joe’s, has a house brand of wine that will blow you away? In fact, I think the Wal-Mart brand is even better. It must be, because I’m having to spell-check this very carefully, and I don’t get this buzzed unless the alcohol is very good.

Wal-Mart markets two (at least) wonderful varieties under the Oak Leaf label: cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. Since I’m partial to reds, I buy the cabernet quite often. It used to be $2.97, and therefore comparable to two-buck chuck. I think it’s better. They just raised it — today— to $3.49, but I still think it’s a steal.

And I’m not some rube. I’ve had some very good wines in my day. This compares.

The first two games of rummy he smoked my ass. However, he was drinking this lovely cabernet the whole time, and by the third game I was able to smoke him, 605 to 390. Yay! I have to say he was a good foil; I’d never played 500 rummy with someone who played so strategically.

And man that was hard to spell.

Ultimately, we went through 2 and a half bottles of Wal-Mart cabernet. He is going to go buy more tomorrow if he knows what is good for him.

remnants of the pink brandywine

As for snacks, we began by stabbing, literally, at a pink brandywine. My tomatoes just succumbed to late blight, and I’m pulling all the tomatoes off the vines. It is very sad, and let us all share a moment of silence for them. He loved it; it was nearly as flavorful as my previous crop of pink brandywines, which means very smoky and rich.

the mini palmiers are almost gone, AND I'M WINNING

A bit afterwards, in the third game actually — coincidentally, the one where I smoked him — he got peckish again. The cad.

how dare he get peckish

I had a smallish pat of scraps of homemade puff pastry in the fridge, and I whipped it out, sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on it, and made a bit over a dozen mini palmiers from it.

He snarfed them.

Granted, anything puff pastry is going to be melt-in-your-mouth delicious, but include cinnamon sugar and you have little bursts of melty spiciness.

yay, he's totally drunk and snarfing mini palmiers

P.S. Did I mention I won the third game? Yeah, the one where the mini palmiers came out.

Song for this recipe: Carrion by British Sea Power. Read more on mini palmiers: what to do with leftover puff pastry…

June 18, 2009 in cake, desserts, vegetarian2 comments

strawberry buttermilk shortcake

strawberry buttermilk shortcake

Strawberry season is full-bore, yay! We don’t grow them in our garden, though my grandma used to. Sis has a patch in her garden, though. The only thing fun about picking strawberries is popping them in your mouth while you do it. Otherwise it’s hunched-over, hunt-and-peck labor.

So we order them from a local grower. How do we know when they’re ready? When the ad appears in the local weekly announcing they are taking orders. Then I wind up with 4, 8, 16 quarts or more and knowing what I’ll be doing with some but not all.

And the first thing that gets done with them is to make strawberry shortcake. The recipe is from my dad’s mom, though I can’t guarantee old-world charm: It wasn’t until I was grown up that I discovered their special chocolate chip cookie recipe was the same as the one on the Toll House chocolate chip bag.

It’s a biscuit-like cake, not a sweet, spongy one. Those discs you see in the grocery store? Pure heresy. If you’ve never had a biscuit-like shortcake, you have to try this one. The combination of the barely-sweet buttermilk-scented crumbly cake with sweetened strawberries and whipped cream is to die for. Read more on strawberry buttermilk shortcake…

August 23, 2009 in desserts, gluten-free, PIE, vegetarian23 comments

walnut-oat pie crust

mmm, gluten-free walnut-oat pie or tart crust, ready for your abuse

Now there’s a mouthful. Know why? Because it’s so versatile. It works for the gluten-free folks. It works for the pie folks. It works for the tart folks. It works for the don’t-make-me-get-out-the-rolling-pin folks.

Even better, this walnut-oat pie crust recipe is just a prelude to the fresh blueberry pie I made it with, coming up soon. Thought I’d get you going with this amazing crust first, because it will work with more than just blueberry pies. It’ll work with cheesecake, other pies, all sorts of tarts.

And it’s press-in-the-pan easy. Read more on walnut-oat pie crust…

January 24, 2010 in 24x24, appetizers, desserts, vegan, vegetarian5 comments

We love seaweed, yes we do

This was maybe 1/3 of the sushi we made

We love seaweed, how about you?

People were confused when I told them my aunt Linda and I would be making sushi for January’s 24, 24, 24 event. “Isn’t that raw fish?” they asked, knowing I’m not a huge fan of animal foods. Technically, sushi is rice that’s been specially prepared with vinegar and a little sugar, and topped with or rolled with…something.

nigiri sushi of brown rice with carrot on top, and pickled beet

It could be a shaped piece of rice with a slice of lightly steamed bias-cut carrot on top, tied with a scallion. This is nigiri sushi.

futo maki (big roll) of brown rice sushi with crab, scallion, tamago, and cucumber

It could be a fat roll of rice bound in nori (seaweed) and filled with imitation crab strips, tamago (japanese omelet), scallion, and cucumber. This is futo maki.

inside-out brown rice sushi with avocado, imitation crab, and pickled beets

It could be an inside out roll, with the rice outside the seaweed, all enveloping imitation crab, avocado, and pickled beets. This is uramaki. But everyone calls it inside out roll. ;-)

sweet nigiri sushi with kiwi and candied ginger

It could even be dessert.

Other forms of sushi include battleship roll (gunkan), which we didn’t make, temaki, which we didn’t make, and hosomaki, or thin rolls, which we did make, but I didn’t get any closeups of. Thin rolls use half a sheet of nori and are filled with only one or two ingredients besides the sushi rice.

what’s in this post, and what isn’t

Read more on We love seaweed, yes we do…

July 23, 2009 in breads, desserts, vegetarian2 comments

whole wheat banana-chocolate chip muffins

whole wheat banana-chocolate chip muffins...mmm

Oh gods. Rotting bananas on the counter again.

I don’t want banana bread. I’ll just put half of it in the freezer and forget it’s there.

Oh! A recipe for banana-chocolate chip muffins. I like chocolate chips, yes I do.

whole wheat banana-chocolate chip muffins have neat insides!

And about 45 minutes later these babies came out of the oven, all gently crisped tops and warm, moist, finely-textured insides. Crap. That sounds really dirty.

Don’t act so smug. I know I’m not the only one who went there.

those moist, finely-textured insides have chocolate chips!

Sis said these muffins were like a spice cake with banana flavor. The brother-in-law only got a bite and wanted more, pestering Sis until she made her own (not this recipe, oddly) the next day. She used mini chips and liked that even better.

Personally, I like the extra depth the cinnamon and nutmeg lend to the hearty whole wheat, rottingly sweet bananas, and chocolate. But if for some wacky, crazy, insane reason you don’t, just omit them from the recipe.

one whole wheat banana chocolate chip muffin, so lonely

What do you like to do with overripe bananas, anyway? Read more on whole wheat banana-chocolate chip muffins…