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Posts from the ‘Features, Articles and Recipes’ Category

Royal Wedding Cake Redux

It has been a while, well quite a long while since I’ve posted anything. I needed a break, I thought it might be a month or so but it turned into a much longer hiatus. I really have missed everyone and cooking has taken a back burner, no pun intended. I am not putting any pressure on myself but hope to be posting more regularly and getting back to cooking and following your blogs again.

Last year for the 4th of July I made a cake that was an homage to the royal wedding cake, it was wonderful. The cake recipe was from Food and Wine. I followed the directions on their website and it turned out beautifully. I posted the recipe and must have written it down incorrectly because when I attempted to make it again it was a miserable failure. Oddly, the recipe was taken off of their website and after an exhaustive search I found that it has disappeared. I decided to delete my post, wish I hadn’t done that though because I had the recipe for the lemon curd, soaking syrup and buttercream. I found the buttercream recipe on Stella Park’s website (Bravetart) and a good recipe for the lemon curd, luckily  I remembered the amounts I used for the syrup. For the cake I used my recipe for tender yellow cake which is always a good choice, its one of my favorites. The lemon curd is from Epicurious and is simple to make and the results were great. The combination of flavors in this cake are so delicious, the elderflower cordial syrup with the bright, tart lemon curd are a heavenly combination. Thank you all for your understanding, not unfollowing me and sticking with me despite my absence.

Elderflower Cordial Syrup

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup elderflower cordial (liquor)

1 cup sugar

Add all ingredients to heavy bottom pot and bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling reduce heat to medium and continue to boil stirring occasionally if needed. Once slightly reduced and sugar is completely melted transfer to a jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lemon Curd

Recipe can be found on Epicurious

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

zest of 2 lemons

1/2 cup sugar

3 large eggs

3/4 stick (6 tbs) unsalted butter cut into tbs size pieces

Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, sugar and eggs in a 2 quart heavy saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over medium low heat whisking constantly until the curd is thick and holds a line on the back of a wooden spoon.

Transfer curd to a bowl, cover and chill completely before using.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Recipe by Stella Parks

6 ounces egg whites (approx 2/3 cup from 5-6 large eggs)

11 ounces sugar ( approx 1/2/3 cup)

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

20 ounces (5 sticks)unsalted butter softened to room temperature and cut into tbs size pieces

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbs elderflower liquor

Fill a wide pot or saucepan with about 1 1/2 inches of water and bring to a boil, once boiling reduce heat so that the water is simmering. Put the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer. Place the bowl over the simmering water (makeshift double boiler) NOTE: The bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water, Stella’s hack to prevent this is to crumple some aluminum foil place in the middle of the pot so that your mixing bowl sits on that and not the water. Stir and scrape constantly with a flexible spatula or whisk, all of the granulated sugar should dissolve and mixture should register a constant 185 degree’s. It will take 10-15 minutes. Once sugar is dissolved transfer bowl to stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whip on high speed for about 10 minutes (check bottom of bowl it should no longer be hot and the egg whites will be glossy and stiff.

With mixer running add the butter 1 or 2 tbs at a time. The volume of the meringue may decrease but that’s ok keep whipping and don’t be alarmed if it looks soupy. Keep whipping, as you add the butter it will start to thicken. The frosting will be soft and billowy, now add the vanilla and elderflower liquor, whip until mixed. Use immediately but also note the buttercream can be stored in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator for later use but you will need to bring to room temperature before you frost the cake.

Assembling the cake

Note: I made two 8 inch round layers.

Slice off (if needed) a thin layer of the top of the cake so that its flat. Place bottom layer on cake stand (cut side up) and brush with the soaking syrup, don’t be shy give it a good soak. Spread a thin layer of the lemon curd, now some of the buttercream. Brush cut side of the top layer with the syrup and place on bottom layer (cut side down).  Frost cake as desired.

 

 

 

Easy No Knead Bread

I first saw this recipe on Christinas Cucina, it looked amazing and she had me at no knead. Christina said that this recipe is from Jim Lahey who owns Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC. I love their bread, its nothing short of amazing. I bought his cookbook and tried one of the recipes and was less than successful (Milk Bread) but his recipe for no knead bread is absolutely fool proof. Christina tweaked the recipe so that she could produce a larger loaf, I chose to follow Mr. Lahey’s recipe which created a slightly smaller loaf. My most recent purchase from the Food52 shop is a Staub Cocotte, a beautiful dutch oven, I chose the 4 quart size (got an excellent deal it was on sale) it was just the right size for this recipe and the bread is outstanding.  I thought baking this bread would be an excellent way to christen my new pot.

There are only 4 ingredients, you don’t knead or have to use a stand mixer or bread machine. This bread is brilliant in its simplicity and I absolutely love it. Mr. Lahey uses white all purpose flour, I chose to add some spelt as well, Christina mixed in some whole wheat flour. The basic directions are dump ingredients in a bowl, stir with your hands or a spoon, cover and let sit for 12-18 hours (overnight) dump dough onto floured tea towel, cover and let rise 2 hours, transfer to your covered pot and bake on high heat. Simple, easy and delicious. This recipe is a keeper and would be a great bread for the novice bread baker.

I am bringing this bread to Fiesta Friday #257, I am a co host with Kat@Kats 9 lives

No Knead Bread

Recipe by Jim Lahey

3 cups flour (I used 2 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup spelt flour)

1/4 tsp instant yeast

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup warm water

Place all ingredients in mixing bowl, mix with your hands a spoon or a dough whisk, cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let sit overnight 12-18 hours. It will double in bulk and have some bubbles. The dough is quite wet. Using your hand or a spatula (watch Christines video) bring the dough into the middle, lifting and pulling all the way around the bowl. Now you can use a tea towel or even a banneton for the 2 hour prove. If using a tea towel, generously flour the towel (I used flour and semolina flour) dump the dough on the towel, sprinkle the top with flour, bran or semolina,  cover and let sit for 2 hours.

Pre heat your oven about 30 minutes before the dough is ready to bake. If using conventional oven heat to 500+ as high as it goes and if using a convection oven 495 degrees. Transfer the dough to the pot, cover and bake for 30 minutes, decrease temperature to 465 degree’s, remove the lid and continue baking another 10-15 minutes or until it is browned.

Giveaway… There Is A Winner And Holiday Treats

Sorry I am a day late, yesterday was very busy. Thank you so much everyone for your kind comments. It really made my week and I am so thrilled to see you all again. The winner is: Annie @givememeatloaf!!!

Congratulations Annie I am thrilled for you. Shoot me an email with your shipping address, Michael will be shipping directly to you. Also let me know if you would like the board engraved (maybe with your blog name).

It’s time to start baking for the holidays and I have only just started planning which cookies and breads I will make. Every year I give homemade baked goods as gifts, a real labor of love. I want to try some different recipes this year along with my tried and true recipes. What are you baking? Would love some ideas and recipes if you would like to share.

More to come….

Crostata And A Holiday Giveaway

Well, it seems like forever since I’ve posted, it was July. I’m sorry to have been absent for so long. No excuses but simply needed a break. Honestly, I haven’t been cooking, hardly at all, maybe lack of inspiration, the blues or a combination. Trying to get back into it for the Holidays. Speaking of the holidays I wanted to offer a giveaway as my holiday gift to one lucky person. My friend Michael makes the most beautiful cutting/serving boards. I have given them away before and they are always a wonderful and welcome addition to any kitchen. The board is similar to this one, walnut rectangular with a handle. I will also ask Michael if he would personalize for the lucky winner.

The winner will be announced next week on Monday, December 10th, all you have to do is comment and you are entered. Sorry no international shipping :o(

Blogging should not feel like a job, it should be a joy and a creative outlet. What do you do when you lack inspiration? The other day I visited the food52 site and decided to enter their latest contest. The challenge is to post a recipe for the dish that you are known for, you are asked to bring or make when you go to gatherings with friends, families or neighbors. The truth is that whenever I go anywhere people ask me to make dessert and a favorite is so simple I didn’t feel that it was contest worthy. Instead I decided to enter my recipe for Crostata it is always a favorite and is perfect for a buffet because it is delicious served warm or room temperature. It’s also easy to serve and not at all messy to eat. The inspiration for this recipe came from Lidia Bastianich, I saw her make it years ago on her cooking show on PBS. The crust is super easy, flour, semolina, olive oil and water. The filling is a mixture of greens, different types of onion, ricotta and parmigiana. I like to serve it warm with homemade tomato sauce or roasted cherry tomatoes.

Crostata With Mixed Greens

Serves 6-8  or more depending on serving size

Crust

1 3/4 cup flour

1/4 cup semolina

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup water

1 tsp salt

Add the flours and salt to your food processor and pulse to mix. Add the olive oil and water and pulse until a cohesive dough is formed. Turn out onto your work surface that is floured and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and cover with a tea towel. Let sit for 30 minutes. If using a 9×13 baking pan you can double the recipe.

Filling

1 lb swiss chard, cleaned very well, tough part of stem removed and chopped

1 lb escarole cleaned well and chopped

1 lb baby spinach cleaned and chopped or a package of frozen chopped spinach defrosted and drained

2 cups sliced leeks (2 big leeks) cleaned scrupulously to remove grit use only the white and light green part

1 shallot chopped

1 cup chopped scallion (white and light green parts)

1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram

1 tbs fresh basil chopped

generous pinch of red pepper flakes

2 cups whole milk ricotta

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 large eggs lightly beaten

1 tsp lemon zest (optional)

In a large heavy dutch oven add a little olive oil and heat on medium high. Add the leeks, shallot, scallion and saute until they soften, add the marjoram, basil , red pepper and greens, continue to saute until all the water has evaporated and the vegetables are soft and cooked through. Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature.

Place the ricotta, eggs, parmesan, heavy cream and optional lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly, add the cooled vegetables and mix well. Adjust seasoning (add salt and pepper to taste).

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface and line your baking pan, you should have approximately a 2 inch overhang. Spoon the filling in and fold the overhanging dough onto the filling. Brush with egg wash and if you like sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on top.

Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes until golden brown and filling is set. Serve with sauce or roasted tomatoes.

 

 

Elusive Inspiration

I want to start out by apologizing for being so lax in responding to comments and also want to apologize for not visiting your blogs like I used to. I want to do better and I won’t go into detail about what is going on but I want you all to know I will try to do better.

Blogging can be a lot of work, I love it but when I am uninspired I don’t like to just post anything just for the sake of posting something. I have been searching for inspiration and it eludes me, hence you haven’t heard from me in a while. I cook but it’s nothing new or exciting and certainly not blog worthy. It’s also so strange, as when I bake lately I have more fails than I normally do which is discouraging. I took that as a sign that maybe I needed to lay low for a while, re group and then start over.

I finally was inspired to bake something when I watched the royal wedding. Now I am not a big fan of royal weddings, I did watch so I could see her dress and what the guests were wearing but the pomp and circumstance doesn’t really peek my interest. The cake however did! It is simple and beautiful and the flavors sound wonderful. A lemon sponge with lemon curd and elderflower soaking syrup and it’s frosted with a Swiss meringue buttercream gently flavored with elder flower. I grabbed these photo’s from Instagram from the bakers feed. She is an American living in London who has been baking since she was a wee one and has a lovely bakery, Violets Cakes.

I love that this wedding cake is not fussy, simply decorated with fresh flowers, this cake spoke to me. So I plan on making it and will post no matter how it turns out. What could go wrong, well plenty given my penchant for fails lately but this cake inspired me and I have to make it.

On another note, Percy and Jenna Rose are doing well. Percy’s diabetes is much more difficult to deal with than I thought it would be and my poor boy is having a difficult time.  Percy has had a persistent eye infection that has not responded to antibiotics. Hoping the new meds I have now will work.

 

Lemon Cream Tart

I have posted this recipe and several variations multiple times but the lemon cream is so good it’s time to post it again. Recipes get lost in the volumes of pages on the blog and are all but forgotten. This creamy lemon filling has been used in cakes, to stabilize whipped cream and as is the case here in a tart. I love just eating it on its own, it’s that good!! You can use other fruit and fruit juice besides lemon, I’ve made this with blackberry, orange, raspberry. It always turns out delicious.

The recipe is from Tartine Bakery and I saw it years ago on Food52. Its super easy to make and has always turned out perfectly. The only change I made was that I added some lemon zest to make the lemon flavor even more intense. I used my go too pie crust by Julia Child and whipped some heavy cream for the top, it would be equally good with meringue.

Lemon Cream

 Recipe for Tartine Bakery’s Lemon Cream

Makes about 2 1/2 cups (625 ml)

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (5 oz/155 ml) lemon juice (Meyer or regular)

3 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

3/4 cup (6 oz/170 g) sugar

Pinch of salt

1 cup (8 oz/225 g) unsalted butter

zest of 2 lemons (0ptional)

Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer.

Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, whole eggs, yolk, sugar, and salt in a stainless steel bowl that will rest securely in the rim of a saucepan over, not touching, the water. (Never let the egg yolks and sugar sit together for more than a moment without stirring; the sugar will cook the yolks and turn them granular.) Place the bowl over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180° F on a thermometer. This will take 10 to 12 minutes. If you don’t have or trust your thermometer, don’t worry. It should thicken to the point that your whisk leaves a trail through the curd. NOTE: I don’t use a thermometer, the lemon mixture will thicken and coat the back of the spoon, draw a line on the back of the spoon with your finger, the line will stay intact. It took about 11 minutes for mine to thicken properly.

Remove the bowl from over the water and let cool to 140° F, stirring from time to time to release the heat.

Meanwhile, cut butter into 1-tablespoon (15-ml) pieces. When the cream is ready, leave it in the bowl if using an immersion blender, or pour it into a countertop blender. With the blender running, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, blending after each addition until incorporated before adding the next piece. The cream will be pale yellow and opaque and quite thick.

You can use the cream immediately, or pour it into a storage container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

 

Cake – A Learning Experience And A Tip

This is a cake recipe that I have been making for years and years, the recipe is tried and true, tested and developed by my Mom many moons ago. Why then did it fail?  I posted this recipe a long time ago on Food52, it has been featured, made over and over again by hundreds and it’s a really good recipe. It all started a few weeks ago when I decided to make a cake, I followed the directions as I always do, did not deviate, everything looked good until I got the cake out of the oven, it looked different, the sides were shrinking, coming away from the sides of the pan, not just a little but dramatically and the texture just didn’t seem right. It was more like an angel food cake than a yellow cake and was mis-shapen and lopsided. I thought I had to have done something wrong, maybe I whipped the egg whites too long, so I threw it away and made it again this time being EXTREMELY careful with my preparation. Guess what, same outcome. I honestly didn’t know what to think, I am not a novice baker, I try to use quality ingredients and follow directions to the letter. It was discouraging to say the least. I systematically started analyzing everything that went into this cake, eggs were the right size and at room temperature, milk also room temperature, my baking powder was not expired, the only change was that I opened a new box of  cake flour so I thought hmmmm maybe it was the flour. I called King Arthur Bakers Catalog, who by the way are a wonderful company and spoke to one of their baking experts, they took down the lot number and other information on all 3 boxes that I had received and asked me to do an experiment, try making my own cake flour, in case you have never done this you remove 4 tbs of flour from 1 cup of all purpose flour and replace with 4 tbs of corn starch, btw, they refunded my money which I didn’t ask them to do but because they are an outstanding company they did it. A few weeks went by before I decided to give it another try.

The bottom layer is the one using the new cake pan, can you see the difference?

THE RESULT

I made the cake using homemade cake flour, it turned out really well except for one thing, one layer I baked in my Chicago Metal cake pan that I have been using for ions, the other layer I baked in a newish cake pan. The layer in my old pan was great, the other layer was good but not as good as the other layer, how could that be? To be fair I have used the new cake pan for other cake and it turned out just fine but for some reason not as much for this yellow cake. Truth be told I’m very picky and OCD about what I make and I notice even minor changes and they bother me. The cake was good, don’t get me wrong but there was a minute difference in that one layer. Going forward I will only bake my yellow cake recipe in the Chicago metal pans and will continue to be loyal to King Arthur flour but from now on I think I will make my own cake flour. Lesson learned.

I’ve posted this recipe before and it’s a favorite, Coconut Pineapple layer cake It’s delicious, the cake was perfect with a tender crumb, great flavor and very moist. I won’t post the recipe again just the story and some photo’s. Links are provided if you would like to give this a go.

single serve mixed nut milk

Nut milk is wonderful and a fantastic alternative to milk (dairy). I make nut milk all the time but sometimes would forget to soak my nuts overnight, the other problem is that nut milk doesn’t last long before it goes bad. I had an idea that ended up working out great, I soak a large quantity of nuts overnight, drain and freeze. That way I have pre soaked nuts ready to make milk and can portion out as much as I want. Don’t throw away the nut meal left from straining the milk, it’s fabulous when added to granola. Another perk is that when you add cold water to the cold nuts you have ice cold nut milk, delicious!!

frozen mixed nuts

I’ll leave you with a few photos of Percy and Jenna Rose who by the way is doing great and adapting to her new life in Brooklyn.

 

 

 

 

Happy Easter, A Chocolate Banana Vegan Tart

Happy Holidays to everyone, Easter, Passover or just celebrate that Spring is finally here.  Honestly, it has not really felt like Spring with blustery cold and snow and unfortunately more in the forecast for this week. I see signs of the change of seasons everywhere, flowers popping up, longer daylight, warmer weather trying to take hold.

I often make pie dough and will line a tart pan and freeze, this tart is delicious, no animal products were used in making it but you can easily adapt using cream for the ganache and whipped cream to top it. The ganache was made with dark chocolate, sweetened condensed coconut milk and coconut milk. The whipped topping is made by simply refrigerating a can of coconut milk, the cream will rise to the top and become solid. All you have to do is scoop it out and whip it with sweetener and flavoring.

Chocolate Tart (Vegan)

Pie crust ( use your favorite recipe or commercially prepared)

4 oz dark chocolate (I used vegan chocolate)

1/4 cup sweetened condensed coconut milk

1/4 cup coconut milk (Note: for non vegan or regular ganache use 1/2 cup heavy cream)

1 banana sliced

coconut or regular whipped cream

Toasted coconut (optional)

Place a can of coconut milk in the refrigerator before you begin or even better the night before. The coconut cream will separate from the liquid and you will use that (saving the liquid for another recipe)

Heat oven to 400 degree’s. Place pie dough in 8 or 9 inch tart pan. You are going to blind bake the pie crust, place a sheet of parchment on top and fill the pan with pie weights or beans or whatever you like to use. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, remove parchment and weights and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Note: the oven should be quite hot, I baked the first tart shell at 375 and even with pie weights it shrunk down the sides.

Ganache

Heat the coconut milk or heavy cream to scalding. Place the chocolate in a small bowl and pour the hot cream over the chocolate, let sit for 5 minutes and stir until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth and shiny. Pour into the cooled tart shell and refrigerate until set, approximately 1-2 hours or overnight.

To serve

Place sliced banana on top of the chocolate. Scoop the coconut cream from the cold can of coconut milk. Whip with electric mixer adding sugar to taste and flavoring of your choice (vanilla)  or you can add 2 tbs of the sweetened condensed coconut milk that is left from making the ganache. Heat oven to 350 and toast flaked coconut until golden brown, watch it closely it will burn and only takes a few minutes. Spread some of the whipped cream (coconut or other) on top of the banana’s and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Happy Easter from Percy and Jenna Rose!

Jenna Rose And Some Baking

Well so much has been happening I haven’t posted in a while. My new normal has been much harder than I anticipated with regards to Percy and his health issues. The diabetes has ravaged his little body and he is now almost completely blind and very feeble. I can’t leave him unattended for fear he will fall and hurt himself and besides having to give him insulin every day the new challenges to keep him safe have been daunting. Work has also been very busy and I am having to try to arrange my schedule around caring for Percy and when I have to leave for more than an hour I have to hire a pet sitter, it gives me peace of mind knowing he is safe.

I had mentioned in a previous post that my dear friend had passed away suddenly from complications from diabetes. She was one of the founders of our Instagram pug group and had a little pug named Jenna Rose. When Irene passed her husband could not care for Jenna and Irene’s daughter could not take her either, it broke their hearts but for Jenna’s safety she could not have her in her home, you see she has two big German Shepherds that were not fond of Jenna.  I was honored that Irene’s family asked me if I would adopt her, Jenna lived with Irene and her husband Pete in Bowler Wisconsin on a big property with lots of acreage and a population of 325 people in the town. Jenna’s adventure began last week when my friends, my pug family, selflessly devised a plan to get Jenna to Brooklyn, NY. It was a labor of love that spanned almost 1400 miles. In a nutshell Irene’s daughter’s (Misty) husband and her daughter loaded Jenna in a truck and drove her to Fairfield Ohio where they met Carrie, Jenna was handed to her and she drove her to Verona Pennsylvania where she met Corrine who took her to New Jersey where she met Mary and she drove Jenna to Brooklyn. Quite an ordeal and a big adventure for this little girl. She is 6 years old and the sweetest little pug you will ever meet. You have to understand how amazing this was, selfless people who gave of their time and all for love. You see we all were close friends of Irene and would do anything for her. We just wish we she were still with us!

Jenna Rose arrived on Saturday evening a country girl now living in the big city. It’s an adjustment for her and for Percy but they are both doing great. Things are starting to fall into place and I am beginning to adjust as well to everything. Jenna loves it here, she loves Percy and Percy is really starting to love her as well.

I have been cooking sporadically but nothing to speak of really. I did make brownies the other day, a recipe from the new cookbook Bravetart by Stella Parks, and they are awesome. I cannot post the recipe without permission, I’m sorry but if you are in the market for an amazing cookbook I highly recommend. I also made a cake and tried my hand at decorating, it’s something I have to work on but the cake turned out great and I think with some practice I could get fairly good at it. The problem with practice is who would eat all that cake, I would be as big as a house.

Percy and Jenna cheek to cheek

Brownies

chocolate cake with mascarpone buttercream

Once again I have 2 pugs, black and fawn, well apricot really just like Izzy and Nando. More to come….

Quick Update

Well, just when I felt like I was getting back on track the rug kind of got pulled out from under me.  It has been a bad few weeks, a very dear friend died suddenly which left me in profound sadness and shock. She is someone I never met personally, we met on Instagram. You are probably saying how can you form a close friendship with someone you have never actually met, well let me tell you it can and did happen. You all know that I am an animal lover and I have a particular slightly obsessive love of pugs. Irene was one of the co founders of our pug group on Instagram and for the last almost 2 years there was not a day that went by that we didn’t chat. We planned events and she was the driving force behind all the charity work that we do, raising money to help pet owners who cannot afford Veterinary care for their pets and sending wheelchairs to pups that are unable to walk. She made a difference and the world was a much better place with her in it. I miss her terribly.

Irene Coyer

The one two punch came when I noticed Percy was not doing well, he was drinking excessively and his eyes looked infected. Our wonderful doctor made a house call and Percy has infected eyes and a corneal abrasion but he was also diagnosed with Diabetes and ketoacidosis. Diabetes I have had experience with since Nando was diabetic and I treated him for almost 8 years. The ketoacidosis is new to me and it can be deadly if untreated. We are giving him fluids, antibiotics and now he is on insulin.

Torture for Percy!

Sorry to be a Debby downer but things have not been great. Hoping next week will be better and I will start cooking again. Thank you all for sticking with me through good times and bad. Thank you all!