Saturday, August 30, 2008

Perfect Pumpkin Muffins

It is not quite fall, yet....but, I hate the summer and am ready to usher it in. I love the scent of pumpkins, fresh and baked, it makes me feel like a kid. The scents of fall leave me feeling so very happy that I could not wait one more day to bring them about. I decided to make pumpkin muffins, striped through the center with cream cheese. Yummy! These delightful muffins even look like fall to me and do not need any icing for decor, they are that good.
As I said before I love to share my goodies with others, but there is no one around this week to take these off my hands. I guess I'll just have to suffer though it. If you decide to try these and after a day or two there still some left try cutting them in half, buttering them and toasting them, butter side down, in a pan on the stove top. Yuuuummm!
My taste tester is in Mexico this weekend, P- I hope your having fun! Maybe by the time she gets back here it will be fall...yeah I know, I live in Texas...summer goes on and on and on...and on. It has to end some my house it is today.
Welcome fall!

Pumpkin Muffins

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
3 cups evaporated cane sugar
1 teaspoon molasses
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


8 oz. Cream Cheese
¼ Cup Evaporated Sugar Cane
1/8 Tsp salt
½ Tsp Lemon juice
1 Egg

Cream together the cream cheese, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Mix in one egg until smooth. Whisk in the flour until smoothly combined and place in pastry piping bag; promptly refrigerate to firm up the mixture. This can be done ahead of time.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line two muffin/cup cake pans; spray with flour and oil or just oil (which ever you have).

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, butter, oil, buttermilk, molasses and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.

Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of the batter into each muffin cup. Pipe about 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture into the center of the prepared cups. Spoon another 1 1/2 -2 tablespoons of the batter on top of the cream cheese, just enough to cover the cheese mixture, it must not be showing when the pans go into the oven. Sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar, if you want to, this is not necessary-just tasty.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven. Muffins are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Breakfast To-Go

Ok, so...every morning, before I wake up, my husband scavenges through the kitchen in search of something tasty for breakfast. I have tried buying him granola bars and pre-made breakfast items, to no avail...he wants flavor! Imagine that! And dare he?!
A few days ago I mentioned that using the Irish Soda Farl you could easily make up sandwiches that would be convenient for those on the go. He came home that day and said, 'Why cant you do that?"
So, of course I did. Here are the results; they turned out really tasty (if I do say so myself).

I sliced the wedges in half and then split them open.

On one side I dressed the bread with spicy brown mustard and on the other I slathered on a healthy dose of a tofu and pea spread that I will share with you further down the page.

On the mustard side I placed an egg slice that I made by baking 5 egg whites and one whole egg in the oven at 350F, in a greased cake pan. I sprinkled the egg with some chili flakes and chives before sliding it into the oven for 15-20 minutes.

On the pea side I places one slice of bacon...oooh, we love bacon!

I closed them up and packages them in wax paper for quick re-heating in the microwave.

Ta-Da...breakfast for hubby!

Tofu and Pea Spread

1/2 Cup Frozen Peas
1/2 Cup Extra firm Tofu
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Add all ingredients to a food processor, starting with the peas and tofu. Pulse until a spreadable texture is achieved.
Will store in airtight container in fridge for up to 10 days.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Extraordinary Shortbread

I have shared with you my love of shortbread, so now I will share with you my most beloved shortbread recipe. The result is crisp, slightly sweet, very buttery and exactly as shortbread should be. To quote Mary Poppins, it is "practically perfect in every way."

It is so simple there is no reason not to make it. It saves well and I have never given a gift of shortbread to anyone who did not enjoy its natural nutty flavor and satisfying bite. I don't feel the need to say more because this recipe will speak for itself. I suggest you give it a go right away.


11 Tablespoons salted butter
½ cup evaporated cane sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
7 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a bowl, with a sturdy rubber spatula, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the cornmeal and mix until combined. Add the flour and process until just combined.

Turn the dough out into an un-greased pan; there is plenty of butter in the recipe to keep it from sticking. Press the dough with the heels of your hands into the pan. Level out the surface and then prick holes all over the dough, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until lightly golden.

Transfer to a cutting board, cut small rectangular pieces using a sharp knife while still hot and malleable, and let cool completely. If you wait for it to cool before cutting it will crumble when you try to cut it.

Shortbread saves very well and tastes even better the second day.

42 cookies; 50 calories each cookie.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chocolate Hazelnut Bread

The addition of zucchini to recipes has begun to dazzle me. I previously would never have thought to add zucchini to breads and cakes, but now I have the bug and cannot seen to stop. I will be so sad when zucchini season is over and I have to pay an arm and a leg to make it an addition to my recipes.

This recipe began as a chocolate cake and has, over many, many trials, manifested itself into this leaf of sweetened bread that I will suggest that you try asap. Hazelnuts and chocolate have a long history together and this recipe showcases that sumptuous relationship as well as any I have tried. It is a simple recipe that can be thrown together quickly or easily stored in the freezer for those impromptu guests that call for a delicious, hearty snack. I say hearty because this bread has a substantial weight to it that leaves you feeling quite satisfied. The nuts and meal give it a nice bite while the zucchini lends its texture and moisture to the chocolate bread that keeps it together. This bread pairs nicely with a dark coffee or even a dark tea. A nice alternative to an iced cake, this dense bread is sweet without the sugar coma that icing carries with it.

I tried reducing the sugar by using splenda for half of the called for amount and the texture remained intact; I felt slightly less guilty for munching on it with the reduced sugar too.

I almost forgot to mention how wonderful this bread smells...the hazelnuts roasting and the chocolate blooming... better start warming your oven, you'll thank me later.

Chocolate Hazelnut Loaf

- 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour (3/4 cup)**
- 1/2 C whole wheat flour (1/4 cup)
- 1 C Hazelnut meal (1/2 cup)
- 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder (1/4)
- 1 tsp baking soda (1/2 tsp)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder (1/4 tsp)
- 1/2 tsp salt (1/4 tsp)
- 1/2 C butter, softened (1/4 cup)
- 1 1/2 C Evaporated Cane Sugar (3/4 cup)
- 1 tsp Molasses (1/2 tsp)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (1/2 tsp)
- 4 eggs, at room temperature (2 eggs)
- 2 C zucchini, grated (about 280 g, two medium) (1 cup. 140g)
- 1 C Chopped Hazelnuts (1/2 c)

**1/2 recipe in parentheses

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Grease 2 full size bread pans, and flour or sprinkle with cocoa powder: this is to help the bread un-mold easily, especially if you're not using a non-stick pan.

In a bowl, sift together the flours, hazelnut meal, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl cream the sugar and butter. Add in the vanilla extract, then the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition.

Spoon the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, reserving the last half-cup of it. Mix thoroughly, the batter will be thick.

Add the grated zucchini to the reserved flour mixture, and toss to coat. Fold in the batter, and blend thoroughly. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth surface.

I sprinkled the top of mine with a pinch of the nut meal, but that was not a necessary garnish.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn out on a rack to cool for half an hour, then un-mold, top and slice to serve.

Makes 2 full size loaves.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Irish Soda Farl

I am a reader, I read incessantly and recently I have been reading a book about the Irish country side. I found some food inspiration in the detailed descriptions of meals prepared in a small country kitchen by a sturdy woman, much like myself, that sees to a multitude of people and their culinary needs. I often find that good simple food is the very best and all of the additions made by modern chefs actually take away from the simple goodness of traditional fare. There is usually history to go with the mouth filling flavors that will educate you as to why the recipe has stuck around for so long that it could be enjoyed by both you and those who came before.

From the site World on a Plate I learned that if you're traveling around the north of Ireland, you'll find this bread which is a central accompaniment to an Ulster Fry. It's a hearty start to the morning but not too heart-friendly: fried eggs, fried Irish bacon, fried soda farl, fried potato farl (a 1/4-inch thick griddle-cooked potato bread), fried black pudding, fried sausages, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms. The name, farl, originates from the Gaelic word fardel, meaning "fourth part."

The cross in the center is made, so folklore tells us, either to let the fairies out or to ward of evil or more practically perhaps to allow the dough to rise and for even slicing.

While my in-laws were visiting this weekend I made Irish soda farl for the first time. It sounded to wonderful while reading that I had to hop up and Google it. The very next morning I made it and it baked atop the stove while I shared a cup of tea with my father in-law. It smelled wonderful and filled the house with the delectable scent of browning flour quickly since it was not contained by the oven door.

The bread is made with buttermilk and should not be made with regular milk. The use of buttermilk reacts with the baking soda and carbon dioxide bubbles cause the bread to rise. The buttermilk also gives it a depth of flavor that would simply be lacking if made with anything else. The recipe is quite simple and I will certainly be making this again. They would make very delicious triangular breakfast sandwiches for those of you on the go. The bread is not crumbly and will stand up well for an in-car dining experience and also saves well in the fridge for 3-4 days; if you made it over the weekend for a leisurely meal you could easily have a few days worth of breakfast bread for the week.

Irish Soda Farl

3.5 cup flour
1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 to 2 1/2 cup buttermilk

Lightly grease a heavy skillet.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl; make sure the soda is evenly distributed.

Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add about half the buttermilk. Stir until you have a raggy dough that is very squashy but which looks more or less dry. Add more liquid sparingly until you achieve this texture.

Blend until all the flour has achieved this consistency; then turn out immediately onto a lightly floured board and knead for no more than a minute or a minute and a half. Over kneading makes this bread very tough, and it's very easy to overdo it.

If making soda farl, shape the dough into a circle about 9 inches by one inch thick and cut into four wedges or "farls." Place in the preheated skillet, with cut edges about half an inch apart. Cook slowly on the stovetop over low-to-medium heat; it should take about 20 minutes for the farls to puff up and turn a light brown on the pan side. Turn them and cook for another 20 minutes.

For a softer crust on a soda farl, wrap in a dishtowel after baking.

You will need somewhere between 1 1/4 and 2 1/2 cups of buttermilk, depending on how much liquid your flour tends to absorb.

Serves 8.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Best Bloody Mary

I only recently returned from my honeymoon with my newly acquired husband, Omar. We stayed at the Hotel Monaco in Seattle, WA and had a great time eating and drinking our way through the town. The first evening there we decided to head down to the in house restaurant, Sazerac , had a delightful meal and extremely great drinks.

The food was well proportioned and had excellent flavor combinations that did not infringe of the natural essences of what the dish was supposed to be. Case in point, another dining experience in Seattle: an un-named seafood joint on the pier. The most basic of dishes here were ruined by a chef trying too hard to give things his own 'flavor'. I find that this happens often in restaurants that are too impressed with themselves and have stopped caring about the food. Very often simple food is the best food.

This is a philosophy adhered to by the chefs at Sazerac. With items like braised artichoke complimented with a lemon sabayon; wood roasted manila clams served with a coriander lime butter and something as simple as their simplicity pizza topped with mozzarella basil and tomato how can they go wrong. They pair perfectly complimented flavors together and leave out the overly complicated and verbose combinations that often leave the diner yearning for a midnight meal at the local diner.

If I lived in the area, I would dine there with intense regularity. Sadly I live very far away. That first evening we chose the restaurant out of convenience and barely ate at all, enjoying our drinks most of all. I have a deeply rooted love for bloody marys and I had absolutely the finest ever, at Sazerac. We returned nearly daily to have a drink and at minimum, an appetizer, and more than once a whole meal. Once we returned home I achingly missed those wonderful Bloody Marys and after many failed attempts at replication I broke down and emailed the restaurant to beg for the recipe. Very graciously Doug Logan, the general manager, responded and shared that recipe with me and now I will share it with you. Ours are still not as good as theirs and if you are in the area I suggest that you drop in, plan to have a whole meal because you will not want to resist the smells.

Sazerac Bloody Mary

1 1/2 oz vodka
1 Teaspoon of Cajun Spice seasoning
1 Teaspoon Horseradish
1/2 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 Teaspoon Tabasco
Tomato juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and a few ice cubes filling almost to the top with tomato juice. Shake and enjoy.

I garnished with green olives and a lime, but traditionally there should be a stalk of celery too.

I will return to Sazerac as often as my life permits me to, but in between I have a killer drink to pass the days.

If you are in Seattle over the weekend drop by Sazerac to partake of their Bloody Mary Bar with all the fixins' starting at 8 am on both Saturday and Sunday running until 2:30 each afternoon!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pecan Shortbread

I have said it before and I will say it again: "I LOVE shortbread!" I love the easy nature of the recipes. I love the wonderful scent of browning butter and flour as they bake. I love the versatility of them, they can be cut-out cookies, they can be pie crust, they can be the crumbles on top a muffin, and in their most wonderful state they can just be themselves, the devilishly delicious beings that they are. They are tough little treats that travel well but taste and feel delicate to the palate. In my humble opinion shortbread is the best and most basic of basic baking classics.

My favorite recipe so far has been the ones that have an addition of cornmeal, because cornmeal is my ingredient siren; it calls to me and I cannot resist. This recipe today I have tried before, but forgot about it in the midst of doing something else and they, very sadly, burned. I decided to try again and have found success, of a sort. These are not my favorite recipe for shortbread, they are really wonderful tasting, but they are a bit chewy which is not characteristic of shortbread and is a feature of them that I do not enjoy. They have the fabulous flavor of butter and pecans and go delightfully with a cup of strong black tea.

On another note, I have solved my bank breaking pecan deliema that I have mentioned in the past. I found 2 lbs of pecan halves at Costso for under $9. That, my friends, is a fabulous deal! I also found a 10 lb bag of fair trade evaporated cane sugar at Costco for under $8. Another deal! I can now bake away with out worries of having to spend our retirement to make pecan pie....YEAH!!!!

Pecan Shortbread

1 Cup Evaporated Cane Sugar
1/2 Cup Pecans Coarsely Chopped
1/2 Cup Pecan Meal
14 Tablespoons Butter
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Cups Flour

Preheat oven to 325F.

Cream together the butter and sugar.

Add in the pecan meal, salt and vanilla mix until well combined.

Add flour and combine all ingredients until a smooth dough.

Press dough into a 7x10 inch pan, or one of similar size.

Sprinkle the chopped pecans onto the top of the dough and gently press them into the surface.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.

Invert the cookies onto a cutting board and gently slice them into small bars while still warm.

This makes about 30 small bars.

It has occurred to me that making these with whole wheat flour would yield a less chewy result, but beware because that will also make them more brittle and less of a traveling companion. I will try it next time and share the results with you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

No Knead Bread

Today I am posting a recipe that I got of another blogger's page. It is a recipe that she tried a long time ago, but it intrigued me. Imagine, all of the flavor and none of the work...could it be? My grandmother also tried it and her results were much the same as mine. I loved this bread and had none of the problems that others seem to have. It turned out to be a beautiful loaf and had a wonderful flavor. It made great toast!

No Knead Bread

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cups water

Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

[Adapted from a recipe by Jim Lahey written up by Mark Bittman in the New York Times on November 8, 2006.]

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and yeast. Pour in the water, and mix with your hand or a wooden spoon until combined. The dough should feel wetter than ordinary bread doughs, but it should come together into a shaggy ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature (about 70°F) for 12 to 18 hours (some extend that time to 20 or even 24 hours with good results). The dough is ready when it has roughly doubled in size and the surface is covered with little bubbles. When you tip the bowl gently to one side, the dough should slide slowly and have a stringy consistency.

Turn the dough out on a well-floured surface. Pull gently on both sides and gather the flaps one over the other to fold the dough in three. Give it a quarter of a turn and fold it in three again. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 15 minutes as you clean the mixing-bowl and grease it lightly. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the greased mixing-bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for another 2 hours.

Place a medium cast-iron pot in the oven and preheat to 450°F at least 30 minutes before baking. When the dough has finished its second rise, remove the pot from the oven, remove the lid, and sprinkle flour or cornmeal over the bottom of the pot. Transfer the dough into the pot, sprinkle the top with flour or cornmeal, cover with the lid, and return to the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes with the lid, remove the (hot) lid, and bake for another 15 minutes, until beautiful and golden and irresistible. Transfer to a rack to cool for about 45 minutes before slicing (the water content needs to settle evenly throughout the loaf: if you slice it too soon, the crumb may be rubbery).

Tiffini's Favorite Quiche Muffins

This post is just for my friend, Tiffini. She loves these mini quiche and has been asking for the recipe for a while, but I keep forgetting to share it with her. I have no pictures of this dish, but I am sure that Tiffini will email me pictures of hers when she makes them. If not I will post some photos the next time I make them. These are very yummy and easy; they taste like quiche, but have A LOT less calories. You can modify the additives to your taste, but I usually make these for larger groups of people and have found that these are the most popular.

Quiche Muffins

2 Egg whites
1/2 Cup Milk
1/3 Cup Butter
1 1/2 Cups Biscuit Mix (I use the gluten free baking mix from Pamela's)
1 Cup Diced Ham
1 Cup Shredded Zucchini
6 Tablespoons Chopped Green Onions
1 Cup Cheese - (I prefer a mixture, usually the Mexican cheeses premixed bag)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Oil your muffin cups, using paper cups is not necessary.

Mix together eggs, milk and butter. Add in the baking mix and mix until smooth. Fold in the remaining ingredients until well incorporated.

Scoop the batter into the greased muffin pans, filling them 3/4 of the way. For a mini muffin pan scoop about 1 tablespoon each.

Bake for about 16-20 minutes or until beginning to turn golden along the edges.

After these have come out of the oven allow them to cool. You can freeze these for up to 1 month once they have been baked. All you have to do it pop them into the oven to thaw them before serving.

These are such a wonderful thing to have on hand if you are going to be having house guests; it looks like you woke up early and fixed breakfast, when really all you did was stumble to the kitchen in a sleepy stupor and shove a pan into the oven. Ta-Da...breakfast!

These are really very good and easy to eat.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today I embarked on a recipe that was actually inspired by some neighbors that I no longer have. When we lived in San Antonio we had some neighbors that lived above us and they were vegan. I love to bake for my neighbors and learned a great many things while they lived above us, but the most basic recipe of all, chocolate chip cookies, I could never get quite right. Today, however, I have achieved success! Too bad I lost contact with them and cannot send them a batch of these delightfully animal friendly cookies...ooohhh they taste good too. I will make these again, even if I do occasionally have a steak. They have the traditional flavor of chocolate chip cookies, but maintain more moisture than the buttery, eggy sort.

Did I mention that I will definitely be making these again? I certainly will.

Obviously using butter is out of the question, so, as an alternative I made my own apple butter. Most brands of ready-made apple butter are extremely sweet; I wanted this to replace butter so I tried to mimic the subtle sweet and salty flavor of butter. It is not the same, but pretty good considering that it is apple sauce. You can purchase vegan margarine, but this seems healthier than using an oil product. I made mine sugar free to cut down on the calories, but you can use regular sugar.

Apple Butter

3 1/2 Cups Unsweetened Applesauce
3 Teaspoons Stevia Liquid (or 3/4 Cups Sugar or Splenda)
4 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ginger (the powdery, dried sort)
1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg (I used the pre-ground stuff, but might be more excellent with fresh)

Place all ingredients together in a pan, be certain it has a lid. Bring everything to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, stirring regularly. You will want to place the lid on top to prevent splatters, but leave it slightly ajar so that some of the water content can cook off.

Remove from heat and place into a container for storage, let cool before moving it to the refrigerator.

Now for the cookies...

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/3 Cup Apple Butter
1/4 Cup Vegan Shortening
1 3/4 Cups Evaporated Sugar Cane
1 1/2 Tablespoons Molasses
1/2 Cup Silken Tofu
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 -2 Cups Chocolate Chips

Pre heat the oven to 315F.
Cream together the Apple Butter, chortening, sugar and molasses until smooth. Mix in the vanilla and the tofu and mix unitl well incorporated, it will seemingly disappear. Sift together the salt, baking soda and flour and add to wet mixture. Stir until combined. Fold in your chips until evenly distributed.

Scoop the mixture, about 3 tablespoons at a time, onto a nonstick cookie sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden and crisping on the edges.

This recipe makes 15 cookies using a #10 scoop. The cookies turn out better if they are made a little larger. If you make them using only about one tablespoon of dough expect the cookies to be a bit hard.

I loved these and felt so political and animal friendly while I ate them. I would like to commit to such a cause, but I really love steak and generally all meats, especially pork. I apologize for my un-animal friendly nature, but I cannot apologize for my love of all things pork, especially bacon.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Peppercorn and Prosciutto Bread

My husband and I have a particular affinity for black pepper. For instance, we find it absolutely necessary to put it on popcorn, peanuts, toasted bread with butter and we love plain whole wheat pasta with a bit of butter, a dash of white truffle oil and a great grinding of black pepper and a sprinkle of Maldon salt...mmm...

Focus! Lunch later, posting now. Back to the point, this weekend I made my first attempt at replicating the most delicious bread we have ever had out side of my kitchen: black peppercorn and prosciutto.

The version made elsewhere was made with all purpose bleached flour, but I can't seem to stop trying to make things healthier, so I switched that for whole grain white. I feel the need to explain this because it effected the overall texture and weight of the bread, but was to be expected. The original bread has prosciutto chunks and crushed black pepper corn throughout. I tried to take a short cut and simply grind the pepper, but the effect was not the same, next time I will crush it instead. My end result was also thicker than the original, but I had to start somewhere.

I used a simplified French baguette recipe. This simplified version of a classic uses sugar to speed along the rising process thusly cutting the rise time in thirds. Next time I will not do this, it sacrificed too much in flavor and really what is another 2 1/2 hours of waiting?

Peppercorn and Prosciutto Bread

2 1/4 Teaspoons Dry Yeast
1 Teaspoon Evaporated Cane Sugar
2 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
1 1/2 Cups Water
4-4 1/2 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour

1/2 Cup Prosciutto cut into chunks
3 Teaspoons crushed black peppercorns

I began an autolyse with 4 cups of the flour and 1 1/4 cups of the water. I let this sit, covered, for 30 minutes. About 10 minutes before this process has completed combine, in a small bowl, the yeast and sugar. Add to this the remaining 1/4 cup water; be certain that this water is warm and not hot. Allow this mixture to sit and bubble until your dough is ready to continue mixing.

After the 30 minute rest add the salt and the yeast/sugar mixture to the dough. Mix until combined. Sprinkle your work surface with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and knead for about 10 minuted or until smooth. Form dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl for rising. Allow the bread to rise for 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and knead for about 3-5 minutes. Divide the dough into equal halves. Create a disk with each half of the dough. This is the point at which you are going to add the prosciutto and peppercorn; spread each of the disks with half each of your additives. Begin to form your loaves by rolling the dough into a tight tube, creating a swirl of your ingredients inside. Be certain to seal the seam o n the bottom, if you need to you can dampen the edge with water to do this, it must be sealed or it will unroll as is bakes.

Once your seam is sealed roll out the dough into a longer snake like shape, think playdoh snakes. Once both laves have been formed place them a baking sheet, or baguette pan to rise and rest for 20 minutes. At the end of the 20 minutes you will place them into a 457-500F oven; while the oven is heating up place a pan of watter at the bottom. Just before placing them into the oven slice the tops diagonally at two inch intervals.

Allow the loaves to bake with the pan of water for 15 minutes. At the end of 15 minutes remove the pan of water and allow the loaves to bake another 10 minutes. Ta-Da...beautiful loaves of bread!

As you can see this process is none too quick so next time, and there will be a next time, I will do it right and leave out the sugar. If you elect to give this a shot before I do: up the yeast to 1 Tablespoon and the water to 2 cups of warm.

The end result was a beautiful loaf of bread that was yummy, if not exactly as we envisioned it. It tasted more wheaty, of course, and was more chewy than the original version. Next time I might make the recipe into 3 or 4 loaves that are thinner and will definitely add more pepper, crushed instead of ground. All in all I am happy with the bread and will give this another go, maybe next weekend.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Chewy Pecan Bars

This is possibly the strangest recipe I have ever made. It is strange because it is so simple and so tasty. I also find it odd that you melt the sugar in the eggs, but it works and is very delicious.

Growing up we always had pecans because they fell from a tree in my grandfather’s back yard. Little did I know that I was eating tiny bits of golden deliciousness. I say this only because I felt the need to hold my hand bag a little tighter when I saw the price of pecans in the market. It cost me five dollars for just one cup of pecans. When did that happen? Have I just not been paying attention? I have always eaten pecans as a snack, but now I feel that we will have to take out a loan to afford to keep up that habit.

I assume that one might be able to use other nuts in the recipe, but the pecans are truly perfect in it. I also must mention that this recipe is over 100 years old and has always been made with pecans. I will just have to suck it up and enjoy every last sweet & nutty crumb!

Normally I would replace the brown sugar with evaporated sugar cane and molasses, but leaving it as is makes it so very simple. The brown sugar package is 16 oz. and the pecans came in a one cup bag. The only way to make this easier would be to buy them ready made, but where could I find such a thing? Maybe that will be my next venture…?

Chewy Pecan Bars

16 oz. Light Brown Sugar
4 Eggs
2 Cups Flour
½ Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Vanilla
1 Cup Chopped Pecans

Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

In a sauce pan combine the eggs and sugar; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves.

Remove pan from heat and mix in the remaining ingredients until smooth, leave the pecans for last.

Pour batter into a jelly roll or sheet pan that has been greased and floured. Make certain to level off the batter before placing it into the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Buttercream Icing

I have had a request for my butter cream icing recipe. This is the recipe I use to crumb cakes before decorating and for most of my non-chocolate decorating needs. It stores really well in the freezer so I usually make a double batch and put some away for those cake emergencies. I actually don't like to eat icing, but those who do have given me rave reviews about this icing. This is my favorite icing to use because of its durability and versatility. It is also the most common icing used on wedding cakes, like the one I made for some friends of ours that I topped with blue gum paste flowers.

Butter Cream Icing

1/2 Cup (1 stick) Salted Butter
1/3 Cup Crisco
6 Cups Powdered Sugar (you may need more or less, just be ready)
1 Tsp Lemon Juice, no pulp
2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Tsp Salt (use a quality salt)
1 TBLSP Heavy Cream
2 TBLSP Water
Food coloring (optional)

I always use a stand mixer to make this, but a hand mixer will work also. I do not suggest trying to do this by hand, it will not get as fluffy as it could be. Cream the butter and crisco until smooth. Add cream and salt, mix until combined. Add vanilla, lemon juice and one tablespoon of the water; mix until combined. Begin adding the powdered sugar one cup at at time, to be honest I never measure this part I just do it by feel and texture. After adding about 4 cups of the sugar add the remaining water. The water is necessary because it is what allows the icing to develop a crust and hold any shape you pipe it into. Continue adding the sugar until the icing has reached a fluffy, spreadable texture without being too dry. If you take it too far add water, but only in extremely small increments (as in less than 1/2 teaspoon) at a time.

This icing holds colors beautifully but is also a delicious white all by itself. If you need it to be extra white you can buy whitening at any store that sells decorating stuff.

To make it chocolate flavored omit the lemon juice (I usually replace it with chocolate liquor) and replace one of the cups of powdered sugar with cocoa. This is not a traditional chocolate icing recipe, but will do if you already have this one going and need to make half and half.

This is the easiest icing to use to ice cupcakes; it holds up really well.

Note: While icing is being used keep a damp towel over it to prevent it from crusting inside the bowl. If this happens it will alter the texture; just take it back to the mixer and add 1/4 teaspoon of water then mix it until it is smooth again.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Buttermilk Bread

We ran out of bread yesterday and instead of running out to buy some I had a recipe that I had been wanting to modify for some time. It began as a Kolache recipe that produced extremely dense, but tasty results. I then changed it about to make dinner rolls which were also tasty, but still too dense for my taste. Today I have hit pay dirt!

Buttermilk Bread

1/8 Cup Warm Water
1 TBLSP Evaporated Cane Sugar
2 Tsp Dry Yeast

1/2 Cup Buttermilk
2 TBLSP Evaporated Cane Sugar
4 TBLSP Butter
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Egg, beaten
2 1/2 Flour (I used 1 cup white whole wheat and 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)

Mix the warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast, stirring until dissolved. Let stand for 5 minutes or until the mixture bubbles.

Scald the milk in a small saucepan. With a wire whisk, stir the sugar, salt, and butter into the scalded milk.

Cool to warm temperature, then stir in the beaten egg.

Stir the lukewarm milk into the yeast mixture and beat until smooth.

Stir in the flour a cup at a time until it is fully incorporated and no longer sticky.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough does not stick to the hands. Form the dough into a ball and place into a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until double in bulk.

Once doubled remove from bowl and knead for 1 minute. Form into a loaf shape and place into greased bread pan. Spray top with oil or brush with butter and place into a warm oven (under 180 F degrees) to rise for 30 minutes. After rising turn the temperature up to 350 F degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes.

This produces one loaf.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Traveling Cakes

Friday is my sister-in-law’s birthday, she will be 26. We live about 300 miles from her and cannot drive down to celebrate. Is it any wonder with the price of gas? So…I am sending her our part of the celebration. Mailing cake presents many, many problems the most basic of those is careless delivery people who accidentally drop the box, thusly destroying my handy work. Obviously I have tried this before.

Equipped with all of this knowledge I decided to make petite fours. They are far less delicate, but just as tasty and fun to eat. I used a cake recipe that I found in a book I bought for $2 at a used book store. I love this book [The Southern Heritage Cakes Cookbook] and refer back to it frequently for inspiration. This book, which is the same age I am, covers southern baking creations steeped in the history that brought them into fruition. I chose to use the cake portion of a Lane cake, a cake originating out of Alabama that is usually filled with cherries, pecans, coconut and brandy. This filling is not to be outdone by the traditional icing that resembles divinity and is a beautiful fluffy white.

Well, I left out the filling and icing using only the cake because it is made with egg whites which I have found allows it to be a bit more sturdy for the shipping process. Instead of a filling I colored and rolled out a package of marzipan. I am going for sturdy and what is more sturdy than sugar and almonds? I have never made my own marzipan, but I understand that is it relatively simple. Maybe another day. I coated the small cakes with a poured fondant.

I will let you know how they look when she receives them, I only hope they arrive looking as beautiful and delicious as when they left.

Lane Cake

1 Cup Butter, soft

2 Cups Sugar (I use evaporated cane sugar, but the original uses white)

3 ¼ Cups Cake Flour, sifted

2 Tsp Baking Powder

Pinch of Salt

1 Cup Butter Milk (regular will work just fine)

2 Tsp Vanilla

8 Egg Whites

¼ Tsp Cream of Tartar

Pre-heat oven to 375.

Prepare sheet pan with parchment paper on bottom of pan, leave about an inch of paper hanging out the ends to make removing the cake as easy as possible. Spraying the pan and paper with an oil and flour baking spray will make things easier, but is not necessary.

Combine egg whites and cream of tartar, beat whites until stiff peaks form; set aside.

In a separate bowl cream butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add milk and vanilla, mix to combine.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder; add flour mixture to the butter mixture stirring only until smooth.

Fold in the egg whites.

Pour batter into pan and smooth out until evenly distributed.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes.

Instead of inverting the cake to remove it from the pan simply tug it out using the parchment paper. Pull it out onto a cooling rack and let rest.

After it cooled I leveled it off and cut it in half; I put the rolled out marzipan in as a filling and cut up the cake into small squares.

Poured fondant icing

2-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup

In a pot add sugar, corn syrup and water. Put in a candy-thermometer so that you can monitor the temperature.

Give the sugar mixture a quick stir and heat it up to the "soft-ball" stage (238°F). The mixture needs to be heated as fast as possible, to prevent the sugar from turning brown, so don’t be afraid to cook on high heat. When it reaches the needed temperature you remove it from the heat.

Carefully pour into the mixing bowl. Let it cool until it reaches 140°F.

Once at 140°F start the mixer and let it beat at a slow/medium speed. Do not leave it unattended. When it turns into a thick dough you are done.

Remove the fondant from the bowl and wrap it in plastic bags. Let it rest.

To coat petite fours:

Place the fondant in a heatproof bowl and heat it gently in the microwave for approx 1 min. It needs to be warm but don’t let it boil. Give it a stir to get it smooth. You can use boiled water, a tsp at a time, to thin it down. If it gets too cold gently reheat.

Dip bottoms of cakes into icing and place on rack to set up. Once set place a sheet pan under the cakes and pour the icing to cover. You may need to do this more than once to get the color and consistency you want. Let set up completely before handling. Placing them in the fridge will speed this process.

If you are decorating with sprinkles or any thing of the sort do this before the icing is set. If you are using royal icing to make flowers or swirls do this after the icing has set.

Since completing this project I have run across another petite fours icing recipe that I like much better:

6 Cups Powdered Sugar

1/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Water

1/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Light Corn Syrup

1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Food Coloring

Combine all ingredients except the food coloring in a double boiler and cook over medium heat until smooth and glossy. Remove from heat and add food coloring.

Yields 4 Cups total.

Getting Started

I have been absolutely obsessed with food blogs for the past few months and have decided to begin my own. I will fill you in on my experiments, successes and failures, as I go. I worked as a baker a few years back and while I loved the job I did not know how to handle the pressures of the kitchen. My life was out of balance and thusly so was all of my cooking. I have since found my balance and also found my way back into the kitchen. Food consumes all of my thoughts, just as it used to. I feel comfortable and fulfilled to be back on my food journey again.

You ought to know that I gained a lot (over 100 lbs) of weight the first time around and so this time I count calories and act like a rational human being because it has taken me years to lose the weight and I do not welcome it back. I love food, I had to learn that more is not always best and while butter does make every thing better it will not bring you clarity of thought and peace of mind; you have to find those first. Once I did, I now see that butter, cream and sugar have healed my heart because it is what is in my heart. Sharing this love with others and finding the perfect balance again and again are what keep me sane.

And so...I will begin again, this quest of butter, cream and sugar...

I will provide my resume for those of you who are considering hiring me to do some baking for you:


Associate of English with a concentration in communication. Seven years experience writing, communicating, and working with people in all walks of life and types of situations. Learned ability to communicate with people and serve their stated needs as well as anticipate those unstated. Organized and articulate in meeting and greeting clients as well as maintaining a strong working relationship for the duration of the engagement. Skilled in the organization and direction of events under multifaceted circumstances and currently planning to obtain certification as an event consultant.


2004-2008 Piece of Cake Party Services San Antonio, Tx


Personal business to provide cakes and party services/expertise to clients. Made cakes and other pastry accoutrement as well as themed fare for parties. Designed and created themed decorations and floral arrangements. Designed party plans for clientele including instructions and/or materials needed for a customer needs. References available upon request; portfolio pictures available upon request.

2005-2007 San Antonio College San Antonio, Tx

Tutor V – Student Learning Assistance Center

Aided students in english, history, government, humanities and public speaking assignments. Job incurred a need for the ability to overcome communication barriers to present knowledge in an understandable format for the patrons. Assisted in the daily customer service operations of the lab: managing calls, proctoring exams, reserving and scheduling lab usage and seeing to the student’s academic needs.

Employee of the month: September 2006.

2004-2005 San Antonio Flower Company San Antonio, Tx

Customer Assistance Representative

Maintained working relationships with wholesale and retail customers. Accommodated the needs of customers by accurately completing transactions with both onsite and remote clients. Responsible for familiarity with 100+ plants and flowers. Created and implemented improved organizational system increasing efficiency and profitability.

2001-2002 Guenther House San Antonio, Tx

Pastry Chef/Baker

Responsible for opening restaurant each morning; including inspection of and delineation of morning restaurant details. Delegated work requirements and set the pace for the day. Maintained an organized schedule to create the daily supply of baked goods for restaurant and catering operations.

1999-2000 Bandera County Attorney Bandera, Tx

County Attorney Clerk

Responsible for efficiently filling and maintaining organized records. Need for exceptional organizational skills to quickly and effectively provide files for clients and attorneys. Required ability to conduct organized and professional telephone correspondences.


Familiar and comfortable with the Microsoft Word and Excel as well as Internet savvy.


2003-2008 San Antonio College San Antonio, Tx

Associate Degree with a concentration in English and Communications