Saturday, June 24, 2017

Sugar Cookie Fruit Tartlets

I had already defrosted a ball of sugar cookie dough for tea when I remembered that I had planned to do something with the half cup of boysenberries I had picked that morning…for tea.  Instead of either putting the cookie dough back in the freezer or making two tea items, I threw them together.

The main difference between sugar cookie dough and pastry dough is the sugar.  Structurally and procedurally, they're the same thing.  Boysenberries are very tart, like raspberries, so I figured they could compensate for the sugar in the crust.  I just used half as much as I would have if there was a plain pastry crust.  The couple of bites I ate without much cookie in them were really sour, so it was a good call.

Notice how much I'm stressing the tartness of the berries.  Don't try to do this with a sweet filling.  You'll hurt someone.

My biggest concern was actually that the cookie would overbake while I was waiting for the berries to cook.  By making these small tartlets and not piling the berries past the rim, everything finished at the same time.  The berries still had their shape, but the sugar had glazed with the juices into what you would consider a pie filling.  The edges of the crust got a little dark, but everything touching the filling was still soft cookie.

2" ball of sugar cookie dough
*1/2 C berries
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp butter

1.  Roll the cookie dough into a circle roughly 4-1/2" across.  Coax into a 3" mini tartlet pan with a removable bottom.  Trim off the excess.  Preheat oven to 350º, even if the cookie dough recipe calls for higher.
2.  In a bowl, toss berries with sugar and cornstarch.  Pour into tart shell and arrange in a single layer.  Dot with the butter.

3.  Bake until the cookie edges are browned and the berries are softened, 15 to 20 minutes.  Allow to cool before loosening shell from the pan and removing tart.

Makes a single tartlet.

Difficulty rating  π  (assuming you already had the dough made)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Apricot-Cherry Jam

This new jam came from the same day as the mixed berry.  I did a batch of apricot orange jam and had two large apricots left over.  I combined them with about an equal weight of cherries for this jam, then made a small batch of Cherry Vanilla jam with the rest.  It was a long day of canning, which I'm calling Jam-a-Palooza.  This time, I really am done making jams for the year.  When you can't fit them all on the same shelf, it's time to call it quits.

*1 C apricots: peeled, seeded, chopped
1-1/2 C cherries: pitted and halved
1/4 C lemon juice
1-1/2 C sugar
*1 tsp powdered pectin

1.  Refresher on peeling apricots:  Boil water.  Drop in whole apricots.  Wait for skin to bubble, about 1 minute.  Remove to an ice bath.  Rub off skin.
2.  Place all ingredients in a medium skillet at least 2" deep.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Skim off foam and continue to boil, stirring often, until jam thickens and sheets when spilled off a spoon, about 20 minutes.  At some point, you won't be able to see the apricots anymore.  Cherry tends to take over the color scheme.

3.  For canning, process in a water bath for 12 minutes.  For refrigerator storage, wait for it to cool to room temperature before putting a lid on the container.

Jam-a-Palooza
Makes 1 pint

Difficulty rating  :)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Breakfast Platter Scones

I've been waking up baker-early on my non-baking days to lessen the shock when I do have to get up at 1am.  Most of the time, I roll over for another two hours.  That still gives me two hours before a 5am shift to have breakfast at home.  It has made a huge difference in my day.  For one thing, I've had at least one cup of coffee before getting behind the wheel.  I'm not hungrily looking forward to my oatmeal, which doesn't even keep me full past 10am.

So now I'm looking for better variety and things I can make the day before and reheat.  It takes longer than I usually want to make sausage or bacon.  I went through a batch of Bacon and Apple Pancakes and started revisiting other protein-based baked goods I'd made over the years.

This is a variation of the previously posted Bacon and Cheese Scones.  It's kind of a double batch of it on steroids.  I wanted to make this more than just decadent, but actually nutritionally balanced.  Only eat one.  I don't calculate calories in these recipes, but I'm pretty sure this is over 500.

*2 C frozen shredded potatoes
*1/2 lb uncooked bacon
2 eggs
*4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded or finely diced
1-1/2 C flour
1/2 C rolled oats
1/4 C margarine
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 C cream
1/2 C milk

1.  Bear with me.  This step will make sense by the end.  Preheat oven to 375º and spread out potatoes on a rimmed cookie sheet.  Place a rack over them and lay all but one of the strips of bacon on it.  Bake until the bacon is done, turning periodically.  The fat will replace the oil the bag of potato recommends, and grease the pan for later.
2.  Take that reserved piece of bacon and pan-fry it in a medium skillet.  While that's going on, beat the two eggs with two tablespoons of water.  Remove the cooked bacon and use that fat to make scrambled eggs.  Don't cook them until dry, because they're going in the scone dough.

3.  In a medium bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking powder, salt, pepper, and sugar.  Cut in margarine until you can't tell it from the oats.  Stir in the grated cheese.  Chop the bacon into small pieces and stir it in.  Then stir in the cooked scrambled eggs.

4.  Turn oven up to 425º.  Stir milk and cream into flour mixture to make a sticky dough.  On the baking sheet, arrange the hash browns into 8 sections.  (For smaller scones, divide hash browns into more mounds.)  Drop the dough onto the hash browns.  Brush tops with a little more cream and bake for 24 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove to a rack to cool for a few minutes, then serve.

Serves 8

Difficulty rating  :)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mixed Berry Jam

The whole point of growing boysenberries was to taste them in a context other than pie or jam.  They have a short season, so it's like when cherries are available, how you get sick on them for a month because you won't have a fresh one for another year.  When I was only getting a couple of handfuls of them a year, this was great.  They garnished a salad and a few bowls of oatmeal.

This year's bumper crop made it obvious why the jam is a thing.  I simply can't eat them all, when half a cup ripens every two days.  So I hoarded up a week's worth and bought some blueberries and strawberries on sale to make a composite jam.  That's something I've never had, so it still counts.  Also, it was the week apricots were at their cheapest and it seems a shame to set up a canning pot for one batch of jam.  When I realized I hadn't bought cherries yet this season, the whole thing kind of escalated.  I had to buy more jars, and got these cool half-pint wide mouth ones.  If I'm ever able to schedule my annual tea, there's going to be a crazy array of jams.  Mid-June, and I haven't even set a date.  I hate being under-staffed.

1 lb strawberries, hulled and quartered
*12 oz aggregate berry such as blackberry, raspberry, or boysenberry
6 oz blueberries
4 C sugar
2/3 C lemon juice
*1 Tb powdered pectin

1.  I tend to cut the more firm berries in half, to make them break down easier, but you can put them in whole.  Mash the blueberries to break the skin.  You don't have to get every one, like with regular blueberry jam, since the other berries will help them along.
2.  If canning, start your water bath and sterilize jars for a 3-pint yield.  Stir together all ingredients in a wide pot or deep skillet.  Heat over medium-high to boiling.  Continue to boil and stir frequently until thickened, cooked, and starting to sheet, at least 20 minutes.  I forgot to look at the clock.  If may have been over half an hour.  Skim off any foam as you go, so you can see the jam underneath.

3.  For canning, process jars for 10 minutes for jelly or half-pint jars, 15 for pint jars.  For refrigerated or freezer storage, cool to room temperature before putting lids on the containers and storing.

Makes about 3 pints

Difficulty rating  :)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Wasabi Mashed Potatoes

Yes, again with the wasabi.  It's just like using creamy horseradish sauce on your baked potato, only a little green.  Anyway, if you google it, there are a ton of recipes.  Cheesecake Factory even has one.

I made this batch lumpy and a little thick.  I also left the skins on for the nutrition.  If your personal style is for a creamier, whipped potato, double the amount of cream or make the second portion milk.

1-1/2 lb red potato
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 C butter
*1/3 C cream
*1 Tb wasabi powder
salt to taste

1.  Cut potatoes into 1" cubes.  Place in large pot with water to cover by 1" and a sprinkle of salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower to a simmer.  Cover and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 30 minutes.
2.  Drain potatoes and beat with garlic and onions until broken down.  Add butter and cream and beat in.  Add wasabi powder and beat until evenly a light tinge of green.  Taste and add salt as necessary.  I admit, at this point I also added another 1/2 Tb of wasabi powder, but I was in the mood for a strongly flavored potato.  One tablespoon is more than enough for everyone to get the hint.  Serve hot.

Difficulty rating  π

Friday, June 9, 2017

Wasabi Cake with Pickled Ginger Icing

The half kilo of wasabi powder came with a pint of pickled ginger.  While I can eat that stuff straight out of the jar as a snack, I did save some for creative uses.

Looking for recipes, I found something called a Black Pearl cake.  It's chocolate with a wasabi kick and black sesame seeds on top of the icing.  Maybe I'll do that one day.  This time, I wanted something lighter.

In the end, I settled on a tried-and-true white cake recipe with wasabi powder instead of extract.  The filling of a white chocolate ganache is intended to mellow out the assault of both the wasabi and ginger.

And really, you don't want either flavor to hit you too hard.  This isn't spicy candy, it's a flavored cake. The point is to get an unexpected zing from the frosting that complements the sweet heat of the cake, with a soothing bit of filling.  I mean, really, a horseradish cake?  No one would eat that.

Cake
3/4 C sugar
3/4 C margarine
3 eggs
2/3 C milk
1-1/2 C cake flour
2 Tb baking powder
*2 Tb wasabi powder (don't freak out)
1/4 tsp salt

1.  Cream together sugar and margarine until fluffy.  Grease two 8" cake pans, line bottoms with wax paper, and grease the paper.  Start preheating the oven to 350º.

2.  Sift together cake flour, baking powder, wasabi powder, and salt.

3.  Add eggs one by one to mixer and beat until incorporated into the margarine.  Add milk and gently beat into a sloshy mess.

4.  Add flour mixture and stir until just moist.  Scrape down sides, then beat until no longer lumpy, about 1 minute.  Don't whip, or the final cake will have large holes.

5.  Distribute batter between cake pans.  Weighing the pans gets you the most accurate distribution.  Bake until springy, about 25 minutes, rotating pans after 15.  Cool in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and slowly remove the wax paper.  Cool completely before filling and icing.  You can even  freeze the layers and do it another day.

Filling
*1/4 C heavy cream
3/4 C white chocolate bits or finely chopped block white chocolate

1.  Boil cream.  Place white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and pour cream over it.  Stir to melt chocolate.  If all of the chocolate doesn't melt, microwave it in 10 second increments and stir between.  It's going to be very thin, so let it set up while you make the icing.

Icing
1/4 C butter
1/4 C shortening
2 Tb pickled ginger, minced
about 1/2 lb powdered sugar

1.  Cream together butter and shortening until smooth.  Beat in ginger.

2.  Slowly incorporate powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.  Remember that it will thicken as it dries.

To assemble cake

1.  Make sure cake halves are relatively level.  Trim if uneven or have risen too much.  Snack on the trimmings to find out if the cake is too spicy.  That will determine how much filling you need to even out the flavors.

2.  Place bottom tier on a cake circle or serving plate.  Top with filling to desired thickness.  Anything left over, beat into the icing.  Place top cake on top of filling and center.
3.  Mound the icing on top of the cake, then coax down the sides to cover.  The point of icing is to keep the cake from drying out.  You don't need a half-inch thick layer, just enough to enhance the flavor of what's inside.

4.  Garnish cake with additional ginger slices and/or a light dusting of wasabi powder.  Refrigerate until ready to serve, especially on a hot day.

Makes one 2-layer cake, about 8-10 servings

Difficulty rating  :)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Adventures From Seed

I haven't bought any seedlings this year.  I've been doing it all from seed, with varying degrees of success.

Failures first.  Either it's too warm or the seeds are too old, but I can't get any carrots to sprout.  There are two left.  I've been reseeding the chives every two weeks for over a month, and have yet to get a sprout.

I did get one more fennel to come up.  Really, that spot was more weed control than caring if I got another fennel, but I'll take it.  The four others are finally taking off.  I guess they needed more warmth. What has really benefitted from the weather is the watermelon.  No surprise, it likes a sunny day.  One plant in particular is getting strong.  The rest are thinking about it.
The most successful is the Roma tomatoes.  I planted one in the back yard big pot and another in the front yard.  The pot is doing better, as expected, and started to flower.  I should have tomatoes in a month or two, depending on the weather.
As for stuff that hasn't died yet, all the artichokes are still alive.  Some are larger than others, but I kind of knew which ones were in better soil and planted the stronger seedlings where I expected the best results.  I didn't get any blueberries this year before the squirrels did, but it is by far my best crop of boysenberries to date.  I have to check the plant every couple of days, and have left a few on there too long.  They hide.  And have thorns.  Eggy is still putting out an occasional eggplant.  If she ever dies, I'm going to seed celery in the pot.  I learned my lesson about celery root systems.  If she's still flourishing in October, I'll just buy another pot.
I planted a few beets and some cucumber last week, again as weed suppression.  The cucumbers were also because I'm kind of getting tired of beets, and needed something in that space.  They're supposed to be pickling cucumbers that grow more in a bush than vine, which will work with the space I have left and not run into the watermelon.  I'll just put tomato cages around them to act as a trellis.  Cart before the horse; they have to germinate first.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Berry Crepes with Banana Cream Filling

My boysenberry crop is starting to come in!  So now I need to find things to do with them that Knott's doesn't make.

I went on a search of this site for whatever sweet crepe batter recipe I use, and couldn't find one.  Really, I haven't made regular crepes here?  Well, I wasn't making them today either, so I went to Alton Brown for a scientifically tested recipe.

What I failed to note until all of the ingredients were in the blender was the yield.  This makes more crepes than I intended.  But Alton only used two tablespoons (1 ounce) in his and mine are usually closer to 1/4 cup.  I also lost more than usual before the pan was seasoned, so I only ended up with a dozen.
I also ate one to check the flavor
There's no reason you couldn't put berries inside the crepe instead of banana.  I had one that was going over-ripe.  Also, it allowed me to put less sugar in the batter and filling.  Berries can be tart.  The surprise of this dessert is the berry-tinged, purple crepe batter.

The garnish was going to be a white chocolate sauce, but I forgot to buy white chocolate.  This kind of snafu is why I keep a shaker of powdered sugar by the stove, next to the salt, pepper, and clove of garlic.  That's a weird combination of items to have on hand, but I actually used all of them that day.  I need to stop making several elaborate dishes on work days.  Three hours of cooking after eight hours of cooking & baking is really exhausting.  Side note: you can make these crepes ahead of time and freeze until needed.  You don't have to do all of this in one day.

Crepes
*1/2 C compound berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, or boysenberries
2 eggs
*3/4 C milk
1/2 C water
1 C flour
1 Tb sugar
3 Tb melted butter
more butter for the pan

1.  Put everything in the blender and run until smooth.  Let sit in the fridge for 1 hour to let the gluten develop.  You will have about 3 C of batter.

2.  Heat a small skillet over medium-high.  Place a generous amount of butter on a paper towel and wipe the pan.  Hang on to the paper towel and butter, because you're going to need it between every crepe.

3.  Pour a scant 1/4 C of batter into pan and swirl to coat the bottom until the batter sets.  Cook until the edges are browned and start to separate from the pan.  Yo can use a heatproof spatula to get enough off the pan to grab, but you're going to have to flip the crepe by hand or it will tear.  Cook other side about two more minutes, then remove to a wax paper-lined plate to cool.  Re-butter pan and repeat until all the batter is used.

Filling
1/2 C whipping cream
1/4 C mascarpone cheese
1 Tb sugar
*1 banana, thinly sliced
powdered sugar for garnish

1.  In a chilled bowl, beat cold cream to soft peaks.  Add sugar and beat to stiff peaks.  Add mascarpone and beat until smooth, which will soften the whipped cream's peaks.

2.  Onto each crepe, spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling.  Top with several slices of banana.  Fold or roll crepe, then dust with powdered sugar.  Serve immediately.

Makes 12 to 16 crepes, depending on size

Difficulty rating  :-0

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Bleu Cheese Burgers

I decided to barbecue for Memorial Day, even though the weather is seasonably drab.  There were two ripe eggplants, but I had to come up with a better reason than that to light the grill.

Burgers are fine.  I like a good hamburger.  This weekend, I wanted more, and decided to try a bleu cheese-infused burger.  I found this recipe that mixed the cheese into the burger instead of trying to seal it within the meat.  That never ends well for me, like the dirty snowballs that erupted hot chocolate everywhere.

Then it took me three tries to get the grill lit.  I was very close to turning on the oven instead.  These melted into the grill a bit and there was cheese all over the coals.  I suspect that was a result of the fire not being hot enough.  It was fine by the time the burgers were done, and the eggplants cooked in the time allotted.
I was disappointed that these didn't taste more cheesy, but that may be due to how much dripped out.  The cheese did make them perfectly seasoned and tender.  If you were to add half a cup of bread crumbs, this would make an excellent meatloaf.

For serving, I wouldn't add much.  A little mayo if you need something creamy on your bun, maybe some lettuce and one veggie (I would have used tomato if the eggplants weren't ripe) would be enough.  I did toast extra bleu cheese onto the top bun after the first day to up the cheese factor.

1 lb 80/20 ground beef
2 oz (1/2 C) crumbled bleu cheese
1 egg
2 green onions, chopped
*1 Tb Dijon or grainy mustard
*2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tb water
1/2 tsp salt
*1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
Vegetable or peanut oil for the grill
for serving: buns, veggies, mayo

1.  In a bowl, combine all ingredients.  Let sit in the fridge for an hour for the flavors to meld.

2.  Oil the grill very well or things are going to stick.  When the coals are very hot, divide the meat into four portions and press into patties larger than the buns.  Put a dent in the middle.  This is a grilling trick, because the patties will shrink up and get higher in the middle.  The dent will disappear.

3.  Grill burgers until browned on bottom.  You can tell that because they come off the grill easily.  Flip and cook other side until burger tests 160º in the middle.  Serve immediately.

Difficulty rating  π

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Kohlrabi Slaw with Tahini Dressing

So after all that about trying to gain weight, this is the kind of thing I've been eating that prevents it.  Putting chickpeas in slaw to make it nutritionally a main dish simply does not provide enough calories for an active person who is not on a weight loss program.

That said, I really liked the dish.  It also gave me the chance to use the food processor without having to hunt in the hall closet for it.  I so love having everything back in the pantry.  Although, I do still sometimes head down the hall for things before remembering they are where they ought to be.

1 bunch (usually 3) kohlrabi
1 large carrot
1 small shallot
1 C greens; I used beet
1 15oz can chickpeas
*2 Tb tahini paste
*2 Tb lemon juice
*3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tb plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
*orange for garnish (optional)

1.  Peel the kohlrabi and carrot.  Run through the shredder attachment on the food processor.  Thinly slice shallot, or toss it in the processor, too.  Drain and rinse the chickpeas.  Chiffonade the greens.  Toss all together in a large bowl to distribute.
2.  For the dressing, combine tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and yogurt.  If it seems too thick, add water until it's thin enough to coat the salad evenly.

3.  Toss together shredded veggies and dressing.  You can serve this room temperature or chilled.  Unlike a vinegar-based coleslaw dressing, you don't have to let this sit and marinate.  It will have the same texture right away as days later.  Garnish with orange slices if desired.

Serves 8-10 as a side

Difficulty rating  :)