Monday, September 29, 2014

Vanilla Bean Glazed Gingerbread Cookies

Autumn began for us with a downpour -- 3 inches of rain and a chilly, barely 70-degrees and I realized summer was definitely behind us.  It also means the ingredients I've been baking with are now becoming pumpkin, apple, and ginger instead of strawberries, blueberries, and peaches!

Gingerbread was brought to Europe in 992 and to the United States with the first settlers.  In France, it is know as pain d'espices and in Germany as Lebkuchen, but the main ingredients seem to be very similar; honey or molasses and a range of spices.  Whether it's in the form of a cake or cookies, it definitely has become one of the best loved baked goods for the Fall and Winter here.

Vanilla Bean Glazed Gingerbread Cookies
3/4 cup (12 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup mild-flavor molasses
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice*
*You can substitute 2 tsp. ground ginger, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. cloves and nutmeg for the Pumpkin Pie Spice. 

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar together.  Add the molasses and Pumpkin Pie Spice and mix thoroughly, scrapping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until the dough comes together.
Scoop the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with your hand.
The cookies will spread so be sure not to crowd them on the baking sheet--I did 8 at a time.
Bake in the preheated oven 15 minutes or until edges of the cookies are set.  Do not over bake!
Remove from the oven and allow to set for 10 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.
Vanilla Bean Glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
3-4 T very hot water
Mix all the ingredients and spread on the slightly cooled cookies.  These cookie are delicious with a cup of tea or coffee, sitting by a fire (and yes, I did have the gas logs burning:-D) and making lists for the holidays around the corner. Enjoy! 

 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

September's Give-Away Apron...Scuppernong Grape Jelly and Double Chocolate Teacakes


I'm here!  It's been a long eight weeks of moving--twice, unpacking, family visiting and granddaughters staying another week...kittens running all over the place while flooring still had to be installed, but I'm back and still happily have my sanity.

I realize it's the 20th of September and it doesn't leave much time to comment, but if you're interested in winning this month's apron, in these soft colours that trumpet Fall is around the corner, just comment on this or any of the posts I will promise to do and this apron will be sent to you.

Now, to cooking in my new kitchen...another wonderful produce that I have been introduced to here in Carolina, is Scuppernong Grapes, which are native to the South.  I've made 18 jars of jelly, given a lot away, but enjoyed delicious PB & Grape Jelly sandwiches for my lunch (or a snack!) almost daily. These large grapes are usually green or bronze in colour and rounder than a white grape. They're a variety of Muscadine grapes and the "state" fruit of North Carolina. My friend, who provides me with fresh eggs, has a small vineyard and brought over several pickings and I shared my jelly recipe with her.  We made jelly last Sunday together and I did another batch this morning to replenish my winter supply:-D
These grapes were first cultivated in the 17th century in Tyrell County, North Carolina.  A hunter, named Isaac Alexander found them along the banks of the Scuppernong River.  The name traces back to the Algonquian word, ascopo, meaning "sweet bay tree."  The finish colour of the jelly is a deep, reddish purple, unlike the bluish purple of Concord grapes, but the familiar taste of grape will win you over--it did me.

Scuppernong Grape Jelly
Prepare jars by washing and rinsing 8 half-pint jars or 3 pint jars.  Fill almost with water and microwave half the jars for 4 minutes to sterilize.  Use tongs to remove the hot jars from the microwave, empty the water and turn jars upside-down on a paper-towel-lined pan.  Cover with a dish cloth while you make the jelly.  Place the rings and tops in a small sauce pan, covered with water, and bring to a boil, turn down to simmer until you need to seal the jars.

3 lbs. Scuppernong grapes, washed and roughly chopped in a food processor
1 pkg. Certo Liquid Pectin
2 T fresh lemon juice
7 cups granulated sugar

Place grapes in the food processor and pulse to chop (I did 3 lbs. in 2 batches).  Place the mixer in a large Dutch Oven pan with 1 cup water.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower temperature slightly and boil for 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture in cheesecloth-lined colander; I used my grandmother's colander with smaller holes.
You need 4 cups of juice for this recipe.  Place the juice, Certo liquid pectin, and fresh lemon juice in the Dutch Oven (I did wash my pan before using it again), and bring to a boil, stirring almost constantly.  When it comes to a rolling boil (one that you cannot stir down), add the sugar and stir constantly.  

Bring to a boil again and set the timer for 1 minute.
Ladle the jelly into the prepared jars, wiping around the rim of the jar with a wet paper towel to remove any spillage.  Seal with a lid and ring and turn jars upside-down.
Cover with the dish towel and let set 10-15 minutes.  When you turn the jars right-side up, you should hear a "pop."  Then, you'll know the jars are sealed and good for one year on the shelf; however, I doubt if any of this jelly will last that long!  If you have some left, but not enough for another full jar, place in a plastic container and refrigerate to use first.




 Double Chocolate Teacakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup + 2 T granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup very strong coffee
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup Queen Guinevere Cake Flour
6 T King Arthur all-purpose flour
6 T Cocoa
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 3/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray 1-9" x 5" loaf pan, or 8 well mini loaf pan with a baking spray and set aside.
Mix the buttermilk, coffee and vanilla extract together and set aside.
 In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly.  Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
Chop the chocolate.
Add the dry ingredients, alternately with the buttermilk/coffee mixture just until blended.  Stir in the chopped chocolate.  Note--the batter is somewhat thinner than most quick breads.
 Place in the loaf pan or scoop into the mini loaf pan as I used.
The recipe would have made 10 mini loaves, but I opted to bake two rounds to give away to a friend.
Bake for 25 minutes, if you use a mini loaf pan (or muffins) or 55 minutes for a regular-side loaf pan.
Cool 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.  I simply dusted them with confectioners' sugar, but you could also do a drizzle of ganache--which would make these Triple Chocolate Teacakes! Enjoy!

My life is still hectic, but becoming a little more normal each day.  Our weather is beautiful and I'm longing to be outside planning new flower beds and knitting on our screened-in porch...maybe one day:-D   




Friday, July 25, 2014

Peach~Almond Ice Box Cake

The icebox cake gained its popularity in 1920s and 30s when it was first introduced during WWI, using many commercial shortcuts and premade ingredients.  Similar in structure to a Charlotte or a Trife, the ingredients for the cake included wafer cookies, pudding or whipped cream and companies began printing recipes on the back of the boxes of these ingredients.

It certainly is the answer to creating a crowd-pleasing dessert without heating up the kitchen with the oven on during the summer months...especially here in the South where our temperatures have been in the 90s with humidity!

This recipe was features in my Fine Cooking magazine for August/September, along with a luscious Chocolate Mousse and Frozen Lime & Dulce-de-Leche Terrine with Blackberry Sauce.  I still had some peaches left over and this one definitely called to me to make.
These icebox cakes are easy and the best part is that they are made ahead for the best flavor and texture to develop, which turned out to be a good thing when I'm rushing around and getting ready for our next move.  Our home is just about done and we will start bringing boxes over this weekend, however, one little snag is that we're still waiting for the bamboo flooring to arrive so it can be installed.  We'll be living in the basement (which is finished with cork flooring) for about a week or so.  What do they say about "best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

Peach~Almond Ice Box Cake
Peach Jam  
4 ripe medium peaches, peeled and pitted
1/4 cup peach liqueur, such as Mathilde (or water, which is what I used)
3 T granulated sugar
Coarsely chop the peaches and put them in a 2 to 3 quart saucepan.  Add the liqueur or water and the sugar.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally and mashing the peaches with a potato masher, about 15 minutes.  They will become thick and jammy.  Transfer to a small bowl and cool completely.



Cake
4-5 peaches, peeled and pitted
4 oz. (1/2 cup) mascarpone
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2  3.5oz boxes thin almond cookies such as Jules Destrooper

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Thinly slice the peaches and set aside.  Beat the mascarpone with 1 cup of the heaving whipping cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer using the whisk attachment (you can also use your stand mixer with the whisk attachment.  Beat on low speed until smooth.  Add the remaining 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and beat on medium speed until firm peaks, about 3 minutes.


Spread a thin layer (about 1/4 cup) of the whipped cream mixture on the bottom of a 2 quart baking dish.
Cover the cream with a single layer of the almond cookies.  Spread about half of the peach jam on top of the cookies, then arrange a half of the sliced peaches over the jam. Repeat the steps for a second layer, starting with the whipped cream, using half of what is left, then, the cookies, peach jam, and sliced peaches.


Sprinkle the top with the sliced, toasted almonds and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 2 days. 

Cool and refreshing, this icebox cake was just the thing for a hot and humid summer day. Enjoy!

In case you were curious, the kittens are doing well, although Rosie is still not a happy camper.  I'm hoping that will change:-D

Curious, but still hissing a bit at these strange little beings!
 

 Now, since I will be busy packing, moving and unpacking over the next week and a half, I decided to announce July's apron winner...Mary Jane Sampson!  Please email me your mailing information so I can get this apron off to you.  

Understandably, I will be a little late getting the August apron up, buy boy am I anxious to create some new things in my kitchen!

 
 
  


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Peaches...and Kittens!

I admit it...I've become my mother!  This week, with just a few weeks from our last big move, I was hit with kittens dropped in the yard of our rental home--three little kittens, but, no mittens:-D  My first reaction was to call every "no-kill" shelter to drop these little guys off.  Lucky for these little kittens, no one answered or they had a recording that they were full.  The next step was to take them to our Vet and have them checked out.  They're clean of fleas, no worms, and actually have had their first distemper immunization.  However, they remain in the one of the bathrooms, away from our 10 year old Ragdoll, Rosie, who looks at me with those big blue eyes as if saying, "what the heck is this!"

Why I say I've become my mother is because as kids, we brought home every animal under the sun and she never said no.  There were numerous cats, dogs, a pair of flying squirrels, a chipmunk, fish, baby Mockingbirds that had fallen out of their nest, guinea pig and hamsters. Realistically, I know going from one cat to now four is crazy, but when your grandchildren say with excitement..."Mimi, you have to keep them!"  Well, there's my mother in me saying, "okay."
Hubby with Harper (the buff one), ZuZu (the tortoise shell) and Clara (the "Russian Blue" gray)

To relieve the stress, I bought a bushel of peaches and made 14 jars of peach jam and this morning made Brown Butter Waffles with a Peach compote.  Our new home is going to be filled with grandchildren and apparently a lot of pets...which is what a home should be:-D




Brown Butter Waffles with Peach Compote
Waffles:
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 T granulated sugar
2 T finely-ground cornmeal
2 large eggs
4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and browned
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk (you can make your own by adding 1 T apple cider vinegar to milk and let stand until curdled)
In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together, then add the eggs and buttermilk and stir thoroughly.  Finally, fold in the slightly cooled brown butter.

Heat a waffle iron up and brush with some vegetable oil for the first time; after that, you should have to add any more oil.
Bake the waffles until golden brown.  Dab a pat of butter, add a little bit of warm maple syrup and a spoonful of peach compote for a delicious Sunday breakfast.

Peach Compote:
4 to 5 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
In a small sauce pan, add the sliced peaches.  Next, mix 1/3 cup of granulated sugar with 1tsp. cornstarch.  Add to the peaches and stir  gently.  Place over low heat, covered and cook until bubbly.  Remove the lid and keep on low heat until ready to serve with your waffles.  These peaches would also be good on ice cream!
This move is definitely going to be interesting.  Our bamboo floors have still not gone in, so we may be living in the basement on the cork floors with our new furry friends! Enjoy! 


Monday, July 7, 2014

Strawberry Swirl Pound Cake & July's Give-Away Apron

While I was grocery shopping last week, I came across a curious looking product in the produce section...near the berries, Glaze for Strawberries.
I imagine it is meant for glazing fresh fruit pies, but as my mind goes, I thought it would be perfect swirled through my favorite cake--pound cake.

Dating back to the early 1700s in Northern England, a pound cake refers to any recipe that has a ratio of 1:1:1:1; butter, sugar, eggs and flour.  I know, all too well, it's a staple in the South and can be dressed up in a number of ways, grilled, or broken up as a base in Trifle.  My mother and I chose pound cakes for wedding and anniversary cakes for it's denseness and ability to freeze well when making up multiple layers prior to the big date; a big plus considering we didn't have a "walk-in" refrigerator like most bakeries:-D

Strawberry Swirl Pound Cake
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
1-8oz pkg. cream cheese
6 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup (approx. 12 tsps.) Glaze for Strawberries

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Grease and flour (or use a baking spray with both in it) a 12-cup Bundt pan.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter well.  Gradually add the sugar while the mixer is running.  Scrape down sides, as needed, with a rubber spatula.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping down the sides once more.  Add the flavorings and mix again.

Add the flour and salt and beat until combine, then, on medium speed beat 1 minute more.  Measure the batter in thirds--I use a large scoop to do this.
 Smooth the batter with a small off-set spatula, then, add 6 tsp. Strawberry Glaze.
Use a long wooden skewer or kitchen knife to swirl the glaze through the batter.
Repeat with another layer of batter and 6 more tsp. of glaze.  Finally, add the last 1/3 of the batter to cover.
Bake in the preheated oven 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, checking by inserting a wooden skewer in the center and making sure it comes out cleanly.  Cool cake completely before slicing...something I didn't do and as you can see, compressed the bottom a bit:-(
I love the bright strawberry swirl and all this pound cake needed was a dusting of confectioners' sugar and some fresh strawberries (macerated with a little sugar) to top it off. Enjoy!

Summer is definitely upon us and getting use to humidity is something I'm trying to do!  I couldn't help remembering the wonderful times spent on the Chesapeake Bay to cool off on my dad's sailboat--Rhianna. My dad name her for the Irish green-eyed witch (nymph) and my girls loved to
 sit on the side and ask "Granddad" to tilt the boat so their feet would go into the water!

To be eligible for this beauty, simply comment on any of the posts this month.  Good luck!

Friday, July 4, 2014

4th of July Picnic Rolls

My mother did 4th of July in a big way.  Lots of salads, breads/rolls, desserts, fried chicken, and of course, Chesapeake Bay Crabs.  My dad would go in the morning and buy two bushels to bring home.  I loved helping my mother prepare for this big day that both family and dear friends looked forward to--and, it was a day to be thankful for the freedoms we hold dearly.

Since I was seven years old, I've made lots of rolls in my time and thanks to my mother's encouragement, I have no fear of trying anything new.   However, I do listen to your comments about working with yeast and tried to come up with an easy, but very impressive recipe to WOW your family with on these special occasions.  I got this idea from a recipe that appeared in the New York Times years ago, for an easy to make bread that takes no kneading and is baked in an enamel/cast iron casserole (or Dutch Oven) pan.  I tweaked it a bit and I'm quite pleased to give you all a recipe to make a stunning roll that is crispy crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside!

Picnic Rolls
4 1/2 cups King Arthur Bread Flour
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sea salt
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 T olive oil

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.
Add the olive oil to the water and pour it over the dry ingredients.  Mix with a rubber spatula until the dough comes together.  (It will be soft and sticky).
Cover the bowl tightly with a piece of plastic wrap that you have sprayed one side with a baking spray and let it set for 4 hours.
At the end of 4 hours, the dough will looks puffy and have risen almost to the top.

Generously flour a bread board and scrape the dough out onto it, adding more flour as needed.  Divide the dough into 7 pieces and with floured hands, shape into a roll and place in a 6 quart Dutch Oven that you have brushed with olive oil.
Cover the Dutch Oven with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes more.  (I even put the top on to hold the plastic wrap tightly.)
Preheat oven to 425F-degrees.  After 30 minutes, remove the plastic wrap, but place the top of the pan on and place in the oven for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the lid and bake another 20 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and place a cooling rack on top.  Use the handles to flip out the rolls, turning them right-side-up to cool completely.  Dust the tops with some additional flour.

Because the rolls are crunchy, you will need to take a knife to cut them apart, but oh my, do they look great and so easy to make.
Now, I need to get to the rest of the meal.  Happy 4th of July everyone, Enjoy!