Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ta Da!! The Winner of May's Give-Away Apron...

This apron goes to Ashleigh!   Please email me your address and this apron will be "winging" it's way to you.  Thank you all for commenting this month, as always, I love the feedback and the conversations:-D  June's apron will be up shortly...promise!

It's been a long and somewhat difficult month for so many reasons.  However, I'm blessed to be part of this community of bloggers and moreover, to have found connections of friendships, which I am truly thankful for--the "strings" that binds us!

Love, Susan XOXO

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cherry Pie Bars & Honey Vanilla Ice Cream

Cherry Pie is almost as American as apple; after all, the story goes that our first President, General George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and could not tell a lie-- that's why it's a popular dessert in February.  However, when I came across this recipe, I decided that being able to hold your pie, especially if you're having a picnic, would be convenient and fun.

The recipe for the bars comes from an interesting cookbook that I discovered.  The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day.
At their charming bakery is in Savannah, Georgia, Cheryl loves to charm her customers with her time honored "scratch" baking.  Since cherries are starting to come in at our farmer's market, I couldn't resist trying this for our rainy day picnic and substituting the frozen ones it calls for.  To top it off, I've been anxious to try another recipe from the Food Network magazine--Honey Vanilla Ice Cream because picnics at my grandparents always had homemade ice cream that we all took turns churning.

Cherry Pie Bars
Crust & Topping
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
3/4 lb (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray a 13" x 9" baking pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper, allowing the ends of the paper to hang over the opposite edges of the pan.  (I used my springform pan, so I didn't use parchment).

In a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, and salt, then, while the mixer is running on low speed, start adding the butter, one cube at a time.  Beat until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the mixture for the topping.  Press the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Bake in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly golden brown.
 Let cool at least 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.  I added 1/2 tsp. each of cinnamon and cardamon to the topping.

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of fine sea salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract   (I added both extracts to pump up the flavor)

2 lbs of frozen cherries, thawed and drained--now this is where I did fresh, about 5 1/2 cups washed, stemmed and pitted

Place the ingredients into the same bowl you made the crust, except for the cherries.  Whisk to combine.  Fold in the cherries.  Pour the filling over the crust.
Sprinkle remaining topping over the filling.
Bake 45 to 55 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
Allow to cool at least an hour before cutting.  The bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Honey Vanilla Ice Cream
2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup honey
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped 
4 egg yolks
1 T vanilla extract
In a medium sauce pan, heat the cream, milk, honey and vanilla beans until hot, but not boiling.  Separate the eggs and whisk the egg yolks. (I'm saving the egg whites for Swiss butter cream!)
Add some of the hot cream mixture to the eggs and whisk again--this is called tempering.  Repeat 2 or 3 times more, then, add the egg mixture to the base and whisk.  Stir with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens--test by running your finger across the back of the spoon. If the mixture doesn't cover the gap from your finger, it is done.
Chill the mixture in an ice bath for 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for 6 hours, then add the vanilla extract.  I used an electronic ice cream mixture, which isn't nearly as much fun as the hand cranked one my grandparents had, but the ice cream tastes just as good.
Freeze in a container until ready to serve with the cherry bars.
 Today was rainy, but the sun did come out for a brief time.  We are also experiencing what we call, Spring Snow or as it's better known as the  pollen of the cottonwood tree.
Happy Memorial Day and a Big Thank You to all our armed forces, especially our fallen, our veterans and the men and women who continue to protect us and the freedoms we hold so dear. Enjoy!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day & Shortbread Chocolate Chip Cookies

Our Memorial Day picnics were always held at my maternal grandparent's home, more specifically, their backyard.  My grandfather had built a brick barbeque just so he could cook the hot dogs and hamburgers, while my mother and grandmother made all the side dishes and desserts.  These picnics were the first place I ever had (and probably allowed) soda and my choice was Cream Soda, although they made sure there was an assortment.  The food was delicious, as usual and I loved to listen to the stories from my dad and grandfather about the military.  One of my favorites, is that during WWII, my grandfather was asked to come back to the Marines and be the Pay Master (he fought in WWI) stationed in Washington, D.C.  He told of evenings, playing poker with Vice President Harry S. Truman at the White House--they were both from Missouri and apparently both liked poker:-D

As much as we looked forward to these picnics, we never forgot it was a day to remember All the men and women who served in the military.  In my family, this includes my great-grandfather, who was assigned to the U.S.S. Constitution (and received a medal that has been passed down to the "first son"), to both my grandfathers--one in the Navy, the other in the Marines, my Dad, my uncles, three of my brothers, and two nephews who have felt it was their duty and honor to serve our country.  And, for that, I thankful and blessed.
Seaman William Joseph Tierney Jr.

Me and My Day in Millington, Tennessee
 Now, I don't remember making chocolate chip cookies, much less shortbread, for the picnic, but there were plenty of pies and cakes.  I came up with this recipe when I was in California (about 30 years ago) for a cookie that I could ship to my Dad in the care packages I sent him.  I continued with care packages to my daughters in college and a few years ago, discovered they stayed just as fresh when I shipped them to a friend who was serving in Afghanistan.  The recipe makes about 5 dozen and made him very popular in his unit when the cookies arrived!  I'm making these today and sharing the recipe because one of my dear friends and colleague's son is being deployed in about 8 days to Afghanistan and I will make sure, once he's settled, I will send him some as well--freshly made;-D.  (Eileen Hull is a talented, licensed artist with Ellison and you've seen her dies that I've used with the projects I've shared on my blog.)
Chris and his daughter--Photo shared from Eileen's Facebook entry 

Shortbread Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla extract + 2 Vanilla Beans, split and scraped
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
4 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 12oz pkg. Mini Chocolate Chips
Additional confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat oven 350F-degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter thoroughly.  Scrape down the sides and add the confectioners' sugar on low don't want to be wearing it.

Add the Vanilla extract and seeds and the salt and beat once more.  Add the flour, half at a time, on low speed again.  When all the flour has been combined, add the chocolate chips.

Measure about a tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball.  Use a fork to make criss-cross marks and flatten the dough slightly.  

Bake in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.  

Let cool a few minutes, then transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.  Dust with confectioners' sugar to finish them.  Makes 5 dozen 2-inch cookies.

On this Memorial Day weekend, while you're enjoying your picnics, set some time aside to remember all the men and women who have served, especially those who have given their lives, and all of their families--it is why we enjoy the freedoms we hold so dear. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day Two...Sally Lunn French Toast

Since I mentioned French toast yesterday, it was all I could think about this morning for breakfast.  And, I know it's not rocket-science to make it, but I thought I'd give you the recipe my mother always used for us.

We thought of French toast as a special treat and there are several ways to add different flavors, stuff or not stuffed, and what bread you use, but this morning, it's Sally Lunn.

French Toast
4-6 slices of bread, preferably day old
3 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream (or Half & Half)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
1 T vanilla extract

2-3 T unsalted butter for the grill pan

In a large flat dish or pan, beat the eggs and cream.  Add the spices and vanilla and whisk again.  Slice the bread in at least 1/2-inch slices.  

Soak the slices in the egg/cream mixture for at least ten minutes.  Heat a griddle on medium and add the slices.  Cook about 5 minutes on each side before turning to cook the other side.

Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve with warm maple syrup.  I added some veggie bacon strips and red potatoes to hubby's dish t round out a complete meal.  This way, he won't bug me later to make him lunch!! LOL!
Still chilly here in the Pacific Northwest, so hardy breakfasts are a must. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rainy Day Bread--Sally Lunn

In 1993, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and took a three-week trip to England, Scotland, and Ireland that was organized by our oldest daughter, Erin (our personal travel agent!)  One of the towns we visited was Bath, England.  There, we discovered not only a quaint hamlet, but a marvelous restaurant called The Sally Lunn House.
Our first lunch, when we arrived, was a light vegetable soup with these wonderful buns, known as Sally Lunn Buns.  Sally Lunn (whose real name was probably, Solange Luyon) was a French immigrant who came to Bath with her daughter.  This is a yeast bread, but with the addition of eggs, butter, and milk, it's very similar to a brioche.  Today, because it's rainy and chilly, I decided that baking bread was a good thing to start the day.  I baked the dough in my Pullman loaf pan, but you could easily divide it up into a large muffin pan and bake up the buns that are infamous.

Sally Lunn Bread
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1 T (or 1 pkg) dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (about 110-115F degrees)
1 T granulated sugar

3 1/2 to 4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 + 1T granulated sugar

3 large eggs

To begin, heat the milk and butter in a small sauce pan over low heat.  You don't want it to bubble over, just heat up enough to melt the butter.  Once melted, remove from the stove top and allow to cool, slightly.
In a 1-cup measure, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and 1 T sugar.  Whisk to combine.
In a large bowl, measure 3 1/2 cups of flour and the rest of the dry ingredients--stir to combine.  Crack 3 large eggs into a small bowl and whisk with a fork.  Once the yeast has proofed (become bubbly), add it to the eggs.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the milk/butter mixture, then, add the yeast/eggs mixture and using a spatula, combine the ingredients.  This is going to be a "sticky" dough, but in my case, because of the rainy day, I ended up adding an addition 1/4 cup of flour.

No need to turn the dough out of the bowl, just make sure you scrape down the sides to clean it up a bit.  Then, cover the bowl with plastic wrap--I sprayed the underneath side (that goes over the dough) with a little bit of baking spray so it wouldn't stick.  Let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Butter a Pullman loaf pan and scrape the risen dough into it, smoothing it out to cover the entire pan.

You can dust your finger tips with a little flour to smooth the top, but I chose to brush the top with more melted butter. Cover again with the plastic wrap.

Let rise, once more in the pan 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  When it's almost doubled, set your oven temperature on 375F-degrees.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, watching it the last 10 minutes to make sure it doesn't over brown.  The internal temperature of the bread should read between 180-190F-degrees.
I turned it our on a bread board to cool, but could only wait about 15 minutes before I cut the end slice, slathered it with some peanut butter and listened to the rain coming down.

The texture of the bread is so soft and the crust is perfect.  I made sandwiches today--it makes great grilled cheese, but honestly, it makes some of the best French Toast I've ever eaten.  My sister also suggested that it would make great bread pudding, but that's if any if left over:-D Enjoy!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May's Give-Away Apron and April's Winner

By the Peonies
The peonies bloom, white and pink.
And inside each, as in a fragrant bowl,
A swarm of tiny beetles have their conversation,
For the flower is given to them as their home.

Mother stands by the peony bed,
Reaches for one bloom, opens its petals,
And looks for a long time into peony lands,
Where one short instant equals a whole year.

Then lets the flower go. And what she thinks
She repeats aloud to the children and herself.
The wind sways the green leaves gently
And speckles of light flick across their faces.

The charms of the ordinariness soothe the threat of anxiety.

Czeslaw Milosz
(30 June 1911~14 August 2004)

Peonies are one of my favorite flowers and so for this month's apron, I found this beautiful fabric displaying bouquets of peonies that I wanted to share.
I know my love of this flower comes from my grandma Gladys, who gave me a piece of her prized peony when we moved into our first home and taught me lessons of gardening.  I still have that peony and it has traveled all over the country in every garden that I've planted.
Unfortunately, with our cool Spring, the blooms have not come out
Across the country in Virginia at my Sister's home, her's have!
To enter for a chance to win this month's apron, all you need to do is post a comment.  I know it's already the 20th and I'm really behind--all comments this month are counted!

Also, I'd like to mention I heard from Jodi in regards to the April's Apron.  She requested that I choose another name since she has so many aprons already--which I'm happy to do.
Congratulations to Allison Preiss!  Please email me your address so I can get this spring-time apron off to you.

Lastly, just in case you hadn't heard or been keeping up with...The March Apron Give Away which was sent to Meggie on the Prairie became a "traveling apron" by her inspiration.  She calls it "The Sisterhood of the Apron" and every two weeks, it is sent on to another member of our blogging community.  It's first "visit" was with Elaine of Pear Tree Log blog in Lincolnshire, England and now, Elaine has passed it on to Scarlet of Tales from Beyond the Nook blog.  I'm so honored that an apron, which inspired me to begin blogging, is part of a greater memory.  Thank you, Meggie; I can't wait to read about the adventures this Give Away goes on and the "strings" it creates among the sisterhood.