Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Strawberry Sweet Buns

My mother used to make us, what she called "Fruit Pizza" in the summertime.  Usually the fruits were sliced peaches or plums placed on top of a sweet dough that had been stretched to fit a long baking sheet and then, a heavy sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon over the fruit; enough to feed a large family!  Subsequently, I like to take her ideas and add my own twist because that's what she always encouraged me to do.

Today, I made up a quick brioche-like dough to create individual fruit pizzas or as I have named them--Strawberry Sweet Buns.  I've started to see strawberries from California in the market,  so I know they're pretty fresh and along with some of my homemade strawberry jam, from last summer, I knew this would be my choice of fruit.  It's not to say, that peaches with some homemade peach jam, or raspberries with raspberry jam or blueberries with...well, you get the picture, wouldn't be just as good:-D

The garden strawberry was first cultivated in Brittany, France in the 1750s; prior to that, wild strawberries were the common source used in baking and preserving.  I know my Sis would loved these sweet buns, as she was often caught in the strawberry patch at my grandparent's house!  When we both lived in California, we could see acres of strawberry plants, around Oxnard, mound with black plastic covering their roots.  Not only did that plastic keep weeding down, but it absorbs the sunshine and produces earlier crops by warming up the ground.  The Strawberry Festival in Oxnard, California was an event held in May and we'd all looked forward to, not only the attractions, but the wonderful treats made from strawberries.  My daughters' favorite was "fried dough" with strawberries and whipped cream on top.  These sweet buns do bring back that memory as well...baked, not fried, of course:-D

Strawberry Sweet Buns
Yeast dough:

1 T. dry Saf-instant Gold Yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp. honey

Mix all the ingredients and proof the yeast in a 1-cup glass measure for 5 to 7 minutes

4 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour + 2 to 4 T as needed
2 tsp. salt

Place dry ingredients into a bowl of a stand mixer, using the dough hook, briefly mix these two ingredients together.

3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup honey
1 large egg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft (but not melted)

In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, mix the milk and honey together.  Stir while heating and remove after the honey has blended into the very warm milk.

Add the milk and honey to the dry ingredients and blend together about 1 minute.  Add the egg and the proofed yeast and mix again.
Add the softened butter, a tablespoon at a time and "knead" with the dough hook until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl, adding a tablespoon of flour as needed, but keeping this dough soft.
Lightly flour a bread board and turn dough out onto the board.  Knead a few times to get a smooth ball.  Place in a large bowl that has been brushed with melted butter and then, cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise about 1 to 1 1/2 hours--until doubled.

 Meanwhile, prepare the filling:

1 1/2 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
 1/2 cup (preferably homemade) strawberry jam
4 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon

Mix all the dry ingredients together, then cut in the butter to create the streusel.
Punch down dough and divide into eight pieces.
 Roll each piece into a round ball and set in place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Brush the smooth balls with 1 large egg + 1 T water, whisked together, then, sprinkle with some granulated sugar and place plastic over them just to rest while you preheat the oven to 375F-degrees.

My oven took about 20 minutes to preheat.  This time allows the dough to rest and soften again.  Press down the dough to flatten (like pizza!) 
Add about 1 tablespoon of strawberry jam in the center.
Divide strawberries among the pastries, on top of the jam.
Finally, add the streusel; sprinkling it on top of the fresh berries.
 Bake immediately in the preheated oven for 13 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.
Allow to cool, then mix up a vanilla-bean glaze to drizzle on top.

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 T light Karo syrup
4 to 5 T heavy cream
1 vanilla bean split and scraped (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract)

Mix all ingredients for a thin glaze.
Now, how would you like to have these in the morning or with afternoon tea?  On a rainy day, it was like having a bit of sunshine~
...right in my kitchen. Enjoy!


Sunday, January 27, 2013

[Senate] Bean Soup & Cornbread

One of the best things about growing up in Maryland was the proximity to Washington, D.C. and having class trips to the Smithsonian, National Art Gallery, the Memorials, the White House, the Capitol...well I could go on and on.  Being exposed to the richness of history in one city gave me a sense of pride and I never tired of the yearly field trips starting as early as 1st grade.
(photo from the internet)
Today, with rain and a chill in the air, I was trying to decide what to make for our dinner when the thought of Senate Bean Soup came into my head.  I was in 6th grade when we visited the Capitol Building and the National Art Museum and had planned ahead of time to save up some babysitting money to be able to have lunch in the Senate's restaurant with my friends.  While they were placing hot meals on their trays, I opted for a bowl of bean soup with a square of cornbread.  Looking back, I know I was drawn to the familiar; my mother made the best bean soup and even though it was probably cost-effective for a large family, I saw it as a very special meal when she made her recipe. 

Over the last 25 years, since switching my diet to vegetarian, I've had to make my own version of my mother's soup, eliminating the ham hocks that she cooked (until the meat fell off the bone) with the navy beans.  Imitating that flavor that has been made since 1903 when Senator Knute Nelson from Minnesota requested the soup to be a part of the lunch meal at the restaurant in the Capitol Building, was no easy feat.  However, I think I've come up with a pretty good substitution and I can still have my memories.

Navy Bean Soup (with kale)
2 cups dry navy beans
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 - 2 stalks of celery, diced
2 T olive oil
6 cups water + 3 "Not-Chick'n" bouillon cubes (or substitute 6 cups of vegetable broth)
6 to 8 drops of Liquid Smoke
salt & pepper to taste
1 bunch of fresh kale, washed thoroughly, remove the center stem and chopped (optional)

Wash and pick over the dry navy beans, removing any "stones" or discolored beans.  Place in a medium sauce pan and cover with water.  Bring beans to a boil, then place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for one to two hours.  

Prepare veggies.  Place a soup pan or Dutch-oven, over medium heat and after a minute, add the olive oil, then the veggies and saute until soft.  Drain the beans and add to the veggie mixture.  

Add the water and bouillon (or vegetable broth) and Liquid Smoke and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to low and cover with a lid.  Continue to cook 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender.  About 15 to 20 minutes before the beans are done, add the kale, if using.

While soup is cooking, make up your favorite cornbread.  I've included my easy recipe because I associate this soup with cornbread:-D

1 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.  Spray a 6-cup mini bundt pan with baking spray.
In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl, mix the egg, milk, melted butter and sour cream, then, add it to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
 Spoon batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 18 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt 2 T butter and 2 T honey in a small saucepan.  After 18 minutes, remove pan and brush this mixture onto the tops of the cornbread bundt pan.
Return to the oven and bake an additional 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, then turn out onto a parchment-line rack.
Soup was perfect for this weather.  What comfort food did you make today with the cold weather outside?  Enjoy!




Friday, January 25, 2013

Tunnel of Lemon Bundt Cake

In 1966, a woman named, Ella Helfrich, took second place in the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off with her recipe for Tunnel of Fudge Cake.  She incorporated a box of Double-Dutch Chocolate Icing in the cake which produced a fudgy center reminiscent of under cook brownies...and it was delicious.  My sister first baked this and brought it to my mom's for one of our family get-togethers.  An overnight success with more than 200,000 requests for the recipe, that didn't even win the grand prize!  Several years ago, Pillsbury stop producing the boxed icing--reasons unknown, but not to worry there are several recipes out there that recreate this incredible cake with it's fudge-like center and that's what inspired me today.

Lemon was one of my mother's favorite to chocolate and since I just bought a bag, I decided to experiment with an idea that's been floating around in my head.  Have you ever had one of those?  With just a few changes, I was able to recreate a tunnel of lemony filling that resembles a curd and, furthermore, there is no yellow food coloring or photo touch up on the color of this cake.  The golden yellow colour comes from lemons and eggs!

Tunnel of Lemon Bundt Cake
1 3/4 cup (3 sticks + 6T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of 2 lemons
1 T Lemon Juice Powder
6 large eggs
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 3/4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup Lemon Bits

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray a 12-cup bundt pan with a baking spray and set aside.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy--about 5 minutes.  Add the zest and Lemon Juice Powder and mix once more.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, as needed.

Add the confectioners' sugar gradually while the mixer is running on Speed #3.  Scrape down sides once more and remove the bowl from the stand.

Stir in the flour and Lemon Bits, mixing thoroughly to combine.
Spoon batter into the prepared bundt pan.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.
 Because the center is "soft," normal testing methods of using a wooden skewer won't work.  Look for the cake to start pulling away from the sides of the pan.  Remove from the oven and leave in the pan for 90-minutes.  Yes, that's 1 1/2 hours!!
After the time, turn the cake out onto the serving plate.  Allow to cool completely (about 1 hour more) before cutting into it. The original Tunnel of Fudge did have an glaze, so I made one too:

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
juice of 1 lemon (about 3 to 4 T)
2 tsp. light Karo Syrup

Drizzle the glaze over the cake and serve.

See the tunnel of luscious lemon curd! 
Mission complete!  Now, whether I feel like chocolate or lemon...I have a recipe to satisfy that craving. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Touch of Spring

I just feel so badly for all my family & friends who are in the midst of this cold front that has settled over them.  I decided this morning to share a wreath I made in paper with my new dies and to give you a preview of Spring to keep you warm.  One of my favorite writers, Hal Borland said...

"No Winter lasts forever,
No Spring skips its turn!"

  I'm sending warm wishes to all my friends. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Vermont Cheese Rolls

One of my favorite poems, that we read in English 201, was the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam..."a jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou." Of course, for my hubby, a good sharp cheddar is what he'd add and so I did one better--I added some Vermont Cheese Powder!

This powder is the same as the packet you find in Kraft Mac & Cheese, so if you don't want to order it, use a whole packet. 
The chill of the day called for homemade bread and I felt the need to knead:-D  I look through the pantry and pulled out some bread flour, sugar, honey from Natalie, and the cheese powder.  Hubby likes rolls and they bake quicker, which with my work load, was perfect.  Easily, this recipe would make two loaves, if you prefer.

Vermont Cheese Rolls
6 cups King Arthur Bread Flour
1/3 cup Vermont Cheese Powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup 2% milk
4 T unsalted butter
1 egg
2 tsp. sea salt
2 T dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105F-degrees)
2 T honey 
Additional 3/4 cup to 1 cup water and melted butter for pans

In a stand mixer, using the bread hook attachment, add the flour, cheese powder, sugar and salt and mix about 30 seconds to combine.  In a 1 cup glass measure, add the warm water, the yeast, and the honey and whisk to combine.  Allow the yeast to proof for 5 minutes, until foamy.

In a small sauce pan, heat the milk and butter on medium, just until "bubbles" form around the outside edge.  Remove from the heat and while the mixer is running on Speed #2, add the milk and butter, then add the egg and continue to mix.  Add the foamy yeast and while the mixer is running, pour additional water, about 3/4 cup or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Knead in the mixer an additional 2 to 3 minutes, then, turn dough out onto a lightly floured bread board.
The dough should easily come out of the bowl and both the dough hook and bowl should be clean.  Knead several minutes until the dough is smooth (as my mother said, "a baby's bottom!")
Brush melted butter inside a large bowl or dough bucket and place the dough, right-side down, then turn it right-side up and seal with plastic wrap or the lid.
Let rise about 45 minutes or until doubled.  Turn the dough out onto the bread board and divide into 12 pieces.  Form into round, flat rolls and place on a baking sheet, brushed with melted butter. Brush roll tops with the melted butter also.
Cover once more with plastic wrap and let rise about 30 minutes while you are preheating the oven to 375F-degrees.
Remove the plastic wrap and lightly brush with additional butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

Bake in the preheated oven for 18 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool completely before slicing...if you can wait!
Hubby was playing tennis tonight and the menu called for a veggie burger on the rolls with steamed broccoli and baked potato as sides.  I'm thinking a lovely pot of soup for tomorrow if the rain continues--who am I kidding, this is the Pacific Northwest, of course it'll be raining.  Enjoy!