Archive for August, 2012


August 16, 2012

I’ve been baking a lot.  I didn’t bake for the entire month we were in France – I never even turned on the oven – so I think I am compensating.  Also, summer fruit always makes me want to bake.  I love eating it all out of hand but berries and stone fruit sure do make amazing desserts.

The only fruit better than a peach, in my book, is a nectarine.  I prefer to bake with peaches and eat nectarines over the sink.  I’ve made two peach cakes in the past couple of weeks and I’m going to share them both with you.  They are very different.  That top one comes from Cook’s Illustrated and features roasted peaches in the cake and raw peaches on top.  It is one of those “fruit held together by a bit of cake batter” cakes.  I thought it was going to be extraordinary (roasted peaches!) but it fell a little short of my expectations.  I recognize that many of you just want to bake something yummy, that you don’t need to have your socks blown off by dessert, which is why I’m sharing.  It is a great way to use delicious fruit and it looks pretty too.

The second one comes from Bon Appétit and it is not technically a peach cake.  It is Sour Cream Pound Cake with Lavender Peaches.  The looks to taste ratio for pound cakes is very out of whack, if you ask me.  This is especially true with this cake.  It is flatter than most and a very uninspiring shade of tan.  But what looks like a whole lot of nothing has the most amazing texture and buttery rich taste.  The not completely indecent amount of butter and sour cream give you terrific richness and mouth-feel, and the whole vanilla bean boosts the flavor beyond the ordinary (which is not at all ordinary) pound cake.  It would, of course, be amazing with any fresh berries but the lavender peaches are pretty spectacular.  The whipped cream flavored with lavender syrup takes it over the top.  I have lavender growing in my yard so I used fresh but you can buy culinary lavender at places like Amazon.

Two Years Ago:  Lavender and Honey Tea Cakes, Polenta Baked with Corn, Tomatoes, and Basil
Three Years Ago:  Cold Melon Soup with Cucumber Chile Ice (fantastic on a hot day), Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata (ditto)
Four Years Ago:  Farro with Green Beans and Corn

Sour Cream Pound Cake wtih Lavender Peaches
Bon Appétit
Serves 8

¾ plus 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. fine sea salt
¾ cup sugar
10 tbsp. (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream

Lavender syrup and peaches
1½ cups sugar
3 tbsp. dried lavender blossoms
4 medium firm but ripe peaches, pitted, cut into ¾-inch wedges
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Make the cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325ºF.  Butter 8½x4½x2¾-inch metal loaf pan.  Dust pan with flour; tap out excess.  Sift ¾ cup plus 1 tbsp. flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Combine sugar and butter in large bowl; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean (reserve bean for lavender syrup).  Using electric mixer, beat sugar mixture until fluffy.  Add egg, egg white, and vanilla extract; beat until mixture is pale and thick, about 2 minutes.  Beat in sour cream.  Add flour mixture; beat just until blended.  Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.  Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes clean, 56 to 58 minutes.  Turn cake out, then turn top side up.  Cool completely.  (Can be made up to 1 day ahead.  Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.)

Make lavender syrup and peaches:
Combine 2¼ cups water, sugar, lavender, and reserved vanilla bean in saucepan.  Boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat; cover and let steep 10 minutes.  Strain syrup into medium bowl; discard lavender.  Pour 2 tbsp. lavender syrup into small bowl; reserve for whipped cream.  Cover and chill.  Return remaining syrup to same saucepan; add peaches and lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, about 5 minutes.  Transfer peaches to bow.  Boil syrup in pan until reduced to 1 cup, 12 to 14 minutes.  Pour over peaches.  Chill uncovered 2 hours.

Beat cream and 2 tbsp. reserved syrup in medium bowl to soft peaks.  Slice cake.  Serve with peaches, syrup, and cream.

Summer Peach Cake
Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 8-10

2½ pounds peaches, pitted and cut into ½-inch thick wedges
5 tbsp. peach schnapps
4 tsp. lemon juice
6 tbsp. plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup sour cream
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. almond extract
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs, crushed fine

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425ºF.  Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil spray.  Gently toss 24 peach wedges with 2 tbsp. peach schnapps, 2 tsp. lemon juice, and 1 tbsp. granulated sugar in  bowl; set aside.

Cut remaining peach wedges crosswise into thirds.  Gently toss chunks with remaining 3 tbsp. schnapps, remaining 2 tsp. lemon juice, and 2 tbsp. granulated sugar in bowl.  Spread peach chunks in single layer on prepared sheet and bake until exuded juices begin to thicken and caramelize at edges of sheet, 20 to 25 minutes.  Transfer sheet to wire rack and let peaches cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF.

Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in bowl.  Whisk brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and eggs together in second bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds.  Slowly whisk i butter until combined.  Add sour cream, vanilla, and ¼ tsp. almond extract; whisk until combined.  Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Transfer half of batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surfgace.  Sprinkle crust bread crumbs evenly over cooled peach chunks and gently toss to coat.  Arrange peach chunks on batter in evenly layer, gently pressing peaches into batter.  Gently spread remaining batter over peach chunks and smooth top.  Arrange reserved peach wedges, slightly overlapped, in ring over surface of cake, placing smaller wedges in center.  Stir together remaining 3 tbsp. granulated sugar and remaining 1/8 tsp. almond extract in small bowl until sugar is moistened.  Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over top of cake.

Bake until center of cake is set and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.  Transfer pan to wire rack; cool 5 minutes.  Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen.  Remove cake from pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.  Cut into wedges and serve.

A Slice of My Life – Week 32

August 14, 2012

It used to be that you could guarantee sun in Seattle after July 5th.  It would take us a while to get to summer but when we did, it was consistently beautiful and sunny and not too warm until the middle of October.  Nowadays, we never know what we are going to get.  Last week, there was plenty of sun and we took full advantage.

Running through the sprinkler.

Beach time.

Being artists at the frozen yogurt place.

Graham is a very smiley kid.  He chuckles all the time.  But he doesn’t give a full belly laugh all that often.  My brother and his brother are the best at making him laugh.  This is probably my favorite picture I have ever taken of him.

The tooth fairy visited our house twice last week.  Once for Spencer and once for Graham.

Ankle boots!

I find summer produce to be very inspiring.

I’ve totally fallen in love with this recipe.  I will be making it for the third time this week.  I’ll share!

Super simple, kind of expensive, super delicious.

Date night at Palace Kitchen.  I love the bar there.  It was high on my list of Places I Need to Eat Before We Move.  Sadly, my pasta was not near as good as I wanted it to be.  Great night and great company though.

I bought that weather vane for Randy for our 5th anniversary.  It is his favorite of all the gifts I have given him.  Because it sits on our detached garage, we have been gazing out the window at it for five years.  Of course it had to come off so we can put it on the new house.

Not only are we saying goodbye to family, friends, house, and school – but we have to say goodbye to this beloved painting by our friend Erik Hall.  Our new house is smaller with less wall space.  Fortunately we have another of his paintings that we will enjoy forever.


Cilantro-Scallion Bread

August 8, 2012

This was one of those composing-the-blog-post-in-my-head-as-I-bake recipes.  I started pulling the ingredients from my pantry and thought about all those poor people out there who are afraid to make bread because they are afraid of yeast or dough or yeasted dough.  I’ve done yeast pep talks before, both here on the blog and in my cooking classes, and I figured it was time for another one.  The dough was incredibly quick to mix together and had a short rise time.

But!  The dough did not double, as the recipe said it would after an hour, nor did it even rise a little.  I know from bread baking experience that I could just persevere and all would be fine.  But!  The dough was really sticky.  Like so sticky that I probably used about a cup of flour to just make sure it didn’t stick to the rolling pin and the board.  But!  The dough was also so fragile that I tore it a couple of times trying to roll it so I gave up and floured my hands really well and started pressing it into the desired rectangle.  Except that my rectangle ended up looking more like the state of Nevada than a rectangle and that is when I reminded myself that this – THIS – is why people are afraid of yeast or dough or yeasted dough.

As soon as the scent of baking bread mingled with the filling of puréed scallions and cilantro mixed with a liberal amount of sesame seeds began wafting out of my oven, I had moved beyond my frustration.  I cleaned the flour off the counter and out of my hair, and was ready to give these rolls another chance.  Randy, having seen none of the drama, proclaimed these “oh wow, super yum” which is as close to an A+ as I can get.  And truly, for how impressive they look and for how tasty they are, the stress is more than worth it.  The texture of the dough is slightly flaky and they are just the slightest bit sweet, but also nice and herbal and savory and a bit nutty from the sesame seeds.  I sprinkled a good French sea salt over the top of them before going into the oven and I would suggest you do the same.  The recipe ends with the dreaded words “best served warm”.  I did happen to time their exit from the oven with dinnertime.  We ate four of them, I allowed the other eight to cool and then wrapped them in foil and stuck them in the freezer.  Several nights later I pulled a few out and heated them in a 325º oven for about 10 minutes and they tasted as good as the day I made them.

Two Years Ago: Israeli Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes

Cilantro Scallion Bread
Bon Appétit
Makes 12

If you don’t have black sesame seeds, just add another tablespoon of white to the mix.

2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
2 tsp. sugar, divided
1¾ cup plus 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled, cubed
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
1¼ cup coarsely chopped scallions
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup sesame seeds
1 tbsp. black sesame seeds
3 tbsp. olive oil plus more for bowl and brushing
Sea salt, for sprinkling

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Pour ½ cup warm water (105º – 115º) into a small bowl.  Sprinkle yeast, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. sugar over; let stand until mixture bubbles, about 10 minutes.

Place flour, butter, remaining 1 tsp. salt, and remaining 1 tsp. sugar in bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached.  Rub in butter with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Beat in egg, yolk, and yeast mixture, scraping down sides.

Knead on medium speed until dough is soft and smooth, about 5 minutes.  Form dough into a ball; transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine scallions and cilantro in a food processor and pulse to finely chop.  (DT:  I used my mini food processor for this one.)  Transfer mixture to a medium bowl; stir in all sesame seeds and 3 tbsp. olive oil and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350º.  Roll dough into a 18×9″ rectangle.  Spoon scallion mixture evenly onto center and spread mixture to corners of dough.  Working from one short edge, roll dough rectangle into a cylinder.  Cut cylinder into ¾” dough swirls.  Transfer dough swirls to prepared baking sheet; brush each with oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Memories of Blackberries

August 7, 2012

When I was nine years old, we moved from one house in a Seattle suburb to another.  The suburb was the same but everything else was very different.  Our first house was on a cul-de-sac where almost every house had kids around my age.  We walked to school through the woods, rode our bikes in endless loops around our street, fed carrots carefully to the mean pony who was stabled next door to the house next door, climbed trees, and played in sandboxes.  The new house was on a street so steep that it was years before I would be able to ride my bike up it.  There were five houses, only one of which had kids, and those kids were weird.  There was the lake at the bottom of the street but not pony and no climbable trees.  I had to take the bus to school.  It was a hard move.

But we did have blackberries.  Incredible amazing huge blackberries.  Blackberries are everywhere in the Northwest.  The bush that is a terrible nuisance for 11 months of the year (so big! so many thorns! so hard to get rid of!) is suddenly everyone’s best friend come August.  If you drive along any quiet roads in the late summer, you will see people with pails, picking and eating.

The bush near our house was giant, stretching the length of our car and probably seven feet high.  I don’t think anyone had every picked those berries because they were the largest I had ever seen.  I have an extremely faint scar on my right wrist from that bush, so eager was I to get at the sweet deep purple berries, that I practically threw myself in there.

Blackberries mean August to me and I was thrilled to see huge ones, like those I remember, at my farmers’ market last week.  I had just ripped out a page with a Blackberry Buttermilk Cake from Bon Appétit and it seemed like the best thing to do with them.  If you would like to see a photo of how the cake was supposed to look, click over here.  I got a little carried away with the blackberry placement on the bottom of the pan.  How could less be better than more?  It turns out that more makes everything more jammy and rather than restrained pretty cake I got gooey jammy kind-of-a-mess.  Flipping it over was dangerous and stained my already stained favorite oven mitt.  But once I tasted it, I was glad to have overdone the blackberries.  The cake is very calm, a nothing fancy buttermilk cake.  So having a bit of chaos piled on top of it seemed just not right, if not perfect.

One Year Ago:  Raspberry Cake with Marsala (given the choice between the two, I’d make this raspberry cake over the blackberry one)
Two Years Ago:  Rice Noodles with Marinated Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms
Three Years Ago:  3 Different Cheeseballs
Four Years Ago:  Pasta with Cauliflower, Peppers, and Walnut Pesto

Blackberry Buttermilk Cake
Bon Appétit
Makes one 9 or 10-inch cake

You can use either a 9 or 10-inch springform pan for this cake.  I like using a 9-inch for a taller cake.

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan and parchment
2 1/3 cups cake flour (sifted, then measured) plus more for pan
2 ½ cups (10 ounces) fresh blackberries
¼ cup plus 1 1/3 cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter pan; line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Butter parchment. Dust with flour; tap out excess. Arrange berries in a single layer in bottom of pan; sprinkle evenly with ¼ cup sugar.Sift 2 1/3 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat ¾ cup butter and remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar in a large bowl at medium-high speed, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and zest. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until incorporated. Pour batter over berries in pan; smooth top.Bake until cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Let cool in pan set on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a thin, sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen. Remove pan sides. Invert cake onto rack and remove pan bottom; peel off parchment. Dust top generously with powdered sugar and let cool completely.

A Slice of My Life – Week 31

August 6, 2012

My life is a little weird right now.  I’m in a lull.  Randy has started his job in San Francisco and is down there Monday – Thursday each week.  We plan to pile into our black car and drive south in just about 2 ½ weeks.  A company is going to swoop down on our house three days prior to that and they will pack and load us.  I’m spending my days trying to figure out where we are going to stay for the first few weeks we are in Oakland (we can’t get in to our house until early September – wait did I tell you we bought a house?  We bought a house!), trying to figure out where the kids are going to go to school, purging us of excess stuff, seeing as many friends as possible, and doing a lot of cooking.  And doing my best not to freak out.

Monday night my kids slept at my brother’s house.  The boys never used to fall asleep in the car.  They are terrific sleepers but only in a bed.  After traveling to France, where they were tired enough to fall asleep airplanes, rental cars, cabs, and trains, they have relaxed on bed-only sleep.  On just a short drive across a bridge, both of them passed out.

Blackberry Cake

Smoked Blue Cheese Dip

Israeli Couscous and Tomato Salad with Arugula Pesto

Peach Cake

Scallion-Cilantro Bread Things.  Can’t remember the name offhand.  Recipes coming your way soon.

Graphic t’s.  On the way to day camp.

My garden is peaking.  I am going to miss this garden a lot.  It is a never ending source of delight for me.

Graham built the Eiffel Tower with pretzels.

Some friends, who have the most amazing house and amazing view, invited us for dinner.  It was a very warm night and sitting out on their deck was heavenly.

The boys and I did a massive toy purge.  We went through our large rec room and ruthlessly sorted things into three piles.  Garbage, giveaway, and keep.  The keep pile was very small and they did not fight me or whine as we got rid of ¾ of their toys.  Their reward was to pick out some new Legos at Target.  Randy was very excited about that reward.

Even though our house is only about 7 years old, there is a problem with the roof and some of the shingles have to be replaced.  This roofer came over with a VERY tall ladder.  I’m fine with heights but ladders terrify me.  I couldn’t watch him climb up or down.

Finally.  It’s hot here.  Fountains are fun.

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