Posts from the ‘baking’ Category
18 October 2011
at the onset of this year’s late summer, our property transformed into Watership Down. rabbits of all sizes converged to scamper and graze on freshly mown grass and tasty (from what i’ve heard) green offshoots. the young rabbits hid timidly behind bushes and boulders, as i ushered the dogs out the front door for a trot around the yard; the elders briefly looked up, then boldly continued to munch on their greens. this rabbit dance went on for months. then, the first cold snap arrived, and the population went underground. oh, every now and then i see a little cottontail scurrying into the woods. but for the most part, it’s a ghost town. well, until the hootenanny.
it began last Friday night, when a great horned owl announced he’d moved into the hood. every night (and all night) since, he’s proclaimed his presence. it doesn’t take great intellect or insight to ascertain why owl arrived and how our homey little habitat came to be advertised by the Welcome Wagon.
in the summer of 2010, our human neighbor to the north and west started demolishing trees. not just underbrush, but full-size cedars, alders and cottonwoods. day and night. crash. boom. earth- and ear-shattering thuds. soon, the summer ended, peace was restored and the rainy season began. i prayed his big heavy, yellow equipment would rust. five or so inches of water sat on top of the grass i’d babied for the previous five years. the disruption to soil caused water to drain like a babbling brook across the gently sloping backyard. with the arrival of spring came birds. i felt like i was in a Hitchcock film. summer brought more bulldozing (who would have imagined the eight acres next door still had any trees left?). more rabbits. woodpeckers. mice. moles. wait, where were the locusts?? oh, that must be what’s on tap for next summer.
today, i’m putting out the welcome mat for owl. and i giddily hope the human neighbor who completely disrupted the habitat will be the big bird’s first snack.
speaking of snacks, here’s a treat that’s great any time of year. i made it this summer with loganberries and with huckleberries (i’ve never had fresh huckleberries; they were awesome!!). it’s not too sweet. delicious for breakfast or a late-night bite. woo-hooooooo.
Classic Buttermilk Coffee Cake
a very slight variation on a recipe from molly katzen’s sunlight cafe
for the fruit
2 cups fruit (i use berries or rhubarb)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
non-stick spray or a tablespoon of melted butter
for the batter
1/2 cup (1 stick ) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
for the topping
use 1/3 of this topping recipe OR
1/3 of this topping recipe OR
no topping at all
- in a small bowl, toss the 2 cups fruit, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon flour; set aside.
- preheat the oven to 350F (metal) or 325F (glass).
- spray or butter an 8-inch round or square pan; set aside.
- in the large bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for several minutes at high speed.
- add the sugar, and beat for several minutes longer.
- add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, then beat in the vanilla.
- in a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda; slowly mix together with a whisk.
- add the dry ingredients in 3 installments to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk; begin and end with the dry ingredients.
- after each addition, use a spatula to stir from the bottom of the bowl just enough to blend. be sure not to over mix!
- transfer 1/2 the batter to the prepared pan, and spread evenly.
- spread the fruit mixture evenly over the batter.
- add the second half of batter to the pan, and spread evenly.
- sprinkle your topping of choice over the batter.
- bake the cake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted all the way into the center comes out clean.
- cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
whoopie – Winnie turns 98!
5 September 2011
today, Winnie the English bull terrier turns 98. that’s 14 in people years. she’s as spirited and demanding as she was at three months, when she first became a member of our family. yeah, sometimes she forgets things. like why she was walking down the hallway. but who doesn’t? she’d rather snatch a little nap before dinner, instead of gnawing on some rubbery-tasting toy. but who wouldn’t? and if she can look pitiful and manipulate someone into giving her part of his/her dinner, well, who could blame her?
Winnie spent the afternoon sunning on the deck and taking a spritely jaunt around the yard. tonight we’re serving her an appetizer of flax treats, followed by a course of organic dog chow sprinkled with pieces of organic flank steak. for dessert? a slurp of vanilla ice cream. only a slurp, so she can retain her girlish figure. she’ll be in bed by 7:00. but who wouldn’t, after such a glorious day?
the humans took their hats off to Winnie by baking and consuming a few too many whoopie pies; you’ll find the delightful recipe below.
many happy returns of the day, pumpkin! my life and cherry coffee table wouldn’t have been the same without you.
Chocolate Whoopie Pie with Mint Buttercream Filling
a variation on a recipe found in whoopie pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell
a really cool whoopie pie cookbook
makes about 40 2-inch cakes = 20 2-inch whoopie pies
for the cakes
1 2/3 cups organic all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (i use Scharffen Berger)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons organic butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons organic vegetable shortening (i use Spectrum)
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
for the filling
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons organic butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
- preheat oven to 350F.
- line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
- in a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
- in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, shortening and brown sugar on low speed until just combined.
- increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes.
- add the egg and vanilla; beat for another 2 minutes.
- add half the flour mixture and half the buttermilk to the batter in the work bowl and beat on low until incorporated.
- scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- add the remaining flour mixture and the last 1/2 cup of buttermilk, then beat until completely combined.
- using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop, drop the batter one tablespoon at a time onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cakes at least 2 inches apart.
- bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently.
- remove from the oven, and let the cakes cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
- to make the filling, in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the confectioners’ sugar and the butter, beginning on low and increasing to medium speed, until the mixture is crumbly, about 1 minute.
- add the heavy cream, vanilla, mint extract and salt.
- beat on high until smooth, about 3 minutes.
- to assemble the cakes, spread the filling onto the flat side of one of the cakes using a knife, spoon or pastry bag with a round tip to pipe the filling.
- top with another cake, flat-side down.
- repeat with the rest of the cakes and filling.
ode to tomatoes
16 August 2011
thick, juicy slices of deep red summer tomatoes
artfully sprinkled with sea salt
dribble down our chins
and splash onto shiny gold and white Formica
a summer celebration
begin with a base of zesty pepper – parmesan crust. top it with a layer of light, fluffy chèvre from Bow, Washington’s Gothberg Farms. and then a layer of basil-pecan pesto. finally, a layer of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, roasted low and slow in the oven. that’s the heirloom tomato tart. poetic, indeed.
missing the mother-daughter tomato-eating ritual this summer, ma. can’t say the same for your ’50s-chic Formica.
Roasted Heirloom Tomato Tart
a mashup of recipes adapted from epicurious and Ashleigh Rodriguez’s beautiful not without salt blog
makes one 9-inch tart
roast the tomatoes in advance
2 – 3 firm, medium-size heirloom tomatoes (this may leave you with extra slices, but that’s not a bad thing)
for the crust
1 cup organic all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 stick good-quality butter, very cold, cut into 8 pieces
2 cups grated parmesan (i use Parrano)
2 tablespoons ice water
for the pesto (this will leave enough left over for pasta!)
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup pecans (or nuts of your choice)
2/3 cup parmigiano-reggiano, coarsely ground (again, i use Parrano)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 cups loosely packed, fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
for the rest
8 oz chèvre at room temperature
fleur del sel
freshly cracked pepper
- preheat oven to 225F
- cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- slice tomatoes ¼-inch thick; place on baking sheet.
- drizzle olive oil lightly over tomatoes; sprinkle lightly with salt.
- roast tomatoes for approximately 4 hours or, as Ashleigh instructs, until shriveled around the edge while still maintaining a bit of juice.
- refrigerate the tomatoes in a container overnight.
- day two, prepare the crust.
- in the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, pepper, butter, and cheese, pulsing quickly to get a coarse texture, with some pea-size butter pieces remaining.
- with a few speedy pulses, incorporate the ice water until the dough begins to form and sticks together, when pinched between your fingers.
- press dough into your tart pan, evenly across the bottom and up until you reach the top of the sides.
- chill the dough in the frig for 15 minutes.
- preheat the oven to 350F.
- remove the tart pan from the frig, and prick a few times with a fork.
- cover the tart with non-stick foil, and fill with pie weights or dry beans.
- place the tart on a baking sheet, then on the middle oven rack.
- bake for 15 minutes.
- remove tart from oven, and carefully remove the foil and pie weights (these will be hot!).
- return the uncovered tart to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until golden brown; let cool completely.
- to make the pesto, drop the garlic into a bowl of a food processor and finely chop.
- stop the food processor and add nuts, cheese, salt, pepper, and basil; process until finely chopped.
- add lemon juice.
- with motor running, add olive oil, blending until incorporated; set aside.
- now for assembly!
- spread an even layer of chèvre over the surface of the cooled tart shell.
- spread an even layer of pesto over the chèvre.
- top the chèvre with as many roasted heirloom tomato slices as you deem artistically appropriate.
- top with sprinkles of fleur de sel and freshly cracked pepper.
strawberry fields and bikes forever
7 August 2011
i didn’t learn to drive until i was 21. while all my high school friends gleefully participated in drivers’ training, i hiked or biked. on those rare occasions that i needed a lift, my dad, then semi-retired, willingly obliged. i think he was just happy to get out of the house. he shuttled me to Saturday morning football games, where i played piccolo in the marching band. as an undergraduate living in Denver, i relied on my beloved, baby blue Gitane Mixte 10-speed for transportation; she and i were one. even when i got knocked off by a car driving too close to the curb. helmets? back then, we didn’t need no stinking helmets. well, we did. but i don’t think there was any such thing. regardless, we both survived and went on to have many wonderful adventures together. like this one.
soon after i earned my undergraduate degree, i returned to New England. by then, i’d learned to drive. bless my friend Janet for the grace and patience to teach me how to manage a stick. but early on this sunny summer morning, i headed out with a co-worker to pick strawberries. cars? we didn’t need no stinking cars. we hopped on our trusty bicycles, donning knapsacks in which we planned to stow our precious cargo. five miles later, we arrived at the farm.
we began picking berries, gingerly placing them in our baskets. when one basket became full, we grabbed another. we were having so much fun, we hadn’t noticed the temperature had risen. it was hot. and muggy. we paid for the strawberries and went to load our packs. gulp. how were we going to get all of these back to the house? carefully and strategically, we maneuvered the strawberry containers into the packs and placed the rest in the front basket of Susan’s old touring bike.
the canvas packs, heavily laden with strawberries, slowed our ride. both in great shape, even we gritted our teeth as we pedaled over the hilly streets. of course, we eventually made it back to my parent’s place. packs stuck to our shirts, shirts stuck to our skin. we looked at each other, grinned and unloaded the berries. i gave most of them to Susan, keeping just enough for me, mom and dad. i didn’t bake much then, but wish i had. because i would have been able to make the amazingly rich and flavorful strawberry pie recipe that follows, courtesy of Emily and Melissa Elsen of Four & Twenty Blackbirds.
these days, i buy Washington strawberries from local farms. no more pickin’ and haulin’ them home on my bike. i ride when i can, and i still love to feel the wind through my hair. even if it’s through the vents of a Giro.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ Strawberry Balsamic Pie
a recipe generously shared by pie goddesses Emily and Melissa Elsen
makes one delicious, 9-inch pie
for the crust (after years of searching, Emily and Melissa’s crust recipe is the best ever)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 pound (two sticks) of good-quality butter, very cold, chopped
1/8 cup of sugar
3/4 tsp spoon salt
1/2 cup (or more if needed) ice water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
for the filling: step one (presoak)
four to six cups of in-season, ripe strawberries, washed and quartered
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
for the filling: step two
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cups brown sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
a dash or two of Angostura Bitters
several fine grinds fresh black pepper
to prepare the pie pan
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons sugar
for the topping
1 tsp heavy cream
1 tablespoon raw sugar
- whisk together the dry ingredients.
- with a pastry blender, combine the dry ingredients with the cold, chopped butter; be careful not to overwork.
- combine the ice water and vinegar; slowly add to the butter mixture by hand, being careful not to overwork.
- divide the pie dough into two discs, wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
- coat the cleaned, sliced strawberries with the 1/4 cup white sugar and 1/4 tsp salt; let soak for at least one hour, up to 3 hours. (the pre-soak stage will help release some of the juices from the berries and yield a less watery pie.)
- after soaking, drain the berries thoroughly and place in a large mixing bowl.
- combine the berries with the balsamic vinegar.
- add the Angostura Bitters and black pepper.
- add the brown sugar and cornstarch; combine gently and set aside.
- roll out one disc of dough and place in pie pan.
- dust the bottom of the crust with the tablespoon flour and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
- using a slotted spoon, scoop the filling from the bowl, allowing each scoop to drain most of its liquid before placing into the pie shell.
- continue filling the pie shell until it’s even with the top edge of the pie pan.
- roll out the second disc of dough and cut into 7 – 8 strips.
- weave the strips on top of the pie, forming a lattice.
- preheat oven to 400F.
- while the oven is heating, whisk the egg and cream.
- with a pastry brush, coat the entire top of the pie with the egg mixture.
- sprinkle the top of the pie generously with raw sugar.
- place the pie on a cookie sheet (critical step to keeping your oven free from burning pie filling).
- bake for 20 minutes at 400F on the bottom oven rack.
- reduce heat to 350F, and bake on the middle oven rack for 35 – 45 minutes more, checking for browning throughout the baking process.
- if the crust edge begins to brown too much, gently cover the pie with foil.
- the pie is done when filling begins to bubble, and the crust is golden brown.
allow to cool before slicing and devouring.
little bird baking company takes flight
29 July 2011
some things never change. like my commitment to following my own true north. consistently choosing that road not taken has likely taken me considerably longer than most would care to tread. but i’ve strived to savor the journey. guided by that true north—inspired by and celebrating my mom—i plan to spend more time blazing trails in my kitchen, bringing little bird baking company to life.
my mom was witty. hip. smart. generous. warm. funny. with a wicked sweet tooth and an equally wicked New England stubborn streak. with an open heart, she embraced and enchanted nearly everyone she met. from the beginning until the very end, my mom was my champion and confidante. it is in her honor—and with gratitude and love—that i dedicate little bird baking company.
for a while, i’ll be practicing tried-and-true recipes and perfecting new ones. with friends and family as judges, i know i’ll receive honest feedback to help refine and uplift my results. as always, i’ll share my experiences with you through recipes and stories. and i’ll keep you informed as this new baking adventure unfolds.
breathing life into little bird wouldn’t have been possible without the talent and generous spirit of my friend Todd Connor of yellow plum design. Todd gently kept me from sliding down many a slippery slope in these past 10 months; i’m blessed by his presence.
if you spot a cairn of chewy chai-spice sugar cookies along some byway, know that i’ve left it for you. i look forward to hearing about your adventures.
a little slice of heaven
27 September 2010
Les Price, the great sower of all things apple at Jones Creek Farm, observed that i had a penchant for English varieties. i peered into the bags of apples i had just gingerly picked from the orchard: Ellison’s Orange and Cox’s Orange Pippins and gave thought to the 40 pounds of Bramley’s i’d toted home just the weekend before.
i began to delve deeper into my mostly subconscious affinity for all things British : Winnie, the English bull terrier, Elroy, the Old English bulldog, Ralph Vaughn Williams, a recent, torrid love affair with a certain MINI-Cooper, Hidcote lavender, and of course, my beloved friend Alex. yes, an astute assessment on Les’s part and a startling revelation on mine.
bringing it back to the apples, i put up nearly 100 pounds of English varieties. and i knew when i was finally ready to bake, i’d want to dedicate the first pie of the season to Alex. this special pie could not be ordinary, although i venture to say few pies made with these varieties would be considered as such. it had to be spectacular.
a recent segment of Unique Eats on The Cooking Channel had featured Emily and Melissa Elsen of Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie shop in Brooklyn, New York. impressed by their creativity, originality, seasonal approach and commitment to local/organic ingredients, i decided to send them a note to request the recipe for their salted caramel apple pie. Emily and Melissa quickly and kindly responded with this perfectly extraordinary culinary tribute to Alex.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ Salted Caramel Apple Pie
a recipe generously shared by Emily and Melissa Elsen…heartfelt thanks
set aside about four hours to tackle the recipe—it will be time well-spent.
for the crust
1 recipe of your favorite (2-crust) all-butter pie crust
for the salted caramel
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (i used salted and cut back slightly on the sea salt)
1/2 cup fresh heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (recommended: Maldon sea salt flakes)
for the filling
4 to 6 lemons
5 to 6 medium to large apples (recommend a mix of varieties, including some tart)
1/3 cup raw sugar (castor, unrefined, large granule sugar)
2 tablespoons flour (to me, it seems like the amount of flour depends upon how juicy your apples are, so increase accordingly. the Bramley’s exude a lot of juice.)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (i increased this to 1/2)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters (i didn’t have this ingredient, so i don’t know what i was missing. perhaps Emily or Melissa can comment, but the pie was wonderful nonetheless.)
for final assembly
1 egg beaten
raw sugar, for sprinkling
1 teaspoon sea salt (flake)
- prepare one 2-crust batch of your favorite all-butter pie crust.
- roll the bottom crust to fit a 9-inch pan, and cut the top crust as a lattice, approximately 1-inch in width or as desired.
- chill the rolled crust while you prepare the salted caramel and apple filling.
the salted caramel
- cook the sugar and water together over low heat until just dissolved.
- add the butter and bring to a slow boil; continue cooking at a low boil until the mixture turns a deep, golden brown color, almost copper. important note: this process takes awhile, depending on the heat source. keep an eye on it: if the caramel begins to smoke, you’ve burned it, and you’ll have to start over.
- when the mixture has turned a copper color, remove it from the heat, and immediately add the heavy cream – the mixture will bubble rapidly and steam, so be cautious as the sugar will be very hot.
- whisk the final mixture together well over low heat and sprinkle in the sea salt; set aside.
- juice the lemons into a large mixing bowl.
- core, peel, and thinly slice the whole apples.
- dredge all the apple slices in the freshly squeezed lemon juice to prevent browning and to add flavor; set the prepared apples aside.
- in a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and Angostura bitters.
- sprinkle the mixture over the apples in the mixing bowl; use your hands to gently mix and coat the apple slices.
- preheat the oven to 375F to 400F, depending on your oven.
- gather your rolled pie crust, salted caramel and apple mixture.
- layer 1/3 of the apples in the bottom of the crust; gaps between apples should be minimal.
- pour 1/3 of the caramel over the apples.
- add 1/3 of the apples and caramel for a second layer, and then add a third layer of apples, and then a third layer of caramel. important note: save a small portion of the caramel to pour on top once the lattice is assembled.
- assemble the lattice crust, and flute the edges.
- pour the last bit of caramel on top of the pie.
- brush the crust with the beaten egg, then lightly sprinkle with raw sugar and sea salt.
- bake the pie on a baking sheet larger than the pie pan for 20 minutes (otherwise the caramel will bubble over and burn on the bottom of your oven, and that would be bad).
- reduce the oven temperature to 325F to 350F, again, depending on your oven, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes.
- test the apples with a long toothpick or small knife; the apples should be just soft.
let the pie cool, then slice and revel in the sweet, buttery, salty, tart contrast and deliciousness of this truly amazing pie. cheers!
practice makes improvements – and sometimes that’s good enough
6 August 2010
few master a skill or craft at first attempt. undeniably, some are simply naturals, whether by gift or genetics or gosh-darn good luck. most of us need practice—and a lot of it—to refine and ultimately excel at whatever we choose to undertake. sometimes we never really get there. but with perseverance, we can prevail. well, we can, at least, improve.
like my buddy Elroy. following his surgery, he began a course of aqua therapy to strengthen and regain full use of his knee. i’ve heard people say that a bulldog manuevers in water as adeptly as a bowling ball. needless to say, i had some maternal reservations. but Elroy enthusiastically entered the therapy tank and happily padded along its treadmill. the first session (catch the Olympic hopeful in action) was short. we both left feeling drained (my role as cheerleader was likely a ridiculous sight) but exhilarated. the next session didn’t go quite as smoothly. boredom from the redundant task of keeping pace with the treadmill and from lapping up the chlorinated water slowed Elroy’s progress. but he admirably plugged through six sessions (enticed by a very large balance ball) and markedly increased his mobility. no, his middle name will never be grace, but for a lumbering bulldog, he’s rather spritely.
after quite some time away from the kitchen, i’ve been reacquainting myself with old favorites like chocolate-chunk oatmeal cookies with pecans and dried cherries, which i made three times just to make sure i had it down (yeah, right), and a batch of scones. i tossed together a peach pan dowdy, with a not-so-picture-perfect crust, and i smoked a few chickens with cherry wood. i also discovered a great recipe for the fudgiest brownies i’ve ever tasted. so, i’m sharing that with you here. it’s been great just to dive in and revel in the process.
what i’ve learned is this: you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the journey. whatever your passion, follow that true north. and, like Elroy and me, enjoy the ride.
a variation on a recipe from bonappetit
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces bittersweet, chopped
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
- set oven rack in lower middle position; preheat to 325 F.
- line an 10-inch square pan with non-stick aluminum foil; spray foil with nonstick spray. (i also make a batch and a half in a 13x9x2-inch pan, so the brownies have some height.)
- whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in small bowl.
- combine both chocolates and 10 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat; stir until melted and smooth, then remove from heat.
- whisk sugar and vanilla, then eggs into chocolate mixture until it’s glossy and smooth, about 1 minute.
- add dry ingredients, and whisk just to blend.
- pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until tester inserted into center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 25 – 30 minutes.
- cool completely in pan on rack.
these brownies are densely rich and seriously chocolately. serve with some of your favorite ice cream on top. salted caramel sauce. or plain. they’re amazing either way.
always on the sunny side
22 March 2010
a sunny day: a decided cause for celebration in the scenic but often damp northwest, where i’ve become as weather-obssessed as Washington’s television forecasters. on this first formal weekend of spring, i took a drive north for a little adventure. donning my favorite Oakley’s to kick off the season and to temper the bright sun (which i’m clearly no longer accustomed to), i swung out of my driveway—lined with fragrant, pink-blossomed plum trees—and sped (conservatively, of course) up to La Conner, Washington to see the daffodil crop in bloom.
as i continued to meander north, i spotted several flocks of snow geese chowing down in a farm field—all completely unaffected by admiring tourists stopping for a photo op. next, i winded along the Padilla Bay Estuarine Reserve, where a great blue heron emerged majestically—as if on cue—during the late-morning high tide. in short order, i arrived in Edison and was drawn into the lot of Farm to Market Bakery (hardly a surprise. me. a bakery. screeching brakes.). the shop is tiny, but the flavors and portions? HUGE. i happily immersed myself in a generous piece of rhubarb pie (the first of the season, nicely layered, with a dense consistency, wonderful blend of spices and a light, buttery crust) and a glass of whole milk. i heaved a contented sigh.
i’m ushering in spring with a few sunny lemon recipes: a Meyer lemon curd tart, topped with hefty California raspberries and whipped cream. and a skillet corn cake with stewed cherries. both dedicated to my friend, Anne-Marie. bright, funny and eternally optimistic, whenever A-M is tossed the proverbial lemon, she consistently and graciously squeezes it into lemonade. may i grow up to be just like her.
Meyer Lemon Curd Tart
a combination of recipes from Cook’s Illustrated and The Martha Stewart Cookbook, the latter adapted by Marisa and found in her Food in Jars blog.
for the crust
1 3/4 cups unbleached organic white flour
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter, at very cool room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
for the curd
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3 Meyer lemons (you need a generous 1/2 cup of juice; it took me 9 lemons to get there; make sure you strain the juice to remove the seeds)
the zest from the lemons
1 stick butter, cut into chunks
- preheat oven to 350F.
- in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse the flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch and salt.
- add the butter, and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds.
- pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal.
- sprinkle mixture in a 10- or 11-inch tart pan, and press in firmly with your fingers into an even, 1/4-inch layer across the bottom of the pan and up the sides to the edge of the rim.
- refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes; set aside.
- to make the curd: in a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.
- add the lemon juice, then begin to stir with a wooden spoon so you won’t aerate the curd.
- stir continuously for 10 to 15 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed so the curd doesn’t come to a boil.
- when the curd has thickened and coats the back of your spoon, drop in the butter, and stir until melted; remove from heat.
- to strain the curd, position a fine mesh sieve over a glass or stainless steel bowl.
- pour the curd through the sieve, and remove any bits of cooked egg.
- whisk in the lemon zest.
- pour the curd into the cooled tart shell, and smooth the top.
- refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
serve topped with whipped cream and fresh raspberries. or just plain. really. it’s great either way.
Skillet Corn Cake with Stewed Cherries
a recipe from Emeril 20-40-60 Fresh Food Fast
1 cup unbleached organic white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (i cut this back from the original recipe and used salted butter)
6 tablespoons yellow cornmeal (medium grind)
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 10-ounce bags frozen, pitted cherries (i used a mix of sweet, dark cherries and pie cherries)
- place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven, and preheat the oven to 350F.
- in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; stir in the cornmeal.
- in another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, milk, olive oil and lemon zest until frothy. add 3/4 of the sugar, then whisk to combine.
- pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and mix just until the batter is smooth.
- swirl the butter in the hot skillet (be super careful not to burn yourself) until melted.
- pour the batter into the skillet and bake until the center is set, about 25 minutes.
- while the cake is baking, set a 10-inch skillet over high heat.
- add the lemon juice, cherries and remaining 3/4 cup sugar.
- cook until the cherries have released most of their juice, 10 to 12 minutes; remove from heat, and set aside.
- when the cake is done, allow it to cool in the skillet for 5 minutes.
- slice into wedges, and serve with the stewed cherries spooned over the top.
the combination of the lemon flavor, olive oil and cherries: surprisingly, totally delicious! i served as an accompaniment to some crock pot pulled pork and mashed maple-sweet potatoes.