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celebrate the stars and stripes (and strawberries)

3 July 2012

dj

i spent a lot of years playing in my school’s marching band. ok, i was a band geek. and darn proud of it. whether out on the field or in a parade, decked out in the 1950’s uniforms we inherited from classes long past, or just sitting in a rehearsal, band became my haven and heaven. not merely a class i’d attend during third period, band was the place i fine-tuned my listening skills, developed the discipline of practice and deepened my understanding of and commitment to ensemble. did i mention band meant hanging out with my dearest friends (translation: BFFs)??

the fourth of July and the thought of John Philip Sousa marches brings these warm memories flooding back. if you’re hanging out with family and friends on the 4th, i invite you to bake them this super simple, moist and fruity cake. constructed with fresh, juicy and perfect local frog strawberries (any strawberries will do), this cake can help usher in the evening’s fireworks.

i’ll be listening to Sousa marches (more intently to the piccolo parts, of course) and firing up the grill. i might have to turn on the Boston Pops for a few (right, ma?). and i’ll be thinking how amazing it is to live in the U.S.A. what will you be up to? happy 4th!

Stars and Stripes Strawberry Cake
as found on smitten kitchen and adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
1 1/2 cups organic all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 scant cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole organic milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

optional topping
heavy whipping cream, vanilla bean and sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. butter a 9-inch, deep-dish pie pan or 9-inch cake pan.
  3.  in a small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. in the bowl of a stand mixer, with beater attachment, beat butter and scant 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. add egg, milk and vanilla, and mix until just combined.
  6. add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
  7. pour cake batter into prepared pie plate.
  8. as close  together as possible, arrange strawberries in a single layer on top of batter, cut side down.
  9. sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
  10. bake cake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325°F, and continue to bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 to 60 minutes.
  11. let cake cool in pan on a rack.
  12. to serve, cut into wedges, and top with whipped cream infused with vanilla bean.

as mom would say, mmmmmmmmmmmm. enjoy!

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hearts in Colorado

30 June 2012

dj

we’ve all been taking it kind of easy at our house this month. the temperature has been unseasonably cool and the sky gray. and that’s probably a good thing for Winnie, as she hasn’t been feeling particularly spritely. at nearly 15, her pace has slowed dramatically in contrast to when she lived in the mountains above Colorado Springs. now, those were some days.

back then, Winnie rarely slept in. she liked to hang out on the back deck, sniffing the crisp mountain air and, undoubtedly, all the native creatures who shared our property (with big cats nearby, Winnie never got to stay out on the deck too awfully long without human supervision). when she wasn’t surveying the outdoor scene, she spent her time wedged between me and the kitchen counter—every time i fixed a meal. another favorite pastime? sunning. if there was a patch of sunshine to be found in the house, Winnie would be in it. asleep on her back, with all four in the air.

a true-blue mountain dog, Winnie would hike valiantly by our sides (or pull so hard on her leash, she’d wear herself out). like that time on the Women’s Trail, when she laid down in the middle of the path and refused to go any further, forcing Tootie to carry her back to the car. Winnie’s sense of direction: as accurate as any GPS. like that time when she mysteriously got out of the yard, and got lost, and Lisa searched for and ultimately retrieved her from the home of a distant neighbor, who’d graciously corralled her. Winnie’s valor: unsurpassed. like that time we were instructed to evacuate during the Hayman fire, and she barked her butt off in the hotel room (and i was afraid we’d be ejected), until we put her up on the bed with us (don’t tell).

i always imagine when Winnie dreams (and her little feet are running in her sleep), she’s dreaming of her life as a Colorado mountain dog. my heart is there, too. with family and friends. with those who’ve lost their homes. and with the fire warriors, who tirelessly fight the good fight.

not-so-pretty in pink

29 May 2012

dj

there’s an old farm field, a mile or so south of the town where we live. when it rains, large pools of water form in the middle of it. a frequent condition in nearly-always-drenched western Washington. i never thought there was anything extraordinary about that former pumpkin patch—until one dark night in November.

my sister, nieces and i were headed home from hospice, after a visit with my mom. along the stretch of highway between the hospital and the house, we drove with heavy hearts, in silence. suddenly, a great blue heron arose from the field, crossed in front of my windshield—lanky legs dangling in my line of vision—and headed west toward the sound. the next day, my mom passed away.

mom would have found it ironic that i believe she’s been channeled by a stunningly bright blue heron. blue was her least favorite color, an aversion that seemed totally irrational to me: i just don’t like it, she’d say emphatically. yeah, i don’t like beets, but there’s a darn good reason for that; they’re completely disgusting. it took me about 10 years to coerce her into even considering wearing blue jeans. but once she warmed up to the idea—and later in life—she rarely went out in anything else on her bottom half.

now, pink. pink was a color my mom could get behind. she gravitated toward all shades of pink equally. so for birthdays and holidays, i kept an eye out for pink gifts: handbags, hats, tank tops, fleece jackets, even candy (who could resist Godiva dark chocolate filled with raspberries??). whatever the season, whatever the reason, pink was in. to celebrate mom this year, i set out to make pink cupcakes loosely based on a revered childhood snack: Hostess Sno Balls. it seemed like a fitting tribute to my mom and to a now-struggling company whose treats had been the shining stars in my  Twiggy lunchbox.

lesson learned: my skill sets lay in something less demanding than cupcake creation, like  making pies. but i’m sharing the recipe here, for those of you who can hold on to a pastry bag and aren’t challenged by Pantone color-matching frosting. the cupcakes tasted great, but the all-natural food coloring i incorporated lost its rosy glow.

every time i drive by the old farm field, i watch for my blue heron. sometimes i see her there. like i did this mother’s day. i break into a smile and wave. and i get a little teary-eyed. but i was always kind of a sap, right, ma?

Not-So-Pretty in Pink Cupcakes
inspired by a Back in the Day Bakery recipe
a combination of chocolate cupcake and coconut frosting recipes from Joanne Chang’s flour cookbook (as i’ve said previously, an absolutely fabulous, gotta-have volume)
makes 12 moist dark chocolatey cupcakes

INGREDIENTS

for the cupcakes
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup whole organic milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk (save the egg white)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup organic all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

for the frosting
3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs whites (use the egg white saved from the batter recipe)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature, cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup coconut milk

for the topping
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

DIRECTIONS

  1. place paper cupcake liners in a standard 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. in a medium-size heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate and the cocoa powder.
  3. in a small saucepan, combine the sugar, butter and water.
  4. over medium-high heat, whisk until the butter is melted and sugar dissolved, around 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. pour the hot butter mixture over the chocolate-cocoa, and whisk until the chocolate is completely melted, and the mixture is homogenous.
  6. then whisk the milk, egg, egg yolk and vanilla into the chocolate mixture, until thoroughly combined.
  7. in a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  8. dump the flour mixture on top of the chocolate mixture, and whisk until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated into the chocolate mixture.
  9. let the batter sit at room temperature for at least an hour. or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the frig for up to three days.
  10. preheat the oven to 350F.
  11. spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing the batter evenly.
  12. bake on center rack of oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the tops spring back.
  13. cool completely on a wire rack.
  14. to make the frosting, in a small heatproof bowl, whisk the sugar and egg whites to form a thick slurry.
  15. place the bowl over simmering water (should not touch the water) in a saucepan and heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is hot to the touch, around 6 to 8 minutes.
  16. remove the bowl from the heat, and scrape the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment.
  17. whip  on medium-high speed for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture becomes a light, white meringue, cool to the touch. (i whipped until soft peaks just began to form, which seemed to work.)
  18. on low speed, add the chunks of butter, a few at a time.
  19. increase the speed to medium, and mix for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the butter is completely incorporated; the mixture should look smooth and glossy. at first it looks as if it’s curdling, but don’t panic. just keep going until it smooths out.
  20. add the vanilla, salt and coconut milk, and whip until the coconut milk is completely incorporated, and the frosting is smooth. you may need to scrape the bottom of the bowl in the process.
  21. remove the cupcakes from the muffin tin.
  22. hollow the center with an apple corer, going down a little shy of 1 inch.
  23. fit a pastry bag with a round tip, fill the bag, then pipe the frosting into the center of the cupcakes.
  24. if you’re brave and have the appropriate kind of food coloring, add to the remaining frosting until you’ve achieved the appropriate shade of pink.
  25. for prettier cupcakes, fit the pasty bag with a star tip, refill with the pink frosting, and decorate the cakes.
  26. alternatively, spread the frosting on the cupcakes with an icing spatula. (i employed this method as it made the cupcakes look more like Sno Balls.)
  27. place the shredded coconut in a small bowl.
  28. gently roll the frosted cupcakes in the shredded coconut.

give me a break

30 April 2012

dj

you crack me up, roly poly
especially after a grueling, humorless workday
i crack you up, well, because, i’m genuinely funny
you are infinitely more modest
self-sacrificing and fragile
my perfect dinner (breakfast, lunch) companion
i’ll catch you on the flip side, baby

dedicated to my dear friend, Paul, and his eggceptional chickens

yeah, Elroy thought i was talking about him, not some silly egg. sorry, dude.

Go, Dutch Baby, Go
a slight variation of a Cole Dickinson recipe, as found in the Williams-Sonoma catalog

INGREDIENTS

for topping
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean
2 heaping teaspoons bakers’ sugar
fresh berries

for batter
3 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose organic flour
3/4 cup organic whole milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) organic butter

DIRECTIONS

  1. preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. in an 11-inch French skillet over medium heat, melt the butter; set aside.
  3. in a blender, combine the eggs, flour, milk and vanilla; mix on high until frothy, about 30 seconds (stop and scrape down the sides, if needed).
  4. place the skillet with the melted butter in the oven (recommend covering the handle with foil to avoid burns).
  5. carefully pour the batter into the hot skillet.
  6. bake the Dutch baby until it’s lightly browned and the sides have risen, about 15 – 18 minutes.
  7. while the baby is in the oven, scrape the vanilla bean into the cream and whip with the sugar until light and fluffy; set aside.
  8. wash/slice berries; set aside.
  9. remove the Dutch baby and let cool for just a few minutes; the sides will fall, so don’t get deflated.
  10. divide the Dutch baby into wedges, then top each with whipped cream and berries.
serve with a side of bacon or a glass of whole milk. or both.

give me Liberty!

31 March 2012

dj

when i was in high school, my dad and i acted out the same scene from our family play nearly every Friday night. he’d be sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. i’d walk in and put my hand on his shoulder. hey, dad. mom’s gonna be home in about an hour. what do you want to do for dinner? any other day of the week, he’d already have something simmering on the stove. but not on Friday. dad would look up at me over his reading glasses and say, as if it were an epiphany, how about getting a pizza? my lines: that’s a great idea! what kind should we get? dad’s line: well, your mother likes anchovies. seriously? my lines: that’s gross. let’s just get them on half. then one of us would move stage left, pick up the hand set of our avocado-colored wall phone (a chic complement to our major appliances) and dial Liberty Pizza.

to me, Liberty Pizza was the closest thing to pizza heaven in the galaxy. small and local, the staff took great pride in their craft and product. on Friday nights, Liberty’s was hopping. my dad would pull up in his VW,  squeezing into any space that remotely resembled a parking spot; i’d run in to pickup our large Liberty’s special. to this day, my mouth waters just thinking about it. as an undergraduate home on holiday breaks, my parents would ask, well, where would you like to go out to eat first? they’d excitedly—and predictably—suggest very nice restaurants, where we could all dress up for a night out on the town (and i would strenuously object to wearing anything but jeans). but i’d just as enthusiastically and religiously reply, Liberty’s! faces fallen, but ever-supportive, the curtain would go up on an encore performance of the family pizza play.

over the many years my parents lived in our childhood home, visits meant having a least one delicious pie from Liberty Pizza. i’ve regularly experimented with pizza recipes, but all have paled in comparison to Liberty’s. until last Friday night, when i discovered the most wonderful, the most perfect pizza dough i’ve ever eaten. the texture: crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. i topped my first effort with scant amounts of whole-milk mozzarella and thin slices of red onion, Fresno peppers and Finocchiona salami. this week, as my next batch of dough is rising, i’m roasting garlic to use as my featured topping.

perhaps i was channeling my dad. or thinking back fondly on those dad and daughter runs to Liberty’s. as mom and i used to say (giggling and simultaneously), it was definitely serendipitous. i’m dedicating this post to my friend Mary-Ellen, whose love and appreciation for family, uplifting spirit and geographic proximity to Liberty Pizza command admiration, respect and a little green envy.

No-Knead Pizza Dough
based on a Jim Lahey recipe, published in bon appetit
makes two good-size, thicker pizza crusts (if you like your pizza crust thinner, divide the dough in thirds, rather than in half and stretch!)

this dough needs to ferment for 12 – 18 hours, so plan accordingly.

UPDATE – 13 April 2012: i’ve experimented with the pizza dough recipe several times and suggest a scant 3 1/2 cups flour to make the dough easier to wrangle. volume of flour lands between the quantity recommended in bon appetit and Jim Lahey’s My Pizza cookbook.

INGREDIENTS

3 1/2 (scant) cups all-purpose, organic flour, more for dusting
1⁄4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1⁄2 cups water
corn meal
olive oil

DIRECTIONS

  1. very lightly coat a medium-size bowl with olive oil; set aside.
  2. in the bowl of a stand mixer, hand-whisk the the flour, yeast and salt. alternatively, mix everything together for steps 2 and 3 in a large bowl with your hands or with a silicon spoon. just easier for me with the stand mixer. 
  3. with the dough hook attachment in place, add the water and mix until the dough comes together. it will be extremely sticky and seem, well, unseemly for dough. be careful not to overwork it. 
  4. gather the dough and place in the oiled bowl.
  5. cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for  12 – 18 hours at a room temperature of 72°.
  6. when the dough’s surface is covered with bubbles (mine had large and small) and it has doubled in bulk, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface; sprinkle the top of the dough with flour.
  7. gently shape the dough into a rectangle.
  8. divide the dough in half; keep one half of the dough covered with plastic wrap, until you’re ready to work with it.
  9. take one half of the dough and fold each of the four corners into the center.
  10. with the seam side down, gently form into a ball, and dust with flour.
  11. repeat with the other half of the dough.
  12. cover each ball with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature (72°) for 1 – 2 hours.
  13. while the dough is rising, preheat oven to 475°.
  14. sprinkle a large baking sheet lightly with corn meal; set aside.
  15. very gently shape one of the balls into a 12-inch disc, preserving as many of the bubbles as possible.
  16. place the dough on the baking sheet and stretch into desired shape. the dough will likely be more abstract/oblong than round.
  17. drizzle olive oil lightly over dough, then cover with the toppings of your choice.
  18. bake until bottom and top are golden brown, around 15 minutes.
  19. repeat with remaining dough.

lilacs and little bird

4 February 2012

dj

yesterday, i received a catalog in the mail, its cover splashed with a single photo of dark purple lilacs. i thought the arrival of that catalog could not have been more perfect. closing my eyes, i could almost smell the unmistakable fragrance, as real as it was in my childhood backyard.

1927 family portrait: mom, grandma and grandpa

my mom adored her lilacs. she maintained three huge, stately bushes in our suburban heaven. every spring, when the lilacs bloomed, i found her near them. hovering and, what i perceived as, hugging them (well, i said, that’s what it looked like to me). let’s just say we were both elated to stand in the bushes’ presence.

mom would strategically clip lilacs from each cherished bush, and we’d inhale their sweetness as we carried them into the house. choosing just the right vase, she’d skillfully arrange them. then, stand back with a tilted head to assess her handiwork. finally, she’d look back at me and say, what do you think? i’d enthusiastically nod my head in approval. yay!

today marks what would have been my mom’s 90th birthday. even as a writer, i’m at a loss to articulate how much i miss her. what i can say is that my memories of her and of our adventures together are even more vivid, more deeply etched as the days go by. yeah, that could just be my advancing age, but that’s another story entirely. 

so, here’s to you, little bird. may today—and every day—be carefree. i expect you and daddy will be  gliding across that dance floor tonight. love you forever.

snow cave cuisine

31 January 2012

dj

after a recent, merciless pummeling of snow, it felt like an appropriate time to pass on some ideas for blizzard fare.

i live in the lowlands of the Pacific Northwest. so, you may be wondering if i’m truly qualified to give this sort of advice. simply put, yes. transplanted from New England and later in life, from the Colorado mountains, i can confidently say i’m not only casually familiar with the white stuff, we’re intimate.

a million years before i learned to drive, had to go to work, or really had a care in the world, i adored winter weather. when brutal Nor’easters blew in and dumped multitudinous foots of snow, i was elated.

with dad, before i told my mother she could no longer choose my clothes

it meant my dad could stay home and dedicate himself to pulling us around on our sled. before he could proceed with the entertainment, however, he would need to shovel. a lot.

at 6’ 2”, my dad towered over us. with agility and strength, he shoveled and tossed the weighty snow on either side of our driveway; the piles seemed to dwarf even him. after a while, dad had created a big enough heap for me to build an elegantly appointed snow cave.

climbing onto a giant snow bank, i enthusiastically started to dig. soon, the entry took shape, and i moved to carve out a living area. i snuggled inside my new quarters, pulling my knees to my chest. supremely satisfied with my expert craftsmanship, i basked in the snow cave’s blue aura. when my little sister asked if she could come in, she was met with a resounding no. when my mother came out with a mug of hot chocolate and a cheese sandwich, she was met with a resounding yes, please. (after lunch, i invited my sister to hunker down in the cave with me, but clearly only after i asserted claim to my icy domain.)

snow cave architect-in-training

if you’re out there building a snow cave or manuvering down some hill on your flying saucer, treat yourself to something hot and hearty, because there will undoubtedly be a lot more playing to do. always have a napkin close by to daintily dab the corners of your mouth. and never use metal utensils.

snow cave sausage hand pies
a variation on recipes from Alton Brown, and in pie by Angela Boggiano

INGREDIENTS

for the crust
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 sausage
2 pounds ground pork
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper (i use Williams-Sonoma five-pepper blend)
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

for the filling
1 pound sausage (from above)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium-size onions
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
1 medium tart apple, cored and chopped (i use Bramley or Granny Smith)
3 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
salt and pepper

one egg, lightly beaten

DIRECTIONS

  1. whisk together the dry ingredients for the crust.
  2. with a pastry blender, combine the dry ingredients with the cold, chopped butter; be careful not to overwork.
  3. combine the ice water and vinegar; slowly add to the butter mixture by hand, being careful not to overwork.
  4. divide the pie dough into two discs, wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
  5. combine all of the sausage ingredients and mix together well by hand; set aside 1 pound for the hand pies (i freeze the remainder or immediately make into sausage patties.)
  6. in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, heat the olive oil.
  7. add the onions and cook until the onions caramelize.
  8. in a large skillet, brown the sausage, breaking up into small pieces until completely cooked.
  9. in a large bowl, combine the sausage, onions, mustard, thyme, apples and creme fraiche.
  10. season with salt and pepper, then mix well and let cool.
  11. preheat the oven to 375.
  12. roll out one of the dough discs, as if you were making a standard 9-inch pie crust.
  13. cut 7-inch rounds of dough out of the larger disc (i use a small plate as a stencil.)
  14. brush the edges of the small round with the egg wash.
  15. place 2 or so tablespoons of the cooled filling in the middle of the the round.
  16. fold over the round to form a half-moon, then press the edges together to seal.
  17. crimp the edge with a fork to further seal the deal.
  18. place the hand pie on a large rimmed baking sheet and cut several slashes in the top of the pie to vent.
  19. brush the pie with the egg wash.
  20. repeat the process until all the dough has been used. (pies should be placed around an inch apart.)
  21. bake until the pies are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

serve with roasted apple sauce, cheesy mashed potatoes and a green vegetable of choice (if you’re so inclined).

wake-up call

27 December 2011

dj

time to get up, a voice said softly, as one of my counselors drew back a canvas flap of our spaciously appointed platform tent. ok, thanks, i replied. hunkered down in my cozy, bright orange, flannel-lined sleeping bag, i wondered if the temperature inside the tent was even colder than it was outside. irrelevant. it was my early-morning destiny to get up before the rest of my campmates and high-tail it down to the dining hall. today, it was my privilege to serve as a hopper.

in stunning camp uniform

fewer girl scout camp chores were more revered than hopper. hoppers set massive dining tables with shiny silverware and sparkling glasses. they neatly stacked plates, positioning them strategically in front of where the head of the table would reign supreme. and they ensured that serving spoons, condiments (like real maple syrup and homemade jams) and pitchers of icy water were at the ready. most importantly, when the cooks had piled serving dishes high with hot food, hoppers were poised to swiftly and gracefully move the delicious fare from kitchen to table.

i unzipped my sleeping bag and gingerly put my feet on the cold wooden planks. shivering, with lips the color purple, i threw on a sweatshirt, shorts and sneakers, cursorily brushed my teeth and speedily hiked to the dining hall. upon arrival, i went about my hopper business. those counselors who didn’t have direct camper responsibility stood on the back porch chatting and drinking cups of steaming-hot coffee. a few of them looked disheveled, as if they’d been up (or out) late the night before. the cooks and their assistants stirred large pots of oatmeal and cream of wheat and scrambled dozens of eggs. they talked and laughed as they fried bacon and flipped pancakes.

i grabbed two metal pitchers and walked down the hill to the pump, where i filled them and tried valiantly not to spill a drop on the return trip. carefully placing them on my table, i stood back to evaluate my work. yes, i was ready. the breakfast bell sounded, and campers and counselors filed into the dining hall. i stood at my post, craning my neck just a little, hoping that two of my favorite counselors would choose to sit at my table. after singing a short grace , it was time for hoppers to jump into action. we maneuvered to the kitchen window, picking up heavy serving dishes and carrying them back to our designated tables. there, sitting at the left hand of a favorite counselor, i watched my table like a hawk, fetching and refilling to give the best possible service. i loved every minute of it. when other campers weren’t elated with their assigned hopper kapers, i happily volunteered to take their places. i’ve been hanging out in the kitchen ever since.

if you’re looking for a speedy breakfast treat, try these lemon pancakes. a little more upscale, perhaps, than we may have been served at camp. but the huckleberry compote isn’t out of the realm of New Hampshire girl scout cuisine.

lemon pancakes with huckleberry compote
a variation on a Emeril LaGasse recipe
makes enough pancakes for four


INGREDIENTS

for the compote
2 cups huckleberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tapioca flour (or corn starch)
2 tablespoons water

for the pancakes
1 cup organic all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
a pinch of salt
1 cup organic buttermilk
1 large organic egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into tablespoons
confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. in a saucepan over medium heat, combine huckleberries, lemon juice and sugar.
  2. bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook the berries for 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. in a small bowl, dissolve the tapioca flour into the water.
  4. slowly add the tapioca mixture to the huckleberries, and stir until thickened.
  5. set aside and keep warm.
  6. in a small mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  7. in a medium mixing bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and 2 tablespoons of melted butter until completely incorporated.
  8. add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, and whisk until slightly smooth; retain some lumps.
  9. fold the lemon zest into the batter and let rest for a few minutes.
  10. in a skillet or griddle, melt a few tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.
  11. to form each pancake, pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet.
  12. cook for approximately 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until the batter bubbles, and the pancake is golden brown.
  13. continue to add butter and cook pancakes until you’re out of batter!
  14. serve by sprinkling pancakes with confectioners’ sugar.
  15. place a generous dollop of compote on each serving.

an alternative: serve the pancakes topped with fresh raspberries or blackberries.

little bird love letter

20 November 2011

dj

after a year, i still can’t believe my mom is gone. it just feels like she’s back in New England, and we’ll be seeing each other again soon.

i spent this weekend doing those things we enjoyed together. with Tootie in tow, we began our journey at a local nursery, progressed to mom’s favorite shopping mall and stores, grabbed a bite of Asian fusion. we bought the ingredients to make her favorite meals: my top-secret chile recipe, lamb rib chops with roasted herb fingerlings and bacon-laden brussel sprouts, perfect northwest mac and cheese. i cooked all of it, and  we raised our glasses to toast her.

the truth is, in the year since mom’s passing, there have been more downs than ups (reminds me of the Upson Downs schtick in Auntie Mame, which we watched countless times). sometimes i call her to let her  know i’m on the way home. sometimes i make way too much food. sometimes i just stand in her room, breathing in the essence that lingers in the air. always, i set a place for her at the table.

i’ve found solace and joy in shaping pie dough and in tweaking new baked-goods’ recipes. i remember how mom’s face would light up with an adorable expression when she tasted something she thought was mmmmm (translation: yummy). the very last thing i baked for mom elicited that kind of enthusiasm: a cinnamon roll based on a brioche recipe from Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery + Cafe.

mom and i had seen Boston-based Chef Chang on an episode of Food Network‘s Throwdown (her sticky buns whooped Bobby Flay’s, btw). mom was thrilled that Chang’s bakery was in Bean Town. i was thrilled with the anticipation of  exploring an amazing sticky bun recipe. i immediately placed an order for Chang’s soon-to-be printed cookbook. (if you’re looking for a well-written, conversational baking book, with delicious fare, flour is definitely it. would highly recommend as a must-have.)

as part of my homage to mom (who at 80-plus still remembered her high school French), you’ll find the recipe for little bird cinnamon rolls here.

today, might head down to Pike Place Market, grab some chai at Starbuck’s original storefront, and pick up a rhubarb or white chocolate and cherry piroshky. wherever i go, i’ll be missing you, little bird.

little bird cinnamon rolls
makes 8 healthy-size rolls 

INGREDIENTS 

for the dough (based on Joanne Chang’s basic brioche)
2 1/4 cups organic all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups bread flour
3 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
5 eggs
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons euro butter, at room temperature, cut into 12 pieces

for the filling
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of salt
2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 tablespoon melted butter
1/3 cup dried currants (optional)

for the frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons honey (modify this based on your desired sweetness level)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)

DIRECTIONS

  1. butter a large bowl; set aside.
  2. in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water and eggs.
  3. using the dough hook, beat the ingredients on low speed, until they come together, around 5 minutes. (scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed.)
  4. after the dough has come together, continue to beat for another 4 minutes; the dough will be dry/stiff.
  5. on low speed, add the butter one piece at a time; make sure the butter has been incorporated  into the dough, before you add another piece.
  6. once all the butter has been added, beat on low for 10 minutes, until all the butter has become one with the dough.
  7. after the butter is thoroughly incorporated, beat on medium speed for another 15 minutes, until the dough is soft and shiny. this takes a while, so be patient and vigilant; it will happen.
  8. with the dough in its now-smooth and shiny state, beat on medium-high for 1 minute, until the dough, when tested, stretches and can give a little.
  9. gather up the dough and place in the large bowl.
  10. cover with plastic wrap (so it’s touching the surface of the dough).
  11. place in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight to proof. (i do the latter, then get up in the morning and move to the next step, so we have fresh rolls for breakfast.)
  12. butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish; set aside.
  13. in a medium bowl, mix the dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves, salt and 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, until it becomes a sort of paste; set aside.
  14. on a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12 x 16-inch rectangle, 1/4-inch thick.
  15. with a brush (i use silicon), spread the 1/2 tablespoon butter over the surface of the dough.
  16. evenly spread the filling paste over the entire surface of the dough, pressing down gently with your hand.
  17. sprinkle on the currants, if using, then press in gently.
  18. beginning with the short side of the dough, roll tightly to create a spiral with the filling.
  19. pinch very gently to seal the log.
  20. even the ends of the dough log, by trimming with a bench scraper.
  21. cut log into 8 even pieces, around 1 1/2 inches wide.
  22. evenly space the rolls in the baking dish, and cover with plastic wrap.
  23. let the dough rise in a warm place for around 2 hours or until they’re touching and puffy.
  24. preheat oven to 350F.
  25. bake the rolls on the middle rack until golden brown (this takes only 22 minutes in my oven), around 30 minutes.
  26. while the rolls are baking, prepare the frosting.
  27. with a hand mixer fitted with a beater attachment, mix the cream cheese until it’s fluffy.
  28. add the honey and vanilla paste, and continue to beat until smooth and completely incorporated; set aside.
  29. let the rolls cool in the baking dish for 20 minutes (so the frosting doesn’t completely melt, when you spread it on).
  30. spread the frosting over the tops of the rolls.

serve with a good cup of coffee (or tea, of course). crank up the Ink Spots Java Jive, and kick back. coming at you, ma, Air Mail Special. love you always.

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here’s the recipe!