You’re Baking Me Crazy.

PicFrameI’ve been thinking about rhubarb pretty much constantly for the past several weeks, picking up stalks regularly at the farmer’s market and grocery, as it finds its way into cakes, jams and spreads.

photo 1This weekend, I was able to do a bit of pruning at my father’s and took home a moderately sized sack of perfectly rosy beauts. I’d been planning to make dessert for some friends, and, given our glorious hint of early summer, a sort of strawberry-rhubarb shortcake came to mind. A recipe I’d discovered recently boasted a sweet-savory concoction of roasted fruit with balsamic and maple flavors, which brought my own craft into the sweet-savory realm. I dreamt of thyme and pepper-coated berries and barb, caramelized and tender, folded into layers of whipped cream and fluffy biscuits.

photo 4 photo 5
Given that I still had a bit of ricotta on hand from recent baking adventures, I thought it might be interesting to incorporate it into some pastry for shortcake. Much of baking is the result of a formula: fat+liquid+flour. I recalled Michael Rhulman’s genius concept of using ratios for basic batters, pastry, cake and the like. You can find a link, here.
photo 2
I added a couple of tablespoons of sugar, as this is more of a dessert biscuit, and used equal parts ricotta and milk. The rest is well, all me.
Like so many fine things, this dough takes only a moment to come together, then it must rest, given some delicate handling, then rest again. The biscuits can be refrigerated, or frozen to bake at a later time. The resultant crisp and flaky texture is ruined by moisture, so it’s aways best to eat biscuits the day they are baked.
photo 3
I measured my ingredients out using a scale, however I’ll provide approximations using household measurements. For the original recipe, refer to link above. Additionally, I bake my scones and pastry at a higher temperature, say, 425 degrees F. This melts the butter quickly and creates those lovely air pockets that make for a light, fluffy, buttery-layered biscuit.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Thyme and Balsamic-Infused Rhubarb with Strawberries , Ricotta Shortcake and Vanilla Whip Cream

Thyme and Balsamic-Infused Rhubarb and Strawberries , Ricotta Shortcake and Vanilla Whip Cream

Thyme and Balsamic-Infused Rhubarb and Strawberries 
Inspired by Ladystiles Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberries:
**Note: the fruit can be prepared 1-2 days ahead of time and stored along with their juices, until ready to serve.
2.5-3 cups rhubarb, cut into ~1-inch lengths
1 pint strawberries, split
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
2 sprigs thyme, plucked of leaves
dash of freshly-ground black pepper
Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper.
Combine rhubarb and strawberries in a large bowl. Whisk remaining ingredients together; pour over fruit. Toss gently.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, until juices have started to bubble and thicken. Remove and serve with Ricotta Biscuits (recipe follows)
Ricotta Biscuits
Ingredients:
2 c flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c butter, chilled and diced
1/2 c ricotta
2 oz milk
Method:
Mix dry ingredients together; set aside.
Using a pastry blender or food processor, cut flour and butter until the mixture starts to resemble coarse sand; leaving a few larger pieces strewn throughout.
Whisk together ricotta and milk; add to flour.
Using a wooden spoon or hands, stir the liquid into the flour/butter until it’s just barely absorbed. Turn onto a flat surface, and knead, just a few times to bring it all together. There will still be bits of butter poking about; this is key to a flaky biscuit.
Wrap in plastic/parchment and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Once chilled, begin rolling: roll out dough into a rectangle ~1/2 inch thick.
Fold in thirds, then refrigerate a further 30 minutes.
Repeat the rolling, folding and chilling cycle once more.
As the dough makes its final rest, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment; set aside.
Shape dough with your hands, or roll out to ~3/4-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter.
Brush biscuits with a bit of milk, if desired, then bake for ~12-15 minutes until golden and puffed to about twice their original volume. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

 

Feed Me, Seymour!

After a weekend being in good company of friends, being nourished in both body and heart, I find myself in the kitchen today. It feels like I’m making up for lost time. The week has been bubbling over with activity, so cooking a meal has been little more than an afterthought.
So, gifted with an extra hour in my day, I found myself laying in bed dreaming up what I wanted to make.
Something hot and stew-y, for sure, something sweet, and something with raw elements.
Garbanzo Bean Stew with Preserved Lemon
I wanted to create an unctuous, meat-free stew and had been pouring over recipes that paired game-y meats with fruit. I’ve had this thing for Moroccan spices lately and was dying to test out my recent batch of preserved lemon. I use garbanzo beans frequently for hummus and in salads, however I rarely use them in soups, preferring the many varieties of lentils available. Garbanzo beans are firm, nutty and can hold their own in a soup with lots of competing elements. Adding a bit of harissa heightens the flavors and adds extra heat.
This stew is stellar, and can be served with couscous, bread or another grain. I served it over quinoa to give it a bit of a protein boost and keep it a bit lighter, as I always like to keep room for dessert!
Garbanzo Bean Stew with Preserved Lemon
2 onions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup olive oil
3 c cooked garbanzo beans
2 32-oz cans whole plum tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
1 preserved lemon, insides removed, chopped
3/4 cup dried Turkish apricots, quartered
1 Tbsp harissa
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
2 cinnamon sticks
2 c. vegetable or chicken broth
1 bunch kale, chopped
Method
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
2. Add onion and cook ~15 minutes, giving a stir every few minutes to evenly caramelize.
3. Turn the heat up to high, and add all remaining ingredients except kale.
4. Once boiling, turn heat down and simmer for ~40 minutes.
5. Toss in kale, allowing it to steam for ~5 minutes, then fold into the stew.
6. Serve over cooked quinoa or couscous; with cilantro and harissa as garnish.
pomegranate arils

pomegranate arils

I also had this pomegranate I’d been meaning to break into. As I was waiting for my press to steep my coffee, I spotted the pomegranate and popped myself up onto the counter, knife in hand. A colleague taught me a fancy technique for scoring pomegranate so as not to bruise the fruit. I peeled back the flesh to reveal the plump juicy jewels inside. After plucking away for about 10 minutes, I had a nice full bowl of seeds. I could have easily gone with a simple arugula salad with pomegranate and toasted pistachios, however I also wanted to do a bit of roasting and satisfy my squash addiction. What I ended up with was truly gorgeous and flavorful as well; kale marinated in a lovely vinaigrette and tossed with roasted delicata squash and pomegranate seeds.
Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Pomegranate Arils

Kale Salad with Delicata Squash and Pomegranate Arils

2 delicata squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch crescents
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 large head lacinato (flat leaf) kale
Vinaigrette:
4 T olive oil
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tap salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss squash with a bit of olive oil (~2 tbsp), a generous pinch of salt and several grates of pepper. Roast for 40-45 minutes, giving a toss about halfway through so that the squash caramelizes evenly.
Wash kale and chop into ribbons. Set in a large bowl.
Combine vinaigrette; massage into kale. Add delicata and mix lightly. Fold in pomegranate seeds and garnish with pistachio seeds and chèvre.
Pear and Almond Cake

Pear and Almond Cake

Moving on to dessert. Initially, I’d planned to do something with pear and ginger, and then I recalled having a bit of almond flour in my larder. I discovered a recipe on food 52.com, which you can find the link here:
I made few deviations from the recipe, with exception of increasing the proportion of almond flour to baking flour and substituting olive oil for canola oil. This made for a dense, moist cake, which I served with some vanilla-scented creme fraiche. It was truly divine.
Much Love,
J

Love in the Time of Pastry.

Often, I feel a natural pull toward the kitchen to get creative and make something sweet. I have an insatiable sweet tooth, admittedly. This desire generally peaks after I’ve gotten home from a full day of activities, donned my sweats and T-shirt, and simply cannot bear the thought of leaving my cozy apartment to be assaulted by the bright lights of a grocery. Oh, and people. Not that I am an unsociable person, quite the opposite. It’s just that once I’ve expended my mental and emotional energy of the day, I need a respite. That’s when having a somewhat decently-stocked pantry comes in handy.

Given that it’s Fall, I naturally turn to more things like pastries and pies and cakes; something fruity and not too sweet. I surveyed my cupboard and had odds and bits of different types of flours, a few apples in the refrigerator and a stick of butter. What emerged is destined to repeat, for sure.

Image

These apple galettes are quite possibly one some of best mini pastries I’ve made; perfect for breakfast, after dinner, or pretty much any time of day, really.

Feel free to substitute a combination of flours with this one; I’m thinking rye flour might be a nice addition.  However, if using a dense whole-grain flour, don’t add more than ~1/3 cup, or you’ll need to play with the fat and liquid components of the pastry dough.

Ooh! And adding some candied ginger to the filling might be nice as well. I would go for about two tablespoons, and cut back on the sugar by equivalent volume. And I would hold off on adding the grated ginger, as is it might be a bit overpowering.

~Mise en Place

~Mise en Place

Apple Ginger Galettes

For the pastry:
2/3 c unbleached pastry flour
1/3 c whole wheat, rye, or Emmer flour
1 tbsp unbleached sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
8 oz (1 stick) butter
For the filling:
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced about 1/4 inch wide
1/4 c unbleached sugar
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tap cinnamon
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
Additional ingredients
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
2 tsp coarse sugar, such as demerera
Method:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
1. Combine all of the filling ingredients; set aside.
2. Prepare the pastry; refer to this link for basic dough prep http://redflowerjlhcooks.com/2013/07/25/or-how-to-make-a-pie/
  1. Cut chilled dough into four equal pieces.
  2. Roll into ~1/8-in thin circles, You’ll want them to be about 8 inches in diameter.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment for the pastry, or put each circle onto individual parchment squares.
  4. Give the filling a quick stir to redistribute the juices, then scoop into the center of each pastry.
  5. Gently fold up about 1-2 inches, pinching each fold together to ensure a decent seal.
  6. Brush the edges of crust with egg, then sprinkle galettes with demerera (or other sugar on hand)
  7. Bake 15 minutes, then turn heat down to 350 degrees F.
  8. Check the pastry in about 20 minutes; if the crust is browning excessively, cover with foil.
  9. Cook another 15-20 minutes; apples should be juice and bubbly at this point.
  10. Remove from oven, cool slightly and serve.
Bon Apetit, and much love,
J

Kitchen Therapy.

I’m constantly balancing work and play, ensuring adequate self care, investing myself fully in being a mother, a partner, a colleague; a friend. I keep lists of ‘to do’s, deleting my accomplishments as I go. Vitamin: Check! Pick up kid: Check! Pedicure: Check! Run – no need to make a list for that one. It’s a part of my operating system now.
Mediation I still struggle with. So, as I sit here with consciousness-invoking tunes streaming through my headphones, I naturally relax into creativity mode.
Which brings me back to Sunday:
I love casual Sundays; the rain in Seattle really helps invoke that nurturing and creative side in me. Most recently, I wanted to make a dinner that would really impress. And of course, dessert would be involved.
I have a thing for citrus cakes; last year I was on a grapefruit-olive oil cake run that I made multiple times, inspired by the incredible Yellow House blog post. I served it at dinners, I made it for friends. Be sure to take a gander, if you have time.
This cake is similar in its density, with citrusy bitters mingling with syrupy sweetness in a dense almond flour base. I loosely followed a recipe for clementine almond cake found in the Jeruselem cookbook (again – planning to cook my way through this one!), however while out procuring ingredients, my eyes wandered over to the giant globes of grapefruit.
Grapefruit Almond Cake

Grapefruit Almond Cake

A combination of citrus would work really well here; I’m thinking blood oranges would be lovely, once in season. Feel free to play around with sweeteners; this cake is quite forgiving. It’ll keep several days, and makes an excellent breakfast, topped with a bit of plain Greek yogurt or cultured cream.
Mmm. Already fantasizing about when I will make this again!
Grapefruit Almond Cake
2.5 c almond flour (finely ground almonds)
3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c butter
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 c sugar (I used unbleached cane sugar)
Zest of one grapefruit
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
Syrup:
1/3 c sugar
Juice of one grapefruit and one lemon
Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Butter and line a 8.5-9-in springform pan with parchment
3. Combine all dry ingredients; set aside.
4. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar, along with lemon and grapefruit zest.
5. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating into the batter.
6. Add almond extract.
7. Work in dry ingredients, about a cup at a time; beating until just incorporated.
8. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for ~50-60 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
(note – monitor cake ~40 minutes in, as it may need to be covered with foil or parchment to prevent excessive browning)
While cake is baking, prepare syrup:
Bring sugar to a boil, then simmer on low for just a few minutes, stirring to prevent burning. You’ll want to have ~1/2 c of the juice/syrup.
Pour over cake immediately, once removed from oven
Let cake cool completely, then remove from pan. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or whip cream.

I won’t go into great detail about dinner, however I must share a teaser, as it was a truly stunning meal:

Image

Lamb Kofta with Tahini Sauce

Much love to you!

jlh

Here, Figgy Figgy…

Green King Fig

Green King Fig

Swoon. Its a forager’s dream out there right now. And the overflowing gardens of friends and neighbors are ripe for the picking.

Rarely do I laud the merits of Facebook, however I am in complete gratitude for the linking of friends and networking that bestowed upon me a bounty of rich, juicy, succulent figs in their ripe perfection. Figs! I could jump for joy. They are quite simply my most favorite fruit.

Of course, after David and I made our haul, I was left worth the question: what am I going to do with five pounds of figs? I truly cannot eat them all fresh, and they were at the pinnacle of perfection. So, as we were driving, the talk of baseball in my ear, I daydreamed about figs. Fig jam, fig crostata, figs dripping down my chin, figs with Greek yogurt and honey, figs with mascarpone…

Figs with toast, Greek yogurt, honey, blueberries and oregano blossoms

Figs with toast, Greek yogurt, honey, blueberries and oregano blossoms

Or simply adorning a tray of summer nibbles, such as this one, composed by my lovely friend Donna last night, which we enjoyed languidly, sprawled out on sofa and floor, talking for hours.

Summer Romano beans, raw goat cheese, pate, torts, yellow zucchini, arugula flowers, fresh figs

Summer Romano beans, raw goat cheese, pate, torts, yellow zucchini, arugula flowers, fresh figs

And so I was inspired to make this incredible fig jam. I’d been purchasing it and using it addictively on sandwiches, nestled between arugula and salami or prosciutto, or with toast and tea.

I’d never made fig jam before, however I was thinking that the perky acidity of balsamic vinegar would pair nicely in a spread, so I set out to make this balsamic-infused jam.

I have a preference for Pomona’s Pectin, as it is the most natural product I’ve found, requires minimal sugar, and really preserves the flavor and integrity of the fruit. It’s a pretty basic formula. If you’re a jammer; just follow the package directions, to which for this particular batch, I substituted a really nice, aged balsamic vinegar for ~1/2 the lemon juice called for in the recipe.

Getting Jammy

Getting Jammy

Voila! Love to all.

Gimme Some Sugar…

Berry-Peach Tartlet with Elderflower and Lemon Cream

Berry-Peach Tartlet with Elderflower and Lemon Cream

Recipes showcasing summer berries abound, however, second to tasting a fresh berry off the vine, I find their marriage with pastry so effing satisfying. Berries erupt when heated, creating this saucy, syrupy goodness, when soaked into a rich buttery flaky pastry…there’s nothing like it.

I found myself with a small treasure of fresh berries and a couple of perfectly ripened peaches and that’s how it all started. See, I don’t typically enjoy fruit on it’s own, so when faced with bounty, I will either make jam, or some sort of crisp, biscuit, shortbread or pie.
I had a modest idea where this is going when I started. While my tart dough was resting away in the fridge, I peeled and diced the peaches and combined them with the berries, then let them macerate with a little bit of sugar, lemon and freshly grated ginger – lots of it.
Macerate. I use the term loosely, as I had intentioned to make this these little babies the same day. However, the sudden onset of a gastrointestinal bug sent me to bed for much of the afternoon.
Moving on…
frangipani (almond-custard)

frangipani (almond-custard)

 

 

Once I’d recovered my energy (and my insides), I set to work. I discovered a bit of frangipani in my freezer from a previous experiment, and thought that the almond flavor would make a nice addition to my tartlets.
Rather than encrust these beauties with another layer of dough, I set on a crumble that would be light enough and provide the right crunch, while not taking away from the juicy bits in the middle. I prepared a mixture of two parts oats, one part cornmeal one part sugar (demerara to be specific), maybe a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger, a good dose of cinnamon, a pinch of salt and some lemon zest. To combine it all, I took a couple tablespoons-ish each of butter and coconut oil, incorporating it all with a pastry cutter.
mini berry tartlets

mini berry tartlets

 

 

I lined about 6 mini-tart tins with dough, then blind baked at ~400 degrees for 12 minutes. Next I removed the tart shells from the oven and filled with a spoonful of frangipani, some berries, and lastly, packed the crumble on top. This baked for ~30 minutes at 350 degrees, until bubbly and golden.

For this recipe, you will need
~3 cups berries (fresh, or thawed from frozen, but seriously, use fresh right now because it’s summer)
2 peaches peeled sliced and diced
~2 generous tablespoons sugar (again I prefer the raw stuff)
~1 tablespoon of freshly-grated ginger
1 batch prepared pie dough (see earlier post)
crumble topping (see descriptive above, or just create one on your own!)
Serve with lemon-elderflower cream, or basic whipped cream.