Gathered.

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I’ve been busy this week. During the summer months, it’s typical I’ll find myself with a bounty of fruit that begs to be transformed, post-haste.  I’ll be out running or hiking and will come across a bevvy of ripe fruit and can’t help but take advantage of it. Friends know that I’ll willingly take a parcel of fresh fruit or veggies off of their hands. I’ll spend hours canning, baking, jamming and sharing the vintage that comes from many well-spent hours of toil.

5A1CB076-9F04-4FDC-93EA-FC8F583B86B0.JPGSweating it out on a hot summer night in my steamy kitchen; it’s what I love. It fuels me; nourishes my soul.

And who doesn’t want an excuse to eat cake for breakfast?

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almond and apple cake

This week I’ve been busting my way through crab apples, cherries, and what looks like a variety of McIntosh apples. My ability to judge the pectin content of crabapples could stand for improvement,  as what was meant to be a stunner jelly was more akin to a simple syrup. A gorgeous siam-hued creation, but quite viscous, none the less.

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No matter; I’ve passed jars  along to willing and appreciative recipients. I also made a voluptuous and silky smooth apple butter with vanilla and ginger undertones that’s so heavenly I’m reluctant to share, though I’ve dutifully gifted a jar to the generous apple donor (she deserves at least one, right?).

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I’ve taken the surplus and added them to an incredible almond-olive oil cake; something reminiscent of my pear and almond cake from this post. Needless to say I couldn’t trust myself around it’s seductive scent and had to share the love with my colleagues so as to save my waistline. Thank goodness for these willing recipients…and for rigorous physical activity!

cherry polenta crumble


All that aside, when I started this blog, my intention was to share with others a little extension of me; a window into the quirks and inspirations that are part and parcel of my personality. I’ve been admittedly out of practice for some time, working through bouts of feeling uncreative and not taking time to share what fuels me. And ultimately, what fuels me is exactly that – creativity. It’s the antidote.

Expect to see posts with a bit more frequency in the near future. For now, take a few minutes out of your day to make this cake, and by all means, share it!

Enjoy, and much love,

J

Almond and Apple Cake

 

1 cup almond flour

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 c. chopped candied ginger
*
*combine the above in a large mixing bowl.
*
1 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
*
*mix wet ingredients; fold into the dry ingredients.
*
1 cup peeled, chopped apple and 1-2 peeled apples, sliced into thin crescents
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* add chopped apple to cake batter; pour into 8-9 inch springform pan, or other cake pan. Top with apple slices.
*
Bake at 350 for ~50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

 

Forced Recreation.

Where have you been, Beautiful Wallflower?
Ahh, there’s a question…
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I enjoy telling my story through pictures, because an image can capture the emotion of the moment; it can both affect and effect. It’s communicating to the world from the lens of the observer. Images become indelible memories of experience, of time.
Tender, vulnerable, revealing.
A fine way to get to know someone, really.
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In the past month, I have attended festivals
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Made more baked goods than a girl probably should
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Ran faster than the wind
Sought comfort and rejuvenation with friends
Celebrated birthdays and milestones
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And sequestered myself with a cold…
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As my inbox gets bombarded with loads of good things to create, my neighborhood filled with new restaurants to try, I am still called to the kitchen, with a yearning to create. I’ve been baking my way through Zoe Nathan’s Huckleberry, annotating what changes I’ve either made, or need to make, to ensure success the next time around.PicFrame
I’ve made at least four (five?) recipes now, and continue to be inspired by the gorgeous photography and straightforward directions.
Zoe has reignited my love of the teacake, that perfect excuse for a sit-down with a good cuppa something steamy.
I was inspired to make a citrus-fennel cake recently, a variation of her lemon kumquat poppy teacake.IMG_6434
I had a fragrant Cara Cara orange on hand that was begging to be put to use, and I always have several lemons at the ready. But fennel! I don’t know why it came so strongly to mind, however the subtle anise-like flavor seemed just the right thing pair with the citrus.
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And holy mackerel! This is by far one of the best cakes i’ve made in a while. The crumb, dense and buttery, was exactly what one might expect from a proper tea/pound cake. The flavor, so citrus-y and bright; the toasted bits of crushed fennel rounding out the experience better than I could have imagined.
 This recipe will be in regular rotation, for sure.
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Citrus-Fennel Tea Cake
Inspired by Zoe Nathan’s Lemon Kumquat Poppy Teacake
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Ingredients:
1 c butter, at room temperature
1 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
zest and juice of one large lemon and one orange, separated (~1/4-1/3 cup juice)
2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp heavy cream
1.5 c flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp fennel seeds, lightly smashed
4 tbsp sugar
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Method:
Preaheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Butter a 9×5 inch loaf pan. I like to line the pan with parchment, which eases removal of cake from the pan.
Using your fingers, massage sugar and zest together until fragrant. Add to mixing bowl with the butter and salt.
Mix at medium speed until fluffy and light; about 2-3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl periodically.
Sift baking powder and fennel seeds into flour; set aside.
Whisk together eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and cream.
With mixer on low-medium speed, slowly drizzle egg mixture into creamed butter and sugar. Mix on medium speed for ~1 minute.
Add flour and mix just until combined; no more than ~10 seconds. It’s okay if there are still bits of unincorporated flour; simply fold into batter with spatula.
Scoop dough into prepared pan and bake for ~60 minutes. Cake is fully baked when an inserted knife or toothpick comes out clean. Let rest 10 minutes, then remove from pan and set on a cooling rack.
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While cake is baking, prepare the glaze: in a small saucepan, combine juice and sugar. bring to a boil, whisking while the sugar dissolves, turn heat down or a minute and allow the juice to reduce, just a bit. Brush over top and sides of warm cake.
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Enjoy, and much love,
J

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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

 

Snow Day.

Last night, snow fell in Seattle. It was rather beautiful. We watched it fall precipitously as we dined on tender rabbit ragu, gnocchi with wild mushrooms, seafood paella, lamb meatballs with squash risotto, brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts. And while there was maybe a walnut-sized amount of space left in my belly, I couldn’t leave without sampling the chocolate creme brulee (thanks for the encouragement, Lauren!). It was an intimate night out with family at Olivar’s restaurant, full of laughter and good conversation.
As we made our way back to the car, it was clear that the hills weren’t worth navigating, so we abandoned our vehicle and took a (very) brisk walk home.
Not to worry; by morning the roads had been well-sanded and when we returned, the only damage was a hefty pile of snow, into which someone had sweetly etched a heart. I smiled as I glanced back through the rear window.
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And now I find myself taking advantage of the elements and staying indoors to rest, relax and get creative.
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While I have a seemingly insatiable sweet tooth, I also crave foods of the more “nutritious” variety. Salty sardines on toast, chia pudding with almond milk and berries, kale smoothies, fresh nuts and seeds. Working in the field of Nutrition, I see diet fads come and go, and while I’ve had my own history of dietary rigidity, I discovered long ago that the best relationship with food is an intuitive one. There are days when I crave a healthy dose of omega 3’s, and then there are days when I just want to eat cookies and chocolate, period.
chia pudding with berries

chia pudding with berries

And so today, folks, let’s take a look at candy-making. The circuitous path my foodie journey took this morning was an evolution of crunchy, salty, sweet, nutty and caramel-y goodness. A trifecta of pistachio, pignolia and pumpkin seeds, bathed in brittle vanilla toffee and glistening with flaky Maldon sea salt. A snack that had just the right amount of everything to keep me nibbling as I waited for the slowly roasting marinated turkey to make it’s way to my dinner plate.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
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Pine Nut, Pistachio and Pumpkin Seed Brittle
Note: This brittle comes together in a snap (pun intended), however it requires mindful presence and having all ingredients prepped and ready to add at the proper interval. A candy thermometer is requisite.
Adapted from Alison Roman’s Salted Pistachio Brittle, http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/salted-pistachio-brittle
Ingredients:
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup cane sugar
3 Tbsp water
1/2 c salted pistachios
1/4 cup each pumpkin seeds and pignolias (aka: pine nuts); toasted
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 tsp baking soda
Flaked sea salt, such as Maldon
Method:
1. Line a sheet pan with parchment and spray lightly with nonstick spray.
2. Combine water, sugar and syrup in a 2-3 quart pan over medium heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved, then increase heat to high and affix candy thermometer.
3. Once temperature has reached 290° (~3-4 minutes), add nuts, vanilla seeds, salt and butter.
4. Monitor until heat reaches 300°, then remove from heat and sprinkle with baking soda. The mixture will bubble up and increase in volume. Pour immediately onto prepared sheet pan and sprinkle with salt.
5. Allow to cool completely, then break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Brittle

Different parts of a whole.

This happened in Seattle. Businesses closed. City streets littered with detritus from last night’s fireworks. I’ve never seen this much enthusiasm in our city. It was nearly impossible not to get caught up in the groundswell.
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Taking a different direction, literally.
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Once in a while, I force myself to take a different path. It’s easy to get comfortable in the familiar, however a simple change in direction, a re-route, if you will, yields new discoveries. While I’m referring to running, the benefit of applying this metaphor to the rest of life’s journey is not lost on me.
As I begrudgingly made my way along the trail, there were trees I’d never noticed before. Fat robins perched on thin branches. I heard the bubbling brook as it meandered downstream and I embraced the crisp in the air.
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And I dreamt of spring.
And citrus.
I can’t seem to veer away from it. A messager du printemps, Spring is calling me; fresh, clean and bright. The invitation to wake up after Winter slumber; the hint of sweetness. Naturally, my mind wandered to food, or specifically, lemon curd. When I got home, I pulled The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters, off the shelf. I love this book; its simple design, classic and mature, with straightforward recipes and a focus on the local and seasonal. The recipes are brilliantly clear and approachable.
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Meyer Lemon Tart

Meyer Lemon Tart

I used Meyer lemons for the juice, and made a luxurious shortbread pastry to showcase the silky custard. Wasting nothing, I made merengue with the leftover whites. I got a bit fancy by adding chopped chocolate and pistachios to some, folding in sliced almonds into others.
I candied the citrus peels with the juiced fruit – the resultant citrus syrup became an impromtu cocktail and soda mixer, a quick and easy hostess gift for last night’s party.
Almond Merengue

Almond Merengue

 

Candied Citrus Peel

Candied Citrus Peel

Enjoy, and much love,
J
Meyer Lemon Tart
*note: I imagine the lemon would well with the flavor of thyme, or ginger, a relatively simple addition to the custard. Folding a bit of orange or lemon zest into the pastry adds another layer of dimension.
One 9-inch prepared tart (see link, here)
Lemon Curd (*adapted from The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters)
6 Meyer lemons, juiced, approximately 1/2 cup
Zest from one lemon
3 egg yolks
2 eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp tapioca starch, or cornstarch
pinch of salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, diced
Optional: 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
In a medium saucepan, add whisk together all ingredients except the butter. Bring to a medium heat, and add butter. Stir constantly until thickened. As soon as custasrd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat, add herbs (if using) and let steep for ~10 minutes.
Pour curd into prepared crust. Bake at 375 degrees for ~15-20 minutes, until set. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving*.
*For ease of serving, this tart will benefit from a brief chill in the refrigerator.

Nibble.

I’m always tagging recipes to refer to later; all of my cookbooks have dog-eared edges (don’t judge). I have boxes here and there with printed or hand-written favorites, tabs throughout my Cook’s Illustrated magazines, foodie folders in my email accounts. My organizational skills are a bit sub-par, so finding a reference when I’m in creation mode presents somewhat of a challenge.

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The other day I had a bit of time on my hands and so I sat, sifting through some recipes and came across this one from CHOW featuring a honey ricotta tart (you can find the link, here.
I’d saved it over two years ago, as soon as I saw it, I knew I’d found my template.
I’ve been on a bit of a honey kick, as evident from recent posts, and had a craving for a pie or cheesecake at strategic points throughout the week.
Or daily.
Whatever.
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When I saw this pie, it brought to mind the cheesecake I’d made with chèvre. And over the next several hours, my mind wandered. I dreamt of salted pistachio with bitter orange, and floral honey with the tang of goat cheese.
Sadly my cheese benefactor was out of town this week, so rather than relying on her supply, I had to settle on store-bought chèvre.
Sadly, Beatrice could not contribute to my efforts

Beatrice.

I did manage to include the last bit of wildflower honey produced on the farm. I love using ingredients that are local and familiar; it makes the experience that much more personal.

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The flavors couldn’t have been more well-matched. The scent of orange, woven through the crust…it was hard to refrain from nibbling a pinch before I added the filling.
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A simple dollop of crème fraîche with a bit of reserved pistachios and a drizzle of honey elevate this tart to center-stage.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Salted Pistachio, Orange and Honey Hart
Ingredients:
1 1/4 c flour
1/3 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 c powdered sugar
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
8 tbsp unsalted butter, diced and expertly chilled
1/2 c ice water*
*Note: you will only need ~3-4 Tbsp
Filling:
8 oz goat cheese
2 large eggs
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/3 c honey
2 Tbsp sugar
Topping:
2 tbsp salted pistachios, chopped
Pinch of coarse sea salt
Method:

1. Combine flour, salt, sugar and orange zest.
2. Using either a pasty blender or food processor, fold in diced butter and blend just until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
3. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing with either hands or spatula until the dough just starts to come together. Mixture should be a bit craggy and on the drier side, but should come together if pinched.
4. Wrap dough in plastic or parchment and allow to rest for about an hour in the refrigerator.
5. Remove pastry and using a rolling pin, roll into a flat disc and press into a 9-in tart pan with removable bottom.
6. Prick bottom several times with a fork and set in freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up.
6. Preheat oven to 425°.
7. Line tart pan with a sheet of aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake for about 15 minutes, remove weights and foil, lower heat to 350° and bake for 10 more minutes, just until golden-hued.
While tart shell is baking, prepare the filling:
1. Cream honey, sugar, cheese and orange zest together in a large mixing bowl, scraping down sides as needed.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
4. Pour mixture into prepared crust and place on baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle top with a pinch of salt and the pistachios and bake for another ten minutes, or until the middle is just set.
5. Cool completely on wire rack.
Serve as is, or garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche, and a drizzle of honey.