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Just finished reading The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novelby Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Brunch, Vegetarian, on October 30th, 2017.

microwave_poached_egg

So cinchy easy I can’t believe nobody had figured this out before.

Subscribing to the posts from Food52 is sometimes daunting. They post about 10+ posts a day. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating, but seems like every time I go to look at what they’ve posted, it can take me an hour to get through them all. Yet I don’t want to not look at them because there are some real gems there.

raw_eggs_for_poachingAnyway, since I’ve been having a poached egg or two on toast for dinner now and then (my DH would NOT have thought that was a proper dinner, which is why as a widow, well, I can!). So I had to try this pronto. Since I did two eggs, I  used a bowl instead of a mug (recommended). You add about 1/2 cup of tap water, a tiny splash of distilled vinegar, stir it a bit, add the eggs, cover the mug or dish, pop it into the microwave and cook on high. In MY microwave, it takes 90 seconds, but a single egg in a mug will take maybe 45-60 seconds. You’ll have to judge it yourself. The toast needs to be in the toaster before I put the eggs in the microwave and in a jiffy it’s all ready. So VERY easy. If the eggs aren’t quite done, put it back in the microwave and continue for maybe 5-10 seconds until it’s done to your liking. I like a runny egg, so your timing might be different.

In my microwave, the very tip-top of the egg isn’t submerged. If you want to not see that, remove the bowl/mug after about 45 seconds (once the water is warm) microwave_poached_eggs_bowland use a spoon to drizzle some hot water over the top. I’m fine with the little coin of bright yolk on top. What’s nice is that my lunch or dinner is finished in a matter of 2 minutes, tops.

What’s GOOD: the speedy meal – the fact that I can have a meal done in a matter of 2-3 minutes. These are every bit as good as ones you’ve done in simmering water, I think.

What’s NOT: gee, can’t think of anything. Maybe if you needed to do 6-8 eggs for a family, this wouldn’t work – easier to do a big skillet of them, but for me, this works like a charm!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Microwave Poached Egg

Recipe By: Food52
Serving Size: 1

a bowl or wide cup water, fill about half way, approximately 1/2 cup
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 large egg — or two

1. Add water to a mug (or bowl if doing two), stir in half a tablespoon of vinegar, crack an egg into the mug, cover with a top (a plate works) and microwave for 45 seconds.
2. Look to see if it’s done. If not, add another 10-20 seconds and check again. Depending on the voltage of the microwave it could take longer, or shorter time. Drain using a slotted spoon and serve.
Per Serving: 74 Calories; 5g Fat (62.1% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 212mg Cholesterol; 70mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, Desserts, on August 21st, 2017.

almond_puff_slice

Almond Puff Loaf. Oh gosh. Love this.

It had been decades since I’d last made this. I used to make it back in the 1960s – I’d found a recipe in one of my homespun cookbooks. Then one time I made it and it failed completely, and I had no idea why. The 2nd layer kind of spread out all over everywhere (now I know what happened) but after that failure, I thought oh well, I won’t try that again. Then it was featured recently on King Arthur Flour’s blog, and I was reminded about my previous love of it, then distress of it. As I read, I discovered that you must use large eggs, not extra large. I used to buy extra large all the time, but then about 10-15 years ago I read that bakers use ONLY large eggs because they’re more consistent with the normal size used in almost all baked things. And it was mentioned that if you use extra large eggs, this baked goodie might fail. Ah-ha! That must have been it. If you go the blog write-up then go to the recipe itself at King Arthur Flour, you’ll read all the details, if you’re interested. They actually mention how much one large egg weighs. One website says an average large egg weighs (just the egg part) 50 grams.

I served it at one of my book club meetings recently, held here at my house. The recipe is Danish in origin, and I wanted to make Danish goodies because the group was reviewing The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. We had such an interesting discussion of the book because I invited my friend Janet to come and talk about her experiences in Denmark. Her son lives there with his wife and children, and Janet and Dick visit them regularly. She shared some stories about celebrating Christmas in Denmark (many different traditions), and she also brought a beautiful candle (candles are really, really important in Denmark, and NOT scented) with an unusual glass surround with pine boughs. My meeting was held in my family room – I lit about a dozen candles, had lights on (low) wherever I could (and had it not been mid-summer and hot, I would have lit the fireplace [fireplaces are big deal for hygge]).

almond_puff_fullAnyway, this Danish – well, it’s NOT like a “real” Danish (as we in American might call it), the kind you’d buy at a bakery. This is a pretty easy one to make at home. It has a bottom layer (look at the photo up at the top to see the layers), a top layer that’s like cream puff batter which rises quite a bit in the baking because of the eggs in it, then once baked (it takes an hour) you spread warm jam (I’m quite enamored with Trader Joe’s Peach Bellini jam) on top, then sprinkle on some toasted almonds, then drizzle with a simple powdered sugar icing.  There are a bunch of steps, but none is difficult in the least. A bit of stirring, mixing, melting, spreading, etc. After doing all the layering, I cut it into slices about 1 1/2” wide, 3” long (across). The photo above is of one of the finished loaves – it’s about 10” long and 3-4” wide. The puff was still warm when I put it onto a serving plate and invited my friends to grab a piece, along with coffee (another integral part of Danish life) and makes for a lot of hygge (HOO-GAH). We laughed a lot about how much difficulty we have pronouncing it.

What’s GOOD: this is altogether delicious – it has crunch, almost like croissant flakiness in the middle (but it isn’t, it’s cream-puff flakiness), the jam and almonds adding a nice mouth-feel. There were some pieces left over and I invited my friends to take them home – there was none left after that. Now that I’ve figured out about only using LARGE eggs, I’ll be making this again someday. And then, I love almond anything, so that was an added bonus for me.

What’s NOT: If you don’t like managing all the different layers, maybe this isn’t for you, but it’s not difficult in the least. You do need to start about 1 1/2 hours ahead since it must bake nearly an hour. And it really should cool for 10-15 minutes before serving (I didn’t because I’d run out of time!).

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Almond Puff Loaf

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour (but this is an old-old recipe I’ve had for decades)
Serving Size: 16

FIRST LAYER:
1/2 cup butter — cut into pats or 1/2-inch cubes, (8 tablespoons)*
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup water
*If you’re using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt
SECOND LAYER:
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter — (8 tablespoons)*
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
3 large eggs — at room temperature; warm them, in the shell, in hot tap water for 10 minutes if they’re cold from the fridge
1 teaspoon almond extract
*If you’re using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt
TOPPING:
2/3 cup jam — or preserves (preferably apricot or peach)
2/3 cup sliced almonds — toasted in a 350F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until they’re a light, golden brown
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar — or glazing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons milk — or water (approximately)

NOTE: Be sure to use only LARGE eggs.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a large cookie sheet.
2. First layer: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the butter, flour, and salt (if you’re using it), working the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or fork, your fingers, or a mixer. Mix until everything is crumbly, then stir in the water. The dough will become cohesive, though not smooth.
3. Divide the dough in half; if you’re using a scale, each half will weigh about 4 5/8 – 5 ounces. Wet your hands, and shape each piece of this wet dough into a rough log. Pat the logs into 10″ x 3″ rectangles on the sheet, leaving at least 4″ (but preferably 6″) between them, and 2″ on each side. These puff up in the oven (hence the name), and you need to leave them room for expansion.
4. Second layer: In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Stir until the butter melts, then add the flour (and salt, if you’re using it) all at once. Stir the mixture with a spoon till it thickens, begins to steam, and leaves the sides of the pan; this will happen very quickly. Transfer the stiff batter to a mixing bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat it at medium speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just to cool it down a bit.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat until the batter loses its slippery look, and each egg is totally absorbed. Mix in the almond extract.
6. Divide the batter in half. Spread half the batter over one of the dough strips on the pan, covering it completely to the outer edges. Repeat with the remaining batter on the 2nd and dough. With a spatula (or your wet fingers) spread the batter until it completely covers the entire bottom layer of dough. Smooth it out as best you can.
7. Bake the pastry for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s a deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and transfer each pastry to a wire rack.
8. Topping: Spread each warm pastry with about 1/3 cup of jam or preserves.
9. Sprinkle the toasted almonds atop the jam. By this time, your beautifully puffed pastries are probably starting to sink; don’t worry, this is all part of the plan.
10. Icing: Stir together the sugar, vanilla, and enough milk or water to form a thick but “drizzlable” icing.
Drizzle the icing atop the pastries. Cut into squares or strips to serve.
Per Serving: 257 Calories; 16g Fat (54.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 138mg Sodium.
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Posted in Brunch, Vegetarian, on August 28th, 2016.

apple_dutch_baby

A Dutch Baby. Oh my. So delicious. This one with a layer of sliced apples that have been cooked with a bit of butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. Then the puff pancake mixture is poured in. Yes!

It’s been years since I’d had one of these treasures. Years ago I used to go to a pancake house in Denver that had it on the menu. It was served plain, sprinkled with powdered sugar and a wedge of lemon to drizzle on top. I recall that I ordered it fairly often. Many years ago I tried to make one and my recollection is that it failed – it didn’t rise. It didn’t have that characteristic popover-type custardy tender texture.

These things are also called a German pancake, a Bismarck, or a Dutch puff. Normally it’s made in a cast iron frying pan. According to Wikipedia, which cites Sunset magazine as its source, Dutch babies (by that name) were introduced in the early 1900s at a restaurant in Seattle, called Manca’s Café. It was family run, and one of the daughters is said to have coined the name, Dutch Baby.

A few months ago I was reading someone’s facebook page and it contained one of those rip-roaring fast videos of how to make an apple Dutch baby. I watched it twice and determined then and there that I’d try making it again. So, a week or so later I went to my friend’s facebook page to watch it again, and it was gone. Huh? I emailed my friend and asked about it – she had no idea about any Dutch Baby video on her page. So I did some sleuthing – I couldn’t remember where it had come from, but I finally found it. I think – although I’m not certain about this, so don’t quote me – that if you ever DO allow one of these video sources to post a video on your facebook page, you have right then and there, agreed to let that source company post more videos to your facebook page without your knowledge. I finally found the video at tiphero. I’m not going to give you the link because if in fact that’s what they do, I don’t want to be spreading the problem. The recipe for this dish can be found at other places on the web.

dutch_baby_apple_sideMaking this recipe, the proportions and directions came from their website. According to Wikipedia, there is a formula, for every 1/4 cup flour, you need to have 1/4 cup milk – very similar to a popover batter. And for every 1/4 cup of those you need an egg. So, 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup milk and 3 eggs. The apple slices are cooked in a bit of butter, then removed. The pan is wiped clean (so the butter doesn’t burn) and you heat up the iron skillet in a 425°F oven for 8-10 minutes, so it’s literally smoking hot. Handle with care! Remove the pan, melt a bit more butter, pour in the apples, then pour in the batter. And back into that hot oven it goes for 18-20 minutes. Mine was done at 18. Again, I was very careful with it because that pan is really hot. I slipped the pancake out onto my serving plate, and I’m embarrassed to tell you that with the exception of about 3 bites, I ate the whole thing. It was my dinner. I relished and I mean relished every single bite! You don’t have to make it with apples – I just liked the idea of it.

What’s GOOD: Oh gosh. I thought it was fabulous. But then I also love popovers, though I never make them. This was quite easy to do – just have everything ready when you start, and be prepared when it comes out of the oven to eat it immediately. No fiddling around with setting the table or pouring a glass of milk. No. Serve. Sit. Eat.

What’s NOT: nothing at all – it was quite easy and was a special treat for me.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Dutch Baby with Apples

Recipe By: From Tip Hero (online videos)
Serving Size: 2

2 tablespoons butter — divided
1 large granny Smith apple — peeled, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
BATTER:
3 large eggs — room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk — room temperature
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar and lemon wedges, if desired.

NOTE: You must have an iron skillet – a 10″ one to make this dish.
1. Preheat the oven to 425° F (218 degrees Celsius).
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, flour and sugar until smooth.
3. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apple slices and sprinkle with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook for about 5 minutes, frequently tossing, until the apples are coated and have softened. Transfer to a dish.
4. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel and place in the preheated oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, until very hot.
5. Add the remaining butter to the skillet, swirling to coat the bottom and sides. Add the cooked apples to the center of the pan and pour the batter on top.
6. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the pancake has puffed and the edges are golden brown. The center should be set but custardy.
7. Sprinkle with the confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately with a lemon wedge, if desired. Note: The pancake will lose its puff as it sits out, so be sure to prepare this one right before you want to eat it and enjoy as soon as it’d done! Have your table set, beverages poured, fork poised, and dig in while it’s piping hot.
Per Serving: 664 Calories; 34g Fat (45.9% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 72g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 393mg Cholesterol; 273mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, on September 8th, 2015.

asparagus_bread_pudding

Tender, moist, cheesy, leek-filled and altogether lovely for a leisurely brunch.

The other night I had house guests – Joe, Dave’s good friend, who still comes to stay periodically when he has business in my neck of the woods, and his wife, Yvette. We all attended a social shindig and they decided not to drive back home to San Diego. I was happy to accommodate them, even if my house was (still is) a bit of a mess from the remodeling.

Preparing a brunch dish was fairly easy and straight forward. I’ve been going through stacks of recipe clippings (mostly from magazines over the last couple of years) and adding them to MasterCook (nearly all of them I’ve found online so it’s easy to click a couple of buttons and it’s added into my to-try file). This recipe popped up the other day and I thought it would be a nice dish to prepare for our leisurely Sunday morning breakfast/brunch when they were here.

The recipe (that someone gave me, don’t know who!) started from one Georgeanne Brennan created. She made it when she was in France, and shared her version with the chefs at Chez Panisse in Berkeley but she even says in the recipe that you can substitute a variety of veggies and cheeses. I found several versions online, but this one had a bit more flavorful ingredients in it, so I worked with this one, adding or subtracting from the ingredient list as it suited what I had on hand. I had asparagus and leeks. Check. Eggs. Check. Ciabatta bread. Check. Fontina. Check. And Pecorino-Romano. Check. Everything else was a household staple.

I made half of the below recipe, in an 8×8 glass dish. If you had really hungry guests, probably it would feed about 6. It didn’t take long to put together – this isn’t the type of brunch dish you have to soak overnight – 15-20 minutes with the milk on the bread was sufficient. You could – I’m certain – make this the night before, but don’t add the cheese on top until you put it into the oven, and I’d allow it to sit out at room temp for about 30 minutes before baking. It might take another 5 asparagus_bread_pudding_bakedminutes of baking time too. You can vary the cheese – I used, as I mentioned above, Fontina and Pecorino-Romano, but Swiss cheese is mentioned in some recipes, and Emmental in others, so Gruyere would also work. Even Parmigiana-Reggiano would be fine too but not too much. And if you like a topping, I think this would be nice with some fresh tomato salsa. Or perhaps a mushroom sauce? However, the calorie count is fairly significant with this containing half and half and some cream, so think twice about using a calorie or fat-laden topping. That’s why I thought salsa would be a nice addition. I didn’t have any or I’d have served it with this. You can use your choice of herbs – I used what is currently in my garden (basil and rosemary) but use whatever suits you – chives, parsley, tarragon, thyme.

The leeks are cooked some, then the asparagus too. I cooked the asparagus stems first because they were rather robust in size, then added the more tender tops during the last minute. I used ciabatta bread – I cut it into small cubes and left them to sit out overnight in my kitchen, so they were certainly “stale” by that time.

The casserole is baked for about 45-55 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. Don’t over bake it or it will dry out. Let it sit for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving. I served it with fresh fruit, some pork sausage and Greek yogurt.

What’s GOOD: I liked that it could be made just before baking and it was really nice. I might use more asparagus next time just because I like it. It was easy to make and looked very pretty on the plate. I might use a tiny bit more cheese next time – and I might try different kinds just because you can. If you make the 9×13 casserole, it would serve a big bunch of people. At least 12, maybe 14.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Asparagus Bread Pudding with Fontina and Herbs

Recipe By: Inspired by a recipe from Georgeanne Brennan
Serving Size: 12

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 whole leeks — ends cut off, sliced lengthwise, chopped, rinsed well
1 pound asparagus
CUSTARD:
5 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 dash cayenne
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups half and half Zest of one large lemon
PUDDING:
5 cups bread — (I used ciabatta) cut into 3/4″ cubes, dried overnight
3/4 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese — freshly grated (or use Gruyere)
3/4 cup Fontina cheese — grated
1/2 cup fresh herbs — chopped – such as chives, parsley, and tarragon; or sage, thyme, and marjoram (I used fresh basil and rosemary)

1. Grease the bottom of the dish you’re using (9×13 works, or similar 4-quart dish as long as it has 2″ high sides). Place bread in a large bowl.
2. Mix half and half, cream, eggs, cayenne, lemon zest, salt and pepper until there are no streaks of egg yolk. Pour HALF of milk mixture over the bread and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Reserve remaining milk mixture.
3. While bread is soaking, trim leeks, and chop well. Saute leeks in butter for 1-2 minutes, then add water and steam (covered) until leeks are cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Remove leeks to the bowl leaving any fluid in the pan. Prep the asparagus: trim off woody ends and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Add the asparagus to the pan and cook briefly, about 1-2 minutes, then add the asparagus to the bowl. Discard any remaining fluid in the pan.
4, Preheat oven to 350°F.
5. Sprinkle herbs over the bread mixture, then add about half the cheese and stir this mixture around so it’s evenly distributed. Pour it all into the prepared baking dish and then pour remaining milk mixture over the top. Add the last of the grated cheese evenly on top.
6. Bake until top is crusty brown and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.
Per Serving: 454 Calories; 19g Fat (38.2% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 135mg Cholesterol; 824mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on August 27th, 2015.

cream_filled_coffeecake

Recently I was asked to bring a coffeecake to a meeting. My mind said, “why not make something different.” This was the result. It’s a yeast-raised cake which is really more like a bread, a sweet bread, but still it has the consistency of bread, not the fine crumb of a more traditional cake-type coffeecake.

It’s a sweet bread, using yeast, that has a topping on it that’s mostly brown sugar, and once baked and cooled, the whole thing is split horizontally and filled with a rather different kind of buttercream filling.

I’d read about this cake back in 2013 on the King Arthur baking blog. It had such an unusual story – I’m a sucker for a good, heartwarming story anytime – especially old-fashioned kinds of recipes, and this is one.

It seems there was this nice lady named Doris Knutson, from Wisconsin, who was quite famous in her local circles for this very special coffeecake. And no, she absolutely did not, would not give the recipe to anyone. So the story goes, upon her death, her children made a photocopy of what they had and it was distributed at her funeral. Everything was there, but when some folks tried it, it wasn’t working real well. One of Doris’ friends sent the recipe and an plea to the test kitchen at King Arthur, along with a detailed explanation and in came King Arthur to the rescue.

King Arthur went to work on the recipe, trying to figure out exactly how she used the different ingredients (there’s a batter, a topping and a filling) to make this really unusual coffeecake. The folks at King Arthur believe they cracked the code and this coffeecake is the result.

flour_milk_gravy

There at left is the filling – I call it a “gravy,” (see down 2 paragraphs for a full explanation).

If you decide to make this, I recommend you read the recipe all the way through once. Then take a breath and read it again all the way through before you actually begin making it. There are lots of steps (not difficult) but there is a procedure. King Arthur updated it so you can do some of the work in your bread machine (I did). It also rises a couple of times, and mine took longer than the recipe indicated. you’ll read all the failures they had before they finally got it to work. Some people use two  8-inch round cake pans – that might be a good thought – especially if you don’t have a 10-inch springform. Mine is about 9 3/4 inches so I assumed it would work (it did).

The filling is very unusual – if you go to the entire article at King Arthur, you can read down through all the comments (which are interesting in themselves, including one from Doris’ daughter). Anyway, the filling is a roux – but not a browned roux with fat. This roux contains flour and milk and it’s cooked to a consistency more like a gravy (to me anyway). Then you add a fluffed up mixture of butter and powdered sugar. Very different, though when you’re done it has the consistency of frosting.

The dough is made first, and as I explained, because King Arthur suggested it, I made it in my bread machine. First I set it on the dough cycle, let it sit 30 minutes, then I re-started the dough cycle, adding in the additional flour, so then it went for 1 1/2 hours until it had about doubled in bulk. I rolled it out of the bread machine and kneaded it a little bit (it was quite sticky), so I actually just held it in my hands and pushed and mushed to get all the air bubbles out.cream_filled_coffeecake_ready_to_bake

At that point the dough is placed in a 10-inch springform pan (greased). Some people add the topping part way through this next   rising – I added it at the end and had to kind of stick the pieces onto the dough. It might be a good idea to put on a egg wash and then the topping would stick pretty well, I think.

This rising took longer than the recipe indicated – they said 1 1/2 hours, but mine took about 2 hours – to get the dough to rise about an inch above the pan. It’s a good thing I started making this at about 2pm, otherwise I’d have been up half the night! As it was it finished baking at about 8pm and I just let it sit in the springform pan overnight. I baked it per the recipe, 45 minutes, and my Thermapen registered 198°.

The next morning I sliced the cake/bread in half horizontally and made the filling. Do read the instructions carefully about this – be sure the gravy or roux cools before you add the butter and powdered sugar as you don’t want any melting butter! The filling is spread on the bottom half, then the top is placed back on the bread and it’s supposed to be chilled for 30 minutes or more. I don’t coffeecake_slicereally know what that does for it, but I did comply.

Do use a serrated knife to cut it. My bread knife doesn’t have a pointed end, so it didn’t work well trying to cut wedges. I finally used a shorter serrated knife to cut a round plug-shaped size in the middle, then the wedges were easier to slice since they weren’t as deep.

MY SUGGESTION: I think this bread needs more filling, so if I were to make it again I would probably triple the filling (there isn’t all that much of it anyway) and cut 2 horizontal slices and slather the filling on both. That way you’d have enough of the filling with each slice.

The bread, by itself, isn’t dry exactly, but it’s like eating a slice of bread, so usually we have butter, or jam or something to go on it. The same is true here, so the top half was a little lacking in enough to wash it down. You’d have to be very careful slicing it if you used 2 layers of filling. But I’d still try it anyway.

What’s GOOD: the cake/bread is very tasty. It’s a traditional sweet bread yeast recipe. What makes this different is the filling (1) and the topping (2). And baking it in a springform pan is different too. Don’t expect this to taste like a cake dessert cuz it isn’t! But it’s very good. Different. I liked that part. I can’t say that I had all that any of my lady friends come to me begging for the recipe, though. This morning I put a bit of butter on one of the left over slices (there were only 2 pieces left) and had that with my breakfast.

What’s NOT: do remember it’s a yeast bread and requires 3 rising times – it takes 5+ hours to make.

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Cream-Filled Yeast Coffeecake

Recipe By: Bakers Banter 2013 (King Arthur Flour)
Serving Size: 20

DOUGH:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter — soft
2 tablespoons cold water
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour — maybe using another 1/4 cup
TOPPING:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter — soft
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
FILLING (my advice: triple the filling):
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter — (8 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners sugar — sifted

TIPS from King Arthur bakers: (1) If you’d like to have two smaller coffeecakes (one to give, or one to freeze), leave the dough recipe as is; multiply the topping and filling ingredients by 1 1/2, and divide the dough between two 8″ round pans. The baking time will be about 5 minutes shorter. (2) Be careful combining the two parts of the filling. Whisk together gently, just until they’re mixed. Whipping vigorously at this point will make the filling appear curdled. It will still taste great, it’ll just be a little raggedy-looking. (3) This coffeecake freezes very well with no fuss. Finish the recipe all the way, including filling the cake, then put it in a cake carrier and freeze for up to 2 weeks.
1. DOUGH: In a large bowl or the pan of your bread machine, combine the sugar and salt. Heat the milk and butter together until the butter is melted, and pour over the sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the water, eggs, and vanilla, stirring to combine. Let the mixture rest until it cools to lukewarm. Stir in the yeast and the 2 1/2 cups flour. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
2. Add the additional 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups flour; start with the smaller amount and see how the dough behaves, adding 1/4 cup more if it’s still very sticky. Mix and knead for 6 to 8 minutes at slow to medium speed with your mixer; or use the dough cycle on your bread machine.
3. The dough will be soft, smooth, and silky; perhaps just slightly sticky to the touch. Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, until puffy-looking and almost doubled. Or let your bread machine finish its cycle.
4. TOPPING: Combine the brown sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon, and flour, mixing with a fork or your fingers until crumbs form. Set aside.
5. To shape and bake the cake: Deflate the dough, round it into a ball, and place it into a greased 10″ springform pan. Cover with greased plastic or a large inverted bowl until the dough domes an inch above the rim of the pan, about 45 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F. When the dough is ready, sprinkle it with the topping (some will slide down). Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool it in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before tilting it out of the pan and returning it to the rack to cool completely.
6. FILLING: Because this is a bread (not a sweet cake-type coffeecake) it needs more moisture – I recommend tripling the amount of filling, cutting it into 3 layers and using, then, more filling in between the 2 layers.) While the cake cools, put the flour in a small saucepan. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring to make a smooth mixture. Use a wire whisk to make sure you don’t have lumps, and keep using it when you’re cooking it. It takes very little time to get to a thick gravy-consistency.
7. Cook the flour and milk over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and cool. In a small mixing bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then whisk into the flour/milk mixture.
8. To assemble: Split the cooled cake horizontally, and spread the filling on the bottom layer. Replace the top and refrigerate the cake until 30 minutes before serving.
Per Serving: 263 Calories; 11g Fat (36.4% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 49mg Cholesterol; 79mg Sodium.

Posted in Beverages, Brunch, on August 23rd, 2015.

cantaloupe_soup_yogurt_mint

While I was visiting in Colorado, one day we visited a wonderful restaurant in Evergreen. I’m going to write that up another day. We enjoyed a delicious honeydew chilled soup, which I’m going to try to re-create. But in the interim, I bought a cantaloupe and decided to make it into a chilled soup, or a fruit delight for breakfast, or just to drink it like a smoothie.

Being just one person, these days to buy a whole melon means serving it to myself as a wedge every day for many days, so I decided to try my hand at making a refreshing summer drink, or a soup. Either one. After the first time eating this as a soup, I poured the remainder into a glass and drank it instead of eating it with a spoon.

Using some recipes I’d found online, I combined several and added in my own twist to things. I knew I wanted to add mint (since I have some in my garden) and yogurt. Other than that, I winged it. I chopped up the cantaloupe (do make sure it’s sweet and ripe otherwise it won’t taste all that great), added a bit of sour cream (light) and a cup of Greek yogurt, some honey, about 2-3 T. of fresh mint leaves, and a dash or two of ground cinnamon and ground cloves. Those spices were miniscule enough that you hardly know they’re there, but enough to wonder what that elusive flavor is. Use your own choice of spices if you don’t like cloves or cinnamon.

This soup or drink is not thick – cantaloupe breaks down to almost a pure liquid with almost no texture. The yogurt and sour cream added little or no thickness to it, either. So what I’m saying is that this soup is a thin type, more liquid than texture. But I loved it. Having read varieties of recipes I just made it up as I went along and I liked it. I did notice that the next day it tasted much better than it did right out of the blender. So keep that in mind. If you wanted to add some thickness, add about half of a cucumber, seeded and peeled.

What’s GOOD: oh, it’s very refreshing. Very low in calorie. It almost tastes like a thin milkshake or a smoothie, but most smoothies are quite thick. This one is not – it’s liquid. Wonderful flavors – providing the melon is extra ripe and sweet.

What’s NOT: nothing really. This was gone in a couple of days – I shared it with my Scrabble friends – and we drank it right down.

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Chilled Cantaloupe Soup with Yogurt

Recipe By: My own concoction
Serving Size: 6

1 medium cantaloupe
1/4 cup light sour cream
1 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or low fat
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
Mint leaves for garnish

1. Cut cantaloupe into small pieces and place in blender.
2. Add sour cream, yogurt, honey, fresh mint, cinnamon and cloves and blend until completely smooth.
3. If time allows, chill overnight. Can be served as a soup (it has a thin consistency) or as a beverage/smoothie. If serving as a soup, garnish with mint leaves. If you prefer a thicker soup you could add half of a cucumber, peeled and seeded, which would give the soup more texture.
Per Serving: 103 Calories; 4g Fat (29.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 30mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, on August 19th, 2015.

belgian_waffles_oatmeal

When I was in Colorado visiting my friends, Sue made these delicious (and healthy) oatmeal Belgian waffles one morning. They were so good. On top is defrosted frozen fruit. No syrup or butter needed.

As it so happens, I don’t own a Belgian waffle maker, but you can use a regular waffle iron for these. They’d be a little larger and also a little thinner. Sue’s grandchildren beg for these every time they have an overnight at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

It’s a typical waffle batter except that it calls for white whole wheat flour, and these contain some oatmeal, so they have a little bit more texture than traditional waffles. The recipe came from the Spark People (they’re a group of websites for healthy eating) and was submitted by someone who has a membership to the website. For 12 waffles you’ll use 1/4 cup of melted butter in the batter.

When Sue makes these, she makes all 12 waffles and freezes the left overs which can be quickly defrosted for another morning in the toaster oven. If you choose, you can use syrup and butter, but these are so tasty as is, you don’t need anything except some fruit. Thanks, Sue, for sharing the recipe.

What’s GOOD: these are healthy, with very little fat, and you can keep them extra low in calories if you use fruit instead of syrup and/or butter.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever!

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Oatmeal Buttermilk Belgian Waffles

Recipe By: Adapted from SparkPeople, by my friend Sue
Serving Size: 6

1 cup white whole wheat flour — (or use all-purpose)
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 dash salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup butter — melted (or vegetable oil)

1. In a large bowl combine all ingredients. Beat together with an electric mixer until blended.
2. Pour 3/4 cup batter onto hot Belgian waffle iron. Close lid and bake until steam stops and waffles are brown and crisp. (These can be made in a traditional waffle iron, but may require more batter and less time).
3. Keep waffles warm or on a rack in a low oven, or serve immediately. Serve with maple syrup, blueberry sauce, or frozen fruit (like strawberries, defrosted and mashed). Serve 2 per person. Left over waffles may be frozen and defrosted quickly in the oven set on low heat. They can be defrosted in the microwave, but you may have some hot spots and the time between frozen and defrosted is a few seconds (easy to defrost for too long).
Per Serving: 244 Calories; 11g Fat (42.0% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 94mg Cholesterol; 560mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, on February 16th, 2015.

thin_pancakes_lemon_pwd_sugar

If you already know all about (thin) Swedish pancakes, then this recipe will be nothing new. You have to LIKE thin pancakes, though. Just so you know . . .

The other morning I got up at my usual time, did my usual thing of making a latte, sitting down at the computer to read email and to check the comments here on my blog. I began reading some other blogs I follow and time slipped away. I realized that I’d forgotten to defrost my usual single sausage link I eat most mornings for my breakfast (with some yogurt, blueberries and walnuts on the side). What sounded good was pancakes. But not those big, puffy types. I’ve never been fond of thick pancakes. Thin pancakes are my cup of tea, always have been.

Back in the day – my younger years – I kept a sourdough starter, baked lots of my own bread, and found other uses for the sourdough batter. I often made sourdough pancakes, and I preferred them thin and dollar-sized. I recently threw away the starter I had begun a couple of years ago because since my DH passed away it had languished in the back of the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, unused.

What sounded good was trying a recipe I’d saved some years back, a Marion Cunningham one for yeast waffles. But I didn’t want to dig out the waffle iron – seemed so silly to do that for one little bitty waffle. Then I realized that batter would make thicker pancakes. Nope, didn’t want that. So I started searching for a recipe for thin pancakes. Found a great one that required buttermilk. Nope. None in the refrigerator. Another that required an overnight stay in the frig. Nope, no time for that. So I searched on the ‘net for thin pancake recipes. I ended up combining a couple of recipes and whipped up these Swedish pancakes. Super thin. Not difficult to make, but I did dirty-up a bunch of bowls and dishes in the process.

Do you own a crepe pan? I used to, but didn’t use it enough to keep it, so gave that away years ago. But I had out a 12-inch nonstick skillet I used the night before to cook a big batch of Brussels sprouts. It was perfect. I scaled the recipe to serve 2, which meant just one egg. So now I have two more pancakes for tomorrow’s breakfast.

There’s nothing special about the batter, other than it’s thin. You actually mix milk with a bit of water, an egg, a pinch of salt, and flour. Butter also. Cinchy easy, really. It’s a recipe children could make easily enough. The only tricky thing is picking up the pan to allow the drippy, thin batter to spread out in the pan. If you just pour and cook, these will be thicker (still thin, but thicker than you want here) than traditional Swedish pancakes.

For the first pancake I slid a little bit of unsalted butter around in the pan to moisten it, then poured in a couple tablespoons of batter, picked up that big sucker of a pan and rolled it in every direction to spread out the wet batter. (If you do this with children, you might want to do that part.) The pan’s got to be hot enough to cook, so the pan is pretty hot (medium-high). It takes about 30 seconds or so for it to begin to brown – just barely – then you slide a spatula under and flip it over for another 30 seconds. Done. Do put these out on a warmed plate or stick them in a low oven – they cool quickly. Finish cooking the pancakes. Meanwhile have ready the powdered sugar and a wedge or two of lemon.

Fold the pancakes in half at least – you can also roll them up (you could even put some yogurt and berries inside. These pancakes, by themselves, are not sweet – there’s just a tiny bit of sugar in them. As I ate these (which tasted wonderful, certainly satisfying my desire for a pancake) I dipped each bite into a tiny amount of yogurt.

What’s GOOD: loved the texture – thin and just a tiny bit chewy, but they’re also extremely tender too. It must be the egg that gives it that consistency. Loved the little dusting of powdered sugar and combining each bite with a little bit of the sweetened Greek yogurt. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: really nothing – dirties up a bunch of dishes, cups, measuring cups, bowl, whisk, bowl or pan to melt the butter, etc. Most of it went in the dishwasher, however. I’d definitely make these again.

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Thin Pancakes with Lemon and Powdered Sugar

Serving Size: 4

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted (divided use)
Lemon wedges and powdered sugar to serve on top

1. Sift the flour, salt and granulated sugar into a bowl (with a pouring spout if you have one). Sifting assures there won’t be any lumps of flour. Make a well in the center and add eggs. Gently whisk a little flour into the egg, then gradually add the milk mixture and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, whisking in with the flour. The batter should be the consistency of half and half. Don’t over mix the batter.
2. Heat a crepe pan (or a very large nonstick skillet) over high heat. Grease the pan with some of the remaining butter. Pour about 2 tablespoons batter into the pan, quuickly tilting and rolling the pan from side to side to get an even coating of batter. Cook for 30 seconds, then use a spatula to flip the pancake. Cook the pancake for a further 30 seconds until pale golden and crisp at edges, then tip onto a plate.
3. Repeat with the remaining melted butter and batter, stacking pancakes on top of one another as you go. With a nonstick pan you may not need any additional butter.
4. To serve, sprinkle the warm pancakes with some powdered sugar and squeeze a little bit lemon juice over each one. Serve with some sweetened yogurt and berries on the side, if desired. If you make more than you can eat, separate them with waxed paper and store in a ziploc plastic bag. Reheat for 10-15 seconds in the microwave, one at a time, and garnish as above. They taste every bit as good as left overs as they do right out of the pan.
Per Serving: 296 Calories; 16g Fat (49.8% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 145mg Cholesterol; 101mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, on January 3rd, 2015.

mascarpone_pear_french_toast

My photo isn’t very indicative of the deliciousness of this dish – sorry about that.  The pears are sensational. Is this rich? Yup! Worth it? Yup! The mixture is kind of drippy with the sauce, hence it was served in a bowl.

Diane Phillips, in the cooking class, used red pears for this brunch dish, her favorite type. You do have to use ripe pears – using mediocre or under-developed pears would just make this ho-hum. I don’t know if Trader Joe’s in your area offered Harry & David pears last month, but they did in my neck of the woods. Delish. They’d be wonderful in this. But they weren’t red pears. Diane called this “roasted” in both the French toast part and the sauce part. I kind of think that’s a misnomer. To me, “roasted” means oven-roasted. More likely this should be called sautéed  pears, not roasted ones. But oh well, it’s just a brunch dish, so we’ll go with both.

First you prepare a cinnamon butter (butter, sugar and cinnamon) and set that aside. Then you create the egg and milk mixture (which contains pear nectar) and the bread is dipped into it and put into a 9×13 baking dish. Another mixture is made composed of mascarpone, more pear nectar and sugar – that gets spread over the top of the French toast. Another layer of bread, then it’s spread with the soft cinnamon butter. You refrigerate it at that point – overnight if possible, remove to bring to room temp, then bake until it’s golden brown and bubbling.

In between time, you make the pear sauce – butter, brown sugar, chopped pears, some Amaretto (or almond extract) and spices. When the French toast is served,  you cut it into squares and pour some of the pear sauce on top – hence the bowl for serving – you may choose to serve on a plate, but some of that pear sauce is going to gravitate to the low spot on your plate. Just so you know . . .

What’s GOOD: absolutely the pear aspect of this. You don’t taste the mascarpone – it doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor in and of itself, but you sure do notice the winter spices and the pears are just lovely. Tasty. Scrumptious. Comfort food at its best. And it can be made 3 days ahead and baked at the last minute. So plan ahead if possible.

What’s NOT: really nothing, other than there is some level of preparation to this. It’s not like dipping bread in egg and milk, frying it and serving with maple syrup. This is more complicated in every aspect. Of course, I say it’s worth it. This isn’t a throw-together kind of dish.

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Mascarpone & Pear Stuffed French Toast with Pear Sauce

Recipe By: Diane Phillips, cooking instructor and author
Serving Size: 10

CINNAMON BUTTER:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter — softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
FRENCH TOAST:
8 tablespoons cinnamon butter (above)
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup pear nectar
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 pound white bread — like Pepperidge Farms, or Hawaiian sweet bread (sliced)
2 cups mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup pear nectar
1/4 cup brown sugar — packed
SPICED PEAR SAUCE:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 pinch ground cloves
2/3 cup brown sugar — firmly packed
6 large red pears — peeled, cored, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Amaretto — or 1 teaspoon almond extract

1. BUTTER: Cream mixture together and refrigerate up to a week ahead.
2. FRENCH TOAST: Melt cinnamon butter and brush the inside of a 9×13 baking dish with some of it.
3. In a shallow mixing bowl beat together the eggs, cream, pear nectar and nutmeg. Dip 6 slices of the bread into the egg mixture and lay slices into the dish, wedging the pieces to fit, or tearing some. If your baking dish is smaller, you may only get 4 slices in the dish. (You can make 3 or even 4 layers if need be, but divide up the mascarpone mixture; start and end with bread slices.)
4. In another bowl cream together the mascarpone, pear nectar and sugar. Spread this mixture over the egg battered bread in the pan.
5. Dip the remaining slices into the egg batter and place over the mascarpone in the dish. Pour any remaining batter (if it will fit) into the dish. Refrigerate, covered for at least 4 hours.
6. DO AHEAD: Cover the French toast and refrigerate for up to 3 days (yes, really).
7. Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator at least 45 minutes before baking. Bake the dish until golden brown and bubbling, about 30-45 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving with pear sauce and remaining cinnamon butter.
8. PEAR SAUCE: In a large skillet melt the butter, then add cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and sugar, stirring until sugar melts. Add the pears and cook for 20 minutes, until the liquid in the pan evaporates and the pears are soft. Add the Amaretto or extract and cook another 15 minutes. DO AHEAD: Cool sauce completely and refrigerate up to 3 days ahead.
9. Serve the sauce warm over the French Toast. Can also go on pancakes, waffles or English muffins.
Per Serving: 761 Calories; 53g Fat (61.9% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 62g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 312mg Cholesterol; 336mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, Desserts, on December 31st, 2014.

Umbrian Apple Cake with Creme Anglaise made with apple cider

Diane Phillips, the cooking instructor who made this, is Italian. And this is her grandmother’s recipe, one that she has made hundreds and hundreds of times over her lifetime. It’s a beautiful cake – almost more like a coffeecake than a dessert cake – but it could be either one. It was scrumptious.

At the cooking class, Diane says her mother is probably rolling over in her grave because she serves this occasionally with a crème Anglaise. The cake is a firmer style – notice it has some bigger holes in it – this isn’t a super-tender kind of cake, but kind of like the difference between white bread and corn bread. They’re just different. The flavors were wonderful, and if I’d felt I could have, I’d have licked the plate of the crème that still clung to it. Someone in our cooking class did just that. My mother would have rolled over in her grave if she’d seen me do that!

In the photo at top you can’t quite see that the apple slices are placed in a decorative pattern, cored-edge down into the batter. Makes for a very pretty look when it’s done. The recipe calls for 5 Golden Delicious apples. Two of them are peeled, cored and diced into the batter itself. The other 3 apples are peeled, cored and sliced, and go into the pattern on the top.

The crème Anglaise starts off with apple juice. But after watching Diane make this, I decided that when I make this myself, I’ll use apple juice concentrate – why go through the process of reducing apple juice when you can use concentrate? The cake can be made 2 days ahead (covered, unrefrigerated). The sauce can be made up to 4 days ahead and can be frozen for up to a month.

What’s GOOD: the sauce was divine. It’s rich, but makes a nice moisturizer for the cake, which is just slightly on the dry side (good dry, though). It could also be served with whipped cream (easier). The cake has very nice flavor from the apples. Diane served this as part of a brunch, but it could be a dessert too.

What’s NOT: the sauce takes a bit of time to make, but hey, you can do it ahead, so do that!

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Umbrian Apple Cake with Cider Creme Anglaise

Recipe By: Diane Phillips, cooking instructor and author
Serving Size: 12

CAKE:
1 cup unsalted butter — softened (can use mild, fruity olive oil if preferred)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon Amaretto
1 teaspoon vanilla paste — or extract
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 medium Golden Delicious apples — peeled, cored, cut in 1/2″ slices
1/4 cup unsalted butter — melted
3 tablespoons sugar
CIDER CREME ANGLAISE:
2 cups apple juice — or cider
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
5 large egg yolks

NOTES: To keep apples from turning brown while you make the batter, pour Sprite over them, to cover. Drain and pat dry before proceeding with the recipe.
1. CAKE: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat the inside of a 10-inch springform pan with nonstick spray (not Pam).
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add the zest, Amaretto and vanilla paste. Beat until blended.
4. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
5. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, blending until smooth.
6. Cut 2 of the apples into very small dice and fold them into the batter. Transfer to prepared pan and smooth the top.
7. Arrange the cut apples, core side down (in other words, don’t lay them flat but push them into the batter on the edges) on top of the batter in circles over the entire surface (in the shape of a sun). The apples should be close together. Brush the apples and batter with the melted butter.
8. Generously sprinkle the apples and batter with the 3 tablespoons of sugar.
9. Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan, and the cake is golden brown. A skewer inserted into the center should come out clean.
10. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, remove the sides of the springform pan and cool completely. Dust top with powdered sugar if desired. The cake will keep, covered, at room temperature, for 24 hours.
11. CREME ANGLAISE: In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the cider and 1/2 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes, until reduced to 1 cup. Cool the cider completely.
12. In a 2-quart saucepan heat the cream, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and egg yolks over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.
13. Continue stirring over medium heat until the mixture thickens and just begins to simmer. Immediately remove from heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the reduced cider to the bowl, cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until well chilled, about 2 hours. Sauce may be served warm or cold. Use any left over sauce in salad dressings, or as a drizzle over ice cream.
DO-AHEAD: The Creme can be refrigerated for up to 4 days, or frozen for a month.
Per Serving (you’ll use just half the sauce): 596 Calories; 34g Fat (51.5% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 66g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 252mg Cholesterol; 255mg Sodium.

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