Sunday, November 5, 2017

Pumpkin Chiffon Cake

For my birthday recently, my husband gave me a copper beating bowl. He knew how much I admired Monet's kitchen in Giverny and all the copper pots and bowls hanging on the wall there. 
In an odd bit of coincidence, my youngest daughter gave me a set of copper measuring spoons. The two had not discussed the copper focus at all. 

To try out my new bowl, I made this chiffon cake. It's based on an online recipe by Rachael Ray, but slightly altered. Mine turned out a wee bit underbaked at the recommended 55 minutes, so I've upped the recommended time to 60 minutes. It's a wonderfully light and airy cake and one I'll be making again. 

Pumpkin Chiffon Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs yolks
1 cup pumpkin puree
9 egg whites, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Have a two-part tube pan ready for baking. No grease needed.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. 

3. In another, smaller bowl, whisk the egg yolks until well blended and slightly paler. Whisk in the pumpkin puree. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients. 

4. In a clean, grease-free bowl (I used my copper beating bowl), beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of white sugar and continue beating until stiff but not dry. 

5. Add 1/4 of the egg white mixture to the pumpkin mixture. Gently fold until almost no streaks remain. 

6. Add the remainder of the egg whites to the bowl. Again, gently fold until no streaks remain. Pour carefully into the tube pan. 

7. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick or piece of uncooked spaghetti inserted into the cake comes out clean.

8. Turn the cake pan upside down and suspend over a funnel or propped between two cans or glasses until completely cool.

9. Carefully run a knife or off-set spatula between the outside of the cake pan and the cake to loosen. Separate the cake pan, then run a knife around the bottom of the cake to loosen and turn out cake onto serving plate. 

10. Make a runny glaze with icing sugar, soft butter, vanilla flavouring, and milk or cream. Drizzle over the cake top and sides. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Sensational Lemon Roll

Fresh strawberries were the impetus to make this old-fashioned dessert last weekend. Well, strawberries and company coming. It's from an old Best of Bridge cookbook. The tart lemon filling is mellowed by whipped cream. Fresh strawberries aren't called for in the recipe, but they were a great addition.

Sensational Lemon Roll

Sponge Cake
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon grated orange rind
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla

Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 10” x 15” jelly roll pan (edged cookie sheet) with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs until well combined, gradually beat in sugar. Continue beating until mixture is pale yellow and thickened, at least one minute.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into egg mixture. Add the juice, rind and vanilla. Stir to mix.
Pour into pan. Bake 12-15 minutes; don’t overbake.
Invert cake onto a clean tea towel that has been sprinkled with icing sugar. Roll together and cool. When completely cool, unroll, fill with Lemon Filling, re-roll and chill several hours before slicing and serving.

Lemon Filling

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon grated lemon rind
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream
Fresh berries to garnish

In a double boiler, use a whisk to combine eggs, sugar, and lemon juice. Cook, stirring constantly, over simmering water, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Strain through a mesh strainer, then stir in the lemon rind. Cool completely. Whip the cream and fold into the lemon mixture. Chill until ready to assemble Lemon Roll.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Gazpacho à la provençal

Chilled tomato soup is not only eaten in Spain, but throughout the Mediterranean region. This recipe is adapted from Laura Calder's book French Taste, and is utterly refreshed on a hot summer evening. It's so easy to make; simply chop, chill, and blend. 

Making tiny croutons as a topping is optional, but cubing, drizzling with olive oil, and sprinkling with salt and herbs, then baking until crispy results in tiny irresistible bites. Once I begin snacking on them, I find it hard to stop. 

Toppings are a fun part of eating this soup. Drizzle with olive oil and a little bit of balsamic vinegar, then add croutons, feta cheese, fresh basil, avocado - whatever takes your fancy.

Using fresh, garden-ripe tomatoes is ideal, but failing that, store-bought, vine-ripened, fully ripe tomatoes will suffice.

Gazpacho à la provençal

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, quartered, seeded, chopped
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1/2 sweet red bell pepper, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup tomato juice, OR de-fatted chicken stock, OR vegetable stock
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
12 fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper
Honey (optional) I used 1 Tablespoon

Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl. Cover and chill overnight. The next day, puree the mixture, leaving some chunks, if desired. Season to taste. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Peanut Butter Squares

Peanut butter plus chocolate. What's not to like? These little morsels are easy to make, freeze well, and taste good frozen (or slightly thawed), which make them rather dangerous. It's hard to eat just one.

Peanut Butter Squares

1 cup butter
2 cups peanut butter
2 1/2 cups graham wafer crumbs
1 3/4 cups icing sugar

4 squares semi-sweet chocolate OR
   2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Tablespoons butter

First layer: In a large saucepan, melt together the butter (1 cup) and peanut butter. Stir well to mix. Remove from heat and add the graham wafer crumbs plus the icing sugar. 

Spread into a 9 x 13 pan (no need to grease it), and press down firmly and evenly. Chill. 

Second layer: Melt together the 3 Tablespoons of butter plus the chocolate. Stir well. Spread in a thin layer over the peanut butter mixture. Chill again.

Cut into small squares. Keep chilled or frozen. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Peanut Caramel Dip

A creamy peanut caramel dip complements fall's crisp apples perfectly. I used to make a dip using those individually wrapped caramels. Recently, while laying in bed one morning I wondered why I couldn't make a similar dip using a caramel sauce. So I gave it a try and this is the result. Dark caramelized sugar, cream, vanilla, a bit of butter, and peanut butter. I'm sure that it took less time to make than unwrapping all those caramels.

Peanut Caramel Dip

1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon water
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 Tablespoon butter
3/4 cup peanut butter (I use a natural, no sugar, no additives peanut butter - Adams brand)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, without stirring, but occasionally picking up the pot and swirling the mixture, until the sugar caramelizes to a deep golden brown. 

Remove from the heat and immediately add the cream. It will bubble like crazy, but stir it in until smooth. Add the butter and stir.

Add the peanut butter and vanilla; stir until well combined. The mixture will thicken a little as it cools and can be reheated gently if it gets too hard. If you find that your mixture is too thin, add more peanut butter. Different brands may produce a different result.

Serve with apple wedges - it would also be good with pineapple, pears, and other firm fruits. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Grape Focaccia Bread

The idea of making a grape focaccia bread seemed a bit strange to me at first. A bumper crop of Concord grapes propelled me into trying this. I'm so glad I did. Salty and crunchy and sweet harmonize well. I added blue cheese to half of the bread as not everyone likes its pungency. I think it added a lot of tastiness. 

Grape Focaccia Bread

2 cups flour (plus additional for kneading)
1 Tablespoon rapid rise yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for sprinkling)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh minced rosemary
1 Tablespoon olive oil (plus more for the pan)
1 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 cups ripe Concord grapes 
1/4 cup (or more) Blue Cheese crumbles
1 Tablespoon honey

1. Place flour in a medium mixing bowl and add the yeast, salt, sugar, and rosemary. Stir to combine.
2. Add the water and olive oil. Stir well, then turn onto floured counter top and knead until smooth. Place in a greased bowl to rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
3. While the dough is rising, halve the grapes and flick out the seeds with the tip of a knife. Set aside.
4. Line a baking sheet (11 x 15) with parchment paper. Drizzle 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil over the paper.
5. Place the dough onto the oiled parchment paper and spread with fingertips to roughly fill the pan. You may need to let the dough rest for a few moments, then gently stretch it with your fingertips again.
6. Arrange the grape halves on the dough and gently press in. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste.
7. Let rise for about 15 minutes while preheating the oven to 450 degrees.
8. Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle blue cheese over (if desired) and return to the oven for 1-2 minutes, or until cheese melts. 
9. Drizzle with honey, cut into strips and serve. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Zucchini Ham and Cheese Tian

What, you might ask, is a tian? It's a Provencal dish of vegetables, sauteed, then placed in the oven to brown a little. The name derives from an earthenware dish used to prepare the vegetables, called a tian.

Whatever the etymology of the word, it's a delicious and easy way to prepare vegetables so that they melt in your mouth.

Maggie, of Normandy Life, recently posted a link to her Pinterest page to do with all things zucchini (or courgettes, as they say in France). I discovered this recipe on her page, and adapted it a little. Here's the original link (in French)

Zucchini Ham and Cheese Tian

3-4 zucchini, about 8 inches long

6-8 slices ham (I used smoked ham from the deli)

200 grams (about 7 ounces) Comte cheese (I couldn't find Comte, so I used a new-to-me cheese, made in B.C., - Gewurztraminer "Artisan Cheese - a semi-soft cheese with white wine" I think you could use whatever cheese you wanted.

2 Tablespoons olive oil

fresh thyme (about 2 teaspoons)

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 fat clove garlic, minced

1. Cut the zucchini lengthwise into strips (4 or 5 strips, depending on the diameter of the zucchini)

2. Heat the oil in a pan, then brown the zucchini over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towel.

3. Cut the slices of ham in half lengthwise. Cut the cheese into 1/4 inch slices.

4. Layer the zucchini, the ham, and the cheese in a glass baking dish. 

5. Saute the onion and garlic in the oil remaining in the pan until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh thyme leaves. Spoon over the mixture in the baking dish.

6. Sprinkle with pepper, and a little bit of salt, if you think it's needed. With the saltiness of the ham and the cheese, I didn't add any salt.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. The cheese will melt, the zucchini soften a little more and it will taste simply wonderful.