Thursday, June 30, 2016

Boysenberry Jam Sweet Rolls

I live in the middle of California farm country.  Between the local Farmers' Markets, farm stands, friends, and family, I have access to all sorts of fresh fruits and vegetables. Boysenberries are rather hard to find in this area, however. The only source I know of is a fruit stand that grows their own.  When the announcement comes out that they are picking, I waste no time in getting there.  The harvest season is short and the demand high!  This year I got 2 flats of the yummy berries. I froze some for another day, baked a pie, and made a batch of jam.

Jam isn't just for toast or biscuits.  Jam can be incorporated in cakes and cookies.  I have a few BBQ sauce recipes that have jam in them. My office manager told me she had a craving for a berry dessert so I promised to make something.  It was a work night so I turned to my go-to cinnamon roll recipe, made in a bread machine.  Instead of cinnamon and brown sugar, I spread a layer of boysenberry jam over the dough before rolling. I refrigerated the rolls overnight, baked in the morning, topped with a quick powdered-sugar glaze, and walked into work with a still-warm pan of berry rolls. They were well received!

I like to make yeast dough but it is time consuming.  When I don't have the time to devote to the process I turn to my bread machine. While it's working away on my countertop, I can do other chores.  On this night, I made dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, and tended to laundry all while the bread machine hummed.  I love multi-tasking!

My trusty "Zo"!

Look at all that berry yumminess!
Bread Machine Sweet Dough

1 cup water
1 large egg
3 1/4 cups bread flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dry milk
1/4 cup butter (cut in small cubes)
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Place ingredients in the bread machine, per the instructions to your machine. Run on dough cycle.

Once dough cycle is done, remove dough from pan and place on lightly floured surface.

To make berry rolls:

Roll dough to a 9x12" rectangle.  Spread with 1/4 cup softened butter. Spread about 3/4 cup jam over the dough.

Starting with the 12-inch side, roll dough jelly-roll style, pinch seam to seal.  With seam side down, cut into 1-inch pieces.

Place in a buttered 9x13-inch baking pan.  Cover lightly with a damp towel.  Allow to rise in warm place until size doubles, about 40 minutes to 1 hour.  (Or cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight, it will have a slow rise.  One half hour before baking remove from refrigerator, remove plastic wrap and let come to room temperature).

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Lobster BLT's

I rarely sit to watch TV, but I often have the TV on while I’m doing other things, such as sewing or in the kitchen.  It was 100 degrees the other day, much too hot to continue with the things I was doing outside. So I made a glass of iced tea, grabbed my cross stitch, and watched some recorded Food Network Shows. Valerie Bertinelli was making these lobster BLT sandwiches and I was instantly mesmerized.  My Hubbers and I love BLT’s, especially in the summer.  Never, in my wildest dreams did it occur to me to add lobster to them. The ingredients went on my grocery list.
Now in Central California, fresh produce is plentiful and reasonably priced.  Lobsters? Not so much.  I had to resort to getting 2 frozen lobster tails.  They cost more per pound than filet mignon. But, I was obsessed with making them so in my basket they went!

The sandwiches were amazing!  A little lobster salad topped by the traditional BLT toppings of bacon, lettuce and tomato. Though the recipe didn’t call for it, I added some avocado slices.  I usually include avocado in my BLT’s so it seemed natural to do that with this sandwich.

The lobster salad has capers in it.  I love capers and the little touch of saltiness they provide. The vinegar and lemon juice adds a little extra zing.

I knew the sandwiches would be filling and rich so I served them with just some fresh melon slices. It was our evening meal and my Hubbers loved the meal!  

Lobster BLT’s

Three 7-ounce lobster tails, fresh or frozen, thawed if using frozen
8 slices bacon
1/3 cup mayonnaise, plus more for spreading
1 small shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely sliced celery
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 slices white bread, toasted (I used sourdough)
4 leaves green leaf lettuce, torn in half
2 medium tomatoes, sliced

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the lobster tails and boil until the shells are bright red and the lobster is just cooked through, about 7 minutes.  Drain and submerge in a bowl of ice water to cool.  

Using kitchen shears, remove the shells by the underside down the middle and then cutting the top.  Pull out the meat, rinsing or wiping off any residual shell fragments, and dice into ½-inch pieces.

Put the bacon in a cold, large skillet and cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp and browned, 10 to 12 minutes (I did in the microwave). Drain on a paper-towel lined plate.

In a medium bowl, stir together the 1/3 cup mayonnaise, shallots, celery, capers, vinegar, lemon zest and juice.  Fold in the diced lobster.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lay out the bread slices on a work surface and spread each with mayonnaise.  Top half of the slices with 2/3 cup lobster salad, 2 slices bacon, and 2 tomato slices.  Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.  Top with a piece of lettuce and cover with the remaining bread slices. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lemon Sheet Cake

Summer Solstice was yesterday so we are officially into summer! In my life, this means BBQ's, picnics, beach trips, and time spent around the pool.  All these fun times often finds me cooking and baking for a larger crowd than just the two of us.  When I need to make a dessert for a crowd I usually turn to a sheet cake.  There isn't the need to stack and frost a cake, they are easy to make, and the baking pan becomes the serving dish! This lemon sheet cake is perfect for spring and summer gatherings.

Lemon Sheet Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Fresh berries and lemon to garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a rimmed 18x13-inch baking sheet with baking spray (or butter baking sheet, dish with flour and shake out the excess). 

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a bowl of 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and lemon juice; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the sugar and lemon zest for 30 seconds until fragrant and slightly yellow in appearance. Add butter and whip mixture on medium speed until very pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs, one at a time, then blend in vanilla extract. 

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed just until combined, then add in 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture and mix just until combined.  Repeat once more with the flour and buttermilk mixtures, then end by mixing in the last 1/3 of the flour mixture just until combined. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula and fold batter several times to insure it's evenly incorporated.  Pour and spread batter evenly into the prepared baking sheet. 

Bake 22-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a mixing bowl until smooth, (adding more powdered sugar and/or lemon juice, if necessary, to get the proper consistency).  Pour and spread glaze over cooled cake.  Chill 20 minutes to help set the glaze.  Top with garnishments, if desired.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Plum Crazy!

Though I often moan and groan about my career, especially during the crazy, hectic days of tax season, I do love my clients. I've been in accounting long enough that I have weeded out the clients that aren't a good fit and I can pick and choose new clients.  As a result, I end up with clients whom I really enjoy.  They have become good friends, we socialize with many of them.  I have watched families grow up and am on my fourth generation with one family.  Some clients have been with me since I graduated college, 37 years now. It's been very gratifying to have formed these various relationships.

One of my favorite clients is Mary.  She reminds me so much of my beloved Grandma McGee. Whenever she comes to see me, she always brings me a homemade gift.  I've received embroidered dish towels and table runners, various jams and jellies. Earlier this year she brought me plum jam.  She was quite excited as the plums came from her tree, her first crop.  She asked if I wanted some when they were ripe.  I said yes, then promptly forgot about the conversation!  Mary didn't forget.  Last week she called to tell me that she had a box of plums for me. I drove out to see her on Friday.  There were birthday balloons scattered about and I discovered she had just celebrated her 95th birthday! 95, healthy, and she still lives in her own home!  Not only that, but she picked the plums herself!  Prior to my arrival, she had just finished mowing her back lawn. She is amazing!  When I grow up I want to be like Mary!

Armed with a box of plums I came home and got to work.  First on the agenda were a few batches of plum jam.  I will keep a few jars and give the rest away.  I used the recipe on the pectin package, that always seems to work well!

The next night I made this Plum Skillet Cake. It was a very easy dessert to put together and quite tasty!  In fact, my Hubbers and I both had some of the leftovers for breakfast the next morning! It's baked in a cast-iron skillet which helps contribute to its crispy crust and also makes a nice serving presentation.

I'm now out of plums.  Yesterday a client brought me some gorgeous figs.  Time to get busy!

Plum Skillet Cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 pounds plums, halved pitted, and sliced 1/4-inch thick

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or ovenproof baking dish, melt butter in the oven, 5 to 7 minutes.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Remove skillet from oven and add melted butter to flour mixture; stir to combine.  Add milk and vanilla extract; mix until well combined.  Pour mixture back into skillet and arrange plums evenly on top, leaving a 1-inch border.

Transfer skillet to oven and bake until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with whipped cream, crème fraiche, or ice cream.

(Adapted from Martha Stewart Living).

Monday, June 13, 2016

Hi-Hat Cupcakes

My oldest granddaughter has expressed an interest in baking, especially cupcakes.  A few months ago I rounded up all my cupcake cookbooks and gave them to her. Her Mom doesn't do much baking so I knew she needed a little guidance from Nana to get started.  An opportunity to bake together came up recently when her Mom had a hair appointment. Together with her little sister, we rounded up all the baking supplies we needed for these cupcakes and gathered in my kitchen for our first baking lesson.

These cupcakes look a lot harder to make than they are.  There is cake, frosting, and chocolate coating, but all are easy to make.  We mixed and baked the cupcakes.  While they were cooling, we made the frosting.  After piping the frosting they needed to be refrigerated for a while.  That gave us the time to make the chocolate dip and start on washing the dishes (learning how to clean up is an essential part of baking!) We were in and out of the kitchen in about 2 hours. 

Of course, the girls loved the cupcakes!  What child wouldn't?  Chocolate cake, marshmallow-type frosting, dipped in melted chocolate, what's not to like about that?  I enjoyed teaching them and listening to their chatter.  You learn so much about a child when you have the opportunity to just let the conversation flow, rather than asking them direct questions. They were very proud of their creations and couldn't wait to take them on their trip to the mountains later that day. I look forward to our next baking day!

The recipe comes from Martha Stewart.  There was a video showing how she made these so the girls watched this before we got started.  I'm not sure that was a good idea. They were a little disappointed that their creations weren't as high and pretty as Martha's.  Some of our frosting fell off in the chocolate, which was frustrating them. My youngest granddaughter said, "that Martha must make these a lot because hers are perfect!" We'll get there, girls!

Learning how to use a piping bag.

Dipping into the chocolate.

The recipe can be found here.

The frosting must be really stiff in order to hold its shape!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Orange Olive Oil Brownies

Growing up, Mom never used olive oil in her cooking.  I've gravitated to where that is the oil I use the most.  I especially like flavored olive oils, they add an additional layer of flavor to a dish. I use lemon olive oil a lot when cooking fish and basil olive oil in Italian dishes. I even have a jalapeno-flavored olive oil which is great in Mexican dishes. I keep all my olive oils and flavored vinegars on the countertop next to my stove.  They are easy to get to and are pretty on the counter!

I've not baked much with olive oil, however.  I've seen recipes and thought to myself that I should try it, but it's never happened.  Last week I ran across this recipe for brownies and knew I had to jump in.  I found the recipe on the Sciabica Olive Oil website.  Sciabica's is a local company, I am fortunate that I can find their offerings in local stores and at our Farmers' Markets. Until he died in his mid-90's Mr. Sciabica was at the Farmers' Markets on a regular basis, enthusiastically telling everyone how wonderful olive oil is!

I happened to have orange olive oil and some ripe bananas so I had no excuse not to try these.  We really enjoyed them.  There is a subtle orange flavor to them and they are very moist. I could definitely taste the bananas in them.  For a more neutral flavor the applesauce would work. They are more cake-like than fudge-like which is how I like my brownies. To make them less "chocolately" you can omit the chocolate chips in the batter and replace the frosting with a powdered sugar dusting. I liked them with everything!

Orange Olive Oil Brownies

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
3/4 cups mashed bananas (about 2 medium) or applesauce
3 tablespoons orange olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking spray in a 9x9-inch square baking pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and baking soda.  Add the eggs, mashed banana, vanilla and olive oil; mix again.

Add chocolate chips and nuts and mix until just blended.

Pour mixture into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the center is done.

While the brownies are hot, pour more chocolate chips evenly over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes then, using an offset spatula, spread melted chocolate over the brownies.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set the chocolate.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Apricot, Almond & Orange Biscotti

When the weather is nice, every Saturday morning finds my granddaughter and I sitting on the back steps enjoying some cinnamon toast, hot chocolate, and a latte. It's the tail-end to our Friday night sleepovers, before I deposit her back with her parents.  She jabbers non-stop, we enjoy watching the birds and Harley play.  It's special time, I hope when I'm long gone from this world, she looks back fondly on these moments with her Nana. But I don't just spend  Saturday mornings out there.  On many mornings you can find me out back, sipping on a latte and enjoying a quiet start to my day. This week I've enjoyed  a few of these biscotti with my latte.

Biscotti basically means a twice-baked biscuit.  The dough is formed into an oblong log and baked. Once cooled, it is cut into slices and each side baked a little longer.  The result is a slightly crispy treat.  This one is filled with some of the bounty from my agricultural region, apricots and almonds. A little bit of orange enhances the flavor of them. It is a great combination!

For best results, use California dried apricots.  I grew up in Apricot Country and California "cots" are the best!

Apricot, Almond & Orange Biscotti

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cups almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced
Juice & zest of 1/2 orange

Heat oven to 325 degrees and line a cookie tray with parchment paper.

Sift the flour and baking powder in a bowl, then stir in the sugar. Add the almonds and apricots.

Lightly beat the eggs and add to the mixture along with the orange juice and zest; mix until combined.

On a well floured surface, roll the mixture out onto a log about 3 ½ inches wide. The  biscotti mixture is quite wet you can be really liberal with the flour here to avoid sticking. Keep your hands well floured to roll and shape the log. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a slight golden crust has formed. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray completely.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Once cooled, transfer the log to a cutting board and, with a sharp kitchen knife or serrated bread knife, diagonally cut the log into biscotti about ½ an inch in thickness.

Place the biscotti back on the baking sheet, with cut side exposed.  Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes on each side until lightly golden.  Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Cutting the baked biscotti loaf into diagonal slices leaves more surface area to toast.