Monday, April 28, 2014

Lemon Curd Cupcakes

Due to circumstances beyond our control we did Easter a week later this year.  That was just fine with me, as it gave me extra time to figure out what I was going to make for dessert.  As you may know I'm not a natural born fan of cupcakes but they do have their uses and for some reason I just had a vision in my head of vanilla cupcakes topped with candied violets. I have about a million tiny violets all over the yard this time of year and I love preserving them with sugar and using them for decorating desserts.    

On Saturday my sister and I went to the  Spring festival at Terrain featuring local artists, craftspeople, brewers, farmers and musicians. Some of the highlights were talking to the friendly folks at Happy Cat Farm;  beautiful handmade maple cheese boards from Peg and Awl; delicious kombucha teas from Jessica at Inspired Brews (she is also a letterpress artist, her business card is a work of art!); and I picked up some incredible eggs from the Farm at Doe Run.  Easter is all about the eggs after all. 

And lets talk about these eggs.  They are gorgeous inside and out!  I used the yolks to make lemon curd, the whole eggs and whites for cupcakes, and the whites for butter cream (however, please read this before consuming raw eggs).  No waste there, wouldn't want to waste any of these beauties.

Vanilla cupcakes are a work in progress for me.  After much research this is the latest recipe. However, recipes notwithstanding, in the end I think the most important thing about vanilla cupcakes is to take them out of the oven one minute before you did.

lemon curd cupcakes

2 & 2/3 cups unbleached AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 & 1/3 cups white sugar
1 cup room temperature butter
4 eggs (room temp)
2 whites (room temp)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
lemon curd   

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pans with papers and set aside.  In a stand mixer cream butter and add sugar, beat on medium for one minute.  Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition and scraping down the  bowl as needed.

Add half the flour to the butter mixture and beat to combine.  Add milk and vanilla, beat to combine.  Add the rest of the flour, scrap down the bowl and beat just to combine.  In a clean bowl whip the egg whites to soft peaks and fold by hand thoroughly, but gently into main mixture.

Scoop batter into prepared cupcake pans.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Turn the pan and bake for 8 more minutes (or 7), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (but by then they may be too dry, just sayin').  Cool on a wire rack before filling and frosting. 

Fit a pastry bag with a small round tip, fill with lemon curd.  Insert in tops of cupcakes and pipe a small amount in each cupcake.  Frost with butter cream and top with candied violets.  Makes 20 cupcakes.



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Oregon Cherry Pie

In honor of my upcoming trip to PDX I give you Oregon Cherry Pie.  I am immersing myself in all things Portland these days: watching Portlandia, google mapping downtown, perusing restaurant reviews and profiles of local artists and getting a reading list ready for a visit to Powell's.  

I don't usually used canned fruit but I love these Oregon cherries.  I love the label and the fact that you can get them packed in water.  I used two water packed cans and one light syrup packed, just to give a nice balance and there's not much sugar beyond that. Add a couple of tablespoons of potato starch, some lemon rind and vanilla and that's it for the filling.

The crust was a bit of an experiment.  As you may know I've been keeping up with monthly sourdough recipes through Sourdough Surprises.  But they did a number of fun things before I caught up with them one of which was sourdough pate brisee crust.  This pie was my chance to try it out.  

Oregon Cherry Pie

pate brisee (adapted from The Bojon Gourmet) 
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cup up
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening
1 cup sourdough starter

Sift together flour, sugar and salt.  Cut in butter and shortening until mixture is crumbly.  Stir in starter and mix until dough forms.  Knead briefly to smooth, divide in half.  Wrap each half in plastic and chill for at least one hour.

2 cans cherries in water (drained)
1 can cherries in light syrup (reserve 1/2 cup liquid)
4 tablespoons raw cane sugar
2 tablespoons potato starch
rind of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium, heavy bottomed pot stir together all ingredients except reserved light syrup.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally until thick.  If you need to thin it out stir in whatever amount of the reserved syrup is needed.  If it's to thin, add a small amount of potato starch to the syrup and stir that in, continue cooking until thick.  Refrigerate until well chilled.

sourdough pate brisee
cherry filling
1 egg
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar

Preheat oven to 375.  Remove one pack of dough from fridge and let it sit out for a few minutes to get workable.  On a lightly floured surface roll dough to roughly 14 inches round.  Fit into pie pan and trim the edges along the rim.  Prick the bottom with a fork in 3 or 4 places and fit a sheet of tin foil into the bottom an sides.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the bottom of the crust is set.

When the bottom crust is cool enough touch, pour in chilled filling.  Roll out the other pack of dough, again to 14 inches, and cut into strips.  Brush the rim of the bottom crust with egg wash.  Interweave the strips over the filling and press them down along rim to seal, using a fork or your fingers.

Brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until crust is browned and filling is bubbling.  Serves eight.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hot Cross Buns

As someone who's baked professionally for more years than she would like to admit I'm a bit embarrassed to confess that I've never made hot cross buns.  So once again I find myself in a position of utter gratitude towards Sourdough Surprises for choosing them as April's bake off.

In my defense hot cross buns are really a British thing.  Although you see pale imitations of them in every market around Easter time.  Growing up we were more likely to be treated to an egg-y Easter bread than these spicy, fruity little buns.   

I more or less followed this recipe.  But to be perfectly honest I did sneak a bit of yeast in there as I'm not all too confident in my starter or my timing.  And baking with sourdough starter is all about timing.  As it was, these took a long time.  I began by feeding my starter on Saturday afternoon.  Fed it again Sunday morning and once that got going I started the buns.  They were done around dinner time Sunday evening.  While I'm not proud about adding yeast, I do need to crow about the fact that I resisted the urge to make the cross out of icing (you know how I love icing!) instead, opting for the intriguing mixture of flour and oil.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  First I had to find out just what hot cross buns were all about, and here's what I came up with.  It's like someone said "This yeast roll is not good enough, lets add eggs and milk and sugar."  OK. "...and lemon rind, no, lemon and orange rind.  And spices." Cinnamon?  "Yes, cinnamon.  And nutmeg and cardamom.  And cloves and nutmeg.  And dried fruit."  OK, like raisins and currants?  "Sure, if that's all you got.  But maybe candied citrus or apricots or figs or dates as well."  Fine, is that it?  "NO, how 'bout a cross on the top, could be sweet, could be savory. And..."  I'm waiting.  "Brush them all with apricot preserves or honey, right as they come out of the oven!"

Thus, a classic was born.  They're not as much trouble as they sound and are certainly adaptable to your own tastes and what you have on hand.  The best part is they're delicious!  A real treat and a marked improvement over plain old Easter bread (although that's pretty good too).  Of course, spectacular out of the oven with a pat of salted butter and more apricot preserves.  And also not too shabby toasted the next day, if anything the flavors were even more pronounced.  But wait, there's more (are you not surprised), I froze a few of them, and after they thawed I grilled them up in a hot, butted cast iron pan.  Whoa mama!  I'll be singing "Hot Cross Buns" at Easter from now on!

sourdough hot cross buns (adapted from Nourishing Joy)

3 & 1/2 cups bread flour
zest of one orange
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 eggs (one for brushing)
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon yeast (optional)
1 cup well fed sourdough starter 
3/4 cup currants
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 more cup flour (for cross)
2 tablespoons olive oil (for cross)
enough water to make a paste of the flour and oil
1/3 cup warm apricot jam

Mix together flour, orange and lemon zest, sugar and spices.  Beat in one egg, milk, water, yeast (if you need to) and sourdough starter.  Beat until a sticky dough forms.  Cover and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

Add the salt and currants and then the butter, bit by bit. Knead for 20 minutes by hand or 10 minutes by mixer.  Dough will by soft and no longer sticky.

Place dough in a lightly butter bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for an hour.  After an hour punch down dough and knead briefly, return to bowl and let rise one more hour.

Divide dough into 12 and form into rolls. Place in a buttered 8X12 baking pan.  Cover and let rise 2 to 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Beat remaining egg and over the buns.  Make a paste of the flour, oil and water. Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a small round tip, with the paste.  Make crosses on top of the buns.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until buns are golden.  Brush with apricot jam while still warm.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Four Eyes Smoothie

Here's a green smoothie for all you bespectacled nerds like me out there, (I started wearing glasses when I was eight and never looked back).  When we think about our health we tend to focus, sorry, on organs other than the eyes, and we take those precious orbs for granted.

Well, no more!  This smoothie has a potent mix of fruits and veggies that support eye health, along with everything else we drink green smoothies for; energy, digestion, heart health, etc.  It's loaded with kale, of course, also carrots and goji berries, all excellent sources of nutrients like vitamin A and lutein that have enormous benefits for healthy vision.  It also contains almond milk for protein and wheat germ for extra fiber, vitamins and minerals.

But let's not forget about taste.  Not only healthy, this smoothy is also a tasty treat.  Banana, yogurt and cara cara orange give it a sweet, velvety edge over your run of the mill smoothie.  I've been having one for breakfast about 4 or 5 times a week, and I do look forward to it!

four eyes smoothie

1/2 cup almond milk
6 ounces of yogurt (vanilla, coconut or your favorite)
1 cup organic kale, trimmed and chopped
1/4 cup chopped organic carrot
1 banana, sliced
1/2 cara cara orange, peeled
2 tablespoons wheat grem
1 tablespoon goji berries

Place all ingredients in blender or whatever fancy juicer-smoothie machine you have.  Blend on low to combine.  Blend on high until smooth. Makes one 8-10 ounce serving.