Friday, October 31, 2008
A friend of mine was looking for a cute but inexpensive item to give as favors at a baby shower she was helping with. Of course, working at Mimi's has me thinking all things baked and we came up with this idea...gingerbread bears decorated with pink icing, appropriately tied with great "baby-girl" ribbons. The finished bears were adorable and delicious, but we got lucky - very lucky! I used two recipes, both from the Martha Stewart website and both needed some major adjusting after I was already in the process of making them. The recipe for the gingerbread called for refrigerating the disks of dough overnight and then rolling it out. The dough was so soft it was unworkable, so I ended up kneading in at least a whole cup of flour after rolling one disk out. I had a moment of panic there, especially since these had to be made THAT day, but fortunately it worked! I made the recipe for Royal Icing as written and it was so thick that it was obviously wrong as well. Can I never trust Martha's recipes again? I added at least 1/2 cup of water to the 1/4 cup called for in the recipe and probably even more before it was thin enough to pipe. I have looked at other recipes, even others on Martha's site, and think that maybe the merigue powder amount should have been 5 tsp and not 5 TBSP? It just goes to show that every baking project is a learning experience and you just have to roll with it and keep on baking!
What would you do with a crisper drawer FULL of carrots? You'd invite your friends over for some coffee and delicious carrot cake! Your fabulous friends would think of some awesome crafts to do while you catch up on each other's lives. After two hours, you and your friends will leave each other, beautiful pumpkins in hand, feeling a little more understood and ready to face the day!
adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown
For the cake:
Unsalted butter, for the pans
12 ounces (2 1/2 cups) flour
12 ounces carrots, grated
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
10 ounces (1 1/3 cups) sugar
2 ounces (1/4 cup) brown sugar
3 large eggs
6 ounces plain yogurt
6 ounces vegetable oil
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
For the Cream Cheese icing:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 ounces butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
9 ounces (2 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour 2 round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside. Place the carrots in a large bowl and set aside.
Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process briefly to mix. Add this mixture to the carrots and mix to coat. In the now empty food processor, combine the sugar, brown sugar, eggs and yogurt. With the processor running, drizzle in the vegetable oil. Pour this mixture into the carrot mixture and mix until just combined. Pour into the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean or when the center reaches 205 to 210 degrees. I think this was around 40 minutes or so.
Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely. After the cake has cooled, spread one third of the icing on the bottom layer and place half of the chopped walnuts on top. Place the second cake layer on top of the walnuts and frost entire cake, topping again with walnuts.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Who can resist chocolate paired with mint? We made these delectable brownies yesterday to celebrate Morgan's 10th birthday since they are one of her favorites. I've made this recipe several times and it never fails to please. And, if you have the ingredients on hand, they are just as easy to make as those from a box! Needless to say, they are all gone this morning. The recipe came from epicurious.com, but I've changed the directions slightly to make them more clear (after making the same mistake more than once!) Let me know if you try this recipe!
adapted from epicurious.com
For the brownies:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the toppings:
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 T milk
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
green food coloring, optional
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips
2 T unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly butter an 8x8 or 9x9-inch metal baking pan. Melt the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add chocolate mixture, flour and salt, and peppermint and vanilla extracts; stir until just blended. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes for 8x8 pan and a little less for 9x9 pan. Cool slightly.
Beat powdered sugar, 2 T butter, milk, peppermint extract, and one drop of green food coloring, if using, in a bowl until creamy. Spread over brownies and chill until set, about one hour.
Melt chocolate and 2T butter in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour over mint topping, spreading evenly. Cover and chill until set, about one hour. Makes 20 small brownies.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Ellen baked her very first pie. It was an apple pie with cut-out pastry leaves decorating the top. It was delicious! She was the youngest contestant. The pies I made were pumpkin pie (left) and raspberry/blackberry pie with a lattice crust (right).
The pies filled at least 5 long tables.
The judging was difficult. These were two of the most experienced judges - they took their job very seriously!
Annie trying to sneak a piece of chocolate mousse pie.
Here are the winners! Congratulations!
First, they use a forklift to bring in a huge bin full of different varieties of apples and dump them into a holding area at the start of a conveyor belt.
The apples are fed into the machine which rinses them and carries them up the ladder to be ground up by a very loud "food processor". I had always envisioned whole apples being pressed, but now this makes much more sense!
The apple "mush" is then pumped into trays lined with canvas. When each tray is filled, the canvas is wrapped around the apples and another tray of apple mush is made on top until they have about a dozen trays of apple mush all stacked on top of one another. The trays are then pressed between the "floor" and "ceiling" of the machine and all of the liquid is captured in the tray around the "floor" of the press. The liquid is then pumped through tubes into a large holding tank where it is pasteurized and then bottled. One batch of trays will make about 300 gallons of cider (I think that's what they said). The pulp/fiber left over is as dry as cardboard and they use it as mulch which eventually returns the organic matter to the soil. Pretty cool, huh?
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
The tomato harvest was good this year. Above is only a fraction of our harvest. I probably didn't water them as much as I should have when we endured a fairly long period of drought. We lost some to blossom-end rot. The tomato hornworms tried their best to foil me. But we had no aphids and the pests generally left the plants alone, going for the tender cucumber plants instead. So we waited...and waited...and waited until finally the tomatoes ripened starting in late August-the longest I've ever waited for tomatoes!
I planted about 8 different varieties, and THE WINNER IS (drum roll please)... a variety called CARO RICH. They are the orange tomatoes in the picture above. I think the seeds were a packet of freebies I got from Seeds of Change when I ordered the other varieties. These plants almost didn't make it into the ground as they were the spindliest seedlings, but I'm sure glad I gave them a shot! They are a larger, meaty tomato perfect for slicing onto a juicy burger or tomato sandwich or BLT. They were the best tasting of the bunch - if only I'd watered them a bit more I may have gotten a few more. I'm sad to see the last of the tomatoes being harvested, but I've canned and frozen quite a few to enjoy in sauces throughout the year until we start all over again - and I'll be sure to include the Caro Rich in my order next year.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
...here's the squash, carrots, and onions sauteeing in butter.
Add thyme and saute until the vegetables are mostly tender. Add chicken stock and simmer until everything is very tender. Puree in a blender, add some seasonings and garnish with fresh chives. Serve the soup with hearty toasted sourdough or multigrain bread. The result is wholesome and delicious!
Butternut Squash Soup
1/4 cup butter
5 1/2 pounds butternut squash (10 cups diced)
3 cups chopped onions
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
5 tsp fresh thyme
7 cups or more chicken stock
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
fresh chives for garnish (optional)
Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the squash, carrots, onions, thyme, ground red pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Saute until the squash begins to soften and brown. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth (or use an immersion blender right in the pot). Add nutmeg and heavy cream, and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle with chives when serving. If reheating, add more broth or water to thin to desired consistency.