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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Apple Dapple Cake

If you are lucky enough to have an apple tree on your property you know that they are not in season yet, but the ones from last year in your freezer, are! They are just begging to get out of there, and why not! Make room for this year's crop! Combine the taste of those sweet and juicy apples with the best things which compliments them, walnuts and caramel. This recipe will want you leaving more, even after the last bit of caramel is licked off your plate. Here's the recipe.

(Makes 1 regular sized BUNT or 8 individual bunt cakes)
- 3 eggs
- 1 Cup oil
- 2 Cups white granulated sugar
- 1/4 Cup water
- 3 Cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 Cups chopped apples
- 1 Cup pecans or walnuts

- 1 Cup brown sugar
- 1/4 Cup milk
- 1/2 Cup margarine or butter (I recommend using butter)

PUTTING IT TOGETHER  (Preheat oven at 350F degrees)
- In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, sugar and water. Beat well. In a seperate bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add to the egg mixture. Stir well, then add the vanilla, apples and nuts.
- Bake in greased and floured pan for 55-60 minutes for the regular sized bunt, and 20-25 minutes for the individuals. Tops should be a golden color and a toothpick inserted, should come out clean.
- When you take out the bunt(s) out of the oven, let cool for ten to fifteen. During that time, prepare the topping. To do so, incorporate all the ingredients in a small sauce pan, and heat till all ingredients come together in a caramel mixture.

- Remove cake(s) from pan and flip onto a cooling rack, placed on top of a baking tray. Spoon 1/3 of the topping over the top of the cake(s). Carefully place the cake(s) back in the pan and pour remaining topping over the cake. Let stand 5 minutes, then invert on a serving plate, letting it stand another 5 minutes. Remove pan.

This easy recipe is always more then welcome at any picnics or potlucks, and definitely a great way to showcase the fruit of your overbearing apple tree! :) Enjoy!

Eat well, sleep well and till next time!


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rhubarb Clafoutis

Spring has come and gone, and now we are starting the summer season in full swing. As always, my rhubarb plant which always seems to be neglected in the corner of the yard, is very plentiful which its stalk production. What to do with all of it? Well you could make a rhubarb cake, which is always a hit, or maybe even a strawberry rhubarb pie. But if you are in the mood to try something new, delicious and very easy, this clafoutis recipe is for you!

Of course the clafoutis was not originally created with rhubarb inside of it, but more so, cherries. This traditional French dessert hails from the region of Limousin, France. The word itself comes from "clafir" which means, "to fill". If you want the best of the best and to make the most traditional clafoutis, you must be using the first sweet cherries of the season, and leave them unpitted. It is believed that while baking, the pit will add extra flavor to the dish. The dish is very simple and consists of; eggs, milk, flour, sugar and sometimes butter. The pancake mix-like batter is poured over the cherries and baked to a perfect golden brown and then sprinkled with sugar. Serve it warm with ice cream for a great contrast of temperatures and flavors. 

Makes 1 - 9' (circle or square) pie dish 
- 1 cup raw rhubarb cut into centimeter pieces
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/4 cups milk 
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- butter and sugar to prepare the pie dish

Step 1: Preheat oven at 375F. Heat up a medium sized pan on medium-high heat and add; 1 Tbsp butter, the rhubarb, and 2 Tbsp of sugar. Toss together in pan until the rhubarb has soften on the outside, without over cooking. While this is cooking, quickly butter and sugar the dish, as you would butter and flour a pan (to coat). 

Step 2: Whisk the 3 eggs in a medium sized bowl, then whisk in the milk and vanilla. Sprinkle the flour into the mixture while whisking non-stop. This will prevent from forming lumps of flour in your mixture.

Step 3: Take the rhubarb from the pan, and without having too much of the liquid from in the pan, place the rhubarb in the pie dish. Gently pour the egg mixture all around the dish without displacing the fruit. Now simply place in a 375F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a nice golden brown color is achieved.  

Step 4: When taking the clafoutis out of the oven, place on a cooling rack and sprinkle top with granulate or icing sugar, to lightly coat. Serve warm, with ice cream. 


Eat well, sleep well and till next time! 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Forming A Bread Loaf

Whether you are making Red Wine and Walnut bread, or a simple White bread. The technique is key to getting a tightly rolled and perfectly shaped loaf. Follow step by step for a beautiful loaf of bread every time.

At this point, the portioned out dough had been rolled rightly and went through it's second stage of proofing.

Turn the ball over so the underneath seem is facing upwards. Punch down the dough with the heal of your palm.

Roll up the dough bringing it towards you, keeping it tight with both hands rolling it in.

The next step is to use the heal of your palm and press down all along the seem. This will help with removing air bubbles and also make it a lot easier to roll it onto itself a 2nd time. Once this is done, roll the load with your hand, with the seem up, and put pressure on the ends to seal it in a semi pointy shape.

Once this has been achieved, place in a greased loaf pan, and follow any other instructions that the recipe maybe have following this step before baking. 

100% Whole Wheat Bread

Using whole grains in breads always makes it entirely hearty and flavorful (also see Whole Spelt Bread). Although bran can be found broken up and packed as it's different components (Wheat Bran, Wheat Germ), whole wheats are gaining popularity in a society which characterizes it as having very healthy benefits. The following recipe works great for either, making sandwiches with a Dijon mustard, or simply toasted with honey. The molasses gives this bread a very flavorful scent and a rich dark color. What distinguishes even more this recipe from others, is that it is not a blend of whole wheat flour with white flour. It uses nothing else but whole wheat flour, bringing you the full benefits of eating whole wheats. You will love this bread, I promise!

- 1 Tsp Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Warm Water
- 2 1/4 Tsp Active Dry Yeast (1 envelope)
- 1 1/2 Cup Warm Water
- 1/3 Cup Molasses
- 1 1/2 Tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp Vegetable Shortening (Crisco)
- 4 3/4 Cups Whole Wheat Flour (May need more, depending on the level of humidity) 

Step 1: In a medium sized bowl, combine the sugar, warm water and active dry yeast. Stir gently and put aside in a draft-free place for 10 minutes, until the mixture starts bubbling. 

Step 2: Once the mixture is bubbling, add to the bowl; the 1 1/2 cup of warm water, 1/3 cup molasses, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 2 tbsp veg. shortening. Stir with a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth and then add 2 cups of the flour. Stir again until smooth. Then combine remaining 2 3/4 cups of the flour. At this point you can use your hand to mix all the flour in.

Step 3: Once the dough has come together to a ball, knead it on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic (10 minutes). Place in lightly greased bowl and turn dough around so the top is greased. Cover with plastic wrap and then a dish towel. Let rise is a warm place (24 to 29 degrees Celsius)  until the dough doubles in size. 

Step 4: Take the dough, divide it into 2 equal portions. Shape these into loaves. To do so please refer to my post "Forming a bread loaf". Place the formed loaves into greased loaf pans and let rise until the dough has risen 3cm (1 1/2") above the pan, and the dough has filled out the corners of the mold (45-60 mins).

Step 5: For an artisan look, take a sharp knife and lightly cut a small indent across the length of the loaf. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350F for about 20 to 30 minutes more, depending on the strength of your oven. Remove loaves immediately from pans once baking is complete. Let relax on cooling rack until they are cool enough to handle. 

The best with this bread is to cut into it when it still contains a little bit of warmth. This is the perfect moment to spread on some honey and it will melt in your mouth! Enjoy!

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow! 


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Green Tea Ice Cream

Green tea  ice cream has a very distinctive flavor which, after trying it once, is very easily recognizable. Where does this flavor come from? This flavor is from the "matcha" (green tea powder) used give it the green tea flavor. Of course there is a special process for matcha teas.

The process is begun weeks before the tea leaves are harvested. A couple weeks before the tea bushes are harvested, they are covered to prevent direct sunlight to the plants. This slows down the growth of the plants and makes them turn a darker shade. In result of this change, the plants start to produce amino acids, which gives it the sweetness we all recognize. The leaves are then harvested, laid flat to dry, de-veined, de-stemmed, and ground to a very fine powder, which we know as matcha powder. In modern days, this powder is not only used to make tea, but to make "soba" noodles, green tea ice cream and various Japanese confectioneries.

This product is more and more popular and found in many of the big supermarkets. When incorporated in this ice cream recipe, the vivid green color is always a show stopper. Here's how you can make your own.

(Makes about 1 quart (1 liter)

- 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
- 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
- 4 teaspoons matcha (green tea powder)
- 6 large egg YOLKS

- Walk the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Pour the cream into a large bowl and whist in the green tea powder. Set a mesh strainer on top. At this point the cream will still be a very light color, as for the green tea does not dissolve in the cold cream.

- In a separate medium bowl, whist together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warm egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.

- Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream, then whisk it vigorously until the custard is frothy to dissolve the green tea powder. Notice that once the hot custard is mixed into the cream, the tea begins to dissolves and the mixture takes on a darker green color. Stir until cool, over ice bath.

- Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once the desired thickness is reached, it is ready (20 to 30 minutes).

If you want a firmer product, remove the ice cream from the ice cream maker's bowl. Do this carefully with a silicone spatula, to not damage the coating found inside the bowl of the machine. Place the finished ice cream in a plastic container with a lid and place in the your freezer for a couple hours for optimal results.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gardens Enhances Ones Cooking

For many years now, it has been an important priority for me, to make sure I have a garden to tend to during the summer months. While some think that gardening is a lot of work and that the super market suffices, some reap the full benefits of having what they need in their gardens.

(Picture by Rej Brandt) 

Essential plants every cook should have in their garden (mostly herbs):
- Cilantro
- Oregano (various types)
- Parsley
- Thyme
- Dill
- Chives
- Basil (various types)
- Mint (Peppermint, Chocolate Mint, Spearmint...)
- Edible Flowers
- Rosemary (for an amazing lamb roast on the BBQ)
- Lavender (cream infusions for truffles and crèmes brulées)
- Hot pepper plants to add heat to your cooking
- Baby tomatoes, air loom tomatoes, etc.
- Different types of lettuces for quick salads or sandwich fixings

Really, the list could go on and on. But those are the ones which I find the most convenient to have around so I can just cultivate as I need them without worrying if I'll have some left in the fridge or not while i'm cooking. A garden will get you excited about cooking again by adding an entire other dimension of complexity to your cooking and or baking. It will bring freshness in your foods and even inspire you to create new dishes to incorporate your plants flavors. For example, two years ago I had planted a struggling plant of chocolate mint in a pot on it's own, and next thing I knew, it was overflowing from the pot. I had to do something about it, so I made a chocolate mint cheesecake topped with blueberries (as shown below). Combinations and possibilities are endless with a garden of fresh foods at your disposition.

Worried you don't have a green thumb? Don't let that fear stop you. Having herbs in pots along the house, can never go bad. Unless you are having a drought and you feel the need to water your plants, they should be able to tend to their own needs, compliments of nature herself. Many websites offer insight on starting your own small yielding herb garden. Also maybe consider having an indoor herb garden to last you through the winter months (that is, if your winter consists of -40 degrees Celsius like mine does).  For more tips on herb gardening click here.

During the summer months I will be posting quite often on how to incorporate your garden fully into your everyday cooking! Stay tunned!

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!