Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Daring Bakers-Danish Braid

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This is one of my favorite Daring Baker challenges as I love yeast breads and especially, sweet ones. Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking came up with a great buttery sweet yeast braid filled with a cinnamon apple filling that really got me excited about this months challenge. I can't think of anything I love more than smelling yeast bread baking in my kitchen. This seemed a difficult challenge when I first scanned the recipe and instructions, so I waited until just a few days ago to begin making the braid. Also, we have eaten so many desserts lately that I had to give the sweets a rest.

I followed the recipe and used the orange zest, the orange juice and cardamom, but used vanilla paste instead of vanilla beans. The paste is so much easier than scraping the tiny seeds out of the vanilla bean. I loved rolling out the dough and marking each turn. When I had rolled it out 4 times, I refrigerated it overnight so I could complete the braid the next day.  While making the apple filling, I realized that I didn't have any lemon juice, so I used fresh orange juice. It didn't seem to matter in the long run. Braiding the dough after filling it with the apples was a bit of a challenge, especially at each end where I had a much thicker braid than in the middle.  I guess with practice, I would be able to work that problem out. The dough took a long time to rise and I'm not sure I let mine rise enough. After working all day on completing the recipe, I finally was able to photograph the braid around 6 PM.  Surprisingly, I had some beautiful natural light to work with.

The two Danish braids will serve a crowd and is a great make ahead bread.You can find the entire recipe on Kelly's blog, Sass and Veracity, plus step by step instructions and some very lovely photos.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pineapple Pate de Fruit

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Pate de Fruit literally translated means "a paste of fruit". If you have ever had Knox Blocks, then you are close, but Pate de Fruit is an elegant grown up fruit paste made with pure unsweetened fruit puree, sugar and unflavored gelatin. It's very easy to make if you already have the unsweetened fruit puree on hand. Wanting to find a simple recipe for pate de fruit that didn't require pureeing fruit or ordering fruit purees from a speciality store, I began searching online. After looking at numerous recipes, I found one which used fruit preserves, marmalades or jams as a substitute for the fruit puree. Since these fruit concoctions are sweetened, the amount of sugar necessary to make a proper pate de fruit is decreased.

Pineapple Pate de Fruit

8 leaves gelatin
2/3 cup, water, divided
3/4 cup, granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup pineapple preserves
vegetable oil cooking spray
caster or superfine sugar for coating.

Coat a 4 inch square dish with cooking spray. Set aside

Soften gelatin in 1/3 cup water. Set aside. In a heavy saucepan, combine remaining 1/3 cup water and 3/4 cup sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a boil. Add the pineapple preserves, stirring until melted. Add softened gelatin, stirring again until gelatin melts. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour into prepared dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours for the pate de fruit to firm up. Before cutting into squares or fancy shapes, coat the top of the pate de fruit with a layer of the superfine sugar. Use a wet knife to facilitate the cutting process. After cutting into shapes, roll in the superfine sugar to coat. Uncoated pate de fruits can be kept for a week in a tightly closed container.

Recipe adapted from Melinda Lee.

A wonderful and talented lady is fighting for her life and desperately needs your help. Please read the appeal below and help out in any way you can. Yellow is the theme for June's Click photography. The color yellow best describes Bri Brownlow's creative energy and talents. The photo above is my entry for Click. Best wishes to Bri and her family.

This is an appeal on behalf of a group of food bloggers who are friends of Briana Brownlow @ Figs With Bri.
Bri was diagnosed with breast cancer two and half years ago. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and two years of relatively good health later, the cancer is back. It has metastasized to other parts of her body. At the age of 15, Bri lost her 41-year old mother to the disease. Now, she’s waging her own war against breast cancer. More about it here.
She is going through intensive chemo and other treatments and needs to focus single-mindedly on healing and finding what treatment works best for her. Her health insurance, unfortunately, does not cover holistic alternatives which she would like to try. Bri and her husband Marc have enough on their plates right now in addition to worrying about her medical bills.
The team organising the JUNE edition of CLICK at Jugalbandi has organised a fundraiser to help Bri and her family meet her out-of-pocket medical costs for ONE YEAR.
CLICK is a monthly theme-based photography contest hosted by Jugalbandi. This month’s theme is: YELLOW for Bri
Yellow is the colour of hope. Through the work of the LiveStrong Foundation, it has also come to signify the fight against cancer.
The entries can be viewed HERE. The deadline for entries is June 30, 2008. The fundraiser will extend until July 15, 2008.
The target amount is 12,000 U.S. dollars. We appeal to our fellow bloggers and readers to help us achieve this. Bri deserves a chance to explore all options, even if her insurance company thinks otherwise.
There’s a raffle with exciting prizes on offer. After viewing the list, you may make your donation HERE or at the Chip-In button on any participating site.
Your donation can be made securely through credit card or Pay Pal and goes directly to Bri’s account.
This month’s photo contest also has some prizes. Details HERE.
You can support this campaign by donating to the fundraiser, by participating in CLICK: the photo event, and by publicising this campaign.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie-Mixed Berry Cobbler

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I was very happy that Beth of Our Sweet Life chose Dorie's mixed berry cobbler as I had an ample supply of mixed berries, with the exception of strawberries, in my freezer that I had used for La Palette's Strawberry Tart. Cobblers are super easy to make and you can use many toppings with varied ingredients to perk up the dough. My grandmother used to make a peach cobbler that not only had a top crust, but sunk down in the deep dish she would bake the cobbler in, was more dough cooked and glazed with the thickened peach juices, like dumplings. It was the best cobbler I've ever tasted and I've never been able to reproduce it exactly the way she made it.

To the biscuit topping, I added chopped crystallized ginger and to the berry mixture, I added my favorite liqueur, Framboise. The topping is very similar to scones which I have made with the candied ginger and it has been a most requested breakfast item in my family. Here is a post on cream scones that I wrote back in 2006. The currants in the recipe can be replaced with an equal amount of chopped crystallized ginger.

For a golden crust, I brushed the top of the cobbler with some milk and then sprinkled some cinnamon sugar over the top. The result was a lovely brown topping oozing with berry juices. I was disappointed that the thickened juices didn't drip down the sides of my dish as in the photo in Dorie"s book, Baking From My Home to Yours. The drip invokes a cozy, down home atmosphere of childhood. Oh well, another day, another cobbler. Delicious with one of my favorite cream fraiche style toppings. I make half of the recipe below even though it keeps for at least a week or longer.

1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar (add more if desired, to taste)
8 ounces sour cream, you can use low fat sour cream, but not nonfat

Whip cream at low speed with electric beater or by hand. Don't over beat or it will turn to butter. With wire whip, fold in the sugar, mixing well. Drain any water off sour cream. Fold it into the whipped cream. Add more sugar if desired. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Use as needed. Keeps well.

Original whipped topping recipe here.

For some lovely photos and innovative additions and subtractions of this dessert from TWD members, head over to Tuesdays with Dorie.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Grilled Corn Salsa

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There's nothing like fresh corn just picked from the field, but unfortunately, unless you live on a farm or have access to a farmers' market where the the corn is picked fresh that day, you have to devise ways to retain that just picked flavor. A few years ago, I read that adding a splash of milk to the water before boiling the corn was a way to revive the just picked sweetness. You added the corn to the boiling water milk mixture, let it come back to a boil, cook for 7 minutes, turn off the heat; cover and let sit for 7 to 8 more minutes. The corn was perfectly cooked and stayed hot until the rest of the meal was ready. It worked for years and my corn was always tender and sweet. Wanting to try a different method, I pulled the husks back, stripped the corn of the silks, then pulled the husks back over the corn and tied it with butchers string. I soaked the corn in a pan of water for 10 minutes. The ears of corn were then roasted in a 375 ° oven for 20 minutes. Much better flavor, but too much prep time and dealing with the husks just before the meal was a pain. I wanted some smoky flavor to the corn, so grilled it using the same method. The corn was good, but no smoky flavor.

I was stuck at home one day waiting on a delivery, so thought I would experiment with some fresh corn I had just bought at the little vegetable stand nearby. In the past, I have always turned to Cooks Illustrated for answers on cooking techniques. The Cooks Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue is one of the best books out there on grilling with charcoal and gas. My answer was there for tender corn with the added smokiness. To prepare the corn for grilling, remove all but the inner layers of the husks. The kernels should be visible through these thin layers of the husk. With scissors, snip off the tassel close to the tip of the ear. Preheat a gas grill on medium heat. The grill is ready for the corn when you can hold your hand over the grate for 5 seconds. Grill the corn for about 8-10 minutes, turning every 2 minutes, until the darker outlines of the kernels show through the husk. The husk will be charred and will begin to peel away at the tip showing the corn kernels. Remove the corn from the grill, peel away the husks and silk and season as desired. To make the corn salsa, I didn't season this batch of corn. Next time, I grill corn for a meal, I will hold back a few ears unseasoned to make the grilled corn salsa.

Fresh corn will retain that fresh flavor if you place the ears husks on in a wet paper bag and then in a plastic bag.

Grilled Corn Salsa

2 ears grilled, unseasoned corn, kernels cut from cobs (about 1 cup)
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced small
1 medium scallion, sliced thin
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 medium jalapeno chile, seeds and ribs removed, then minced
1 small garlic clove, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Toss and adjust seasonings. The salsa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day. Makes about 2 cups. For more salsas, check out a recent post here.

From The Cooks Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue

Grilled Corn Salsa

A tasty dip for tortilla chips or to top grilled ...

See Grilled Corn Salsa on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TWD -La Palette's Strawberry Tart with a Twist-Strawberries, Blueberries and Blackberries

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What a delight this tart is! I can certainly see how Dorie fell in love with this beautiful dessert with it's crunchy shortbread crust and fresh strawberries poured over the top. Such simplicity, but oh so elegant. The sweet tart dough is called a pate sablee in France and is the basis for many fruit and custard tarts. Following Dorie's directions implicitly in her book, Baking From My Home to Yours ensures a perfect crust. Ground nuts such as almonds, pecans, walnuts and pistachios can be added to the crust mixture before baking.

I bought my last bucket of strawberries from the little farm stand down the road as the season for our local strawberries is nearly over. However, the blackberries and blueberries are now available fresh from the farm. With these three fruits, I made a mixed berry compote sweetened with a little sugar and a splash of Framboise, not too much or you will overpower the fresh berry flavor. With three fruits in mind, I chose a triple berry preserve to spread on the tart crust. Freshly ground pepper is optional, but I encourage you to try it; you'll be amazed that it actually accentuates the sweetness of the berries. Creme Fraiche with it's slightly tart flavor is a perfect topping, but I had no time to make it and refuse to spend the high price of buying it, so whipped cream topped my berry tart.

One of the perks of food blogging is you get to eat the photographed dish! How cool is that! The downside is more days at the gym. I began this food and photography blog mainly to practice my photography skills and combining that with my love of preparing good food, but I had no idea that this would completely sucker me in to the point that everything I prepare, I now want to photograph! It's a bit frustrating. I'm sure I'm not alone! On that note, check out all the posts on La Palette's Strawberry Tart, a great pick from Marie over at A Year at Oak Cottage.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Low Country Boil

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Whether you call it Low Country Boil, Frogmore Stew or Beaufort Stew, the basic ingredients of this tasty, crowd pleasing dish are shrimp, corn, potatoes, sausage and a seasoning pack of Crab boil or Old Bay Seasoning. Popular as a casual dinner by the water or as a one-pot dish at a fancy gathering, Low Country Boil is best known in the region of the low country which extends from Beaufort, South Carolina south to Savannah, Georgia. The seafood is abundant and fresh vegetables are sold at farm stands in most all of the small towns as well as at local farmers' markets. Shrimp, corn and potatoes are all available around the same time of the year here in the low country. On my way out of Savannah after Memorial Day weekend, I stopped by Wilmington Island Seafood Company to buy fresh shrimp for this dish and some extra to freeze.

In Savannah, we typically serve this dish for couples wedding showers, retirement parties and also for spur of the moment Saturday night dinners. For a crowd, Low Country Boil is usually cooked outside in a big pot on a propane burner. A turkey fryer with a strainer insert works great. I f cooking outside is not convenient, you can also cook this dish in a large pot on the stove, but be sure and turn on your exhaust fan as the seasoning can sometimes be quite pungent. To make the shrimp easier to peel after cooking, a little secret that I have learned from one my friends in Savannah who prepares all of our low country boils for parties, is to add some a tablespoon or so white vinegar to the boiling water.

Low Country Boil

1 bag Zatarains Shrimp and Crab Boil or 2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 lemon, halved
12 whole new red potatoes
6 ears corn, halved
6 smoked sausage links, sliced into 1-inch pieces, I use andouille sausage as I love the spicy flavors
2 tablespoons white vinegar
3 pounds unpeeled fresh shrimp

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add boil bag or seasoning and lemon halves. There should be enough water to cover all ingredients. Add potatoes, cook 10 minutes, add corn, cook 10 minutes, then sausage, cook 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, then the shrimp. Turn heat off and let sit for 15 minutes. Serves six.

Tradition suggests you dump the low country boil onto a large table covered with newspaper and dig in! Serve with coleslaw and Savannah red rice.

Photo of Billboard courtesy of Susan VanDette

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie-French Chocolate Brownies with a Bonus-Raspberry Ice Cream

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As my British friends say, these are "cracking" good brownies and so was the top crust. When the brownies came out of the oven after 55 minutes, they were just as Dorie described, "dry and crackled". My brownie recipe never looked like these so I was pleasantly surprised. Apparently, beating the eggs until thick and pale caused this to happen. Lining the dish with buttered foil seem to me to be too much effort, so I just buttered and floured my baking pan. However, I let the brownies cool completely before cutting them. Flambeing the mixed dried berries I used instead of the raisins was the fun part of making the brownies.

The mixed dried berries consisted of blueberries, cherries and cranberries so I thought a scoop of fresh raspberry ice cream would be perfect accompaniment to the brownies. Raspberries and chocolate have a special affinity and look great together in a dish such as this. The raspberry ice cream isn't difficult to make if you have an ice cream maker and a the few hours needed to chill the mixture before processing.

Thanks to Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook for choosing a lovely decadent brownie for this edition of Tuesdays with Dorie. Check out all the posts from this lovely group of TWD bakers.

French Chocolate Brownies

makes 16 brownies -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup mixed dried berries or raisins, dark or golden
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces 71 % bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Raspberry Ice Cream

4 cups fresh raspberries

1 1/2 cups sugar

Juice of half a lemon

2 eggs

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk

Toss the raspberries, 3/4 cup sugar, and the lemon juice together in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended. Heat heavy cream and milk in a saucepan over low heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the mixture. Do not boil. Whisk a little hot milk into the beaten eggs and sugar mixture. Add a little more hot milk, then pour mixture back into saucepan. Stir over low heat until mixture thickens slightly, about 6-8 minutes. Let cool slightly. Mash the raspberries and juice until pureed and stir them into the cream mixture. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions. Makes about 1 quart.

Recipe adapted from makeicecream.
Gadget by The Blog Doctor.