Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Morning Call Coverage

Here's an old school way to show you that the Morning Call just published a story on the Artisan's Kitchen Project at Warm Sugar in Hellertown:

Thanks to my goofy husband for taking a photo of the actual paper. Love that. If you want the actual article, here it is.

Thanks to Diane Stonebeck for the story, although I would add a clarification (what do you expect from a journalist?)  She mentions I do bacon and cheese savory scones. I do bacon and asiago cheese and shallot scones, and Irish cheddar and spent grain scones. The spent grain is from Two Rivers Brewing in Easton, which is one of my favorite places these days and probably for a long time. So they are a little more than just cheese scones. That is all. They are two separate kinds of cheese scones.

For those of you who are just landing here for the first time, welcome! Thanks for stopping by. You can also find me on Facebook, too.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spotted Dog (a.k.a. Irish Soda Bread): A Question of Authenticity

I had to stop and check through my posts before I continued to write this one, just to make sure I hadn't ALREADY posted this recipe. Mine comes from The Ballymaloe Bread Book, by Tim Allen. This slim volume has been a huge instructor in the kitchen for me. I can't recommend it highly enough. 

Food is a battleground for authenticity--it's an intersection of everything, past, present, future, personal proclivities, and so forth. And soda bread is no exception. People get heated about it. That which we know as Irish soda bread is called Spotted Dog in Ireland: "a currant for every station," as the bread keeps well for train and other travel adventures. (You may have also heard of the dessert called Spotted Dick. Basically, anything with spots typically signifies currants.) I've read that adding caraway seeds to soda bread happened in the United States. I've heard that only Irish wholemeal flour is authentic. I've heard that anything beyond flour, buttermilk, salt, and baking soda isn't soda bread at all--after all the "soda" refers to baking soda. Some say don't add an egg. Some say add sugar. I've had cloying, gross, soggy soda bread that takes like cake. That ain't soda bread. To me, I want a soda bread that honors the tradition, and doesn't stray too far from it. It has to taste like the simple, quick, tea-time (or anytime) bread that it is. In the kitchen, I typically like to bend the rules, but with soda bread, I don't want to piss off my ancestors. So I follow this one, from Tim Allen. 

Here's how I do up Spotted Dog--a.k.a Irish-American Soda Bread

1 lb unbleached, all-purpose flour (you can add in a bit of wheat if you want, but be prepared for a different texture and a different experience with the buttermilk)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 T. sugar (optional
4 ounces currants (or raisins; I prefer baking raisins as they are more moist).
1 large egg, room temperature
12 ounces buttermilk (or more if needed)

1. Fully preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. The oven needs to be good and hot.
2. Weigh the flour, and add the salt through currants. Make sure you gently lift up the currants and distribute them throughout the flour with your fingertips; they will clump together otherwise. 
3. Combine the buttermilk and the egg, which you can beat lightly with a fork right in the 2-cup measuring cup you pour it into.
4. Make a well in the center of the flour. Fill the measuring cup with buttermilk, and add the egg so that the total liquid equals about 14 ounces. Pour most of the liquid into the center of the well.
5. Here’s the messy part. Using your fingers, open and stiff, mix the dough together in a full circle, dragging the dough from the sides of the bowl to incorporate it all. You must work quickly and deftly. It will be shaggy and moist, but not too wet. Add more liquid from the measuring cup if needed.
6. You may need to add more flour. This is okay. Ambient humidity is totally affected by bread recipes, especially something that requires chemical leavening like soda bread. When the dough has just about come together, carefully tumble it out onto a pastry board coated with flour.
7. Tidy it up, forming it quickly into a round loaf that measures about two inches high. Slash a cross into the loaf, and prick each of the quarters with the tip of the knife to let the devil out of the bread (not kidding.)
8. Bake for ten minutes at 425, and then drop the temperature down to 400 degrees for the remaining 30-35 minutes. The bread is finished when it’s golden brown all around and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Don’t let it get too dark; this bread does not keep long and will get dry fast enough on its own, so you don’t want to help it along by overbaking it. Remove it, and please, for the love of the Irish or even just the Irish-Americans, please wait until it’s fully cooled before you slice it. You don’t want to disturb the important work that happens when bread cools.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Savory Shortbread for March

There are so many delicious things coming out of the oven at Warm Sugar--beyond their usual beautiful cupcakes. If you haven't heard, I'm part of their Artisan's Kitchen Project, whereby a handful of bakers and treats makers can use the bakery's oven and they sell our wares, taking a small percentage. If you haven't been there yet, please check it out! Warm Sugar's open Wednesday through Sunday.

I know there are lots of tasty things planned for March. I, for one, am venturing into shortbread, as it is a traditional thing to approach during the upcoming month. As with anything though, I don't do it straight. (I sort of shudder when someone asks me to make cookies and I ask what kind and they say, I dunno, chocolate chip. Nothing can be more boring to me sometimes, but I get it: sometimes you just want chocolate chip cookies.) These shortbread cookies are going in a savory direction, and they aren't the thick, finger-shaped logs like those you might buy in the store. These are going in a more grown-up, sophisticated, after-dinner kind of direction. (Hah! I say that kind of tongue-in-cheek, 'cause we don't have any sophisticated dinners around here anymore. If we can get everyone at the table at the same time and two small people can eat dinner without melting down/leaving the table ten times/asking for something in the kitchen, it's nothing short of a small miracle.)

Anyway, I also wanted to go savory because there's a surfeit of chocolate, fudge, pretzels, and other treats at Warm Sugar. And I'm trying to find a niche with my slightly left-of-center take on things. The savory shortbread debuted today. I've started with a test batch of lemon rosemary but have others planned, too, depending on how these go. What puts them over the edge is the herbed salt I sprinkled on top of the cookies. I also toyed with slicing a frozen shortbread log versus rolling them out, and hands down, beautiful uniformity won out over the ease of slicing. I can never get a log of cookie dough completely circular and perfect. That's fine for home consumption, but we eat with our eyes first, people, and I'd like what you see to be lovely.

Here's the rough recipe, adapted from several places online, including Food and Wine. As you can see it's pretty easy. There's beauty in that simplicity.

1/2 cup softened organic butter
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon and several squirts of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. good quality dried rosemary or 2-3 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup of all-purpose, unbleached flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Mix together on low speed, the sugar, zest, and rosemary.
3. Add the butter and cream with the sugar until it just comes together.
4. Add the salt, and the flour, and mix just until it comes together. Bring it together with your hands (it will feel and behave a bit like pie crust, albeit more buttery) into a ball. Flatten said ball a bit with your hands, wrap it in plastic or wax paper, and let it chill for 45 minutes to an hour.
5. Remove from the fridge, and cut the flattened ball in half. It's easier to work with smaller bits at once,  and I don't like to overwork tender doughs like this, but if you want to roll out the whole thing in one go, it's certainly not too large. Roll it to about 1/4 inch or so in thickness. These are going to be whisper-thin little hits of flavor. Cut them out into any desired shape, but the smaller and more bite-sized, the better. My prototypes at home were round, about 2 inches in diameter, but the squares you see here are about an inch and a half across.
6. Place them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. They won't spread much, so you will likely be able to fit at least a dozen on each sheet. Brush the tops with milk and stick them in the freezer to chill for 10-15 minutes.
7. Sprinkle the tops with sparkling sugar, demerara sugar or coarse sea salt. If it's herbed, even better. (I just happen to have a collection of fancy salts, most of them given to me as gifts. Thanks, Kelly Prentice, for the rosemary salt from Seasons that goes on these babies!) Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating once. Keep an eye on these, because they are thin and crisp up quickly. Remove from the oven when they're lightly browned around the edges.
8. Cool on wire racks, and store in an airtight container for up to a week. Honestly, though, they won't last that long.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Fresh Start

Yes, I'm a little late to the game this year to name a post "A Fresh Start," but January has been a real doozy thus far--more difficult than I imagined it would be. And to top it all off, I've been down a computer for most of the month, so that's made blogging a challenge. It's also made life in general a challenge. Wish we weren't all so in need of these machines, but when they work, aren't they wondrous? A fine invention, indeed.

Ok, so preamble aside, I wanted to tell you that starting this past week--January 23 to be precise--you can find Nostalgia Baking at Warm Sugar in Hellertown. The super great cupcake bakery (wait! you've never been there!?) is also of late home to what's called Artisan's Kitchen Project. It's an opportunity for people to sell their goods without incurring the huge risk and $$$ of starting their own goodies business. You pay them for kitchen space and they sell your baked goods, taking a percentages. You can bring your own ingredients or use theirs (if it's the latter, you have to track what you use). They also market and deal with all the bookkeeping, so all I have to do is show up and bake. Of course, it's more than that, but that's kind of it on my end. I go in on Tuesdays and do my thing and work my tail off for five or six hours, and they do the selling. This is a great arrangement if it can be successful, because I'm not setting my sights on becoming a full-time baker.

I intend to keep you all informed of the progress and what's happening in this space, since this is unexplored territory and I've no idea where it will go. I'd like to break even for the first month, but we'll see if that's possible. You know that old adage you have to spend money to make money? Yeah, that's true.

So last week, I made two different kinds of rugelach--one with Nutella and one with Biscoff. I also left them with four different types of scones, which anyone who knows me will already know about: cranberry and dark chocolate, lemon ginger, spent grain and Irish cheddar, and bacon Asiago shallot.  I also did blondies; specifically, a toffee-coffee chip one. I've no idea what I'll need to bake tomorrow, but we'll see. I will at the very least make another more blondies. I'm thinking butterscotch pecan.

Oh, and I'm calling them rugelach and not schnecken although my family calls them the latter. It seems that real schnecken is something totally different, so as to avoid confusion (there are lots of German folk around here) I'm calling it rugelach, which is accurate. I'm now wondering if the my mom's recipe, which she tweaked over the years, is actually a gigantic misnomer. I wish I could ask her.

I've also got my sights set on granola bars, granola (great shelf life for these products and I love, love, love the stuff), big fat cookies, and probably brownies. I've got to fit myself in with what the other vendors are selling and be careful not to step on anyone's baking turf but that's pretty easy.

For those of you who are in the area, check it out. Warm Sugar's open Wednesday through Sunday, and on the weekends, they have a great duo called the Crepe Crusaders who are putting together crepes both sweet and savory. I haven't tried them yet, but I keep hearing rave reviews.

Sorry I don't have any lovely cookie or scone photos, but they are all stored away on the back-up drive.  I should be fully functional by tonight, assuming my IT guru will have time to get me up to snuff on the new machine (thanks, Apple warranty!).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pumpkin Maple Yogurt Cake

I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that Thanksgiving is THIS week. It's the earliest it can possibly be, seeing how November 1 was a Thursday and....well, you can do the math from there. I am guessing that retailers are excited because it starts the holiday shopping a bit earlier than usual.

I was feeling the pumpkin love, and had a container of vanilla maple yogurt from Klein Farms in Easton in my fridge, and I wanted to come up with pumpkin cake that was moist, slightly tangy, and not too sweet. And which involved yogurt. You may not have the same yogurt, but never fear. You can substitute vanilla or plain yogurt rather easily--just please use regular stuff. If you use low-fat yogurt you're going to get low-fat taste. I am a very healthy eater, but when it comes to baked goods, my personal philosophy is that you gotta go big or go home. Low-fat, no-fat, no-sugar stuff (unless you have real health issues--i.e, diabetes or insulin resistance) just isn't generally worth the time or the illusion of health. You know how Michael Pollan talks about how people eat more processed food that's marked "low fat" and then wind up binging on carbohydrate-based snacks? The same applies to homemade low-fat stuff. It's more satisfying to just eat the real thing. And it's much easier to stop. And you need much less of it. Right? Are you with me? Ok!

Because I used a yogurt with maple in it, I only used 1 Tbsp of maple syrup and 1 teaspoon of maple flavor because I am a full believer in full flavor. If you have neither maple-based yogurt or fancy maple extracts/flavor, I'd suggest swapping out 1/4 of the brown sugar for maple syrup; use 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup maple syrup. But seriously, folks. If you do any kind of baking on any kind of regular basis, I can't recommend high quality extracts and flavors enough, such as this maple one. They really boost a flavor profile tremendously, and they tend to last for ages. Think about this when you're stocking up for holiday baking projects.

(Before you get all righteous with me about that not being PURE maple extract, I do believe the fine folks at either America's Test Kitchen and/or King Arthur have tested baked goods with pure maple extract and maple flavor and prefer maple flavor. I tend to agree. Maple flavor is more concentrated and therefore more assertive. It also means you need to use a LOT less, and organic maple syrup, which is what I typically buy, is not cheap and you need more of it. Ok. I feel better now.)

As for the frosting, I had some leftover maple frosting in my fridge (a fact that tickles John to no end--he says, "I love that I'm married to someone who just has frosting lying around...") and slathered it on top as best I could, and adorned the rim of the cake with walnuts. I didn't even toast them, but you should, because it tastes way better. You can also skip the frosting altogether and just opt for a plain cake, or a lovely dusting of confectioner's sugar, just before serving (otherwise the cake quickly sucks it up, slurp, like a sponge).

Pumpkin Maple Yogurt Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. Boyajian's natural maple flavor
1 Tbsp. organic maple syrup (do NOT use pancake syrup!)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar  (or 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup maple syrup if there is no maple-related flavor/extract or yogurt in your arsenal.)
2 large eggs
1 cup vanilla maple yogurt (Stonyfield makes one but it is not full-fat)
1 cup pumpkin puree, preferrably organic

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Whisk together flours through nutmeg in a small bowl and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until lightened in color and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium-low speed, waiting for the first to be completely incorporated before adding the second. Add the maple flavor and 1 Tbsp. syrup; or, if you aren't using either a maple yogurt or maple extract, 1/4 cup of maple syrup.
5. Add the yogurt; mix on low speed to combine, and then add the pumpkin. Mix on low speed to combine. Do NOT overmix.
6. Spray with nonstick baking spray or butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Pour the batter into the pan.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean in the middle--this is a moist, damp cake, but I would check it around 26-28 minutes to insure you don't overbake it.
8. Let it cool for about 1/2 hour in the pan and then remove the springform. Let it cool completely before frosting (if desired) or slicing.

This is totally optional, but I'd suggest the following:
8 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature (take it out of the fridge when the cake goes in the oven)
3-4 cups of confectioner's sugar, sifted
2-3 Tbsp. maple syrup OR 1 tsp. maple flavor
2-3 Tbsp. of milk

1. In the now magically clean bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the also now magically clean paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese (that sounds weird) on medium speed until it's fluffy, about two minutes.
2. Add the maple syrup or flavor and mix to combine.
3. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar and mix on medium speed to combine. Alternate with the tablespoons of milk as necessary to ensure a creamy consistency; it needs to be spreadable and fluffy, not spreadable and paste-like.
4. When the cake has cooled, spread across the top in a thin layer with an offset spatula.  Adorn the rim of the cake with walnut halves. You can toast them in a dry frying pan over medium heat until they become fragrant but keep an eye on them because you don't want them to burn. When you can smell them, it's time to stop.
Admittedly, frosting is one of those things I eyeball, so you may find that you need more or less milk or sugar depending on your preferences. If you want it really sweet, add more sugar and less milk, but the milk tends to help cut the sweetness. Taste as you go! Yeah, that's right!

I made this cake several days ago and it's STILL good, so I would say that it keeps for 3-5 days covered and in the fridge. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Experiment

I'm doing a quick post just so you can see something pretty and baking related on a Wednesday morning. It's strawberry rhubarb pie made with a hybrid crust of spelt flour and regular old AP flour. I also used tapioca for the first time. The recipe is one I'm testing for the Lehigh Valley Farmers Market Cookbook, which is officially seeking recipes now. I'll also be blogging about it too, hopefully more regularly than this one, but we shall see.

I've not used tapioca before in a pie filling, but strawberries are notoriously juicy and the last thing you want is all that hard work to go oozing all over the inside of your oven. So here are a few pics.....

If you know me, you know I have a fondness for crumb tops. I almost always make pies this way. It's kind of a long story as to why.

You can see the tapioca here--it looks kind of gritty.

And here's the pie, uncovered, before it gets sprinkled with a crumb topping.

And then here's the pie, just out of the oven. It's still cooling and I'm waiting for the whole thing to set so there aren't little pools of liquid floating on top to make me nervous anymore before I cut it.

I'll report back and let you know this tastes. I'm hoping the crust stays together (it was breaking up a bit when I was transferring to the pie dish) and the filling doesn't go crazy on me.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spent Grain Rugelach: Or, a Totally Hacked Recipe

A few months ago, I started working with spent grain. It started with this recipe for spent grain sourdough bread. Someone shared a recipe for spent grain rugelach with me, but it had a few major problems. First, the original version, from a section on spent grain baking from the Brooklyn Brew Shop's web site, has some serious inconsistencies and oversights. I can't keep working from an incorrect recipe, so my motivation is equal parts sharing and equal parts sanity preservation.

This recipe's keys are the dried cranberries and the egg white. The dried cranberries make for a filling I've not seen before in either schnecken or rugelach, which typically consists of walnuts and brown sugar and lots of cinnamon.

Oh, and you may have heard me talk about the differences between rugelach and schnecken before. You may know that I make a schnecken with nutella. And thank goodness for that, because the original version of this recipe directs you to roll the dough out into a rectangle, but does not tell you what size it should be, how thick the dough should be, nor how many pieces you should get when you slice up the rolled-up rectangle. So I hacked the recipe, and turned it into a schnecken recipe. So that means the dough is divided into six equal pieces and rolled into circles, and then split up like a pizza. The original recipe also called for much more sugar and more of the filling, and it was just too much all around--I had leftover filling and it was too sweet to have so much sugar in the middle.

For the Dough:
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup spent grain

For the Filling:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

For the Top:
  • 1 egg  yolk
  • 1-2 Tbsp. water
  • Sparkling sugar

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and cream cheese and salt until it starts to look fluffy and it's well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the 1/4 cup granulated sugar.
2.  Add in the flour slowly, followed by the spent grain. Once it has come together, remove it from the bowl and wrap it in wax paper and put it in the fridge for a least an hour, longer if possible, and up to overnight. (I would not let this sit for more than 24 hours because when you roll the dough out it will be a bit dry.)
3. While the dough chills, combine the filling ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. I find it easiest to combine all the dry ingredients first, and add the egg white last. Make sure the egg white is fully integrated; the mixture should look evenly wet.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Wait until it's time to take dough out of fridge......
6. Remove dough from the fridge and weigh it. Divide the dough in half with a chef's knife or pastry scraper. Divide each half into thirds of equal weight. Wrap up three of the dough chunks and leave three out. You will notice that this dough is sticky, stickier than your typical rugelach dough.
7. Flour a pastry board and start by rolling out the first chunk of dough into a circle that measures about 8-10 inches in diameter. Scoop about 2 Tbsp. of the cranberry-sugar-nut mixture onto the circle of dough, and spread it out so that none of it clumps together in the middle.
8. Using a pizza cutter, divide the dough into eight equal pie-shaped portions. Roll each pie slice up, starting with the fat end closest to you. The filling will want to spooge out. If it does this, try to concentrate it everywhere but the skinny part, which you reach last when you're rolling. Repeat this process until you have 12 on a baking sheet.
9. Whisk together the egg yolk and water. Brush the tops of the rugelach with this mixture and sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar (I've used raw sugar in a pinch but it doesn't hold up as well as coarse white sparkling sugar.)
10. Baking for about 20 minutes, until the ends are starting to brown and the tops are starting to brown a bit. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
11. Repeat steps 7-10 until you're out of dough.
12. Yield: 4 dozen

I am still calling it rugelach even though my other recipe is almost the same in its methodology and execution, and that one's called schnecken. Tomato, tom-ah-to. You know where this is going, I imagine. This little treat is sweet, freezes well, and travels well. They will keep for several days (probably five at most) in a tightly covered container at room temperature.