Tag Archives: baking

Easter Shortcake Hockey Pucks

Sometimes we try to make nice things in our kitchen, for example, this weekend when I tried to make homemade shortcakes for the Easter strawberry shortcake. Technically they should have come out perfectly and they looked great in the pan but by the time the cheapo stove in my apartment browned the tops of the shortcakes to a pleasant golden hue the bottoms were rather reminiscent of a scorched-earth exercise. They were tough as hockey pucks and I am considering donating the leftovers to the San Jose Sharks.

Saturday morning after a lazy breakfast and post-breakfast nap, I was contacted by my friends who were preparing for our fun Easter dinner, held a day early due to child handoff scheduling complications. My dear friend bought a ham and the ingredients to make my favorite egg-free foolproof biscuits. I had fancy cheeses and crackers for the appetizer table and lots of greens to saute, and I figured I would make the biscuits since I have that recipe down cold.  We were coordinating logistics when my friends boyfriend texted me with a plaintive, “where is a bakery that sells egg-free shortcakes?” and I couldn’t think of a single place because having an egg allergy really sucks and dessert is mostly something I have given up on. It was really sweet of him to try to make shortcakes from scratch to accommodate my stupid food issues, I give grand kudos for that. He also offered me a ride and wouldn’t be there for an hour, so I decided I could stop being utterly slothful and make shortcakes myself. I had good Irish butter, I had buttermilk, I had some sour cream but not enough to make my fabulous go-to biscuits, but I could find a recipe!

Thanks to the miracle of the internets I found a good sounding recipe for shortcakes that required heavy cream, so I thought I would thin buttermilk to heavy cream consistency and went to work.
  
The butter was gorgeous, if you find Dairygold butter in your store please do try it out, it is wonderful. It has less water than American butter and a rich, gold color and a really lovely cultured flavor.

I found some pretty, sparkly sanding sugar in my pantry that was Easter-ish in colors and used that on top of the shortcakes, and popped them into the oven to bake. My crappy oven only has one shelf so one batch had to wait while the other tray baked, and some of the Easter sugar got a tiny bit melted but otherwise looked fine.
  

At 15 minutes they were not the lovely golden brown I wanted, so I put them in for another 5 minutes at watched them like a hawk. And yet, despite this, the little suckers scorched on the bottom, probably because they had a lot of sugar in the dough, and my oven is a piece of junk. 

After breathing deeply for a few minutes, I baked batch number two for 15 minutes on my new fabulous non-stick pan that my mom gave me, and they still burned.
  

I packed them up anyway because we had to have something, and took them over to my friend’s home, thinking, at least the upper part will taste good. But alas, this was not to be and I have no idea why.

The kids decided the whipped cream should be colored and they had a lot of fun choosing the colors. The final decision was purple and sky blue, and why not!  I used a spoon to scoop up a bit of the shortcake, the beautiful sliced strawberries and the party whipped cream and could barely penetrate the shortcake. Perhaps a shovel might have helped. 

The kids ate them and enjoyed them and every other part was fantastic but I swore internally at my bad cooking mojo. At least the savory biscuits came out fantastically! The ham and the carrots were great, but the greens I cooked had too much lime juice, oh well, more bad cooking mojo. Despite my angst, everyone had a nice time and it was a lot of fun to see the kids decorate eggs and have an impromptu squirt gun fight.
  

Since this was a fail and I am not sure if it was the recipe or if it was my mojo, I will not be sharing the recipe, unless you have a fervent wish to bake pretty hockey pucks, then please by all means, send me an email.  

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Citrus Walnut Sticky Rolls

I freely confess that I am a big fan of the Pillsbury orange sticky rolls that come in the cardboard tube at the grocery store.  As a kid we were not allowed junk food except a box of any cereal we wanted around our birthdays, Hostess ding dongs when we went sailing, and these orange sticky rolls around the holidays.

pillsbury

Ohh, naughty!

As an adult, naturally, I felt the wild rush of freedom and indulged myself frequently in these rolls and then felt quite guilty for consuming a product full of trans fats and who knows what else.

This weekend I deliberately did not book anything for Saturday so that I could have a rest day at home. I planned to knit and recreate my childhood favorite holiday treat but in a healthier fashion.  It worked for the most part but I learned an important lesson.

The recipe I concocted for the sweet roll dough was quite healthy, it is a yeast risen dough similar to that used for cinnamon rolls but instead of egg yolks and lashings of butter I used fruity olive oil from Lodi.

The dough rose in my giant Wovo salad bowl for 90 minutes while I watched scifi shows on Netflix, knitted a shawl and sipped lungo shots of espresso.

Olive oil dough rising
This is a 10 quart salad bowl, almost brimming over with yeast dough

For the filling I zested some citrus – oranges and a grapefruit – with a microplane grater and mixed this into sugar, then added some juice to make a slurry to spread over the dough.

Getting busy with a citrus sweet roll filling
my apartment smelled wonderful at this point

I used a few tablespoons of the fruit juice to make a paste, then sprinkled over walnuts from Sonoma County that I toasted in a skillet.

This filling was inspired by some random food show I saw where a diner chef made enormous sweet rolls well sanded with sugar and butter.  In trying to make these healthier I omitted the butter entirely.

I rolled out the dough to a large rectangle, applied the filling and then rolled up the dough on the long edge to form a log about 16″ long.   I cut the log into about 12 even pieces and filled up a buttered pyrex baker.

Citrus walnut sweet rolls rising
About halfway risen

You can see how generous the citrus-sugar filling was and there were plenty of walnuts to go around.  I think perhaps I should have put fewer rolls in the pan though.

I had too many to fit so I made up an extra pan in a tin pie plate.  Lagniappe for the chef!

Bonus pan of sweet rolls
Ready to rise before baking

My apartment was nice and warm on this very foggy, dark day, and after about 45 minutes the rolls were puffed and yeasty and looking pleasantly plump – ready for the oven.

After baking I made up a quick frosting with more of the citrus juice and powdered sugar.  Despite using almost a full box of confectioners sugar there was barely enough icing to cover the rolls in both pans.

There is never enough icing
browned to a toasty golden

The aroma from the oven was mouth-watering.  A whiff of orange with a hint of grapefruit, the sweet sugar icing melting in between the rolls, citrus sugar caramelizing the walnuts, the yeasty baked rolls with a tang of rich, fruity olive oil, they smelled just like Christmas in my childhood home.

The citrus sticky rolls were best eaten warm out right out of the oven, but truthfully I think they would be much improved with some melted butter in the filling.  The icing wasn’t quite what I wanted either, I need to tinker with that a bit I think.

Citrus walnut sweet rolls

So luscious

I won’t admit how quickly this pan of rolls disappeared and will firmly disavow any knowledge of my actions.  They needed to be reheated if you don’t eat them right away.  Despite the liberal buttering of the baking pan they were hard to remove because of the caramelized sugar on the bottom.  They were not as tender the next day either and this is where I think the butter is essential.

The recipe includes the addition of butter but you can omit as your conscience dictates.  They were really wonderful and toothsome as is, but next time I make them I will use butter.

Citrus Walnut Sticky Rolls recipe 

Weekend Fun and This Includes Brunch

This weekend we had warm weather. This time of year in San Francisco is like the rest of the world’s summer, one can go to work without a warm jacket and suddenly ladies wearing skirts with bare legs looks like a good idea instead of scoffing at all their goosebumps. I dusted off my linen skirt, said hello to my pasty legs and took them out for a spin.

My dear friend C___ invited me to join him to a trek to the Livermore Valley. He had been gifted a wonderful bottle of wine from Murrieta’s Well Winery and wanted more. The winery is built on the site of the spring where Joachin Murrieta, the famed outlaw and bandit, used to water his horses. There is a nice little fountain built using the spring water and no more wild horses. The wine, however, was fantastic and well worth the drive.

At the vineyard
(me standing on actual dirt! It feels as if I haven’t been outside in years. Oh wait!)

Chris at the vineyard
(my dear friend C___ whom I’ve known since I was a sweet young thang of 18.)

Murietta's Well is where he camped, fascinating
(If there is a historical plaque I am compelled to read it, thanks to parental training.)

Chris at Murietta's Well
(THE spring, please note the horses and Senor Murietta depicted on the tile)

It is a beautiful spot, very hot and arid and this seems to suit the vines. Surprisingly to a few folks wine grapes, like good tomatoes, like to be stressed.

Ascension
(detail of the steps leading up to the wine tasting room)

Vineyards
(peeking out the window to the vines and patio)

Their winemaker is Chilean and has been planting Portuguese grape varietals but making them in a Rhone style. I learned a lot about varietals I had never heard of previously. The tasting room was busy but we got the full treatment and ended up having a glass of wine on the balcony overlooking the vines while they pulled our wine from the “library” since we were allowed to buy some things not usually available. I like my wine friends and their superpowers!

Not enough of a recommendation for me.
(one of their award-winning whites, but who knew Houston had a wine competition / rodeo?)

View from the balcony
(a fine view with a glass of wine)

Me and Chris at Murietta's Well
(happy happy)

We ran into some traffic in Livermore, some of the side streets were really cute but overall the place is reminiscent of Los Angeles sprawl with housing tracts popping up on the hills. Some vines were being planted too, I would rather see the wineries expand myself.

Traffic in Livermore

I came home from winetasting and made myself some of my homemade bacon! Wow! Then I took a nap! Then, I had more wine.

Delicious! Murietta's Well 2010 Cabernet Franc
(a post-wine-tasting glass of wine)

Sunday morning I went to brunch. Please note this is the most social weekend I have had where I just did things for fun and it felt great to be “normal” and to make plans with friends and be able to actually attend them. Brunch was a popup for a local bakery, Marla Bakery, at the State Bird Provisions restaurant. If you are going to be in SF this Sunday I would recommend having their brunch, email them for a reservation or go early at sit at the counter like we did.

Marla cherry tart
(cherry and frangipane tart)

Anticipation is building for @marlabakery brunch

Marla’s pastries are incredibly beautiful. This the Marla bun which is like a palmier but made into a larger roll.

Lovely cherry & tarragon scones @marlabakery

I had dried cherry and tarragon scones with a little jar of marscapone and rhubarb compote piped in. All of these years searching for decent clotted cream in the city and I realize, stupidly, that I should have been using marscapone. It was truly brilliant. I didn’t get much of the tarragon but it is allergy season after all and my nose proved shamefully incapable of detecting aromas this weekend.  These sold out before Noon and I am very glad I had the foresight to order one to go.

Keep thinking about this lamb & fattoush @marlabakery brunch

For the brunch “entree” I had roasted rare lamb that took three days to prepare. It was rubbed in yogurt and barahat and was roasted perfectly.  Tender, thin slides were drizzled with harissa spiced yogurt. The flatbread had been brushed with spices too and was enormous and warm like a hug. The fattoush salad was herby and tart and included pickled onions and crispy flatbread crackers.

Darling coffee service @marlabakery brunch

I washed this down with a glass of cava and coffee service by Wrecking Ball. Ethopian coffee in a tiny carafe really hit the spot. The little biscotti were a nice touch too, I gifted them to my friend as they contain almonds and I can’t eat them right now.

I wish I could go back this Sunday but I will be off on another adventure!

Where to Go

Murrieta’s Well
3005 Mines Road
Livermore, CA 94550

Marla’s Bakery
Every Thursday between 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm at the Mission Community Market at 22nd & Bartlett in San Francisco
Watch their Facebook page for pop up brunch locations

State Bird Provisions
1529 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA 94115

Soft Rolls for Thanksgiving

Last Thanksgiving I made several batches of these amazing, soft rolls for our dinner.  They were so delicious that as the first batch came out of the oven we “sampled” them so much that we did not have any left over for the next night and I just *had* to make more.

Poor us.

I love these rolls so much and tweeted their picture *a lot* last year, and this year, and my friends not-so-gently reminded me that I that did not share the recipe.

The genius thing about these rolls is how easy they are to make, especially if you have a stand mixer.  If you have never made dough in your life you can easily make these rolls.

My mom has her glorious “Red Baron”, a glossy, fire engine red Kitchen Aid that does all but the dishes for you.    You add all the ingredients into the bowl, turn it on and do other things for a few minutes (like the dishes).  The dough gets turned out to rest in a bowl for an hour or so, then formed into the rolls and popped into two cake pans.  After another rest (just long enough for a restorative glass of wine and feet up on the couch) into the oven they go.  When they’re done they’re basted liberally with melted butter, and then comes the hard part – not eating them all before dinner time.

Given my current bout of weird food allergies these are one of the few things on the holiday table I will be able to eat (with a minor modification), so you know I will be buddying up to the basket of rolls this Thursday.  And Friday.  Heh.

Soft Rolls for Thanksgiving

3 1/2 cups all purpose
2 tsp. instant yeast
2 T potato flour or 1/4 cup instant potato flakes (or in my case, I am just using more regular flour)
3 T nonfat dry milk
2 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 T unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 2 more T melted for basting)
2/3 c  water, warm
1/2 c milk, lukewarm (out of the fridge for an hour or s0)

Place everything (except the melted butter) into the bowl of the stand mixer and mix to make a dough, using the dough hook.  Let the machine run for 7 minutes at medium speed.  The dough should be pretty smooth at this point.

If you do not have a stand mixer, mix together everything with a spatula or wooden spoon until a rough dough is formed.  Then knead with your hands on a lightly floured surface for about 7 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth and pretty much not sticky.

Remove the dough from the bowl, form into a ball and put in a bowl that has been well buttered.  Cover the top with a little plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in a warm place ~ about an hour.

When the dough has doubled, deflate it by a gentle punch right to the midsection.  Oooph!   Divide it into 16 even pieces.  I do this by rolling the douhg into a long log, then cutting it in half, and keep cutting each half until I have 16 pieces.  Roll the balls in your hands until they are nice and round, or pull the sides down to the bottom of the ball and pinch, then roll gently.

Butter two 9″ round cake pans well and arrange eight balls of dough in each pan (see picture).   Cover the pans loosely again with plastic wrap and let them rise until doubled again and nice and puffy, about an hour or so.  If they don’t look like they are filling the pan let them rise another 20 minutes or so.

Bake at 350 F for 22 to 24 minutes, remove from the oven to a rack and brush the tops well with melted butter.

Try to contain yourself and not eat them all while hot, and I wish you the best of luck with this.

If you make the rolls earlier in the day during Thanksgiving, you can reheat them in the oven after you take out the turkey.  Turn off the oven after you extract the bird and leave the door ajar,  put in the pans of rolls in for about 10 minutes (set the timer!) and they will be beautifully warmed.  I would even go as far as brushing the tops with more butter, because there can never be enough butter on Thanksgiving.

I think this recipe might have originated from the King Arthur website but cannot find it, so please forgive the lack of attribution.



Happy Thanksgiving!

Sweet Potato Biscuit Love

This time of year the markets are overflowing with different varieties of sweet potatoes: large, orange-sherbet colored, sea lion shaped sweet potatoes, palm-sized pale yellows and the deeply orange garnets.

photo.JPG
(little yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes, about 4″ long – babies!!)

Instead of covering them with gooey marshmallows as a Thanksgiving side dish my family usually prepares an elaborate sweet potato souffle with an orange sauce, dotted with buttered roasted pecans.

This is a bit too rich for every day, so I get my fill of roasting them and eating them split and mashed with butter and sea salt, and as crunchy oven-baked fries or simmered into softness in a zippy Thai red coconut curry.

My absolute favorite way of using up the bounty of sweet potatoes is to make them into savory and sweet biscuits. They are like soft little pillows of love and comfort, crunchy on top and moist and fluffy inside.

This week I received about 8 tiny little sweet potatoes with the palest yellow flesh, and last night I got the craving for my sweet potato biscuits, so I popped into the kitchen and started my preparations.

I preheated my convection oven and started a pot with a steamer insert on the stove. About four of the baby sweet potatoes were scrubbed and peeled and cut into small chunks and steamed until very tender, about 15 minutes. I let them cool and then pureed them in my minichop.

Meanwhile in a mixing bowl I dumped in the flour, brown sugar, leavenings, salt and stirred them up, and then added cold butter that I had diced up. I also measured out some milk and added some lemon juice for a quickie faux-buttermilk.

The “buttermilk” and the sweet potato puree were mixed together and poured into the butter and flour and were quickly mixed into a soft dough.

I patted out the dough with my hands and used my ancient biscuit cutter to punch out about 12 pretty pale yellow biscuits. They went into a well oiled cake tin and were baked for about 25 minutes.

I actually got really caught up in watching the Monday International Mysteries on tv – Inspector Morse this week – and let them go just a minute longer than they should have so the tops were deeply browned this time. I keep forgetting that convection ovens cook faster than regular oven. These biscuits brown a lot more than regular biscuits due to the sugar content in the mixture plus the natural sugars in the sweet potatoes. It is also what makes them so delicious!

The timer dinged and I pulled a few hot biscuits out of the plan, split them open and buttered and slathered the halves with dollops of the last of my Potrero Hill honey, and I ate them, slightly singeing my fingers and tongue as I nibbled away watching the whodunnit.

The murderer was caught, the biscuits were delicious and a hot cup of tea finished off my impromptu snack before bedtime.

photo.JPG

Sweet Potato Biscuits

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ chunks – enough to make 3/4 cup puree
1 3/4 cups flour
2 T brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
6 T unsalted butter, diced
1/3 cup buttermilk*

In a small pot with 2″ of water in the bottom, add a steamer insert and then the sweet potato cubes. Bring the water to a boil and steam the sweet potatoes until they are very tender when stabbed with a fork. Mash until smooth or puree in a food processor. Let cool before using. (Sometimes I fudge this step a little by just spreading them out on a plate until they stop steaming and then puree and add them to the buttermilk while still a bit warm.)

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder and mix well. Add the diced butter and combine and mix until the butter is mixed into the flour about the size of small peas.

In a measuring cup mix together the buttermilk and the sweet potato puree until smooth and pour into the flour/butter mixture, and mix until a soft dough is formed. Knead gently in the mixing bowl for a minute or two, then pat the dough out onto a floured cutting mat or cutting board, the dough should be about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut into rounds using a biscuit cutter or use a knife and cut them into squares.

Arrange in a buttered or oiled round cake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops and bottoms are golden brown.

*If you don’t have any buttermilk in your fridge, you can make “faux buttermilk” by adding 1 T of lemon juice or plain vinegar to regular or skim milk. Stir the milk and let it sit for at least 5 minutes and it will thicken up pretty well to approximate buttermilk.