Friday
Jul202012

Sweet Corn Spoon Bread with Summer Peaches

 

If there's one thing I've learned from living in the South, it's this: buy your apples in Washington and your peaches in Georgia! Oh, my! Those sweet juicy peaches. There's just nothin' else like a good fresh peach. It's only July and they've been ripe and ready to eat for months. I'm still adjuting to the length of the summer here in the South. After about 3 weeks of nice weather, I'm thinking it's time to pull out my boots and rain coats in preparation for fall! The Seattle in me dies hard.

The days here are getting long and hot. Lately we've been blessed with evening thunder showers for almost two weeks. While the humidity doesn't benefit from these showers, it's such a magical experience for these powerful storms to rush in and then rush right back out leaving the sky as blue as ever like nothing just happened. So, on these afternoons while confined indoors, I bake. Because, what else is there really to do? My creative itch needs to be scratched somehow and with Ethan not napping, painting or most other activities are out of the question. Besides, he loves watching when anything with a motor or flame is used. Future chef, maybe?!

This comfort dish is all about the South. Actually, there's a little French snuck in there, but let's not tell anyone about that. It's fresh yummy peaches topped with sweet corn spoon bread. Which if you're not familiar with it, it's like a cross between corn bread and pudding and cake. I mean, what's not to like, right? Sip with some ice cold tea and watch the fireflies light the night. 

 

Ingredients:

5-7 fresh peaches, peeled and cut in half

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup cormeal

1 1/2 cups whole milk, divided

2 TB butter plus more for greasing your pan

kernals from one fresh corn cob, or abour 3/4 cup frozen

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 eggs

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

 

1. Butter a 9" baking dish. Arrange the peaches cut side down on the bottom of the pan. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the 1/2 cup sugar and water. Swirl the pan to stir but don't stir with a utensil.  Once the sugar is boiling and has turned a nice amber color, take off the heat and pour over the peaches. Set aside.

2. Whisk the cormeal and 1/2 cup of the milk together and set aside. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan or dutch oven and cook the corn kernals until they begin to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the remaining sugar, salt and milk. Bring to a boil then remove from the heat and let sit 15 minutes.

3. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender), puree the corn mixture until smooth. Bring the mixture back to a boil, lower the heat to low and add the milk and cormeal, whisking constantly until thick, 2-3 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

4. Whisk in the 2 egg yolks, reserving the whites, and the cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk the egg whtes and the cream of tartar together to form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the corn mixture and spoon over the peaches. Bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

Wednesday
Oct192011

Baking with a natural sour starter

I have wonderful news: I have begun baking my own bread! It is such a satisfying (and tasty) journey to undertake. Bread singing from the oven making your house smell warm and yummy is a euphoric experience indeed. And I've not just begun baking any bread, bread from a sourdough starter. This is a traditional method of cultivating natural yeast and good bacteria by simply combining flour and water. By "feeding" this mixture everyday the yeast and bacteria thrive, creating a nuanced addition that will give your bread character and depth. The starter will also act as the leavening agent in your bread, thus not needing yeast (for some breads you can still add dry yeast, more on that later). Like a good wine that has been aged, starter will continue to develop and mature the longer it is kept alive. It also makes your bread have a lower glycemic effect on the body, making it a healthier option. Now, when I say "sourdough" I don't mean San Francisco sourdough, but a "sour" starter that gives artisan breads that wonderful tangy essence. Now, without getting into the scientific details too much here (check out this, this, and this for more details if you're so inclined), I'll give you the run-down of baking with starter and all the wonderful possibilities that lie ahead.

As there are many upon many resources for baking bread, I will merely outline the resources I've found useful and the "bear bones" minimum I've used to begin baking.

Specialty equipment needed:

A digital scale. This one, while inexpensive, works just fine as it can be in ounces, grams, or pounds and can measure down to 0.1g. And it comes in so many fun colors!
A container with lid to store your starter in. I use a Weck jar.
A plastic dough scraper such as this one.
A bench scraper. Makes clean-up much easier also.
Baker's stone. I have a round pizza stone that I've used, which has been ok. Just make sure you line it with parchment first. Also, if making unformed loaves, a Dutch oven works just as well.
A Lame (knife to score the bread with). Note: do not use a kitchen knife. You will end up dragging the dough and not cutting through properly.
Baker's Couche. The picture is pretty self-explanatory. Used for gently holding the shape of baguettes during a rise.

First, you need to make a starter, unless you have a friend and fellow baker that is willing to give you some, or a baker from whom you can purchase said starter. This takes about 4-5 days, depending on the time of year. It is getting to be the chiller part of fall here in Atlanta, which isn't the ideal time to start your starter, summer and late spring are the ideal, but it will work. It just might take an extra day or two. But be patient, the wild yeast in the flour will be growing. I followed this website* step-by-step and ended up with a wonderful bubbly starter within a week. I actually scratched my first attempt at this starter due to my starter not doubling after the Day 3 additions. After the second day, it bubbled up and more than doubled, but then seem to be "dead" after day three. Therefore, during the second go-around and same problem, I added the "shot" of rye flour and water he talks about and low and behold, I had a wonderful, bubbly starter within hours. Once you have your starter completed you will need to "feed" it to keep it alive and from going moldy. So that you don't end up with a monstrous yeasty thing eating you out of house and home you want to discard a portion of the starter before feeding it to keep it at a consistent and manageable volume. You can either use the discarded portion to bake with (see below about making a sponge), give it to another aspiring baker, or simply throw it out. To feed my starter, I reserve 25g starter (about 2 sloppy Tablespoons), 25g water (2 TB + 1 tsp.), and 25g flour (1/4 cup). *The aforementioned website is also a wonderful resource for anything bread-baking related, including discussions about the best equipment, etc.

A quick note about flour: King Arthur's All Purpose Flour is the best widely available flour to use for baking and your starter as it's made from wild wheat. Organic and unbleached is always preferable in any flour you choose, but make sure you are using flour made from ground wild wheat if living in the USA. If in France, the flour is perfect for baking, so go nuts.

Once you are the proud owner of a bubbly baby starter, you can begin baking. Keep in mind that your first few loaves will be less than wonderful, but they WILL improve. The starter takes about a month to fully develop. And your practice and techniques will take even longer. So, keep at it and the good news is: you can eat up your bread along the way! My first few loaves were very dense, but tasted wonderful.

The evening before I want to bake bread, I make my SPONGE. This is the portion removed from the starter before feeding to which you add, yup! You guessed it. Flour and water. I typically do all the starter minus 2 TB. plus 6 TB filtered water and 1/2 cup flour. Feed your starter as normal, unless you typically feed it in the morning, then just wait until morning, minus throwing out the excess as you've just done that the night before. Let them both sit at room temperature overnight.

In the morning, you can begin your dough following whatever formula you choose. Here are a few recipes for pan au levain: Chocolate and Zucchini, Sourdough Home, and The Fresh Loaf. This last recipe is given in volume, not in weight so if you don't have a scale you can use this. However, I highly recommend a scale for accuracy and trouble-shooting purposes. I have followed Chocolate and Zucchini's recipe with great success. It's actually a very easy process, and just takes time. She also includes great links to videos and other resources throughout this post.

Once you have become somewhat comfortable with your starter, venture out into other fun recipes, such as baguettes! Here is the post I used to bake my baguettes with great success. He details the process out simply and includes lots of videos like how to properly score and knead that are great for the home baker. At the beginning of the post are links to books as well.

If you so choose to venture into bread baking, and I hope you do, don't be intimidated by the process. There are tons of resources available and it is definitely a labor of love. Trial and error will be your mantra for a while. But like I mentioned earlier, you get to eat your "errors" along the way which will be delicious!

Here's a list of a few terms I didn't know before venturing into baking:

Crumb: the interior structure of the bread, the holes and their consistency
Shaggy: when referring to a dough and it's non-uniformity
De-gassing: working the air bubbles out of a dough
100% hydration: this refers to the starter. By adding equal parts water and flour to starter, you end up with a "100% hydration"

Happy baking, and pass the butter!

Devonly,

Yours.

Tuesday
Sep132011

Raspberry Tart with Honeyed Goat Cheese and Walnut Crust

 

I'm taking advantage of these last few days of summer and the berries that were on sale in my local super market to make a tart. This a perfect combination of late summer and early fall. The raspberries are a nod to the warm summer months that are coming to an end and the walnut tart is warm and homey, reminiscent of my favorite holiday cookie. Together they balance out the flavors of the transitioning season and go great with the cooler evenings and changing leaves. See recipe below.


We just returned from a whirl-wind trip to Seattle and enjoyed some fabulous summer weather they've been having. It's amazing how accustomed I am to the heat after only being in Atlanta for one summer. They're "heat wave" was my paradise. A sunny day in Seattle is about the closest thing to heaven on earth.

Ethan had his first visit to the ocean and dipped his toes in the big beautiful blue for the first time. He didn't seem as excited as I was for him. He also had his first boat ride, complete with ridiculous (but safe!) life vest. We all laughed heartily at his expense.

I miss Seattle more and more each time I visit, but when I return to Atlanta, I sigh a bit of tired relief and feel like I am home. I was going over in my mind how I could have two homes across the country from one another and make it work. I haven't come up with a solution yet. Or the money for the plane tickets!

And finally, just because I can't resist:

Raspberry Tart with Honeyed Goat Cheese and Walnut Crust

Ingredients:

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 stick butter (1/2 cup), melted

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup powdered sugar

6 oz. goat cheese (or cream cheese, if desired), left at room temperature for 1 hour 

2 TB honey

2 pints raspberries

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a food processor, finely chop the walnuts. Add in the salt, sugar, and flour and process until combined. Add in the melted butter and pulse until the dough just comes together. 
  3. Pour the walnut dough into a greased tart pan and press firmly on the bottom and up the sides with your fingers. Bake 12-20 minutes, watching carefully that it doesn't burn. Cool completely.
  4. In the food processor, process the goat cheese until soft. Add in the honey and pulse until combined. Spread along the top of the cooled tart crust. 
  5. Top with raspberries. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Devonly,

Yours

 

Friday
Sep022011

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

 

After a summer season of eating light, fresh meals, I crave baking something hardy and warm. I look forward all year to summer's fresh produce yet when the days start getting shorter again I can't wait to get in my kitchen and bake. My oven gets lonely and it's my duty to comfort it. Growing up in California, Mexican fare was not just a cuisine, it was a food group. If ever I get a whiff of fried tortillas, melty cheese, and pepper and onion-spiked tomatoes I get a little nostalgic about my childhood and want nothing less than a plate full of melty cheese-topped goodness always with a side of refried bean and rice. And a margarita never hurts either. One of my many summer jobs was busing tables at a Chevy's. While by today's culinary standards Chevy's may not be more than a glorified fast-food taco place, it was THE place to be when going out in the little town I grew up in. Which says a lot about my background! While "California Mexican" is not true Mexican (it's more like fresh Tex-Mex), it's what I think of as Mexican, except for the fish taco stands we used to stop at in Encinada...YUM.

 

These fresh take on enchiladas are packed full of healthy vegetables and delicious to boot. But like I said earlier, cover anything with Mexican-flavors and top it with melty cheese and I'm one happy girl. But next time you want to make something warm, satisfying, and south-of-the-boarder, give these a try. You might just start speaking Espanol! !Ole!

This recipe makes A LOT. Like a lot a lot. You can easily cut it in half, which would make an almost-full 9x13 baking dish full. I like to top mine with mashed avocado, sour cream, and some toasted pepitas, which are just pumpkin seeds, and a sprig of cilantro. 

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, roasted and mashed*

1 29-oz can tomato sauce

1 1/3 cup water

2 TB. chili powder

1/2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. dried oregano

3 cloves minced garlic, divided

1 chipotle pepper in Abodo sauce, chopped

1/2 cup vegetable oil

20 corn tortillas

1 red onion, sliced thinly

1 pound jack cheese, shredded

8 oz. goat cheese

1 bag pre-washed baby spinach

 

  1. Season the butternut squash with salt and pepper, set aside
  2. Combine the tomato sauce, water, chili powder, cumin, oregano, 2 cloves garlic, and chipotle pepper in a sauce pan over medium high heat and simmer about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. 
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Ladle enough of the sauce into the bottom of a glass baking dish just to cover the bottom, set aside.
  4. Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat and dip each tortilla in about 3 seconds on each side and place on a paper-towel lined sheet pan. This is to soften the tortillas and keep them from cracking.
  5. In another saute pan, heat 1 TB oil and add the onion and 1 clove garlic. Saute until caramelized, set aside.
  6. To assemble, dip a tortilla in the sauce and fill with a spoonful of the squash, a few onions, goat cheese, jack cheese, and a handful of spinach. Roll and place seam-side down in the baking dish. To make this easy, I use a small plate to place my tortilla on while I assemble them and carry them around the kitchen so I don't spill everything everywhere!
  7. Once all the tortillas are assembled, ladle the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle any remaining jack cheese over the top.
  8. Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is melted. To make head: Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, remove foil and bake another 5-10 or until cheese is melty.

 Devonly,

Yours

Wednesday
Aug312011

Coconut Sorbet

 

 

There are three things I could eat every day: Chips and salsa, apples, and ice cream. And since Ethan is very sensitive to dairy in my diet, ice cream has been banned for the time being. Which is a cruel, cruel thing to do during a Georgia summer. I am currently addicted to the DIY frozen yogurt shops and where we now live, we are within walking distance to THREE. However, most all are made from yogurt. Boo. And one can only have so much raspberry sorbet, albeit tasty. So I've been having my fill of popsicles and the like, but I miss that cold, creamy deliciousness. I recently discovered coconut sorbet and coconut popsicles, which still have that creamy element to them but without the dairy. So instead of running to the store every other day for more (you laugh, but it's true), I decided to make my own. I love making homemade ice cream and sorbet. Plus the perks are super tasty too!

This recipe can easily be made into popsicles as well, I would increase the coconut water by about a cup. And you can also add shredded coconut to the ice cream maker towards the end of it's doin' it's thang or top with toasted coconut too.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups coconut water

3/4 cup sugar

1 can coconut milk (not the low-fat kind)

2 tsp. coconut extract

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup shredded coconut, if desired

 

  1. Bring the coconut water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan, stirring occassionally until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Whisk together the coconut milk, extract, and salt in a bowl. Add in the water/sugar mixture and whisk to combine.
  3. Refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours and follow instructions on your ice cream maker until the consistency of frozen yogurt. Add coconut shavings in at this point, if desired, and store in an air-tight container in the freezer.

 

Yum. Enjoy!

Devony,

Yours