And still more figs……

Fig ice pops

We’re still buried under a pile of figs here at the ol’ homestead and I’ll admit I’m a little (a lot) tired of them. That being said, this weeks recipe is super simple and takes maybe 5 minutes to put together and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. Which is exactly what my tired brain and body need after a super exhausting week at work. So I’ll get right too it.

Fig and Brown Sugar Ice Pops

  • 5-10 ripe figs, cut into 1/4 ” wide sliced
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 can coconut milk

Soak ice pop sticks in water and set aside. Add a couple of slices of fig to each ice pop mold and set mold aside. Place all the remaining ingredients into a blender and and blend for about 30 seconds until all the ingredients are well combined. Pour mixture into ice pop molds insert soaked sticks, seal molds and place in freezer for at least 6 hours to set. Enjoy.

See, I told you it was easy and quick.

Figapalooza 2019 Part I

Yep, that’s right Figapalooza 2019 is in full swing at the ol’ homestead this week. Our upstairs neighbor is on her 4th batch of fig jam. I’ve made fig ice pops, fig flatbread, fig scampi, fig n’ grits and fig tarts. So this week I’ll share with you my recipe for Fig & Pistachio Honey Tart. The secret to bringing out the pistachio here is to use it as the base for the crust. Blind baking the crust helps roast the pistachios a little to bring that nuttiness more forward. There’s just a slight orange hint from orange zest and a little orange extract to help brighten things up.

Pistachio Crust

  • 1 egg
  • 2 TBS coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup chilled butter cut into cubes

Place 1/4 cup all purpose flour and the pistachios into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the pistachios are ground into a fine meal. Add the powder sugar, salt and the remainder of the flour and pulse 10 times to mix. Gradually add in the chilled butter, and pulse until dough is a sand like consistency. Mix the egg, vanilla extract and milk in a small bowl and slowly add to the flour and butter mixture until dough just comes together.

Form dough into a disk and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour. After the dough has chilled, roll out to 1/4″ thick and lay into a tart pan and press the dough into the corners.

Dock the shell with a fork in several places. Line the shell with aluminum foil and fill with rice or dried beans. Blind bake the shell at 400F for 15-20 minutes. Remove the foil with the rice/beans and bake the shell for another 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Filling

  • 8 oz marscarpone
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp orange extract
  • 1 TBS orange zest
  • 1/3 cup honey

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Fill the cooled tart shell with the cheese and yogurt filling.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill until the cheese mixture sets about 2-4 hours.

To serve, top with sliced firgs, chopped pistachios and a drizzle of hone.

 

 

 

No scratches or bee stings required

Fresh out of the oven and piping hot Blackberry Cobbler

One of the many things I miss about living in the PNW (that’s Pacific Northwest) is how easy (and free) it is to get your hands on ridiculous quantities of blackberries. They’re like weeds and grow everywhere and you don’t even have to go far off the beaten path to find them they grow along the side of the road. To make this week’s recipe, you just need to get a hold of blackberries, fresh, frozen, foraged or otherwise.

We hosted our first bbq of the summer this past weekend and I wanted a dessert that’s easy to serve to a crowd, can be made ahead and reminds me of summer. Blackberries, cobbler and corn remind me of summer and cobblers are great crowd friendly make ahead desserts. Since blackberries pair really well with corn, I decided to make a corn biscuit top.

As I mentioned, this was designed to feed a crowd so adjust your quantities accordingly. I used a combination of fresh and frozen blackberries. This recipe will serve 8.

Blackberry Cobbler with Corn Biscuit Top

  • 8 cups of blackberries (if using frozen, thaw the berries and retain the liquid)
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Corn Biscuit top

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 cup freeze dried corn (ground)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 TBS chilled butter (cut into cubes)
  • 3/4 cup of buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and let sit for an hour or overnight. Preheat oven to 350F.

Biscuit top-

Combine flour, cornmeal, freeze dried corn, salt, sugar, baking powder and chilled butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until butter forms little pea sized balls. Slowly add in buttermilk/yogurt (you may not need all of it) until dough just starts to come together. The dough will be fairly loose and sticky and that’s ok.

Spray a 2 quart (deep dish) casserole with cooking spray and fill with berry mixture. Using a Table spoon that’s been sprayed with cooking spray, drop dollops of biscuit batter across the top of the berries.

dollop corn biscuit batter

 

Place casserole dish on a foil lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for 1 hour or until middle portion of the cobbler is bubbling. If top starts to brown too much over with aluminum foil. The cobbler can be served warm, room temperature or cold and pairs well with ice cream.

 

That’s how the cookie crumbles..

What’s better than milk and cookies?

I was having all sorts of technical issues this week, but finally go them resolved and was able to actually upload images again. So now that’s all taken care of for this weeks post I’m making cookies. Though this time around, I’m dressing up that timeless classic chocolate chip cookies. One of my co-workers gave me a package of Horlick’s Malted Milk Powder from her prized stash and it got me thinking that I don’t think I’ve ever seen Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies before. So after a little bit of testing here’s the recipe I came up with.

Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup/2 sticks of room temperature unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground coffee
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cup sifted All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup crushed malted milk balls like Whoppers or Maltesers
  • 2 oz of chopped extra dark chocolate
  • coarse salt and chopped dark chocolate for the top (optional)

In a large bowl, cream butter until it turns a light pale yellow then add granulated sugar and light brown sugar and beat for a couple of minutes until it is light and fluffy. Add in eggs, malted milk powder, coffee and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Slowly add in salt, baking soda and sifted flour until the flour is mostly combined. You may have to mix this by hand or use a stand mixer. Stir in the chocolate chips, crushed malted milk balls and dark chocolate. Form into golfball sized balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Let chill in the fridge for at least an hour before baking. To bake, preheat oven to 350F. Place dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet leaving 2″ space between cookies and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

It’s like eating a cloud….no really

Fluffy airy Pavlova with a mix of fresh berries and dusted with powdered sugar

The  weeks recipe is handy to keep in your back pocket for occasions when you find yourself with a lot of leftover egg whites. After making the custard for last week’s coconut cream pie, that’s exactly the situation I was in. Pavlova are sweet baked meringues but with crispy airy outer shell and a gooey marshmallowy center. They’re a perfect vehicle for seasonal fruits like fresh berries and other fruits.

Though you don’t need special equipment, you could mix them by hand. But unless you want your arm to fall off, I’d suggest at a minimum using a electric hand mixer but ideally a stand mixer.

Pavlova

4 eggs. whites

1 cup super fine sugar*

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons corn starch

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar

Preheat 275F

Wipe the inside of the stand mixer. bowl with white vinegar to make sure there is not oil or grease in the bowl. Using the whisk attachment, whip the 4 egg whites on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Mix the salt and sugar and gradually add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time into the egg whites,  whisking in between additions of sugar. Scrape down the sides of the Whisk until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form. Add in the cornstarch, vanilla, and lemon juice and whisk until incorporated. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and use the back of.a large spoon or a piping bag to form meringue mixture into 2 7″ rounds or 6-8 4″ diameter rounds. Bake on the middle rack at 275F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Turn off the over and let Pavlova’s cool in the oven while leaving the oven door slightly ajar. Serve with freshly whipped cream and fresh fruit

Not Your Typical Meat and Potatoes…

I think foodies like like to believe that they coined the term and the concept of fusion foods. But the reality is that fusion foods have been around for centuries if not millennia. And this weeks recipe is really a classic example of what happens when two cultures combine techniques and ingredients to create a whole new food experience. Lomo Saltado is a Peruvian dish that exemplifies fusion cooking. Beef is seasoned with soy sauce and vinegar, paprika and cumin. Then its stir fried in a wok along with onions, roma tomatoes and french fries. It all comes together for some rib stickin’ comfort food.

Lomo Saltado

serves 4

1 lb flank steak cut into thin strips

1 lb Cooked French fries.

¼ cup soy sauce

2 TBS white vinegar

½ cup chicken stock

1 TBS Aji Amarillo Paste *

1 medium sized onion cut into. thin wedges

1 yellow bell pepper cut into thin strips

3 Roma Tomatoes seeded and cut into wedges

¼ tsp paprika

½ tsp cumin

2 scallions chopped

1 clove of garlic minced

2 TBS cooking oil

salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized bowl combine salt and pepper, cumin, paprika, soy sauce, aji amarillo paste and vinegar. Add in the sliced beef and set aside to marinade for about 15 minutes. In a large wok over medium high heat, heat up 1 TBS cooking oil until it shimmers add the chopped scallions and garlic, Drain the beef but retain the liquid and place the beef into the hot wok an stir until the meat has browned on all sides. Remove the meat and set aside. Add the other TBS of oil to the wok and add in the onions and yellow bell pepper, cook until the onions become translucent. Add the meat back into the wok along with the reserved marinade and stock. Turn down the wok to medium and let the sauce reduce by half. Add the French fries and tomatoes and let the fries and tomatoes warm back up, which will take about a minute. Its ready to serve.

Enjoy.

*Aji Amarillo Paste is available in Latin Markets, If you can’t find it, leave it out and use more yellow bell pepper.

French Toast – Crowd Pleasing Brunch Edition

French Toast casserole style made with store bought cinnamon bread and fresh berries

This weeks recipe is a super easy way to make French Toast for a crowd. Typically if you’re making French Toast or pancakes for a large group, there’s inevitably someone waiting around hungry while whoever’s cooking is furiously trying to get fresh and hot pancakes/French Toast served as quick as possible. Not only is this extremely stressful for the cook it’s not particularly conducive for folks to gather around the table and eat at the same time.

Essentially what we’re making here is a French Toast Casserole or bread pudding. For added convenience, I used store bought, pre-sliced cinnamon bread that I cut diagonally and let sit out on a wire rack for an hour so that it would start to stale. This allows the bread to absorb more of the custard without becoming a soggy slimy mess. Alternately you can toast the bread but that’s one more step and this is all about ease and convenience.

To augment the menu, I’d suggest having things like granola, yogurt with fresh fruit, baked eggs, quiche or a Spanish style tortilla and sausage/bacon which you can bake ahead and warm up along side the French toast the last 15 minutes of baking. Here’s the recipe:

Recipe

  • 1 egg for every 4 slices of bread
  • 2 slices of bread per person
  • 1 cup half/half for every 4 slices of bread
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 TBS brown sugar for 4 slices of bread
  • butter or cooking spray
  • pinch of salt
  • fresh berries (optional)
  • Powered sugar (optional)

Spray a large casserole pan with cooking spray or coat with butter and set aside. In a large bowl, mix half/half, eggs, sugar, salt and cinnamon until well combined and set aside. Arrange sliced cinnamon bread in the casserole dish and then pour the custard mixture over the bread. Let sit for 15 minutes to ½ hour so the custard can be absorbed by the bread. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake casserole at 350F for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the egg mixture is set in the middle. To serve, dust with powdered sugar and top with fresh berries. That’s it, and it’s that easy.

Sweet and tangy tropical goodness…

passion fruit bars dusted with powdered sugar

I was the happy beneficiary of some fresh passion fruit from one of my co-workers about a week or so ago. Well, they finally ripened up enough for me to use so I decided to make passion fruit bars. Passion fruit, is a somewhat sour acidic tropical fruit which lends itself very well to this application as well as being turned into curds as discussed in previous post or really anything that you’d use citrus.

There’s two parts to this recipe, first is the shortbread base and then the curd that goes on top. You’ll need to bake and completely and allow to fully cool to room temperature before working on the curd topping. We have quite a few Vietnamese markets here that sell frozen passionfruit juice and its also available at our local Whole Foods. Look for one that doesn’t have sugar added, if you can’t find unsweetened, reduce the sugar in the filling by a couple of tablespoons. If you’re not able to locate passion fruit, use any combination of citrus juice you have available. You’ll need a 9×9 brownie pan to make this recipe. I’d suggest using a metal pan versus glass so the sides of the bars do not brown too much.

Shortbread Base

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup All Purpose Flour

¼ tsp salt

3 TBS granulated sugar

3 TBS powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325F

In a large bowl mix all the ingredients by hand until it is a sand like texture.

Shortbread dough mixed to a sand like texture

Press into a 9×9 brownie pan that’s been lined with parchment paper and spayed with cooking spray or greased with butter.

Pressing shortbread dough into a brownie pan lined with parchment

Dock the dough a few times to prevent the crust from rising/bubbling up.

docking the shortbread crust.

Bake crust in an oven preheated 325F and bake for 30 minutes or until shortbread turns a light golden brown along the edges.

Filling

3 large eggs

½ cup passion fruit juice

1 tsp fresh lemon zest

2 TBS lemon juice

½ tsp baking soda

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

pinch of salt

3 TBS All Purpose flour

Powdered Sugar for dusting

Mix all the ingredients except for the flour together until well mixed. Slowly mix in the flour a tablespoon at a time until mix is free of lumps and the flour has been thoroughly incorporated. Pour filling mixture into the baked and cooled crust. Bake in an oven preheated to 350F for 35-40 minutes or until filling is set.  Dust with powdered sugar and cut into squares to serve.

Christmas Cookies 2018

This weeks post is going to be short and sweet. No pun intended. I’m in the midst of baking and decorating this years batch(es) of Christmas Cookies. So, I’m just going to share my favorite recipe for cut-out style sugar cookies and some tips to get the best results and then get back to decorating.

So the first thing to note is that I use a shortbread recipe versus a tradition sugar cookie recipe. I prefer the shortbread for a few reasons, there’s fewer ingredients, its simple and consistent and because it doesn’t have any leaveners in it, it reduces the likelihood that cookies will puff up and spread out.  Secondly, make sure to chill the dough for at least an hour before rolling and try to roll the dough between ¼” and ½” thick. Lastly, once you cut out the cookies and lay them out on a baking sheet, chill them for 30 minutes. These steps will help prevent the cookies from spreading out too much and give you a nice smooth top for decorating.

Recipe

3 ½ cups sifted AP flour
1 ¾ cup / 3 1/2 sticks softened room temp unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract or flavoring of you choice

In a large bowl or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until doubled in volume and becomes a pale yellow. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add the extract and salt and mix for a few moments. Gradually stir in the flour. Blend on low until flour is well incorporated. The dough may still be crumbly or even loose and that’s ok. Just make sure there are no visible clumps of flour, especially at the bottom of the bowl. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and clean off paddle.

Turn dough out onto waxed paper and form into a 1-2 inch thick disk. Wrap in wax paper and place into a zip top bag and chill in the fridge for at least one hour. To bake, take dough out of the fridge and let warm up for about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325F, roll out dough on a board dusted with powdered sugar. For cut outs I’ll stick to rolling the dough out to between ¼ and ½ inch thick and use a 3” cutter. I’ll yield about 3 dozen cookies. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the bottom of the cookie starts to turn golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Cookies need to be completely cooled before decorating.

If you don’t have cookie cutters, no worries. Just use a really sharp knife and cut into bars also jelly jars make decent cutters in a pinch. As for decorating: lightly coat the cookie with corn syrup and apply sanding sugar or sprinkles or dip into white candy melt and use edible markers.

 

 

Lemon & Lavender Shortbread

lemon and lavender cookies with nasturtium and lavender blossoms

I’ve been looking forward to posting this recipe for quite a while. We have quite a few lavender bushes around our yard and I’m always trying to think of ways to put all that lavender to use. Last Holiday season, I embedded some into resin to make coasters and trivets and I plan to make candles (ssh…they’ll probably wind up as Christmas presents for some folks) and maybe try soap though messing with lye kind of scares me so maybe not.

Anyway back to the lavender. A few weeks back I went through and picked blossoms off the lavender plants and I’ve been letting them air dry. I realize that not everyone grows their own lavender, several of the popular online spice retailers have dried lavender available and of course good ‘ol Amazon does.  Just with Amazon, make sure that its food grade or for culinary use.

Shortbread is pretty easy to make there’s no leavener, its just sugar, softened room temperature butter, a pinch of salt, flour and whatever flavoring you’d like to add, like vanilla extract or in this case lavender and lemon. They’re also nice because you don’t need any special cutters. You can roll the dough out to about a ½” thickness and then cut the dough into bars with a knife or pizza cutter. The dough is also very forgiving. I frequently re-roll the scraps though typically I will chill the dough back down in the fridge for a little while before I do that.

I suppose you can also make shortbread vegan by replacing the butter, though I’ve yet to find a shortening or similar that actually tastes good enough that I’d want to give up the butter. Shortbread dough is versatile. I use shortbread for my cut-out style Holiday Cookies and shortbread is a nice crust to use with custard style pies. Just dock the crust and blind bake before filling.

I’m using my regular shortbread recipe which you’ll find here. With a few important differences, first the cooking temperature and time which in this case is 275F for 60-75 minutes and I’ll be adding lemon zest and lavender blossoms as well as lemon extract. Baking the cookies low and slow will give them a really nice snap (perfect dunking texture). Here are the ingredients and instructions and there’s also a video below to walk you through the process.

Recipe

  • 3 ½ standard sticks of room temperature softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 Tablespoon lavender blossoms
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup of powdered sugar for dusting rolling pin and work surface
  • white sanding sugar, 1 TBS more of lemon zest and lavender for decorating (optional)

Cream butter and sugar together in a large mixing bow or the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add the your flavorings and slowly incorporate the salt and flour. Blend until dough starts to pull away from the side of the bowl and a ball starts to form. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill for at least an hour. Roll out and cut into desired shape and dock cookies several times with a fork or toothpick. Optional step: sprinkle with the sanding sugar, zest, lavender blend and use the rolling pin to slightly press the decorations into the dough.  Bake at 275F for 60-75 minutes. Larger thicker cookies require more baking time. You want the cookies to be golden brown on the bottom and set. Let cool on a wire rack