Saturday, June 30, 2012

BBB - Summer twists

I'm a little bit of a late buddy for the BBB challenge this month, but I did try it out so I'm posting anyway.  The recipe is for Summer Twists, also affectionately know as morning cuddles.  Me being me, I wanted to really get into that cuddle fest and turned my individual twists into one big cinnamon pecan hug!  (But next time I make this as a sweet morning bread I will use the poolish and not my sourdough which was a little bit tart for the application I chose.)  That said, I added a little frosting to my heated slice this morning and it was just like a cinnamon bun with cream cheese frosting, YUM!

Here is the recipe as posted on the host site.  (I used white spelt and whole spelt flours for mine.)  To make my "hug" I rolled out the dough, spread with a little butter, then sprinkled with pecans, cinnamon and sucanat.  Then I rolled it up, sliced it lengthwise twice and braided those and put in a circle to bake.

Oatmeal Twists
based on Morning Cuddles at Farine
makes 16 twists

700 g sourdough starter (or poolish/starter of 350 g all-purpose flour mixed with 350 g water and 2 teaspoons yeast. Sit 3 hrs, stir down, put in fridge overnight, or at least 8 hours - use where recipe calls for sourdough starter.)
320 g all-purpose flour
230 g whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
115 g rolled oats, coarsely ground in a food processor
15 g salt
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
100 g pecans, chopped

Mix the flours together with the yeast, oats and salt. Stir the water, buttermilk and butter into the starter. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the starter mixture until a soft dough forms. Let sit 10 minutes. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead in additional flour if needed until dough is tacky but not sticky. Knead in the pecans. Shape into a ball and put dough ball into oiled rising bowl or container, turning dough to coat with the oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. This might take 2 hours or 6. (Also fine to cover and let sit overnight in the fridge, then let rise until doubled on the counter the next day.)

When dough has doubled, turn out onto lightly flour board. Shape into a log and cut into two pieces. Return one piece of the dough to the rising bowl and cover.

Shape the second piece of dough on the board into a log and cut into 8 pieces, each about 100 g. Cut each piece in half and shape each piece into a snake and twist two pieces together a a time or two, then place twist on a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet.

Repeat with remaining 7 (100 g) pieces. You will have eight twists. Take the remaining large (about 800 g) piece of dough and repeat the shaping into a log, cutting into 8 pieces, cutting those in half and shaping into twists. You will finish with 16 twists set out on parchment or silicon mat covered baking sheets. Cover twists and let rise until doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F when twists are almost doubled.

Uncover, glaze with buttermilk with clean pastry brush. If desired sprinkle with finely chopped pecans, or preferred seeds or with sea salt.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. If browning too rapidly, turn down the oven temperature. Turn the pans back to front and bake another 10 - 15 minutes or until breads are 180 degrees inside. Cool on a rack then serve.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Strawberry Soup

Well it had to happen sooner or later.  I've had my vitamix for about a year now and I finally "painted" my kitchen.  It only takes a fraction of a second.  My kitchen was remodeled in pink.  And I lost half my batch of soup.  Boohoo!  Always keep your eye on that High switch and the lid ON.  Oh well.  The soup still turned out yummy and refreshing.  The girls liked it for dinner (it was a hot day today.)  And any leftovers, I think I will pour into the zoku and makes some strawberry yogurt pops.  I bet they'll be perfect.  Since this is a sweet soup, it is best served as an appetizer and not the main course.  (Or just use it for freezer pops if fruit soup is a little out there for you.)  My first experience with fruit soups was on a cruise ship ten years ago.  Many of our meals had fruit soups as a first course option.  I loved them!  Try it out if you're feeling adventurous.  Or just hot.  

(At the peak of strawberry season, when the fruit is its own little fruit sugar bonbon, I'd bring the sugar down to ½ cup.)

Strawberry Soup
makes nine ½ cup portions

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
8 oz. cranberry juice
1 cup cold water
4 ice cubes
½-2/3 cup unrefined sugar (sucanat, rapadura)
8 oz. greek yogurt, honey flavor
1 tbsp lemon juice

Optional garnishes: strawberry slices, mint leaves, whipped cream, yogurt

Set aside some extra strawberries for garnish if desired.  In a blender, combine the strawberries, juice and sugar and blend for a minute until sugar is dissolved.  (The unrefined sugar will dissolve more easily than white sugar.)  Add the cold water and ice cubes and blend until cubes are gone.  Add the yogurt and lemon juice and blend on low speed just until fully incorporated.  Can be served now or refrigerated until quite cold.  Garnish with sliced berries and mint, or a dollop of whipped cream or yogurt.

And for leftovers...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Buttercrunch Toffee (Homemade Roca)

Almond Roca was one of our special gifts to dad every year when I was growing up.  It wasn't available so readily as it is nowadays so it was a real treat for everyone.  These days, pecans are my nut of choice.  If you're a Roca or English Toffee fan, you must try this out.  Toffee is one of the quickest, easiest candies to make.  Yes, it is hot sugar and so some care is required, but you don't even really need a thermometer.  This is a very popular offering at parties and gatherings and I suggest you only make it then unless you want a wide-load sign permanently stapled to your hips.  Good stuff.  And even if you get totally distracted and forget the soda, it still makes great brittle too!

Chocolate Pecan Toffee (Buttercrunch)
makes 1½ pounds of candy
adapted from Dave Lebovitz

2 cups of crispy or toasted pecans (or nut of choice), chopped from fine to coarse
2 tbsp water
¾ cup butter, cut in pieces
1 cup sugar (I use evaporated cane sugar)
¼ cup packed light brown muscovado sugar
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet with parchment or oil with sunflower oil.  Sprinkle half the nuts on the sheet in a roughly 8x10" area. 

 In a 2Qt heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the water, butter, salt and sugars.  Attach a candy thermometer if using.  Cook, stirring as little as possible until the mixture reaches about 300ºF.  (My sugar mix is usually done closer to 295º.)  If you feel like it needs stirring, give the pan a swirl to mix.  If you do not have a candy thermometer, grab a brown paper grocery bag and cook until the color matches the bag or maybe just a tiny shade darker.  HAVE YOUR BAKING SODA AND VANILLA READY.

When your candy reaches the right shade and/or temperature, immediately remove from heat and stir in the soda and vanilla.

Quickly pour the toffee evenly over the nuts on the prepared sheet.  You can spread with a rubber spatula if absolutely necessary but otherwise try not to work it too much.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the hot toffee and let stand a minute or two until melted.  Spread evenly with an offset spatula or knife.

Sprinkle the rest of the nuts over the chocolate and press in gently with your hands.

Allow to cool completely and break into chunks to serve.  Keep in an airtight container for up to 10 days.  (I like to keep mine in the fridge for longer keeping and because I like it cold.  Well, mostly because I like it cold.  It never lasts past 10 days.)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

There are pie lovers and pie likers.  For me it depends on the pie.  For some pies I just prefer a bar form of the dessert.  That is true for pecan pie and in the case of blueberry pie I also prefer it mixed with cheesecake.  So I came up with this rich and creamy bar.  It has a nutty, sweet short crust and a light and fluffy cheesecake layer topped by sweet blueberries.  Like many of my more recent desserts it is rich and not overly sweet.  So a small piece will be quite satisfying without making your teeth ache.  ☺

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
makes a 9x9" pan (16 pieces)

1 cup whole spelt flour
2 tbsp sucanat or rapdura, powdered
½ cup (1 stick) butter (add a dash of sea salt if using unsalted butter)
½ cup diced crispy pecans (soaked and dehydrated, or toasted)

1 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened (cultured cream cheese is even better)
¼ cup raw liquid honey
zest of one lemon, microplaned or finely chopped (organic preferred to avoid pesticide residue)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup heavy cream
1 oz white chocolate, melted (optional)

10 oz frozen blueberries (or fresh)
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp tapioca starch
5 tbsp coconut sugar (or sucanat)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  In a mixing bowl, cream butter and 2 tbsp powdered sugar.  Thoroughly mix in the flour and chopped pecans.  Press into the bottom of a 9" square pan.  Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool completely.

With a mixer, whip together the cream cheese and honey.  Stir in the lemon zest and vanilla.  In another bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks.  Fold into the cream cheese mixture.  If desired, brush melted white chocolate onto the short crust - this will help it stay crispy especially if the bars sit at room temperature for a period of time.  If kept refrigerated the crust will still stay fairly firm.  Spread the cheese filling onto the crust and refrigerate while making the topping.

Place the blueberries in a small sauce pot.  (No need to thaw.)  Add the lemon juice and place over medium heat.  Combine the tapioca starch with the coconut sugar and stir into the berries.  Cook until simmering and slightly thickened.  Allow to cool to warm or room temperature.  Spread over the cheesecake filling and chill.  Cut into squares and serve.  Keep covered in the refrigerator.