Saturday, March 28, 2009

makin' biscuits

I have found the most delicious, the most divine, light, fluffy, oh so devourable  (if that is even a word) biscuit recipe in the whole wide world (okay, that might be a bit over the top, but they are really good!)  I will eat these for breakfast, I will eat the for lunch, "I would eat them in a box, I would eat them with a fox" ... okay, you all get the picture, they are absolutely fabulous.

Something has gotten into me and I have been a baking fool these past couple of days.  With the biscuits, last night for dinner I made these farmhouse tarts with ricotta, sage leaves, Parmesan cheese, egg, salt and pepper to taste as well as a lemon butter cake with a tart lemon glaze for dessert (which was also divine with coffee this morning!). Oh so good.  Tonight?  Feta pies.  I also have two cheese and basil loaves rising as well as a sun dried tomato and a pan au levain.  This little cottage is full of warm doughy love!

(I know, there is no picture of the hot biscuits out of the oven...we were too hungry last night and just dug in, time!)

Friday, March 27, 2009

a dying culture.

picture courtesy of  Caffeinated Politics

On March 16th the epic story of  moonshiner Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton came to an end.  At 62 Popcorn was sentenced to 18 months in a federal penitentiary for distilling over 850 gallons of liquor and decided at 62 he would prefer to take his own life than serve the term.  

I know I am not much of a liquor (especially moonshine) connoisseur, however I have a universal respect for any artisan producing his or her passion no matter what the repercussion (though 850 gallons is and awful lot!).  Distilling Moonshine is said to be "legitimately an expression of culture of this region" and is a shame that this was the end result for a man with so much history and love for the old ways of the Appalachia.  May the great stories of the past stay alive. Long live the moonshine!

Friday, March 20, 2009

getting back to bread

My sourdough starter is chillin' in the fridge and I had a craving for a more substantial loaf, so flipping through my books, I came across a Tyrolean Ten-Grain Torpedo in The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.  A two day bread and quite easy, though I found I needed to be close to home every couple of hours to tend to it.  I altered the original only by using a seven-grain cereal instead of a ten-grain (you can use how many grains you want).  I found this bread to be quite satisfying for a loaf made in my gas oven with minimal steam.  The crumb is open and and chewy, great for toast and sandwich bread.  It's really an easy recipe and you can make it any shape you like, feel free to use a loaf pan if you want sandwich bread.

Seven Grain Torpedo
Dough Starter:

2/3 cup (3.5 oz) bread flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 Tablespoon malt powder, barley malt syrup, honey, or sugar
3/4 cup (6.2 oz) water - room temp

1. Nine hours ahead or the night before, make the sponge.  In a bowl whisk all ingredients until very smooth (will look like a thick pancake batter).  Scrape sides, set aside, and cover with plastic wrap.


1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (3.5 oz) cereal mix (seven, ten, twelve...I used seven)
1/2 cup  (3.5 oz) hot water

2. Eight hours or the night before soak grains.  Cool and refigerate 8 or up to 24 hours.

Flour mixture:

1 1/4 cups plus 1/2 Tablespoon (7 oz) bread flour
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast

3.  Combine flour and yeast and mix (if using a dough hook - mix on low speed for about one minute until dough is moistened.  Raise the speed to medium and knead for about 7 minutes.  The dough will be very sticky, allow to rest 20 minutes.

4.  Add 1 1/4 teaspoon salt and the grain mixture and knead another 3-5 until evenly incorporated.  The dough should be just barely tacky.  If it is still very sticky knead in a little flour.

5.  Let the dough rise.  Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning the dough over to coat top with oil.  Cover the container and let rise until doubled 1 1/2 - 2 hours (this will also depend on the temperature of your kitchen).

6.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and give a 1 or 2 letter fold to redistribute grains.  Round the edges and set back in container.  Oil surface again, cover, and allow to rise until doubles about 45 min to one hour.

7.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, shape into an 11 -inch by 2 - inch high torpedo (or loaf if you are making sandwich bread).  Set it on a prepared baking sheet and cover with a large container or cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap.  Let dough rise until doubled about 40-50 minutes.  (It is fully proofed when you can gently press the loaf with your fingertip and the depression will slowly fill in.

8.  Preheat oven to 450.

9.  Slash the bread three times at a diaganal.  Spray with water.  If you have a baking stone, slide loaf onto baking stone, if not place loaf on sheet pan in the oven.  Spray the oven sides with water and close the door.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bread is golden brown (rotate 1/2 way through if needed)  The inside temperature should register about 208 degrees.

10.  Remove bread from the oven and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, March 13, 2009

morning bake

Coffee in hand, I was ready to bake this morning - peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and morning bars it was.  Finn slept out on the porch like a good pooch, I turned up the music, enjoyed my caffeine high and baked away.  Hope everyone enjoyed their morning just as much!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

bakery update:

It has been a while since I mentioned Squash Blossom Bakery, however, I want you all to know it is still kickin'.  Goods are still being made and delivered to The Sea Store in Spruce Head. Regular appearances are made by:
ginger molasses cookies
peanut butter chocolate chip cookies
chocolate chip cookies
pumpkin whoopie pies
chocolate whoopie pies
almond - vanilla granola
carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
raspberry or strawberry breakfast bars
Recommendations and special orders are always welcome.  It has been a quiet winter and come spring and summer there will be many more goodies to choose from.  Who knows... maybe I can bring back the danish??!!
Happy almost spring to Mainers... happy spring to the rest of the world!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

crystalized ginger

Ginger is one of those magical roots.  It cures nausea, stomach aches, and motion sickness and has been proven to have immune boosting properties, induce cell death in ovarian cancer cells and protect against colorectal cancer among others.  

Historically it is native to southeastern Asia and is also mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern writings.  Once Romans discovered and began importing ginger almost two thousand years ago it's popularity in Europe remained centered in the Mediterranean region until the Middle Ages when it spread throughout other countries.  Ginger, was a very expensive spice until Spanish explorers introduced it to the West Indies, Mexico, and South America in the 16th century.  Top commercial producers today are mainly Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia, and Australia.

I use crytallized ginger in the ginger molasses cookies I make and it adds a wonderful spicy burst to the cookie.  Buying crystallized ginger can be expensive and making it is quite simple here is a recipe for you to try, happy crystallizing!

  1. Peel and thinly slice one pound of fresh ginger root.
  2. place sliced ginger in a heavy saucepan
  3. cover with water and cook gently until tender, about 30 minutes
  4. drain off water and weigh the cooked ginger and measure an equal amount of sugar
  5. return ginger to the saucepan ~ add sugar and 3 Tablespoons of water
  6. bring to a boil, stirring often, and cook until ginger is transparent and liquid has almost evaporated.
  7. reduce heat and cook, stirring constantly, until almost dry.
  8. toss cooled ginger in sugar to coat
  9. to store:  seal in an airtight jar for up to 3 months.
recipe courtesy of home cooking.