Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring Zucchinis Make Nice Loaves

Spring has arrived in San Francisco!

Organic zucchini was on sale at my local market, so I absolutely had to buy 3 pounds. We had zucchini rounds (breaded with cornmeal, eggs, and herbs...meh)...even gluten-free zucchini "lasagna," but could do no more. Sometimes two times a zucchini is one time too many.

What did I do? Let them wilt in the crisper? Hell no!

A friend and non-profit colleague, with whom J and I volunteer, emailed last Friday and proposed taking us out for Thai food on Sunday night. Dinner? Really? Thank you!

Here's how I thanked him:

Rather than have whipped up one of my special "healthy" quick breads (bananas, apple sauce, honey, plain non-fat yogurt, egg sniff my whiff), I went with the Joy of Cooking's standard zucchini bread, and added ground cinnamon, organic raisins, and several dashes of "pumpkin pie" spice blend (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mace, allspice...) from Trader Joe's. Didn't want to gross out the generous Baby Boomer gentleman, after all.

Why include this on the blog? Check out the cute card I made:

Those are little squash flowers and a wee zucchini doodled on a pink 3x5 note card and colored in with crayons. And that's leftover yarn from my Kitchen Sink scarf...which you can see on my friend John in NYC - alas, no photo - or as its original skein-self on Ravelry.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mom's Oatmeal Molasses Bread

Mom didn't cook or bake often for us, so when she did it was extra special. I don't know whether my sister remembers this...

...But I bet she wants some now!

I found this recipe buried in a stained cookbook in my Mom's basement years ago and copied it into a Word document. Somehow it has survived countless data migrations and hardware upgrades. Now I've printed it on REAL paper, so even if the latest hard drive has a meltdown (please no, please no) it will survive for the next generation [of fruit flies].

Mom's Oatmeal Molasses Bread

- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 and 1/2 Tbsp butter
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 and 2/3 cups flour (mix whole wheat and all-purpose flour)

Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in quick oats and butter. Let stand for one hour. Soak yeast in lukewarm water for 5 minutes. Stir until dissolved and add molasses, salt, and oatmeal mixture. Stir thoroughly and add flour. Knead for 8 - 10 minutes. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk. Divide into 2 pieces and mold into 2 loaves of bread. Let rise in a warm place, covered with a towel, until doubled in size. Bake at 375 F for ~ 35 minutes.

Your bread should definitely rise more than mine. I'm pretty sure I used expired yeast, because normally it rises a lot more. Another 'flat' error can be from using too much whole wheat flour - only go so far as 50-50.

Do be sure to proof your yeast, then email me a picture of your beautiful golden loaves!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Art in Doodletime

This blog has so far touched on my ludique sense of cookery and baking. But I must confess: I get a tad anxious when thoughts turn to "What am I going to make so I can post?" and "IS this really blogable, because I just threw it together and don't have any exact measurements or cook time?"

There's also the waistline to consider, so it's time to back out of the kitchen and get ready for summer dresses. In honor of the new season, and my own desire to shake it up a little, here are some finished art projects piddling round the house:


This one above hangs in the bathroom - sealed with duct tape on the back to lock out moisture. I made it with salvaged wrapping paper, a clipping from a fashion magazine (the golden shoe), and scraps (Mies van der Rohe, the Seagram building, the yellow painting) cut out of ---- (I can't remember! Will update when I do), a hard-bound arts and culture magazine from the 60s that was rescued off the street from my old neighborhood. It's now out of print, but I know of at least one person who has used its contents to make wallets (by cutting out a pattern, laminating, and folding....who knows, they're probably on Etsy by now).

Here are some rings I made in the spring of my senior year of college - the seven of us would pile into a athletic-team van and drive to the DeCordova once a week. It was a great way to end college since it had nothing to do with my major and got me in touch with my high school desire to go to art school. Looks like there are a few options to continue this hobby in San Francisco (1, 2, 3) once I have a few more feathers (dollars) in my cap (checking account). (Yep, that's a cubic ZrO2 gas mask. I'm taking camouflage chique to a whole new level!)

Sewn bits (a Valentine heart I sewed for J):

All those tiny glass beads - a real labor of love.

...and an origami mobile made with J:

It's all about the process!

...stay tuned...more fun stuff (even a little cookery) to come.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dangerous Dacquoise

How did this (i.e. the expansion) happen?

Deb of Smitten Kitchen had better start sending me reimbursement checks for a gym membership!

How did I do it (i.e. the expansion)?

Brown Butter Hazelnut Dacquoise with Chocolate Espresso Ganache

*ahem* - thanks, always, to Deb for helping me to bust out the control-top hose
*aHEM* - thanks to Shuna Fish Lydon for her tips

Here's the horror (okay, actually really REALLY drool-worthy) slide show:

Toasted hazelnuts:

Unsalted oRRRRganic butter (fewer hormones, smaller hip bump mutations):

...melted and browned (and since I didn't have a real vanilla pod, I added some real vanilla extract):

The "drys," per Shuna's expert instructions - ground toasted hazelnuts, powdered sugar, flour:

Five egg whites at room temperature:

Five egg whites after a lot of whipping:

Make a small emulsion with some whites and some butter, then start sifting in the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry... :

Cake pans lined with parchment paper and butter:

...gently pour in the batter:

Bake for a while...allow to cool:

...make the ganache (pour off any excess oil/fat that accumulates in ganache - otherwise you'll have a wet dacquoise fat sponge...versus the preferred moist dacquoise fat sponge), spread ganache on first layer of dacquoise, then carefully add second layer, dust with powdered sugar...and wrap for the party:

It looks like une petite couronne dacquoise, n'est-ce pas?


Dacquoise Rehash:

Why didn't it rise more in the oven?

Perhaps it had something to do with all the moisture in the Foggy City. Or did something go wrong with my egg whites? Hard to say, but oooooh did it taste good.

...Now, recovering from the excess of the last few weeks, I've gotten back to basics and am preparing sensible, easy food like the good ol' days...

Dacquoise Rehab:

Steamed Broccoli with Mustard Vinaigrette and Raw Cashews

Mmmm mmm mmm...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Fennel Almond Biscuits/Biscotti

After my last baking experiment, I wanted something good, reliable, and a little lighter. Good thing Clea always has my number:

And mine:

Fennel and almonds...

I do love licorice - anything licorice. It's true, I've even had storybook dreams of a licorice wedding, complete with licorice laces, Pernod cocktails, anise, fennel and white stripes, top hats...

And almonds (butter and powder) round out the root-fennel-flavor so well, while the vanilla pulls out the fennel seed's sweetness.

I modified Clea's recipe, substituting 40 grams plain non-fat yogurt for her soy milk, as well as used vanilla extract instead of vanilla-ed sugar and mixed grape seed oil with olive oil (grape seed oil doesn't break down as much as olive oil at high temperatures).

She advised popping the dough into the fridge for 30 minutes before slicing, but mine was in there for 2 hours...and was still gloopy - hence her ultra thin slices and my thick shake-your-finger chunks.

But no hard feelings. With a spot of tea in the late afternoon, or served with a small bowl of vanilla ice cream after a dinner party, these flew pretty quickly out of the cookie tin. And with scant sugar, healthy almonds, heavenly aromas, and great crunch/crumble, these biscuits/biscotti darlings have earned their place in the frequent baking rotation.

Fennel Almond Biscuits/Biscotti

150g all-purpose flour
50g almond powder
80g sugar - unrefined fair trade/organic
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 egg
40g plain non-fat yogurt
40g blend of olive and grape seed oil

* Metric conversions got you sweating? Check out this older post...then buy yourself a little food scale.

(original recipe and here, too)
(Clea's modified recipe: she took out the pine nuts and adjusted the animal product content to zero a la biotoniquasibonnnnne)

Dulce de Leche Pecan Brownies and an Ice Cream Solution

Have you ever made Dulce de Leche?

This was my first time, too. You can call this post a Dulce de Leche Virgin Liberation Theology Lesson if you like. Or you can be like me and say, "Ah, ah, smart cookie!"

Here's what happened:

1) I droooooled over this recipe by David

2) I had some leftover milk from a kinda bad experiment

3) I didn't want to dirty up a baking dish with condensed milk (eep: industrial food product)

4) I scoured the 'net for a simple recipe, didn't find one I liked, so went with Wikipedia

5) Nearly burned off all the hair on my arms in the process, but after several hours of stirring, stirring, stirring milk, brown sugar, and vanilla extract, I finally had this:

...A little chunkier than what Wikipedia had promised...

6) ...Now, HOURS LATER, it's time to make the brownie batter:

(a) melt chocolate and butter in the oven

(b) blend well and take food porn shots

(c) mix together dry ingredients
Eeeeesh. That's a lot of sugar, David. Are you sure about this?...

(d) add eggs and vanilla extract to melted chocolate-butter, then mix in dry stuff (including these yummy home-toasted pecans)

7) Pour a little brownie batter over the dulce de leche and swirl with a butter knife

8) Pour the rest of the brownie batter over your "marbled" dulce de brownie mess, and pop in oven. Bake, baby, bake...

9) Try to remove from pan - just try! - by pounding, cutting edges with paring knife, sticking in freezer, popping back into warm oven...give it your best shot

10) Salvage what you can, scrape the bottom of the pan with a very stiff spatula, and grab your chai...'cuz it's messy brownie time

Lesson #1: If David says to line the pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, then you had better line the pan!

Compare mine... David's:
This man knows what he's doing! (photo courtesy of

Lesson #2: If your brownies look like cr*p and, no matter how tasty, are therefore not suitable to feed to colleagues, make Dulce de Leche Pecan Brownie ICE CREAM! The best and final solution to an otherwise sad and arduous baking affair.


...Sorry, it didn't last long enough to get a photo shoot in. But I do have the recipe for you:

- Allow vanilla ice cream to warm on your counter for 5-10 minutes, crumble your crumbly brownies over top, and stir, stir, stir

- Return to freezer, allow to cool for 30-45 minutes, then stir, stir, stir

- You'll have a great NON-industrial food product to serve as a simple dessert after a simple meal (e.g. bean soup, zucchini rounds, and homemade olive foccacia bread) that your friends will mistake for something BandJ dreamed up on their latest Unilever-sponsored galactic-sugar-shroom trip. Yum!