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Baking


The basil plant on the patio survived not only an entire summer in my less then green thumbed care but also hurricane Irene’s recent attempt to take New York City by storm so I figured something should be made as an homage to the little basil plant that stood.

My only foray into the world of Ottolenghi has been via one of their cookbooks. In September I intend to make a pilgrimage there along with maybe a return to Moro.  Ottolenghi recipes for baked goods are delicious. A little challenging which is fun plus there is always a little thoughtful twist on run of the mill desserts that is inspiring.

Using their ‘tea cake’ recipe which is for 6 peach/raspberry  ‘bundt’ cakes, I made a batch of peach-basil muffins. Peach and basil is a pretty divine combination no matter how you do it.  Ice pops, cakes, a salad or a rice dish…..

Tip: Skins of fruit and veg are not the worst thing in the world – often they contain the best nutrition. However should you wish to be rid of them simply plunge the peaches in hot water for a minute then immediately into cold for 3o seconds and the skins will be easy to rub/peel off.

The following recipe makes 6 bundt cakes or about 12 normal size muffins.

Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.

 

Ingredients

  • 180gr butter (plus melted butter for greasing if necessary)
  • 260gr flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 160gr caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 170ml soured cream
  • 2 peaches diced
  • good handful of fresh basil leaves torn into small pieces

Making

Preheat the oven to 350 f.

Depending on what tins you’re using butter a muffin tray and leave in the fridge.

Put the flour, baking powder and soda and salt in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then beat the eggs with the vanilla and add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time.  Fold in the flour mixture one third at a time until well incorporated making a smooth batter. Add the peaches last.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tray keeping it just below the surface.  Bake for about 30 minutes until a knife emerges clean and dry from their centers.

The sour cream factor can mean they have less of a shelf life so eat them quickly!

Like a cross between a shortbread and a clafoutis…or clafoutis on shortbread.  The original recipe called for an enormous amount of sugar. When this happens take a step back and think about it. Is all that sugar really necessary? Aren’t fresh strawberries pretty sweet with just a sprinkling of cane sugar or a little honey? In the end I used 2/3 of a cup of maple syrup. This makes for a denser topping I suppose but gives more depth to the taste too. Baking with maple syrup needs a little extra  thought. When substituting sweeteners care needs to be taken with other elements in the recipe. Often when substituting maple syrup it is necessary to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe.  In this case however the strawberries balanced worked well as a counter sweetener to the syrup and the dense topping made for a fruity smooth square.

 


Ingredients

Base:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup flour
  • scant 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (optional)

Strawberry topping

  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour

Making

Make the base first. Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees f. Lightly butter the base and sides of a 9 x 13 inch dish. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar and the coconut if using. Using your fingers or a pastry blender cut in the butter until the mixture is crumb like. Pour into the prepared dish and press out until evenly distirubuted over the bottom. Don’t worry if the base seems thin. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until the edges turn golden.

Remove from the oven and reduce temperature to 325.

To make the topping whisk the eggs well and blend in the maple syrup. Whisk in the flour. Pour this over the hot baked crust and bake for about 35 minutes or until the topping seems set. Wait until completely cool before cutting into squares and drizzling with a little icing sugar to serve.

I finally got to visit Vermont recently. Land of lakes, liberals and great cheese.  The Chester farmer’s market saw us procure a large jug of local maple syrup and feast on Ana’s amazing empanadas. As for the banana bread, nothing revolutionary here but a healthy and delicious recipe which contains no refined sugar and is quickly thrown together for breakfast, on-the-go baby snacks or afternoon tea.

Ingredients

6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup maple syrup
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 ripe mashed bananas
1/3 cup coconut flakes
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
sprinkle of salt

Making

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f. Cream the butter with maple syrup and add the other wet ingredients and the coconut flakes. In a separate bowl mix the flour with the baking powder, soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold until just incorporated – do not overmix.
Pour into a lined and greased loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes.

 

A chewy coconut cake for no reason at all. Replace the sugar with 1 cup maple syrup or 1/2 cup agave for a healthier snack. The courgette/zucchini can be omitted but it adds a nice moistness to balance the crunchy, toasty coconut.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 (150 gr) cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup (100gr) toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup grated courgette
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 stick (100 gr) butter
  • 1 cup (200 gr) sugar
  • 1 pot plain/vanilla whole milk yogurt (125 gr)


Making

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor or by hand cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, the yogurt and the grated courgette.  Meanwhile, toast the coconut flakes for about 5 minutes in the oven. In a separate bowl mix the flour and the baking powder – sieve the flour. Add the poppy seeds and the toasted coconut to the flour, then mix the flour mix into the wet ingredients. Pour into a cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes.

Paris has become Brooklyn. It became Brooklyn in November of last year.  Maple syrup is still maple syrup, we just got a little sidetracked what with the well cooked baby of July reaching almost 10 months old and the exploration of Brooklyn and it’s pickling, brewing and baking. Life as a stay at home mother was a bit of an adjustment, there just has  not been as much time to embrace my inner chef as I had expected….

Nonetheless, cooking has continued. Bread baking is being pursued. I realise a food blog is a little like the starter for the sourdough – it needs to be refreshed, to be fed, if it’s going to grow and attract attention from your husband and perhaps even a reader or two.

One of the fun aspects to moving from France to the US has been discovering American baking. I had never heard of a lot of the most popular desserts here, for example the Whoopie pie – essentially a biscuit sandwich in various flavours that has its roots in Amish home baking in Pennsylvania but is also the official state treat of Maine – see the Wikipedia entry….

Before I left Paris I was told by none other then David Lebovitz to make a pilgrimage to Baked of Red Hook. So I did. It was seriously worth it. Wandering through rather barren streets with only Ikea and the Atlantic ocean before me, I came across this small oasis of baking that has bravely set up shop in one of the more off the beaten track neighbourhoods of Brooklyn and is famous for its delicious cookies and baked goods including a whoopie pie.

I tried two different recipes for both chocolate and pumpkin whoopie pies. The chocolate one is from Epicurious.  The other can be found here at the Brown Eyed Baker. For the cakes themselves, I found that a recipe using just baking soda produced a fluffier whoopie pie. While the traditional whoopie pie  filling was almost always made with marshmallow fluff, yet another good old all-American treat, hoarded and stockpiled by ex-pats in Paris, I decided to go with a less toxic cream cheese filling using maple syrup in both cases.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup  buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg

Making

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and in a separate bowl stir together the buttermilk and vanilla.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl  until pale and fluffy, then add the egg, beating until combined. Alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, and mixing until smooth.

Using a dessert spoon or a cookie dropper, spoon  batter about 2 inches apart onto large baking sheets.  Bake until cakes spring back when touched, 11 to 13 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool using a spatula.

The cakes can be made in advance of the filling which I made a little less sweet then the recipes I had seen called for….

Filling (adjust to your recipe and the number of pies you made)

4 oz of cream cheese

2 oz butter

3 tablespoons of maple syrup

1 cup icing sugar (confectioners sugar)

One of my favourite french bakery treats is a canelé de Bordeaux. These Bordelais mouthfuls are soft, chewy and custardy on the inside and crispy the outside. Seemingly people have a lot of trouble making these.  I didn’t, I think  simply because the batter was allowed to rest in the fridge for almost 3 days before baking (and I was using my mother-in-law’s fabulously reliable fancy oven in Toronto!).

Looking far more intricate then their fabrication, making them consists merely of a batter and chilling it before baking it for a long (very long…) time. Watch cooking times depending on your oven.  This is probably where the making of these could be the most problematic. The bottoms (upward facing in the moulds) should be burnt and dark looking when they are done.

The recipe here is courtesy of Clothilde at the great Chocolate and Zucchini. Whenever I’m seeking a traditional French recipe I know I’ll find a usable, reliable one on her site. I had a hankering to make them once I found a silicon mould in the right shape although seemingly a copper mould would produce even better results.  For a very elaborate recipe and a great sense of the politics and history of the cannele, try this one at  Paula Wolfert.

A sprinkling of sugar in the greased mould helps to caramelise the outside. Historically pâtissiers used beeswax to line the moulds before baking. Instead of sugar I drizzled maple syrup into the moulds before pouring the batter. (Well I had to get it in there somewhere…)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 liter milk
  • 30 g semi-salted butter, diced
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
  •  100 g (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
  •  180 g sugar
  •  3 eggs
  •  80 ml (1/3 cup) good-quality rum

Making

Over a low heat bring the butter, milk and vanilla to a simmer. Set aside. In a seperate bowl whisk the eggs. In yet another bowl beat the flour and sugar. Add the egg mixture to the flour – don’t mix. Then pour the milk mixture over the flour and eggs. Whisk to a batter-like consistency and add the rum stirring gently. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 24 hours or up to 3 days.

When it comes to baking time, butter the moulds and I drizzled them with maple syrup before pouring the batter into each one almost filling to the top. (The batter will have seperated a bit in the fridge so give it a gentle whisk before using).

When the time comes to bake, heat the oven to 480 and bake the canelé for 20 minutes at 480 then 40-60 minutes at 400. Time taken will depend on your oven. The canelé are done when the bottoms are dark and almost burnt looking.

Makes 12 good-size canelé.


Moist, green flecked breakfast bread with a nutty bite. Finding a good grainy flour really makes a difference.  I first came across zucchini bread years ago while working on Martha’s Vineyard for a summer. We would bike over to Morning Glory farm in the mornings just to get some of their zucchini bread for breakfast eaten while rocking on their front porch watching the pumpkins sprout. It just seemed so perfect to use courgettes in baking. Easily combined with carrots, chocolate, lemons…..

So I played around with recipes and used a nutty flour here – a multi-grain with various cereals. If you don’t find such a flour easily just add a handful of sunflower seeds, flax, quinoa or other cereals. As for the oils, nut oil adds a nice rich flavour.  For a sweetner, here I stuck to regular brown cane sugar but maple or agave syrup or honey could easily substitute for health and sweetness. The poppy seeds give great texture – just watch out for seeds in your smile afterward!


Ingredients

  • 1 large courgette – finely grated (skin on)
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 gr sugar
  • 125 gr vanilla yogurt
  • 60ml sunflower oil
  • 60 ml nut oil (walnut)
  • 200 gr flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Butter for greasing tin

Making

In one (big) bowl cream the eggs with the sugar. Then add the oils, the vanilla essence, the grated zucchini and the yogurt. In another bowl combine the flour with the other dry ingredients. Fold the dry mixture into the wet without over-mixing. Then pour the resulting batter into a greased loaf tin. Bake at about 190  for about 40 – 50 minutes depending on your oven.

A crunchy, dense, no-rise, no-fuss loaf that’s done and dusted within an hour.

Experimenting with different flours is always fun. In France, flours tend to have less gluten and so home bread making has a different dimension.  Seek out a strong bread flour for these kinds of quick breads, even if they are labeled for the machine you can still use them for baking by hand. Look for a high ‘T’ number – the higher the T the higher the gluten content. If you don’t find a flour with muesli already added use a combination of rye and wholewheat flours and add seeds, nuts, dried fruits as you wish separately. Dried cranberries and raisins are good plus the usual mix of sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients

350 gr flour (rye/muesli/plain) – often half rye and half wholewheat or another multi-cereal bread flour works best

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

250 gr natural yogurt (Greek yogurt or other plain yogurt..)

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons raw oats

3 tablespoons honey/maple syrup/agave nectar

1 tablespoon nut oil or olive oil

1 tablespoon corn flour or flour (for kneading)

dried fruits and seeds as wanted ( 1-2 tablespoons)

Making

Preheat your oven to at least 200°C.  In a large bowl, mix the flours, the seeds, the oats, the dried fruit and the baking soda. Separately, mix the yogurt, water, honey or maple syrup together.

Slowly, slowly fold in the liquid to the flour until it forms a breadcrumb like mixture.

Pull it together until a rough dough holds together then turn it out onto a floured surface (use the cornflour – scatter it onto your work surface). Knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball coating your hands in the olive oil while shaping the dough into an oblong loaf.  Using a knife score a few lines down the middle or cross-ways.

Bake in a hot oven (200°C) for about 30-40 minutes – you can check by tapping the base – a hollow sound indicates that the bread is done.

Turn out onto a rack and allow to cool. Keeps for a week in a dry airtight place. Excellent when toasted or served with hummus, cheese or marmalade.

Pear and almond tart is a classic dessert. Almond paste is easily located in supermarkets and poaching pears is a quick and easy way to several desserts, accompaniments and a breakfast or two.  Recently, I bought 200 grams of matcha tea almond paste and mulled over ways to use it…

Poached pears, matcha almond paste and good quality cocoa powder make for a sinful dinner party dessert.  Matcha tea is a Japanese delicacy and has been a darling of western baking scenes for years.  It has a subtle taste and while not overbearing definitely adds something to the tart and goes amazingly with the dark chocolate flavour of the cocoa powder.

Ingredients

One tart base – pre-baked

Filling

200 gr matcha tea almond paste (or regular almond paste)

3 tablespoons rich dark natural cocoa powder (good quality makes  a huge difference)

1 tablespoon flaked almonds

4 poached pears

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 egg

1 egg white

Making

Beat the almond paste with the sugar, syrup, flour and cocoa powder. The add the butter and egg and egg white forming a smooth paste.

Spread the paste onto your tart base and then place a layer of pears fanning them out evenly.

Sprinkle with almonds and bake for 40 – 45 minutes at 180°C

It’s been a while.  It seems that pregnancy and cooking are not always a good combination. Raging hormones have temporarily replaced my taste buds with those of a hungover university freshman and I had no inclination to cook or eat anything healthy or strange or exciting let alone write about it. No offense to college first years.. . But for the last few months I have wanted only simple starchy foods (preferably with ketchup).

IMG_3381

Now I’m finally getting back to eating normally even coaxing the lentils out of the dark corner where they have been forced to hide with all the other remotely healthy foods in the pantry.

So as a transition, we have breakfast muffins. Amazing gooey, fruity, yummy muffins. These are sticky and so moist they keep for days. Relatively healthy with no butter they are a good breakfast treat and a great brunch addition.

Baking without using butter may seem entirely wrong to some people and let’s face it baked goods with real butter have a little bit of heaven in them so they have their place in the world. However, you can still have your cholesterol and eat it too…so to speak…

High cholesterol reared it’s ugly head recently in my family and I feel obliged to find ways of banishing le buerre from my parents household. Banish. Not substitute.There is a difference.

So, when baking there are lots of ways of not using butter. It’s just another way of baking. Vegetable and nut oils, fruit compotes, yogurts, buttermilk all can play a part. It just needs different measurements, a little experimenting and a lot of tasting. No problem really.

These muffins use nut oil and honey/maple syrup instead of regular granulated sugar and butter. Maple syrup is preferable for taste I find but both give a nice sweetness.

Muffins

Fruity breakfast muffins

Ingredients

In one bowl :

2 x 125gr tubs of vanilla yogurt (or plain)

3 tablespoons nut oil

2/3 eggs

2 tablespoons dark rich genuine maple syrup (or 3 tablespoons honey or a mix of both)

200 gr fresh or frozen berries ( a full regular coffee cup will do either)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

In another bowl:

230 gr flour ( mix whole wheat, plain, spelt, rye…as you wish)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons raw oats (optional)

Making

Mix the wet ingredients  first. After mixing the dry carefully fold the dry into the wet – but do not over mix the batter.

Pour into muffin tin – makes about 12 medium size muffins (fill each almost to the top for generous sized muffins)

Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes or until a knife comes out clean

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