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A few posts ago, I mentioned that my goal has been to try at least one recipe from each cookbook that I get from the library. I have the habit of seeing a shiny new cookbook and putting it on hold, flipping through the recipes picking out ones that look tempting, and then never managing to try any of them before I have to return it to the library. Here’s my current batch:

So far I’ve made recipes from three (all except The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook), although I’ve checked out The Sprouted Kitchen twice, so I suppose I should make a second recipe. And, confession, I had to return The Science of Good Cooking because it had holds, and I barely even looked through it first.

Here’s what I’ve made.

Vintage Cakes: This is one that I requested my library buy, because it looked gorgeous and because I own and like Richardson’s other cookbook, Rustic Fruit Desserts (plus, she’s local). I had it out in the fall and made Pearl’s Chocolate Macaroon Cake (a yummy coconut layer inside a chocolate bundt cake – what’s not to like?) This time I made the Kentucky Bourbon Cake, since someone in my house is a big bourbon fan (and it’s not the baby). If you like the flavor of bourbon, this is a must-try. There’s some in the batter, and the cake itself is a nice moist, buttery bundt. Then you make a bourbon-sugar-butter glaze, poke holes in the flat side of the bundt, and pour half the glaze in. This gives you nice gooey, extra-boozy streaks in the cake. Then you flip the cake out of the pan and pour the rest over the top. Mine was unattractive (it stuck) but delicious.

The Sprouted KitchenI can’t remember where I saw this recommended, but I thought I needed something to balance out all the baking books. Lots of things look tasty, and so far I’ve made the Ranchero Breakfast Tostadas. It felt like a lot of steps and ingredients for a relatively humble meal, but it was worth it. You toast a corn tortilla and top it with a black bean mash, a fried egg, cheddar, avocado, cilantro and lime juice. We had them for dinner instead of breakfast, and the runny egg yolk really pulls it all together. I’d make this again – or at least use the basic concept once I have to return the cookbook.

The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: It turns out that I saw this on a list of 2012′s best cookbooks on NPR – along with The Sprouted Kitchen and The Science of Good Cooking. I haven’t made anything yet, but I’ve been eyeing some of the pies, like the Triple Coconut Cream Pie, although realistically I might manage some muffins or scones.

Super Natural Every Day: Some of these recipes have me drooling and some are less appealing, especially in my extremely carnivorous state. However, I made the Baked Oatmeal yesterday, reheated leftovers today, and think I’ve found a new breakfast standby. Not as quick and easy as our current favorite, a Dutch baby with a layer of sliced apples on the bottom (which I can make without referring to a recipe), but nice and hearty. And a worthy use of the last of the summer blueberries. I’d also like to try the White Beans and Cabbage, the Bran Muffins, or the Frittata.

Please excuse the silence on this end – all my reading has been one-handed for the last few weeks, and typing one-handed isn’t my favorite thing. Here’s my excuse:

baby

 

We seem to be getting into a bit of a routine, 5 weeks into it, and I’m in the curious position of feeling like my time isn’t my own and like I have all the time in the world (at least until I go back to work). I do have nice chunks of time to myself during the day, while he naps, and I’m just starting to figure out how to put them to my advantage. Depending on the previous night, there are naps to take myself, there are chores to be done, meals to be eaten, and projects to undertake.

So many projects!

Run errands while he won’t cause a fuss.

Take a walk if the weather’s nice.

Write a letter. A few friends and I, mourning the coming loss of Saturday mail service, decided to write 30 letters in 30 days – any type of mail counts, from postcards to packages – and I’m loving it, even when I’m a few letters behind. Right now I have three letters to reply to, which makes the whole project feel real.

Bake – I have a pile of newish cookbooks out of the library and I want to try at least one recipe from each before I have to return them. Right now I have The Sprouted Kitchen, The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook, and The Science of Good Cooking. Meals are always iffy around here – the baby seems to sense that I’m hungry and work up an appetite himself – but I’ve managed some baking during his afternoon nap, and I might as well try some new things.

Read all those books that I kept thinking would be perfect for maternity leave. At the moment, I’m rereading the Elizabeth Peters books that I happen to own. Leila at Bookshelves of Doom is doing an Elizabeth Peters week, which I think is ending today, but it inspired me to pull out a tattered copy of Naked Once More and now Crocodile on the Sandbank - I haven’t read any of the Amelia Peabody books in years (I went on a reread through the Vicky Bliss books a few years ago) and I’m remembering why I loved them so much (even though they do get a bit repetitive as the series goes on…and on). I’m discovering that mass market paperbacks, which I usually dislike because they don’t lay flat – an important quality if you read while eating – are perfect for reading one-handed while nursing.

More soon, I hope. The creature is stirring.

I always know it’s really summer in Oregon when I can go blueberry picking.

blueberries

 

(Okay, so this picture is from 2007, but do blueberries really change? No.)

I went on Friday – I had the day off for working the weekend – and there’s nothing like a not-too-hot hour spent wandering between overgrown bushes, picking and eating and picking.

Now, to turn them into a blueberry tart! I’m thinking one of those ones with a sweet crust, pastry cream filling, and blueberries mounded on top. With leftovers for munching or freezing or turning into muffins.

(Just FYI, when I typed “tradition” into the post title, I heard it in the voice of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, followed by a musical interlude.)

I got up early this morning to start the dough for a batch of Santa Lucia buns, or Lussekatter as I recently learned they’re called.  My church does a Santa Lucia procession after vespers on the Saturday closest to her feast day (the 13th) – they’ve done it since I was a tiny thing, too young to participate, then the right age to carry a candle, very solemnly, then the right age to play the part of St. Lucy herself. I’m trying to remember if my sister, who is actually a Lucy and has St. Lucy as her patron saint, ever got a turn.

At any rate, I have a soft spot for the tradition but haven’t made it to that vespers in many years.  This year I couldn’t resist the requests for people to bake buns, since I figure that if anything, I should volunteer to help in baking-related duties at church (see: hot cross buns for Palm Sunday). They’re still on their first rise, so I don’t know how they’ll turn out, but hopefully they’ll be delicious and ready before it’s time to go to The Nutcracker this afternoon (speaking of traditions!)

Here’s the recipe I was given to use – no idea where it originally came from.  And yes, apparently Santa Lucia buns count as a valid way to break the fast!

St. Lucia Buns (Lussekatter)

2 pkgs. active dry yeast
1/2 warm water (105-115°)
2/3 cup lukewarm milk (scalded, then cooled)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 margarine or butter softened
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. powdered saffron
5-5 1/2 cups flour, divided (I used about 5 cups and suspect this was a tad too much)
1/2 cup raisins
margarine or butter, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp.sugar

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter or margarine,
2 eggs, cardamom, salt, saffron and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough of
remaining flour to make dough easy to handle. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface;
knead until smooth. Place in greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down dough;
divide into 24 parts. Shape each piece into an S-shaped rope; curve both ends into a coil.
Place raisin in the center of each coil. Place rolls on greased cookie sheet.
Brush tops lightly with butter; let rise until doubled. Mix 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water; brush buns lightly.
Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes. Makes 24 buns.

A quick word on this year’s Thanksgiving baking: as usual, I brought desserts.  I wasn’t sure how many of the other 20-ish guests were bringing dessert, so I went a little crazy.

  • Banana Ice Cream with Caramelized White Chocolate Freckles, from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home.  I’d never had banana ice cream before, but for some reason this recipe jumped out at me.  It was a HUGE hit.  Plus, I was a big fan of how she does her recipes – clear instructions that are ordered well – she tells you what to have prepped in advance and that made it all come together smoothly.  I have the book out of the library, where it (of course) has holds, so it will go back this week – but I might have to get myself a copy before too long, to keep David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop company on my shelf.  Oh, and I have half of the white chocolate bombe shell leftover, and the only question is which recipe to use it in/on?  Dark chocolate for contrast?  Something tart for a different kind of contrast?
  • Caramel Pumpkin Pie, from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking.  This was like darker, slightly more intense pumpkin pie.  I made it the morning of, with limited time, and the sugar took forever to caramelize, so I may not have gotten it quite as dark as would be ideal.  The flavor of the pie ended up being a nice balance between pumpkin and caramel.  I’d make it again, but not prebake the crust as long as she calls for (I used her Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough, in my brand-spanking-new food processor, and it was marvelously flaky but a bit too browned).
  • My Favorite Pecan Pie, also from Baking.  It earned the title.  Mark and I fought out who would have the last piece.  The espresso powder adds just the right hint of coffee flavor, and the dark chocolate chunks are perfect against the gooey filling.  Plus pecans are awesome.  I ended up keeping this one at home, which was a good call since there were tons of desserts to go around at dinner.
  • Double Apple Bundt Cake, again from Baking.  Big and moist and tasty, and a nice option for non-traditional-dessert people.  I didn’t ice it, but I kind of wish I had (I think the lemon icing would make a nice contrast to the sweet apple flavors).  I used Granny Smiths.

It’s a little bit of torture to write this all up now, in the midst of the Advent fast (no meat or dairy, fish generally allowed on the weekends).  It’s never my best fast – the rest of the world is firmly into holiday treat mode – but I’m doing pretty well with Lenten dinners.  Let’s not talk about the cream in my coffee, and just focus on the mujadara and vegetarian chili.  And now it’s time to decide which Christmas cookies to bake this year (I’ve been wishing I had a nice big expanse of counter to roll out sugar cookies and gingerbread).

Here’s a fairly recent Long Distance Kitchen recipe that came from Smitten Kitchen – Rhubarb Streusel Muffins.  It might be a little past rhubarb season now, but it would also be good with other not-too-sweet fruit (or maybe reduce the sugar if you use something sweeter).  The rhubarb chunks in here did end up pretty tangy, although in hindsight I might have sliced it a bit thick.

I didn’t have white whole wheat flour handy, so I followed Deb’s recommendation and used 3/4 cup white flour and  3/4 cup whole wheat flour in the batter.  Streusel is always tasty – this one was fairly crumbly but good.

Being not-too-sweet, these were good at breakfast.  Not a recipe that wowed me, but I’d recommend it.  I accidentally bought twice as much rhubarb as I needed, so not too long after I was looking for another rhubarb recipe and found one in King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking for a very similar coffeecake.  The recipe is for Peach Coffeecake (recipe on a very unattractive random website) but includes a rhubarb variation, where you increase the sugar and switch rhubarb for peaches.  This recipe also calls for a whole wheat/all-purpose flour blend and the rest of the ingredients are similar, except for a larger quantity of sugar.  Maybe it’s just my sweet tooth talking, but I thought the tart/sweet balance was a little better here, and it certainly got devoured (and one pan got delivered to some new parents).

Sadly, no pictures of the coffee cake survive.  When rhubarb season rolls around next year, I might try making a combination of these recipes – somewhere in between the two levels of sweetness.

Somehow I got it into my head that I should go berry picking today.  It was the perfect opportunity – I have the day off since I worked the weekend, the weather is warm but not too hot, and here in Oregon it’s the tail end of the strawberry season and the beginning of raspberry and blueberry season.  I almost went for the strawberries, but couldn’t resist the allure of raspberries – my parents have a few bushes, and raspberries have always been one of those fruits that I eat in small quantities straight from the bush.  I almost never buy them, but I adore them.  Blueberries I can get from the church property, and those might be getting close – they were still green last weekend when we went to check on them.

So, I went to Sauvie Island and picked 6 pounds of raspberries.  It’s definitely the beginning of the season – there were hordes of red berries that weren’t quite ripe, which makes me want to go back in a week or two and load up again – as long as my freezer can take it.  I was single-minded, and trying not to carry extra stuff through the fields, so no photos from the farm.  Although, while I was waiting in line to pay for my loot, a girl from a group of arriving u-pickers snapped a picture of my box of berries, which kind of cracked me up.  They were all wearing cute sundresses, and I would’ve liked to see what they looked like after an hour or two in the sun, crawling halfway into bushes to get at the ripe ones.


So then I came home with my haul and went into a recipe-hunting frenzy.  I threw a bunch in the freezer on a cookie sheet, shifting them into ziploc bags once they hardened up, and right now I’ve got another sheet-full in the freezer – about 10 cups so far.  Some I’ll leave for eating by the handful.  But I also wanted to find a few recipes – those recipes that I always bypass because they call for fresh raspberries and are thusly prohibitively expensive when you haven’t just paid $10.50 for six pounds of raspberries.


I started with a batch of the super-simple raspberry jam from How to Be a Domestic Goddess – you just heat raspberries and sugar separately in the oven, then mix them together and let cool.  Still cooling, so the verdict is out on consistency.  I don’t have canning equipment, and I’ve never really made jam before, so this was a gentle start.


Then I made a chocolate cake.  Yeah, I know, chocolate cake does not feature fresh raspberries.  But I had two goals: I’ve been wanting to try this recipe from Orangette with the perhaps insane thought of maybe baking (and freezing, then defrosting) several for our wedding reception.  I wanted to see how easy it was to execute and how it tasted.  Plus, I love chocolate cake, especially dense fudgy ones.  The second goal was to serve the cake with whipped cream and raspberries – either fresh or in the form of the aforementioned raspberry jam, especially if it ends up slightly runny.  The cake is no thing of beauty, but that’s not the point.


Finally, I made a batch of raspberry sherbet from A Perfect Scoop – raspberries, milk, sugar, and lemon juice.  Sweet, a little tart, and a little creamy.  It’s also super easy (once you’ve picked the raspberries, of course) – you throw everything in the blender and puree it, then strain out the seeds and throw the rest in your ice cream maker (it’s a space-hog, but I do love mine).

And there you have it!  A day completely taken up with raspberries.  Now I just have to clean out the sink and remember what I was going to make for dinner…

This is another long-ago Long Distance Kitchen recipe (from last August, cough cough), but so scrumptious that it shouldn’t be forgotten – Figgy Buckwheat Scones from Good to the Grain.  In fact I’ve made them twice, and I’ve been considering playing around with the dough recipe to see what else I can do with it.  It turns out that I love the flavor of buckwheat – there’s another Good to the Grain recipe from October to share soon.

This is a two part recipe – first, you make a batch of Fig Butter – figs cooked with red wine and port and spiced with cloves, anise and cinnamon, then pureed with butter.  The fig butter recipe makes more than you need for a single batch of scones, and the extra is delicious on toast.  It disappears around here.

The second part of the recipe is a fairly classic scone recipe made with about half buckwheat flour and half all-purpose.  The buckwheat flavor is fantastically nutty and a nice complement to the rich fig butter, which might overwhelm a lesser scone.

You roll the dough out, spread fig butter on it, then roll it up into a log and cut it into fat slices, which get turned on their sides and baked into spirals of goodness.

The middle is a little gooey with the fig and the outside is crisp and crunchy.

I chose this recipe for Long Distance Kitchen back in April (I swear this is the last April recipe and then we can move onto May, a month where we took a break for a few weeks while Bronwen was out of town).  I love bundt cakes because they look impressive with so little effort, plus they’re easy to transport when unfrosted.  I think this was my first attempt at a bundt cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, although I’ve made several others (including that oh-so-delicious chocolate sour cream bundt cake that I documented a while back).  And just a few weeks ago I tried another of Dorie’s – the Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake, which had a nice coffee-cake-ish swirl to it.

But let’s get back to that Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake (click for the recipe from the Tuesdays with Dorie project), which I know I made and devoured even though I don’t have any proof.  It’s one of those recipes that takes a few different bowls and plenty of “add a third of the dry ingredients then half of the milk” type of instructions.  The effort pays off in a dense walnut-flavored batter swirled with the coffee and chocolate batter.  And even though I don’t have any memory of what I did with the cake – secret eating?  Sharing with friends?  Warmed up with ice cream on top?  Devoured in a day?  - I do remember that it was tasty and something I’d make again, with a nice balance of flavors between the nuts, chocolate and coffee.

All I seem to write these days are book reviews, written a month after the fact and with already hazy memory.  It’s more like an exercise in what I remember about a book than in really digging into things and writing a proper review.  Oh well – better late than never.  It’s interesting to see what sticks, and which books I have trouble finding something to say about, and which reviews just roll off the tongue (or my fingers).  It definitely, definitely comes in handy that I keep track of what I read – I use that list all the time at work to jog my memory for recommendations and book-lists.

At any rate, here’s a change of pace with a recipe that I assigned to Bronwen for the weekend of Palm Sunday – yes, two months ago.  Since that was the last weekend of the Lenten fast, I made them vegan, and ever since I’ve been meaning to make them again to see how they turn out with the correct ingredients.  And then once I made them again, I was going to report back.  But that second batch still hasn’t managed to materialize – maybe I’ll be inspired on Monday and turn them into Memorial Day buns – somehow that seems appropriate.

Being a yeast dough, this recipe requires a little patience, but not too much actual work.  I used this Hot Cross Bun recipe, which I believe I also used last year.  I replaced the milk, butter and eggs with almond milk, coconut oil, and egg replacer, which probably made for denser buns.  However, the flavor was great and the denseness satisfying.  Also, I was kind of enamored with the zests, as you can see, so I added some extra (pretty much one lemon’s worth and one orange’s worth).  I also cut out the dried fruit, since I don’t really care about it either way.

Instead of the recommended egg glaze and dough crosses, I made icing with powdered sugar and a little almond milk.  I made it too thin so my icing crossing were a little dribbly and malformed, but a touch of frosting adding a nice sweet note.

At my church, we traditionally make these for Palm Sunday and serve them after liturgy.  I left a few at home, just in case I didn’t manage to grab one of my own, and ate them for breakfast the next day.  Gosh, my mouth is watering just thinking about them.  I’m a sucker for a hot cross bun – why limit them to one holiday?  (We do this in my family – take foods strongly associated with one holiday and eat them at other points in the year – like our annual Turkey Dinner in May, which is coming up this Sunday).

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Dinner success - the rare occasion when we eat exactly the same thing (except no hot salsa on his rice & beans).

Trucks, always trucks (and the water tables).

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