Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Portland State University Farmer's Market

We were fortunate to be in Portland this past weekend. Not only did we enjoy a fantastic show called "Million Dollar Quartet" we got to see the Rose Festival fireworks Friday night down at the waterfront. 

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better we decided to walk over to the Portland State University Farmer's Market on Saturday. Neither of us had been to it before and I didn't know much about it.  When we arrived I was stunned-there were 150 booths lining the park in the middle of the college campus.  All food !  Fresh vegetables,fruits,seedlings,artisans selling their canned and pickled goods,artisans selling their cheeses, bakeries,fish,meat,poultry-I was in foodie heaven.  We spent a good 4 hours roaming,tasting and buying !  If you live in the Pacific Northwest please take the time to visit this amazing market. If you are planning a visit to Portland,plan to be there on Saturday and get to this market. They operate Saturdays thru December 15 and the hours are 8:30-2:00 thru October and 9:00-2:00 for November -December.They have a great interactive map here and you can learn about the vendors and their products.

There are gorgeous flowers scattered throughout the market.  You could spend the entire day just wandering,tasting and more wandering.  Our booty included the 2 Kimchis from Choi Kimchi; pickled beets and a jar of corn relish from Zoe's Favorites; Rage n Red Jalapeno jelly along with a jar of Mango Jalapeno from Rose City Pepperheads; the sausage from Salumeria di Carlo;Fig and Anise Panini from Pearl Bakery; Chevre Chef's Blend goat cheese from Fraga Farm; Smoked Gouda from Willamette Valley Cheese; and Roasted tomato salsa from Gathering Together Farm.  Everything delicious - besides the sausage, the Jalapeno Jelly and the Fig and Anise panini were my favorites too.  We fell in love with this market and all the farmers and artisans who put so much love and energy and caring into their products.  Planning another trip , really soon !

Choi's Kimchi-outstanding , we bought a jar of the sweet white napa cabbage and one of the spicy red napa cabbage.

Hood River strawberries-the absolute sweetest berries I have ever tasted-I plan on making a return trip soon just to buy a couple of flats of these .

And one of the best sausage sandwiches can be found at Salumeria di Carlo, smothered in peppers and onions. We brought home a package of frozen ones too and those are gone !

We ended our visit, sitting on the grass, eating these delicious sandwiches,feeling ever so grateful to be living in the Pacific Northwest . 

 If you are looking for a place to stay,convenient to the waterfront,downtown and this market I can recommend Hotel Modera.  Fabulous staff,good bar (try the Absinthe makes the Heart-a blend of Absinthe,lavender and vodka) beautiful outdoor dining area (try the pommes frites with harissa ketchup),and super comfy beds with lots of pillows.  If you stay, have the Brioche French toast with berry compote for breakfast-excellent.

And call me if you need someone to go with you !

PS. I did not receive any compensation from the PSU Farmers Market,vendors or Hotel Modera.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vanilla Eclairs-Laduree

I was inspired to make these when I first saw them over at Ellie Won's Blog Kitchen Wench.  Eclairs have always been one of my favorite pastries but I've never made a vanilla version with the crackly sweet pastry crust on top.  I don't make eclairs very often because they are my downfall-I'm addicted to them. That light pastry crust,the Crème Pâtissière filling, and the chocolate ganache coating-oh so delicious. I thought the the chocolate ones were addictive, let me warn you now-the Laduree Vanilla Eclairs are like crack.  First of all the Crème Pâtissière -you must put it under lock and key until you are ready to use it-otherwise ,trust me, you will find yourself sitting at the table with a spoon and bowl of pastry cream and a huge calorie consumption you will never recover from !  And the sweet pastry crust that covers these,another caution, the dough is delicious raw, I can't even explain how scrumptious it is when it's baked.  

These are definitely over the top. I really want to make them again because I did a couple things wrong on my first attempt. I didn't roll the sweet pastry topping thin enough or wide enough to drape over the sides. The thickness reduced the rise you would expect on the choux pastry shell (still delicious but not as puffy as it should have been). And while I thought I whipped my heavy cream to a good thick consistency -I didn't. Will I try these again ? Most definitely-but first I need to spend a lot of time on my treadmill ! Head over to Ellie's blog if you want the recipe or buy the beautiful Laduree:The Sweet Recipes here. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dark Chocolate and Pomegranates

    Since the Trader Joe's opened in West Seattle I find myself heading in the direction of the store more and more. While I was on a recent expedition I came across their prepackaged pomegranate seeds. They were too gorgeous to pass up . I had no idea what I would make with them but I took my little ruby jewels home and placed them in the refrigerator just waiting for an idea . After I finished a recent baking project I was left with about 1 1/2 cups of ganache and the bells went off. I would make little candies with the ganache and pomegranate seeds. Oh these are so very luscious. You have that wonderful deep bittersweet chocolate ganache that you bite into and then the pomegranate seed explodes with its tartness and the two combined-delicious! An added bonus is these are easy to make-put them in little candy cups,package them up with a pretty bow-these would make a great little gift to take to a dinner party or just to cheer up a friend.

8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate (or semi sweet), finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tablespoons butter cut into small pieces

Put chocolate into a large heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup of cream just to a boil over medium-high heat; pour over chocolate. Let stand 10 minutes.  Stir the mixture very gently from the center of the bowl gradually widening your circle while incorporating the cream steadily, without overworking. The mixture should begin to appear glossy. Once it is smooth and glossy add the butter a little at a time,again slowly stirring until the butter is incorporated.  You can refrigerate until it gets to a consistency thick enough to spoon out into the your molds or liners. 

Fill each mold or liner with the pomegranate seeds-I averaged about 8-10 seeds per mold.  Then use either a tablespoon or ice cream scoop and fill each mold with the ganache.  Top each one with 2-3 seeds. Place in refrigerator for 1-2 hours or overnight until they firm up.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Double Chocolate and Banana Tart-French Fridays with Dorie

This was a good day for being in the kitchen. My baking work table is at a window that looks out on the garden. It was nice to be in the kitchen and see everything coming into bloom while a soft Spring rain was falling. The peacefulness of the scenery helped to calm me. Of course I waited until this morning (the day the French Friday's with Dorie posting is due) to start this recipe. I had reviewed the recipe earlier in the week and knew this wasn't going to be one of those all day baking challenges. And my timing was perfect-too wet to be outside, but perfect to work inside

This is a wonderful dessert . Chocolate shortbread crust,caramelized banana base, bittersweet chocolate ganache and topped with fresh bananas bathed in an apricot gloss.  They will think you labored all day over it. Perfect for a family picnic or an elegant dinner.  Of course you have to love bananas to enjoy this.  I think the caramelized banana base makes this dessert.  I'm thinking of drizzling some caramel sauce over the top of this,but I'm not sure- I love the pure simple appearance of the bananas on top.  Sometimes it is best to leave well enough alone.

Don't be alarmed by the bittersweet chocolate ganache-it's heavenly with the caramelized bananas and the fresh bananas-nothing too over the top,just a sweet caramel tasting biteful.

Head over to French Fridays with Dorie and see what my fellow bakers did with this recipe.  And really this is a fabulous cookbook, if you don't have it, you really should add it to your bookshelf. I have never been disappointed by Dorie's recipes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pecan Sticky Buns-TWD Baking with Julia

The Baking with Julia cookbook says: "These bear no resemblance to anything store-bought."  That is nothing short of an understatement.  I knew that starting with the brioche dough these were going to be excellent.  Take into account that it took 16 hours to complete the sticky buns .  That was 16 hours spread over 3 days and well worth the effort. The contributing baker for this recipe was Nancy Silverton, and you should know that anything coming from her will be and is absolute perfection. She trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London and at the Ecole Le Nortre in Plaiser, France.  She is the owner and head baker at La Brea Bakery as well as the co-owner and head pastry chef  at Campanile Restaurant.

Nancy was the James Beard Foundation Best Pastry Chef of the Year, 1990 along with a page full of other awards that you can see here.  After eating one of these sticky buns you will understand why she has won so many awards. I would like to nominate her for the best sticky buns ever !

Warning: not only are these incredibly delicious,they have enough butter to put Paula Deen to shame and the preparation is not for the faint of heart. You really need to allow 3 days to prepare these.

 The beautiful brioche dough on it's first rise

 Rolled, frozen and then sliced prior to the final 2 hour rise

 2 hour rise prior to baking

Almost ready for the oven

Are they worth the effort-oh yea baby. Thank goodness I can immediately send them out of the house with J to his office , because there is not enough time in the day to run on the treadmill in order to burn off the calories from  these sticky buns.

They really should come with a health warning. Like everything - moderation is the key here. But just try and have one bite ; that leads to another; then you rationalize well ,I'll just eat one third of one; then that turns into a half; and before you know it there is nothing left but the sweet sticky syrup and maybe a pecan or two. Of course you make those tiny remnants disappear faster than anything Houdini could do !

Feel like a challenge with incredibly delicious rewards at the end ?  Try the recipe. Check out our hostesses for this recipe , Lynn at Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat or Nicole at Cookies on Friday. Then head over to here to see what my fellow bakers did with this recipe.

Or buy the book-Baking with Julia  and join the fun . You can sign up here.  Me ? I'm finishing off the last brown sugar caramel coated pecan on my plate and heading for a long long walk on the treadmill. Bon Appetit.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day and a Giant Rhubarb Plant

My mom was always so elegant-I don't remember her every wearing jeans,always in a dress and hair perfectly done

Mother's Day used to bring up so many conflicts and anxiety for me.  My mom and I had a very challenging relationship to say the least. And it took me a very long time to understand and accept her issues and my own.  My mom was seventeen when she was married. She was eighteen when I was born.  Even for the 1950's that was a young age to be a wife much less a mother. And she had no role model, my grandmother had died when my mom was only thirteen.

At a time when other women were exploring life or going to college, my mom was having a baby (me). She was pretty much alone since my Dad was away most of the time in the Marine Corp or working all day and going to night school.  We lived on a Marine  base at Cherry Point,NC for a bit. I was too young to remember anything about it but I remember seeing pictures of myself and my mom-she looked happy at the time. Then three years later my sister was born and three years after that came my brother. Growing up, most of our childhood was overshadowed by my mother's unhappiness and discontent with her life.  Alcoholism and addiction to prescribed drugs (in those days they prescribed Valium and a list of others like they were giving out gummy vitamins) just made things worse. Then she lost both of  her sisters in a plane crash and a few months later her father died. It wasn't too long after my grandfather's death that my mother took her own life.  At the time, besides feeling an incredible sadness, confusion and loneliness, I also felt relief.  No more fighting and no more drinking . But also no more Mom.

Mom teaching me how to look stylish while learning how to swim

It took a long time for me to let go of the "dark side" of my childhood and the sad memories of my mom along with the anger I felt towards her.  But I eventually did.   Now I can remember with sweetness, the moments growing up when life was fun. Working side by side with my mom in her beautiful garden in our backyard;learning from her how to set in tomato plants; how to sprinkle just the right amount of salt on a freshly picked tomato that still had the warmth of the sun in it; how to squish tomato bugs between leaves so you wouldn't get the bug all over you and just how good fresh picked watermelon tasted with just a little sprinkle of salt. She taught me how to catch lightening bugs in jars;how to plant lilies; how to grow the most fragrant roses and how to sit up straight and walk properly like a young lady should.

 And mom taught me how to bake and cook.  She was always the one who hosted the huge family dinners over the holidays. And for days she would  bake nut roll and cold dough cakes; breaded pork chops and city chicken and her famous potato salad . When our entire family sat down for one of those dinners there was barely enough room on the table for your plate !  My sister and I , to this day, load up the holiday table with food and baked goods,just like mom.  It took a lot of growing up on my part ,coupled with counseling , to be able to appreciate and remember the sweet funny mom who shared herself with me during special moments. And those are the times I remember now.

And tomorrow for Mother's Day, I'm going to sip some rhubarb soda water (we had a huge rhubarb plant in my mom's garden and now I have my own giant rhubarb plant) while I'm sitting out on the back deck admiring my vegetable garden and remembering my time with my mom. Happy Mother's Day everyone. Now go and give your mom a huge hug and kiss, don't let the moment get away.

I was completely inspired  to make this rhubarb syrup by Heidi who has a beautiful blog called 101 Cookbooks. You can find the recipe and her stunning photos here . If you want to try something different with rhubarb this is the recipe to try. The drink is so refreshing and takes me back to the scent of my mom's roses and our time in the garden. "Cin Cin", here's to you mom, wherever you are, I know you are watching and proud of the woman I've become.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Malted Milk Heaven

I haven't been very good at practicing "being in the present moment" lately.  I've been spending time longing for Summer weather instead of enjoying the beauty of Spring . I should be making things with rhubarb or asparagus,instead I'm experimenting with ice cream.  I keep hoping that if I surround myself with things associated with Summer then Summer will come.  So, after this recipe I really am going to work on enjoying Spring !  When I walked the dog last night the sun was shining and tulips,daffodils and cherry trees were in bloom everywhere.  Spring really is a beautiful time in Seattle. My favorite thing to see is all of the blossoms carpeting the ground-it's so pretty-makes me feel like a little fairytale princess walking through a magical spot. See, I am enjoying Spring..kind of (even if I had my woolly cap and winter jacket on ).

After my walk I was wandering through blog land on my computer and came across Michael Ruhlman's blog post about David Leibovitz's Malted Milk Ice Cream.  Seriously, how could you go wrong with something recommended by Michael Ruhlman and created by David Lebovitz ? So, being in the Summer state of mind I knew I was going to make the Malted Milk Ice Cream. And besides, the ice cream recipe called for adding malted milk balls (you know Whoppers) to the ice cream.  This recipe is so creamy and rich and oh so delicious. It needs to be served in small portions. That is if you can contain yourself once you taste it.  J wanted to sit down with the ice cream maker and a spoon, he loved it so much.

Then my next challenge was , what could I serve this with to jazz it up a bit ?  Not that it needs jazzing up-I could be happy and content with a small bowl and spoon. I remembered that I had bookmarked a blog post about Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies. Hmm, malted milk ice cream + malted milk chocolate chip cookies-bonus. I reviewed the recipe from Buns in My Oven and knew they would be perfect with the ice cream. First I was going to make the bars and just top them with the ice cream. Then I thought of making ice cream sandwiches. But then I remembered I had these Savarin moulds I hadn't had a chance to use yet and thought they would be excellent for the idea that was brewing in my little baker's head. I was thinking of baking the cookies in the moulds,plating them with some type of sauce and topping it all with the malted milk ice cream.  Taking simple ice cream and cookies and elevating them to something a little more elegant,

So I started to Google Malted Milk syrup and of course just kept running into Ovaltine-didn't want to plate my delicious little bars in Ovaltine !  I was ready to give up when I decided I would just plate them in some type of caramel sauce-so that was the next thing I Googled, and that is how I found Sherry Yard's fantastic creamy caramel sauce.  Now this recipe is perfection as is,but of course I wanted to tweak this a bit so I added chocolate and malted milk powder.  Oh my goodness-just the right amount of chocolate and caramel and the hint of malted milk. This is exactly what I wanted.

Malted Milk Chocolate Caramel Sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed to 100 degrees F
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch salt (less than 1/8 teaspoon)
  • 3 tablespoons malted milk powder (Carnation or Horlicks, shouldn't use Ovaltine)
  • 1 1/2 oz of bittersweet chocolate-chopped into small pieces
Heat the cream on low heat until it is warmed to 100 degrees F. Add the malted milk powder and whisk gently until dissolved. While the cream is still warm add the chopped chocolate and stir gently until chocolate is melted. Set this aside.

Heat a saucepan of water and place a whisk in it.
Wash and dry your hands thoroughly. Combine the water, 1 cup of sugar, and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Stir them together with very clean fingers, making sure no lumps of dry sugar remain. Brush down the insides of the pan with a little water, using your hand to feel for any stray granules of sugar.
Cover the saucepan and place it over medium heat for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Do not stir from this point on. Keep an eye on the pan. It will be very bubbly. When stray sugar crystals appear on the side of the pan, brush them down with a wet pastry brush.
As the sugar cooks, the bubbles will get larger. Insert a candy thermometer, and when the temperature reaches 300 degrees F, lower the heat to medium, which will slow the cooking. Continue to cook the sugar until it reaches 350 degrees F. It will be dark brown. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for 1 minute, or until the bubbles subside.
Add the cream mixture  to the caramel. It will bubble up vigorously, so be careful.
Vigorously whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, creme fraiche, lemon juice, and salt. This sauce is now ready to be served warm or cooled to room temperature. It will keep stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. When cold, it has the consistency of peanut butter . I poured it into a squeeze bottle and will be able to warm it in the microwave as needed.

To assemble this fabulous dessert, I squeezed out enough malted milk chocolate caramel sauce to cover the plate.  I placed one of the Savarin moulded Malted Milk Chocolate Chip bars onto the bed of sauce. Then I topped the bar with few tiny scoops of the Malted Milk Ice Cream, drizzled some of the sauce over it and sat down to Malted Milk Heaven . Bon Appetit !

You can find the recipe for David Lebovitz's  Malted Milk Ice Cream here on Michael Ruhlman's blog.

And the recipe for the Malted Milk chocolate chip cookies here on Buns In My Oven-the only tweak I made to this recipe was the amount of chocolate chips: I added 2 cups of milk chocolate chips and 1 cup of coarsely chopped malted milk balls.

And Sherry Yard's delicious  Creamy Caramel sauce recipe (without my additions ) can be found here at the Food Network site.