Monthly Archives: February 2014

Add One Cup of Flour

You’ve moved.  Now you need to find the grocery store with the good butcher, the mechanic you can trust, the best Italian restaurant, the store that sells the chocolate I like, and the best burger joint.   I need to find a flour mill.

I don’t use all-purpose flour and haven’t for years.  Basically, all-purpose flour is 50% high gluten flour (used for bread) and 50% low gluten flour (used for cakes, cookies and pastries) – hence it can be used for all-purposes.   Yeah, not really.

When I moved to upstate New York in the late 70s, I was just beginning to cook seriously.  One of my quilting friends told me about a flour mill in a nearby town that sold pastry flour – and we could buy it directly from the mill.   So I gave it a try and really liked the results.  Because pastry flour has very little gluten, you don’t have to worry about pie crusts getting tough.  And cookies and cakes are nice and tender.

Then I found bread flour from the Polly-O cheese man at the farmer’s market.  He delivered to restaurants in the area and drove right by my house,  He agreed to deliver to me, if I had a minimum order.  And so began my use of anything but all-purpose flour.

Lehi Roller Mills

When we moved to Utah, I again found a supplier – Lehi Roller Mills – that sold to the public.  It was a cute little mill right off the freeway.  You could see onto the milling floor from the windows in the office.  Little did I know that it was the same mill used in the movie Footloose.  But as soon as the movie hit the theatres I recognized it right away.

Lehi was fairly far from my house, and given the winter weather in Utah, I found a second mill – Honeyville Farms – that was a little closer.  Honeyville was in an industrial area near the airport and, if you didn’t work there, you had no reason to go.  They opened a store in Footloose Movietheir warehouse after a few years and carried baking supplies and food storage items, albeit in fairly large quantities.  Because I usually had 100 pounds of flour on hand and a chest freezer, this wasn’t a problem.

When we moved to Charlotte, I figured I would have no trouble finding a supplier, if not an actual mill.  Costco has bread flour, but it is bleached.  Almost no one other than a mill or restaurant supplier carries pastry flour.  The cake flour at the grocery store is different and expensive.  After searching the internet I couldn’t find anything.  Reluctantly I bought a 5 lb. bag of all-purpose flour at the grocery store to make waffles.  Umm, no.

Once my baking tools were unpacked, I needed to make bread.  I make pretty much all the bread we eat.  I bought a 5 lb. bag of bleached bread flour at the grocery store.  It wasn’t right, either.  I went to Honeyville’s web site because I vaguely remembered that they did mail order.  And, yes, they did.  I ordered 50 lbs. of pastry flour, 50 lbs. of bread flour and 1 lb. of instant yeast.  You’d think that would be hugely expensive to ship, but they ship anything for a flat $5.00 fee.  I have no idea how they can afford to do that but the shipment arrived in 5 days.  I was a happy camper.

Even though this seemed like a good solution, I continued to look for a local source.  At a cheese making class, one of the other students told me about the Chef’s Store – a restaurant supplier owned by US Foods.  And yes, they have the unbleached flours I want.  Yea!  All is right with the world – or at least, my world.

Stay tuned for my loaf bread recipe.

You Can’t Get There from Here

When we moved to Utah, everyone told us how easy it is to get around. The streets are numbered in a grid starting from Temple Square.  One hundred South (or 1st South) is one block south of Temple Square.  Thirteenth East (13th East) is 13 blocks East of Temple Square.  You can at least get within shouting distance of any address without the help of a map.  And they were right – that grid makes a lot of sense and sure saves lots of time.  Of course you still have to learn the location of streets with names (they almost always wind around), and learn which streets don’t cross a creek or freeway.  But mostly it’s pretty simple.

Charlotte Queen City

Then we moved to Charlotte.  It’s almost like “they” don’t want me to figure the roads out.

Learning to drive in a new city takes time and determination.  I know that.  I have a AAA map and I use Google maps to scout out my locations before taking off.  After living here for almost three months, I think I have South East Charlotte figured out.  Almost.

There are a few major roads – Providence, Monroe, Independence and Sardis.  Easy peasy.  WRONG.

Our neighborhood is off of Sardis Road.  Come out of our neighborhood and turn onto Sardis Road. It then makes a sharp left turn but the road going to the right is Rama Rd.  Continue along on Sardis and soon you’re on Fairview and then a while later, you’re on Tyvola.  You haven’t turned at all – roads just change names every so often for no apparent reason.  Rama Rd. becomes Idlewild, Wendover becomes Eastway.   Providence Rd. becomes Providence Rd. South as you head south, then becomes Providence Rd. North right outside of Waxhaw, then becomes N. Broome St., becomes South Main, becomes Old Providence Rd.  And of course there’s a North Providence St. also in Waxhaw.  And don’t forget Old Providence Rd. (entirely different one) in Charlotte.

And then there are the variations.  There is Sardis Rd., Sardis Rd. NortSardis Road & North Sardis Rd.h (which is perpendicular to Sardis Rd.), Sardis View Rd., Sardis View Lane, Sardis Lane, Sardis Oaks Rd., and Old Sardis Rd.  Add some subdivisions:  Sardis Forest, Sardis Woods, Sardis Croft, Sardis Grove, Sardis Hills.  Aren’t you glad you’re not a fireman trying to find a burning house?

My Master Gardener class meets at Freedom Park, off of Park Rd.  I travel down Sardis/Fairview and make a right on Park Rd.  The street right before my turn?  Park Rd. North.

Then there’s the plantations.  There’s Providence Plantation, Reedy Creek Plantation, Plantation Forest, Fairfield Plantation, Catawba River Planation, Callaway Plantation, Ashe Plantation, etc., etc.

Providence Day School is on Saris Rd. There’s Providence Baptist Church – not on Providence – but on Randolph Rd., along with an assortment of Providence roads, lanes, streets, you name it.

There are some actual helpful road names.  Marvin Waxhaw Rd. runs between Marvin and Waxhaw.  Matthews Township Pkwy. is in Matthews.  It then becomes Matthews Mint Hill Rd. as it heads towards Mint Hill.  So some of these name changes make sense.  Except that Waxhaw Highway runs from Waxhaw to Monroe (the town, not the street) and perpendicular to this is Old Providence Rd. that becomes Old Waxhaw Monroe Rd. that loops around and eventually ends up in Monroe, too.  I think I will just decide to never need to go there.

There used to be an intersection in Charlotte of Queens, Queens, Queens, Queens and Queens, but for some reason they changed the name of some of these.  Can’t imagine why.

But I can do this.  And if I get lost, just make it to one of those major roads and I’ll make it home.  I hope.

Triple Chocolate Biscotti

Ask anyone who even barely knows me and they will agree with the statement that I am a chocolate snob.  I am especially particular about the chocolate candy I eat.  And so when I left Utah last year, I made a deal with my friend Aby.  She would send me dark chocolate lemon creams from Rebecca’s Chocolates and I would send her homemade biscotti orhomemade hot chocolate mix.  Chocolates have been sent (and eaten), so it is time for me to make biscotti.

The first batch was made on a “rare” snow day in NC – geez, I hope this is rare.  But that snow day (which turned into 3 days) also meant we couldn’t get out to go anywhere, much less the post office.  So those biscotti never left the house.

But every adversity brings benefits.  Time to make adjustments to the recipe.  I’ve made this recipe quite a bit and I still keep making improvements.

I used vanilla sugar, because we have it.  This is just a container of sugar we have added vanilla beans to.  Some of these beans have been in there a while.  I added two more yesterday from the last batch of Kahlua we made.  When we removed the beans from the vodka, we just let them dry on the counter, then added them to the sugar.

Baked logs

Every chocolate recipe benefits from the addition of espresso powder.  It enhances the chocolate flavor without out tasting like coffee.  To bloom the powder I mixed it with a teaspoon of our homemade Kahlua.

And of course, use the best cocoa you can find.  I have been using Valrhona cocoa for several years now and will never go back.  Sur la Table has it in NC but as a last resort, there’s always Amazon.  The difference is readily apparent – even in the raw dough.

Baked dough

The second chocolate is the chocolate chips.  I usually just chop up some good chocolate bars (Sharffen Berger or Valrhona) but this time I used Trader Joe’s dark chocolate chips.  Even so I roughly chopped them.

The triple chocolate is the bittersweet chocolate the biscotti are dipped in or drizzled with at the end.  Now all you need is a good cup of coffee!

I always love when a recipe (especially with chocolate) says it will keep in the freezer for up to a month.  Yeah, if you hide it at the bottom and label it “lima beans” it might.

I’m off to the post office tomorrow!  Aby, biscotti are on their way.

Triple Chocolate Biscotti

2 cup all-purpose flour (I use pastry flour)Triple Chocolate Biscotti
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons espresso power
1 teaspoon Kahlua

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup vanilla sugar
2 large eggs

1 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips, roughly chopped

Topping:
½ cup extra dark chocolate chips
7 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (Scharffen Berger 62% cacao)

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

In a bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Dissolve espresso powder in Kahlua.  Set aside.

In bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment, beat together butter, and vanilla sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until combined well. Add Kahlua mixture.  Stir in flour mixture to form a stiff dough. Stir in almonds and chocolate chips until well blended.

On prepared baking sheet with floured hands form dough into two slightly flattened logs, each 12 inches long and 2 inches wide.

Bake logs 35 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch. Cool biscotti on baking sheet 5 minutes.

On a cutting board cut biscotti diagonally into 3/4-inch slices. Arrange biscotti, cut side down, on baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove to a rack and cool.

Melt bittersweet chocolate and dip one side of each biscotti or drizzle over.  Return to cooling rack until chocolate hardens.  Biscotti will keep in airtight containers 1 week and frozen, 1 month.

Adapted from Epicurious.com.

Pizza and a Movie

If it’s Friday night – it’s time for pizza and a movie.  We’ve been having pizza on Fridays for a few years now and it is usually pretty traditional pizza.  Some of us have pepperoni and some of us have mushrooms and onions.  I do use Boar’s Head Turkey Pepperoni.  It has a whole lot less fat, calories and salt and still tastes pretty good.pizza ingredients

Last spring I found a new pizza.  Who would have thought to put asparagus on pizza!  And prosciutto and fontina and shallots?  I’m glad someone did.  This is now my new favorite pizza.  The biggest problem is it’s seasonal.  What will I do when asparagus is no longer in season?  But that is days off.  For now I will just enjoy.

I fBalsamic Vinegaround this pizza recipe on How Sweet It Is.  Of course, I made a couple of changes.  Who has ever made a recipe exactly like it’s written?  I used an aged balsamic vinegar I bought when I was in Italy instead of the balsamic reduction the recipe calls for.  And I used white mushrooms instead of baby bellas because that’s what I had.

Now, I should have a picture of the finished product, but it was cut and plated before I could turn around.  You’ll have to see the one from the original recipe.

The pizza dough recipe I use is from Handle the Heat.  It comes out perfect every time and is quick and easy in the food processor.  The recipe makes two medium pizzas but could easily be doubled.  Of course the size of the pizza will also determine how thick the crust is.  Smaller pizza means thicker crust.  If I am making two pizzas I use my pottery pie pans and coat them well with olive oil.  If I want a thinner crust and larger shape I put the dough on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  This also helps me transfer the pizzas to my stone in the oven when its time to bake them.

 

Basic Pizza Dough

2 c bread flour
2 t quick-rise yeast
2 t sugar
2 t salt
¾ c warm water (110˚)
2 T olive oil

In a food processor, combine flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Pulse to mix together.

With the motor running, add the water and olive oil in a steady stream, and then pulse until the dough comes together in a rough mass, about 12 seconds. If the dough does not form into a ball, sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of water and pulse again until a ball forms. Let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes.

Process again for 25-30 seconds, steadying the top of the food processor with one hand. The dough should be tacky to the touch but not sticky.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and form into a smooth ball with your hands. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, turn to coat with oil, and cover with plastic wrap.

Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk and spongy, about 1 ½ hours.

Once dough is risen, turn out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down, and shape into a smooth cylinder. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball, dusting with flour only if the dough becomes sticky. Cover both balls of dough with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes.

If not using dough immediately, place dough in a zip-top bag and refrigerate for up to 24 hours or freeze for up to 2 months.  When ready to use, let refrigerated dough sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes; thaw the frozen dough overnight in the fridge or for 2-3 hours at room temperature.

Recipe from Handle the Heat.

Mushroom, Asparagus, Prosciutto Pizza with Balsamic Glaze

Yield: makes 1 pizza, serves about 4

1 batch pizza dough
2 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. fontina cheese, freshly grated
1 shallot, diced
2 c sliced baby bella mushrooms
8 asparagus spears, in thirds
4 oz. prosciutto, torn
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
¼ c finely grated Romano cheese
balsamic glaze for drizzling

Prepare dough 1-2 hours ahead of time. Preheat oven to 400˚.

Place dough on a baking sheet or in pan and form into desired shape. Brush with olive oil then cover in minced garlic.

Top with half of the fontina cheese, then evenly place shallots, mushrooms, asparagus, and prosciutto on the pizza. Top with the fresh mozzarella and remaining fontina.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until cheese is golden and bubbly. Remove and cover with Romano cheese, then take a spoon and drizzle balsamic glaze on top.

Recipe from How Sweet It Is.

When Life (or Costco) Gives You Lemons (part 1)

It’s lemon season and the bags of lemons at Costco are calling my name.  We had served the last of our limoncello at the Bowl of Joys luncheon and wanted to take advantage of the supply of juicy lemons.

The first project was a batch of limoncello requiring the zest of 10 lemons.  That takes a few weeks to brew – more details on that later.

With lemons zested, that left 10 naked lemons that needed to be used.  The first thing I thought of was Faye’s famous lemon tart.  Who is Faye, you might ask?  Faye Hess was our teacher and excursion organizer at the cooking school I went to in Mercatale, Italy last year.  I love lemon anything and this tart is lemon!

Faye's lemon tart

When we returned from Italy, I realized I really hadn’t paid enough attention to make this tart on my own.  So I messaged Faye and she created a video on her DinnerList website showing how to make this.  AND, she dedicated the video to me!  How cool is that?

Faye isn’t offering cooking schools anymore – because she started a restaurant in New York City.  This is her second restaurant and I can’t imagine how much work this must be.  But if you are in the city, be sure to drop by the 51st  Bakery and Café.  You will not be disappointed.  She is a great cook.  You could even say I sent you.

Until you can eat at her restaurant, try her lemon tart. This is a very simple recipe.  Make a simple crust in a springform pan.  Make the lemon curd – do make sure to let it thicken in the pot.  Then add to the crust and cook.  Waiting for this to cool is probably the hardest part.  You could serve with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or some whipped cream.  We had it plain and pretended we were back in Mercatale.

Faye’s Lemon Tart

 Crust:
1 c flour
8 T cold butter
¼ c sugar
small pinch salt

Filling:
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 ¼ c sugar
½ c lemon juice
pinch of salt
2 T butter
2-3 T lemon zest

Crust: Combine flour, cold butter, and sugar, and 1 small pinch of salt until there are some small bits and some large bits of flour and butter. Use your fingertips.

Press the crust into a spring form pan and bake at 400˚. Remove when it’s the middle of golden, about 15 minutes.  While crust is cooking, make filling.

Filling: Combine eggs and egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until combined. Slowly add sugar and whisk until all sugar is dissolved.  Add lemon juice. Pour into a wide stainless steel pan over medium heat, and whisk lightly until slightly thickened.  Just keep it moving.  Mixture should coat back of spoon.

Off the heat, add cold butter one T at a time. Pass through a sieve and then add lemon zest. Taste for salt.

Pour filling into crust pan and bake for 5 minutes at 350˚.  Tart will solidify more as it cools.

Bowl of Joys Luncheon

Bowl of Joy

What is a Bowl of Joys luncheon you might ask?  Well, some ladies at church are in this group called Bowl of Joys and take turns hosting lunch at their homes each month.  The only rule is that the dishes must be new to the group.

Tablescape

The group got its name from an actual wooden bowl filled with wooden leaves that is passed around the table at the luncheon. Each person takes a leaf and talks about the joy in her life.

Place setting

In January it was our turn to host.  Our original idea was to have a tasting menu with lots of small plates but that turned into more work than we could do in the time allotted.  But we used some of the same recipes.

Buffet 2

The menu was:

Appetizer

Pimento cheese crackers

Lemon Drop Champagne punch

Lunch

White Wine

Roasted shrimp cocktail

Herb chicken salad on profiteroles

Absurdly Addictive Asparagus

Quick cucumber pickles

Roasted garlic mushrooms

Cape Cod salad

Dessert

Ricotta cake with macerated berries

Gingerbread with Kahlua whipped cream

Homemade Limoncello

Kahlua

Their take home gift was homemade Kahlua.  We found these cute bottles on clearance at The Container Store for less than $2.00 each.

I can’t wait until the next luncheon!

Salt & Pepper or Pepper & Salt?

When I was young Morton Salt came out with those plastic salt and pepper shakers that had an “S” and “P” on them.  Maybe you’ve seen these at flea markets.  Everyone had them – hey, plastic was the in thing then.  These sat in the middle of our dinner table.  One night I noticed that they matched my sister’s and my first initials – salt and pepper, Susie and Peggie.  Hmmmmmm, interesting.

Salt & Pepper shakers

Many years later after we were both married, while ordering something to be monogrammed, I noticed that our married initials stilled matched those salt and pepper shakers – SP and PS.  Now this is more than interesting.  What are the odds?

Our married lives moved along, mine in New York, hers in Connecticut.  At some point my sister began collecting interesting salt and pepper shakers.  My favorite was a set with the Empire State building and King Kong.  She eventually found a ceramic “S” and “P” which she kept (and still does) on the window ledge in her kitchen – now also my kitchen.  While visiting on our annual vacation a few years ago, I mentioned to her that it was nice that she had shakers that were my initials.  Her response – “What?”

PS

She had never noticed something that I had found interesting for many years.  She realized they were her initials, but never made the connection that they were also mine.  So now this is the running joke.  She still has the shakers in her window, and, on occasion, I rearrange them to suit me.  Whenever she notices it, she puts them back.  No one ever mentions it, but we know.