Thursday, September 15, 2011
This was my first go-around with plum jam so I turned to an expert to see how it's done. I used Marisa from Food in Jars method and ratio here, just switching up the spices to use what I had on hand, cinnamon and cardamom, then threw in a vanilla bean from my stash. I bought a pound of vanilla beans a few months ago and I love being able to fancy up desserts and preserves with them. I guess I didn't have very high hopes for this simple jam because I was totally blown away by how much I loved it's sweet, tart and spiced notes. Slap some on toast or a scone and it tastes just like a delicious plum cobbler.
Spiced Plum Jam with Vanilla Bean
yield 3-4 half pints
5c chopped Italian plums
1 1/3c sugar
seeds from 6 cracked cardamom pods in a cheesecloth sack or tea strainer (you want to be able to remove the seeds before canning the jam)
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
3-4 sterilized half pint jars and lids
1. In a large bowl combine the plums, sugar, spices, vanilla bean seeds and pod and let sit for at least an hour, the plums will release their juices and the mixture will become very syrupy
2. When you are ready to cook, add the mixture to a large non reactive pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Boil the jam for 15-20 min, or until it passes the wrinkle test or if you like numbers you can cook it to 220º. Remove the vanilla bean pod and the cheesecloth or tea strainer with the cardamom seeds. Rinse off the vanilla bean and save it for another use like vanilla sugar or salt.
3. Pour the finished jam into clean sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
If you don't have the dollar bills to buy a whole pound of vanilla beans, split it with a few friends and you'll still have a ton of beans at your disposal. Depending on the variety, a pound is usually around 100 beans.
Monday, September 12, 2011
After college I spent a brief stint making lattes at an upscale grocery store in Seattle. I worked early, early mornings with a few fun gals and one very crazy guy, learned all of my regulars' drink orders and got to taste bread from all of the best bakeries in town. It wasn't a terrible way to spend my transition from college to real life but after about six months I had my fill and was on to bigger and better things, namely moving to New York. Now there's no shortage of delicious bread in NYC, but when I am missing home and needing a little comfort I whip out my Macrina Bakery cookbook and make my favorite bread from my latte days.
Rustic Potato Bread
adapted from the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook
yield one (seriously) large loaf
1 1/4lbs russet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes)
1/2c potato liquid (reserved from Step 1)
1T kosher salt
1 1/2t yeast
2T olive oil
3C flour (plus 1 cup for kneading)
1. Clean the potatoes thoroughly and cut into chunks. Put the potatoes, along with 1t of the salt in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cook the potatoes for about 10 min or until they are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and reserve 1/2 of the liquid. Let the potatoes and liquid cool for about 20 min.
2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm potato water and let stand 5 min.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix the cooled potatoes for about 1 min. Add the olive oil and mix for a minute more, then add the potato water and yeast mixture and mix until completely combined.
4. Switch to the dough hook attachment and add the 3C of flour and the remaining 2t salt. Mix on low to incorporate the flour, then increase the speed to medium and knead for 11 min OR if you are like me and are afraid that bread dough will kill your kitchen aid, knead by hand for 10-15 min. The dough will start out very dry and shaggy, but will become soft and sticky as you knead. I usually end up adding 1/2-3/4c more flour to the mixture as I am kneading. You want the finished dough to be smooth and tacky, but not sticky.
5. When the kneading is finished, form the dough into a ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean cloth. Set the dough in a warm spot to rise for about 45 min or until the dough is almost doubled in size.
6. Once risen, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently flatten and form it into a rectangle about 10'' wide with your hands. Then, roll the dough into a tight log, leaving about 1'' of dough on the end. Use your fingers to flatten this bit of dough and dust it with flour. This will create a decorative top and allow the steam to escape from the loaf while baking. Wrap the loaf, seam side down in a floured kitchen towel and let it proof for 45min. This recipe makes a HUGE loaf of bread, so you might want to split it and make two smaller ones.
7. While the dough is proofing, preheat your oven to 400º and fill a cup with 1/2c water. Carefully unwrap the loaf and place it, seam side up, on a baking sheet. Slide the baking sheet into the hot oven, then toss the water into the bottom of the oven and quickly shut the door. The burst of steam created will give the finished loaf a nice crispy crust. Bake the loaf for about 45min or until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool before slicing.
Don't be tempted to peel the potatoes! The skins give the bread really great flavor and texture. Before I got the Macrina cookbook I thought the little flecks in the bread were some variety of delicious herb that I just couldn't place. That said, if you wanted to fancy this recipe up with a bit of thyme or rosemary it would probably be pretty tasty.
I've never tried, but I think this recipe would make a pretty outstanding sandwich loaf (or two) so try it out and let me know how it goes.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
I can't believe it's been so long since we had any cookies around here. I admit, I got so caught up with delicious summer fruit and ice cream and preserves that I forgot how nice it is to have a little portable sweet treat lying around. These are the chewy centered, crispy edged variety of oatmeal cookies which just happen to be my personal favorite and I like to sprinkle them with a little salt before heading into the oven too. If sweet/salty isn't your thing feel free to skip the step, but if you've never tried it, give it a go with a cookie or two. They would make a great lunch box dessert if you have kiddos heading off to school this fall and after you tuck one or two in their lunch boxes you can eat a few for breakfast with your morning coffee. I mean, they're made of oatmeal right?
Oatmeal Chocoalte Cherry Cookies
adapted from BAKED
yield 18 cookies
1/2t baking soda
1/2t sea salt (plus a bit more to sprinkle on top of the cookies)
1/2t cinnamon (I used Saigon Cinnamon from Penzey's that was super strong, so if you use another variety you may want a little more here)
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3/4c brown sugar
1t vanilla extract
1 1/2c rolled oats
1/2c chopped dried cherries
1/2c chopped bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 375ºF
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a bowl with a hand mixer) cream the butter and the sugars, then add the egg and mix until combined, then add the vanilla.
3. WIth the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Then remove the bowl from the mixer, add the oats, chocolate and cherries and stir them in by hand.
4. Divide the mixture into 18 even balls, I used a cookie scoop about the size of a generous tablespoon and place on two parchment lined cookie sheets. Gently press the cookies down to ensure they spread and sprinkle each one with a tiny bit of sea salt.
5. Slide the sheets into the oven and bake the cookies until lightly golden on the edges and soft in the middle, about 12min. Don't forget to rotate the pans halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the sheets for a few minutes then remove them to a wire rack and try not to eat the whole batch all at once.
These cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temp for about 3 days.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
As summer draws to close I am left thinking about all of the things that I haven't yet checked off of my summer to-do list. There was not nearly enough barbecuing on friend's rooftops, I haven't made it to Governor's Island or watched an outdoor movie and I still have that bag of tart cherries in the freezer, just waiting to be made into pie. Usually, this would send me into a bit of a panic, but instead of feeling like I am fighting the clock, I am just going to enjoy these last few weeks of summer. My best pal from Seattle is in town and we are going to take advantage of these last warm days and nights together walking around and eating ice cream and I am going to do my best to preserve all of my favorite summer flavors before the pumpkins roll in.
Summer's End Jam
yield, 4-6 half pints of finished jam
2 1/2 lbs (40oz) mixed berries (I used 24oz blueberries, 8oz blackberries, and 8oz raspberries)
1 1/4 lbs (20oz) sugar
juice of 2 large lemons
4-6 sterilized half pint canning jars and lids
1. In a large bowl, use a potato masher to mash the berries to a pulp, leaving a few larger pieces for texture. Add the pulp to a canning pot, along with the sugar.
2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. As the jam comes to a boil, skim the foam that rises to the top of the pot and discard.
3. Boil the jam over medium high heat, stirring often and being careful not to let the bottom scorch until set, 25-30min, remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. I generally use the wrinkle test to check for doneness with this type of jam, but if you like numbers you can cook it to 220ºF.
4. Pour the jam into sterilized jars, then process in a boiling water bath for 10min.