Monday, December 11, 2017

Afternoon Tea in St. Augustine, Florida

It appears that the options I will describe below are temporary and linked to the Dressing Downton exhibit at the Lightner Museum, but I hope either site changes its mind and starts offering afternoon tea on a regular basis. Why not?


My husband and I recently spent half a week in St. Augustine, one of our favorite places to visit in the southeast. This time around we decided to do more of the historical places, including the Lightner Museum, the Castillo de San Marcos, the Flagler history tour, a carriage ride, and even a tour at the place we stayed, The Collector Inn. Since the Dressing Downton exhibit was also at the Lightner, they offered afternoon tea at the Cafe Alcazar (now through January 4, 2018.)

The tea required reservations, and we were very fortunate that someone working there took pity on us and added a table, as they were technically booked when we tried making reservations. The cafe is in what used to be the pool of Flagler's second huge hotel in St. Augustine, and is now the center of the Lightner Museum. Tea started with a soup or salad course along with iced tea, while they took our hot tea orders (pretty smart, I thought!). The rest of the tea is portrayed above, with sandwiches on the bottom, scones and a cookie in the middle, and tiny sweets on the top. While we had tea, they played music from Downton Abbey. They sent us home with samples of the hot teas on offer, so everyone was able to try at least two kinds - one in the pot, and one in loose leaf brewed at home.

It looks like after this particular exhibit moves on, and afternoon tea goes along with it, you can continue to lunch at the Cafe Alcazar.

I recently discovered that you can also have afternoon tea and view Gosford Park at the nearby Corazon Cinema and Cafe.  That's a place we will want to visit in the future, because we didn't make it this time around.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Pumpkin Spelt Scones with Maple Glaze

I have been watching the new episode of Martha Bakes (not a paid advertisement) and this season she is focused on what she calls healthy baking and is really more about alternative flours. (I clarify this because just using an alternative flour does not necessarily cut down on carbs, but can, so your mileage will vary as to if the alternatives are healthier.) Many of the recipes seem to come from a newer cookbook by Martha, A New Way to Bake.

The pumpkin spelt scones she made looked good and I had not yet tried spelt in baking, which is not low-carb but is supposed to be easier to digest than all-purpose flour. One of the blogs I use frequently, Chocolate Covered Katie, seems to use spelt flour most often! Most places that discuss spelt recommend using only half spelt in a recipe because using all spelt flour can cause structural problems. Martha referred to this as creating a "tender" texture, and I decided to go with it for the first time. Next time I'd mix spelt with other flours, because the others were right! But these were still tasty. I did use coconut sugar instead of real, to try to cut back some on the carbs.


Pumpkin Spelt Scones with Maple Glaze
(recipe from Martha Stewart via Martha Bakes on PBS.org)

Ingredients 
 
2 cups spelt flour
1/3 cup natural cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Coarse salt
1 stick (1/2 cup frozen unsalted butter, grated on large holes of a box grater; plus 1 tablespoon melted
2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more for brushing
1 large egg, room temperature
1/3 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cane sugar, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Stir in grated butter.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together cream, egg, and pumpkin; stir into flour mixture just until dough forms. (It will still be crumbly.) Pat into a 6-inch round on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with cream. Using a knife or bench scraper, cut dough into 8 wedges, and pull 2 inches apart.
  3. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until scones are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely on sheet on a wire rack.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, and a pinch of salt until smooth. If glaze is too thick, add additional maple syrup, 1 teaspoon at a time. Dip tops of scones in glaze and transfer to rack set on baking sheet. Allow glaze to set for 30 minutes before serving. (Scones are best the day they’re made but can be kept in a single layer in an airtight container up to 1 day.)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Chocolate Tahini Challah Buns and Thanksgiving 2017

Sometimes I linger over a recipe, waiting for the right time to make it, and Deb at Smitten Kitchen's recipe for chocolate tahini challah buns has been one of those. Last December I made chocolate tahini cookies and thought they were delicious, so I was curious how that flavor combination would do in this challah bun configuration. My husband and I eat low-sugar most of the time, and sometimes on holidays we overdo it on the sweet department and feel less than great for the holidays. So I was also interested because Deb mentions that the dough, being challah instead of cinnamon roll dough, is less rich, and that overall they are not super sweet. I decided this might be the perfect Thanksgiving breakfast for us, and also went light on the glaze.

Pictured: buns before glaze (I used the orange juice version.)

I liked these okay. I am a bit out of practice with yeast and feel like the dough wasn't as risen as I wanted it to be, but true to form for most Thanksgiving Eves I had waited longer than I intended to start them and I was impatient.

I did go up through all the steps up to placing the cut rolls in the pan, and then stuck the pan covered in the fridge, already with egg wash.

In the morning, it was Nathaniel's day to get up early with the dogs so he took the pan out and they sat around for an hour before I baked them.

I used bittersweet chocolate because I had a bar of it leftover from a previous baking project that was exactly the right amount. I would say that the type of chocolate you choose will heavily influence whether or not the rolls are received as sweet or not; with bittersweet they really aren't very sweet at all. I did notice that the chocolate burns a bit cooking so long in the bun, and I'm not sure how to avoid that fate.

I'm going to copy and paste her recipe here, but only because I worry about it disappearing, and know it's okay to do so with a recipe based on USA copyright law. But this recipe is not mine, and you should buy her cookbooks, because she does a lot of recipe testing until a dish is right! And if you follow my many links to her recipe, you will see step by step directions. I have erased the metric measurements because some of the comments on her blog said they were incorrect, and she may update them, so check back there.

Chocolate Tahini Challah Buns
Source: Smitten Kitchen

Dough

2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable or another neutral oil, or melted butter
2/3 cup milk or water, plus an additional tablespoon if needed
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the counter
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
Butter or nonstick spray for baking pan

Filling and assembly

4 ounces dark (semi- or bittersweet) chocolate (or approximately 3/4 cup chocolate chips)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold is fine
Scant 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup tahini, well-stirred
1 large egg, beaten
Sesame seeds

Glaze (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons lemon or orange juice

Make dough: Whisk eggs, yolk, sugar, oil and milk or water in the bottom of a stand mixer bowl. Add flour, yeast and salt and combine with dough hook until it comes together, then let machine knead it for 5 to 7 minutes. Oil a large bowl and let dough rise in it at room temperature for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until slightly shy of doubled. 
 Were your ingredients really cold? This is fine, but if so, it might take 30 to 45 minutes longer. You can speed this process along by turning your oven on to 150 degrees F and turning it off and then placing bowl the dough inside. Keep an eye on it because it will rise more quickly.
Butter a 9×13-inch or equivalent size baking dish, or coat it with nonstick spray.

Make filling: Melt butter and chocolate together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar, cocoa and tahini; mixture should be a spreadable consistency. [New note:] If your filling is thin, pop it in the fridge or freezer (if freezer, keep a very close eye on it) for a few minutes to let it thicken a bit.

Assemble buns: On a very well-floured counter, roll out dough into a rectangle about 18 inches wide (side facing you) and as far away from you (i.e. length) as it comfortably goes, usually 12 to 15 inches. Dollop chocolate mixture over and spread it smooth. Roll dough in a tight spiral.
Cut log very gently — it’s going to be a soft mess, use a sharp serrated knife, sewing thread works well here too — into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch segments. Arrange cut side up in prepared pan. Beat egg in small bowl. Brush tops of buns and tops of sides with egg and cover with plastic wrap. You can either fefrigerate overnight, along with leftover egg wash or leave it at room temperature to proof for another 60 to 90 minutes, until puffed a bit.

Bake buns: If in fridge, remove buns from fridge and let warm up for 30 minutes before baking. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush tops tops of sides with egg with egg wash again (I forgot and skipped the sides, which is why they are pale in the photos) and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 minutes, until bronzed all over and buns have an internal temperature of 190 degrees F. Let cool slightly before serving.

To glaze (optional): If using glaze, whisk ingredients until smooth. You can drizzle this over the buns or serve it alongside with a spoon. If drizzling over, it’s best to let the buns almost fully cool before putting it on or it may melt off.

***

Just a brief note about the rest of our Thanksgiving meal - I made dishes that were lightly influenced by Native American recipes. We had salmon with potlatch spices, roasted root vegetables with a mustard seed vinaigrette (from the Mitsitam cookbook), wajapi made from cranberries and blueberries, fry bread, and apricot juice. Many traditional cookbooks had "apricot drink" made from "field apricots" but I don't even really understand what those are! It was a delicious meal and not too heavy, just the two of us.



Monday, November 20, 2017

Gluten-free, Grain-free Pumpkin Waffles

I looked at some protein waffles, paleo waffles, and various other pumpkin waffle recipes online and decided to make up my own. These were tasty and the morning after I made them, we all agreed we should have just made these pumpkin waffles again!


Pumpkin Waffles (grain-free, gluten-free)

¾ cup rice flour
½ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup tapioca flour
¼ cup coconut sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Mix everything together and make waffles.  (Some waffle recipes separate the eggs and fold beaten egg whites into the rest but I didn't care that much and they were good anyway!)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Carrot Cake Truffles (aka Dealing with Cake Disasters)

Let's face it, even if you've been baking forever, and feel like you know how to properly grease a pan, sometimes a series of choices and events beyond your control will cause a delicious cake to refuse to release from a pan in one piece. In my case, I started baking at 8, I didn't wait for the browned butter to cool, I hadn't properly greased the pan, and when I started to unmold it after it had cooled 10 minutes, it was not even budging an inch,.

Here's the marvelous carrot cake from The Artful Baker, or rather, the pan after I finally got the majority of the cake out.


Suffice to say, I did not salvage the cake in one servable chunk. I decided early on to make either a cake trifle or cake truffles but I was really short on time prior to the evening I had volunteered to bring dessert.

So my first strategy was to cut the largest pieces down into mini cakes that were roughly the same size, put a dollop of cream cheese icing on each, and sprinkle on some pecans. The cake recipe was delicious so they were tasty, and after a filling meal, the little cake bites were a nice size.


I still had the pieces I cut from these mini cakes and a bowl of crumbs salvaged from the inner workings of the rose pan, so with these I made a smaller batch of carrot cake truffles. This is easy, you just have to have time for the various stages to firm up. I'm going to put the official recipe below but real talk, I used canned frosting and Ghiradelli white chocolate melts and those were the only ingredients I bothered with. I had to cover a few of the truffles twice in order to stick pecans to them as the Ghiradelli melts reset incredibly quickly.


These are overly sweet for my tastes, more white chocolate than carrot cake. But they may be to some people's tastes, so I will bring them to work with me and see what happens.

But this strategy could work with any cake failure, with any flavor of icing and a chocolate candy coating. A former co-worker used to make delicious oreo truffles in a similar way and people loved them!

Carrot Cake Truffles
(as seen on the Inspired by Charm blog, and let me tell you, you should check out their photos and process because they are beautiful and perfect!)


Makes about 40 truffles

Here's what you will need:

1 prepared carrot cake (13x9" pan, no frosting)
1 cup cream cheese frosting (recipe here)
1 bag (12 ounces) pure white candy melts
1 bar (4 ounces) white chocolate baking bar, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable shorting (Crisco)
1 cup orange candy melts
Carrot sugar candies, optional

In a large bowl, crumble the carrot cake with your hands. Using a spatula, stir in about 3/4 cup of the cream cheese frosting. Add more as needed. The mixture should stay together when rolled into a ball, but not be overly sticky.

Roll the cake mixture into 1-inch balls. Set the cake balls on a plate and refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, add the white candy melts, white chocolate, and vegetable shortening. Microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring after each until melted.

Dip the cooled cake balls into the melted white chocolate mixture and coat completely. Set on wax paper and allow chocolate to set completely.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the orange candy melts by microwaving them at 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted.

Add the melted orange candy melts to a piping bag or plastic baggie. (Use caution if using a plastic bag. If your melted candy is too warm, it can cause the bag to break.) Cut a small tip off one corner of the bag and drizzle the melted candy onto the coated cake balls. Top with a carrot sugar candy, if desired.

Once the candy coating is completely set, pack and store the truffles in an air-tight container.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Double Chocolate Bundt Cake

I have spent hours pouring over The Artful Baker, and had my eye on two cakes in particular. But when it came time to bake one today, I realized that I didn't have enough chocolate for one and the carrots disappeared from the fridge that I needed from the other. So I gravitated toward a recipe I have seen others from the ABRAMS Dinner Party making, the double chocolate bundt cake. So while I am not going to win an award for originality, we all need a few go-to recipes that come together quickly and are crowd-pleasers. Well I have your chocolate cake!

What I love about this cookbook is that the author, Cenk Sonmezsoy, details the process he has undertaken for each recipe. For many, this means he explains where he started, what worked, what he changed, how it evolved. For this one, he does not see any improvements on the horizon, it is done, it is the best it can be, etc. He made many chocolate bundt cakes on the way to this one. And we can all benefit from its deliciousness. Not too sweet, good structure, can be dressed up or down. Basically, this is the little black dress of cakes.


CAKE

14 tablespoons (7 oz, 200 grams) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
5 oz (140 grams) bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (50 grams) Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp (10 grams) pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 grams) very strong brewed coffee or espresso
1/2 cup (120 grams) heavy cream
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp (6 grams) baking powder
1/2 tsp (3 grams) baking soda
1/2 tsp (4 grams) fine sea salt
1 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C).

Generously butter a 10-cup (2.4 liter) Bundt pan. If your pan has an intricate design, use a pastry brush to reach all the nooks and crannies.

To make the cake, in a medium heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate, cocoa powder, and vanilla.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the coffee and cream to a boil, stirring occasionally. Take the pan off the heat, pour the coffee mixture over the chocolate mixture, and whisk until the chocolate melts and the cocoa powder dissolves. Let cool completely.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minuteness. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the chocolate mixture. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and the remaining chocolate mixture. Finally, add the remaining mixture and beat just until incorporated.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, reaching down to the bottom to incorporate any unmixed dry ingredients. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, 50-55 minutes Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack, set the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and let cool completely.

GLAZE

5 ounces (140 grams) bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped
3/4 cup (180 grams) heavy cream
2 tbsp (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 tsp (5 grams) pure vanilla extract

To make the glaze, put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream, sugar, and vanilla to just below a boil, stirring frequently. Take the pan off the heat and pour about half of the hot cream mixture over the chocolate. Stir gently with a silicone spatula until blended. Add the rest of the hot cream mixture, stirring gently until the chocolate melts completely. Immediately pour it over the cake, allowing it to drip down the cake.

Using a cake lifter, transfer the cake onto a serving plate.

The cake will keep under a cake dome at room temperature for up to 3 days.

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party. All experiences and opinions are my own!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Cardamom-Cognac Apple Cake

Being a part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party has pushed me to try more new recipes than I think I normally would during my busy time of year. Cook Beautiful is enticing because it is divided into seasons, contains beautiful photography, and contains suggestions for decorating a seasonal table. I was also impressed how many recipes did not contain meat, helpful when you are married to a vegetarian!



When I encountered this recipe in Cook Beautiful, I decided this would be a great candidate for recipe modification. I like to modify recipes to be lower carb and grain/gluten free so that everyone in my household can consume them. Recipes like this, that are baked and served out of the same pan, are prime candidates because there are fewer concerns about structure. Just the same, my end result had a satisfying enough structure that it would have stood on its own.



I will start by posting the original recipe as it appears in the cookbook, and then go on to discuss the changes I made and why.



Cardamom-Cognac Apple Cake
(from Cook Beautiful by Athena Calderone)

Serves 8-10

1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
3 tbsp cognac (Calvados, rum, or bourbon work well, too)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup (75 ml) well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature
3 medium Honeycrisp apples
1 stick (4 oz/115 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing the pan
1 tbsp turbinao sugar
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C.) Nestle a piece of parchment paper into an 8- or 9- inch (20- or 23-cm) cast-iron pan and grease it with butter.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Whisk in the granulated sugar, cognac, and vanilla extract. Pour in the buttermilk and whisk to combine.

Peel, halve, and core 2 1/2 of the apples, then cut them into 1/2-in-thick (12-mm-thick) cubes. Reserve the remaining half apple, unpeeled, and cut it into 1/4-inch (6-mm) slices, for the top.

Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined, then gently fold in half of the melted butter. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and melted butter. Gently fold in the cubed apples, reserving the slices. Transfer the batter to the pan and arrange the apple slices in a circular pattern on top of the batter. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake until the cake turns a deep golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Transfer the skillet to a cooling rack and let it sit for 5 minutes. The cake may be served warm or at room temperature, directly from the skillet; whichever you choose, make sure to dust it with confectioners' sugar before serving.


I have learned through years of experimentation and recipes (both good and bad) that the key to gluten/grain-free baking is never to use just one flour. Since I have all these flours on hand already, it isn't a big deal for me, but if you are starting from scratch, you might even consider just buying a gluten-free flour mix like King Arthur Flour. Per cup of all-purpose flour, I used 1/3 cup sorghum flour, 1/3 cup brown rice flour, and a heaping 1/3 cup tapioca flour. For the granulated sugar, I used 1/2 cup coconut sugar. Now this was a crap shoot, and I tasted the batter before baking, because coconut sugar is not as sweet as granulated, but too much of it can really alter the color and texture of the batter. It makes it appear as though molasses had been added. As sugar substitutes go, we prefer natural substitutes over chemical, even though they are higher calorie. As sugars go, coconut sugar is very low on the glycemic index, which suits our purposes.

Other changes I made to the recipe - I had bourbon so I used that in my cute little OXO cup as pictured. I had Mutsu apples from the local NC orchards, but they are huge: I used 1 1/2 diced in the batter and 1/2 unpeeled on top. I did not sprinkle with confectioners' sugar for presentation, nor did I use a cast-iron pan, just a pie plate.

This was a successful modification, and I'm sure the original recipe is a delight, and would be a quick dessert to stick in the oven while dinner was consumed. I did make dinner that same night from the cookbook: Meyer Lemon Ricotta Toasts with Blistered Grapes and Roasted Pumpkin and Brussels Sprouts with Poached Eggs. Everything was a success!


 
This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party. All experiences and opinions are my own!