Category Archives: Food

Marzipanstollen for a White Christmas

Marzipanstollen

White Christmases in the Pacific Northwest are rare, far in between, and possibly just a myth. So when Christmas presents no snow, one can simply make their own (and arguably, much sweeter) White Christmas with layers of powdered sugar.

Marzipanstollen

Marzipanstollen has always been a favorite holiday season food. It’s full of nuts, dried fruit and a log of marzipan, together making stollen a substantial, buttery snack for cold days. We’ve always purchased loaves from bakeries and stores, but when I found a cheap packet of marzipan earlier this season, I decided it was time to attempt baking it myself!

Marzipanstollen
Marzipanstollen
Adapted from David Lebovitz and Frugal Feeding.

Makes 4 mini loaves.

For the starter
1 envelope (0.25 oz, 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant dry yeast
1/2 cup milk, warmed
1 cup flour

For the fillings
2/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup orange juice

1 cup walnuts, chopped

7 oz. marzipan (Potential sources: Odense or IKEA)

For the dough
3 cups four
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey
1 egg yolk

To finish up
Powdered sugar, per individual preference: ~1/2 – 3/4 cup

Begin by preparing a starter: In a small bowl, combine and stir together warmed milk with yeast. Add 1 cup flour and stir until evenly mixed. Cover and leave to rise for one hour.

Meanwhile, combine raisins, dried cranberries and orange juice in a separate bowl. Cover and leave to sit for one hour.

After an hour has passed, combine 3 cups flour, salt, sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange zest and walnuts in a large bowl. Add in the vanilla extract, melted butter, honey and egg yolk, and mix until well-distributed. Mix in the starter, followed by the orange juice-soaked dried fruit mixture. Fear not, the dough should not be smooth, but rather a bit clumpy. Pour out contents of the bowl and knead the dough several times. Return dough to bowl, cover and leave to rise for one hour.

After another hour has passed, turn out the contents of the bowl and knead the dough several times. Return dough to bowl, cover and leave to rise for another hour.

After yet another hour has passed, line a baking tray with parchment paper. Then, pour out the contents of the bowl for the final time! Split the dough into four parts and form a ball out of each portion. Press dough into a circular disk on the baking sheet. Split your marzipan bar into four equal parts and roll each into a cylinder just as long as the the diameter of a single disk of dough. Press one marzipan cylinder into the center of one dough disk and roll up each disk — it should now resemble a very rough batard. Pinch the seams of the dough together and place the loaf on the baking sheet such that the seam is on the bottom. Repeat for the remaining three portions of dough. Cover and leave loaves to proof for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 40 minutes or until the tops of loaves are a dark, golden brown. Immediately dust with a generous helping of powdered sugar. Rub in the powdered sugar and then sprinkle another layer on top.

Turning over a new brownie

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Hello there! It’s been awhile. Since I last posted, I started graduate studies in speech-language pathology, and I am happy to report that it’s wonderful! But it is far more stressful than I anticipated it would be. Clearly, my attendance on this blog does not indicate that I have been particularly successful at balancing school and real life, and reaffirms my ongoing mission to maintain a well-balanced life.

This past quarter, I’ve found myself sheepishly retreating to the frozen food aisles of grocery stores more often than I wish to admit. While I spent much of my free time last year carefully selecting my groceries and organizing well-balanced meals, I spend more of my time now thinking about how quickly I can get a semi-decent meal on the table and wolfing it down before studying.

A couple of weeks ago, after a particularly guilty and embarrassing day of quick, store-bought food, Geoff and I both decided to turn over a new leaf in our diets and be more intentional with what we eat. Let me just say that despite this 11 o’clock revelation, it is hard to realistically wean oneself off a revolving door of daily scones and creamy espresso beverages, especially when one’s academic building is a 30 second walk from four coffee shops. I am only human, after all!

So when I came across — and more importantly, tasted — this raw brownie recipe, I fell in love. Now this is a brownie that I can get behind! It’s rich in chocolate, but full of nuts and dates to provide sustainable energy throughout the day. And it contains no added sugar! Have a brownie for breakfast! As a mid-morning snack! A mid-afternoon snack! Dessert! This fits all of the bills.

All of this post’s beautiful pictures are courtesy of Geoff, photographer extraordinaire!

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Raw brownies
Slightly adapted from My New Roots’ Raw Brownie

2 cups walnuts
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups pitted Medjool dates
Up to 1/4 cup water
1 cup slivered almonds

In a food processor, pulse walnuts until fine. Add cocoa powder and salt and pulse until well-mixed. Add dates and pulse until mixture is homogeneously ground and sticky. Add water one tablespoon at a time until the mixture appears as though it can be pressed together and hold its shape (you may not use the full 1/4 cups of water). Empty contents of your food processor into your baking or serving dish of choice (I used a 11” x 7” glass baking dish). Mix in slivered almonds until well-distributed, and press brownie mixture firmly into the pan. Eat immediately for a softer brownie or refrigerate brownies with a foil tent to harden.

Summer jams

Raspberry jam jars

In the middle of January, I found myself buying a lot of cans of whole tomatoes for a series of pasta sauces and hearty winter stews. These canned tomatoes often worked fine enough in meals where I over-spiced dishes to compensate for somewhat lackluster tomato bases, but at some point I decided to try to can ripe summer tomatoes — when the time came — for the winter.

As such, I began canning earlier this summer, but not with tomatoes. The process of safe water bath canning seemed to be laborious enough, and I figured that I’d tackle food preservation one process at a time, leaving scoring, blanching and peeling tomatoes for another day. So I started with a full bag of Washington apricots instead. With my apricots, water bath canning tools and a meticulously calculated recipe in hand*, I was set! With much thanks to Geoff, who served as sous jam chef and checked and re-checked our recipe math, we ended our first canning session with nine half pints of apricot jam. A few days later, I opened a jar and spread some bright, sunny apricot jam on a buttered English muffin. The tart, flavorful apricot jam was absolutely delicious, and I was bitten by the canning bug.

Thus, it was unsurprising when I came home from a farm in Carnation, Wash. with a flat of freshly-picked raspberries, and far too many that could be reasonably eaten by my family in a week, I didn’t think twice: time to can some raspberry jam!

* Though my fear of clostridium botulinum was mostly unwarranted as most varieties of apricots are confidently on the safe, high acid side of the pH spectrum, I had some initial paranoia that I was going to kill myself and everyone I knew. Alas, canning is both an art and a science, and now I rest (and eat) assured that canning high acid fruits is indeed safe.

Raspberry jam close up

Small batch raspberry jam
From Ball’s Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin label

Makes two half pint jars:

1 1/3 cups raspberries, crushed one layer at a time with a potato masher (Straining approximately half of the raspberries through fine mesh strainer reduces the overall seediness of the jam.)
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons Ball Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Prepare water bath: Place can rack and empty mason jars in a tall pot. Fill pot with water such that the top of your jars are completely covered. Bring pot to a boil, then turn off heat. Fill a neighboring, small pot with water and throw in your jars’ lids and rings. Bring the small pot to a boil, then turn off heat, just enough to keep the rubber on your lids warm and ready for jars.

Cook jam: In a separate pot, combine raspberries and water over medium heat. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring contents to a rolling boil (a boil that cannot be stirred down), add sugar and bring to a rolling boil again. Once a rolling boil is achieved, keep your contents boiling for a minute while stirring constantly. Perform a gel test to see if your jam is of the consistency of your liking. Turn off heat.

Process jars: Carefully remove jars from water bath. Ladle jam into your jars, keeping a half inch of headspace. Circle your jars’ contents with a chopstick or plastic spatula to remove air bubbles. Top your jars off with warm lids and screw rings on just until you meet resistance. Return filled jars to water bath, ensuring there is at least an inch of water above all of the jars, and bring your water bath to a boil. Once a lively boil is achieved, cover your water bath and process jars for ten minutes. Afterward, remove your water bath from heat, but leave the pot to sit for five minutes before carefully removing your jars. Allow jars to sit for 12-24 hours on a cool counter. Check your lid to confirm if your jam was canned successfully. If the lid can be easily removed or convex (or pops), you can still safely eat your jam in the short term if you store your jam in the refrigerator. If the lid is concave and tightly stuck on the jar (e.g., you can lift your jar by just the lid), then your vacuum seal was successful; remove rings, store jars in a dark, cool place, and enjoy jam at a later date!

Great resources to learn more about safe food preservation (especially canning):
Ball and Ball’s Pectin Calculator
The National Center for Home Food Preservation
USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning
Approximate pH of Foods
Food in Jars
Seattle Tilth

An everyday treat

In few months, I’ll start graduate school at the University of Washington, meaning my days here in the studio above a coffee shop with my miniature, but mighty (!), kitchen are numbered. But before I hit the books again, I’m going to take a break. At the end of June, I’ll move out of my apartment here and road trip to Kenora, Ontario before heading back home to Seattle, where my parents’ relatively massive kitchen and fully-stocked bakeware cabinet (and said parents plus brother!) await! I’m excited for a Pacific Northwest summer spent hiking, on the water and eating all of the fruit. But until then, I’ve been perfecting some of my easy-to-construct baked goods here.

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Rhubarb ginger coffee cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Rhubarb Crumb Cake

For the streusel
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the cake
3/4 pounds rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup crystallized ginger chips (such as these, from The Ginger People)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 9 inch by 9 inch baking pan with parchment. I like to construct a parchment sling with two pieces of overlapping, but perpendicular, pieces of parchment paper.

First prepare the streusel: Mix butter, brown sugar and salt together. Add flour and mix until gentle crumbs form. Refrigerate.

Next, the cake: In one bowl, mix chopped rhubarb pieces, brown sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Toss until rhubarb is well-coated. In a second bowl, whisk 3/4 cup flour, baking powder and salt together. In a third bowl, beat confectioners’ sugar and butter together. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in remaining 3/4 cup flour and crystallized ginger chips until just-mixed. Evenly spread batter in pan. Cover cake batter with rhubarb before tossing streusel on top. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick cleanly comes out of the center.

The first boule

THE FIRST BOULE!

The avid admirer has become the artist! As an outspoken fan of bread and all things full of carbohydrates, I have taken my first attempt at the boule: I baked my first loaf of bread yesterday! It was a small, no-knead crusty white bread boule with many thanks to the people of King Arthur Flour.

According to Peter Reinhart of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, the first stage (out of twelve) to bread baking is establishing mise en place. This concept translates to “everything in its place” in French and captures everything under the organization umbrella: Have you read — and more so, visualized — the recipe? Do you have all of your ingredients at hand? Is your baking area clean, clear and organized?

I have so often rushed into a project, bright-eyed and unprepared. The exhibits are so many: My first attempt a dulce de leche cake in 8th grade led to a soggy messy of dairy tribbling down my pants when I brought it to school, and my first mature attempt at a ceramic creation at one of those places where you get to paint your own plates and vases led to the tackiest rendition of polka dots on dinnerware man has ever seen. And most recently, I injured my knee as a too eager half marathon runner. But for this bread baking mission, I honed in on this idea of mise en place and did my research and did complete all twelve stages as Reinhart suggested (resisting my impatience every step along the way).

Both Reinhart and the numerous bakers of King Arthur Flour suggested the use of instant yeast as opposed to active dry yeast. I think that there is the same amount of effort between using active dry yeast versus instant yeast: While active dry yeast is much more commonly found in grocery stores, it requires an extra 10 minutes of proofing in a warm bowl of water to re-awaken the yeast before you mix it into your dough. On the other hand, instant yeast requires a bit more of a commercial hunt, but is ready to go without any proofing or waiting when you’re ready to prepare your bread dough. I went with some SAF Instant Yeast. This label was straightforward, but don’t be fooled by the various commercialized names for yeast: Yeast advertised as “bread machine” yeast is the same as instant yeast.

My bread took two days to create. On the first evening, I mixed the four of the ingredients together (unbleached bread flour, yeast, salt and water — how much simpler does it get?) and allowed the dough to rest at room temperature for slightly over two hours. By the end of this initial room temperature fermentation, the dough almost doubled in size! Good work, instant yeast! Then, I covered the dough bulk with some saran wrap and left it in the refrigerator over night to cool. The dough shrunk a bit, but still maintained the majority of its bulk.

On the second day, I dusted some flour on the top of the dough and pulled out what would eventually be the first boule!

The unbaked first boule!

To form a boule, a ball-shaped loaf of bread, I created surface tension on the top of the piece of dough by stretching and pulling opposite ends of the dough to a seal on the bottom of the ball. I didn’t test this out too much as I was wary of degassing the dough. Then I left the boule to proof for a final 45 minutes before baking.

A beautiful, yeasty matrix of carbohydrates!
A beautiful, yeasty matrix of carbohydrates!

Mise en place.
My mise en place.

In the final moments before this boule saw in the inside of the oven, I put a small metal tray on a rack about an inch below my bread rack. I cut four half-inch deep slits into my boule, slid it into the oven and carefully added some hot water to the metal tray in the lower rack. Steam ensued! I closed the oven door and waited 25 minutes.

Unbaked boule with slits.

And voila! The first boule!

The first boule!

Take a look at its insides!

The boule was a tad tangy, a bit like a mild sourdough. The crust was thick and neither crumbly nor rubbery. The insides, warm and the perfect base for some homemade apricot jam. Delicious. Even Gizmo, the dog I’ve been dog-sitting for the past two weeks, eyed me as I ate a slice. You can tell he was just waiting to dart after any stray, fallen crumbs. All in all, I’m very happy with my first attempt at bread baking.

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With this blog post, I do not attempt to re-create the wheel. To bake your own simple, no-knead boule, heed to the trustworthy guidance of the fine people at King Arthur Flour and their recipe here. And now off to bake the second, third and fourth boules (or boule? Whatever the plural is!)!