Monday, December 22, 2014

You're In the mood for strawberries now?!

But you thought local strawberries won't be ripe until June? Well, you're in luck! The Sunset company has now started growing strawberries in Michigan in December (in a greenhouse).  Not only that, they tasted sweet and actually like strawberries. Sometimes the ones picked in Mexico while green and gassed with ethylene, look like strawberries, smell like strawberries, but taste like slimy cardboard.  These, however, went wonderfully with my arugula salad, with pinenuts, gorgonzola and a balsamic drizzle.

Check out the website for more information. 
FYI: I found these in Ann Arbor's Plum Market.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

scones to get you through a Board meeting, or for holiday guests :)

Successful scones (and biscuits) start with very cold ingredients, even the flour. Sometimes I scale all the components at night, put them in the fridge and make them first thing in the morning. These all really taste best warm anyway.  Also careful not to over mix, which will develop gluten in the flour and not create the best texture. 

Maple Oat Scones  
yields 12 large scones or 24 babies
recipe adapted from Ina Garten @  Barefoot Contessa

For the Scones:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats, plus additional for sprinkling
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup cold buttermilk
1/2 cup pure maple syrup 
1 tsp maple extract (find at Plum market or King arthur
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or water, for egg wash

For the Glaze:
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 400 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Blend the cold butter in at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Combine the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs and add quickly to the flour-and-butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough may be sticky.

Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4 to 1 inch thick. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into 3-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are crisp and the insides are done.

To make the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar, maple syrup and vanilla. When the scones are done, cool for 5 minutes and drizzle each scone with 1 tablespoon of the glaze. I like to sprinkle some uncooked oats on the top, for garnish. The warmer the scones are when you glaze them, the thinner the glaze will be.

Apple Cheddar Scones
Makes 6 generous scones or 12 baby scones
recipe adapted from Deb Perlman @ smitten kitchen

2 firm tart apples
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt  plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Peel and core apples, then cut them into one-sixteenths. Placed them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. They will be about half-baked. Let them cool completely. (You can speed this up in the fridge, as I did.) Leave oven on.

Sift or whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, along with cooled apple chunks, cheese, cream and one egg. Sprinkle flour mixture over the top and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together. Do not overmix.

Generously flour your counter top and place the scone dough on top of it. Sprinkle with flour. Use a rolling pin to gently roll (or use your hands to pat) the dough into a 1 1/4-inch thick, 6-inch circle. Cut circle into 6 wedges. Transfer them to a baking sheet that has either been buttered or lined with a fresh sheet of parchment paper. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone.

Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle them with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. With a spatula, lift them to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


Some days you want a pumpkin. Some days you want a savory Comte baguette bread pudding.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pastries has my mind spinning

I thought I would always characterize myself as a hot foods chef. I like to eat pastries, sure, but I generally don't crave them. 

This class has me reconsidering. There's something about the combination of mathematical formulas and the delicate artistry of it that excites me.  It soothes my OCD. 

A quickly taken, blurry shot of the captain, Chef Joseph Decker, and his station. Check out his website at

Panorama of the freezer which is so cold it only takes 10 seconds for your nostrils to freeze from the inside out! According to Chef, the freezer is a baker's best friend. Second is very hot water for cleaning fat off of cooking utensils and surfaces.

Friuit strips, baked pear frangipane and fresh fruit, both with a base of classic puff pastry 

Jake's tart tatin. Rocked it. Straight up.

Unfilled pate a choux. Eclairs, profiteroles, and the Paris Brest.

Key lime tart with Chantilly, a close second to the previous post's macaron topped tarts.

Jaconde sponge: for the edge of our Bavarian cream tart. The red lines are made of a thick batter called stencil paste, and frozen before jaconde batter is poured and spread on top. Will post final product tomorrow. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pastries: week 2

Today In Pastries class with master pastry Chef Joseph Decker, we gilded the Lily, quite literally.
Our master chef is always searching on the World Wide Web for inspiration.  He recently found a muse on the History of Sugar Facebook page. 

Instead of one one dessert--why not combine two? And this creation followed a dynamic lecture about the importance of being able to prepare nutritional desserts. We soon diverted from the discussion of dietetic specialties to create a whopper.

We began by creating a base:
Yellow short dough crust (in this case we used a gluten free dough), brushed with a Meyer lemon marmalade (not visible), lemon curd and a citrus vanilla glaze.

Chef Decker's  demonstration of piping macaron:

Beautiful-with feet and all!

Filled with passion fruit ganache 

Finally we towered Macarons on top of the tart resting on a pyramid of chantilly cream, decorated with gold leaf. Gilded. 

Friday, November 07, 2014

Pastries: week 1. Caramel & apple pie

If ever you make an apple pie and it's, well, not the prettiest pie on the block, try this trick. 

Make a caramel sauce. Start with wet caramel method. When light brown, add butter, cream, & chocolate. Let cool briefly. Add whole mixed nuts and while still pourable, flip pie over on a platter and pour on this luscious sauce.  Cool before serving.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Birthday dinner: belated October 6

My daughter didn't know what she wanted for her birthday dinner.  "I like to eat everything!" It's a hard problem that I associate with.  So I looked to the fridge and found a head of cauliflower.
Roast a whole head of cauliflower.  Just do it. In this case, I drizzled it with curry oil and salt.

My son pitched in with a comment, "I one time had this really great pistachio crusted tofu at that place in... where was that?".  So it started to come together. 

It finally came together: on a bed of spinach with roasted teacup tomatoes, brown rice, and drizzled with an indian pickle viniagrette.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Baking week 3: laminated doughs

It always amazes me how croissants start out as a lump of dough like any old bread and then with a little finesse turn into this.

Chocolate croissants before final proof

Plain croissants after final proof