The food highlight for me this Christmas was the Æbleskiver I learned to make at Birgitte Antonsen‘s Christmas In Denmark class. After assisting Birgitte in her 2014 class, I was sure I would make these fun holiday treats. That did not happen. After assisting again this year, I was adamant that Æbleskiver would be part of our festivities. And it was-twice!
Christmas Eve afternoon, my parents came over for tea, Apples to Apples, treats, and gift giving. I had the batter proofing, the pan heating, the butter melted, and the powdered sugar ready for sprinkling. The batter is pancake-like, but yeasted. Brigitte uses whole grain spelt flour in her recipe and only 1 tablespoon of sugar. I made the batter with Kamut-surprise!surprise!- adjusting the amount down to account for how thirsty Kamut can be, and I used coconut palm sugar.
When the pan is hot, spoon a little melted butter into each round, then fill each round with almost too much batter. After the batter has set, use a wooden skewer to gather the overfilled batter back into the round, and work the cooked underside around so that the raw batter can meet the hot pan. Continue to rotate the now round, so all sides get in contact with the hot Æbleskiver pan. When golden brown all around, remove the pancake/fritter/Danish Holiday Treat to a plate, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with strawberry jam. Our Christmas Eve batch turned out great but Spouse & I both wanted just a bit more sweet and I wanted a bit more cardamom.
Not on our original Christmas Brunch menu, I whipped up more Æbleskiver batter to share with my in-laws. I did add 1 more tablespoon of coconut palm sugar and increased the 1 teaspoon cardamom by 1/4. These little things were good! Addictively good! For next year’s holiday, I will have strawberry jam in my freezer to serve with these treats. Happy Holidays!
ps. If you’d like to learn to make Æbleskiver, sign up for PCC Cooks email list. Birgitte’s class will hopefully be offered next Fall. Registration opens for Fall around the end of August, and we all know that time does fly.
Next door is very close to our door. Next door finally has some love. Next door got some curb appeal, which doesn’t take much in our little ‘hood. Next door radically upgraded the backyard, the property we have a view of. The backyard has a maintained small-child play area, a red paver patio between house and play area, a patch of moss-dandelion-buttercup-free green grass lawn, and a stretch of vegetable beds, the area of which matches my own.
Next door has chickens, which we welcomed, ourselves being aficionado of all things Gallus. And, next door has a rooster-not welcomed by the surrounding neighbors, the town officials, nor us when awakened pre-alarm clock. Next door are relatively new to the neighborhood and may have chickens because we have chickens, perhaps not checking city guidelines for backyard poultry. Next door does not speak English as a primary language. We’ve chatted a few times. We’ve talked chickens and gardens a bit. We’ve waved and smiled a lot. I, despite many fizzled attempts otherwise, am primarily, well, only, an English-speaking person. I do, however, speak cookie.
Today I am going to stop by and find out if they are aware of the Rooster Restrictions. I will bring cookies. I hope they like them. A few are just oatmeal, but the rest contain chocolate-covered raisins I found in the baking drawer. I tested one pre-treadmill. It was really good.
Here’s how I made them today.
Oatmeal Cookies Makes 14 3-inchish cookies
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup white unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar added to the coconut palm sugar to make 1/3 cup total
1/3 cup evaporated cane juice sugar
1 egg1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup raisins (or chocolate covered raisins)
Preheat oven to 350F
In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and oats.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat until it looks like a smooth paste.
Add the egg and vanilla. Mix until combined. Scrape down the mixer paddle or beaters, the sides and bottom of the bowl.
On very low-speed, add the flour mixture. Beat on low-speed just until it looks mixed in. Scrape the bowl again, turning the dough over to find any unmixed flour.
Still on very low, add the raisins and mix only until they and the flour are completely mixed in.
Use a spoon or 1-ounce cookie scoop to place mounds of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet pan. (You should be able to fit 12 cookies, spaced evenly, on a standard size baking sheet.) Flatten the mounds a bit with your fingers held flat or use the bottom of a measuring cup.
Note: at this point, you can put the pan of uncooked cookies into the freezer, freeze then put in a Ziploc bag. They can be pulled from the freezer and baked at a later time.
Place the pan of cookies into the pre-heated oven.Set the timer for 10 minutes.Check the cookies and continue baking a few more minutes if they look really raw.It is better to under bake cookies than over bake.
Let cool for a minute or two, then slide the cookies onto a cooling rack. Repeat the scooping, flattening, and baking until all dough used.
In January I started a new Wednesday routine: I load a bin or two with sheet pans, measuring cups, pastry cutters, and parchment paper; aprons, bowls, required ingredients, and recipe packs; drive the 40 minutes to venue where I unload, sanitize, and set up a teaching kitchen for a group of 8-12 year olds. The space is tiny, the oven is not ideal, but the students are eager, sometimes excepting Junior who attends by default, and we bake.
We are a homeschooling household. While there are many misconceptions of homeschooling and homeschoolers, I will simply say that we chose this path for Junior’s education as it best meets the learning requirements of his right-brained self. We cover all the subjects required by our state, we get assessed every year, but we most certainly do not stay home. Homeschooling, or home-based instruction, means we as parents get to guide our child’s schooling path. We could choose to take classes through our school district or through state online programs; we could choose to take classes through one of several homeschool coops; we could organize our own classes with a group of families, hiring an instructor for any given subject; we can learn through books, movies, video games, the public library, an established curriculum, field trips, most of which we employ at one time or another. Our beloved Seattle Homeschooling Group has partnered with two of our city community centers to provide weekly classes for families. As a mom, a homeschool teacher, and a baker, I chose to lead a fearless group of student bakers.
The actual time in the community center’s own Tiny Kitchen has to be thought through like a well-choreographed dance. We have an hour to demonstrate, then mix, roll, shape, bake, clean up, and taste. Each recipe dictates whether we will work individually, in small teams, or as one group. Sometimes the students do the measuring, but if timing is tricky, they will add pre-measured wet to dry. Who knew that making biscuits could take such a long time?! As everything hinges on baking time, we sometimes shape/bake one recipe, then while baking, we measure/mix another recipe to finish at home.
Before getting to the kitchen, however, I need to find the recipes, test the recipes, re-write the recipes in a consistent, easy-t0-follow way, along with information pages regarding ingredients, methods, and equipment. As with many areas of cooking and baking, I have the recipes down that I use at home on a regular basis. For a class, one in which I want to share method and taste experiences, I need to find good recipes for things I don’t necessarily make, recipes that will work in our facility, within our timeframe, and with my group of bakers.
While I look for recipes that call for lower amounts of sugar, budget limitations keep me from introducing the more expensive alternative sweeteners, such as my dear coconut palm sugar. When recipe testing, I make the smallest batch the measurements will allow, I don’t want to mess around with anything less than 1 whole egg, and then send most of the finished product to Spouse’s break room. The office break room is an excellent abyss to toss in loads of sugar, butter, and flour! On chocolate chip cookie day, Spouse took 6 versions of 3 different recipes, set up a taste test, and tallied the results. The least favorite cookie was that with the least amount of sweetener, coconut sugar at that, and a little more whole wheat flour. I didn’t use that recipe in class.
Winter Session had us making pretzels, pumpkin bread, pancakes, and hand-pies. Spring began with scones and will continue with breadsticks, baked donuts, fish crackers, and a triple layer, chocolate whipped-cream filled, buttercream frosted yellow layer cake, unless there is a mutiny and the students demand a chocolate cake like last time. The chocolate cake was really good. So good that I’m leaving it here. Bon appetit!
Makes 2 8-inch layers
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup cultured yogurt, plain
1/2 cup canola or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup strong brewed coffee, hot
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
1. Butter 2 8-inch round cake pans. Scatter flour around, coat butter, knockout extra. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of each pan. Place in pan.
2. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer in a large bowl) combine the eggs, buttermilk, yogurt, canola oil, and vanilla. Beat together until smooth.
4. On the lowest speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix on low until there are no more clumps of flour. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl.
5. Pour in the hot coffee and mix until combined.
6. Pour the batter into the cake pans. Try to make the two pans have the same amount of batter.
7. Gently place the pans into the oven.
8. Bake for 20 minutes then check the cakes. Bake these until the tops are just set and no longer wiggly. This cake should be moist so try not to over bake.
9. Let cool, then run a knife around the edge of the pan. Put a piece of parchment on a plate. Place the parchment and plate upside down over a cake pan. Flip the cake pan over so the cake will fall out onto the parchment-lined plate. Repeat with 2nd cake. Cakes should be completely cool before frosting. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap, place in a Ziploc bag and put in the freezer. Cold cakes are easier to fill and frost.(the freezer doesn’t dry out the cake like the fridge will).
Fumbling around the internet for cookie recipes or cake recipes made with lower amounts of sugar, seeking the What Happens When of reducing sugar in a recipe, trawling the sea of information for specifics that could only really be found in the mind of a food scientist or seasoned pastry chef, I bumped into Tuesdays With Dorie. Tuesdays With Dorie is a blog designed for people with blogs wishing to work through the recipes of Baking With Julia, and other books by Dorie Greenspan, over the course of a year, posting results on, yes, a Tuesday. As usual with internet searches, this was not what I was looking for but, intrigued, I signed up. I got the green light from the TWD élite in time for a March start.
I have owned Baking With Julia since purchasing my First Edition copy the year published, in 1996. I had fallen headlong in love with cooking and baking, was taking classes, feeding family and friends and coworkers, dreaming of little cafes. This book is a companion piece to one of Julia Childs’ PBS cooking shows. The series filmed in her kitchen, has the illustrious Julia keeping company with a variety of breadmakers, pastry chefs, restaurant owners, cookbook writers, each creating some of their signature baked items for her. I never watched many of the PBS episodes but have fiddled with several recipes in this book. For any number of reasons with me and cookbooks, I found the 2 or 3 recipes that became standards, and have rarely picked up the book since. Tuesdays With Dorie sounded like a motivating way to give the book another look and write more posts here. Happily, the first assignment for March is one of my standards: Buttermilk Scones.
One stipulation of TWD is that we are not to include recipes in our posts, instead encouraging others to purchase the beautiful book for themselves. For this rendition of scones, I have measured equal parts just-ground whole wheat and organic white unbleached all-purpose flours, salt, leaveners, cold butter in pieces, and coconut palm sugar. (Always try new recipes as written, then give yourself permission to try different flours or sugars or mix-ins, as long as they are in kind.)
The original method calls for combining the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and for working in the cold butter with fingers, a pastry cutter, or a knife & fork. I am comfortable with this method, but usually use a food processor for this first step of the process.
A food processor is powerful, so pulsing the mixture into a coarse meal happens in less than a minute. I am able to keep the cold butter away from my warm hands, processing it quickly so it stays cold. At this point, I pour the flour/butter mixture into a mixing bowl before adding the liquid.
As these scones are Buttermilk Scones, the recipe calls for buttermilk. When I have buttermilk on hand, I always save 1 cup for scone-making. The slightly sour, thick liquid works a magic with the other ingredients. When I don’t have buttermilk, I can use 1 tablespoon of vinegar + enough milk to make 1 cup total. The recipe calls for lemon or orange zest to be added along with the buttermilk. I zest the fruit over the food processor bowl instead, letting the long strands from my zester pulse with the butter. Also at this point, you can add a few currants or other diced plump dried fruit. I have even mixed in blueberries or pieces of firm pear with great success. I mix the flour and milk with a fork until combined. Like biscuits, scones don’t want to be overworked. While still in the bowl, I work the dough/batter with my hand, kneading gently until I can gather into a ball.
On the counter, I gently knead the mass for 2 or 3 more turns. The ball of dough is then divided in half, flattened into disks, brushed with melted butter, and cut into wedges. The disks should be 6- to 7-inches in diameter. You can also sprinkle extra sugar over the brushed-on butter.
For tiny scones, I create 3 disks instead of 2, with a diameter of 4-inches or so. This makes a nice size scone for a tea-tray. With all the cut scones positioned on a parchment-lined baking sheet, we are ready for a hot oven.
These scones only bake for 10-12 minutes. The hot oven of 425F gets the cold butter melted, leaving little caverns for the steam and leaveners to push out further. The result, even with the whole wheat I use, is some lovely light, flakey, crisp outside, tender inside just-baked yum.
With the light glistening off my mirabelle plum jam, I will excuse myself now to go enjoy some Baking With Julia goodness.
Buttermilk Scones • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Marion Cunningham • pages 210-211
Early in my cooking life, I found myself intrigued with gadgets, gizmos, and trendy must-haves for any kitchen, many of which are now stowed away, given away, or garage-saled away. The few things I love and use regularly are: tongs, whisks, sharp knives, swivel-head peeler, zester, stainless steel bowls, glass stacking bowls, wooden spoons, metal spatulas, immersion blender, Kitchen Aid mixer, and my digital scale. Of these, the one thing from which I’d never want to part is the scale.
Measuring implements are not created equal. For that matter, vegetables are not created equal either. When recipe calls for: 1 onion, chopped, how much onion is that? If a recipe is developed for cups of white, all-purpose flour, how can I know the type of measuring cups used? Is it possible to substitute other flours using the same measurement? I have an assortment of measuring cups. If I use the one-cup measure from Set A, will using the half-cup measure from Set B give me the correct ratio? All of these dilemmas can be removed by using a scale. A pound is a pound, whether of flour, fruit, or flesh.
When I began making sourdough bread, which requires ingredients to be measured by weight, I gradually switched many of my baking recipes to pounds & ounces. I know the pizza dough requires 12-oz of flour, the cheesecake requires 2-lbs of cream cheese, the ganache requires 13-oz of heavy cream, and the pancakes are happiest with something closer to 11.5-oz of milk. Somethings, like pancakes, don’t always require the weighing of flour as the batter, thick or thin, is a matter of preference, but in a commercial kitchen, consistency and cost control dictate that all recipes be scaled. Thanks to my secret lover Excel, I can know how much made-at-home pizza costs vs Pagliacci delivered.
All that being said, I get lazy. I find new recipes, I make substitutions, the end results seem fine. For a while now, I have used a chocolate chip cookie recipe from Cook’s Illustrated The Best Recipe. This recipe calls for melted butter, lots of sugar (brown & white), all-purpose flour (2 cups + 2 tablespoons, usually a give away that the original recipe formulations used a scale), an egg plus egg yolk, and the other usual baking bits. From the get go, I used only evaporated cane juice for the sugar, and of that I reduced the recipe amount by half. I usually replaced half the flour with whole wheat, and when I was grinding the sprouted flour, I replaced the white flour completely. Eventually, I stopped adding the 2nd yolk, just using 2 whole eggs instead. Most recently, I’ve switched to using coconut palm sugar, which is very different from sugar sugar or ECJ.
So, last night, after the successful einka pasta, I thought some einka chocolate chip cookies were in order. Knowing that the einka flour was looser than regular whole wheat, and knowing that baking science is more exact than that of cooking, I measured one cup. It weighed 3 ounces. I grabbed a cup of white flour and it came in at 4.6 ounces. I would need to scale recipes when using the einka.
Even though I did throw in too many chocolate chips (I found a bargain on 42% cocoa rather than my preferred 65%) which upped the total sugar content and sweetness level, the cookies are delicious.