Spring Flavor

As I teach a lot of kid’s classes, I work a lot of weekends, and rarely get to the Saturday Farmer’s Market, something I sorely miss. There is a hopeful expectancy among the farmers and producers, as well as among the shoppers: what will I find today?? This past weekend I was able to go. Our NW Spring has been cold so far, cold and rainy, but my sister and I caught the market an hour or so before any rain. Yay! Saturday evening I’d be making dinner for my Mother-in-law’s birthday, or as we generally refer to it, Spring. We celebrate Spring and she gets presents! Shopping the market for dinner was my goal.

Pre-vinaigrette but so pretty!

With the cool temperatures, some greens are filling stalls and the storage veggies are still in supply, but options are meager. I came home with Loki salmon, Foraged & Found wood sorrel, Nash’s chioggia beets, knotted rolls from Tall Grass, and some beautiful Glendale Shepherd aged sheep’s milk cheese. With potatoes on hand and chives snipped from my patch, we managed to have a lovely meal, complete with an einkorn-crusted rhubarb & cream tart!

For me, Spring should taste like light and vigor and growth and the wood sorrel is that in abundance! Complete with a lemony-zing, this little green is a powerhouse of flavor. Due to its high levels of oxalic acid you shouldn’t consume too much in one sitting but the flavor is there so you don’t have to. Since I was starting a new class series the next day, I took the opportunity to run through 2 of the recipes, adding those to our menu. Potage Parmentier, leek & potato soup, with its light taste, easy texture & mouthfeel, is another perfect addition to a Spring menu.  The bright green and slight onion of the snipped chives adds an additional bit of interest. Though rich, the classic Pommes Dauphinois, with thinly sliced red potatoes and only a touch of the Glendale cheese, was delicate and gently flavored. The richness countered that bright acidity of the wood sorrel. Beets and potatoes are two of the over-wintered storage vegetables that I don’t grow weary of!

Rhubarb & cream

The springiest of all flavors, however, has to be rhubarb. This vegetable as fruit is strange. I still wonder how the first human was brave enough to  try the stalk after those trying the leaves grew very ill. In our western Washington climate, this is our first choice of a truly local fruit. I made a light einkorn tart dough and pre-baked it for 10 minutes to set the bottom. I then filled the crust with chopped rhubarb, macerated with white & brown sugars, adding a combination of cream and beaten egg to fill into around the tangy fruit. The picture doesn’t do the flavor justice but this solo rhubarb was very good.

Teaching cooking & baking classes has many advantages: better hours, more menu variety, a sense of empowerment for those learning. I love my job. A downside for me, however, is that while I get to focus on a variety of menu items, I cook & bake for classes rather than just for me. Having dinners such as this one, our yearly celebration of Spring, gives me opportunity to think outside and away from the cooking class box. Cooking foods for my eaters: what can I do with her salmon this year?  Should I do rhubarb with strawberries for dessert? Nope, I’m only going to use rhubarb: strawberry-rhubarb would be for him. This gratin is for my class but it’ll be perfect!

Our bodies need food for fuel, but making food is best when it’s for others. Sharing that food as a meal, cook included with this community of eaters, makes it all worthwhile.

I cheated with asparagus from CA/MX. I can’t wait for that stuff!!!

Happy Spring!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Mocha Brownie Cake Rewind

With the first assignment being scones I had baked for years, starting Tuesdays With Dorie in March was easy. So easy, it felt like cheating. March’s second assignment was Mocha Brownie Cake. The cake looked delicious, but I was emerging from 3 weeks of cake research and testing for Wednesdays, and, subsequently, Junior’s birthday. I had to admit that I was actually sick of cake and would NOT be doing a second TWD blog post for March. I *gasp* didn’t want to think about cake!

The Fates showed mercy, though, (I’m not sure The Fates do mercy, being fate and all) and gave April three Tuesdays in which I could work with Dorie. The occasional third Tuesday in any given month is a Rewind week: one can revisit a previous favorite or  pick up a recipe that had otherwise been skipped. This wildcard week would give me two entries for the month, since I had no intention of doing April’s 2nd project: lefse. I grew up in a Lefse Household, and while I appreciate it for the heritage tag, and while I could have borrowed the electric skillet gizmo to bake them on, the cloth-lined rolling-pin to roll them with, as well as the special stick to flip them from my Mom, I don’t like lefse enough to have squeezed the project into my early-April life.

Needing the TWD projects to remotely fit into my IRL existence, I decided the Mocha Brownie Cake would be perfect for the Spring (aka Birthday) Dinner I make yearly for my lovely Mother-in-law. This cake did not disappoint.

Here we go!
Here we go!
Eggs, vanilla, & sugar
Eggs, vanilla, & sugar

The recipe calls for 5 eggs which should be beaten until a bit thickened and doubled in volume. This step highlights one of my favorite metamorphoses of the humble egg.

Thicker & doubled in volume: sheer beauty
Thicker & doubled in volume: sheer beauty
Before
Unsweetened, bittersweet, milk chocolate, & butter before
During
during
Being added
then being added

As always, the better the chocolate you start with, the better chocolate tasting the whateveritis you’re making will be. The recipe instructs to use 4.5 oz semisweet plus 2.5 oz unsweetened chocolate; I used something closer to 50/50 Scharffen Berger unsweetened and Cordillera Milk Chocolate. Intense!

Called for 1 pan; I used 3. Didn't want to hassle with slicing
Called for 1 pan; I used 3. Didn’t want to hassle with slicing
Ganache step 1
Ganache step 1

The mocha element for this cake comes from strong coffee (I used a shot of espresso) added to the chocolate and cream of the ganache. The chocolate I had on hand was almost equal parts: 70% Cordillera Dark Chocolate and 65% Sunspire Bittersweet Chocolate Chips.

Ganache Step 2
Ganache Step 2
Oh My Ganache!
Oh My Ganache!
1st layer to springform
1st layer to springform
Cover with 1 cup of ganache; chill
Cover with 1 cup of ganache; chill
Repeat with 2nd & 3rd layers, spreading ganache between, then chilling
Repeat with 2nd & 3rd layers, spreading ganache between, then chilling
Cover the top, chill, then unmold
Cover the top, chill, then unmold
Do final coat of ganache over top & sides, then celebrate spring!
Do final coat of ganache over top & sides, then celebrate spring!

The cake was a little dry from guessing on the baking time for 3 thin layers rather than 1 thick layer. Next time, I would bake for 18 minutes rather than 20. While I followed the recipe closely, measuring each cup of ganache for the filling, I barely had enough left for the final coat, so had to spread a thin layer rather than pour a smooth one. Next time I will increase the ganache quantity. That being said, this cake was delicious! It was not overly mocha-y, while being a very sincere hit of chocolate. Most important, the guest of honor found it beautiful and delicious. I look forward to making this cake for many Springs to come!

The last piece
The last piece

Mocha Brownie Cake • Baking with Julia • Contributing Baker: Marcel Desaulniers •       pages 282-283