About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Bread Machine Rosemary - Parmesan Foccacia

I admit to cheating when I bake bread.  I use a bread machine for the dough and can count on my Zojirushi to deliver a properly kneaded and risen dough.  However, I do firmly believe in baking the dough in a conventional oven.  You can argue the merits of dough kneaded by hand but I've never been able to find the consistent warm, draft free place for the dough to rise.  A bread machine takes care of that for the most part.  I had to figure one more rise for this foccacia in a well oiled bowl but I managed.

Foccacia dough is very wet and not easy to handle so use lightly oiled hands on a lightly floured surface.  Bake on a rimmed baking sheet or two cake rounds.  Enjoy it warm from the oven or freeze as this bread goes stale quickly due to the lack of fat in it.  A bit of effort and patience make this a special treat.

Set the bread machine to the dough course.  In the baking pan add in order:

1 1/2 cups water
3 tbls olive oil
4  1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp Kosher salt
Make a small depression in the flour and add
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast

1 tbls finely chopped rosemary and 1tsp minced fresh thyme
1 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Press start.  Add the rosemary and thyme when the machine indicates to add any extras.  When the dough course has completed,  turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 mins.  Transfer the dough to a well oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size about 45 mins. Turn the dough out onto an oiled rimmed baking sheet and gently press dough to the edges, flip the dough over and press to the edges.  Poke with a fork to pop in air bubbles.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  After 20 mins. sprinkle with the Parmesan.  Remove and brush with more olive oil and finish with a little sea salt if desired.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Apple Walnut Cake with Caramel Sauce

I love the change of seasons.  I was sorry to seen the end of summer because it means vacation time, lazy days at the lake and less city traffic.  However, September is a favorite month because it's still warm but not hot and the humidity has lowered.  Now until the first freeze is our finest weather in my opinion.  It also means apple time. The most recognized fruit on the planet and in history. What other fruit can claim to be the fall of mankind with Eve's first bite, or the revelation of gravity to Sir Isaac Newton or the name synonymous with the computer generation.  Originating in Central Asia, the apple boasts over 3500 species today.  Apple is a most diverse food and a good apple cake is more temptation than I can stand.  This is totally delicious!  Give in.

Preheat the oven to 350 and generously butter and flour a bundt pan shaking out the excess flour.

1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar packed firm
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups peeled and diced apple
1 cup chopped walnuts

In large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and set aside In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Add the dry ingredients in 4 portions, mixing each until just incorporated.  Add the vanilla extract.  Fold in by hand with a spatula, the nuts and then the apples.  Spoon evenly in bundt pan and bake 50 minutes or until browned and a tooth pic comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 20 mins. before turning out.  Drizzle while warm with caramel sauce.  Serve with  a dollop whipped cream.

Caramel Sauce

1 cup sugar
6 tbls unsalted butter cut in 6 pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup cream

In a heavy skillet (I use a 10 in. cast iron skillet) heat sugar over medium high heat stirring constantly.  Just as the sugar is completely melted and starts to turn amber, turn off the heat and add the butter one tablespoon at a time stirring each addition until dissolved before adding the next.  Add the salt and vanilla and stir in.  Add the cream and stir. The pan will bubble vigorously so be careful.
Pour into a heat proof container and allow to cool 15-20 mins so it's still warm and pourable.  Drizzle over  warm cake and let soak in.  Serve cake with extra sauce if desired.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Easy Fruit Cobbler

This is my favorite time of year to be a cook.  The fruits and vegetables are abundant and I'm busy trying to sample and prepare everything at it's peak.  I've been in delirium trying to can tomatoes and corn. Just think how smug I'll be in January with my Marinara sauce and Silver Queen corn pudding while everyone else is eating broccoli and potatoes.  I've fairly gorged myself on fresh cherries and after my son described the figs wrapped in prosciutto on his honeymoon in Italy,  I've been hooked.  Simple foods are always the best and this cobbler recipe is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the bounty of summer fruits.  It works well with berries, peaches, apples or a mix like I've done here - peaches and blackberries.  I love the juiciness of the fruits mixed with the sweet crust.  The crisp, chewy edge is my favorite.  Served with vanilla ice cream it's a luscious way to wrap up summer in a dessert.  All you have to remember  for this recipe is "1" of each ingredient.  It's too easy and too good to be true.

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup self rising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 quart fruit
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.  Place stick of butter in a 9x5 baking dish and melt in the oven.  While butter is melting, mix self rising flour, sugar and cinnamon together then whisk in milk and stir until smooth.
When butter is just melted, remove from oven and pour batter directly into melted butter.  Do not stir.  Spoon fruit evenly over baking dish.  Do not stir.  Bake 45 mins. until browned on top. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.