Thursday, June 27, 2013

Blueberry- Lemonade Sorbet (non-dairy- vegan- frozen dessert)

Our garden "boasts" small amounts of strawberries of all sorts (including yellow alpine strawberries) and blackberries. Living in a blueberry growing/exporting state we believed that it would be easy for us to grow them. We found that we can't grow blueberries due to the gorgeous towering black walnut trees that are scattered throughout the yard- the jugulone, a chemical released by walnut trees, is lethal to blueberries among a number of other plants . After the death of several blueberry bushes we moved on and resolved to buy berries, using them fresh in the summer and keeping several pints frozen for baking later on during the year.

Last year I received a Cuisinart "Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker."  It was fun to experiment with last year, but this year, as I've begun to understand the process of making frozen desserts, I'm making more use of it.

This sorbet has become a favorite in the few short weeks that blueberries have been in season. My usually enthusiastic taste-testers thought it a waste of time to make a non-dairy sorbet when they'd rather have blueberry ice cream; however,  there was sheepish approval from Eli once he tasted the finished product.

This recipe makes approximately a quart and a half of really delicious blueberry-lemonade sorbet (if I do say so myself).

mixing bowls
measuring spoons, cups
food processor or blender
Ice cream maker (or hand whisk to whip the sorbet when at the slushy stage)

1 1/2 pint blueberries, washed
3/4 c granulated sugar (you can use "Splenda for baking" at the correct proportion to sugar)
3/4 c water
1/4 c lemon juice
6 oz unsweetened, unflavored coconut milk (I use a brand purchased in small "tetra briks"- the long life non-refrigerated cartons)
2 Tbsp vodka (optional)

You can make this fabulous dessert in 10 easy steps: 
1. Combine fresh blueberries with  sugar, water and lemon juice in a non-reactive pan. You are making a flavored simple syrup (lemonade!).
2. Briefly heat the mixture to pop open the berries
3. Cool for 10 minutes or so, pour into the work bowl of a food processor (or blender), cover and whirl for less than a minute. You'll have a liquid puree.
4. Pour into a freezer safe container and cool in the freezer
5.  When the mixture has cooled down (about 25 minutes), add a six ounce container of unsweetened/non-flavored coconut milk to the mixture.
6. Shake or mix manually, cool again in the freezer (for approximately 30- 40 minutes) and pour into the frozen container of the ice cream maker. ***
7. Churn according to the manufacturer's instructions
8. Add the vodka (optional) and churn for another minute or two. The addition of the vodka will help the mixture from becoming rock-hard in your freezer.
9. Pour the semi-frozen mixture into a storage container and freeze. The sorbet will be the consistency of a thick slushy when removed from the ice cream maker (delicious at that stage) and will become scoopable in your freezer after about 90 minutes
10. Enjoy a scoop (before there is none left)

*** If you are preparing the sorbet without an ice cream maker: freeze the mixture until slushy, hand whip with a wire whisk to break up any clumps and freeze until the sorbet is very thick.  You can add the vodka if you wish, mix again and freeze until it is as firm as you desire.

This is an incredibly easy dessert to make: 


Step 2 

Steps 3-4 

Step 5 

Step 6

Step 7 

Steps 8-9 

Step 10

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rhubarb Crumb Cake (Apple variation at the end of the recipe)

This is an awesome crumb cake, adapted from a recipe by Melissa Clark. The original was printed in the New York Times in June, 2007.

Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable, used more like a fruit. Everything I've read says that it's easy to grow, but after much angst and many dead crowns I've decided that I shouldn't plan to start a local fruit stand selling rhubarb - it won't grow in our yard (our "farm"). The culprit are the gorgeous 75 foot black walnut trees, which have made it necessary for us to become resourceful about what and how we plant.  As the kids in the family know, mostly from my groaning, the walnuts make it difficult, if not impossible, to grow any nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, and  potatoes).  The trees are also toxic to asparagus (we're working on a work-around for this), blueberries, rhododendron (and thus azalea), and peony. Rhubarb was not mentioned in most of the sources I consulted when I first started gardening in this particular yard, so it only dawned on me that it might be a problem after trying to start rhubarb crowns for three years running (no snide comments....please). Anyway, we are able to buy rhubarb locally including at the summer farmer's market in town. The rhubarb used in the cake pictured here was picked up at the DuPont Circle Farmer's Market in Washington DC.

I promise: this is an easy cake to make .  It's not particularly sweet and has a great ratio of crumb topping to cake (meaning:lots of topping).  The instructions are detailed and thus make it look complicated. This cake is easy to put together, tastes great, freezes fabulously.  The original recipe made one cake; I'm a lazy baker, I'd rather make 2 cakes and freeze one for another occasion.

There are 3 components to this cake: the rhubarb filling, crumb topping and batter. There is just enough batter to hold the rhubarb together and support the crumb.

To complete the cake in one baking session, make (and then chill) the crumb topping, prepare the rhubarb filling, mix the cake and assemble in the pans. The crumb topping will be like a very thick dough, chilling it will help you break it into large  pebble-like pieces (1/2 inch or so).

 I've used disposable tube pans for these cakes. Disposable pans make it easy to freeze the finished product and best of all - no more forgotten pans left at your friend's homes! I usually get my disposable pans on-line at Plastic Container City, although there are many other sources to go to. Spray with Pam or another vegetable spray before you assemble the batter in it. Note: disposable pans must be supported by a baking sheet and they do get greasy on the bottom while baking.

tube shaped baking pans
baking sheet or cookie sheet
mixer (stand or portable)
measuring spoons, cups
silicone spatula
mixing spoon

This list will yield 2 cakes, if you want to bake only one, divide the recipe in half.

For the crumb topping:
2/3 c brown sugar (dark or light)      
2/3 c granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
large pinch salt
1 cup melted margarine (or butter if you are making a dairy cake)
3.5 cup flour (fluff up the flour and measure lightly - or use 15.5 oz flour)

For the rhubarb filling:           
1 lb rhubarb. Trim the leaves and bottom of the stem, these parts are poisonous!! Slice the stalk into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch

For the cake:
2/3 cup plain non-dairy yogurt substitute (I like to use coconut based yogurt, but soy or almond are fine) **
2 large eggs
2 yolks                                            
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice **
2 cups all purpose flour
1 c granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
12 Tbsp margarine (a full quarter lb bar and 3/4 of a 2nd one) . Use butter if you are making a dairy cake

** if you are making a dairy cake use sour cream instead of non-dairy yogurt and omit the lemon juice

1.For the crumb topping:
Combine the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Pour the melted margarine into the bowl and mix. The mixture will be very thick. Chill the mixture while you prepare the rhubarb and cake batter.

2. For the rhubarb filling:
Combine the rhubarb, sugar and corn starch. Mix with a spoon and set aside.

3. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the non-dairy yogurt, lemon juice, vanilla and eggs.

Combine liquid ingredients

and mix 

4. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt). Take the extra minute it will add to the process and sift the ingredients together. This will avoid any baking powder lumps or salt grains sticking together. It helps distribute the leavening agents.  You don't need a fancy sifter, a fine mesh strainer will do. The one pictured here has been in use for over 30 years, it's an incredibly useful tool when I bake.
Sifting the dry ingredients takes a minute and ensures better results

5. Cream together the margarine and sugar. 

6. Add about half of the "yogurt" mixture, alternating with half of the dry ingredients, then the remaining yogurt mixture and finish up with the dry ingredients. Work the batter at low speed and mix until just moistened. Don't over mix, unlike bread baking, you are not looking to build up gluten.

7. Measure out 1 cup of batter and set aside. This cake does not contain a lot of batter -don't worry, you'll have just enough.  I described this cake to a colleague as the closest thing to a pie, but making cake batter instead of a pie crust.

8. At this point you have all of the components prepared and you'll assemble the cake by spreading a thin layer of batter in the bottom of two prepared pans. Use all of the batter in the mixing bowl.

9. Sprinkle half of the rhubarb mixture on top of the batter in each pan. 

10. Using the reserved batter, drop "dollops" of batter on top of the fruit filling in each pan. You won't have enough batter to completely cover the filling.

11. Remove the crumb topping from the fridge and break up the clump into small chunks, about 1/2 inch in diameter. Drop half of the crumb topping on each of the two cakes. Try to distribute the pebble size crumbs evenly.

 12. Place both cakes on a baking sheet for support and bake in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes. Test with a toothpick to determine whether it's cooked through or not. The rhubarb may make it a bit moist.

13. Cool before serving or freezing.  This cake may be double wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for several weeks.

I have made a variation of this cake using an apple filling.  
For the apple version make the topping as above. For the filling: combine 5-6 apples, peeled and coarsely chopped, combined with 2/3 c brown sugar, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon and 2 Tbsp cornstarch.  For the cake batter: 1 2/3 non-dairy sour cream or yogurt substitute, 1 tsp white vinegar, 2 large eggs, 2 yolks, 4 tsp vanilla extract, 4 cups flour, 2 cups granulated sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1 3/4 sticks margarine. Follow the same process as above. Bake for 60-70 minutes. 

Garlic crop, 2013

A break from baking and cooking, these are photos of the GoldStone Farm Garlic Crop, 2013 - exciting for us because last year we found out that we are battling "white rot" - a fungus that attacks alliums (including allium flowers, garlic, onions, leeks, shallots).  Although we picked edible sickly looking garlic last year it was disconcerting to know that those particular beds would be infected for years to come. The garlic crop was rotated this year, we don't have many places to go in the garden, but the plants were beautiful.  It might be related to the warming trend in zone 6, I harvested a week or so early this year. These garlic were picked 15 minutes before I took the photos. For non-gardeners, this is really how garlic looks when it's pulled from the ground.

Most of the garlic we grow is a variety called "Georgian Fire."  Georgia the country, not the state.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Maple Apple Walnut Babka

Rosh Hashanah,  5774  (2013) begins on the evening of Wednesday, September 4th. Many Jews will tell you that it's "early" this year - 2 days after Labor Day! In fact, all of the fall Jewish holidays are "early" this year; Hanukkah will begin on Wednesday evening, November 27 - which happens to be Thanksgiving weekend.  Early....late....the Jewish holidays are tied to seasons, but also are juxtaposed to American seasonal holidays (Labor Day....Thanksgiving....Christmas...New Years...) . With R'H coming "so early" this year I thought that I should try to experiment with a seasonally appropriate babka early as well; something with apples (a common food eaten to symbolize a sweet new year) with tree nuts and maple (reminiscent of fall in the North Eastern states). I'm planning to use this babka instead of the more typical apple cake at our R'H table. Most of my taste testers have approved the recipe already, so I've decided to post it before all of the results are in. 

This recipe makes 4 medium size babka loaves. It's a nice size to bring along as a gift if you're invited over to someone's house for Sukkot (another fall holiday.....) or failing an invitation to be an "ushpazin" or Sukkah guest, it's perfectly suited for Thanksgiving, which rumor has it, was modeled after Sukkot. 

A note about the equipment and less common ingredients in this recipe:
  • I used paper disposable baking pans, purchased on-line from King Arthur Flour and Plastic Container City .  
  • I use SAF Gold yeast for sweet yeast breads, it handles the sweet doughs a bit better than regular 
  • This recipe uses maple cream as well as maple syrup. There are numerous sources on line or in specialty shops. We had a very nice on-line shopping experience purchasing the maple cream from Joe Russo at The Green Mountain Maple Sugar Refining Company .  Joe has a small operation, I placed the order on his website and he called our home to take the credit card. The price included shipping. 
  • There are two flavorings added to the dough. Vanilla extract - use real vanilla if you can, I don't find a noticeable difference between the various types of real vanilla extract. I also used Buttery Sweet Dough Bakery Emulsion , which is available from a number of sources on-line including King Arthur Flour and directly from the producer, LorAnn Oils and Flavors.  The emulsions are kosher-certified (Star-K).
Choreography notes:
Making most babka, including this one,  is a 2 baking session project. There is nothing like home-made babka, if you like working with yeast dough you will likely find it worth your time. There is a "wow" factor to bringing a home-made babka as a gift. 
  • Babka is a sweet dough with a high proportion of fat (this was not meant to deter you from baking or eating babka- it's a description for what you need to expect when you bake cake rather than bread). The sugar and fat inhibit the activity of the yeast, thus slowing down rising of the dough. You will need to use bread flour (with a higher gluten content) and have patience for a slow refrigerator rise (8-24 hours) for the best results. 
  • The filling has three ingredients- chopped walnuts, maple cream and chopped dry apples.  Prep and weigh out the nuts and fruit before you start to assemble the cakes.
  • Assembly of four babkas takes about an hour, the 2nd rise (in the pans) and baking are another 90 minutes. Once you assemble them in the pans they do not require constant attention. Begin by rolling/filling the dough, the dough is very stretchy, but sticky, your work surface must remain lightly dusted with flour. For home ovens, with poor air circulation, you'll need to rotate the baking pan halfway through the baking time. 
  • The cooled cake can be double wrapped and frozen.  Babka keeps well for several weeks in the freezer. Unwrap when you defrost it- this will keep the cake from getting soggy. Once baked and cooled, this babka slices beautifully. 

For sponge:
8 oz bread flour
8 oz (1c) warm water- around 100-105 degrees
2 Tbsp instant yeast (I use "SAF Gold" for most yeast cakes , but any good quality instant yeast will yield a delicious baked product). 

For the full dough: 
the entire sponge 
14 oz bread flour
5 oz granulated or organic sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 large eggs 
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp Buttery Sweet Dough Emulsion
8 oz margarine or butter (don't use oil for this recipe)

Approximately 1/2 cup flour for dusting your work surface 

8 oz chopped walnuts (divided into four portions)
4 oz chopped dry apples (divided into four portions)
maple cream (3-4 Tbsp for each cake)

Drizzle for top:
maple syrup (2 Tbsp for each cake) 

4 medium loaf pans (metal or disposable paper)
stand mixer (preferable) or a hand mixer
measuring spoons, cups, silicone spatulas 
parchment paper for lining a baking sheet
a large baking sheet (to support the disposable pans) 
kitchen scale, small bowls 

The sponge will be puffy after 30 minutes
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl mix the sponge ingredients with the flat blade at a low speed until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. This will be about 5- 7 minutes. Babka can certainly be made by hand, but this could be your excuse to buy a good quality electric mixer. The dough will look "raggy."  Let rest for 30 minutes, at this point the dough will look thick and puffy. 

2 Grease 4 medium baking pans. Mix the eggs, salt, flavorings and melted margarine (or butter) together in a large mixing cup or small bowl.  Combine the flour and sugar together and add both the dry and wet ingredients to the sponge. Mix on low speed. As the ingredients are hydrated and start to blend, increase the mixer speed. The dough will be a sticky looking mess- don't worry- in about 20-25 minutes it will come together as a dough, begin to look shiny and come away from the sides of the bowl.  
The gluten strands will be strong after about 20-25 minutes. 

3. The dough gluten will be strong, stretchy and hold together well. 
 The dough will be relatively easy to remove from the blade. 
4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes or so at room temperature. If you are in a rush at this point you can omit the 30 minute wait and place the covered dough in the fridge.  Allow to rest and rise between 8 and 24 hours. 

5. You can prepare the filling ingredients at this point and chill them until you are ready to assemble the babka. Weigh the chopped nuts and chopped dried apples. Divide the nuts and apples into 4 portions. 

6. After the dough has risen, degas gently by pressing down on the dough in the bowl. Use a spatula or flexible scraper to remove the dough from the bowl and divide into four portions. Flour each portion a bit to prevent sticking. You will be working with one portion at a time. 

7. Lightly roll out a portion of dough on a lightly floured surface. Use your hand and a rolling pin.  You want to create an elongated log, approximately 6-8 inches long. If the dough becomes difficult to work with, allow it to rest for 10-12 minutes, it will relax a bit and you can continue rolling it out. 

 8.The rolled out dough should be thin (no more than 1/4 inch thick), approximately 10-12 inches long and 6-8 inches wide. Keep the work surface lightly floured as you work. 


9.Stir the maple cream, there will be separation of the syrup from the solids. Spread 4-5 Tbsp of cream over the surface of the rolled out dough. 

10. After spreading the maple cream, sprinkle 2 oz nuts and 1 oz dried apples on the dough.  Roll the dough up, making sure that the nuts and cream stay within the roll. 

11. After rolling the dough, make slices of approximately 1 1/2 inches. If the apples slide out, gently push the piece back in. When placing the slices in the greased pan, tuck them back between the dough pieces. 

12, Place the cake pans on a large baking sheet.  Lay the slices cut side up in the pan. The slices should fit snugly. As they expand and rise they will fill the cake pan. When they bake the slices will rise above the sides of the pan, forming a design exposing some of the filling.

13. Drizzle 2 Tbsp maple syrup on the raw dough and let the dough rise in a draft -free place (your cool oven is a good choice) for 45 minutes. The dough will not double in bulk, but will appear puffy. 

14. During the last 10 minutes of the rising, pre-heat the oven to 360 degrees. If you are allowing the dough to rise in the oven - remove the unbaked cake from the oven while you preheat the oven. 
15. Slide the baking sheet into the hot oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. If you are baking in a home oven with poor circulation you should rotate the baking pan 180 degrees halfway through the baking.  Do not overbake, this will dry out your babka. 
16. Cool the cakes. If you used a disposable pan, you can wrap and store the cake in the pan. If you used a metal baking pan, remove the cooled cake from the pan and place on a piece of foil.  You may find that some of the maple syrup is pooled on the bottom of the pan - you can pour this on top of the cooled cake. Wrap well and store at room temperature for a day or two. Place in fridge for longer storage (up to 3-4 days). To freeze: wrap in a double layer of plastic wrap and freeze. 

Four babka, in disposable pans, supported on a lined baking sheet 

Cooled babka in disposable baking pan
The cooled cake can be removed from the pan and sliced (it slices very well) or used as a "pull apart." 
Enjoy the New Year- whichever New Year you celebrate  - bake the babka, share it with a friend!