Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chocolate Chunk Espresso Brownies

My husband and I lived aboard Ellos a 42 foot Hallberg Rassy Ketch.  We bought her in Trinidad, the southernmost island in the Caribbean and sailed her Northward for three seasons before shipping her cross country from Camden, Maine to our home on Bainbridge Island.


Nice boat but what does this have to do with brownies?

Well.  Only the fearless and well-insured sail during hurricane season which by happy coincidence falls on our summer months so we’d store Ellos in a secure yard and return home.   When the risky weather passed, we’d pack our two bags and return to exotic ports and lazy days. 

Hmmm.  Yes…and about those brownies?

When you’re only allowed two bags and you’re packing for a six month trip you really learn what’s important.  And I’ll tell you right now, chocolate is important.  My bags always contained a couple boxes of Baker’s chocolate and a some good sized chunks of Callebaut bittersweet.

So I could make these:

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Chocolate Chunk Espresso Brownies

4 squares Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

¾ cup (1 1/2 stick) butter

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon espresso powder

3 eggs

1 cup flour

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 9X13 pan with foil and spray foil with Pam.

Microwave chocolate and butter in one minute increments until butter is melted. Let chocolate soften for another minute then stir until all chocolate is melted and butter and chocolate are combined. Stir in sugar, vanilla and espresso powder until mixed. Stir in eggs. Fold in flour just until mixed then add the chocolate chunks.

Bake 30 minutes or until the center is firm (look for fudgy crumbs) and brownies start to pull away from the edge of the pan.

Cool on wire rack then remove from pan using foil as a handle. Cut into squares and enjoy.  You’ll be the hit of any sundowners party .(and your kids will love them too.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

BBA Challenge #4 Bagels

I love bagels.  And I love these bagels more than any other bagel I’ve tasted.  Maybe because I had to knead them for thirty minutes and when you’ve invested that much time into a relationship with some flour and yeast you are compelled to love them.  But truly, they taste as good as they look and I keep peeking at them because I can’t quite believe that they are this pretty:
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The fourth bread in the BBA Challenge; bagels, taste fantastic.  An overnight snooze in the fridge brought out their malty, yeasty  flavor.   A quick dip in the bagel spa (boiling water) gave them a chewy exterior and a generous hand with sesame seeds and kosher salt gave my taste buds a hearty wake-up-and-smell-the-bagels call this morning.
These were a family activity.  I’ll tell you right now it’s with mixed emotions I approach baking with a 3 and 6 year old.  At no time does flour reach greater heights than when E is doing the stirring.  
But in this case, I was glad for the company. 
This was the stiffest dough I’ve ever worked with.   Still two cups from finishing the flour and my Kitchen Aid whined at me to take pity.  I dumped the dough on the counter and kneaded the remaining flour in by hand.
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Ten minutes later the flour was incorporated but it took another twenty minutes of kneading to pass the window pane test.  J and E kneaded their dough along with me and time really flies when your 6 year old unloads her whole arsenal of bug jokes.

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Once you shape the dough into balls you get to rest for 20 minutes while the gluten relaxes, then you shape the bagels. 
You can either roll the balls into a “snake” and then join the ends (J and E’s favored method) or press your thumb through the center of the ball and shape the bagel around it.

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More resting and then your dough has to pass the float test.  Kind of like Kinder one swim class for bagels.  Drop in room temp water and if it floats within ten seconds it passes.  Sink…back to the counter for ten minutes.  Mine passed the first time round so they went straight to the fridge where they rested overnight. 
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The hard part is done, unless you count having to wait until morning to see and taste the fruits of all that labor.  When you’re ready to cook your bagels, preheat your oven to 500 degrees and boil a pot of water.  When its at a full boil,  toss in a tablespoon of baking soda.  Plop your bagels in and boil a minute on each side:

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Adorn them with your favorite toppings.  I dressed mine up with sesame seeds and kosher salt. 
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Finally!  Some nearly instant gratification…bake them for five minutes, spin the pan, reduce the heat to 450 and bake another five minutes and they are done!
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Sensational with cream cheese, sublime with peanut butter and jelly.  These cuties (we made mini-bagels) will turn a few heads, and so will your shapely and toned upper arms thanks to all that kneading.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pecan-Brown Sugar Shortbread

Lately I’ve been nut obsessed.  I’ve been trying to perfect a recipe to rival *Megan's candied pecans and ruined another batch of nuts in the process.  To restore my nut karma I made a batch of pecan-brown sugar shortbread.  This dish was on the menu for last week’s food Friday as a grand finale to our curry shrimp and potato soup.  We ran into a few problems and had to tweak the recipe when the first batch emerged from the oven a sticky, greasy bubbly mess.   Our second effort was much better:

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If you like rich squeak-against-your-teeth shortbread this recipe is for you.  The buttery crumb melts in your mouth leaving bits of pecan behind to roll around on your tongue until you’re ready for that last satisfying crunch.  Brown sugar adds a nice richness that ties the butter and pecans together like an old fashioned praline.  Toast the pecans for an extra burst of nuttiness and serve with poached  or caramelized pears, a great way to end a harvest feast.

Pecan-Brown Sugar Shortbread

Adapted From: Lee Bailey’s Soup Meals

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup finely chopped pecans

2 ¼ cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter well a 9 inch round cake pan.

Beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.

Combine the pecans and flour. Add them to the butter-brown sugar mixture in four portions mixing well after each addition.

Pat the mixture into the pan and pierce the top with the tines of a fork. Bake until slightly browned and puffy, about 30 minutes.

Carefully cut into wedges before allowing to cool.

Makes 16 wedges

*Megan’s Pecans are in the bulk section at T&C and Central the perfect combo of sweet and crunchy.  They’re wonderful on seasonal greens with crumbles of blue cheese and a walnut sherry vinaigrette.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Spicy Pickled Green Beans

I’m a huge fan of Tillen Farms/Hogue Cellars spicy green beans.  A great addition to any buffet, a healthy alternative to chips and a piquant treat anytime.  I’d buy them every week except I can eat an entire jar as an afternoon snack and they cost $7 buck a pop.  Not one to let a little thing like a budget stand between me and my taste buds, I’ve been experimenting with recipes. This one is a winner.

For the record. Its really hard to make green beans look pretty.  I tried photographing them in a bowl, fanned across a plate and on a fork but frankly they’re just not sexy.  So forgive the boring photo and trust me on this…you want to make these.  And they are surprisingly easy even for a first time canner like me.


Spicy Green Beans

Adapted from Sunset Magazine

makes 6-12 ounce jars

3 pounds green beans

12 sprigs of dill

12 sprigs of tarragon

48 black peppercorns

1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

6 cloves peeled garlic

1 quart white vinegar

1 quart water

2 1/2 tablespoons salt


If you’re new to canning spend a few minutes reading this step by step to canning from Ball, makers of canning jars.

Wash jars.  Place 2 dill sprigs, 2 tarragon sprigs, 1 garlic clove, 8 peppercorns, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes in each jar.  Fill with beans that have been washed and trimmed to the height of your jars less 1/2 inch.  Select straight and blemish free beans; (you’ll have lots left over so you can be choosy).

The easiest way to do this is to trim beans on one end then sort for blemishes and uniformity.  Gather in one hand and tap on the counter so the longest ones stick up, then lay on a cutting board and cut across all the tops, to the proper length, at once.  Gather again, eyeballing the jar for size then press the entire unit into the glass.

Boil vinegar, water and salt then ladle into jars making sure to cover all the beans and leave 1/4 inch air space.

Process in a water bath at 180 degrees (simmer do not boil) for 15 minutes. You want your beans to be snappy so temp and time are important. Let cool for five minutes then remove to counter.

Store for 6-8 weeks then mix a batch of Bloody Mary's and use these as a garnish.  They’d be great at a holiday buffet or as a very special  hostess gift…if they last that long. Or just eat them as an afternoon snack because they’re so good.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Food Friday Curry Shrimp and Potato Soup

There are few things more pleasurable than a sunny afternoon with boon companions until you add a kitchen, a quest, and champagne.  Thus the origins of Food Friday where five friends join together to cook.

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Our quest on this particular Friday was a savory and fresh take on potato soup.  This once humble dish is enriched with both fish and chicken stock and elevated to company dinner status with the addition of shrimp. We threw in a can of coconut milk to amp the creaminess and keep the curry company.  The result is a particularly attractive and luscious soup.

Curried Shrimp and Potato Soup

Adapted from Lee Bailey’s Soup Meals

¼ cup butter

1 cup finely chopped tart apple

1 cup finely chopped celery

3 cups finely chopped onions

One pint light cream or half and half

1 can coconut milk, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cream for garnish.

2 tablespoons curry powder

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups fish stock*, heated

3 cups chicken stock, divided.

1 pound cooked and peeled medium shrimp.

1 pound white potatoes, peeled, cut into ½ inch dice

Garnish: snipped fresh chives


Melt butter in a deep skillet and sauté the apple, celery and onions until wilted and onions are turning golden, about 5 minutes. Add one cup chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering until almost all the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Puree the mixture in a food processor until smooth.

Return mixture to the skillet and whisk in the cream, coconut milk, curry powder, salt and pepper. Simmer over very low heat, whisking regularly until reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the fish and chicken stocks.

Meanwhile cover the diced potatoes with salted water and bring to a boil. Boil slowly for 5 minutes, then drain and add to the soup. If you want a smooth soup, puree the potatoes before adding to the pot. Continue to simmer for another 10-12 minutes or until flavors have fully blended.  Add the shrimp and serve when shrimp is warmed through.

Garnish each serving with chives and a swirl of coconut cream.

*You can buy frozen fish stock or substitute clam juice.

Variations:  One Friday Foodie sautéed a teaspoon each of grated ginger and grated garlic with a tablespoon of mustard seeds then stirred them into the soup. She got rave reviews!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Living the Island Life—Picking Flowers

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  Mommy Liberation Day (otherwise known as the first day of school)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blackberry Sorbet Champagne “The Cadaques”

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The Cadaques Drink

A few weeks ago I picked limes in the Spanish sunshine and vowed to create a drink that captured the moment.  Named for Cadaques a charming fishing village on Spain’s Costa Brava and an elegant courtyard we found there.   What better setting than Food Friday for its debut?

The Cadaques

serves 6

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup  blackberries

One bottle Cava or any sparking white wine

Juice from one lime

6 Kaffir Lime leaves

For sugar rim:

1/3 cup sugar (large crystal decorator sugar works well)

1-2 fresh blackberries


To make sugar for rim place 1/3 cup sugar in a bowl and smash one or two blackberries into the sugar until it becomes a consistent color then dip glass into sugar.

To make the drink:  Puree berries and sugar together in food processor or blender and place in freezer.  Once frozen, scrape with tines of fork to make sorbet.  Divide sorbet between 6 fluted glasses using a melon baller for pretty scoops. Fill 3/4 full with chilled cava add 1 teaspoon of lime juice to each glass and garnish with Kaffir  lime leaves.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Applesauce Spice Cake with Butterscotch Meringue Frosting

It seems like fall out there.  There’s a nip in the air, school has begun and the trees have the heavy lushness the foretell crimson leaves and ripe apples.

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My grandparents had a small orchard so we were well supplied with Autumn’s bounty; apple pies and applesauce and my nostalgic favorite applesauce spice cake.  Spicy but not overwhelming,  moist but not dense, sweet but not sticky.  This is the cake that I think of every time I smell spiced cider.

A couple years ago I called home for the recipe.  “It’s in the Betty Crocker Cookbook, honey.”  So I got out my first ever cookbook, the one mom gave me when I went off to college and here it is:

Applesauce Cake

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1 1/2 cups applesauce

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup shortening

2 eggs

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Heat over to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour oblong pan 13X9X2 inches or two round layer pans, 8 or 9X1 1/2 inches.  Beat all ingredients except the raisins and nuts in a large mixer bowl on low speed, scraping bowl constantly, 30 seconds. Beat on high speed, scraping bowl occasionally, 3 minutes.  Stir in nuts and raisins.  Pour into pans.

Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, oblong 60-65 minutes, layers 50-55 minutes, cool. 


Butterscotch Meringue Frosting

2 egg whites

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

Beat egg whites until foamy.  Beat sugar and lemon juice gradually into egg whites until stiff.  Carefully spread over 13X9 inch cake.  Sprinkle with nuts.  Bake in 400 degree oven until brown, 8-10 minutes.

Monday, September 7, 2009

BBA Bread #3 Focaccia and Smoked Chicken

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I skipped ahead in the BBA Challenge to Focaccia because I had poolish leftover from the Greek Celebration Bread and wanted to use it before it went bad.  Rich and salty with a fine crumb, this is the bread you make while watching Under the Tuscan Sun.   The scent of roasted garlic and rosemary wafting through your house will transport you to a sunny Italian piazza, perhaps a dark Italian count will join you there and you’ll be swept off your feet to his romantic palazzo in Portofino…but I digress.

My own tall, dark and handsome did a bit of grilling yesterday with spectacular results.   His brined smoked chicken with grilled peaches paired beautifully with a bottle of Eleven Winery’s Sauvignon Blanc that I helped to bottle last week.  Brining the chicken resulted in a moist bird with silky, flavorful meat.  Grilling the peaches brought out their natural sweetness and the hint of char complimented the smoke flavor in the chicken.  (Grilling peaches is just about the easiest thing in the world:  Cut in half, removed the pit, lightly oil and grill three minutes on each side.)

The sweet and savory combo is a sure winner; (think pork chops and applesauce).  And, I can heartily recommend Eleven’s Sauvignon Blanc for its light fruity flavor and hint of summer fruit.

My week in review:

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Bottling Wine

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Crabbing but we only caught a sea star which we put back.


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First day of School (sniff)

Friday, September 4, 2009

BBA Recipe #2 Artos: Greek Celebration Bread


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This bread made me so proud I had to call my good friend Hollind to come look at it and taste it.  The second recipe in the BBA challenge  is a type of sourdough bread made with a starter; you can either do a barm which takes four days to create or a poolish which takes a few hours.  I tried the barm but my crazy gettin’-kids-off-to-school schedule blew the timing and I had to throw it out. 

This recipe is incredibly forgiving because I did lots of things wrong and yet it’s gorgeous and tastes as good as it looks.  Sweet and spicy with dried fruit and nuts, it reminds me of Italian Panettone bread without all the butter.  Toasted and drizzled with honey it’s addictive add a satisfying crunch and overall lightness and it’s just plain dangerous to be alone in the house with.  This is the bread you bake for a holiday brunch or for comfort on a gloomy day.

While I’m the first to admit it’s the blind leading the blind I’ve created a pictorial to accompany Peter Reinhart’s text.  Yours may look or behave differently but carry on; you’ll be amazed at what you created.

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Determined to follow the recipe to the letter I weighed the flour.  You can see in the background that I’ve assembled the spices and other ingredients just like Mr. Reinhart says.






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You have the option of using lemon or orange extracts or zest.  I chose orange zest mostly because I love using my microplane grater.





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My dough was a little sticky and didn’t form a ball so I added flour by the small handful until it behaved.






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Here’s what my dough looked like after kneading for ten minutes.  Forgot to check if it passed the windowpane test and barreled right into the next step and hand kneaded dried cherries, golden raisins and toasted walnuts.




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Oiled the bowl and left to rise.  Mr. Reinhart suggests 90 minutes but I had things to do so mine rose for three hours while I ran errands.





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Here I’ve shaped my boule and let it rise a second time.  Punched the dough down first and then read to leave as much air as possible…sigh.  I compensated by letting this one rise for four hours…things to do and the oven was busy with chicken.



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The final product glazed and glorious. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge

Anyone out there want to learn how to bake bread? Join me (and hundreds from all over the world) in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge.

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And what is the BBA challenge? A group of home bakers working through every bread recipe in Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. The brainchild of the picturesque and entertaining Pinch My Salt blog.  Using Mr. Reinhart’s wonderful book as a text we’ll bake our way from Anadama bread to whole wheat bread with bagels, baguettes and Ciabatta along the way.

Visit Eagle Harbor Books for your copy and get started today!

PS  You don’t need any baking experience to join us as the following journal will attest:


BBA Recipe Number One:

Okay, It seems that I’m not a natural bread baker. My first attempt at the Bread Baker’s Apprentice (BBA) challenge resulted in a broken Kitchen Aid mixer, a frantic drive across the island to find a bread pan and a lopsided loaf of bread.

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Despite my shaky start I am undaunted. Sort of. I think that maybe jet lag is to blame. After all, starting a two day bread baking project at 1AM after flying halfway around the world probably isn’t a recipe for success.

Clearly I need a local support group. A support group would have talked me down from mixing potions after midnight. A support group would have loaned me a bread pan so I didn’t have to watch half my work expand into a misshapen blob like a troll with a bee sting.

And what is the deal with bread pans? Has there been a run on bread pans? I went to two different shops that should have had pans but both were out of stock and I returned home sans pans. The blob was just plain spooky when I left on the pan quest; when I got home it looked like it might start talking.

In case you’re wondering the Kitchen Aid survived.

By the way. It’s great to be home…and the bread tasted great.

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