Tag Archives: dessert

Recipe post: Melon pan

Melon pan is both a delicious Japanese treat and a bilingual loan word and you don’t get that sort of quality linguistic experience every day. These are little dessert buns made with cookie dough rolled out and wrapped around a nugget of bread dough. The “pan” is Portuguese for bread and the “melon” is for how the little globes bake into a furrowed skin that looks like melon rind. They are sometimes made with butterscotch or green macha cookie dough to point up the resemblance even further.

melon pan finished

Any type of bread and cookie dough is fair game in any combination. For my first attempt I made plain white bread with maple sugar cookies. The buns had more lumps and ridges than the Wikipedia illustrations (more closely resembling pumpkins than melons) but they were delicious.

I started with a batch of classic white sandwich bread dough from King Arthur Flour. I also chose King Arthur Flour’s recipe for the maple cookie layer, but it was very soft and difficult to roll out without a great deal of flour and mess. Next time I’ll use a butter cookie dough that is firm enough to roll out easily. My tiny kitchen covered in flour:

flour mess

Take the bread dough recipe through to the second rise, and at that point make a roll and cut it into about 25 pieces. Roll the pieces into balls using the heel of your hand on an unfloured surface. Space the balls on two greased cookie sheets (or use parchment or a Silpat), cover, and allow to rise again while you make the cookie layer.

covered bread balls

Follow your cookie recipe and spread the finished dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Form into a roll – or make two rolls if that fits better into your fridge – and chill for 20 minutes. Remove from fridge, unwrap, and slice the roll into about 25 discs. In a nice example of synchronicity, these two recipes made almost exactly the same amount of dough – very easy to divide equally.

On a floured surface, roll out each disc just enough to fold around a lump of bread dough. Don’t try to wrap it tightly, just lay the cookie dough circle down on top and curve your hand around it gently to tuck the edges over. This part is difficult to explain but there are multiple videos out there highlighting various techniques. I found that the cookie dough spread across the bottom of the melon pan into a continuous layer during baking without me trying to fold it underneath.

Cover the buns again and allow to rise for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven. They won’t become appreciably larger but the cookie layer “settles” around the bread dough.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes at 375 F, until the cookie dough has browned lightly and the inner bread layer has cooked through. Baking time will vary depending on the size of the bun and the cookie dough you’ve selected. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack right away. When completely cool you might consider piping in some filling. I used creme Anglais but found we really didn’t need it;  S. and I enjoyed some this morning with spicy ginger jam and that was even better.

Combinations that come to mind: dark rye bread with a molasses cookie layer and piped with raspberry preserves; raisin challah with butter cookies; ginger pumpkin bread with lemon shortbread cookie dough and lemon curd; or cranberry orange brioche with chocolate sugar cookies.

 

Maine Fruit Cake

Berry season is here and you need an easy and delicious way to use a whole quart of them at once, right? This cake is your new best friend. It requires a lot of fruit but isn’t picky about what variety: huge Honeyoe strawberries or the tiny Alpine ones; red, yellow, and purple raspberries, big high-bush blueberries or their tiny low-bush cousins. The recipe also holds up well to juicy stone fruit like peaches and plums when cut into small pieces. Conversely, I don’t like it when made with raisins, apples, and other “dry” fruit because the flour combination becomes a little too stiff and heavy without that high liquid content.

For this recipe you’ll need ployes mix, available in your local (Maine) grocery store or from www.ployes.com . Ployes is pancake mix of buckwheat flour, wheat flour, and baking powder that is extremely popular in northern Maine (especially the Madawaska region) and Canada. You can substitute plain buckwheat flour for the ployes mix in this recipe but I’ve never done it – you may want to experiment with adding a little more baking powder. The ployes mix adds enough body to support all those berries without becoming soggy. It also imparts a subtle flavor, reminiscent of nutmeg, without adding any spices.

Maine Fruit Cake

8 Tbs unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for pan (or use Crisco)

3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 3/4 cup Ployes

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (I’d use 2 tsps if using plain buckwheat flour)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar (the 1/4 cup is for sprinkling on top)

1 large egg

1/2 cup  milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 quart strawberries, hulled and halved. You may have to quarter the really huge ones.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8 x 11 cake pan, a 10″ pie pan, or a 10″ springform or cake pan. The pie plate works fine, but I like to use the rectangular pan for bake sales and office parties because it’s easier to make serving pieces.

Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until light. You can use an electric mixer but it’s not necessary. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Strawberry Cake in progress

Pour the batter into prepared pan. Arrange berries on top of batter as closely as possible in a single layer. Don’t worry about being too precise – most of the berries are going to sink – but you want them distributed as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup sugar on top.

Strawberries galore

Bake cake for about 45 minutes until golden brown and the surface springs back. A cake tester isn’t much use here because the strawberries will have transformed into goey, delicious jam all through the cake.  Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into pieces and serve with lightly whipped cream or powdered sugar if you wish. It’s also delightful just plain (especially for breakfast) and sturdy enough for bake sales and lunch boxes.

Maine Fruit Cake, yum

Variations: Add cinnamon to the topping when using blueberries; almond extract instead of vanilla and some lemon shavings to the topping for peaches.

Blizzard cookies

The wind is beating on the metal roof and the falling snow is so cold and fine that we had tiny drifts under the steel framed front door this morning. It’s a good time to make cookies: baking at 350 degrees F will help heat the house and I can’t run the oven after the power goes out, which is inevitable with 50 mph gusts in the forecast.

Blizzard Cookies

These cookies are based on the “Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookie” recipe on the Quaker Oatmeal box top. My family likes to add walnuts and chocolate chips, so I’ve made adjustments to accommodate the extra dry ingredients and left out half the butter. The result is a higher, “cakier” cookie that stores well and is perfect for lunchboxes.

 

 

“Cakey” Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • 1/2  cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4  cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar
  • 3  eggs
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1  teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 3  cups uncooked oats (Irish, commerical “quick oats”, traditional long-cooking, it doesn’t seem to matter)
  • 1  cup raisins
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Put away the mixer and add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix well by hand. Add oats, nuts, chips, and raisins; mix well.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets or Silpats. The Quaker Oats recipe specifies ungreased surfaces, but that can be a problem using only half the fat of the original recipe.
Bake 10 -12 minutes (my oven needs 12) or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Elder-Flower Fritters

elder blossomsThe Western Mountains Alliance is working on a project called the Maurer Meals Fruit Cookbook. They have had a great response for the usual suspects like apples and berries, but are looking for recipes for under-represented fruits that are also available in Maine such as chokecherry, elderberry, nanny-berry, kiwi, and many others.

I’m contributing my grandmother’s recipe for elderberry blossom fritters. We have 4 productive elderberry bushes around the yard and make juice, cordial (by adding brandy to the concentrated juice)  and dry the sweet purple berries to use as “raisins”. The flowers are also very tasty but most of the recipes I’ve seen include too much of the stem and woody growth, which is slightly poisonous and can make sensitive people nauseous.

The elderberry bushes in my yard bloom in early May. Pick in the morning when the flowers are fresh, and choose large, platter-like blossom clusters when they are fully in bloom. Use an open bowl or cloth bag because they will immediately start to wilt lose fragrance in plastic. Keep them in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to make the fritters, then strip the blossoms off the stems as thoroughly as possible (a few small stems won’t hurt anything).

Elder-flower cordial, or water, is available in specialty cooking or liquor stores. It has a fragrant, faintly citrusy aroma and flavor that really adds a lot to the fritters. I’ve never tried to make it – maybe next year! I’ve successfully substituted orange-flower water in this recipe, and I think rose-water would work as well. I’ve also tried using the juice concentrate with disappointing results – the fritters taste good but they turn a dark purple color that is less than appetizing!

  • 2 beaten eggs (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sparking wine or seltzer water
  • 2 tablespoons elderflower cordial
  • 1 cup elderflowers
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Pour enough oil into a deep fryer (I have a “Fry-Baby” that takes 4.5 C and works well for this recipe) or a large, heavy pot to come up to a depth of 4 inches or so. Turn on the fryer or turn your burner to medium-high and bring the oil to 350 degrees.

While the oil is heating mix all the other ingredients into a large bowl. I use a flat whisk to minimize lumps. The consistency should be thicker than pancake batter, but not so thick that it will completely hold its shape if scooped. If it is too thin, add flour, too thick, more champagne or seltzer.

Drop about a tablespoon of batter into the hot oil for each fritter. It is important not to crowd them, so you’ll have to cook the fritters in batches. I can fit 4 into the Fry-Baby. After about 30 seconds or so, if the fritters have not floated to the surface of the hot oil use a chopstick to dislodge them from the bottom of the fryer or pot. Fry until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels as you cook the rest of the fritters. When slightly cooled, I like to put 4 at a time into a small paper bag with confectioner’s sugar and a few extra blossoms and shake gently to coat.

The same bush loaded with fruit in early September,

Elderberry, Sambucus

Raspberry season

 

August has arrived with crowds of houseguests (ours and other people’s), green beans, and 140 tour boats between now and October. And raspberries.

purple royalty raspberriesThere’s too much to do in the garden to be sitting around making a blog post, but sometimes the temptation to record the beautiful chaos of fruit and bloom is just too much. The purple royalty raspberries (above) are abundant and showy. The everblooming variety “Anne” is more subtle in taste and color, and the berries are hidden in the leaves.

Anne in handWe also grow Liberty, which is a plain red variety that taste exactly like red LifeSavers. I picked a mixed quart and made this jam tart from Smitten Kitchen with half jam, half fresh berries.  It was wonderful – pictures later!  Next up, blueberries. . .

Patriot blueberries

How to mail a birthday cake.

The Boy turns 21 next week and we won’t be there to help celebrate – what to do? One of us (I can’t remember who to blame) said, “We should mail him his birthday cake!”. This isn’t just any old cake – in our family you get a checkerboard cake with your choice of any three colors or dealer’s (mother’s) choice if you can’t make up your mind. We did really UPS the cake to Providence this afternoon, so I dug out a 15 year-old photo from birthday #6 to show the finished effect.

Colorful, no?

This year’s version is YELLOW/red/blue and yes, I did mean to put that in all caps. Wow, the yellow.  I’ve adapted the recipe from the back of the Chicago Metallic Cake Pan Set because really, Einstein himself couldn’t divide this batter into thirds precisely enough to make the original work out to three even layers. The original proportions are in parenthesis if you feel up to the challenge.

Checkerboard Cake

Preheat oven to 340 (325) degrees and grease and flour the three 9″ pans. The instructions imply that the pans are nonstick but um, no. I use cooking spray, and I also spray the divider.

Mix 5 (4) C flour, 4 (3) tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt in a bowl and set aside.

In a small pan or the microwave melt 1 1/4 C butter which is 2.5 sticks  (1 C or 2 sticks) and cool.

In a VERY large bowl, cream the butter with 2 1/2 (2) C sugar. Add 5 (4) eggs, one at at time, beating after each addition. Add 1 Tbs vanilla.

Add 2 C milk (1 1/2) at room temperature alternately with the flour mixture, beat until batter is smooth. (I use the lazy baker’s method: add half the flour and beat in, add ALL the milk and beat until smooth, add the remaining flour and beat 30 seconds. There! All done while still obeying the ancient law passed down by mothers everywhere to “Start with dry and end with dry”.)

Divide the batter in thirds and add food coloring. If you want to make one ring chocolate you might add 3 oz of melted semi-sweet chocolate to one bowl.  Work fast, because the batter sets up fairly quickly and doesn’t “flow” as nicely after a while in a warm kitchen.

wow, yellow

Put the divider in the pan and press down to snap in place. Fill each ring about half-way up with each color, alternating the color choices in each pan. There are very good directions on the box for this step although they say to wash and dry the divider between pans and yikes, that’s a lot of work. I lift it carefully and vertically out of the batter and go on to the next pan  because I’m a bad person but really, the cake will be fine.

Insanity cake

The box emphatically tells you DO NOT PUT DIVIDER IN THE OVEN, so don’t do that.

The directions say to bake for 25 minutes but with the slightly thicker layers I check at 30 minutes. If you can, rotate the pans halfway through to keep the layers even. Remove when cake springs back to the touch or a tester comes out clean. The colors will probably darken on the surface but they will still be hallucination-bright when you cut a slice. Cool on racks for about 10 minutes, remove from pans. Happy crazy clean-up!

Too pretty to clean

I use a chocolate ganache frosting spread very thinly between the layers to allow the checkerboard to really show off, and then much spread it much thicker on the  top and sides to hide the colors until the cake is cut. We’ll have to wait for The Boy to send pics to see that.

I put the unfrosted layers on cardboard cake discs, sealed each one in a gallon Ziplock bag and stacked them in a 12″ x 12″ x 8″ box with a box of birthday candles and assorted decorations, 2 sealed and bagged plastic containers of frosting, a card, and a lot of air-pillow-packing. The nice ladies at the UPS Store slapped fragile stickers all over it (thanks Victoria!) and sent it off with loving care. Happy Birthday, Boy!

New horizons

Our local college campus has a community garden plot just down the road from my mother’s new digs.

COA garden

I applied for a plot in the depths of January and got the call to come down to work day and claim my space just last week.  Fifteen of us had a wonderful Saturday morning hauling old logs up the hill to the new vineyard site and cutting turf in under cloudy, windless skies.

COA gardeners

The site has some of the problems common to community gardens: a bad case of clubroot and invasive populations of comfrey, sowthistle,  bindweed, and witchgrass. Clubroot spreads easily on tools and shoes, especially in the damp spring weather, and rototilling has contributed to the spread of invasive perrenials, but current management has good protocols in place to keep these problems from spreading. Shoes and tools are rinsed in a bleach solution upon leaving the plot. I prefer to cut comfrey down to the ground because the leaves make an excellent mulch, but if you’re in the mood to pull them out each type of weed has a dedicated disposal area (the sowthistle has its own glass-topped “coffin”). The good news is that the soil is rich, deep and organic, and supplemented with abundant compost from the college cafeteria.

compost bins

Here’s what my 10′ x 10′ plot looks like now – I’ll be posting updates as the season progresses. Today the soil was too wet to start work without damaging its structure.

my plot

And here’s a photo of the raisin sour cream coffee cake I brought with me. You should always show up at work-day with high quality fuel.

Aunt Loris's coffee cake

Aunt Loris’s Raisin Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Cake
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sour cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt

Filling and Topping
2 cups raisins
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with Pam.

In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together into a separate bowl. Mix in sour cream and then dry ingredients alternately into butter mixture until both are used up and the batter is smooth and very thick. Mix in 1 1/2 raisins, reserving 1/2 C of the raisins as a topping.  In a medium bowl, beat eggs whites until stiff, then fold into batter.

In a small dish, whisk together sugar and cinnamon for filling and/or topping.

Spread half the cake batter in the bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of cinnamon-sugar mixture. Dollop remaining cake batter over filling in spoonfuls. Use a rubber or offset spatula to gently spread it over the filling and smooth the top. Sprinkle batter with remaining cinnamon-sugar and remaining raisins.

Feel free to ignore this step and just sprinkle the entire portion of cinnamon and sugar on top of the cake with the remaining raisins. It will still be totally delicious.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, and it’s even better the next day.

 

 

 

Astier, 12 Avril 2012

One more post about Paris, and then on to what’s happening in the Maine garden these days. Right now there’s a pounding Nor’easter in the garden so it’s more pleasant to blog about dinner in Paris, but soon. . .

We went to a traditional French restaurant for our wedding anniversary on April 12. Restaurant Astier is tiny, friendly, and thirty feet from the apartment we were renting. Did  I mention tiny? The waiters had to back down the stairs to the wine cellar – I don’t think there was enough room to turn around down there.

Astier

We chose the prix fixe menu and split the dishes between us. The first course was one dish of thin slices of duck breast on a circle of mirepoix, and the other a bright green cold soup with a “dumpling” of lightly smoked haddock.

first course

Second course: a circle of lamb in dark gravy topped with eggplant tomato puree; grilled pork chop on a plate of white beans.

second course

Third course is The Famous Cheese Platter – renowned in song and story. Fifteen pounds of cheese folks, representing every shape, flavor and region. The waiter brings this huge platter of cheese to your table – on a metal stand because it’s much too big to actually fit on that tiny surface with your plate and the accompanying bread basket – and hands off a couple of sharp knives. That’s it – for this course it’s you against the cheese.

amazing cheese

Last course, dessert! R. had creme brulee covered in diced strawberries. Delicate and delicious, very sorry the photo was taken moments too late to see its lovely presentation. I had Baba au rhum traditionnel. Now baba au rhum in my experience is a nicely glazed brioche sort-of-thing. At Astier our waiter brought me a cylinder of yellow pound cake in a soup plate, a sharp knife, and a soup spoon. I was puzzled. He took the knife back from me and cut the pound cake into quarters, produced a dark green decanter and poured a cup of rum into the soup plate, then handed me a drinking glass full of whipped cream and wished us “Bon appetite”.

BABA

It was a wonderful meal, we had fantastic (and very friendly) service, delightful people-watching, and it was also fortunate that our apartment was two doors down the street after wine with dinner and rum with dessert.

And evidently wedding anniversary #26 is the French restaurant anniversary. If I could, I’d make reservations for #27 right now.

Edinburgh Tea Squares

Mmmm tea squares These crumbly, fruit-filled bars are from an old King Arthur Flour cookbook recipe that isn’t currently posted on their website, which is a shame because this is a tasty, easy dessert that allows for a lot of creativity on the part of the cook. And by creativity I mean that if you’re out of dates, raisins will work just fine. Actually, any combination of any dried fruit will be delicious. Substitute granola for oatmeal, water for orange juice, whole wheat for white flour; it’s all good. I’ve been making these bars for 30 years now (never the same way twice) and we’ve enjoyed all the variations.

Edinburgh Tea Squares Recipe originally from the King Arthur Flour Co.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the filling: Combine 1 1/2 C dried fruit, 1 C water or orange juice, a pinch of salt and 1 tsp lemon rind in a medium saucepan. Mix another 2 Tbs of cold water/juice and 2 Tbs cornstarch in a cup and reserve. Cook the first mixture until the fruit is soft and fragrant – about 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch mixture, stir and cook until slightly thickened, about a minute. Remove pan from stove and allow to cool a little bit while you make the dough.

The original recipe calls for dates, but we’ve experimented with currants, dried apples, dried blueberries and whatever was on the shelf. So far I haven’t found anything that doesn’t taste good in this simple fruit filling. Subbing out the juice is a nice change, too: apple juice with raisins, lemonade with dried cranberries, peach nectar with dried mangoes, etc.

For the dough: combine 1 1/2 C flour, 1 C brown sugar, 1 C oatmeal, 1/2 C unsalted butter, 1 tsp salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse sand. You can use whole wheat or white flour and just about anything goes for the oatmeal: quick or old fashioned oats, granola, and on one memorable occasion, corn flakes. If you use commercial cereal you may want to cut back on the salt.

Pat half the mixture in a lightly greased 9″ square pan. Reserve the rest for the topping.Bake just this bottom layer for 10 minutes while the filling cools a little bit.

Remove from oven but don’t turn it off. Layer the fruit filling over the partially baked crust and then sprinkle the remaining dough mixture on top. Don’t press it down. Put the bars back in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the filling bubbles around the edges.

The original recipe needs to be carefully divided – too much in the bottom and the top will be quite skimpy; too little on the bottom and the filling leaks out. I upped the dry quantities and added baking time for just the lower crust, so the division isn’t quite so critical. The top layer starts out fairly loose and crumbly but firms up and is better for lunch boxes after a day or two.

I’ve made a lot of changes to this recipe – you should, too!

The Book

 

 

Waiting fruit

You’re not going to be able to make this recipe right away. First, you’ll have to buy three or four persimmons at the grocery store. They will be pale and hard. You should put them in a glass bowl on the table where you eat (we call this the “dining room table” but we don’t have a dining “room” any more than we have a kitchen “room”). Commercially available persimmons take about three weeks to ripen fully, so they should be somewhere you can keep an eye on them. Turn the fruit every few days so it doesn’t bruise. Their color should deepen to a lumenescent sunset orange and the calyx dry out to a pale green. They don’t really give off an aroma. Once the fruit is soft and yields easy to a fingertip, you’re ready for cake.

Persimmon pulp

  • 3 very ripe (very soft) persimmons (1 1/4 lb total)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon mace (or ground cloves)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup loosely packed dried pitted dates (5 oz), finely chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans (3 1/2 oz), finely chopped
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 15- by 10-inch shallow cookie sheet/baking pan (1 inch deep).

If you have time, toast the nuts and then chop small in a food processor. Dump them out into a small bowl and chop the dates (you don’t have to clean the food processor between any of these steps) add to the nuts. Discard dried green or brown calyx (stem and leaves) from each persimmon, and scoop out the pulp into the food processor. Process until smooth. I’ve been making this recipe for a while and before I had a food processor I had to force the pulp through a sieve into a bowl, using a rubber spatula – which you can do but it’s a lot more work. Not to mention chopping walnuts and dates all day long. Transfer 1 to 1 1/2 cup purée to a small bowl and stir in lemon juice and baking soda. (The cake doesn’t change much with the varied amount of fruit.) The mixture will become foamy, then jell slightly.

Sift together flour, salt, and spices in another small bowl.

Whisk together egg, sugar, and oil in a large bowl until just combined. Add flour mixture and persimmon pulp stirring until just combined. Stir in nuts and dates.

Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack.

Stir together all glaze ingredients until smooth, then spread over top of cooled cake.

Vitamin C!Totally worth the wait. . .