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Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Curiosity got the better of me and I set aside the nuts from the black walnuts I’d husked in the ink making process. While I know the nutmeats of the black walnut are edible, I’d never tried them. Considering how expensive all nuts are getting, it seemed worthwhile to see if they any good since they are easy to get for free. (or at least for the time you have to put into getting the actual nuts) I had already collected and stripped them, for the ink, so a chunk of the work was already finished.wanuts1

While the husks were soaking, the stripped nuts were laid out on cardboard to dry and cure. They sat for a bit over a month and then I spent some time each day over the next week or so cracking them and collecting the nutmeats.

It is not a fast process and the larger ones were much easier to get the meat out of than the smaller but I ended up with a total of about 4 cups. blkwalnutmeats1.jpg

While I read that you can do a light brine soak to soften their flavour, I decided to go ahead and use them in their natural state. Since the idea was to see if we liked the taste, it only made sense to experience it in it’s unaltered state.

cake1

I used a Southern recipe for a Black Walnut cake and went with cream cheese icing. It turned out well but it also turns out that we don’t like the taste of black walnuts! Even my father, who can always be depended on to eat even the worst of my baking failures, wasn’t much interested. My mother almost spit out the one bit she did try and said the taste reminded her of gasoline. I…have to agree with her somewhat. There is a happy ending however since the friend who gave me the walnuts to begin with did like it and was happy to take away free cake.

 

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The raspberries have continued to come in so I’ve rl3 been working through some baking options. Considering how happy we were with the apple fritter loaf recipe from Tess, I thought it was worthwhile to see if it could be adapted to use the raspberries. Since I didn’t want to kill their flavour with the cinnamon, we decided to go with chocolate. Once they are cooked raspberries can be a bit more bitter than apples so I also needed to increase the sugar just a little. What I went with was around a tablespoon of hot chocolate powder and a bit of the ground vanilla in addition to listed sugar. That seemed to give us the chocolate accent we wanted as well as balancing the sweetness a bit better. I also added a teaspoon of corn starch too. The berries were a bit more liquid than apples and the cornstarch thickens them just enough. (sugar, cornstarch and chocolate were mixed together, then added to the fruit) We cooked it around 10 minutes longer and that made sure it was fully done, all the way through. (the parchment paper liner is also pretty necessary) The raspberry flavour came through strong and clear, but they weren’t bitter or overpowering and were a good balance to the vanilla cake that makes up the bulk of the loaf. I did go a bit overboard with the amount of raspberries on the first attempt and had a catastrophic structural failure. (4 cups was too many) At least it tasted good, but staying around or under, 2 cups of the raspberry mixture is needed if you want a loaf instead of a baked pudding. We like lots of raspberry, but sticking to 1 to 11/2 cups of fruit would make the chocolate more noticeable and the loaf much more solid. I also stuck with the vanilla cream glaze, but you could drizzle the top with melted chocolate to increase the chocolate aspect.

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It’s been a good year for quite a number of fruits and a local friend fritloaf let us pick a bunch of apples from their feral tree. The tree is huge and probably in the 100 to 150 year range. The apples, while small and with the typical deformations of untreated fruit, are clearly Macintosh’s, or closely related. I chopped up a few for a trial run with them and made this apple fritter loaf. It was a quick and easy recipe and does satisfy the fall apple fritter cravings. I didn’t do much modifying for this, the first attempt, but did add some vanilla bean powder to both the loaf fritslice and the glaze and was happy with the depth it gave to the flavour. I also went with a parchment paper liner and I think it helped the crust as well as making sure the whole thing came cleanly out of the pan. I’d like try it again with a higher quality cinnamon, since I just used the generic stuff we have on hand.

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Quite frequently, over the winter, I kept hearing about lavender shortbread.

lavender shortbread

lavender shortbread

Lavender was one of those plants that I’d always heard was hard to grow, but it’s always done well on the property here and we have quite a bit of it. Since we don’t usually bother to dry any of the lavender bounty, I had to wait until ours had started to bloom to give it a try. Yesterday, I made our first batch. I already had an excellent basic shortbread recipe, but checked around to see what the typical amounts to add were. After some consideration, I went with a mix of fresh flowers and a small amount of leaves, finely chopped. Considering the strength of the lavender, and the delicacy of shortbread, I opted to go with significantly less than most of the recipes called for. I ended up with something close to 1 teaspoon of flowers/leaves, for the standard batch. (vs. the 1-2 tablespoons I had seen) For our palates, that was the perfect amount. There is a light fragrance to each bite, but it isn’t overpowering and you can still taste the butteriness of the base. We were pleasantly surprised at how much we liked them and the recipe has gone into the “keeper” file! (and I’ll have to remember to dry some sprigs, to keep us supplied for the winter)

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This year, with the holiday baking, I mostly stuck to tried and true winners.

Cookie birdhouses, Dec 2012

Cookie birdhouses, Dec 2012

There was only one really new thing on the treat plate this season. Dad and I used to construct a gingerbread church every Christmas, growing up. I had meant to try and make it again, a few years ago but both the cookie dough recipe and the building pattern have been lost. I’ve tried a few other recipes, over the years, but never found one that really worked for me. With any type of house construction, you need a dough that will cut clean and stay in shape, so the pieces will fit properly and I wanted one that also tasted good! I’ve been reading “Bake at 350” for a while now and tried her regular sugar cookie recipe early in the year. It was an excellent cut-out cookie! Tasty, easy to work with and held it’s shape when cooked. Even though it was a winner, I still wanted something a bit more seasonal. When she posted a spiced sugar cookie last month, I decided to try it. Since I wanted something for gifts, I designed a simple, small birdhouse. They are only about 8” high, so quite petite. The dough was great to work with, but I did cheat and doubled the called for amounts of spice since I wanted it to have a bit more flavour. I was able to get four houses per batch of dough. It cooked clean and they went together quite easily. I kept the decoration simple as well and stuck to white royal icing. The fronts were done first, the houses assembled and then the roofs were done. For ease of transport and display they were set on a foil-wrapped square of cardboard and then wrapped in cellophane with a bit of curling ribbon. I was really satisfied with the final product and people seemed happy to receive them!

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Making muffins

I just got introduced to a new food blog, Bake at 350I haven’t had much of a chance to go through the archives but had to try a recently posted recipe. Nutella-filled Banana muffins. It was one of the first entries I’d read there and it grabbed me, partially because we happened to have both some over-ripe bananas and Nutella on hand. I went ahead and made up a batch. It was a bit more work than my usual banana loaf recipe, but not much more and the instructions and recipe were both clear and easy to follow. I had to make a couple of minor modifications, mace replaced the nutmeg, since we didn’t have any on hand and they are pretty close. I also substituted brown sugar for half of the called-for white. (that was done simply because I really like using them both in banana dishes) I also used standard muffin liners rather than the pretty, folded parchment ones pictured on her site. They smelled great while baking and we all tried one, while they were still warm. I had intended to add the Nutella, but as either a result of our personal tastes or the swap of mace for nutmeg, none of us liked it on them so they stayed plain. The finished product is much more of what I would call a cupcake than a muffin, since they are quite sweet and rich without any need for icing. They made a lovely treat and the recipe got immediately put into the “keeper” file!

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I’m a bit shocked to realize how close we are getting to Thanksgiving!

pumpkine scone prototype

It’s one of those holidays that always seem to come as a surprise. It creeps up in the business of the fall/pre-Halloween season and gets forgotten about until it’s almost upon us. I’m not sure how we’ll end up celebrating the day, but I have been working on a special treat. I’m experimenting with creating a pumpkin scone. (I think the scone obsession may be a result of the Cafe across the street being closed for the season. No more tasty scones unless I make them myself) I think I’ve finally got the recipe mostly worked out. I started with a classic base, and modified from there. The sugar was reduced a bit, since the first batch of pumpkin puree was pre-sweetened. The spice level took a couple of tries as well, and it seems that a full teaspoon of the pie mix gives the right amount of seasoning. Our recipe calls for one egg and ½ cup of milk. To be able to add enough pumpkin puree, I upped the flour a ¼ cup. Then replaced the milk with around a ¼ of plain yogurt and a ½ cup of the puree. (and a teaspoon of vanilla, just to help increase the pie-like effect) This round turned out a bit on the wet side, so the shape isn’t as smooth as it should be, but there was a bit more yogurt in it due to emptying out the container. I did find, from an earlier batch, that if it’s a bit dry, some more puree can be worked in and gives a lovely stripe of orange in the finished scones. The next thing is to see how it goes with the plain puree and get all the measurements written down exactly!

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