31 May 2008

okara apricot scones with pecans •

I took the original recipe for my favorite scones from the community cookbook  Creekside Two. The recipe was submitted by a good friend, Deb, who is an excellent cook. I have wanted to experiment with okara in it for a long time, and yet I hesitated. This is a great recipe just as it is, always getting such good results, and frankly I didn’t want to mess up a good thing. But I do have this mountain of okara to constantly deal with. And then I came across another fun event: Waiter, there’s something in my...which is hosted by Andrew from Spittoon Extra. This month featured dried fruit and nuts. Finally, a great excuse to adapt my favorite scone recipe. I am happy to report that the scones baked up just beautifully! 

Okara Apricot Scones with Pecans •

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine:

2 cups unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar

Stir this with a fork to mix well. Then add:

1/2 cup dried chopped apricots
1/4 cup golden raisins

In a small mixing bowl combine:

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup wet okara (this is referring to the okara straight from your machine, not dried or drained)

Set aside for top of dough:

3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. DO NOT OVER MIX. The dough will be quite sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured board. Knead 8 or 9 times, then pat into a 8 inch circle. Spread 3 tablespoons melted butter on top and sides of dough circle; and sprinkle sugar and chopped pecans on top. Cut circle into 8 wedges; put them on an ungreased cookie sheet roughly 1 inch apart. Bake 15 minutes, or until golden brown around edges.

Original Scone Recipe •

2 cups unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dried fruit
1/4 cup golden raisins
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

Follow mixing directions above.

28 May 2008

1st daring bakers challenge-opéra cake •

My first Daring Bakers challenge, and what a challenge it was! I wanted to join this fantastic group for that reason. To challenge myself, and stretch myself creatively in the kitchen. Ever since I gave birth to the little darlings, I have been baking-impaired, hardly having enough time and patience to get dinner on the table, let alone an elaborate dessert. They are old enough now to entertain themselves (and help with dishes afterwards), and I find myself itching to be more creative and adventurous with recipes. 

Now, would I have made an Opéra Cake, ever? Absolutely not. I would have seen the number of steps, and would have been sufficiently intimidated. But I was pleasantly surprised how manageable it really was. The hosts (Lis, Ivonne, Shea, and Fran) changed the recipe up a bit, in honor of Barbara over at Winos and Foodies, creator of Taste of Yellow for LiveStrong Day. Instead of using dark ingredients (chocolate, cocoa or coffee) we were instructed to use only light colors and ingredients. 

I flavored the cake with orange extract and vanilla extract. I did the same for the buttercream, adding orange zest. I placed drained mandarin oranges on top of the buttercream when I assembled the cake. The syrup was also flavored with orange and vanilla extracts. The garnish was candied orange slices (another first for me). My first impression was mixed. I was proud of the fact that I persevered and made this cake, but I was disappointed with the taste. It was just too sweet! My family had no difficulty taking it out of my hands and gobbling it down, however. My Opéra Cake would not have won any awards for beauty; I know this. But I am very happy I made the effort. Thank you, Daring Bakers!

Opéra Cake •

The elements of an Opéra Cake are as follows:

Joconde: A thin sponge cake that is made using nut meal, traditionally almond meal.

Syrup: The joconde is flavored with a sugar syrup.

Buttercream: The first two layers of the joconde are covered in buttercream.

Ganache/Mousse (optional): In some recipes, the final layer of joconde is covered in a ganache or mousse. (I did not do this layer)

Glaze: The final step is a glaze that gives the cake a very finished and elegant appearance (unless it is too hot and runs off your cake, like mine did).

This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.


(Note:  The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 cups ground blanched almonds
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line two 12-1/2" x 15-1/2" jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside. If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
I added 1 teaspoon of orange extract and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract at this point. Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here). Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan. Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven. Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold. Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature. 


(Note:  The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)

1/2 cup water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavoring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)

Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Buttercream (I used the recipe from the Daring Bakers March Challenge Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake)

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. 
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in more lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.


(Note:  It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)

14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped 
1/2 cup heavy cream (35% cream)

Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer. Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

(Note:  The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total):  one 10" square and one 10" x 5" rectangle. 

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

26 May 2008

okara thumbelinas/tangerine-ginger curd

Ever since Pixie and Rosie’s Putting Up event, I have wanted to try my hand at making curd. I have never eaten curd. I didn’t even know if I liked it. But one thing is true, I love anything citrus. So reading through those posts in which the authors raved about their curd creations made me drool. When Tartelette decided to host Sugar High Friday #43: Citrus (the monthly event created by The Domestic Goddess), I knew it was the perfect opportunity. That and the fact that I had a bag of tangerines that the darlings were ignoring languishing on the counter. The cookie recipe is adapted from one my mother always made during the Christmas holiday. She rolls the cookies in walnuts and puts her homemade jam in the middle.

Okara Thumbelinas •

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2/3 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup wet okara (okara that has been taken right from your machine, not dried)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1-3/4 unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
1 to 1-1/2 cups finely chopped almonds

1/3 cup tangerine-ginger curd

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the yolks, okara and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add the flour and salt, mixing well. Shape into 3/4" balls; dip in egg whites, then roll in almonds. Place on greased cookie sheets approximately 1" apart. Press down center of cookie with your thumb. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes. Cool slightly, then move to wire racks to cool completely. Just before serving, fill centers with curd. Makes approximately 3 dozen.

Tangerine-Ginger Curd •

3/4 cup butter
1 cup fresh squeezed tangerine juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon ginger liquid (liquid obtained from grated ginger root that has been pressed in a sieve)
6 eggs

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, tangerine juice, sugar, lemon juice, and ginger liquid. Stir constantly (do NOT boil) until very hot and thickened slightly. Remove from heat and cool for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, beat eggs until thick and creamy. Add the juice mixture to the eggs, beating until combined. Put mixture back into saucepan and stir (over low heat) until very hot and thickened. Do NOT boil. Remove from heat and pour into jars (strain if you want). Keep refrigerated. Makes approximately 4-1/2 to 5 cups.

20 May 2008

tastes to remember • apple bars

Sarah over at Homemade: Experiences in the Kitchen has started a new event called Tastes to Remember. I have so many tastes to remember (most of them fondly, except for the occasional “wild game” that my father brought home) as my mother was/is a great cook. Not only did she cook, she baked AND preserved food. AND she did all this with six monsters under her feet. AND her house was cleaner than mine will ever be. *Sigh*  These bars were one of our favorites growing up. My mother always had a plate of these goodies ready with a big glass of cold milk when we arrived home from school. She knew that all that learnin’ gave us an appetite. A great recipe to have at hand,  because it has NO DAIRY ingredients. So when you run out of eggs, milk, and butter and are craving something sweet—reach for this recipe...it will not let you down. Of course, I added okara (the whole point of my blog) but the original recipe follows my altered one. 

Apple Bars •

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together:

1-1/2 cups applesauce (homemade if you have it!)
1 cup safflower oil 
1 cup wet okara (this is referring to the okara straight from your machine, not dried)
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla

In another large mixing bowl combine:

4 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup nuts (I usually use pecans or English walnuts)
1 cup raisins


2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons liquid (milk, cream, soy milk or water)

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry; mixing until dry ingredients are incorporated. Grease a 10-1/2" x 15-1/2" jelly roll pan. Spread the batter (it will be thick) evenly in the pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown and center tests done. Let cool in pan for approximately one hour, and frost with powdered sugar glaze. Cut into bars.

Original Apple Bar Recipe •

2 cups applesauce
1-1/2 cup oil
2 cups granulated sugar (you can cut back on this)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup nuts
1 cup raisins

Follow directions above for baking and Powdered Sugar Glaze.

pixie’s and rosie’s putting up event •

This event could not have come at a better time for me. I will be the first to admit it: I do better with deadlines. I have been wanting to make my own jam for almost a year (yes, folks, you read that right...almost a YEAR). I had strawberries in the freezer from last June that really needed to be used. You see, my mother is the jam and jelly maker of the family. I remember helping her prepare the fruit; washing, stemming, coring and slicing. But for the life of me, I don’t ever remember watching her process the jam from start to finish. Could it be that she waited until all the gremlins were at school to fill those jars with hot, steaming deliciousness? At any rate, I have been very intimidated by the whole thing. So the Putting up Event came at the right time, giving me that extra little nudge I needed. That and the fact that we finally ran out of all the jam and jelly that my mother had given me on her last visit. My first jam is nothing exotic or different. Just strawberry jam. But I will tell you what my youngest darling said. “Mommy, this is WAY better than the stuff we get at the store, you should sell this!” Good enough for me!

12 May 2008

an award and a silly tag •

I am honored! Elle from Elle’s New England Kitchen has awarded me the “Arte y pico” Award. She comments, “It's awarded to blogs for their creativity, design, interesting material, and that also contribute to the blogger community, no matter what language”...that was right off her website. Such an honor, especially coming from Elle, who cooks and bakes up some wonderful creations! I have to pass the award on to 5 blogs. Here are the rules:

1. Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award with their creativity, design, interesting material, and also contribute to the blogger community, no matter what language.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3. Each award-winner, has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

4. Post the rules.

The 5 blogs I choose:

1. Cooking with Anne

2. A Southern Grace

3. Palachinka

4. The Xocoatl Express

5. Thursday Night Smackdown

A Silly Meme •

Marja from Palachinka has tagged me for this silly meme. Here is how it works, and keep to the foodie theme if you can:

Pick up the nearest book. Open to page 123. Find the fifth sentence. Post the next three sentences. Tag 5 people and acknowledge who tagged you. 

Unfortunately, my cookbook is not nearly as interesting as hers. I am using The All-Purpose Cookbook—Joy of Cooking. I am reminded reading through it why I NEVER use this cookbook. It irritates the living **** out of me. First things first...the reading glasses. Ah! Here we go—the fifth sentence on page 123: Oddly enough, deep-fat frying is still another kind of dry heat cooking. 

I ask you, who cares? I just want something fried and chocolate...NOW!

The next three sentences: Here the heat is not only transferred by the oil or grease used as a cooking medium, but by the moisture in the food itself—some of the steam from the food juices being forced into the fat and then out into the atmosphere. Among dry heat pan-processes, sautéing, page 253, uses the least fat. Pan-broiling and pan-frying are successive steps beyond sautéing and away from the driest heat.

*Yawn* I know you are all sitting on the edge of your chairs waiting for the rest. Sorry to disappoint you. Thank you, Marja, for making me dig out that book...my good friend, Jill, is having a tag sale this weekend. Maybe it is time to pass this one on! I am tagging:

1. Cake Chica from Glass Slipper Cakery

2. Emiline from Visions of Sugarplum

3. Lidian from Kitchen Retro

4. Dharm from Dad-Baker & Chef

5. Francie from Ramblings of a Frantic Home Cook

08 May 2008

happy mother’s day & what not to do on 4 hours of sleep •

I wish I had a photograph to show you. The kitchen was too dark, too hot and too cramped. And I was just too teed off, anyway. 

Last night I woke up at 1:00 a.m., and did not fall asleep again until the birds started chirping their sweet little heads off around 5:00 a.m. I woke up to an empty coffeepot, no coffee in the house...zippo. One hour left for me to get ready for work. My sweet husband (my crazed look would have scared anyone out of the house) was sent off to the local coffeehouse for some caffeinated brew. I threw together a bag lunch, grabbed my cup and went off to the shop. After a day of extremely boring work (why, of all days today?!) I headed home to what I refer to as the “Second Shift”. 

Facing a pantry of very slim pickings for dinner, I managed to find two lonely cans of tuna. I did have some leftover dough in the refrigerator from the last Slug that I had made. Aha! Tuna salad on rolls with broiled cheese on top—dinner for the non-vegetarians, straight cheese rolls for the veggies. After dinner, I faced a new dilemma; I had forgotten to make bread earlier. The little darlings did not have any to make their sandwiches with! Being a mom, and always ready to fly by the seat of my pants, I decided to bake some pb&j muffins. Of course there is no jam, no jelly. Aha! I have a jar of apple butter in my refrigerator! I should have stopped there. But I didn’t. I eyed the soybeans soaking in the corner, ready and waiting to be processed. I’m a mom! I can do four things at once if I have to, right? After all, I could probably make soy milk with my eyes closed by now!

In the space of a half-hour, I was juggling two emergency loads of laundry (we have a band concert tomorrow, mommy!) two batches of soy milk, and a muffin recipe. Meanwhile, the oven had been preheated very nicely, thank you. Crowding the counter with the soy milk machine, two muffins tins, measuring cups, measuring spoons, etc., I diligently carried on. One batch of soy milk down, cooling on the stove. One muffin recipe half done, waiting for the rest of the liquid ingredients. I measured out the oil and poured it in. I measured out the peanut butter, and in it plopped. I began to stir. Hmmm...seems a little...OH  *%$!!!#@!!* You all know what I did—

My beautiful batch of soy milk was now swimming with oil and peanut butter. It was now 9:00 p.m. I am sweating, the muffins still need to be baked, and the soy milk machine is beeping at me. I want to throw everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) in the sink and go to bed. You all know I didn’t. Visions of my mother flashed through my head. She is standing at the kitchen counter, in the middle of August. Steam is rising from the canner on the stove. It is well past midnight, but when produce needs to be processed, it doesn’t wait. She has six children to feed, nothing is wasted.

I scooped out the peanut butter and added it to the correct mixing bowl. The soy milk, alas, could not be saved. I finished up the muffins and put them in to bake. I made the second batch of soy milk and put the okara in the refrigerator. I put the last load in the dryer. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all those mommies out there who never give up!

03 May 2008

okara pb&j muffins •

Lunch making is a snap with these peanut butter and jam muffins. My darlings make their own lunches for school, usually. My job as their mother is to nag, nag, NAG them the night before. “Did you make your lunch?” “I WILL, Mom, after this game...it’s almost over”. Mom goes about her business, completely forgetting that the question was even asked until five minutes before bedtime. “Well, looks like you will have to get up early and make it before school”. Yeah, right...like that’s going to happen! They run off to school the next morning, and call you to tell you that they forgot their lunch. You mean the lunch that was never made? Do I let them starve to teach them a lesson, or do I quick make a lunch before I leave for work and drop it off? OH! The Mommy Guilt! I am chock-full of it. I used Concord Grape preserves on this batch, without the optional topping. These muffins will make short work out of making lunch, a great grab-it-and-go muffin for children or Mommies. 

Okara PB&J Muffins •

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together in a medium mixing bowl:

1 cup wet okara (this is referring to the okara straight from your machine)
1-1/2 cups vanilla yogurt
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Sift together in a large mixing bowl:

3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 ground flaxseed meal
1/2 teaspoon salt

Set aside:

3 to 4 tablespoons fruit jam

3 tablespoons chopped peanuts - optional for topping
1 tablespoon sugar - optional for topping

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. DO NOT OVER MIX. Line your muffin tins with paper liners. Fill the liners 1/3 of the way with batter. Make a small dent in the center of the batter and place 1 teaspoon of fruit jam inside of the dent. Spoon batter on top of jam to equal 2/3 full. Mix the chopped peanuts and sugar together and sprinkle on top if desired. Bake muffins 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

UPDATE! Just made a batch with Apple Butter instead of jam/jelly. The eldest darling declared them to be her favorite so far.