Saturday, February 18, 2017

Martha Stewart's A New Way to Bake

The much-anticipated Martha Stewart book, A New Way to Bake, is finally in my kitchen thanks to a very kind and generous friend.  I have to say that it already has me measuring out ingredients for baking as we speak!  Due to be released on March 28th, the Clarkson Potter publication is one that should be in everyone's kitchen, because it explores, demonstrates and instructs us on baking with whole grains, gluten-free alternative flours, and other healthier ingredients.

Ingredients for Martha's Flourless Chocolate Walnut Torte.

Leave it to the baking team at Martha Stewart Living to bring us a compilation of dozens of recipes that have been tested and retested for success in our very own kitchens.  All of the recipes have been tasted, edited and approved by Martha Stewart herself, so you know that everything is going to be delicious.   

Says Martha: "Using a new repertoire of grains, flours and sweeteners, your muffins, pancakes, cookies, and tarts will taste different, and you, the baker, will learn a whole new vocabulary."

A wealth of information on how to stock a modern pantry, what each ingredient is and how it's used in baking, among other things, can be found throughout the book.  The chapters include: Breakfast; Cookies, Brownies and Bars; Pies, Tarts, Crisps and Cobblers; Cakes and Cupcakes; Breads and Rolls; The Basics.  

Going through each chapter, you will be intrigued by the Whole Wheat Pancakes, Blackberry Oat Bran Muffins, Buttermilk Barley Biscuits, Oat and Millet Granola, Coconut Pistachio Biscotti, Almond Rye Heart Cookies, Dark Chocolate Spelt Brownies, Vegan Apple Pie, Kale and White Bean Hand Pies, Blueberry Ricotta Tart, Spelt Layer Cake with Whipped Cream and Berries, the Flourless Chocolate Walnut Torte that I'll be baking today, the Gingerbread Pumpkin Canneles, Honey Wheat Parker House Rolls, and so much more!

I have a strong feeling that you're going to want to visit the health food aisle of your local grocery store and stock up your pantry with several healthier ingredients.  Just as Martha says in the book, "Think of these recipes as great jumping-off points; don't be afraid to play around to create something distinctly your own."

Make sure that you preorder your book this weekend so that you can begin baking from it as soon as it arrives!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!  Share something sweet today with your special one.  May your day be filled with love.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

The First Snowfall of 2017

It certainly felt like a frosty winter day this morning.  We woke up to wind, snow and frigid temperatures here in eastern Pennsylvania today, but somehow it felt like we were due for some significant snow accumulation. This weather system seems to have hit a large area in the northeastern part of the United States, so many of you are probably digging out as we speak.  

Let me begin by saying that the first significant snowfall of the season is great because, not only is everything covered in pristine, white snow, but the wildlife seems to take a small break and settle down from the every day hustle and bustle.

This morning while it was snowing, everything was white!

As soon as it stopped snowing, the sky cleared and the wind picked up.  It was magnificent looking out the front door and seeing such a blue sky.  

While I didn't venture out through the trails and up into the field this morning, I did get to walk along the driveway to photograph a few pictures for my archives.  There were other things that needed to get done inside the house. 

Believe it or not, underneath that hill is our resident groundhog.  
He did predict six more weeks of winter!

The past week or so has been rather hectic here at home, with Valentine's Day coming up, birthdays and other projects popping up here and there.  It's the reason I haven't written a blog post in a while.  Forgive me!

Looking down the driveway, you can see the thick snow on the branches, the gorgeous sky behind the horizon, and our small home that is keeping us warm.

I recently had the pleasure of making a batch of Lovebird Valentine's Day cookies.  The idea wasn't mine, but rather than make an exact replica of the one that inspired these, I took some liberties and gave the lovebirds some cute accents.

Half of each heart sugar cookie was iced in a light pink royal icing and the other half was iced in plain white.  Using two sets of heart-shaped candies, I played around with how I wanted to situate them on the cookie for their kissy faces.  I chose the candies on the right.

These very bashful lovebirds were given little tufted feathers on their heads (stiff royal icing piped with an open star tip) black eyelashes, heart-shaped candy beaks, and small wings reaching out for a hug.  People loved them!

For a special birthday party with over six dozen children in attendance, I was asked to do Minecraft sugar cookies.  As much as I wanted to photograph these cookies for the blog in great detail, I simply didn't have the time to do so.  The photograph above shows you the works in progress; chickens and pigs, among other characters, were created by the dozen.  I think the kids are going to like them.

Every hardworking cookie decorator needs a tea break in between projects, at least in my opinion. I wanted to try a new tea from The English Tea Store, so I took out one of my Wedgwood drabware teapots, some teacups and had a much-needed respite.  

Sitting on that antique wire cooling rack, I set out a few cookies that I made at the very last minute.  I found myself with extra sugar cookies (I always make extras for projects just in case) and several shades of royal icing. While the kettle was waiting to come up to a boil, I drizzled three colors of royal icing on these cookies and set them out for tea.

Can you blame me?  I love having cookies with my tea in the afternoon if I have the time.  

The daily ritual of making a good pot of tea, setting out some homemade cookies on a nice plate, and using some of my favorite cups and fine silver, is something I never tire of.  In fact, it's something I look forward to because I find it soothing and necessary.  It's my way of removing the negative from the day's happenings, whatever they may be.

Allow yourself the pleasure of taking a few moments of the day for yourself to unwind and relax.  It's necessary for our well-being to be able to enjoy some kind of diversion from the day to day.

Stay safe and warm wherever you happen to be this afternoon.  

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Martha Stewart's Lemon Chiffon Cake

Anyone in need of a pick-me-up would probably appreciate a good chiffon cake made with lots of fresh citrus.  Chiffon cakes are classified under the sponge cake family, just as angel food and jelly roll cakes are.  What sets them apart from other cakes is that they don't contain any butter whatsoever, and the fact that they are baked in ungreased cake pans so that the batter can cling to the sides during baking. They are immensely delectable, delicate and very easy to make.  I find them to be the ideal choice for weekend get-togethers, a birthday luncheon or for those occasions when a little sweetness is in order.

I recently turned to a Martha Stewart recipe that I hadn't tried before but had noticed in several of her publications.  Intrigued by the recipe's use of freshly-squeezed orange juice, orange and lemon zest, I decided to have a go at this scrumptious cake.

A variation of the cake covered in a Swiss Meringue icing, much like a lemon meringue pie, can be found in her 'Cakes' book.  

For the recipe, click here.  

It's important when making chiffon cakes or any type of cake really, to have all of your ingredients premeasured and accessible next to the mixer(s) before starting the recipe.  The oven should be preheated and the cake pan(s) should also be handy at this point.

Because chiffon cakes call for adding the egg yolks and beaten egg whites separately, I like using a handheld mixer to whip up the whites when making these types of cakes. To be honest, I should have done the entire recipe with the handheld mixer! It would have made things easier for me.

Stiffly beaten egg whites not only lighten the batter, they provide leavening. It's important to add the egg whites in stages, folding them into the batter gently but thoroughly.

As soon as the batter is completely mixed, gently pour the mixture into a baking pan which has NOT been buttered and floured.  Martha's recipe calls for a small 7" tube pan with a removable bottom.

When the cake comes out of the oven, it has to be cooled upside down so that the cake doesn't collapse.  Recipes always call for cooling the cake on a bottle of some sort, but I find it precarious to do so.  Use a Ball jar or empty jam jar and balance the center cone of the angel food cake pan on it.  Leave the cake alone until it is cooled completely.

Proceed with the recipe as you see fit.  For this citrusy cake I split it in half and filled it with some homemade jam.

Note: the cake is best sliced if you place it in the freezer for a good hour. Even so, it is still tender and delicate.  Use a serrated knife and a sawing motion when slicing the cake, otherwise you might tear it.  I like using my large spatulas to remove the top part of the cake.

My dear friend Dennis sent me a set of homemade jams which I've been enjoying a bit at a time.  Grouped together on that large jadeite platter (Martha by Mail), I wasn't sure whether to use an apricot jam, blueberry or an apple jelly for the filling.  

Lemon and blueberry go well together, so I spread a good amount of it on the bottom layer.  Because it is a sponge cake, the majority of it was absorbed by the cake.  Delicious!

Rather than cover the cake in a thick frosting, I drizzled a simple glaze of confectioners sugar and milk.

Slice the cake up into big wedges for those who want a lot of cake or portion out smaller slices for those who ask.  All you need is a cup of coffee or some tea to go with the cake.  Sponge cakes are light as a feather and incredibly delicious.  What's even better is that there is no reason to feel any amount of guilt having some, because the cake hardly contains any fat.

Martha's Lemon Chiffon cake is great served plain, filled & glazed like I've done here, or covered completely in heavenly meringue.  I'm telling you, cake baking doesn't get any easier.