Sunday, July 26, 2015

Elderblueberry Pie

We're off and rolling out pie dough this week on 
Rose's Alpha Bakers.

Rose created an elderberry pie with equal amounts of blueberries
in The Baking Bible.
Elderberries grow across North America, Europe, Western Asia 
and North Africa. 

Not one store in my town carried fresh elderberries
even though the city is surrounded by them.

This is the elusive elderberry bush.  By the size of the trunk it must have been well over
a hundred years old.  It is also a protected species but the park ranger said

"Just don't be conspicuous."
Yes, an undercover elderberry caper. 

There were many Western Elderberry bushes, tall as trees, growing along the river.
The tangled bush had delicate elderberry flowers, new green elderberries, 
ripe elderberries and dried elderberries from last year.
It finally dawned on me there was more than one elderberry bush in the mayhem.
Most had a white color over the dark blue/purple
which I learned is the "bloom" when the berries are ripe.
Had I known, I would have only picked whitish ones.
The bloom doesn't wash off.

They are tiny little things.  The smallest berry I have ever seen.
They easily came off the stems.

After all that, they didn't fill the required two cups
but weighed exactly the right amount.

Gotta love grams!

Blueberries are at the peak of the season.

The berries, cornstarch, water and sugar brought to a boil.

Lemon juice stirred into the thickened berries.

Poured into Rose's cream cheese pie crust and off to the oven.

And here it is!

The flavor is very mild.
I realize wild elderberries may differ in intensity
from cultivated elderberries.
The ratio of sugar to berries may need a bit of adjusting.
I also miss the punch of lemon zest that Rose's 
other berry pies have.
A day later, however, the flavor intensified.
It is a delightful pie.

This has certainly been a learning experience.
I had no idea I lived in the midst of elderberries.
It never occurred to me why 
an award winning restaurant serving French cuisine
 near Yosemite, is so named.
is the adjoining five star accommodations 
which translates to Castle Elderberry.
I just thought it was a cute name and
put it on my wish list of places to go one day.

While searching around for elderberries, I came across
an elderberry walking tour and taste testing with elderberry ice cream and scones
but alas,  it was filled up. 

I have to say, it made me realize how urbanized I am.
It's a bit daunting to be out in the "wilds" wondering if I
 was picking the right thing.  
And yet, it felt hauntingly eerie being on land where Native Americans 
gathered elderberries for centuries.
They understood the berries many medicinal properties.

Image result for paintings of california native americans

Monday, July 20, 2015



Want to hear how it is pronounced?
here ya go

Correct pronunciation or not, 
these are exquisite Greek cookies.
If I don't make any other cookies for Christmas
this year, I will make Rose's Kourambiethes.
They've gone right to the top of the list.

Very simple to put together with few 
ingredients, the secret is in clarifying
a pound of butter.  Or in my case, a 
pound and a half.  

This is a brilliant move, totally changing the flavor profile
of what essentially is a typical tea cake cookie.
My first memory of my mother baking was making
Russian Tea Cakes for Christmas 
out of the old Betty Crocker Cookbook.
I've always loved any variation, either with walnuts or 
pecans.  This is the first one with almonds.

Every fall, my brother and I go to the huge annual Greek Food Festival in our town.
I asked him if he ever tried these because I haven't.
I'm too busy savoring baklava.

You mean those hard as a rock flavorless cardboard powdered sugar cookies?

Boy, is he in for a treat!
These cookies literally crumble apart with the first bite.
They are incredibly delicate and tender.

The dough is divided into thirds so with the first batch I followed through by the recipe,
except for punching up the orange juice with 1/2 teaspoon of orange oil.
and salt.
For the remainder of the dough, I folded in the zest of half an orange.
This was just enough to give the cookies more of an orange accent.
The tricky part has been to pull them out before they over brown.
My oven is baking them too quickly.
Doesn't seem to matter.
Everyone who has tried these Kourambiethes 
just loves them.

This is the coconut oil version for my
five year old dairy free granddaughter.
Really unfair watching her sister holding a powdered sugar
confection so I mixed up a second batch.

Five year old with new baby brother

I used all the same quantities.  The flavor is quite good; the cookies
spread out thinner is all.
I call that a win in a five year old's world.
Now I'm wondering if they could be turned into chocolate
dairy free cookies with the addition of cocoa powder.
Back to the Kitchenaid!
The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Molasses Cakeletes

It never fails.  Whenever there is a recipe with multiple components which requires
intense concentration, as in The 4th of July Cheesecake, the following week's easy recipe always gets bungled.
In this cake, the Molasses Cakeletes.  
It has to be one of Rose's easiest recipes with the fewest ingredients.

So what was my mistake on the first go around?
I forgot to pull out a portion of the crumbly flour mixture
before adding the molasses mixture.  
I also used very dark molasses.  It's been in the cupboard
since one of Roses's last recipes which was heaven only knows how long ago.
It made them too heavily flavored and the littlest minis downright gummy.

For today's do over, I went in search of light molasses
without success.  I improvised with three parts Lyle's Golden Syrup
to one part dark molasses.  This made for a much nicer flavor.

Seriously, this is the simplest batter. I found it easier to
spoon the batter into the cupcake pans rather than use a
spouted cup.  I tried three pan sizes; mini, small cupcake and 
regular sized silicone cupcake molds.

The minis were the hardest to remove intact until
I tried a plastic mini fork.  It was the perfect size
to ease them out in one piece and flexible enough.

We liked the texture of the larger cakeletes.
The small ones were too moist even though 
sufficiently baked.  This happened with the first batch,  too.
I thought it might be the flour spray and used coconut spray dusted
with cocoa powder today.  Have to say, it added just the merest hint of chocoate
which goes really well with the molasses.

I like this recipe and think it will be fun to play with the flavors using straight
Lyle's Golden Syrup and maybe cinnamon or cardamom and vanilla.
I'm always on the look out for good vegan dessert recipes for kids who
are dairy and/or egg free. Trying this with gluten free flour would make it a grand slam.
The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fourth of July Cheesecake

This is the most sublimely decadent cheesecake I 
have ever had the pleasure to taste.
Such a silky smooth texture.

Rose upped the standard by which all other
cheesecakes can be judged.

I won't say this is an easy dessert to make
but it is also not difficult.  Just time consuming. And takes a fair bit
of concentration.  

The cheesecake itself is very easy;
just loads of cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, lemon juice,
sugar and vanilla.  Loads.

The base varies from traditional cookie crust in that Rose 
chose to use her Red Velvet Cake. 
I followed her suggestion to substitute water for 
the red food coloring. 

A strawberry glaze was made rather than the raspberry because I had
an unopened jar of strawberry preserves.
This is spread over the top of the cake to help the cheesecake adhere.
As if all this wasn't enough, Rose encased this creation with her
sublime Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate frosting.
That in itself could qualify as dessert.

Blueberries are glistened with a sweetened cornstarch and sugar glaze.
My son requested raspberries so I followed the same method,
and turned both of the leftover berries into sauces.

I have to say, the raspberries are quite good this way.
I will make this cheesecake again and again 
with maybe just Faithy's blueberry sauce or raspberry sauce.
Honestly, this cheesecake can stand on its own
with the simplest accompaniment. 
The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Prosciutto Ring

The case of the missing lard.
First clue should have been when my daughter called me 
from the deli asking how much prosciutto, soppressata, pepperoni 
should she buy?
What are you talking about? 
It's just 3 oz of procuitto.
She was adamant there was soppressata
and more than 3 oz..
 I had no clue what she was talking about.
We were beginning to wonder which of us lost our 
marbles in this west coast heat wave.

As a vegetarian, I really couldn't get around the lard.
Flicking out pieces of prosciutto was one thing, but
bread with lard as a main component?  No.
What the heck,  I'll follow the recipe and
just not have any.
That made me a little sad.

Off to the market to buy a fat pig packet of lard
there was none to be found in the very large Hispanic food isle.
Melting my way back home in the forecast 110 degree temperature,
I made an instant decision.
I would substitute olive oil.
How much lard was that exactly?
There was no lard listed.
Good heavens!
Another long distance phone call to go over the ingredients.
They definitely did not match.

This was fate! 
The Baking Fairy had waved a magic wand
and given me a rogue copy of  The Bread Bible.
I didn't need to substitute anything but then 
I thought the texture would be too dry
and added two tablespoons of olive oil.

The texture is soft and fluffy.
The flavor delectable
with just a hint of olive oil in the background..
So like Hansel and Gretel,
I leave a trail of prosciutto bits, this time.
Next time procuitto on the side..  This is really good bread.
I love pan roasted peppercorns and
this bread showcases the cracked pepper perfectly.
I'm sure peppery deli beef would substitute well for
those that do not eat pork with any oil for softness.
It's really a great recipe and should not leave anyone behind.