Monthly Archives: June 2014

June meetup: Appetizers, hummingbirds, wine and more

Her life was a clutter of pleasures.

Sometimes there is a line that gets in my way and I can’t proceed until I let it stand like a billboard all alone at the mountaintop of the page. Today’s line reads like the opening line of a biography that I would like to read.

“A clutter of pleasures” is the best way to describe our June meetup. If you missed it, I hope this wee blog post will give you a sense of the enjoyment we all experienced.

First of all, Grape Escape Guest House is gorgeous. It is a vibrant, romantic nook carved into a rolling vista along the voluptuous curves of Garnet Valley. So imagine being spoiled with a grand gathering of delicious appetizers when you already have views for which you would willingly starve.

Grape Escape Guest House

We spent most of our time in a wee sun room where we were treated to a dramatic display of dozens of hummingbirds visiting the row of feeders that hung at eye level. It was like a painting come to life and we were all enthralled.

The sun was slowly starting to dip into the valley, and before we even dove into the appetizers, there was chilled wine made by co-owner George. Refreshing Pinot Gris, crisp Pinot Blanc, dreamy Summer Blend.

HummingbirdHummingbird watchinga moment for wineAdded to this was the adventure of more new bakers. Welcome to Lana and Lisa H (we now have three bakers named Lisa. We debated all changing our names to Lisa for simplicity’s sake). Thank you also to Wendy who dragged her friend Jamie with her to bake night rather than miss out.

A note regarding the dedication of our regular bakers: Laura put off her holiday for a day so she could go to bake night. That’s right – we have become more important than timely holidays.

Of course there was copious eating. With the theme being appetizers, all of the dishes were savoury, although it did seem that we replaced sugar with a truly impressive variety and volume of cheese. There were also caramelized onions, olives, prosciutto, pine nuts, and the best kale chips ever. I promise to post the recipes next time.

Summerland Bakers Appetizers

buds on the grapsAfter we had eaten and our cheeks held that rosy glow from good food combined with good wine, we got to go on a vineyard tour with George. We were a studious lot, learning the basics of tucking the vines and how the east and west sides of the vines are managed differently for optimum sunlight and warmth. The vines boasted tiny nubs of future grapes, some still with a miniature flourish of white flowers that held a delicate, sweet scent.

“I’ve heard this before,” said Gerri, who busied herself with more vine tucking as George talked about grape varieties and southern exposures. When we finally decided that the mosquitoes had gorged enough, we headed back to the house and there was the adorable moment when George accidentally locked Gerri in the vineyard.

vineyard tour

tucking the vinesSun in the vinesSunset at Grape Escape GuesthouseLocked in the vineyard

By then the sun was truly setting, bathing the vineyard in a deep yellow glow. We had enough time to attempt Gerri’s extremely difficult quiz. Wendy was the winner with 50%, and took home her own bottle of George’s wine. The rest of us were terribly jealous. Think you could do better on the quiz? Try it. No internet cheating! I’ll post the answers next time.

We were all smiling as we packed up our leftovers and headed out. In less than three hours we had experienced a perfect harmony of delights for our senses, from the sight of the hummingbirds and the sun glinting off everything, to the feel of the vines between our fingers, the aroma and flavours of wine lovingly made, and of our collective creative kitchen adventures. It was truly perfect.

Thank you again to Gerri and George for hosting our group. If you should ever desire an escape from the world, get yourself to Grape Escape Guest House and just let all the good things happen.

Recipes (and quiz answers) next time. Until then my friends, I hope your lives are cluttered with pleasures.

Cheers

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Bakers…our Time has come

Time_Eat_Butter

Have you all seen this month’s cover of Time Magazine? We should really have some kind of party. Oh, wait – we are! Next Thursday at Grape Escape Guest House, where we will show off our appetizers and tour a vineyard. Because that’s how we roll, yo.

Time: 6:00pm (slightly earlier than usual so we have time to tour the vineyard with George).

Bring: Delicious appetizers, and Tupperware for leftovers. Oh, and your camera to take photos of the views of Garnet Valley.

RSVP: Let me know if you’re coming so I can give the lovely Gerri our numbers.

Carpool: Email me if you need a ride and we can arrange lifts between us.

The only question that remains is, how much butter will you be using?

baking with butterbutter

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High Tea – The Recipes

I’m going to kick off this lovely list of recipes by leading an internet round of applause for Janice, who thwarted the curse of too-warm hands and went ahead and baked with pastry anyway. “I don’t do pies,” Janice once told me. She and pastry are not friends. After many failed attempts at pies and other treats, she informed the other women in her family of her frustration. There was much head shaking and several despairing “tsk tsks,” and Janice was informed that alas, she was born with warm hands and that pastry would forever mock her. But behold, she did it anyways! And I think we can all agree that her spiced nut palmiers were a rousing success. Perhaps the curse of the PASTRY OF DOOM has been broken!

Spiced Nut Palmiers

Janice’s Spiced Nut Palmiers (Recipe from The Perfect Afternoon Tea Book, published by Hermes House)
75g/3oz/ ½ cup chopped almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts
30ml/ 2 Tbsp caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2.5ml/ ½ tsp ground cinnamon
225 g/ 8 oz puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten

Makes about 40

Lightly butter two large baking sheets, preferably non-stick. In a food processor, process the nuts, sugar and cinnamon until finely ground. Transfer half the mixture to a small bowl.

Sprinkle the work surface and pastry with caster sugar and roll out the pastry to a 50 x 20 cm / 20 x 8 inch rectangle about 3mm/1/8 inch thick, sprinkling with more sugar as necessary (Sophia’s note – of course I read that as “more sugar than necessary). Brush the pastry lightly with beaten egg, sprinkle evenly with the nut mixture in the bowl.

Fold in the long edges of the pastry to meet in the centre and flatten with the rolling pin. Brush with egg and sprinkle with most of the remaining nut mixture. Fold in the edges again to meet in the centre, brush with egg and sprinkle with the remaining nut mixture. Fold one side of the pastry over the other.

Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry crossways into 8mm/ 3/8 in thick slices and place the pieces cut-side down about 2.5 cm/ 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Spread apart the pastry edges to form a wedge shape. Chill the palmiers in the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220 C/425 F.

Bake the palmiers in the preheated oven for about 8-10 minutes until golden, carefully turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Watch the palmiers carefully as the sugar can easily scorch. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Victoria Sandwiches Mrs BeetonKim’s Victoria Sandwich

I thought it would be fun just to post a picture of the recipe directly from the Mrs. Beeton book (click to make it bigger).

Something to note with older recipes – read them through a few times slowly before commencing. Kim discovered this the hard way: “Stir the sugar and the yolks of eggs together – done! Then add the butter – done! …melted. Dammit!”

Kim served the Victoria sandwich with rhubarb curd, which was positively dreamy. Who cares if it turns out a little runny, because then you have a perfect excuse to drown your cake in the extra. Nom!

Victoria Sandwich with rhubarb curd

Jennifer’s carrot cake roulade with pineapple cream cheese

I have never attempted a roulade. I somehow manage to use all of my kitchen and have been known to overlap into the living room when I’m baking. I imagine requiring an actual island instead of a kitchen island if I were to try to do this. But if someone else wants to go ahead and create this lightly spiced, moist and lovely cake, I fully support this endeavour.

Click here for the recipe.

carrot cake roulade

Jennifer’s advice is to follow the hints on how to roll a roulade:

While the cake is still hot, lay a clean, unscented, lint-free kitchen towel over it. If the towel is long, extend one end about 1-1/2 inches beyond a short side of the cake and don’t worry about the other end. Invert a large rack or cutting board over the towel. Holding both the baking sheet and the rack with protected hands, invert the cake. Remove the baking sheet and parchment.

Using both hands and starting from the short end with the shortest towel overhang, roll the cake and the towel up together. Let cool for 30 minutes.

Carefully unroll the cake; it should look wavy and both ends should curl. (It’s OK if there are some small cracks.) Let cool completely, 10 to 15 minutes.

Jean’s Tea Bag Cookies

These were adorable (and extremely tasty) and would make amazing gifts or place setting treats.

tea bag cookie

From Jean: The fiddely part of this cookie is making the string tag. The string is crochet cotton.

1/3 cup butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
100 gram dark chocolate

Mix first 5 ingredients. Shape into a disk and refrigerate 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375 C
Roll dough out about ½” thick. Cut shapes (make a template of a teabag). Poke a hole in the top using a straw.
Bake 5-10 minutes. Let cool.
Melt chocolate, dip bottom of eat “tea bag.” Lay on wax paper to set. Thread through the hole, attach the “tag” at other end of string.

eccles cakesJean’s Eccles Cakes

Because crafting tea bag cookies was not enough, Jean made Eccles Cakes as well. These are so perfect for tea time, and would be great for a picnic as well.

From Jean: Cut brown sugar down to ½ cup if you wish.

4 Tbsp butter
1 cup currants
¾ cup brown sugar
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
1 pkge puff pastry
¼ cup milk
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 C. Line baking sheet with wax paper.
In a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in currants, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly. Remove from heat.
Roll pastry out about ¼” thickness. Cut out rounds, using about 3” circle.
Divide currant mixture between circles; moisten the edges with milk; fold over & pinch edges using a fork.
Turn pastries upside down, gently roll out to make a flatter/wider pasty. Do Not Break The Dough.
Brush each cake with beaten egg. Sprink with sugar (I used organic raw sugar).
Make 3 parallel cuts across the top of each cake.
Bake 15-20 minutes, remove and sprinkle with more sugar.

Jane’s Whipped Short Bread Cookies

To make these cookies, Jane used an electric food gun that she had picked up at a garage sale “many, many moons ago.” Check out the Proctor-Silex Electric Food Gun “Super Shooter” circa 1970. I love it – it makes me imagine Jane is some kind of culinary detective, out to solve kitchen mysteries like The Case of the Collapsed Soufflé, or The Dangerous Dame Tart Shell and the Crime of the Disappearing Custard.

Whipped shortbread cookies

From Jane: I am sure you could produce a nicely shaped cookie and achieve the same result using a pastry bag and large decorating tip; Wilton brand has a multitude of choices.

1 lb of butter
1 cup of icing sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch sifted with 3 cups of flour

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add flour and cornstarch, whip until fluffy.
Drop by teaspoon on cookie sheet or use an “electric food gun”.
Bake at 300 until golden brown, approx 10-13 minutes for 3″ cookie.
Makes 7 dozen plus cookies dependant on size.

Gerri’s Fluffy Scones

Gerri served these with homemade cherry jam and Devon Cream, which I have now learned that you can pick up at Nester’s here in Summerland. I’ve always preferred cream over butter on scones. Combine with jam and add a lovely cup of Earl Grey, and I’ll be in my happy place until all the crumbs are gone.

Scones with cherry jam and cream

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1 cup whipping cream (unwhipped)
½ cup – or a little more milk
2 tsp lemon juice
1 egg beaten

Preheat the oven to 360 C. Sift the flour & baking powder in a large bowl, stir in sugar and salt. Cut the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Mix together the milk and lemon juice – the mixture will curdle slightly. Add the beaten egg and pour into the flour mixture. Mix gently just until the dough forms. Do not keep mixing. Pick up dough the size you wish your scones to be and place on a parchment lined pan. The less fussing the lighter they will taste.

Bake approx 15 – 20 minutes depending on size.

Dorthea’s Sticky Ginger Lemon Drizzle Cake

This cake is rich and warming and very Moorish. Served with extra cream to compliment the hit of ginger, it’s very addictive. The recipe is from the UK.

Sticky Ginger Lemon Drizzle Cake

From Dorthea: The lemon curd was tricky because I had no idea what a stem ginger ball was. Instead I used candied ginger and found a jar of ginger marmalade to use instead of the stem ginger syrup. I think those worked well as substitutes.

So for the lemon curd mixture, I diced the candied ginger, about 2-3 tablespoons, and then combined it with the lemon curd in the blender again. Actually I have an old Braun coffee grinder that I use for spices, etc., and I used it to dice the candied ginger, and to mix as much of the lemon curd as would fit in the coffee grinder, and then I mixed the rest of the curd (about 1/2 – 2/3 cup altogether).

The cream icing filling was the main problem because I clearly didn’t use a firm enough cream. The recipe calls for cream cheese, heavy cream, ginger syrup, and icing sugar. I used whipped cream, cream cheese, ginger marmalade, and icing sugar. The whipped cream didn’t stay firm, which is why it was oozing out of the middle of the cake. While some is supposed to flow gracefully down the side of the cake, this just flowed. I should have used something firmer- perhaps all cream cheese, or even sour cream, or some of Gerri’s double cream!

Laura’s Cream Puffs

Choux pastry is another thing I haven’t yet tried, however Laura has convinced me that it is easier than I have imagined it to be, so I’m officially going to give it a go.

I love some of the images or notes I get from our bakers, with recipes dug up from obscure books or magazines. Here is the choux pastry recipe – notice the note “April 85.” (click to embiggen) Nearly 30 years and still churning out perfect Cream Puffs!

Cream puff recipe

Now you have two fillings to choose from:

Hazelnut Cream Filling
1 egg
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp instant coffee
1/8 cup finely chopped hazelnuts (filberts)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp hot water
2 Tbsp heavy cream, whipped

In a large bowl, beat egg with flour, sugar, instant coffee, hazelnuts and cornstarch until well blended.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add milk and bring almost to a boil. Remove from heat and slowly whisky the hot milk into the egg mixture. Return all the ingredients to the saucepan, cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly until thickened and comes to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Add vanilla extract and hot water to the thickened mixture, stirring to combine. Set aside to cool until firm. Fold in the whipped cream. Refrigerate until thick.

When ready to serve, horizontally slice the top of the cream puff to create two pieces, a top and a bottom. Fill each cream puff bottom with a spoonful of the filling. Close with the top section.

Additions to this recipe may include flavoured extracts for liquors, cocoa, food colourings, or flavoured waters.

cream puffs with hazelnut cream

Maple Crème Filling
1 egg
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp hot water
3 tsp pure maple surup
2 Tbsp heavy cream, whipped

In a large bowl, beat egg with flour, sugar and cornstarch until well blended.

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, add milk and bring almost to a boil. Remove from heat and slowly mix the hot milk into the egg mixture. Return all the ingredients to the saucepan, cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened and comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

Add vanilla extract, hot water and maple syrup to the thickened mixture, stirring to combine until dissolved. Set aside to cool until firm. Fold in the whipped cream. Refrigerate until thick.

When ready to serve, prepare cream puffs as with hazelnut filling.

Ming’s Lavender Lemon Shortbread

I forgot to take a photo of these very pretty cookies! These are the very same shortbread biscuits that Ming to which treats her B&B when they arrive. It’s important to remember to use culinary lavender. Ming’s trick to never overdoing the lavender flavour is to add lavender to her sugar and give the flavour time to mingle, guaranteeing a subtle and aromatic cookie experience.

Makes 1-1/2 dozen cookies

½ cup (113 grams) butter, room temperature
1/3 cup (45 grams) powdered sugar
Zest of 2 lemons, divided
1/2 teaspoon lavender buds, ground or chopped finely
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
In large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, zest of 1 lemon, lavender, vanilla, and salt until the mixture looks like a coarse sand.
Mix in the flour until the dough comes together.
In a small bowl, mix together the remaining lemon zest and granulated sugar with your fingers until fragrant. Set aside.
Lightly flour surface, and roll out shortbread to ¼ inch thick.
Sprinkle on the lemon scented sugar and lightly press it into the shortbread with the rolling pin.
Cut out shapes and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Finger Sandwiches

With so many sweets on offer, we all dove in to the plates of finger sandwiches provided by Vanora and Sandra. Vanora carved out quaint cucumber and tomato sandwiches into little triangles. And because finger sandwiches can dry out quickly, you don’t have to feel bad about eating a lot of them really quickly. In between you can cover them with a London-inspired tea towel!

baked goodies London Underground tea towel

Notes from Sandra: When you’re ordering bread ask for the white sandwich loaves sliced lengthwise and order a few days in advance . Two loaves will make enough for a full serving plate of sandwiches…I usually order 3 loaves – any leftovers are great for bread stuffing. I usually make ham and egg ribbons, rolled egg with olives, rolled salmon with gherkins, and cream cheese and asparagus.

finger sandwichesSandra’s Finger Sandwich Fillings

Egg Salad
4 eggs, salt and pepper, chopped chives, dash of prepared mustard, mayonnaise
Salmon
salt and pepper, dill, mayonnaise

Ham
Chopped gherkins or pickles, salt & pepper, and mayonnaise.
Mix cream cheese and butter until fluffy and easy to spread – usually 1/2 and 1/2

For ribbons – leave crusts on – and butter three long slices with Cream cheese and butter mixture – and then use egg filling between 2 slices and then ham filling. Makes a 3 layered sandwich – cover these with a damp linen tea towel as you make them, as the bread drys out quickly. I usually make the night before — leave the large sandwich whole and then slice the next day. To slice – first remove all crusts and then slice into equal size fingers. Put in a container – back in the fridge – and keep covered with damp tea towel until ready to serve.

For rolled (Pinwheel) sandwiches – take a slice on bread – cut off the crusts at the short end – spread with cream cheese mixture and top with filling. Line up olives or gherkins at one short end and then roll – keep in the roll – overnight – with damp tea towel covering. Cut the next day. Cut end crusts off first and then cut each roll into 4 or 5 pinwheels. I usually fiddle with the olives so that you get the pimento showing on each sandwich (like a bullseye).

Salmon with gherkins – do the same as above – when lining up gherkins – cut the end of both end of the pickles to give them a flat edge – it looks nicer when sandwiches are sliced.

Asparagus – Add a bit more cream cheese to butter/cream cheese mixture – take long slice of bread – cut off all crusts and then cut long slice into squares – usually will make 4 squares – spread with cream cheese mixture – then lay two asparagus spears diagonally (and top to tail) then fold corner to corner and fasten with a toothpick – keep in fridge with covered with tea towel – slice in two when ready to serve.

I usually make them the day before – slice them the next morning – and then they can keep all day in the fridge until ready to serve.

mini bakewell tartsSophia’s mini bakewell tarts

Another UK recipe from BBC Goodfood, and not surprisingly the photo on the website looks much more lovely than how mine turned out.

And finally we have Judith’s Mini Lemon Tarts! I don’t have the recipe but the secret is they are made with a shortbread case. Judith reported that these are were more than a little difficult when it came to trying to extract them from the tin when they were finished. Apparently greasing is still a requirement even when dealing with something that is made of almost pure butter!

Mini lemon tarts

 

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