Friday, November 20, 2015

Meeting Nigella Lawson

This last week Nigella Lawson was doing a book tour for her new cookbook and since I was going down to SF anyway I decided to go to the Ferry Building and get her to sign one for me. I have only waited in line for one cookbook author before - and that was Julia Child.  One day a long time ago  I happened to be in Macy's and there she was - signing her Baking with Julia book. I stood in line and when she saw me she said in her lovely distinct accent - "I love your hat" funny thing I realized wednesday  that I had a hat on when meeting Nigella too! I had a whole greeting planned to say and then when the time came I was completely gobsmacked and could barely say my name! Finally I was able to choke out my Julia story and she said I didn't look old enough to have met her! So I take that as a compliment. I had planned on giving her my blog card and telling her how often I post about her and do her recipes, get a photo with her and even invite her up to Healdsburg - I would love to cook for her! But I just clammed up! Richard has always said I'm a "star fucker"  - but I promise I haven't had sex with anyone famous! Plus I get way too nervous around them - obviously I could barely speak to the woman much less do anything else - HA! (I do think she is quite sexy; ) This past May when at Sarah's graduation on Maui I sat next to Woody Harrelson for 2 and a half hours.  I was so worked up and nervous - hardly daring to look at him much less saying anything - and if you know me this is quite a shocker! I'm anything but shy - I don't know what it is about them that makes me so nervous! Anyway - got my book signed and Nigella - if I ever see you again I will Remain Calm and Ask you to Dinner! Thanks for all your great recipes and beautiful funny writing!
PS. I think the only book I'm missing of hers is Nigellissima - her Italian one - in case you are looking for holiday gifts, hint, hint. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

More Swedish Buns - From a real Swede!

Thought I should get something out there after my last post! Now this was a fun day! My neighbor Malin had guests visiting from Sweden and so I made them MY Swedish Buns. Then Annica said at Christmas they always make Saffron Buns and Lussekatts or St. Lucia Cats so I said come over and show me! It was really fun and challenging translating from her Swedish recipe into my American ingredients (for one thing they have fresh yeast cakes and we do not!) and American measuring abilities! The coolest thing is that we don't have to worry about changing Celsius to Fahrenheit because my oven has an option to do both. Now if you are not so lucky it's totally googleable! Anyway - now we have lots of photos - and I even am going to post my first videos! Fingers crossed they work!

This first video is of Annica rolling the saffron buns - this is her traditional shape. All 3 styles were made with the same Saffron Dough.
First cut in the "twist" shape
Making slits in the dough

Fully risen, decorated and ready to bake

Here is the other video so you can see how the little "twists" are made - they were my favorites!

Swedish Saffron Dough  - Please note we were improvising from her recipe so forgive our "translations"it will really help if you have a scale.

200 Grams of unsalted butter (about 14 tablespoons)
16.9 oz milk (a little over 2 cups)
4 and 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 "packet" of fresh yeast if you are lucky enough to find that!)
6.76 oz granulated sugar
1 gram saffron (recipe calls for one packet ground saffron - I only had the threads so we ground them in a mortar and pestle - I don't think we had a whole gram so maybe only 1/2 - they had plenty)
1 teaspoon salt
900 grams flour (hold out about 1/2 cup when you add this for rolling dough, adding more if it's too sticky)
1 egg beaten for brushing dough
melted butter for dipping
sugar for dipping

Melt the butter in a pan and then add the milk - bring to 98 degrees then add the yeast and the sugar and whisk and let sit off heat for 10-15 min or until bubbly. Then pour it into a mixer stir in the saffron and add the salt and flour and mix with a dough hook for about 7- 10 min until smooth. Turn out onto a floured surface and kneed a few min. until smooth. Place in a large oiled bowl covering with cling wrap and set in a warm spot for about 45 min. When nicely risen - shape into desired buns, and let rise on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat for another 30-45 min. Brush with egg wash and bake 425 degrees (actually 250 celsius) for 7-10 min depending on shape and size. When nicely browned remove to cool on a rack. This recipe with split into 3 pieces and made each of the shapes below - recipe says it makes 40 I'm not sure how many we ended up with!
1. Annica's round buns ; ) This is the first video - she broke off small pieces of dough and rolled them into a prefect circle. After cooking and when cool she brushed the tops with melted butter and then dipped in a small bowl of granulated sugar. Adorable.

2. Lussekatts - these are traditionally baked with raisins but since I hate those we used dried cherries - which I think were perfect! She rolled the dough into strips and then turned it around on itself to shape into 2 eyes and then place the dried cherry in the little "eye" circles.

3. The "twists" I don't know what to call this shape as Annica didn't know what they were called - in Swedish or English! Whatever you want to call them they were my favorites. First roll out the dough into a rectangle. Then she spread it all with about 4 tablespoons room temp butter then grated over the top about 2 oz of almond paste (remember if you choose to do only this shape this is only the measurements for 1/3 of the dough!) Then she folded over one half and then the other to make a smaller rectangle. Next she cut them into strips about 1 and 1/2 inches wide, then cut a slit down the middle leaving the top and bottom intact. Now the video shows how you take the top part and turn it under and through the slit and pull it through to create the twist. After rising she brushed with egg wash and then sprinkled on the top chopped almonds and pearl sugar - I still can't find Swedish pearl sugar - the one I did find was too big - oh well - next time!


That's Swedish slang for cup of coffee and a treat! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Yes, I screw things up too!

While getting ready for our monthly Soup night I was all proud of myself for using my 5 day old bread to make little toasts for our cheese course. I got a small bowl of olive oil, added salt and pepper and brushed the slices and put them on a tray in my toaster oven. I hit toast and when the bell went off, looked at them and decided they were not quite toasty enough - so I hit toast again. In the mean time everyone arrived, kisses and drinks ensued and I did not glance back at my toast - until it was too late. Way too late. Oh well, we had crackers - and no use crying over burnt toast. Just wanted to make sure you know - I can make Amazing Swedish Cardamom buns AND burn toast! Nobody is perfect in the kitchen - the point is to get in there and try! xo

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Amazing Swedish Buns!

Earlier in the year I made a Swedish Braided Loaf and it was delicious. When my neighbor Malin tasted it she said it was too, but in Sweden they sometimes add almond paste to it - and that got me to thinking - how can I do that to this delicious bread?? So, after cruising the internet I came up with the following recipe - combined from a few different ideas - and OMG - they tasted as good as they look! These are really special and I hope you try it! The Vagabond Baker calls the shape Korvapuusti - which translates to "slapped ears" which is pretty funny especially if you try to pronounce that! Whatever you want to call them they are addicting!

Swedish Cardamom Rolls makes about 10

1 cup whole milk, warm
1 package active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
3 and 1/2 cups flour (545 g if you have a scale - a real help if you like to bake a lot)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 eggs
6 tablespoons butter at room temp
1 8oz package almond paste (post note I think I would 1/2 this next time - to be more sublet)
1 cup roasted salted shelled pistachios (or you could use chopped almonds - I just liked the little green specks)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with 1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 egg beaten with a bit of water
white decorative sprinkles

In the bowl of a stand mixer stir together the milk, yeast and sugar - let stand until frothy - 10 min or so. In another bowl whisk together the flour, salt and cardamom. Attach the dough hook and dump in the flour mixture and eggs then knead on medium low speed for a couple min. (of course you can do this by hand but I use my KitchenAid) While running add the butter and knead until smooth about 10 min - it will look like it's not going to come together but it does! Put out on a lightly floured surface and knead in the pistachios - folding them in and over then gather into a ball and place in a buttered large bowl and cover with buttered (I use that spray oil - not butter flavored!) saran wrap. Put in a warm spot for about an hour or until it has doubled. Next dump out onto the floured work area and using a rolling pin spread it out into a large rectangle. Then cut the almond paste and roll it out pretty thin and into strips about the width of the dough.  Starting at one end on the long side place the strip of almond paste, continuing on to cover the whole thing except for the top maybe 1/4 inch. Then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Now starting at the bottom roll it up like you are making cinnamon buns and when you get to the top pinch it together so it holds. Turn the whole thing over so the seam is on the bottom and then cut by slicing on an angle so that each piece has a fat end and a narrow end - back and forth like little pie slices. Then on the fat end press your finger in the middle to spread out the insides - now you could just bake them in the rounds like cinnamon rolls if this is sounding really crazy - but you can see below how adorable they look. Next time I will try to take photos of the process - oh yes, there will be a next time! Now place them on a parchment lined sheet with some space in-between and cover with the greased saran wrap and let rise another 30 min or so, you want them to get a little puffy. Finally brush with the beaten egg wash and sprinkle with white sugar crystals (you know the ones for sugar cookies) Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 12 min - or until browned and gorgeous. Remove to a rack to cool until you can't stand it any longer. Hello Lover.

Now - since I have gone to all the trouble to type this one out - you can at least try making them - I promise you will not be sorry! Neither will your lucky friends or neighbors as the case may be ; )
Really it is a very lovely dough to work with and as a base you can make regular cinnamon rolls or even a braided loaf… possibilities are endless! Now BAKE! xo

Post note: my Swedish neighbor loved them!

Post Post Note - I made these again and got shots of the dough and how the cuts are made for these shapes. I've since decided I would like them with less almond paste - so maybe half the amount and spread thinner. Well - next time! 
Nicely risen and ready to roll!

Sliced and ready to rise again!

Press in the middle firmly to create the "smashed ear" effect

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Healdsburg Farmer's Market Raffel!

I WON, I WON!! For just another few weeks you too could be the winner of a basket full of Fall's bounty - just go the the Healdsburg Farmer's market Wednesday afternoon between 3-6 and get a free raffle ticket. Support your local farmers!!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Japanese Month - Learning to make Dashi

I recently took a Dashi making class at Shed with my friend Anne and it was truly eye opening! They are hosting an all Japanese Food month with traditional classes, cookware and ingredients. The closest I've ever come to making Japanese food before this is Tempura! Dashi, I learned is basically a broth - who knew! Sonoko Sakai was our teacher and she and Mamiko Nishiyama were a delight to watch and then even more amazing was getting to try their delicious dishes. I ended up coming home with a bagful of exciting dried ingredients to make my own dashi - and as soon as this heat goes away I'm making miso soup! These are my favorite items though - flavored sesame seeds - how adorable is the packaging!

Starting from the left - Plum, some sort of citrus found in Japan - tastes like lemon and wasabi flavored - I bought some fresh soba noodles at Shed and tossed them with a bit of sesame oil and liberally sprinkled with the seeds - I couldn't decide which flavor was my favorite! Since I don't have any Asian food in Healdsburg I'm making my own dammit. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tomato Risotto

Richard doesn't love risotto - I know what is wrong with that boy? And when I said I was making tomato risotto for dinner he was less than enthused. But let me tell you after he had a bite of this he was hooked! It's like a rich and creamy tomato mozzarella salad - just melt in your mouth deliciousness. 

Tomato Risotto topped with Mozzarella

1/2 onion finely chopped
couple tablespoons olive oil
1 cup risotto
1/4 cup dry white wine
about 4 cups chicken broth Hot (or go veggie if you like)
1/2 cup tomato crush
5-6 dried tomatoes chopped (I used my oven dried that I had frozen)
1 ball fresh mozzarella
salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil
chopped fresh basil

In a large pan sauté the onion in the olive oil until soft. Add the rice let it get coated with the oil. Add in the white wine and let cook off. Ladle in the Hot broth in about 1/2 cup portions adding more when it has been absorbed. After the first 1/2 cup add the tomato sauce and dried tomatoes and keep stirring and adding broth. Taste after about 15-20 min - you want it al dente. If still to raw add a bit more broth. When cooked salt and pepper to taste serve topped with a slice of mozzarella and a sprinkling of basil and drizzle of olive oil.