Thursday, August 29, 2013

Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread

          Oh Summer and Fall, how you fill me with produce abundance happiness. I love this time of year. It is warm, the days are long, walks are frequent and one of the best parts of all, the farmer's markets are full of wondrous delights. There are exciting cheeses, breads, pickles, eggs-all great things. However, nothing tickles me more than the sight of the local and fresh produce that comes about. I sigh with happiness when I think about this time of year. I am particularly lucky at this moment because my good friends, the Bedard family, have an almost mini farm going in their backyard. It is a spectacular sight and filled with goodies!
          The other day I went over to their house to do some canning. We made cherry plum and peach-plum ginger jams. The smells that were wafting were incredible. I have two jars tucked away in my cabinet, and I am eagerly anticipating the moment I break into their sweet, fruity, gooey mess. I have been dreaming about spreading it thick on my toast with brie...yum. But, that is for another day, back to the Bedard's produce for now. I got to tour their gardens, and was given some of the fresh crop to take home. Like a giggly child, I smiled wide with arms full of chard, Hungarian peppers, snap peas, fava beans and one massive zucchini. I mean this bad boy of a zucch only took HALF to make the entire two cups of shredded zucchini needed for the bread, and that was de-seeded!
         Coming home with such a great handful of veggies, I obviously had to bake with some of them. So I turned to the age-old classic of zucchini bread. Really, what better way to celebrate this time of year than putting produce in your baked goods? For such a classic baked good, I turned to my American classic baking expert, Fannie Farmer, once again. The recipe is heavily spiced, so even mixing together the dry ingredients will start wafting smells to the baker's nostril. Then, when it starts baking and the scents really develop, you will probably notice your stomach start to grumble just as mine did.
Breakfast of Happiness: Sweet Zucchini Bread, Plain Yogurt, and Black Coffee.  Yum. 
        I did not add nuts because I did not have any on hand, but feel free to add up to two cups. I figured as long as I was "being healthy" by adding zucchini to my daily sugar and butter intake, I might as well make it half whole wheat too. I found the bread a perfect consistency of texture, and not to at all unpleasantly dense. Rather, it was an extremely moist and filling slice, with the still desired lightness of a teacake. I also added an orange glaze, because I mean really, who does not want some kind of drizzle atop all of their cake-like products. DO NOT SKIP THIS! The brightness of the orange was unbelievable with the spice of the cake. It provided the perfect compliment of flavors and the cake just would not have been as spectacular without it. I encourage you to enjoy with your tea at night sitting out on the porch, or nibble on for breakfast. It is a wonderful time of year when the Earth gives us so much we get to incorporate veggies in every meal-even breakfast and dessert! How fun! How exciting! How absolutely late summer, happiness!
The have some truly beautiful corn coming in! 
Oven Temp: 375 F (350 F at sea level)
Materials: I used a 10" Bundt Pan. You can also use a 9x13 for a thinner sheet cake or 2, 8x5 loaf pans for the most traditional shape. You can always tightly wrap a loaf in saran wrap and save it for later!
Cake Ingredients:
1 1/2 C Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 C All-Purpose Flour
1 TBSP Baking Powder (scant at altitude, level at sea level) 
1/2 TSP Baking Soda (scant at altitude, level at sea level)
1 1/2 TSP Salt
2 TSP Cinnamon
1 TSP Nutmeg
1/2 TSP Cloves
2 C gently packed, grated raw zucchini*
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 C Sugar
1/2 C Milk (Soy, 2% or Whole are fine)
*If you have a large zucchini, make sure to de-seed it. Just cut it in half and scoop out the middle watery, seeded section. 

3/4 C Powdered Sugar
1 Freshly Squeezed Orange
A small splash of vanilla extract

1. Preheat your oven. Grease and lightly flour your pan(s).
2. Thoroughly mix together all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl (flours, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves).   
3. In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients (zucchini, eggs, butter, milk and sugar).
4. In two to three batches, add your dry mixture to the wet mixture, stirring together between each addition until the batter is well blended.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake for about 45-55 minutes until an inserted tooth pick comes out clean. 
6. Let it cool for 5 minutes and then turn the cake out of the pan.
7. Meanwhile, mix together the orange juice, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar. Heat in microwave for about 20 seconds, and then finish stirring the ingredients together. It will be liquidy, but that is good because this is more of a soaking syrup. Once the cake has been turned out, pour the mixture over top of the cake and allow it to absorb.
Wrapped tightly, this could last 5-7 days on your kitchen counter...Good luck with that. 
          I have had my fair share of zucchini bread-plain, nutted, chocolate studded, chocolate on chocolate, you name it- but let me tell you, this is a zucchini bread to be reckoned with. I will return to this recipe again and again because it was about as darned well balanced and moist as it could get. Don't let your zucchini go to waste, or even just sauté it up, make this easy-peasy, delicious bread. 
Just look at those freshly-squeezed pieces of orange pulp resting in the cracks!
Happy late summer time folks!

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Traditional French Madeleine

      My adventure has come to an end. I returned to the United States a few days ago to be met with a new apartment to move into and the first shifts in production at the new job. So really, the adventure has not come to an end, but rather shifted massive gears to a new life in Denver. I have to say, traveling is wonderful, but coming home is truly a treat. I'm living in a comfortable little apartment with a wonderful roommate, and I could not be happier to call this new place mine. One of the most exciting things about the new place is the kitchen. It is over twice the size of my old ridiculously cramped space for cooking! I can spin and dance and do yoga and take naps on the floor and comfortably fit friends in it while I am there too! How glorious it is. (Ok, so I admit I may not need or even want to do all of those things in said kitchen but the possibilities just make me giddy).

        With such a wonderful work space just feet from my bedroom and kitchen supplies being the first thing I unpacked, I quickly set into baking upon my return. Having just spent three and a half weeks going around France, I obviously wanted to make a French classic right away. (Let's be honest, you were all expecting this.) So for my first baking experience in my new place, I decided on the madeleine. It is buttery cake like cookie, baked traditionally in a fanned shell shape mold. It is staple sweet everywhere over that delicious and beautiful country.
        During my travels, I knew I wanted my main souvenir to be a French cookbook in English. I found a copy of "Bocuse in Your Kitchen" at a bookshop in Lyon. Paul Bocuse is the French cook of cooks, the culinary genius, the teacher of Julia Child, and food authority. I thought to myself, if Paul Bocuse can enter my kitchen through this cookbook, then gosh darn-it, I had to have it! I eagerly bought it after flipping through some of the decadent and mouth watering dishes, and carried it home, wrapped up in my arms like my new cookbook baby that it is! These madeleines came from the dessert section and are as trusted of a recipe as you can get as far as I am concerned. Out of respect for the greatness of who this Chef is, I did not change a thing and I do not regret it.
Traditional madeleines use this but you can easily sub orange or lemon zest 
         The cookies are moist and spongy. First out of the oven, they have a crisp and lightly browned crust that becomes softer to blend in with the rest of the texture of the cookie with cooling time. I enjoyed them both ways so make sure to indulge at all stages :) It is essentially a little cake in a cookie shape, and flavored with a hint of orange. They are rich and buttery, but so light. Popping a few is quite easy, and I'll be surprised if you can resist! The French usually eat sweeter things for breakfast and honestly, I can't imagine a better time to enjoy this mini treats than with your cup of coffee in the morning. Plus, they are about as simple as it could get to make. So invite some friends over, whip these up in the time it take them to get to your house, and enjoy a relaxing breakfast of bitter coffee and sweet least that is what I will be doing when we get our kitchen table in. 
Oven Temp: 400 F

Materials: If you have a madeleine tray, awesome. If not, I did half my batch in little muffin tins and they still turned out great! So grease up either and use those.

150 g (a generous 2/3 C.) Sugar
3 Eggs
1 TBSP Orange Flower Water OR 1 TBSP Orange or Lemon Zest
150 g (1 1/2 sticks) Butter
150 g (a generous C.) All Purpose Flour

1. Preheat your oven. Melt butter and allow it time to cool.
You should beat all of this by hand. I just broke my normal whisk in the move so I used the electric beater whisk. It looks like it was done with a hand mixer, but it was not!
2. Meanwhile, beat sugar, eggs and orange water or zest together with a whisk until homogenized.
3. When butter is cool, whisk it into the mixture.
4. Whisking constantly, add flour in small increments, until it is well combined. It will form a thickened batter. (I did mine in about 5 or 6 small additions.) 
5. Fill madeleine molds until mostly full or muffin tin cups about one-fourth of the way. 
6. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until a rich golden brown color develops. 
6. Remove by turning cookies out onto a rack, and let them cool slightly before digging in.

See how ridiculously easy that was? And how delicious they look? Wait till you smell them...and taste them. Such simple ingredients, I bet you have them on hand. So go, get off this computer, and make them. Now. Seriously, its madeleine time. Go. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

European Adventures!

          Hi, all! If you are wondering why I have not been able to post in a while, it is because I am off on a month long adventure around Europe! I am in France for the most part and really enjoying all of the food adventures it holds. I cannot wait to try some of things I have seen and tried when I get back! But for now, I will just fill you in on some tempting treats...
           My first pastry in France- a Paris Brest :) Pate Choux filled with a praline pastry cream. I was in a very happy place when I ate this.
        This apple plum crumble was from a cafe in Dublin called "Queen of Tarts." I could have eaten a bowlful of their whipped cream...
         This was a cake I made for my hosts in Dordogne. One of them turned 58 and wanted a classic American dessert. It's a yellow cake with chocolate sour cream icing. The strawberries are from their organic farm :) I am absolutely in love with this place!
         If you want to see some of the other delicious foods I have tried or made, you can like Boulder Butter on Facebook (there is even a quick recipe posted for a peach crisp I made for of my hosts in Lyon!) It is a great way to get some extra updates.
        Happy summer adventures and relaxing evenings to all! Chin Chin!