Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our State Fair

Yet another week with nothing to post. It's the end of summer and we must make the most of it. This weekend was for visiting with family and friends and a trip to the Oregon State Fair.  The beauty of going to our fair is that it is a mere five blocks from our house.  There is no excuse not to go!   I will share a few colorful highlights and then I must get to work and come up with a fantastic recipe for next week.
Award winning canned goods

Amazing flowers

Newly hatched chicks


Colorful fair goers
And colorful rides

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trip To Mountain View Farm

A lone oak tree near Salem, Oregon as we left for our trip

This weekend took us 300 miles north to the town of Port Angeles, Washington on the picturesque Olympic Peninsula where my sister and her husband live on a beautiful farm.  Their farm sits in the midst of the Olympic Mountains and a more dramatic setting would be hard to find.  The land on which they live has been in my brother-in-law's family for well over a hundred years, having been homesteaded by his Norwegian ancestors and passed on through the generations.  I can imagine that when these folks ended up in this magnificent part of our country, it must have reminded them very much of the home they left behind, surrounded by forests, mountains, rivers, and the sea.
My brother-in-law, his father, and my nephew built their house about 10 years ago on this working farm and have made the most wonderful home imaginable.  There are fields of grass which are grazed by a herd of Scottish Highland cattle, descended from the original livestock owned by the Norwegian ancestors. They are peaceable animals and ironically, there is not much, if any red meat eaten at my sister's home, so these animals indeed live the good life!
The original barn still stands and it is very much in use today for storing hay to feed the livestock as well as housing many original pieces of farm equipment.  What fun it is for us city folk to explore around the barn and outbuildings, examining these antiques. 
The occasion for this trip was a family reunion and it was fantastic.  There were multi-generations of family as well as old friends, with everyone enjoying the wonderful food and perfect weather. 
Four generations of beautiful women!
Nothing out of my kitchen this week but I hope you enjoy these pictures from my weekend at the farm.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie with Honeycomb and Chocolate

Here is a totally over the top pie I made for the Husband's birthday.  Don't tell him it was for his birthday. He hates celebrating his birthday.  I served this the day after his birthday at a little non-birthday dinner for him with our friends.

This pie is sinful. It has all the components of a Butterfinger bar, deconstructed into a pie. Peanut butter, chocolate, crunchy graham cracker crust, and to top it all off, the most amazing honeycomb candy pieces.  What an absolute hoot it was to make that.  It's the most simple sugar syrup flavored with honey boiling away on the stove. Then a tablespoon of baking soda is added and a huge volcanic eruption of molten, foaming sugar is expanding in the pan, the likes of which I have never seen before.  When cooled, you just crack it and it is an airy, light, carmel tasting candy. Very fun!!
This pie comes from Bon Appetit and here is the link if you would like to see their recipe.

Peanut Butter Pie with Honeycomb and Chocolate

9 graham crackers, coarsley crushed
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted

8 large egg yolks
12 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise  (I used 1 tsp of vanilla extract)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Honeycomb1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon baking soda, sifted



Preheat oven to 325°. Finely grind graham crackers, sugar, salt, and nutmeg in a food processor.Transfer crumb mixture to a medium bowl. Add butter and stir to blend. Use bottom and sides of a measuring cup to pack crumbs onto bottom and up sides of 9" glass or metal pie pan.Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool.


Mix yolks and 6 Tbsp. sugar in the bowl of a stand mixers fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat at high speed until ribbons form, stopping once to scrape down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes.
Combine milk and remaining 6 Tbsp. sugar in a large saucepan; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add bean. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove bean. With mixer running, gradually add hot milk mixture to yolk mixture. Scrape mixture back into pan. Clean bowl. Whisking constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove pan from heat; whisk vigorously for 1 minute. Return custard to mixing bowl, beat on high speed until cool, about 4 minutes. Mix in butter on Tbsp. at a time. Add peanut butter, powdered sugar, and salt; beat to blend. Scrape filling into cooled crust; smooth top. Chill until set, 2-3 hours.


Stir chocolate and butter in a medium bowl set over a saucepand of simmering water until melted and smooth.
Drizzle some of the chocolate glaze over the peanut butter filling, making a circle in the middle of the pie and leaving a 1"-2" plain border. Pile pieces of honeycomb and salted peanuts on top, then drizzle remaining chocolate glaze over.


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Combine sugar, corn syrum, honey, and 1/4 cup water in a heavy deep saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high; bring to a boil. Cook without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until sugar turns pale amber. Working quickly, add baking soda (mixture will foam up dramatically); whisk quickly just to combine. Immediately pour candy over prepared sheet (do not spread out). Let stand undisturbed until cool, about 20 minutes. Hit candy in several places with the handle of a knife to crack into pieces.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Three Times Is A Charm-French Macarons

Voila la Macaron Francais!! 

Here is a French bakery classic, the French macaron.  They have also been the rage amongst food bloggers for a couple of years now.  It was time I got on the band wagon and gave my spatula a whirl to try and master these elusive cookies. 

The thing about them is that the list of ingredients couldn't be more elementary: ground almonds, egg whites, powdered and granulated sugar, and flavoring  of your choice.  These cookies are all about technique.  One false move and you have a tray full of tasty sweets, but they are not French macarons.  There are a couple things imperative to a true macaron.  They must rise with a small "foot" at the bottom and the top must be smooth, shiny, and nicely rounded over.  It is said that making these are one of the trickiest techniques in French pastry making and that French bakeries throw away approximately 20% of them due to failure.
My first attempt turned out wrong as the batter was too thick.  I flavored these with some finely grated lemon zest and a few drops of yellow gel food coloring.  As you can see, they did not smooth out and the foot never appeared, just big cracks.  They tasted very good.
My second attempt turned out wrong as the batter was too thin.  The variance in batter texture has to do with how many times you fold it once the dry ingredients are incorporated into the stiffly beaten egg whites.  These ones didn't rise at all and their tops cracked.  They were flavored with vanilla extract and colored with a few drops of red food gel. Everything I have read says to use gel food colorings because even the slightest variation in moisture in the batter can effect the end results.  These too, were very tasty.
Today I attempted chocolate macarons as posted on a great baker's blog by the name of David Lebovitz who is an ex-patriot who lives in Paris.....lucky, lucky David.  I'm not going to post his recipe.  I'll just direct you to his site, Living the Sweet Live in Paris, and let you read up on his thoughts and his links to the many people who have achieved success and their techniques.
The possibilities are endless with flavorings you can use for both the cookie base and the fillings.  I filled these chocolate ones with a cherry butter cream which I made by combining powdered sugar, a little butter, a dollop of cherry jam, and a few drops of red food gel. if you attempt to make these, just know to be patient and give yourself time for some trial and error.  Once you've made your first successful batch you may be so excited you'll have to call your mother and tell her.  That's what I did!!