Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Clearing Clouds

The ideas begin to flow the moment the clouds begin to part and the light shines through. Being able to see that first glimpse allows the brain to wipe away the heavy clouds of muddled thoughts and failed attempts. It is not an art form. It is an approach.

Forcing It

Using force to make an idea fit, altering it, sanding it down, squeezing it takes away from the original thought. There is a reason square pegs don't fit into round holes. The edges have not been worn down. We are better off setting the square peg aside rather than spending the time wearing down its edges. As we continue to explore we will find a square hole and a round peg. It is being patient enough to continue the search.

Rhubarb Muffins

Couples will relate to this post. I drive Alex crazy. Despite this blog, when we are not working on a book I still like to cook by the seat of my pants. This means when I make rhubarb syrup for our daughter's favorite drink, a rhubarb twist, I weigh nothing. Then when I take the leftover fruit and make muffins I still weigh nothing. So the recipe below is an approximation. Of course it will come as a surprise to no one at this point that the recipe for a rhubarb twist is not exactly measured either. We start this adventure with 5-6 medium stalks of rhubarb, heavy and pink, not much wider than a stalk of celery. I like more medium rather than fewer large because they give the syrup more color and that makes Amaya happy. Clean the rhubarb, trim off the tips and ends, and slice it about 1/2-inch thick. Before you do this, set a pot on the stove with 1 cup of water and 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar and 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 grams) fine sea salt over high heat. Once the sugar syrup comes to a boil add the sliced rhubarb. Bring it back to a simmer, cover and remove from heat. Let the fruit steep for 20 minutes. Strain off the rhubarb and reserve the syrup, adding a teaspoon of vanilla or 1/2 teaspoons of orange oil if you please. You will end up with just under two cups of cooked fruit.
For a rhubarb twist, muddle one strawberry in a rocks glass, add ice to cover and an inch of rhubarb syrup. Cut a sliver of Meyer lemon, squeeze over the top and drop into the glass and fill the rest of the way with seltzer water. Stir with a straw and enjoy.
These muffins came together because my mom was visiting and lamenting the fact that I hadn't baked anything. Since I had the rhubarb on hand, muffins were a quick and easy crowd pleaser. Even better, she can take the leftovers home with her when she leaves. Rhubarb Muffins Makes 18 standard muffins I used a combination of whole grain flours and coconut sugar in this recipe. You can substitute whatever types of flour and sugar you have on hand. The proportions are very forgiving. 1/4 cup ground golden flax seeds 3/4 cup oat flour 1 cup barley flour 1 cup spelt flour 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature 2 eggs, room temperature 4 ounces butter, melted and cooled 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 teaspoon orange oil 1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked rhubarb, see above Raw sugar for sprinkling Preheat oven to 375°F Line 1 1/2 cupcake pans (18 wells) with baking cups Whisk together the flax seed, oat flour, barley flour, spelt flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk, eggs, butter, vanilla, and orange oil and whisk gently to blend. Fold in the rhubarb using a rubber spatula and divide among the baking cups using a generous 1/4 cup batter per muffin. Sprinkle the top of each muffin generously with raw sugar. Bake for 25 minutes or until firm to the touch and a cake skewer comes out clean. Remove from pans and cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, for those of us who have trouble remembering, is not about barbecues or dinner parties. It's a day to remember the men and women who died protecting this country and all that it stands for while serving in the United States armed forces. It's a day to appreciate what we have, the luxuries and the choices, which are actually one and the same. We grow up knowing that we are free and mostly very well fed. We grow up knowing that we can do better than our parents did and that hard work and smart choices will likely get us where we want to go. It's not too much to ask to remember one day a year that these privileges come at a cost. There are people putting their lives on the line every day so that we can live the lives that we do. Remember it and make the most out of every day.

Emmer Noodles

We are fortunate to have Castle Valley Mill in our backyard. Mark is milling a range of grains. We were drawn to the emmer wheat. We used it first to make noodles. The sweet flavor and resilient chew in the finished noodle has us excited. It is a wonderful base flour that we can build with.

Get Well Cake

If you can't cure them, feed them. I had to resort to the hard stuff with 2 invalids in the house. This one is a buttermilk chocolate cake with a true chocolate frosting. (more TK on hunting down the "Perfect" frosting)

Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting

It's been a tough week. Mom showed up for a visit from Florence, Italy with a stiff neck that got progressively worse as the days went on. We went to pick Amaya up from school only to discover that she was sleeping and promptly developed a fever of 103.4 a few hours later. Apparently this is not that high a fever in the medicine world but when it lingers on for days it gives Mom (aka me) quite a bit of angst to deal with. Alex came home from DC on Sunday, sick as a dog and Mom headed back to Florence via NYC slightly better but still not completely mobile. I had to cancel our trip to Vegas for the Saveur Food Awards because 2/3 of us were completely unfit for travel. That totally sucked on many levels. But now everyone is on the mend and the world is a better place. As you may have noticed by yesterday's post in moments of angst and anxiety I tend to reach for chocolate. Truthfully Alex and Amaya love it more than I do, though at certain times nothing else will do. Some days I just can't get recipes written. It's all I can do to get the cake on the table. Today I give you the recipe for the frosting. Notable because it's not butter cream, it's shareable because it's as close as I've ever come to elusive chocolate frosting that I imagine on a perfectly frosted cake. It's good enough to eat with a spoon but thankfully I'm not quite there yet. Close, but no cigar. Thank goodness Alex and Amaya are both on the mend otherwise one day you might actually find me crouched over a bowl of frosting with a large spoon in hand. Here's hoping things never reach that point...
Chocolate Frosting Enough for 1 2-layer cake though if you really love frosting I would double this. 240 grams/ 1 cup heavy cream 4 ounces/ 113 grams unsalted butter, sliced 66.6 grams / 1/3 cup sugar 56.25 grams / 1/4 cup water 40 grams / 2 tablespoons light corn syrup 1.5 grams / 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt 455 grams / 16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or callets Combine the cream, butter, sugar, water, corn syrup and salt in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a bare simmer, stirring and remove from heat. Once the butter has melted whisk in the chocolate. Continue to whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and the frosting is glossy and smooth. Transfer it to a metal or glass bowl and refrigerate for 1 1/2-2 hours, stirring occasionally until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. Use (or eat) immediately.