Monday, October 24, 2011

Waffles


Long before I had a ring(s) on my left hand, my house not yet filled with a sweet red bearded man every morning, before there was talk of children, retirement, and house hunting. In a time where sleep was an afterthought and there was a permanent sparkle in my eye. I am pretty sure that neither of us had Internet at the time or digital cameras. Before I even considered mountain biking.....

We listened to a lot of music and spent the mornings together. There was one morning that still flutters in and out of my memories. We had waffles one morning, unforgettable waffles. I remember it like yesterday, they were the best waffles I have ever had. Every thing tastes better when one is fresh into a relationship. I remember pulling a chair up to his kitchen table years ago, in his house that was tucked up on a hill side in one of Bellingham's more wooded neighborhoods. It was a cozy day.  There was a forest outside his back door, Natasha was probably there at our feet but I don't remember right now, I just remember those waffles. I devoured mine, plain, not dry just unaccompanied. Crispy exterior and soft inside. There was butter, he told me the secret lots of butter, not making these often, it was a splurge. We probably went for a hike that day or went climbing at Mount Erie. I just remember the waffle.


This morning I woke up and wanted waffles. I find a recipe and tip toe into our kitchen and whip up a batch using all whole wheat flour and a third of the butter that I remember J telling me he used in those infamous hook line and sinker waffles years ago. Soon J peers over my shoulder and asks if I was going to use egg whites. I was not. He asks, how can you have fluffy waffles without egg whites? You cannot.


The waffles I made this morning were tasty. They were crisp on the outside, tender where they should be. Hearty but scented with sweet vanilla.

 Waffles

This recipe (originally from Aretha Frankenstein's restaurant in Chattanooga, TN) is the ideal I-just-woke-up-from-a...

Serves 2 good waffle eaters
    3/4 cup all-purpose flour 
    1/4 cup cornstarch 
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
    1/2 teaspoon salt 
    1 cup whole milk or buttermilk (or a combination) 
    1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
    1 egg 
    1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 
    3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


    1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix well. Add the milk, vegetable oil, egg, sugar and vanilla and mix well. Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.

    2. Heat a waffle iron. Follow the directions on your waffle iron to cook the waffles. Serve immediately with butter and pure maple syrup or hold in a 200 degree oven, directly on the rack (don't stack them or they'll get soggy). These also reheat very well in the toaster.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Herb Tomato Gorgonzola Buttermilk Biscuits


It feels good to be home. Home in our house. Creating a home where we feel comfortable, regardless of the extent that we will be here at this location. I love parts of this home, the view of the sunset, proximity to parks and friends, the colors inside are warm and inviting, often bringing comfort in what can be a cold house.


We can make our house as welcoming as we can, but without one anther or the people in our lives that have made the transition back to Bellingham meaningful, the house, Bellingham would be colder, greyer than it is already. Luxurious would describe what it feels like to be back in a house, a lush sea of green landscape, bombarded by hippies, streets shut down from protests. All these random things aside, what makes this town special is the people that call this place home.

As we have been back for several weeks, I am still running into old acquaintances, family and previous co workers. It is great, smiles are exchanged, hugs, and brief recaps of the current events are shared. What has been warming my heart these days is the phrase I have heard a lot and figure I will never grow weary of, "It is nice to have you (two) back."  Simple but meaningful. It is great to be back in your company Bellingham. It is sure nice to be back. Thank you for the welcome homecoming.

Over the weekend J and I went to the first annual photo/video contest/fundraiser for one of our local trail associations Whatcom Independent Mountain Peddlers or WHIMPS. Over 400 people packed the Depot Market Square across the street from Boundary Bay Brewery to show their support for the local trail work that this group facilitates from the new Raptor Ridge Connector south of town in the Chuckanuts to the world renowned Galbraith Mountain. There were familiar faces and even more new people but we all had a common interest, the trails that weave their way through greater Bellingham. Thank you all who came, supported and are making Bellingham a more enjoyable place to live.

J and I have been in the habit of getting a few bike rides in together a week. We take quick Galbraith rips and day trips to Canada. Every day our house has less boxes filled with our stuff. We cook hearty dinners and meet friends for bites. We spend the weekend mornings together with coffee followed by breakfast and usually a mountain bike ride.


This weekend, rolling out of a mildly successful week of baking at the bistro I felt inspired to make one of my most popular breakfast pastries, a savory buttermilk biscuit. When I roll up on a bakery case I usually go for a big hearty muffin, J reaches for a savory, cheese and ham filled biscuit. I understand the craving for hearty substance, leaning on the protein end of the spectrum but I like the pick me up that fresh fruit and light sweetness brings to my morning. Flaky on the inside, a crunchy exterior, tang from a rich cheese, color from roasted tomatoes and lightly herbed these biscuits might have me rethinking my decision next time I stand there dumbfounded, needing coffee and calories.


Herb Tomato Gorgonzola Buttermilk Biscuits

Makes about 12 biscuits

Adapted from Dorie Greespan's Baking

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
1/2 cup roasted tomatoes
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
3/4 cup cold buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position a rack in the center. You will need a lined baking sheet and a biscuit cutter. Get your poop in a group.

Mix the dry ingredients together. You know what they are and I am not going to list them, all dry goes in one medium bowl. Parsley or whatever herb you choose (besides mint) is a dry ingredient.


Now mix in the stinky cheese. Or a not stinky cheese. Curve ball! Toss in the roasted tomatoes while you are at it.

Get that hand full of little pieces of butter that you cut, drop them in the flour and coat each piece. Now is the most important step. Keep that butter cold, we want flaky biscuits so get the lead out. Use forks, your hands or a pastry blender, cut and work the flour into the butter until the mixture is almost pebbly. Chunks of butter the size of almonds are perfect with mostly pea gravel texture. Stop mixing!

Pour the buttermilk over the the flour mixture and mix just until the dough comes together. Take a deep breath, put the fork down and reach in there with your hand and give it three to four good turns and presses to incorporate that sandy mixture in the bottom of the bowl. Don't go kneading the dough, you will get pucks.


Lightly flour your favorite work surface and turn the dough onto the surface. Working pretty fast because there are bike rides and books to read and flaky biscuits to be had, pat the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick. It is okay if the dough is all chunky and uneven, that is totally normal. Your biscuit cutter is close so cut out as many as you can and arrange them an inch apart on your equally handy baking sheet. When there are scraps pile them on top of each other creating layers and press back to 1/2 inch thickness and cut. You can freeze them from this point with no need to defrost or bake them off.

Bake for about 15 minutes, they will be golden and puffy. Eat as soon as you can - you might burn your mouth but that is part of the fun.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Las Vegas

 

Las Vegas was a blast. A few short days, a couple long nights, all that a Vegas trip should be, nothing more.

Friends, shows, food.

Sunshine, people gazing and flashy clothing.






We scored some tickets to see Ben Harper play outside at the Cosmopolitan.


The venue for the show was pretty spectacular.




We had great friends that kept it fun, there were many great memories made and a life long friendship established.


We took in Absinthe at Caesar's Palace and I almost ran away with the circus. In my dreams, I am a gymnast. If you have the chance to see this show, please try and catch it. Funny off color humor that only Las Vegas can get away with.






 J rolling in style the entire time, including making us mimosas to break the desert heat and provide a little laughter as we mixed cocktails on the side of the strip. Classy.



My two cents: keep the kids out of Vegas. Vegas will keep the unmentionables out of Disney Land....

Circus Circus might be hell on Earth. A casino is the last place I ever want to ran over by a stroller.





Monday, October 10, 2011

Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies


So I might have forgot baking soda once. Turns out leavening is kind of important to the consistency of baked goods especially when you want an airy moist cake.

I might have asked the chef how to frost a cake. For real.

She might have taught me some very valuable tricks of the trade. Even better.

Never be afraid to ask questions.

I might have made the same recipe twice in one day and both times it turned out awful.

Never label a recipe fool proof. Never.

I made cupcakes two days in a row, both times they overflowed and looked laughable.

Never give up.


I have to laugh at myself. I love it, I learn, I move on. 

I feel really stoked that I can make a few recipes from memory.

I smile.

My tart shells often leak. Tarts are gorgeous but not when they leak.

I love the word tartlette.

Never forget the salt. Always use real butter. Cream is nice. Buttermilk is awesome.


Each weekday morning I put my crazy curly hair in a high bun, run some mascara through my eyelashes at an unruly early hour and tip toe out of the house trying my hardest not to wake J.  Most days are smooth, I soak up all that I can, committing it to memory and making notes in an ever growing baker's binder. Creativity and craftiness.  I pull things out of the oven beaming with excitement, proud. I dance. There is laughter and smiles.

I pulled these cookies out of the oven, arranged them nicely and watched as they all were given good homes in warm bellies.


 Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

Get creative and spin these tangy cookies with zest of oranges or limes. Try chocolate. How about cinnamon or cardamom. Please do tell me what you try!

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

zest of 1 lemon

1 cup sugar

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment add butter cream cheese, lemon zest and sugar. Cream on medium speed until slightly more pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Stop the mixer, add the flour.  Mix on low speed until dough comes together. 

On parchment lined cookie sheets place walnut sized balls of dough 2 inches apart.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time for 10 to 12 minutes. Don't over bake, the edges should be slightly golden.


Not so Peachy


There are times when everyone seems distant. It is a lousy feeling and one I hate to admit but there are times when I feel cold and empty, the skies are grey. My heart aches, I yearn for comfort and contact.


I go outside. A run turns into a walk that ends up being numerous stops to watch birds, gaze at a pond, absorb the trail and the lush surroundings. Distraction via engaging in something constant, nature.


The problem lately has been a mind numbing tooth ache that seems to being sucking the life out of me.  As they have opened up the tooth for the second time I was told that the tooth is eventually going to be extracted and the pain may be unavoidable. My mind slows and the pain is taking hold. I want to be held but not by pain.


Monday, October 03, 2011

Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting



I really thought I knew something about baking three weeks ago.

I can make some pretty cookies, bread is usually edible and luckily I am not afraid of the mixer or a little elbow grease and garlic. I can read until I go cross eyes about recipes and techniques.

Yeah, well I knew as much as a grain of salt in a five gallon bucket about turning out delightful pastry five days a week. I am getting educated. Seriously. I am in good caring hands, I am under a woman who wants to see me succeed. I want her to succeed in her role as lead chef. She is a pretty righteous woman and I am pretty damn lucky to have such a great opportunity.

I have you to thank and I should thank you from deep down. Thank you for your support and reminding me how pretty you think my photos are, for those of you who have tried my recipes and those of you have been around from day one or who recently stumbled by. Thank you all. I really wouldn't be here now without this supportive community and healthy creative outlet.

As for the baking, I am getting by with what I know then I come home and nerd out in a world of endless possibilities that is just at my finger tips, then wake when people are rolling home from last call and try again. I taste and I take in. I ask questions. I CAN'T GET ENOUGH. I love it. I am a baker, a baker in training.


Besides bakers hours I am in love with my job. I hang up my chef coat most days yearning to make more, I don't want to stop. Bake bake bake. Frost. Glaze. Cut. Crumble. Roll. I come home and jump on the Internet in search of inspiration and always find it, I have a stack of cookbooks next to my side of the bed. I ride my bike but think about what to bake. Ideas are flowing and I have a binder full of blank paper to fill in the spaces. I have J try a lot and he gives great feedback, he is my ace in the hole and enjoys a treat that is just right, never too sweet.


These cookies were made with J in mind. Not too sweet, a close cousin to his favorite, a good morning glory muffin that meets a carrot cake to form a sandwich cookie.

Without raisins as per J.

I love this shit.

I can say deep in my heart that I made the right decision, there is nothing else I can imagine doing that would make me happier. Well if I could have my cake and eat it too which turns out getting a decent amount of sleep with this schedule would be icing on the cake and make like three times the amount of money. 

What ever.

I can't get enough of a few great books including: Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe and the numerous recipes tucked in between the hardback or the The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco's Beloved Restaurant cookbook that is chocked full of techniques and insight. I am lusting after the Bourke Street Bakery book and I will stop there for there are only so many hours in the day.

The truth is that some day - some how - some form you will see my name in the list of inspirational cookbooks based off of some successful bakery adventure. Some day. Hundreds of pounds of butter and millions of pounds of flour later I might be there. Don't tell but I already have a name picked out.

Until you see my name in print I will try and remember to tote my camera to work and document some of the beauties I have been turning out. Do you have any interest? Would you rather see what comes out of our kitchen here at home?  I am open to any and all feedback.

So much love and kindness.

And cookies....


Always cookies.

Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting
 Adapted from Epicourious
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup coarsely grated carrots
  • 1 scant cup walnuts (3 ounces), chopped
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.

Whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
Beat together butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in carrots, nuts, and raisins at low speed, then add flour mixture and beat until just combined.
Drop 1 1/2 tablespoons batter per cookie 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake, until cookies are lightly browned and springy to the touch, 12 to 16 minutes total. Cool cookies on sheets on racks 1 minute, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.
While cookies are baking, blend cream cheese and honey until smooth.
Sandwich flat sides of cookies together with a generous tablespoon of cream cheese filling in between.

Share with your favorite people, our happen to be the fine folks of Fanatik Bike Shop here in Bellingham.



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