Jammin’

Two weeks ago I mentioned gathering huckleberries in the Oakland Hills. I’m happy to say that despite the injury, our bounty went into a beautiful product. Kitty Sharkey and I made jam from free nectarines given to me by a booth at the farmers market and our foraged berries. Below is a recipe you can use!

Foraging for Huckleberries

Nectarine Huckleberry Jam

9 1/2 cups  coarsely sliced nectarine

2 cups huckleberries

1/4 cup lemon juice

6 cups sugar

2 packets Sure-Jell Pectin

(optional: 2 tbsp butter)

Huckleberry Bounty

Directions:

In a pot, heat nectarine pieces until soft and boiling. Add huckleberries, lemon juice, sugar  and pectin while stirring constantly. You can add butter to prevent scummy foam. Substitute blueberries if you do not have access to huckleberries. Bring the jam to a rolling boil (continues bubbling while you stir) and let it boil until the jam thickens on the back of a cold spoon. If you did not add butter, you will have a layer of scum at the top. Skim this off before processing for 20-25 minutes with the boiling water bath method.

 

The Melting Pot

Tip: This is a low-sugar recipe. If your jam doesn’t thicken, add more sugar and bring it back to a boil and check again. Most jam recipes call for at least as much sugar as fruit but I always find that to be too sweet and our Nectarine Huckleberry Jam thickened very well with only half the sugar.

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Adventures in Sourdough

Again, I am sorry for the late release! My school schedule is interfering with my blog much too efficiently. The worst part is that I had the post written earlier today and just needed to add photos before posting and noticed as I was about to get into bed that I had forgotten to complete the entry. Without much further ado, please enjoy my first sourdough post.

Since I love sourdough and have a breadmaker, I figured I needed to get to where I can stop buying San Francisco Sourdough from the grocery store. About 5 days ago, I got a dry sourdough starter from Kitty Sharkey. It had been sitting in her kitchen for a while but she’d never

I’m working off of this recipe from King Arthur Flour.

July 5, 2011: Attempt No. 1

Attempt No. 1- Dough on the sheet

First, I cut the recipe in half. I(not knowing any better) used whole wheat flour not white. The dough was very dry and I added an unknown quantity of water to get better texture. I think the dough was still too dry but i didn’t want to deviate that far from the recipe. I think I mismeasured the flour or something becasue it shouldn’t have been so dry. I set the dough to rise in a pyrex bowl for one hour and was thrilled when it seemed to have doubled in size. I pulled it out of the bowl and all the air when right out of it. Crap. The recipe calls to let it rise again so I put it on a baking sheet and let it go for another 45 minutes. One problem. It didn’t really rise again. Nope, it spread laterally though. Didn’t get any flatter, just spread out. Weird… but I decided to bake it anyway. It needs more gluten for sure if I’m going to use all whole wheat flour. The loaf  turned out very flat, dense, chewy, and not very sour but hearty. I ate some with butter and jelly and it wasn’t too bad. It tasted a little yeasty though which makes me wonder.

Attempt No. 1 - A bread flavored brick

July 7, 2011: Attempt No. 2

Same recipe but this time I used half whole wheat flour and half white  and added 1tbsp vital wheat gluten. I didn’t feel like heating the whole house to bake what might well turn out to be a brick, so I’m baking in the bread maker. The dough turned out a MUCH better texture this time and I was very hopeful. I put it to rise in the bread-maker pan and decided I wouldn’t try to move it for fear of deflation. So much for that. In trying to get it into the bread machine the jerk from getting the pan into the clamps deflated the dough substantially. I actually HEARD the air go out of it. Sadface.

Attempt No. 2 - Deflated but doing okay

But, miraculously, the bread worked! It could still stand to be improved, but it’s much less dense and isn’t too crumbly. It didn’t taste as yeasty as the first loaf and rose much more. It’s still chewy, but I like that in a sourdough loaf. The crust didn’t turn out particularly nicely but its got a good crunch to it which is a goooood start.

Attempt No. 2 - Looks like bread alright!

July 10, 2011: Attempt No. 3

This one was another half and half loaf using the same ratio as before but I did I full recipe instead of a half. I added two tablespoons of vital wheat gluten and gave it a single rise of an hour and a half. I did this one in the breadmaker again since that seemed to work well last time and I’m really happy with the results! The crust looked much better since I was able to keep it moistened while rising and turned a beautiful golden color. The bread was still a touch crumbly on the inside, but it was nice and moist and light.

Attempt No. 3 - Looks like bread, tastes like bread, must be...

My mother was a baker for many years. She Delivered bread of Bread Workshop in Berkeley when I was very young and got hooked on baking. I just got hooked on fresh bread. She then worked for the Cheeseboard until she helped found the Arizmendi Bakery Cooperative in Oakland in 1997 and worked there until 2004. Sufice to say she’s got a lot of experience with breadmaking and sourdoughs.

Attempt No. 2 vs. 3 - Double recipe and stronger starter

She came over last weekend and gave me some tips for improving my starter and bread and I think it worked. Turns out I’d been feeding it too often but the goo(flour and water mixture) I’d been giving it was too liquidy and not enough of it.  I’m now feeding it about two cups of goo per one cup of starter and the good is very thick; I’m calculating the ratio by equal weights instead of equal volumes which is what my starter recipe had called for. Clearly it’s not the best recipe. Once I started halving the starter at every feeding, giving it a thicker goo and doing so less often it got waaay more active. The whole thing is permeated with bubbles and it tastes nice and sour but in the right way. Not like yogurt or cheese, but like SOURDOUGH! :] Now I’m not afraid it’ll die in the fridge!

The recipe I had been going off of had also stressed that using metal utensils or containers for the starter would somehow weaken or even kill it. I think this might be an old wives tale. I’ve been mixing up my goo with a  fork and stiring it into my starter with the same utensil and it’s doing really well. I’m not going to get a special small wooden spoon just for stirring my sourdough starter and I doubt most people do.

July 15, 2011: Attempt No. 4

Potluck! Time to try out my bread on a bunch of friends and strangers! I made this one with onion kneaded into the dough before letting it rise for an hour. Again the same recipe as above, but I used all white flour this time becasue I was in a rush to get it done. It was lighter and rose more than any of the others had. The slices were tender but stable and didnt crumble despite being handled roughly. The sour flavor was a little better, but I’m hoping it’ll get even stronger as the starter matures.

July 17, 2011: Attemp No. 5

I’m running out of the whole wheat flour so I’m using all white again. Made another full recipe based on the King Arthur Flour site. I think I added a little too much water since the dough was a little wet. I did a one hour rise this time and used a spatula to stir it in the pan it was rising in before giving it a second half hour rise. The starter is definitely getting much better. When I pulled it out of the fridge last night, I was a little worried becasue I saw no bubbles. I left it out overnight to come up to room temperature and this morning it was gorgeous again! Completely bubbly and had grown since the night before when i pulled it out. The bread was a little denser, but still very tender with a really crunchy crust. The texture was great and flavor even better than before. I’m thrilled with the way this bread just keeps getting better and better. I’ll try a new recipe soon and maybe I can go back to experimenting with whole wheat flour now that I’m getting the hang of white flour sourdough.

Attempt No. 3 - From starter to finish

I hope my adventures in sourdough have given a little insight into making sourdough at home. I’ll be sure to add updates on the blog as I learn more. And if anyone wants a bit of starter in the San Francisco East Bay, I’m more than happy to share. Just let me know!

Baked Tilapia and Citrus Fava Bean Salad

Sorry for the late post folks. I started classes a couple weeks ago and was studying for my first test when I realized that I had fallen behind on my blog. Luckily I have a delicious recipe that I’ve been wanting to share with you. The other night, I was walking through our Berkeley Bowl, the local independent grocery store when I got a craving for fish. The hot weather had me shying away from heavy foods, but I still wanted some protein, so I picked up some tilapia and fava beans to throw together a light and yet satisfying dinner. Though blood oranges are scarce this time of year, I had some in my fridge that needed to be used. You can easily substitute them with Valencia oranges, but avoid navel oranges as their uneven segments can be hard to supreme.

Citrus Fava Bean Salad

*Note: Make the salad first because it will take longer to prepare than the fish(done in under 20 minutes), which will get cold if you reverse the order.

Ingredients:

1lb fava beans
3 large blood oranges
1 grapefruit
½ red onion
5 sprigs cilantro
1 head butter lettuce

Directions:

1. Shell your fava beans, and par boil the beans. This only take a minute or two and you don’t want to overcook them. You just want to cook them long enough for the tough and bitter membrane around the beans to loosen and wrinkle. Remove the skins from the beans, and be careful not to crush them. Put the skinned beans into a salad bowl to cool and continue with the rest of the salad.

2. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the skin from the grapefruit, including all of the white pith and the outer membrane of the segments. Over the salad bowl with the fava beans, cup the fruit in your non-dominant hand and use the paring knife to cut the segments out of the membranes. drop the skinless segments into the bowl. Do this until you have nothing but the membrane in your hand. This method is called a supreme. Squeeze the remaining juice out of the membrane into a separate bowl and save it for the dressing. Repeat this step for the oranges as well.

3. Finely slice the red onion and mince the cilantro. Add these to the bowl.  Serve the mixture over butter lettuce and drizzle generously with the dressing below.

Blood Orange Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

½ c fresh blood orange juice
¼ c white vinegar
¼ c olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp honey
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp salt
zest of 1 orange

Directions:

Wisk together ingredients in a bowl or put them all in a jar to be shaken. I prefer the latter method, because then I can conveniently store the extra.

Baked  Tilapia

 

Preheat oven to 400°F

Ingredients:

1lb tilapia fillets (~4)
1 Meyer lemon
¼ tsp thyme
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Cover two baking sheets in aluminum foil (to make clean up easier) spread olive oil evenly across both pans and lay out tilapia fillets evenly. Sprinkle the fish with salt, pepper, and thyme. Be careful not to over-salt and remember you can always add more after its cooked.

2. Thinly slice garlic and lemon. Spread the slices across tilapia and try to cover as much of the fish as possible. Make sure the garlic is underneath the lemon slices otherwise it will burn. I also coarsely chopped the rest of the red onion from the salad and dropped it on the tray to bake. Just an idea!

3. Bake the tilapia until the edges start to brown and crisp (about 5-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish).

 

I hope you enjoy the recipe in the hot summer days we’ve been having. I’m certain I’ll be making it again before too long!

Catering: Can’t Afford it? You can do it!

I have always wanted to host a  formal cocktail party with tons of tiny, beautiful hors d’oeuvres. This past weekend, I got my chance! Three weeks ago we got a new place in Berkeley (with enough space for a craft room!) and we used the opportunity to properly warm the place in high style. As someone with no steady income, buying catered food was out of the question, but I have a lot of time, which means it’s DIY time! The product of my toils was 72 Chocolate cupcakes with raspberry buttercream frosting, 30 mini apple-onion quiches, 36 mini bacon-apple-onion quiches, 24 mini broccoli quiches and one baguette’s worth of bruscetti. Below are some of the recipes I created or adapted for the event.

The cupcakes were made using Orangette‘s Far-From-Disaster Cake, by far the most delicate and moist chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever come across. A half recipe made 72 miniature cupcakes which I frosted with a Raspberry Buttercream adapted from Mommy23Monkeys.

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed raspberries (Don’t worry about bruising them.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp citric acid granules
  • 16 oz. powdered sugar
Directions: Blend together wet ingredients and citric acid. If you like your frosting sweeter, leave out the citric acid. They will not emulsify perfectly because the raspberry seeds will leave lumps, but get as close as you can. I like smoother frosting, so I strained out most of the seeds before blending these ingredients. Slowly add powdered sugar until the frosting is stiff and smooth. If you use lemon juice instead of citric acid granules, you will need extra powdered sugar, or meringue powder to give the frosting enough hold.

I dont own piping bags but I still wanted a consistent and beautiful finish for my tiny little desserts. I got a single piping tip for under $2 at Sur La Table which I inserted into the cut off corner of a ziplock bag. That saved me the $8 piping bag and still let me give my cupcakes the “professional” look I wanted for my swanky party. They got the stamp of approval from several foodie friends.

As for the quiche, I actually tried several crust recipes before I found one I was really happy with. In all cases, the key seems to be the temperature of the butter. The colder the butter is at the start of the process, the more flakey and tender the crust will be in the end. I ignored the baking instructions given by this recipe and used a three-inch circle cutter to stamp out little crusts. I dropped them into the tins by ruffling the edge and pierced the ever-loving heck out of the bottom of the crust to keep them from bubbling and deforming. I prebaked them at 350°F for 7 minutes the day before the party and stored them under plastic wrap. Then, in the hour before the party, I filled them and gave the filled quiches their second bake.

Mini Quiche Recipe

Ingredients:
Crust (makes roughly 24 minis)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 to 8 Tbsp ice water
Filling (makes roughly 48 minis)
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 1 onion
  • 2 strips thick-cut bacon
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F

1. Combine dry crust ingredients in a Cuisinart using the chopping blade. Cut in butter just enough to distribute it evenly then begin adding in the ice water one tablespoon at a time until the dough begins to clump using the pulse setting. To test if the dough is wet enough pinch a 1cm ball and try to flatten it. If they crumbled add a little more water. If only the edges crack, your dough is perfect!

2. Roll dough into sheets approximately 1/4 in. thick and cut out 3 inch circles. Gently drop circles into the mini cupcake tins, pushing in the ruckled edges at regular intervals. Use a toothpick to poke holes all over the bottom of the crust. This will keep bubbles from deforming your crusts. If you want shiny crusts, you can brush them with egg, but I didn’t bother.

3. Bake crusts for 7 minutes at 350°F. This shouldn’t be enough time for them to brown, only for them to become firm and start to crisp. Allow them to cool on a rack before filling them.

4. While crusts are cooling, prepare the filling. Chop onion, apple and bacon into 1/4 in cubes then saute until onions and apples are caramelized and bacon is browned. Whisk together the eggs and half and half. Fill 1 tsp of sautéed filling into each quiche shell then carefully pour the egg mixture over it being sure not to spill over into the tin. If you do overflow your shells, wipe away the excess and bake the overflowed ones anyway. I had no problems with the overflowed quiches sticking to the tins so you probably won’t either. I baked my quiches for 18 minutes, but start checking them at 14 minutes to be sure you don’t burn them.

5. As soon as you take them out of the oven, sprinkle shredded cheese on top. The heat from the quiches will melt the cheese without burning it. Then cool them on racks again. Serve them hot immediately or at room temperature, both are delicious!

I made two other versions of the quiches which were both vegetarian, one with apple and onion and another with only broccoli.

All of these made for an impressive and beautiful spread, perfect for the classy cocktail party theme. The last thing we needed was a signature drink!

The house drink was invented two summers ago when Colin and I were camping at the Lost Coast and wanted to make Cosmopolitan. Thinking we had all the ingredients covered, we trekked through the wild-fire fraught coast from Ashland, OR to the teeny tiny town of Honeydew, CA. The night we decided to have our campsite cocktails, we discovered that we only had one of the necessary ingredients to make the drink we had intended. Black Cosmos were the result of our desperate experimentation. It’s a full-bodied fruity drink that isn’t sweet like most cocktails and therefore appeals to almost anyone.

Black Cosmos
  • 2 oz. unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • 1 oz. dark rum
  • 1 oz. triplesec
  • 1 oz. sweetened lime juice
Mix ingredients in a shaker with ice and serve up. Garnish with a slice of blood orange.

I hope you enjoy the recipes and put them to good use!

Sweet Pickled Pearl Onions

A few weeks ago I learned to pickle quail eggs from Kitty Sharkey of Havenscourt Homestead. They turned out so well that I thought I might just try to put together something of my own.

I developed a delicious recipe for sweet pickled pearl onions which go well in salad or as a zesty side to sandwiches, burgers and barbecue. Best of all, they are super easy to make and I’ll tell you how!

Peel and trim 2-3 cups of red pearl onions. White pearl onions will work too but won’t be quite as sweet. Though I haven’t tried it, you could also coarsely chop 2 large onions. In a bowl, cover the peeled onions with boiling water and let them sit  for 5 minutes. Drain them and fill the onions into a jar or two.

In a non-reactive saucepan combine the following ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes.

  • 1 c. white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher or pickling salt
  • 1 cracked bay leaf
  • 2-3 large cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp. cracked pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp. ground clove
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Pour the brine over your filled jar(s) of onions without filtering out any of the spices and allow them to soak up flavor for at least 5 days before serving. They will keep in the refrigerator for at least 1 month.

If you would like to keep these for longer follow proper canning process as recommended by a reputable agency(USDA, FDA, National Center for Home Food Preservation, etc.) once you’ve filled the jars. If they are canned, they ought to keep for months and months.

Now, I’m going to go enjoy some of those onions!

*This entry also cross-posted to wildwoodyarn.blogspot.com