Monday, September 30, 2013

cross this off my list; x cookies, a tuesdays with dorie post

a glimpse at my week; a full time job, classes three nights a week, a house to keep, a garden to tend to at home and another for the master gardeners and a list of things to do as long as my arm.  can you tell i am a little stressed?  needless to say, this probably was not the best recipe for me to work on today, my only real day off.
to sum it all up in one word; tedious.  irritating is another word that comes to mind.  while the end results were reasonably good (more on that in a moment), this is one recipe that i probably will not make again.
the dough is easy to make.  it is definitely a recipe to keep in mind when you are making tarts and bars with a crust.
the filling was the tricky part.  now, it wasn't all the recipe; some of it was my pantry or perhaps i should say my poorly stocked pantry.  i only had half the figs needed so i substituted the only other fruit i had, a bag of prunes.  now wait-prunes get a bad rap.  i have always liked prunes and this sounded like a reasonable solution.  to make sure all was soft, i plumped it all in hot water; figs, prunes and currants-i didn't have raisins.  i also did not have candied orange peel-it isn't quite fruit cake season so it is hard to find.  did i mention that i am not an orange fan?  i added lemon zest instead.  there wasn't any apricot jam in the pantry either, i used fig jam in the hope of punching up the fig flavor.  my filling just ended up being a sticky mess that was a pain the *** to work with.
because the filling was so sticky, i could only shape one log at a time and it required that i wash my hands twice in the process.  this irritated me quickly.

after shaping 4 logs, i quit!  the rest of the dough was divided in two.  one half was pressed into a pan, the filling was spread over it and i rolled out the rest of the dough to cover the filling.  i made holes with a fork, egg washed it and gave it a sprinkle of sanding sugar.  forty minutes later, voila!
now, this i might make again-but first, i will go to the grocery store for the figs and the apricot jam.  and if i do make these, i think i will also add a little sugar to the filling.  oh, remind me to hoard some candied lemon rind or citron, they would be nice in this too!  to see what the rest of the bakers came up with, visit the tuesdays with dorie page.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

tiny tomato cakes keep them guessing

sometimes, i like to have fun with desserts.  my favorite game is to make people guess what the secret ingredient is.  once, for thanksgiving, i made a pie with white beans; it was fun to watch as our guests ate the pie while trying to guess what type of squash i used.  there have been many such desserts coming out of my kitchen.  a favorite of mine is tomato cake because it always keeps them guessing.

a recent outing with the nashville food bloggers included a pot luck lunch.  as a pastry chef, dessert is always my contribution to a pot luck meal.  naturally, i decided to have a little fun and make them guess the flavor.  to see the complete recipe, click here.
 my skinny muffin pan from ikea.  it is a little tricky to use.  even though it is nonstick, you really need to grease and flour the cups to ensure the cakes come out intact.

 the best way to present them, wrapped individually and dusted with powdered sugar.

in my search for bakers twine, the kind i remember from childhood, red and white and hanging from the bakery ceiling in a metal stringholder, i came across some cotton yarn.  it works very nicely and is so much cheaper!

Friday, September 27, 2013

thematic photography, week 2: life or death

for our second week of class, we were given the theme of life or death.  not a very happy theme at first glance but surprisingly, an easy one to find images of.  since we were allowed to interpret the theme as we wanted, the choices for shooting were plentiful.  the trick was to find images that were interesting and eye catching.  

for my photos, i decided to visit a cemetary.  luckily for me, the nashville city cemetery was giving the annual living history tour.  not only were there lots of interesting scenes to shoot, there were live actors portraying the dead and buried.  if you haven't gone on a living history tour, you should.  the history of nashville is colorful, to say the least!
 an actor portraying moses wetmore, an early developer of east nashville

 my husband was fascinated with the mausoleums

 vine on iron fencing

 row of crypts

 flower bed 

 this quote seems to sum it all up nicely

 reflection on a crypt

 the mausoleum reflecting the gravestones across from it

then of course, i headed to the garden.  this is a great time of year to find life and death in the garden.
 lichen on dead wood

 same subject, monochrome

 cicada wings

 and in color-completely different results

and one that somehow did not make it onto my flash drive for class-sustaining life means certain death.

and our next theme is our choice-we have a list and i have yet to make my choice.  stay tuned, i will post the photos.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

linzer cookies with fig jam

the whole repurposing craze has caught me.  i just love it-the idea of turning useless stuff into a money maker; i'm all about that.  honestly, i do like the idea of using things in a new or unusual way.  we hung a wire window planter box up on our kitchen wall.  ok, not exciting.  except we hung it upside down and use hooks to hang pots from it.  fascinating stuff, i know!  what does it have to do with cookies?  nothing.  it was the repurposing thing, i went off track here...

so, back to the story, as a tuesdays with dorie baker, i often make things i would not generally make for just the two of us.  it is often way more than we can eat.  sometimes i cut the recipe in half or freeze half.  for a recent baking challenge, we made a crostata.  it called for a rich, short crust that was loaded with almonds and sesame seeds.  since i wanted to make a smaller tart, i had a big ball of dough leftover and i froze it for another day.  a recent get together of local food bloggers seemed like a good time to use it since it would make wonderful bite sized linzer cookies.  read all about the tart and see the recipes by clicking here.
cookie cutters are something i collect; i have hundreds of them.  literally, hundreds.  this is an inexpensive set that i found while wandering through a local tjmaxx/homegoods store.  they are double sided so you can use the straight side or the fluted side-10 cutters for the price of 5!

to roll out little bite sized sandwich cookies, i used a pair of thin wooden dowels.  that is my secret for a consistent thickness and by choosing different sized dowels, i get the dough rolled out to the necessary thickness every time.

to cut the window of the top cookie in the sandwich, i pulled out a different set of cutters.  this is a larger set of straight circles made of metal.

 a quick sprinkle of sanding sugar gave the cookies a nice sparkle.

a small dollop of homemade fig jam was the perfect choice of filling for a dough studded with almonds and sesame seeds.

 finishing the sandwiches with the top cookie

all ready to go on my fancy vintage pressed aluminum serving tray-a treat fit for serving to food bloggers!  and by the way, i came home with an empty tray...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

fall arrives; time to head back to class

for the last year, i have been taking classes at a local art college.  it is all part of my effort to learn better techniques for taking photos of my work and of the garden.  this last week, i headed back to class for a four week workshop on thematic photography.  while it sounds a bit complicated, it isn't.  any professional photographer will tell you that most paid assignments have a theme.  the object is to produce photos that define the theme without needing explanation.  for our first assignment, we were given the theme of "americana" and i made an attempt to define it and capture it.  
many of you know that i live in nashville.  obviously, a fiddle and a bottle of kentucky bourbon should relay americana.  unless you are a musician (or my daughter) and you know that is a with me people!

 toll painted cake tin and a bundt cake slice

 split rail fence

 farm equipment

 grandma's garden at ellington ag center


 zinnias on a ladderback chair

 zinnias on a hand hewn table

 zinnias, a log bench and a split rail fence

 the grand champion has dinner

 you lookin at me?

 blue ribbon dreams

russell and his apple pie

 waiting our turn to dance

appalachaian precision cloggers-they wear tap shoes?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

the little fig tree that could; fresh fig jam

we planted two fig trees in our yard.  the older of the two is a brown turkey fig.  this year was a good year for figs-we picked 10 pounds!

did you know that figs are not actually a fruit?  they are a scion or an infructescence and almost all of the trees need a tiny wasp to pollinate the flowers.  that wasp does not live in tennessee and for that reason, only two varieties of figs can be grown here; the brown turkey and the celeste varieties do not need pollination.

so, what does one do with 10 pounds of fresh figs?  having made one tart and stuff myself silly with them, i made jam.  now i can have figs for the winter while i dream of summer, and the next harvest.
simmering the figs with cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans.  a little lemon juice and zest helped round out the flavors.

canned and cooling

until next year, this will have to do!  to make some fig jam, just use the basic jam recipe of 2 to 1 fruit to sugar  and add flavors as you like(citrus zest, spices, alcohol and so on) or try this recipe.  happy canning!