Sunday, June 30, 2013

pina colada cake

this is the story of two cakes.  one a beautiful cake and the other, a shipwreck.  or train wreck, take your pick.  either name will work.

as i have mentioned before, i work in a demonstration garden with my fellow master gardeners.  it is my responsibility as the project chair to round up the volunteers and maintain the garden.  to do this, i have resorted to bribery; it works out so much better than whining and begging...since i go out to the garden every sunday morning, i have made it a habit to take a freshly baked cake with me.  sounds easy but it is a challenge to come up with a different cake each week.

the result is that every week, i create a new recipe.  sometimes, it is as simple as substituting an ingredient or two in an already successful recipe.  other weeks, it can be complicated as i attempt a new formula all together.  most of the time, the cake works out and i am able to make minor adjustments to use the next time i bake the cake.  other times, not so much.  this last time, really, really not so good.  and by not so good, i mean the cake was self destructing from the moment i took it out of the oven.
 don't you love the ski slope effect?  trust me, it went completely down hill from here...

as i stood there looking at my sad cake, i watched in horror as more and more of the sides of the cake just fell off and littered the tray.  so sad, so embarrassing.  how would i fix this?  there wasn't any time to bake another cake, i would just have to bring it out to the garden and hope for the best.  the best laugh that is.  shirley quickly dubbed it a total shipwreck.  and honestly, it was-no harm, no foul, just lots of giggles.  she and lynn were astonished that i could have baked this.  so as you see, even a pastry chef is capable of a shipwreck every now and then.  the mistake here, i tried to temper the acid level of fresh pineapple by adding a little baking soda to the recipe.  guess what, the cake did not need any tempering.

so this week, when i set out to bake a cake for my gardening friends, i had a new challenge; no eggs.  we have a couple of new volunteers that both follow a mostly vegan diet and the eggs needed to go.  luckily, they were both okay with a small amount of butter but definitely not the eggs.  and luckier still, i happened to have a package of ener-g egg replacer in the pantry and a supply of coconut milk and coconut oil.  i also had the determination of a baker scorned; i simply was not going to be pushed around by a cake.  no, i was going to win this thing, we were going to eat pina colada cake and it was going to be a good cake.  no ifs, ands or buts.  just a really good cake!

recipe notes:  to get a nice pineapple flavor, use fresh, ripe pineapple.  peel, core and cut enough of it into 1" cubes to make 2 cups.  place the pineapple in a food processor and pulse to produce tidbits.  do not let the machine run for more than 5 or 10 seconds at a time or you will quickly make puree.  put the pineapple tidbits into a mesh strainer and press out as much of the juice as you can.  reserve the juice for the syrup that is poured over the warm cake.  2 cups of chunks should yield 1 cup of tidbits and 1/2 cup of juice which is what you will need for the cake.

for the liquid in the recipe, i have used coconut milk.  to get the best texture without it being gummy or overly moist, use a light coconut milk or an unsweetened coconut milk beverage.  these will add moisture without excess fat that can make the cake greasy and heavy.

for the vegans, use all coconut oil(2/3 cup) and ener-g egg replacer(4 1/2 teaspoons mix to 6 tablespoons of warm water).  for the not so vegan, you can do as i did and use half unsalted butter(6 tablespoons) and half coconut oil(1/3 cup) with the egg replacer.  and for those of you throwing caution to the wind, you can also just use 3 large eggs, and all butter but you will have to use  coconut milk to be able to call it pina colada!

if you have never used ener-g egg replacer, it is easy!  follow the instructions on the box and use as you would real eggs.  place the powder in a mixing bowl, whisk in warm water and let it sit while you start mixing the recipe.

pina colada bundt cake
1 bundt cake serving about 12

*before starting-read the notes above!!!
1 cup fresh pineapple tidbits*
ener-g egg replacer equivalent to 3 eggs*
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened*
1/3 cup coconut oil*
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup coconut milk*
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup light brown sugar

preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a bundt cake pan.  place butter, coconut oil, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor.  pulse to combine.  with the motor running, pour in the egg replacer and process until smooth.  pour the mixture into a mixing bowl with the pineapple tidbits.  stir to combine and distribute the tidbits evenly.  sift the flour and the baking powder over the batter and fold it in a few times.  sprinkle the coconut milk over the top of the batter and fold together until no streaks of flour or butter remain.  scrape the batter out of the bowl and into the prepared pan.  smooth out the top and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about an hour.  while the cake bakes, make the syrup by combining the juice and the brown sugar in a small sauce pan.  bring the mixture to a boil, reduce it to a simmer and allow it to simmer for 2-3 minutes.  set it aside while the cake bakes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to cool.  prick the surface of the cake with a fork and spoon the glaze over the top of the cake.  allow it to cool completely before slicing.

Friday, June 21, 2013

fruit salad sorbet

when life gives you too much fruit salad, make sorbet!  since i found our electric ice cream freezer at a local thrift store ($12.98 plus tax for a new machine!), i find reasons to make sorbet.  it is the perfect treat on a hot day.  we had a watermelon aging in the fridge so i combined it with a few kiwis and a basket of ripe strawberries.  you could use any combination, what ever you like to add to your fruit salad mixture; honeydew, pineapple, grapes, mangoes or any other fruit you might put into a salad.  there are no rules here, just fruit, ripe, juicy fruit.

for mine, i had about 4 cups of fruit chunks.  puree the fruit in a blender or food processor.  i liked the seeds in the puree-it added an interesting texture but you could strain them out if you like.

to make the syrup, combine 1/3 cup sugar with 1/4 cup of water and 1/3 cup of honey(corn or rice syrup for the vegan version!) in a sauce pan.  bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  remove from the heat, add 1 tablespoon of lemon or lime juice and allow to cool.  add the cooled syrup to the fruit puree and freeze according to the manufacturers directions.  my yield was about 2 cups of sorbet, but you could easily double the recipe if your machine is large enough.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

tuesdays with dorie: tomato and cheese galette

 for this weeks challenge, we have chosen to make tomato and cheese galettes.  sigh.  big sigh...tomatoes are not in season yet here in tennessee.  the spring weather was so cold and wet so late in the season that our tomato plants didn't go into the ground until the third week of may.  oh well, off to market i go.

in between stops, i ducked into my local publix supermarket.  generally, i can expect them to have a better than average selection of produce.  finding heirloom tomatoes shouldn't be a problem there and i didn't have time to go across town to whole foods to over pay for said tomatoes.  all i can say is that if tomatoes are not in season in tennessee, it is unlikely that tomatoes from ontario (yes, ontario in canada) will be better.  way to go publix!  at least 75% of what they had available was listed as produce of canada.  honestly, can we not grow our own tasteless hot house tomatoes?  do we really need to import them???  my options were severely limited, i chose a tomato from florida and made the decision to focus on mushrooms and onions-at least i knew they were going to have some flavor.

we have begun to go hostless here at tuesdays with dorie so to see the original recipes, buy the book!  or you can check it out on this heart of mine, blogger amy posted the recipes for the dough and the galette back in 2011 and it is word for word from the book.
 my first bit of tinkering was with the flour for the galette.  i have a bag of atta flour-indian flour made from durham wheat and wheat bran, and the only cornmeal i like to bake with is blue.

 when combined, it looks a little grey.

 i cut the butter in by hand and it looks a little lumpy when done properly.

 the recipe cautions that it is a soft dough.  trust me it is.  however, i think that is more due to the mixing instructions than the nature of the dough.  you are instructed to use sour cream or an equal portion of yogurt or buttermilk and to whisk it into the water.  however, the ingredient list suggests that you may not need all of the water.  so why would you combine the sour cream with all of the water?  it should tell you to add the sour cream (buttermilk in my case) and begin mixing and to add the water bit by bit as needed to get the proper consistency.  my dough was a little on the sticky side.  luckily, i know how to work with sticky dough, i partially froze it and worked with it cold.  while the dough chilled, i made the topping.

 one thing i do know, it is chanterelle season here in tennessee; we picked some last week.  these are a little past their prime but would be fine for the topping
 the herb garden is pumping out leaves all over the place so finding them was easy.  exit back door, snip, snip, snip... i quickly had basil, oregano, thyme and sage leaves.

 first step, caramelize some sweet onions.  to this i added a little garlic but was careful not to burn it.

 in went baby portobello mushrooms and the chanterelles.

 the herbs were last.  i let the filling sit and cool while i rolled out the dough.

 the texture of the whole grain flours gives the dough a nice crunch and a little color.

 close up you can see the dark flecks of blue cornmeal and little bits of wheat bran.

 first on was a layer of fontina and romano cheese.  i used about 3/4 of it on the bottom.  then came the flavorless florida tomatoes (sigh) and the onions and mushrooms.  the last bit of cheese was sprinkled over the top.

 honestly, the dough was too soft to do much with so i quickly folded it up and into the oven it went.

 it took the full 40 minutes to bake but it was nice and bubbly with just a little color.  the house smelled like pizza and it almost tasted like it until you got the crust-that made it taste like a tart.  a winner if you ask me, but next time, can we do this when tomatoes are in season?  please???

to see what the other bakers came up with, visit the tuesdays with dorie page!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

blueberry muffins

sometimes, simple is best and blueberry muffins are about as simple as it can get.  making a cake to take out to the garden each week means i need think about what i will to make, get the needed ingredients and hope that the recipe works.  it's been too hot!  i made muffins instead.  then it poured rain and i couldn't go to the garden, i stayed home and ate muffins instead.

a few notes; i prefer fresh blueberries for this recipe but it works great with frozen berries too.  just take care not to let them thaw or they will turn the batter grey.  for best results, i prefer to grease and flour the pan rather than use paper liners but you can use them if you wish.  for the most consistent size, i use portion scoops.  not only will the muffins bake evenly, it will make quick work of portioning them out which is always a plus when working with frozen fruit.  for the large, texas style muffins, i find a #6 or white scoop will work, for standard sized muffins, a #12 or green scoop will work.  specialty pans may take some experimenting.  any ikea shoppers out there?  i used their pretty red muffin pan with the tall narrow cups to make the muffins in the photo and to fill them, i used a #20 or yellow scoop.

for those of you not familiar with portion scoops and their sizes, the system is quite simple.  way back when, the size referred to the number of scoops to fill a quart sized container.  a white (#6) scoop would mean 6 scoops to make a quart, the green (#12) would take 12, and so on.  today, the sizes still stand but many more sizes have been added and you will find them as small as a #100 scoop.  to find the best selection, visit a restaurant supply.  while they may seem pricey, they last a long time if used properly.  we have using the ones in our home kitchen for about 15 years.

blueberry muffins
6 texas size or 12 standard size muffins

4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cup blueberries
1/2 cup buttermilk
cinnamon sugar or plain sugar for the tops of the muffins

preheat the oven to 375.  prepare the muffin tin by either greasing/flouring it or with paper muffin cups.  place the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla into the bowl of a food processor.  pulse to combine and with the motor running, add the eggs one at a time.  allow the batter to process until glossy and smooth.  scrape the batter into a bowl.  place the flour and baking powder into a sifter or mesh strainer and sift it over the batter.  dump the blueberries over the top of the flour and fold it a few times.  sprinkle the buttermilk over the batter and fold together gently.  the more you mix, the more the berries will color the batter so only mix enough to completely combine.  use a scoop or a spoon to divide the batter between the cups. sprinkle the tops of the muffins with cinnamon sugar or plain sugar and bake.  the smaller muffins will take about 20 minutes, the larger ones, closer to 30.  using frozen berries can extend this.  check them a little early to be safe and then keep an eye on them.  they are done when a cake tester comes out clean.  allow them to cool in the pan for a few minutes and then turn them out on to a rack to cool.  they are tasty when warm but those hot blueberries can be like lava pockets so be careful!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

mocha swirl bundt cake

when colors are swirled together, they catch my eye.  the intricate pattern created by the marbleization of two or more colors has always fascinated me.  it can be paint or it can be cake, doesn't matter.  one of my favorite mediums for marbleizing is biscotti dough but cheesecake is a close second.  then there are bundt cakes; my new favorite "canvas" for mixing swirls of color.  almost as much fun as choosing the colors is choosing the flavors to combine.  if chosen correctly, it is a perfect yin and yang of both color and flavor.

working the marbleizing magic with cake batter is a little tricky.  depending on your leavening agent, the colors can shift.  baking soda can give blueberries, blackberries and raspberries a greenish tint that is not very pleasing but it will turn chocolate a much darker brown or even black.  baking powder on the other hand will keep the berries looking like their natural shades of purple and red but will cause the chocolate to turn a muddy red.  to further complicate things, mixing two completely different cake batters can be difficult since they may not bake the same.  finding the balance is part of the challenge.  luckily, dutched cocoa powder is not hard to find and that makes it a little easier to prevent the color shift.  and for those of you who cannot find the dutch process cocoa, try adding a small amount of baking soda to simulate the higher alkaline content; i added an 1/8 teaspoon to the 1/3 cup of cocoa and had good results.

mocha swirl bundt cake
1 10 cup bundt serving about 12

1/3 cup dutch processed cocoa powder (or 1/3 cup natural cocoa and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda)
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/3 cup boiling water
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
3 cups cake flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cup buttermilk

preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a bundt pan and set it aside.  in a small heat proof bowl, whisk the cocoa and espresso powder to combine.  add the boiling water and stir to make a smooth paste, set this aside while you mix the batter.

to mix the batter, cream the butter with the sugar, vanilla and salt until it is light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined, scrape the bowl as you go.  sift the cake flour and the baking powder over the top of the batter.  fold this a couple times and then sprinkle the buttermilk over the top of the batter.  fold the batter together until it is just combined.  remove 2 cups of the batter and stir it into the chocolate paste.  place dollops of batter into the prepared pan, alternating between dark and light.  using a skewer or thin knife, carefully swirl the batters by dragging it through and stirring it occasionally.  be careful not to go overboard or the pattern will not be visible after baking.  bake until a pick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.  turn the cake out onto a serving plate and allow it to finish cooling.

Monday, June 10, 2013

strawberry swirl bundt cake

yes, another bundt cake to add to the collection.  why not?  there are endless possibilities and flavor combinations to try.  strawberries are in season and a pink swirled bundt cake sounded like a perfect use for them.

nothing says summer like a handful of fresh picked strawberries.  warm from the sun, they are juicy and sweet.  picking them is like having a treasure hunt in my own garden.  to find them, you must peek under the leaves of the plants and hope that the slugs and chipmunks have missed a few.  strawberry season is a short affair.  we enjoyed it while it lasted but i can see that we will need to add some more ever bearing plants to prolong the season.

a few notes about the cake.  if you think that you will have a strongly flavored cake, think again.  baking with fresh berries is tricky because of the effects on the batter that the ph balance of the berries can have.  besides, the box mix cakes you may be familiar with utilize lots of artificial color and flavor to get their results.  using strawberries adds a bit of flavor and a more pronounced floral note to the swirl.  mainly, the color of the swirl is what you get.  if you want a darker swirl, you can add a few drops of pink color, i left mine the natural shade from the berries.

strawberry swirl bundt cake
1 10 cup bundt cake serving about 12

1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen(but thawed)
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 eggs
3 cups cake flour
4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a 10 cup tube or bundt pan and set it aside.  place the strawberries into a blender or food processor and process until a smooth puree is achieved.  measure out 1/2 cup of the puree and set it aside for now.  place the butter into a mixing bowl with the sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and salt.  cream this mixture until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  add the eggs slowly, scraping the bowl after each addition.  cream again till light, about 1 minute.  sift the flour and baking powder over the batter in the bowl and fold it a few times.  add the buttermilk and fold gently until completely mixed.  remove 1 1/2 cups of the batter and place it in a separate bowl, stir in the strawberry puree and mix until the color is evenly distributed.  dollop some of each of the batters into the prepared pan so that the colors alternate.  continue doing this until all of the batter is in the pan.  using a thin knife or a skewer, swirl the batter by inserting it and dragging it around the batter to mix the colors.  the less you swirl, the more marbleized the pattern will look; excessive swirling creates a fine pattern that is hard to see.  bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then carefully turn it out onto a serving plate to finish cooling.  

happy baking!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

my very own field of dreams

open the newspaper, surf the internet, read a magazine, it doesn't matter which you do to stay informed. when you do, though, you will most likely hear another story of disappearing wildlife due to diminishing habitats.  as a gardener, i take the responsibility of providing a natural setting for all types of wildlife seriously.  we do not use synthetic pesticides and we purposely add native host plants to our landscape.  

as a child, i would see monarch butterflies all summer long.  while living in california, i went on a trail ride with my mother in law.  it was one of many trail rides through the headlands of marin, and as we came down the trail into a valley, we encountered migrating monarchs.  it was an amazing sight to be seen; everywhere you looked were monarchs fluttering by as they headed south.  luckily, the horses didn't mind them and we were able to just take in the view.  twenty years later, i can still recall the excitement of watching them and knowing that they were headed to mexico powered only by their delicate wings.

these days, so few monarchs come through my yard because their numbers have declined drastically.   one factor is the disappearing environment that they need.  mainly they need a specific host plant, milkweed, for the larvae to feed on.  with the need for housing and all that goes with it, lots of open fields of wild flowers and plants like milkweed have disappeared.  it is with this knowledge that my husband and i have planted milkweed, asclepias syriaca, in our yard.  
we started out with a few plants from seeds that i purchased from easy wildflowers.  it took a couple of years for the plants to mature but when they did, they began blooming.  it never ceases to amaze me just how wonderful "weeds" can be.  a close up view of the flowers is surprising; they are beautiful.

they look like little shooting stars from the side view.  but even more surprising is the scent.  milkweed has one of the most potent scents in my garden.  i snipped a few of the clusters off and put them in water in my living room and within a short time, the entire room was heavy with the perfume of milkweed.  then my husband came home and quickly learned that he is allergic to them.  out went the blooms...

the plants spread quickly by sending out runners underground.  if you do not want them popping up in your landscape, i suggest you plant them in pots.  we want them to fill this otherwise useless strip of property between our yard and the house next door so we have let them run all over.

we see many butterflies coming to the plants but we are still waiting for monarchs.

another type of milkweed is common butterfly weed.  this is asclepias turberosa and the seeds can also be found on easy wildflowers website.

the foliage is very different but we have had monarchs on them in the past, just not the last several years.

one visitor we have had in abundance is the milkweed bug.  they do not do much damage to the plants but make a nuisance of themselves around the yard.  they are often confused with box elder bugs but they are not nearly as pesky.

the story goes, if you build it, they will come.  the plants are in the garden and i will wait, with fingers crossed for the monarchs to come...

Monday, June 3, 2013

vegan strawberry-banana ice cream

my attempts to change my diet are a little hit or miss.  got the cholesterol under control only to lose the vitamin d level needed for strong bones.  frustrating to say the least.  so, to change that, i am spending time outside in the garden during sunny hours and i am eating small amounts of dairy.  one thing i won't stop doing, eating sorbet and ice cream made without dairy products.  i recently picked a bowl of strawberries from the garden and mixed up a batch of ice cream using one of david lebovitz's recipes.

strawberry blossoms are pretty.  when you look at them close up, the center of the bloom looks like a little yellow strawberry.

when you grow strawberries, it is a constant battle between you and the critters who eat them with a healthy dose of praying the rain doesn't ruin the berries.  it is also a little like treasure hunting too.  each afternoon, i walk around the bed peeking under leaves in search of ripe berries.

a few notes about the recipe; strawberries soak up water like a sponge so wash them by giving them a quick dunk in a bowl of cold water and then pat them dry with paper towel to prevent waterlogging.  a ripe banana will add to the creamy texture but you can omit it and increase the strawberries to a pound and a half.  if you are not a coconut milk fan, use almond or hazelnut milk for a nutty flavor or switch it to rice or soy for a neutral flavor.  when you puree the mix, if you leave it chunky, there will be icy bits of fruit in the finished product-the fruit freezes to a hard texture because of its high water content, i recommend a smooth puree.  the added syrup and alcohol will also help prevent that rock hard frozen consistency but not much-let it soften before serving.

vegan strawberry-banana ice cream
adapted from david lebovitz
makes about 1 quart

1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1 ripe banana-the riper it is the stronger the flavor
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons rice syrup (or wildflower honey if you are not a true vegan)
1 can coconut milk
2 teaspoons dark rum
2 teaspoons lemon juice

combine the strawberries with the sugar and the syrup and allow it to stand for an hour to juice.  add the remaining ingredients and puree in a food processor or blender.  place in ice cream freezer canister and process according to the manufacturers instructions.  allow the final product to set in the freezer for several hours before serving.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

stuffed artichokes; almost as good as grandma's

growing up in northern new jersey, i knew a few things were certain.  you were likely to be catholic and quite possibly jewish if you weren't catholic.  if you were catholic, like my family is, then the chances that you were irish or italian were pretty high.  for me and my siblings, there was no either or, we are both irish and italian.  

like most families, our food traditions were firmly based around our ethnicity.  for my mother's family, my irish side, it was new england yankee all the way.  we can trace our roots back before the civil war on this side making the menu a traditional american one.  not so much on my father's italian side.  they came to america long after the civil war, just around the turn of the century making them italian americans.  my great grandmother held on to the tradition of an italian woman; she did a lot of cooking and almost all of it from scratch, including some of the pasta dishes.  the sunday dinners looked more like a feast and we won't even get started on holiday dinners.  ask my father about them, he can speak at length to the tradition of the seven fishes on christmas eve.  all i can remember is the jello she would make for me and all of the milano cookies my great grandfather would share with me.

my grandmother however was not a traditional woman.  she was a career woman.  having lost her husband to world war two, she went to work as a secretary in an office in new york city.  after my great grandmother passed away, she began cooking and sunday dinner became her responsibility.  what i remember most from those dinners; mountains of fusilli, meat balls so unbelievably tender, a salad served after the meal and it was often little more than chickory with red wine vinegar, the occasional plate of raw fennel slices, and artichokes filled with a moist bread stuffing.

more than once, i shared an artichoke with a friend who did not know what they were.  after explaining how you just scraped the leaves on your teeth to get the flesh, i mainly got odd looks and a hasty "no thanks".  when my children came along, i shared this with them as well.  luckily for me, my husband knew all about artichokes and enjoyed them almost as much as i do.  both of my girls will dig into one with out any coaxing.  so it shouldn't surprise anyone that we planted some in our garden.  earlier this week, i picked our first three and they were part of our dinner that night.
 artichokes are members of the thistle family and if you let the blooms mature, they look like thistle flowers on steroids.

 the flower heads consist of leaves with a tiny thorn on the end of each one.  the thorns must be trimmed away before eating.

 each main flower is located on the end of the branch but each leaf on the branch also develops a side bloom.
 since we do not use any chemicals on our vegetables, they needed a good cleaning.  i soaked the trimmed heads in salt water to help flush out the critters.

 to fill the centers, i mixed up some plain bread crumbs with fresh parsley, salt, pepper and a little granulated garlic.  after combining this, i added a little olive oil to moisten it and then filled the centers.  to make it worth the effort, i packed it in there as best as i could.

 to cook them, i placed them in a pot with about an inch or so of vegetable stock and let them simmer, covered, for an hour and a half.  to keep them moist, i replenished the vegetable stock as it reduced.

they are done when you can pull a leaf out easily-pull one half way between the top and bottom towards the middle of the choke to get the best idea.  taste it, it should be creamy and soft not at all chalky or astringent.  now for the hard part, waiting for more to grow...